John C. Barry

My reminiscences, thoughts, and travel experiences

Author: John Barry

Montagu Country Hotel, Western Cape

Montagu Country Hotel the only Art Deco hotel in South Africa

I started my consulting business in 1982.  My travels took me to countries in Southern Africa, North America, Western Europe, and India.  Besides, I have traveled with my family to Hawaii, the Caribbean, and many places throughout the United States, Canada, and South Africa.  I stayed in hundreds of hotels during that time.

Montagu Country Hotel is situated in the Western Cape, South Africa, about a 3-hour drive from Cape Town through some of the most scenic drives that can be found anywhere in the world.  Having an opportunity to stay in the only Art Deco hotel in South Africa and furnished with original period pieces, was an exceptionally special treat.  As was an outstanding level of service provided.  To learn more about the town of Montagu click here.

When it comes to boutique hotels, a few come to mind.  I stayed at specialty privately owned hotels in Clinton, Missouri, USA, and Montreal, Canada.  We stayed at a boutique hotel in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower.  It was an ancient building retrofitted with an elevator/lift so small it could only accommodate one person and a small amount of luggage.  These lodgings offer something exceptional compared to the cookie-cutter major hotel group offerings all built to a set standard of design, accommodation, and price.  One-off boutique hotels offer bedrooms and bathrooms that are quaint with meals served to delight the most fastidious palate.  Montagu Country Hotel is an example of an exceptional boutique hotel.

The original hotel was erected in 1875 by Christiaan Schlacht, of German descent, built with Victorian accents of the period.  Mr. Goldberg bought the establishment from Schlacht, a popular landlord, and generous to the community.  Ms. Fernandes managed the hotel while married to the former owner of the Springs Hotel.  After divorcing her husband, she bought the Montagu Hotel.  Mr. A. Idelsdon purchased the hotel from her.  The Art Deco Hotel with 32 bedrooms got erected behind the original hotel around 1922.  On completion, the first structure got demolished.  Mr. Russel owned the hotel from July 1941.  Ownership changed hands to the Conradie family, then to Mr. Piet Nel.  Carol Gunter took ownership and invested heavily in the premises.  On October 1, 1966, the late Mr. Gert Lubbe took over the property from a liquidation sale.  Gert Lubbe, who passed away in November 2019, discovered that concrete pavements illegally covered parts of the premises; he had them removed and replaced it with lush vegetation and trees to enhance the street scene.

P-J Basson, General Manager of the hotel for the last 20 years, and his wife Colene took the bold step at the end of June 2020 to buy out the majority shareholder of the Montagu Country Hotel.

How do you market a hotel situated in the most beautiful part of the Western Cape?  Gert Lubbe and Jeanetta Marais created the “Route 62” brand—following the USA’s Route 66 concept.  Both routes built in the 1920s linking farming communities with harbor towns.  Both roads got replaced with highways in the 1950s.  Route 62 is the longest wine route in the world.

Gert Lubbe and P-J Basson began the time-consuming labor of love to replace the furniture with Art Deco-style pieces of beauty.  All dressing tables in the main building are of Art-Deco style.  Lounge suites were re-upholstered to the original specification.  The outer gables are Cape Dutch architecture and repeated in the top-most panels of the glazed doors.

My wife and I were privileged to enjoy most of what this establishment has to offer.  After checking in to our spacious room, we found it comprised a bedroom cum sitting room, bathroom with bathtub, shower, and toilet.  Personable valuables are held in the room’s electronic safe.  Dinner is served in the elegant dining room, with attentive waitstaff discriminatingly obliging with tasty à la carte meals.  To make the ambiance even more appealing, we were entertained by pianist William who played a grand piano with a wide range of music including songs from West Side Story, Les Misérables, to name but a few classics. 

In the mornings we were treated to a hearty country breakfast, selecting from a wide range of buffet-style eats.  I had the good fortune to join several local dignitaries one morning to a tea served with scones and crème.  A Cape Buffet lunch is available. 

We loved the artwork on display in the hotel and appreciated the secured parking provided behind the hotel with a gated entry and exit.

The hotel has many amenities in which we did not partake.  A selection offered includes massages, facials, mineral baths, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and tinting.  Hourly tours can be arranged in classic American vehicles, with a choice of a 1956 Cadillac Sedan De Ville, 1964 Cadillac Sedan Deville, or a 1956 De Soto Fireflight Sportsman.

Obviously I highly recommend the Montagu Country Hotel as a fun place to stay and spend time in a great tourist destination.

To learn more and make your reservations, click here.

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Minocqua, Wisconsin

If you are looking for a great vacation spot, I highly recommend Minocqua, Wisconsin, and especially the Marmes’ cottage.

After being locked down in our home for two and a half months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had the opportunity to travel 4 hours, 250 miles (400 kilometers) north to Minocqua, Wisconsin in Oneida County to stay at Brian and Pam Marmes’ magnificent 4-season T-Bird Getaway rental home on Minocqua Lake.  For many reasons, this was a wonderful experience.  The beautifully appointed 1570 square feet (146 square meters) 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom home was acquired, gutted, rebuilt with the most inviting furnishings and decorations, including an electronic trash can.  Located on the lake with an available 22-foot pontoon, kyacks, paddleboard, barbeque, firepit, makes for an enjoyable stay.  Reservations can be made through this link:

The cottage comfortably houses a family of six.  Located directly on the Minocqua Chain of Lakes for fishing, swimming, and recreational activities, and a short drive/bike ride to walking/biking trails, ice skating and much more.  The home is located close to grocery stores, and the one we visited is significantly larger than any in our home environment.  I enjoyed the convenience of the Wi-Fi connection, Keurig coffee maker, TV, and everything about this family-friendly home.

My daughter’s review: Brian was friendly and easy to communicate with. The home is in a perfect location in a quiet, pretty, bay with beautiful views, but also close to town and hiking/biking paths.  We were thrilled with how spotlessly clean and new the house is. It is newly updated, and everything is so well done from the kitchen and bathrooms to the comfortable beds. There are so many considerate extras – like k-cups next to the Kuerig and shampoo/conditioner in the shower.  We loved the availability of the kayaks, bikes, lawn games.  Highly recommend and we would stay again!

Oneida County was formed in 1887.  Current population 35,470.  It was named after the indigenous Native American Oneida tribe, one of the six nations of the Iroquois, comprising Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora.  Oneida County has a total area of 1,236 square miles (3,200 km2), of which 1,113 square miles (2,880 km2) are land and 123 square miles (320 km2) (10%) are covered by water.  Most people visit Oneida County to enjoy its lakes. In particular, tourists flock to Minocqua, a town of nearly 5,000 people with a summer population of around 15,000.

Minocqua and the neighboring communities of Arbor Vitae and Woodruff—are filled with over 2,300 sparkling blue lakes, streams, and ponds. They adjoin the mighty Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest.  Locals and visitors can enjoy an incredible array of activities, both onshore and water.  The Minocqua area features supper clubs, shopping, cafes, ice cream stands, outfitters, real lumberjack shows, the oldest amateur ski show in the United States, museums, and gaming.

Our drive north on a Sunday presented around 70 campers traveling south, as families returned from the Northwoods after taking a break with many schools closing for the summer.  With portions of road construction reducing lanes to a single lane in each direction, it caused miles long slowdowns for the southbound traffic.  We returned home on a weekday starting our journey at 10:00 am and did not endure the same frustrating experience.  AAA (American Automobile Association) provides me with motor vehicle insurance.  To receive a small break in rates I use an app on my iPhone to monitor my driving.  The average American scores 74 points.  My reading before this trip was 82.  To keep the peace with my wife, I decided that I would not exceed the speed limit by even one mile an hour.  My vehicle has adaptive cruise control, allowing me to slow down to the vehicle’s speed in front of me, helpful if I cannot overtake due to road works or heavy traffic.  At each stage of the journey, I adjusted the cruise control to the prevailing speed limit.  Driving on the open roads and highways, I was fascinated to see that I was overtaken by almost all trucks and other vehicles, and had very few reasons to pass other motorists.  Driving the speed limit in single-lane construction zones, showed the long line of cars behind me.  There were two benefits to my driving defensively.  I discovered that I had a range of more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) on my tank of fuel, and I scored 93 on my AAA app.  It reflected a driving time of 4 hours 16 minutes, for a distance of 254.4 miles (409.4 kilometers).  It begs the question, why do we have speed limits if they are not honored by the majority of motorists?

If you are looking for a great vacation spot, I highly recommend Minocqua, Wisconsin, and especially the Marmes’ cottage.

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Cape Town COVID-19 Adventure

We left the US on March 5, 2020, for a 37-day vacation in South Africa to visit family and friends.

Click to hear a 50-minute audio of the blog text below, or read and enjoy.
See photographs below

Monday, March 23, 2020.  I woke at 6:00 am to a rude awakening!  Checking my iPhone messages, I discovered United Airlines canceled our flights to the United States from Cape Town, South Africa, scheduled to fly March 26, 2020.  I receive a follow-up message to say they are flying again.  What I did not know then is that this pattern that would repeat several times over.  Let me back up and tell the account coherently.

We left the US on March 5, 2020, for a 37-day vacation in South Africa to visit family and friends.  We planned to return home on Easter Monday, April 13, 2020.  For our trip, we flew Delta Airlines from Milwaukee, Wisconsin; to Detroit, Michigan; on to Amsterdam, the Netherlands; to Cape Town.  In hindsight, had the Trump administration told the American people the truth of the COVID-19 pandemic, we would never have traveled in the first place.  We witnessed our investments plummet.  A select few Republican Congresspeople were informed of the imminent catastrophe, sold their investments, some in the millions of dollars before the public learned of the pending danger.

United Airlines started a seasonal service between Newark, New Jersey, and Cape Town on December 15, 2019, through March 25, 2020.  Travel to South Africa is on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.  Return flights to the US are on Monday, Thursday, Saturday.  The distance of 7,817 miles (12,580 kilometers) is the longest route flown by United.  Flying time to Cape Town is 14 hours, and back to the US, 16 hours.  United operates this route using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with 48 business class seats, 88 Economy Plus, and 116 economy seats.  Frankly, I had no idea that we caught the last flight for the season back to the US until I did my research from home in Wisconsin.  Then too, South Africa went on lockdown at midnight on March 26, 4 hours after our scheduled departure.  Consequently, no other flights could have taken off on the following days.

After Trump stopped flights from Europe, and other countries from flying into the US, the rumors started flying, and fake news prevailed.  Our daughter and son in the US were in a panic after the US State Department issued a proclamation, return to the US immediately, or remain overseas indefinitely.  We sprang into action.  We did not want to be stranded forever in South Africa, lovely as the country is.  We purchased new and additional tickets on United Airlines flying from Cape Town directly to the Newark, New Jersey, in the New York area, with a connecting flight to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  For the record, our one-way tickets on United Airlines was more expensive than our return tickets on Delta.  We canceled our return ticket on Delta and should get a credit toward our next flight, but there is no cash refund.

When I woke March 23 at 6:00 am South African time on Monday morning, it is 11:00 pm Sunday night US Central Time.  The first text from United was sent at 10:43 pm SA time when I am already asleep (3:43 pm Central).  It states that our flights “are canceled due to the unprecedented circumstances.”  At 11:53 pm SA Time (4:53 pm Central), I receive a follow-up text stating the flights are not canceled!!  The follow on text states that non-US citizens who have visited certain countries will be denied entry to the US.  We may be subjected to 14-days of self-quarantine.  We had planned to follow an isolation recommendation in any event.  We quarantined ourselves in South Africa for the two weeks, ending March 21, and beyond that date until we departed.

When I booked the United flight on March 20, 2020, there were only two seats available in the economy class, and they were not situated next to each other.  I had a decision to make and paid for an upgrade to Economy Plus.  In hindsight, it was a wise decision because there is much more legroom.  If the passenger in front decides to recline their seat, there is sufficient space available to enjoy the trip without a seat backrest in your face.  Our problem is that with this experience, we will never fly the regular economy class again.  I have been a frequent flyer for many years, regularly flying for business and occasionally for pleasure with our family.  I am knowledgeable enough to know that to get an early boarding allocation; I need to obtain our boarding passes 24-hours before take off.  At 8:00 pm, South African time, on Wednesday, March 25, I logged on to the United Airlines website to secure our boarding passes.  It was the start of a 90-minute ordeal.  Let me hasten to add that I retired after 50 years in the computer industry as a developer, designer, educator, trainer, consultant, and salesperson, so technology should not be a challenge for me.  Little did I know.

I keyed in my confirmation number to be informed that the flight had been canceled!  My wife was three hours away in Cape Town, so I made contact with her immediately to alert Linda of our challenge.  Linda contacted my daughter and son, who were both working from home in the US with their respective companies requiring employees to work from home due to COVID-19.  The four of us now worked to figure out if and why the flight was canceled.  I started the process off by attempting to secure my boarding pass.  At some point, I was required to scan my passport with a warning that it will take some time for the system to register the document.  I again received the message that the flight was canceled.  We had to verify that we had not traveled to a list of countries where we could not get access back to the USA.  My wife scanned her passport into the system, and again we were informed that the flight had been canceled.  Our children in the interim were on the United Airlines website and showed that the plane was flying.  After an hour and a half, the boarding process was complete, and we could print our passes.  My conclusion is that the programming was substandard, and rather than report there were problems with the information we entered, the program reported an erroneous flight cancelation.  To verify that we were not unduly stupid, where we were seated on our flight home, a few passengers near us complained that they, too, got these flight canceled messages.

In the US, we are recommended to arrive at the airport three hours before takeoff for all international flights.  Our flight out of Cape Town was at 8:00 pm.  We arrived at the airport at 3:00 pm, 5 hours before the scheduled departure.  We were surprised by the number of people in line, but the gates had not yet opened to allow us to check our luggage.  Maintaining our social distance, we had interesting conversations with other passengers waiting in line.  The airport itself was a madhouse, especially with passengers flying to the UK.  To pass through the multitude of people to get to our check-in position in itself was a challenge with a large number of people, each in very close proximity to one another.  The check-in agents arrived about 4 hours before boarding, giving us sufficient time to go through security and passport control.  At 7:15 pm, the boarding process started.  While seated on the plane, at 8:00 pm, the captain advised us that 28 passengers were stuck trying to check their luggage and get through security.  He kept us informed as to how many people were waiting to board the flight.  He was wise enough to hold takeoff until all passengers could board.  The captain did tell us that part of the holdup was some of the check-in agents had not shown up for work, and that helped slow the process dramatically.  The captain walked through the plane before takeoff to answer questions that the passengers may have.  Once in the air, and hour and fifteen minutes after our scheduled departure time, the captain made up time to arrive in Newark close to the stated arrival time.  He announced the flight crew was volunteers due to COVID-19.  The captain informed us that we would not be processed by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) for temperature checks after deplaning.

Arriving at a near-deserted airport in Newark was another experience.  We arrive at Terminal B.  We proceed through passport control, then had to relocate by train to Terminal C to collect our luggage, pass through customs, and check-in our bags for transport to Milwaukee.  Next, take a bus to Terminal A, catch a small regional jet for the two-hour flight to Milwaukee.  We knew we had 90 minutes to complete this process, and we were fortunate to make our flight without delay.  The jet was less than half-filled with passengers.  Probably the most challenging situation was the toilets in the terminal buildings were locked, and I have a weak bladder.

The surprises did not stop yet.  We arrived in Milwaukee at General Mitchell International airport at 10:00 am to a deserted airport.  The shops were closed, and there are no people around.  We make our way to baggage claim, and our three bags are the first on the conveyor.  My son and his girlfriend were outside the baggage claim area.  Sean tosses the keys to my wife, making sure there was no close contact and headed off home with his girlfriend.  My next surprise was my drive home.  In thirty-four years we have lived here, I have never seen the roads so quiet.  Once back home, we started the sterilization process, cleaning all our luggage, taking a shower, and doing six loads of laundry washing everything we took to South Africa, including the clean clothing we brought home in our bags.

Friday, March 27, 2020, was the start of our 14-day isolation.  I cannot deny, now, into a few days of this experience, that we have experienced a significant adjustment.  We have arranged to have groceries delivered, and seriously miss our daily 40-minute walk around the neighborhood.  I feel starved of exercise.  Naturally, we miss seeing our children and granddaughters.  Facetiming is not the same.  We are not able to socialize with any of our neighbors in our condominium complex. 

Now that I have reached the end of my account of getting home, I will start at the beginning.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

A friend kindly drove us to the airport in Milwaukee. Our flight to Detroit was only 75-minutes on a regional jet. Delta requested us to be at the airport 3 hours ahead of departure. With Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee being a small airport, this seems an excessive request. The bad news when we finally got to Cape Town we found the Transport Security Agency had searched my large suitcase, one of three checked bags. They found nothing worth confiscating.  The flight was uneventful. We had a three-hour layover in Detroit and had a meal at PF Chang’s.

I filed a complaint with Delta for not issuing boarding passes with TSA Precheck.  They said it would take a week or more to respond.  TSA (Transport Security Administration) is a government organization responsible for security at the US ports of entry.  Precheck is a program that one can apply for at a cost, where your background is vetted, and when going through security at the airports, they are more lenient in what passengers are asked to do.  We do not have to remove shoes or belts, for example.  More than that, I hold a TSA Global Entry that speeds up the process when returning to the US from overseas travel.  Delta advised that the TSA Precheck is a privilege and not always provided to passengers.  Strange, when I paid $85 for the convenience.

We boarded a flight to Amsterdam. With the flight time of eight and a half hours, I watched the movie Bombshell. It is the story of Fox News and the sexual advances made by Rodger Ailes on female anchors. South African actress Charlize Theron played the part of Megyn Kelly, who sued Rodger. If any of the faithful Trump followers watch this movie, I cannot see how they will vote for Trump again, unless he convinces his base that this movie is all lies and fake news. I watched Judy about the life of Judy Garland. What a short sad life she had, getting manipulated by men wanting to profit off her voice at any cost. Finally, I watched a single episode of the TV series The Neighborhood with a Chinese family living in white suburbia and the racism they faced. And yes, it was a comedy.

The flight to Amsterdam was not full, Linda and I had a spare seat to ourselves.

Friday, March 6, 2020

By the time we crossed the Atlantic, it was early morning In Amsterdam. We did not have much of a layover and boarded a massive Boeing 777 300 for the 12-hour flight to Cape Town. When you arrive at Cape Town International Airport, the passengers are split into locals and foreigners to go through customers and immigration. There were a handful of South Africans, with the majority of us being international passengers. Frankly, with all the bad press South Africa is getting, I am surprised to see any visitors. I read before our departure that tourism is down.  A few days after our arrival back in the US, Moody’s Investors Service cut South Africa’s credit rating below investment grade, delivering the country a full house of junk assessments as it grapples with a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The currency, the Rand, devalued dramatically against the US$, and other global currencies.  South Africa has been in a recession for the past six months.

The Hotel Verdi, which is a stone throw from the airport, listed 11:30 pm and midnight as shuttle pickup times. A taxi driver told us that the 11:30 shuttle had left at 11:20. I called the hotel to complain, and they responded immediately with another shuttle.  I have stayed at this hotel previously and recommend it highly.  Everything from the rooms to the dining facilities is of the best available.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

After a short night’s sleep and a great breakfast, we took the shuttle to the airport to collect our Hertz rental car. Hertz provided us with a Renault Stepwise, a compact small vehicle. We drove to the hotel, loaded our luggage, and I tried to connect my dashcam to one of the two cigarette lighters. Neither worked on this low mileage car, and I was disgusted. The more significant issue was that on two occasions, I tried to close the rear door and ended up cutting myself in two different spots on my face. The rear doors are an above-average height with a sharp edge. From an engineering design point of view, the vehicle is a disaster. Linda bumped her nose on the silly door but did not break her skin.

Hertz exchanged the car for a Volkswagen Polo. I had to change the feed to the dashcam from a cigar lighter to a USB port. So far, it appears that the dashcam did not get the needed electric connection. The Rexing dashcam shows that it is activated when you switch the car on.  When I looked at the camera display, after several day’s driving, it was blank.  I discovered that the SanDisk micro SD card was my problem in that it will not permit multiple over-recordings with the overwrite feature.  I replaced the SIM card with a Kingston product.  The biggest disappointment for me is that I was not able to save videos of drives we went on to add to YouTube and my blog.

On leaving the airport, we drove to nearby friend’s home to borrow a Taser for our short duration in the Cape. Wally drove me to a nearby shopping center for me to draw rands from the ATM. At a minimum, I needed cash for the tolls on the way to my sister in Montagu. After tea and cookies, we made our way to my other sister, living in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. Linda had never seen their home, and I had not seen the renovations. After another round of tea and snacks, we followed through driving three hours to my sister and brother-in-law’s farm in Montagu. That night we stayed in Cottage 3 on the farm.  Please appreciate that driving in South Africa required me to drive on the left-hand side of the road with a stick shift rental car.

I am the proud owner of three pairs of eyeglasses; one for general use, one for computer use, and sunglasses.  When we arrived in Montagu, unpacked, and set everything in its place, I realized that my “regular” eyeglasses were missing.  A quick call to Hertz verified that I had left it in Renault’s glove compartment/cubbyhole and that they would keep it in a secure place until we retrieved it on our return to Cape Town on Tuesday.

A dozen of us met for a tapas dinner at the BluVines restaurant, including Simon, and wife Yvette (more about them later), Jonathan and Sharon (additional detail to follow), Linda and me. I wrote about Richard Weilers and his restaurant in a blog, and with the delicious food and waiters who entertain with singing.  You may imagine what a wonderful evening we had.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Eating is essential, so we started the day at Sergio and Cay Fernandes’ Rambling Rose restaurant. Sergio always does an excellent job of making all his patrons feel like royalty, but we are regulars, so we got an even better treatment. Cay’s kitchen skills are unparalleled.  Having Linda and me back in Montagu added to the excitement.  You can read about The Rambling Rose Restaurant in my blog about Montagu. 

Linda, my sister Gail, and I headed off to Gecko Private Reserve in the Little Karoo, owned by Jonathan and Sharon Deal. Driving time is 45 minutes to an hour from Montagu, depending on speed traveled. Gail was driving a 4X4 vehicle. I have been to Gecko Rock on several occasions, and knowing the corrugated gravel roads; I would never drive a regular car there. Gecko is 4,000 hectares in size.  (10,000 acres, or 15 square miles). New Berlin, Wisconsin, is 37 square miles (95 square kilometers). New Berlin has a population of 40,000. Imagine half of the New Berlin population living on Gecko Rock.

With a few bungalows or cottages on the premises, Gecko can accommodate 50 people.  You should be able to imagine how each unit is positioned so as not to see another soul. The concept is to fully enjoy the mountains, flowers, some wild animals, and nature in general.  In the cabin we stayed in, it is self-contained with a lounge, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.  The quiet is so peaceful and almost deafening in its silence.  I asked Sharon where the water for the cottage is supplied?  It is piped and pumped from the main house, and this is how each cabin gets its water supply.  Please understand this is not a straight line.  It is a mountainous environment.  They live entirely off the grid.  Electricity is supplied from solar panels on the cottage roof, with a battery pack in the kitchen.  The bedroom has large panoramic windows so that you can lie in bed and enjoy the view of the mountains.  Imagine a life without internet access.

Jonathan provides handgun training for certification to own a firearm, a South African legal requirement. Gecko offers hiking, off-road riding, and facilities for conferences for up to 70 people, including a camping site where you can erect your tents.  Meetings focus on self-improvement.  The attendees are required to provide meals.

Sharon provided a late lunch before heading to our cabin, so we did not have to fuss with food. The friendship with Jonathan and Sharon was enjoyable, and we even played a trick on Gail’s husband when he joined us later in the day.  As he arrived at Sharon’s home, we pretended to all be drunk.  It is what friendship is all about.

Jonathan wrote a book entitled Timeless Karoo.  I was so impressed that I wrote a blog about the book. 

Monday, March 9, 2020

Sharon met us early morning at our cabin for 3.5 miles (6 kilometers) walk on the estate, including heading back to their home.  After another meal, Gail drove us to the cabin to collect our belongings, and we headed back to Montagu.

Today’s game plan was to enjoy the Montagu Country Hotel, the only Art Deco hotel in South Africa, and furnished with original period furniture.  The original hotel was built in 1875.  The Art Deco hotel was erected behind the original structure in 1922.  The old structure was demolished, and the hotel renamed in 1941.  Gert Lubbe purchased the hotel out of bankruptcy in 1966.  Gert passed away a few months ago.  See a separate blog discussing this hotel.

Before heading to the hotel, we spent time watching Simon train horses on Gail and her husband’s farm.  When Linda was growing up, she spent her 6-years during her schooling, riding horses daily.  During that time, she was the proud owner of four horses, one at a time.  One horse was bought from the renowned golfer, Gary Player.  Linda and two close friends would go to the stables after school, groom, feed, and ride their horses.  All of Linda’s horses were older and unlikely to be too energetic for young girls.  However, how do you go about training a horse to be able to be ridden for any age group?  Gail and her husband have numerous Arabian horses on their farm.  Simon contracted to teach their son and the team of six-horse handlers how to break in a young horse without using any violent methods.  I will not get into more detail now, but there is much information I could share.  I will likely produce a blog about this exciting learning experience.  Simon and his wife Yvette have a horse training business in Johannesburg and spent time with the “horse whisper” guru, Monty Roberts, on several occasions in Salinas, California.

The connection to the Montagu Country Hotel is interesting to understand.  Colene Basson is a charted accountant.  Colene previously worked with Gail and her husband as their accountant.  P-J Basson is the CEO of the hotel.  Colene joined P-J in his business, helping to run the hotel.  After I wrote the blog about Montagu, Gail asked me to write a blog about the Montagu Country Hotel.  I said that it would not be ethical if I had nor stayed there, so I made a reservation from the US before going on this trip.  P-J got to hear about our visit and gave us a complimentary upgrade.  I requested P-J to allow me to interview William, the pianist who played beautifully during our dinner.  You name it, and he played it, including music from Les Misérables, West Side Story, and other well-known favorites.  I was so intrigued by the extensive repertoire that I went to chat with him.  I wanted to see what sheet music he was using.  William told me that he couldn’t read sheet music.  He hears a tune and can play it almost instantly—what a talent.  I want to interview him to learn more about his background and skill.

We enjoyed an excellent sleep in this stylish hotel after dinner in an elegant lounge.  In truth, we did not need to eat again.  The hotel had secure parking for our rental car alongside the hotel. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Yes, we are at it again, with another meal, this time breakfast.  Gail had organized a tea so that Linda and I could meet people we had contact with while writing my Montagu blogs.  Richard Weilers from BluVines Restaurant joined us along with other dignitaries.  I had not met Helen Gooderson, the CEO of the RAD Foundation. Helen explained they take at-risk kids off the street and mentor them with music and arts.  She shared a story about one youngster who had never been out of the Montagu community.  She arranged for this kid to spend time in Boston, Massachusetts.  Helen explained to this boy what he would experience during this travels and venture.  He could not understand the concept of flying.  He arrived at the airport in Cape Town with his grandmother.  He was concerned when they took his suitcase and saw it disappear on a conveyor belt.  He wanted to know what if on the two 11-hour flights he needed to use the bathroom.  Helen explained the process, and he wanted to know, looking up, where the excrement goes after he flushed.  Since I have crossed the Atlantic at least 100 times, I cannot relate!

After saying goodbye to Gail, we detoured to Hertz in Cape Town to retrieve my glasses.  It is a process that should have taken two minutes.  30-minutes later, we left, eyeglasses in hand.  The agent had to look in many locked cupboards.  With not being able to locate them, he sent a broadcast text to all off duty personnel to request information as to where it was stored.  The process did not provide the information requested.  In desperation, the agent emptied the locker that he first looked in, and after unpacking everything, he found them in the back underneath all the other lost items that were stored there.  Sadly, this did not create an excellent impression of their efficiency.

Linda was anxious to get to her sister and renew her acquaintance with her sister’s daughter and grandson, Alex.  We arrived at her house at lunchtime. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Linda was up very early to take her sister to the hospital.  They left at 5:45 am.  The procedure was a success.  I took 17-month old Alex for a 30-minute walk to give her mother, who was working from home, time to make business calls.

One challenge faced by residents of South Africa is the unreliability of electricity.  The power utility company, ESKOM, cuts power, known as load shedding, done in stages.  Today was a day when the power got cut twice, each for two and a half hour periods—one in the late afternoon, the other during the midnight hours.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

With Linda’s sister in hospital, recovering from her knee replacement surgery, Linda spent the entire day at the hospital.  I spent some time playing with 17-month-old Alex.  As part of my caring for him, I took him for a long walk: me walking, Alex in his pushchair. 

A great curse in sunny South Africa is a corrupt and incompetent government.  Electricity production and distribution are through the bankrupt Eskom, the electrical power utility.  Due to a lack of maintenance, they need to shut the power.  It is complicated; they have various stages; each stage has additional shutdowns in 2.5-hour increments.  Stage 1 and 2 have one shut down for the southern suburb of Tokai in Cape Town, where Linda’s sister lives.  Each suburb or region throughout the country is on a different schedule!  Where my sister lives in Montagu, stage one has no shutdown, and stage 2 a single shut down.  Stages go all the way to Stage 8, in Montagu power is cut three times in the day, and the same for Tokai.  How does anyone keep track?  I have an app EskomSePush on my iPhone that tells you by day and location the status of load shedding, as it is named.  The only silver lining is that we do not live in Zimbabwe where electricity is cut for 16-hours a day.  It only comes on in the very early morning when families need to rise and cook for the day if groceries are available in the shops.

While at Linda’s sister’s house, we do not watch TV.  The only entertainment is to read the news on our iPads if there is available electricity, and therefore Wi-Fi.  One other issue is that when power is cut, it is critically important to unplug all electronic devices.  If left plugged in, when the power comes back on, there is a power surge that burns out electronic device printed circuit boards.  Then too, we read lots of books.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The highlight of the day was my opportunity to attend a dinner with Rondebosch Old Boys.  Several hundred attend this event with 12 from our 1963 graduating year.  It is held at an exclusive Kelvin Grove club in Newlands, a southern suburb of Cape Town, close to where we attended junior and high school.  The fee R475 ($30) covers the 3-course meal and drinks, wine and beer only.  If you want hard liquor, you pay for it separately.  As a side note, for may years, Rondebosch would not hold the event at this club because, in the early days, Jewish people were not allowed to join this club, or attend functions at this club!  That bigoted policy got rescinded many years ago.

Growing up in racist South Africa with its apartheid policies creates interesting but sad stories.  The newly appointed principal of Rondebosch Preparatory School is a non-white gentleman.  Ian Ryan told of being raised at previously disadvantaged schools, and the struggle to get a good education.  He did say that the most challenging position as a principal that he held was at the previous girl’s junior school.  He said that if you thought teaching boys was a challenge, try teaching girls who tend to be more intense about their studies.

It was the 111th anniversary of our Old Boys’ Union.  Dinner comprised a salad, braised lamb shank for the main course, and Crème Brulee for dessert.  When I returned home, I told Linda that I did not think the lamb was particularly tasty.  She reminded me that I made the same comment after last year’s dinner.  I guess catering for a few hundred patrons is not easy.

Returning to my sister-in-law’s house was challenging.  I only arrived at 11:00 pm.  Linda had stayed up to help me with the garage doors, and to then set all the complicated security alarms.  It is no exaggeration when I say that it is like living in prison, where everyone is extremely fearful of criminals entering your home.  After I parked my low mileage rental car, we went to sleep.  The next morning the domestic informed me that I had left the car lights on overnight.  I had visions of a dead battery, but I dodged a bullet.  The car started and started repeatedly.  After a three-hour drive to Montagu, the battery problem was a distant memory.

The other big news of the day is that Linda brought her sister home from the hospital. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020, and Sunday, March 15, 2020

Nothing much exciting to report—with one exception.  While at the Rondebosch function, a school friend told me that a millionaire was living close to the home where I originally grew up.  Linda and I drove to the neighborhood on Sunday to see what my youthful home looks like 65 years later.  I must stress that we grew up dirt poor, the house we had back then was tiny, a semi-detached house, not something to be proud of, especially while attending a prestigious boys school.  It was a rental that my parents moved to at the time I was born.  The change in the neighborhood was alarming.  Every house now looked like a fortress.  Where we initially lived, there was a large sports field across the road, and that location currently consists of multiple homes, all fortified as protection from criminals.  South Africans live with a siege mentality.  I chatted with one neighbor who told me that there is one elderly lady who has lived in the area all her life.  I could not recall her from my early days.  We drove around the corner to the home my parents built-in 1961.  That home has also been fortified by the current owners so that nothing is visible from the street.  As Linda reminded me, the large outer wall is the one my parents had erected.  The entry gate is remote-controlled, and also massively high and new since we lived there.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Today I woke up and carefully packed the small rental car, a Volkswagen Polo, about the size of a Golf.  I needed to detour to my sister Monica and her husband, staying with their son in the northern suburbs of Cape Town.  I had to find space for Monica’s sizeable cool box, three suitcases, and what looked like a 6-months supply of groceries in plastic bags.  Somehow we found space in the small car and set off for Montagu.  Driving in the late morning had its advantages, as there were relatively few large trucks and other traffic on the road.

When you drive through the Huguenot tunnel on the road to the north you pay a toll.  A few months ago, it was R38.25, and now it had been increased to R41.50.  Most people pay cash, while credit cards are accepted, but why don’t they charge a nice round number like R40 or R45.  Why mess with coins?  Several motorists drop the coins on the ground when handed back from the toll operator, and then hop out their car to retrieve the small change.  It causes chaos with irritated motorists also trying to get through the tolls.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

I filled the VW Polo today with petrol/gas at the cost of US$50.  Outrageously expensive for a small car.  My sister Gail fetched, our sister Monica and her husband, and then picked me up from the farm, as we headed to a restaurant midway between Montagu and Barrydale along Route 62.  This restaurant is literally in the middle of nowhere on a farm where they produce wine.  Leon, who runs the restaurant, told me the business has been slow since the municipality made him remove all the road signs advertising his place.  We met a British gentleman who is spending a month in Montagu on vacation.  I am guessing he must be in his late 50s.  He started cycling at 5:00 am from Ladismith along Route 62 to Montagu, a distance of 63 kilometers or 40 miles.  Leon, the restaurant owner, told me that a couple stopped at his restaurant while cycling from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, to South Africa, a distance of 5,240 kilometers or 3,256 miles.  (New York to LA is 2,800 miles).

Wednesday, March 18, 2020, through Wednesday, March 25, 2020

It may not be apparent in what I have written about so far, but for all intents and purposes, Linda and I were in quarantine due to the COVID-19 virus.  After my school function on Friday 13th, we began a process of isolation.  Linda in her sister’s home, and me in the cottage on my sister’s farm.  We made significant efforts to stay away from people, and in both cases, only interacted with our immediate families.  We clearly understood that being back home, we would need to begin a fourteen-day isolation process all over again.

Before setting off on this vacation, we had several family and friends that we wanted to meet, and in some situations, stay over and visit for a day or two.  None of that happened.  After I wrote my blog about Montagu, I discovered additional sites that I should visit and expand the blog.  That, too, did not occur.  The sad reality is that after our long trip on three aircraft and four large airports teaming with people, we had no assurance that we had not contracted the virus or were carriers that could affect other people.  The responsible action was to practice social distancing.  I am fortunate that I have visited South Africa on numerous occasions, and escaping the cold of Wisconsin for the warmth and sunshine of South Africa, could have been an even more enjoyable experience.


Arriving back home after three weeks in South Africa was a shock to be in a different world in terms of the reality of the Coronavirus, COVID-19. We received email, text, and telephone discussions from local families, friends, and neighbors about the prevailing practice. In one situation, we even had a face-to-face conversation with a friend, three meters/ten feet apart. 

Locally in Wisconsin, people still shop.  Let me use grocery stores as an example.  Seniors typically buy early morning, return home, shower, and launder all the clothing worn to the store.  Some purchase groceries and have goods delivered to your door.  If it is more urgent, people will order and pick up at the supermarkets with purchases brought to your vehicle.  In all cases, the bags or boxes are left at the entrance door on returning home, groceries are removed and sterilized, and packaging trashed.  Naturally, the next step is washing and disinfecting your hands, finally packing the groceries away.  

To put it mildly, when we arrived at the Milwaukee airport, it was like a ghost town.  There was virtually no one there; all the shops were closed.  Our state governor, Tony Evers, has declared all non-essential workers to stay home.  On the drive from the airport to our condo, I could not believe how light the traffic was.  One nearby church had 80 attend a service, afterward, ten tested positive for COVID-19, and 43 are sick.

It is very important for Donald J. Trump that America is the biggest and the best.  We are.  We have more COVID-19 cases than any other country in the world.

In our condo complex, we have a community room and a fitness room.  Both are locked until the virus passes.  

Our strategy to stem the virus was to launder everything that we journeyed with, including all clean clothing.  All suitcases got wiped down and sterilized.  We even washed our shoes. Our children stocked our home with food that should see us through for the next four weeks at a minimum. 

Social distancing is a reality.  People are staying at home and avoiding contact with others.  If you go for a walk and someone is on the pavement on your side of the road, you cross the street so as not to make close contact.  When we went through the security at the airport in Newark, they had an officer continually crying out, “stay at least six feet apart.”  

Our son, Sean, and his girlfriend drove in two cars to the airport.  Sean tossed my car keys to Linda, waved from a distance, and headed home.  If you have not yet got the message, we are taking this pandemic seriously.

The bottom line, if you meet someone today, who has met someone else in the last few days, you may have got yourself infected with a virus that can live for three weeks.  

We had a few unusual financial situations after we returned home.  We needed to cancel our Delta return ticket.  They did not offer us a refund, but we could use a credit on a future flight.  Hertz charged us an additional amount of $48, even if we returned the rental 18 days early.  I queried the charge, and they did not respond but did issue a credit of $47.  The difference was due to the fluctuation and devaluing of the South African Rand.  If you go to the grocery store and purchase several items, and charge it to your credit card, you do not expect to see an itemized list on your card for bread, milk, apples, tomatoes, etc.  United Airlines listed 12 separate charges, including South Africa Passenger Security Charge $1.30, South Africa Passenger Safety Charge $1.50, US APHIS User Fee $3.96, US Passenger Facility Charge $4.50, September 11th Security Fee $5.60, etc.  I guess if you wish to dispute any of these charges through your credit card company, this may be helpful.  I have never seen this detail on my Delta Airline bill.

As I reflect on our trip, my only disappointment was in not visiting family and friends that I wanted to meet.  Then too, I am sorry that we could not have additional sightseeing opportunities that we planned before our trip.  However, the seriousness of the COVID-19 virus cannot be underestimated, and being responsible and practice social distancing was and is the sensible option.

Stay safe, one and all.

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Timeless Karoo, Western Cape, South Africa

The Karoo in South Africa’s Western Cape provides some of the most fantastic touring sites and vacation places.

Timeless Karoo, a travelogue by Jonathan Deal.

As a voracious reader of non-fiction, and consummate writer, I believe that I am qualified to recognize a seminal work when I read one.  That was my reaction in reading Jonathan Deal’s travelogue, “Timeless Karoo.”  In 208 pages, 185 photographs, each picture telling their own story, Jonathan’s journey through five regions of the Karoo in South Africa’s Western Cape, spending time at each of 56 towns and villages is a riveting and highly informative read.

The Karoo in South Africa’s Western Cape Province provides some of the most fantastic touring sites and vacation places.  Steeped in history and offering a variety of scenic and cultural experiences, a travel opportunity not to be missed.

I am guilty as charged of driving from Cape Town to Johannesburg, or Port Elizabeth via the inland route, without stopping at these many places to savor the delights it has to offer, its history, or to meet the locals as Jonathan did.

Jonathan and his wife Sharon took three years to research in detail each town before visiting, and then journeyed to and stayed at each location.  With his background knowledge, he was able to meet the locals in a coffee shop, church or pub to learn more about the local history and customs, discerning their secrets before writing about his experiences.  While at it, Jonathan took magnificent photographs to illustrate for the reader’s enjoyment, thereby making the travel more enjoyable. The result is a page-turning narrative that keeps you engrossed in his findings.  The only warning is that you may want to follow his path of discovery.  It is addictive.

The result is a well-written account of all they saw and experienced, for us to enjoy.  Jonathan covers geography, geology, paleontology, and other topics of interest.  The book is complete with “Don’t Miss These Highlights,” a glossary of terms from Afrikaans to English, publicity associations, and information bureau telephone numbers, with accommodation suggestions from Jonathan’s personal experiences.  A goldmine of valuable information.

Regions covered: Klein Karoo, Hantam & Tankwa Karoo, Great Karoo, Northern & Upper Karoo, and Central Karoo.

Towns covered: Aberdeen, Amalienstein, Barrydale, Beaufort West, Britstown, Calitzdorp, Calvinia, Carnarvon, Colesberg, De Aar, De Rust, Fraserburg, Gamkaskloof (Die Hel), Graaf-Reinet, Hanover, Hopetown, Hutchinson, Ladismith, Laingsburg, Leeu-Gamka, Loxton, Matjiesfontein, Merweville, Middelburg, Middelpos, Montagu, Moordenaarskaroo, Mount Stewart, Murraysburg, Nelspoort, Nieu Bethesda, Niewoudtville, Noupoort, Oudtshoorn, Philipstown, Prieska, Prince Albert, Prince Albert Road, Richmond, Rietbron, Seweweekspoort, Smartt Dam, Steytlerville, Strydenburg, Sutherland, Three Sisters, Touws River, Uniondale, Van Wyksdorp, Victoria West, Vosburg, Wagenaarskraal, Williston, Willwmore, Witteberge, and Zoar.

In my travels, I have read many fact-based informational tour guides.  In Jonathan’s Timeless Karoo, he provides many fascinating anecdotes that help make this book a must-read.  Each page introduces impressive people, each with their own unique story. You get to enjoy many pearls of wisdom from prehistoric times.  Jonathan wrote it to make this book a must-read.  Revel in the geological facts. How has the economy impacted the communities?  What role water played in these communities?  Where in the Karoo will you find prehistoric fossils?

In addition to basic facts, Jonathan provides endless entertaining tales contributed by locals shared on his travels to make this a reverting read.  The data includes historical events.  America has its continental divide, where is there one in the Karoo?  What do you know about the diictodon?  Jonathan recommends scenic detours, what is not to like about that?  Jonathan tells accounts of his forefathers, including his mother.

Where to invest in this book?

I own the hardcover book.  I usually read novels and non-fiction on my Kindle.  I am particularly biased, this is a magnificent book to hold in your hand, now in its third edition, and the hardcover is the way to invest and enjoy this publication.

In South Africa, you can purchase hard copies from Sharon Deal, or directly from their website (082) 493-8733

The Rambling Rose Restaurant, 36 Long St, Montagu, 6720, Western Cape (083) 401-4503

The Lord Milner Hotel, Matjiesfontein, 6901 Western Cape (023) 561 3011

Nuveld Motors, Donkin St, Beaufort West, 6970 Western Cape (023) 414 4117

Veldskoen Padstal, N1 Road, De Doorns, 6875 Western Cape (023) 356 2619

South Africa’s Loot:


For my American and other international family and friends, this is the only way that you can lay your hands on this work: Amazon (ebook only)

South Africa’s Takealot (ebook only)

South Africa’s VitalSource (ebook only)

Enjoy your travel experiences.  I trust you discover all the hidden gems.

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Montagu, Western Cape, South Africa

A magnificent village full of charm and attractions. A great vacation spot.

Aerial cover photograph courtesy of Hilton Preston

Click to hear 14-minute audio of the blog text below, or read and enjoy.
See photographs and video clips below

My obsession with Montagu, like many of its visitors, is to get away from the rat race of the big cities to the peace and tranquility of this delightful town, or more correctly village.  A haven for fantastic weather, fun, healthy living, exercise, and great food experiences.

I was born at the southern tip of Africa in Cape Town.  Our family moved to New Berlin on the outskirts of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, late 1986.  Milwaukee is located alongside the freshwaters of Lake Michigan, 307 miles (494 km) long by 118 miles (190 km) wide with a shoreline 1,640 miles (2,640 km).  A two-hour drive south takes you to Chicago, Illinois.  The residences of Illinois are known as flatlanders, a reflection of their topography.  South Eastern Wisconsin is equally flat.

My fascination with our annual pilgrimage to the Western Cape in South Africa is to enjoy the many mountain rangers and sheer majestic beauty of the landscape.  I have written about the magnificence of Chapman’s Peak Drive, Boyes’ Drive, and the mountain passes in Franschoek.

When driving from Cape Town to Montagu, a two-hour trip that may take three-hours due to road construction, takes you across Du Toit’s Kloof, and through the Huguenot Tunnel.  You pass through Worcester, Robertson, Ashton, and the Kogman’s Kloof Pass to arrive in Montagu.

Kogman’s Kloof (gorge) is named after Cogmans, a Khoi chiefdom that lived in the area at the beginning of the 18th century.  The Khoi (meaning people) were hunter-gathers that inhabited Southern Africa at the time the Portuguese (Bartolomeu Dias 1488), Dutch (Jan van Riebeeck 1652), and British (1795) occupation.  The Khoikhoi got decimated by the smallpox epidemic around 1774—1677 during the third Khoikhoi-Dutch war.  This gorge is built through the Langeberg (long mountain) between Ashton and Montagu on Route 62 that ultimately takes you to Oudtshoorn.

I have two younger sisters.  My youngest sister and her husband have two businesses in Montagu.  A pip (pit in America) processing plant where they dry and split peach and apricot pips.  The outer husks are used for yard mulch or finely ground and used for abrasive materials, and the seed for medicinal purposes.  Their other business is an Arabian horse breeding farm.  My older sister and my now deceased parents have at some time in their lives lived in Montagu, and reason enough for me to visit this quaint town.

Montagu has a population of 15,500, with an additional regular stream of 30,000 visitors peaking to 40,000 in season.  What is the attraction of this town?  In 1936 Montagu was declared a health resort, attracting an influx of wealthy.  The hot water healing properties at Avalon Springs and Montagu Springs are among the attractions.  Montagu Hot Springs charged a fee dating back to 1873.  My wife and I have walked from town along the fee-paying Badskloof Trail, following the Kogmanskloof River through the magnificent mountain gorges, to the hot springs and back along Route 318 to our home base.  An exhilarating hike if there ever was one.

With health being an attraction, one of my favorites is Carma Lifestyle Hair Salon and Body Wellness.  Salon owner Michael Cole’s 32-year career began in London at Vidal Sassoon.  Mike’s talent supported his global travel as a stylist, manager, and educator.  He settled in South Africa at the Mount Nelson Hotel.  Eventually, Michael started Carma Hair & Wellness in Montagu.  Carla Cole, Michael’s wife, designs a customized body treatment based on an in-depth consultation to target your needs.  I enjoyed head massages, hair cuts, pedicures, and back massages by this highly professional team.

With the significant tourist trade in Montagu, it is not surprising that there are many excellent restaurants.  At last count, a minimum of 16.  I have probably supported each of them at one time over the years.  As a creature of habit, there are two that stand out for me.  BluVines provides all professional aspects of a restaurant with occasional singing entertainment, wine tasting, and a conference room facility.  This restaurant is so impressive that I wrote separately about it. 

My other favorite is Rambling Rose, managed by Sergio and Cay Fernandes.  I have returned to this establishment many times over the years thanks to the great food and friendly atmosphere.  Both restaurants located on Route 62, Long Street, the road as you enter Montagu from Ashton, situated on the right-hand side.  If you are paying in US$, these restaurant prices are ridiculously low, and quality as good, if not better than US restaurants.

Montagu provides accommodation to suit every tourism need.  Approximately 700 people are employed in the tourism industry.  There are 1,900 beds provided through 40 Hotels, Self-Catering Units, Guest Houses, and Bed & Breakfast establishments.  With additional Game Lodges, Caravan Park, and provisions for Backpackers.  Here I am fortunate that my family provides for my accommodation needs.

When visiting the Tourism Office at 24 Bath Street, they provide materials to help with your enjoyment of the many sights and activities in Montagu.  They offer a walking tour map highlighting 25 places of interest in town.  I will name drop by referencing one site.  The Dutch Reformed Church was constructed between 1858 and 1862 by Joseph Barry for an amount of £4,300 (in 2019 currency £520,000, US$670,000, R10 million).  The Neo-Gothic cross-shaped church was design by George Burkett.  The eastern and western galleries designed by John Parker added in 1906. Initially painted in traditional white color, but after complaints by residents that the reflection of the bright sunlight blinded one, was painted in today’s creamy-yellow.  I must recognize Maraletta Mundey, Tourism Manager at Montagu-Ashton Tourism, for providing me with excellent reference materials regarding Montagu and its environs.  Maraletta and her team provide excellent and professional customer service. 

One attraction I enjoy is the Montagu Village Market held on Saturday mornings.  It is my favorite place to find momentoes for my granddaughters and other family members and friends.  I never miss out on freshly made pancakes and coffee.  Here you will find many handicrafts, including clothing, jewelry, beads, hand-painted cloths, etc.  For the locals, they have access to olive oil, cheese, vegetables, loaves of bread, chutney, sauces, and eggs.  Naturally, biltong (jerky) is available—but do not attempt to take this overseas with you.  It could cost you having it confiscated or getting arrested for trying to sneak in food products.  There are specialty booksellers.  How can you afford to miss this exciting and friendly market?

Bird Sanctuary

If you wish to spend alone time watching birds, then the bird sanctuary is a peaceful location to enjoy nature.  Important to know that this is located at the intersection of Bath and Barry streets.

Short Drive through Montagu—along Bath, Barry, and Long streets.

Montagu Mountains

This short video identifies a small portion of the mountain that I had the pleasure of viewing for many days in a row, and appreciate the ever-changing beauty.

The above represents eight photographs taken on different days to show the kaleidoscopic beauty and mood of a single spot in this tiny portion of the Langeberg (long mountain) West mountain range.

Montagu is a springboard for several scenic drives.  I wrote about my trip to Barrydale along Route 62 in my blog.  You can follow a delightful journey in the opposite direction, along Route 318, to Keisie.  Keisie means “sweet water” in the language of the Khoisan.  It is 18-kilometers along the Langeberg (long mountain) valley in the Little Karoo, a semi-desert region, arid, with a unique ecosystem, South Africa’s most significant collection.


John Montagu was the Colonial Secretary of the Cape and visited the town in 1852.  The village was laid out on the farm Uitvlucht (escape), beginning in 1841.  The Second Boer War (October 11, 1899, to May 31, 1902) resulted in the English building a fort (9.3 X 3.8 meters 30 X 12 feet) above Kogman’s Kloof, seen as you drive through the short tunnel.  Montagu was founded in 1851.  The first school opened in 1855, and the church in 1862.  The hot springs started operations in 1873.  Montagu banknotes issued in 1861 until the bank’s demise in 1868.  In 1877 Thomas Bain built the tunnel and new road through Kogman’s Kloof alongside the Kingna River flowing southwest of Montagu.  In 1936 Montagu was declared a health resort, and at one time in the early days, boasted five millionaires.  In 1950 Montagu hosted the first South African Wine Festival.  In 1954 the Montagu Nature Garden was inaugurated.  In January 1981, heavy rains in the southern Karoo caused the Keisie and Kingna rivers to flood and meet at the confluence in Montagu.  It resulted in considerable loss of life and damage to property.  It justified the reconstruction of the roads to minimize flood damage.  Construction is currently underway.  In April 1995, President Mandela opened the twenty-first Muscadel Wine Festival.

The reality is that I still have so much more to see and experience in this quaint town.  I will keep looking for additional charm and sites worth exploring on future visits.

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BluVines Restaurant

Richard Weilers opened his establishment in April 2019 after remodeling a farmhouse into a restaurant, wine tasting venue, and conference room facility.

How many small dozen persons enterprises are you aware of that is privately held, with an active social responsibility commitment, and operates a foundation that passionately gives back to their local community?

When I established my website, I had no plans to write about restaurants.  That was before I met the creative, charismatic, generous, caring hospitality executive Richard F. Weilers, owner of BluVines in Montagu, Western Cape, South Africa.  Richard opened his establishment in April 2019 after remodeling a farmhouse into a restaurant, wine tasting venue, and conference room facility.  More about Montagu here:

Previously Richard was Managing Director, Hotels Offshore, Tsogo Sun Gaming Ltd., from July 2011 until his retirement when he took up residence in Montagu.  Richard’s domicile was Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he was responsible for opening and managing Tsogo’s offshore facilities.  Tsogo in Setswana means resurrection or new life, a term that mimics the daily rising of the sun. 

When driving from Ashton to Montagu on Route 62 as you enter the town on Long Street, on the right-hand side is a charcoal building, BluVines.  If you appreciate class, excellent service, and occasional live singing, this restaurant deserves your patronage.  The establishment would be welcome on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Trafalgar Square London, Times Square, New York, or Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi.  A place where patrons enjoy first-class dining and delightful entertainment.  The vista with a massive mountain nearby is as awe-inspiring as is the service and food.  It is a special treat for Montagu.  We had lunch for seven family members—and what a special gift.  The average cost for drinks, main course, and deserts were R233 (US$15), a steal if ever there was one.  Don’t forget to visit the winery, and in all sincerity the bathrooms, as that too is an experience.  If you wish to hold a small 14-person conference, the facilities are exquisite.  There is off-street parking behind the restaurant.

What makes BluVines so unique?  Where to start?

Food preparations are by chefs James Mulligan, Sean Bassett, and Knowledge Jonasi.  Waiting service is courtesy of Team Leader Aviwe November (cousin to Siphi—see below), and waiters and singing performers, Mark Stalmeester, Mbulelo Hohlo, and Antonio Arendorf.  Ronald Chiripo is the Grand Baristo and Mixologist; Custodians are Preveledge Dimasi and John Zgambo.  Elliam Nehama is the gardener, all serving under the watchful eye of General Manager Jonine Erasmus.  It is worth noting that with the impressive menu presented to guests, Richard’s name is not reflected.  He is willing to have his team get the recognition they so richly deserve.

James Mulligan singing Falling in Love.  (Watch for the large photograph of a farmhouse near the end of his song, and see additional photograph information below detailing the Conference Room).

Mark Stalmeester and Antio Arendorf performing All I Want.

Menu items include ten percent paid to the BluVines Vision fund.  Staff members receive six percent of the proceeds, with the balance donated to the RAD Foundation.  RAD (Rural Arts Development) Foundation believes in M.A.G.I.C (Music and Growing Inspired Children), and introduces the Arts to Rural communities, providing a platform for integration and unity in diversity, through classes and festivals.  Helen Gooderson is the inspiration to all for her leadership and direction of RAD. She is referred to as “our mother” and has enormous drive and energy.  RAD’s aim is to get youth off the streets and into an environment where they can learn, grow, and achieve manageable goals — working in collaboration with other non-profit organizations to ensure reaching all target groups of youth to introduce them to projects including HIV/AIDS awareness, substance abuse, life skills, recycling, nutrition, and other relevant youth issues.

As an aside, and to reinforce the achievements, benefits, and success of the RAD Foundation, read about Siphesihle (Siphe) November and the late Fiona Sargeant, a past patron of RAD in my 16-day Canadian trip on Day 4.    Fiona’s incredible gift was to work with and develop young people so that they may use the opportunities that Dancescape gave them to change their lives through dance.  Siphe November’s talent was nurtured to provide him with the privilege and opportunity of continuing his training at the Canadian National Ballet School.  “With his debut as Bluebird in Rudolf Nureyev’s production of The Sleeping Beauty last spring, National Ballet of Canada corps member Siphesihle November quickly established himself as the rightful heir to one of the most challenging male parts in the classical repertoire.”  Dance Magazine.  “Mr. November has danced in such ballet as The Nutcracker, Nijinsky, The Winter’s Tale, The Four Seasons, Emergence, Paz de la Jolla and The Dreamers Ever Leave You.”

Blu Vines feature Mimosa wines that are terroir-driven, with limited quantities to ensure a sustained focus on quality.  Terroir (French from terre—land) is a set of environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype. Bernhard Hess is the creator and inspiration of the Mimosa Wine Brand.

Richard commissioned the large photograph for the conference room to depict “Create your vision, and keep your eye on the goal.”  The conference room can seat up to 14 delegates. Cape Town photographer, Martin Osner created this work.  There is a second picture of Martin’s on the patio.  I did not take a photograph of this but can be seen in the background on the patio in the video with James Mulligan singing Falling in Love.

Sometimes it is just the small things that add to the class of this establishment.  Imagine providing absent-minded patrons with glasses to read the menu, or possibly more valuable to read the bill.

In America, we have a strong view that you can tell how clean the kitchen is by inspecting the bathroom.  Here three rooms are provided, a ladies, gents, and a handicap accessible or baby change room.  If it does not verify the care, attention, and cleanliness that has gone into every detail, then nothing will.  Please notice the small hand towels available for drying your hands, and the receptacle for storing the used towels.  I apologize for not closing the door when I photographed and saw my error too late.  The video is less problematic.

Please invest the time for your enjoyment to visit and appreciate this fine dining restaurant.  I did.

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Huguenot Tunnel on Du Toits Kloof Pass

Living in Southeast Wisconsin, alongside Lake Michigan in the United States, where the countryside is relatively flat, makes visiting southwestern South Africa around Cape Town and environs exiting with its…

Living in Southeast Wisconsin, alongside Lake Michigan in the United States, where the countryside is relatively flat, makes visiting southwestern South Africa around Cape Town and environs exiting with its many majestic mountain ranges.  You may get the impression that I am obsessed with the beauty of mountain passes of the Cape with my blog describing Chapman Peak’s Drive, Boyes Drive, and Franschoek Pass.

There are more than 51,300 tunnels in the world with China (16,229) and Japan (9,760) being the most prolific.  South Africa has ten vehicle tunnels and one rail tunnel.  The most impressive, to me, is the Huguenot Tunnel on Du Toits Kloof Pass (gap in English) between Worcester and Paarl on the N1.

The N1 is a national route in South Africa that runs from Cape Town through Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Polokwane to Beit Bridge on the border with Zimbabwe.  It is 1,929 kilometers (1,200 miles) in length.

Before 1825, farmers used the gravel pass to get to the interior beyond.  P.A. De Villiers, an engineer, explored the idea of a road over the pass in 1930.  The National Roads Board investigated the idea further in 1938 and finalized the route in 1940.  The project started in 1941 and completed in 1949.  The vehicular accessible Du Toits Kloof Pass was conceived by and named for Francois Du Toit, a 17th-century Huguenot pioneer.  Originally 48 km (30 miles) long, the pass elevated to 820 meters (2,690 feet). 

The 3.9 kilometers (2.5 miles) Huguenot Tunnel opened in 1988, reducing the distance of the old pass by 11 kilometers (6.8 miles).  Driving time between Worcester and Paarl reduced by 20 minutes.  It is the largest curved structure in South Africa and operated as a toll road.  Current toll charges R39.50 (US$2.65) each way.

Geological surveys and design started in 1973, and excavation followed in 1984, tunneling from both ends using drilling and blasting.  There were two phases to the tunneling, the first a pilot tunnel to examine the routes geographical obstacles.  The second phase bored a 5-meter (16.4 feet) tunnel through granite rock as well as the construction of portals, drainage, and ventilation tunnels.  The two drilling heads met with an error of only 3 mm over its entire 3.9 km length.

Leading up to the Huguenot Tunnel from its south side is an awe-inspiringly beautiful, high-altitude viaduct bridge (the first of its kind built in South Africa!) The bridge is simultaneously curved and cambered –constructed by the incremental method.  It soars high above the farm-patch worked valley.

Currently, the tunnel carries one lane of traffic in each direction. Plans are underway to open a second unfinished tunnel, the “northern bore,” to take eastbound traffic. It will allow for two lanes of traffic in each direction, with each tunnel carrying traffic in one direction only.

The old tollway free pass is still available to motorists and follows along Route 101.

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My 50-year career.

As I look back on a 50-year career, what have I learned, and what have I achieved?


It is a long read.  Take a break at any time.  Remember the chapter number.  Return later, clicking on the appropriate link above to get back to where you stopped reading previously.

1.   In the beginning

My mother’s advice to me while growing up was to get a job, stay with the company until retirement, and enjoy the benefits of a pension.  It was my father’s course of action.  He spent 40 years with Mobil Oil, retired with a pension and medical aid policy.  He continued to receive this benefit after Mobil withdrew from South Africa due to its apartheid policies, and sold its assets to mining giant Gencor in 1989.  Today Mobil petrol/gas outlets in South Africa are branded as Engen.  Mom and dad soon realized that they could not live on his pension and started a knitting business from home using their fancy electrically operated machines.

2.   Moving from place to place

Linda, my wife, has said multiple times that I should have listened to my mother.  Linda’s brother spent his life in one city, living in two homes, with a brief 4-month stay in Florida, USA.  Her sister lived in two towns and two houses.  My oldest sister lived in 2 cities and three houses, while my youngest sister in business with her husband lived in two cities, with three houses and lived on two different farms.  At the other end of the spectrum, over time, we lived in Cape Town on two separate occasions, Johannesburg twice, Pietersburg once, and Waukesha County, Wisconsin, in 5 locations.  All in all, we lived in two countries, owned six homes, and resided in 8 rental apartments.

3.   Bottom Line

The net result Linda believes is that in retirement, we might be destitute.  Linda will quickly add that during 48 years of marriage, we purchased at least 30 off the showroom floor vehicles.  During my youth in South Africa, I read in an Automobile Association Magazine that you never buy your spouse a clunker to drive your precious children around.  Linda got to enjoy that new car smell multiple times.  These days Linda chauffeurs our four granddaughters, two at a time.  The reality is that we are not destitute, just looking forward to lots of fun times in retirement.

4.   Language Options

As you read, you will see that I duplicate some terms, sometimes separated with a slash (/), and other times bracketed, one for an American audience, the other for a South African or international reader.

5.   Summary of Work History

I have worked for five decades.  During that time, 11 companies employed me, and I had three businesses—one in South Africa and two in America.  Of the 11 companies as an employee, I served for four months at one and eight months at each of two others.  Here I share the lessons and anecdotes of those experiences.  For 29 years, I ran my businesses, the balance, 21 years working for different bosses.

6.   Competent and Incompetent

In summary, by reviewing companies I worked for and those I consulted with: I have been disappointed where the greed for money has led owners or management to compromise ethics, in contrast to situations where integrity reigned supreme.  I have been alarmed by weak executive management leadership based on their incompetence versus highly successful companies with an enthusiastically motivated goal-oriented senior management, driving a team with well-defined goals, direction, and purpose.  Family-run businesses can pose unique challenges.  Sometimes the owner is insecure and refuses to appoint capable people into critical positions, resulting in a less than optimal operating performance and financial results.  Then too, working with or consulting to companies large and small with poorly defined measurement and reward systems results in the worst possible outcome for the organization. 

7.   Breadth of Experience

To put my assertions in perspective, understand that I have been fortunate to engage with more than 300 client companies in North America, Southern Africa, Western Europe, while running my businesses and with close business relationships with two Indian software companies, including a visit to Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) India.  On occasions where I found the culture and ethics untenable or found complete management incompetence, I moved on.  That includes situations where the owners broke written agreements and found no problem with blatant lies.  My consulting fee will never be the motivation to keep invoicing a company for services rendered if I could not assure them of a successful implementation.  Similarly, I do not want to earn a salary if I see my employer acting immorally or dishonestly.  This situation has occurred with companies that I worked for, or software companies that I represented, or consulting assignments that I knew would not have a successful conclusion.

8.   Trial by Fire

To amplify a positive development: I have exposed myself repeatedly to many diverse situations that allowed me to grow as a person.  Naturally, I will not list every failing, or that may take a long time to document and read.  But let me illustrate one situation.  I studied engineering at UCT (University of Cape Town).  The coursework excluded studies in the humanities or finance.  During my first business in South Africa, I was presenting material to a broad audience, all employees from the same government-run organization.  At question time, they asked about the finer points of how the software application would cater to and support information relating to Work in Process/Progress (WIP), including materials, labor, and overhead costs at various stages of production.  Picture me standing in front of a hundred people and not sure how to respond with a credible response that I felt comfortable expanding on.  Within days I enrolled in a business management course where I studied finance and management accounting, business law, and human relations, etc.  I never tripped up again.  In my career, I have taken many courses covering computer technical and personal development.

9.   Confidentiality

To protect the guilty, I will not name individuals or companies, unless it is where I wish to honor colleagues and clients.  I will recount information in employment chronological order, beginning with my first position with Mobil Oil (now ExxonMobil) in Cape Town.  I should hasten to add that I do not believe I was easy to manage.  I set very high ethical and professional standards for myself and expected the same from people I worked for or with.  That became a pivotal motivation to start my businesses.  I have a lifelong drive where I wake up in the morning, motivated to get to work.  If I did not feel that passion with a work situation I was involved in, I moved on.  Life is too short to be miserable in a job.  I never believed that I alone could effect change to politics in government or any organization, but I could control my destiny.

10.       Gig Economy

The current thinking in the US is that the number of people in the “gig economy” is going to grow to 40% by 2020.  In this environment, corporations save on benefits, office space, and training—and get qualified skilled resources to perform clearly defined tasks from their own, usually home, location.  In the “good old days,” we called it consulting, but like everything else in life, we must create new marketing terminology.  Essential to the gig economy are people with specialized skills who work from home backed up with a computer, cell phone, internet, and able to travel anywhere worldwide where a qualified skillset is required to support a corporate client’s needs.  Networking with others with complementary skills is an advantage.  I am an example of a gig economy and have been for half my working career.  It is especially great for experienced Baby Boomers looking for part-time work or the desire to dress casually every day with a very short commute to their home office from the bedroom.

11.                 Scope

What have I experienced over five decades?  I acquired detail workings of retail, wholesale, distribution, and manufacturing businesses.  My expertise covered supply chain management.  It embraced customers, suppliers, marketing, sales, and company operations.  The retailers, wholesalers, or distributors could be brick and mortar, mail order in earlier times, or internet sales in recent years.  I can advise on planning and to manage all aspects of omnichannel, where and how to control the replenishment of merchandise, especially as it relates to inventory management (stock control) with the emphasis on ensuring available inventory with very high stock turns and improved profitability for the organization.  In essence, I focus on inventory forecasting and replenishment, with a very watchful eye to ensure maximum customer service through on-time delivery matching promised delivery dates, top-line sales increases, and bottom-line profitability.  It is critically imported to clarify that these productivity improvements required practical software tools, and almost always after re-engineering the business process with automation in mind.  It could only be successful with prerequisite executive and middle management education, training, project management, and consulting services.

With manufacturing enterprises, I worked with make-to-stock (MTS), make-to-order (MTO), assemble-to-order (ATO), engineer-to-order (ETO), and other production variations or combination of strategies.  The critical challenge is to optimize a plan focusing on bottleneck work centers or operations to minimize work-in-process (WIP) and maximize flow to increase on-time delivery to customers in the shortest lead time possible.  The production enterprises covered all of the pharmaceutical, medical devices, chemical, automotive, automotive component, capital equipment, and just about any batch, process, or flow production that you can imagine.  My role here included education, training, consulting, process re-engineering, project management, and all duties to help a company improve its overall operating performance.  Collaboration with a client’s sales personnel, management from all the operational disciplines, customers and suppliers, and sub-contractors, where applicable, is critical.  Many companies structure in silos and never appear to communicate with one another.  To illustrate, allow me to share an experience with a pharmaceutical company.  One product line was highly seasonal flu medication.  When marketing looked back at the previous year’s sales, they saw dismal results, so they stepped up the advertising budget.  Sales saw the same history and set out a BOGO (buy one, get one) 50% off promotion.  These campaigns were successful.  Nobody thought to tell operations, who could not meet demand.  They had not ratcheted up production while planning for the necessary increase in ingredient and packaging demand, nor did they have the required capacity already allocated to produce other products.  The company wasted money including lost opportunities for sales, unnecessary promotional costs, and annoyed their customers in the process with missed deliveries.

12.                 High School

During my time at high school and university, I worked for Mobil during my holidays.  The work at times was strenuous.  The small pack depot in Woodstock (a suburb of Cape Town) held bulk tanks carrying thousands of gallons/liters of fuel, used to fill 55 (200 liters) and 10 gallons (20 liters) drums and pails.  In the unlikely event of a tank rupture, they were built inside a bund wall, about 10 feet (3 meters) high with the belief that if a tank sprang a leak, fuel would be dammed within the perimeter.  Walls were whitewashed, and management decided to re-paint with acrylic.  My job was to scrape the whitewash off the walls.  It defines difficult hard work in the heat of the summer sun.  In succeeding years, I was sent to Mossel Bay (a coastal town 4-hour drive west of Cape Town) to work as a clerk to relieve a staff member taking a vacation.  I worked at the Epping (a suburb of Cape Town) facility where they managed LPG—Liquefied Petroleum Gas products.  I worked at the bulk fuel depot in the Cape Town harbor.  Here a team went to the dockside to couple up hoses from ships carrying petroleum products to distribution pipes that transferred fuel to the bulk tanks in Mobil’s storage yard.  Mobil supplied bunker fuel to fishing, cargo, and passenger ships from these same tanks and pipes.  This facility is where trucks were filled to transport fuel to the service (petrol/gas) stations.  At times I would drive vehicles to transport pipes and personnel within the harbor area.  I drove the large fuel rigs a short distance.  A manager asked me if I had a heavy-duty driver’s license.  The answer was no, and I quickly obtained the needed permit.

13.               Poqo

We had an extraordinary experience one day, my last working day before the start at university while working at the Mobil harbor facility.  That day was the opening of parliament in Cape Town, and some of the workers decided they would make this a very memorable day.  Members of Poqo, working for Mobil, chose to have a real fireworks display.  The Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA), formerly known as Poqo, was the military wing of the Pan Africanist Congress, an African nationalist movement in South Africa.  A terrorist group.  Fortunately, even with the experience of working at Mobil, they were unbelievably stupid.  The bulk storage tank, holding thousands of gallons of petroleum products, has a flange attached to it.  An open and shut butterfly valve is attached to the flange, and a distribution pipe attached to the valve.  When not in use to send or receive fuel, the valve is tightly closed and secured with a chain and padlock.  During the night of mid-January 1964, the Poqo members removed the nuts on the flange to the distribution pipe side.  To be effective, they should have taken the nuts off the flange against the tank.  The net result is that a few gallons, maybe a 100 or so, spilled out of the distribution pipe.  They set this alight, and the fire quickly fizzled out with no real damage, but for blackened earth.  A security guard saw the fire and called the police.  We arrived at work in the morning with the place crawling with cops, and a few frightened workers in handcuffs.

14.                 Railways

During my university years, I took a break from Mobil and spent one vacation working for the South African Railways at their production and maintenance facility to learn how trains were built and maintained.  There too, I learned the importance of taking salt pills and drinking gallons of water to survive the extreme heat inside the workshop.

15.               Mobil—Transport

After a four-year stint studying engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT), I joined Mobil Oil at a branch office in the southern suburbs (Rondebosch) of Cape Town.  One of my first duties in the transportation department was to transpose data from a monthly computer printout onto Kardex Cards.  This report tracked maintenance expenses for each vehicle, especially the petroleum bulk trucks.  While the petroleum delivery vehicles are in motion, the acceleration and braking cause the petroleum product in the tanks to swirl back and forth, causing stress on the trailer and mechanical horse.  Tracking repair expenses is critical to ascertain the actual cost of transportation and determining a replacement date when maintenance costs predict the end of a vehicle’s useful operating life.  The computer printout listed current month expenses, year to date, and life-to-date information.  I was required to find the appropriate transportation equipment card in the Kardex Card tray, sorted by the vehicle Equipment Number, and transcribe the data from the computer printout.  It did not take long before I went to my boss to ask why this was a needed process.  He explained that there might be an inquiry from the head office to learn what a particular vehicle was costing the company to operate.  We would come across professionally by having the data at our fingertips with information written on those Kardex Cards.  Then again, this is the way they always did it.  I told my manager that this activity was ridiculous.  All he needed to do was to save the most recent computer printout, and when that call came, find the pertinent details on the computer report.  I refused to complete this task.  The computer printouts became the new SOP—Standard Operating Procedure.

16.  Mobil—Loaned Equipment Services

Now without a useful job in transportation, I was transferred to the Loaned Equipment Services department within the same branch office for a dream job.  Mobil provided capital equipment, petrol/gas pump dispensers, and underground tanks to facilitate sales of Mobil products.  My task was to create site drawings for the service stations reflecting where new underground storage tanks were to get installed, where the fuel dispensers are to be located and submit plans to the city for approval, secure a contractor to perform the task, and supervise a successful project completion.  It allowed me to be out of the office most days.  What fun. 

17.                 Ronald Cohen

A wealthy family lived in a prestigious suburb of Constantia in Cape Town with a mansion set well below the street level.  They had a swimming pool with a sliding roof and required an underground tank to heat the pool and house during the short winter season.  The challenge was that the pipe leading from the road where the truck had to park for decanting to the underground tank was long.  How could we ensure that the tank would not overfill?  We solved the problem.  The details are not pertinent.  I attended Rondebosch Boy’s High School.  A few years later, the owner of this mansion, Ronald Cohen, 41 at the time, a property development millionaire, and a Rondebosch Boy’s graduate, gained notoriety when he murdered his wife Susan, 25, in their home with a statue after she admitted to an affair on April 5, 1970.  Ronald was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, escaped the death sentence because of mitigating circumstances, was released on parole in September 1975, moved to London, and died at age 73 in January 2002 after a long illness.

18.                Dad

My dad worked at Mobil for 40 years.  He joined when I was born and retired at 65.  He ran into a corporate buzz saw.  The gas/petrol service stations have underground tanks storing petroleum products, including diesel and different grades of gasoline.  To gain access to the refueling pipe, the bulk truck drivers had to open manhole covers on the driveway court and couple up the hoses before decanting into the tanks from the delivery truck.  My dad worked in operations and got frequent calls to replace the square or rectangular manhole covers.  On inspection, my dad noticed that when cars or trucks drove over these manhole covers, the corners would break off, and the entire manhole cover needed replacing.  My dad spoke to the foundry suppliers and requested them to manufacture round covers.  Over time the square and rectangular covers were replaced by these new round manholes.  A few years later, my dad was hauled onto the carpet by head office and asked what right he had to make this engineering change that had saved the company a fortune in repair and replacement bills.  The head office stipulated that all manhole covers had to be square or rectangular, and no engineering drawings existed that permitted round covers.  After a detailed review, the engineering department drew new plans for round manhole covers.  For the record, circular manhole covers cannot fall down the hole; rectangular covers can.  My dad never received thanks for the savings generated or the initiative he took.

19.               Dad’s Accident

One day my dad was called to a service station where a driver had dropped the dip stick, used to determine the level of fuel in the tanks, down the pipe.  A motorist driving a Land Rover came to see what dad was doing with his arm down the filler pipe, trying to retrieve the dipstick.  The motorist returned to his vehicle and drove over my dad.  The car twisted my dad’s body, injured his arm still in the pipe, and caused a back injury that required many years of chiropractic treatment.

20.      Mobil—Computer Department

During my studies at UCT, we learned computer programming.  The bug bit.  Understanding that this was the mid-60s, programs had to be written on preformatted pages, punched onto 80 columns (and 12 rows) cards, and fed into the computer via its card reader.  I was in no position to know that we had to make do since UCT and did not have state-of-the-art technology.  During my first year at Mobil in the branch office, I made a strong case to be transferred to the corporate office in downtown Cape Town to become a programmer in the computer department.  I would be remiss if I did not admit that I was paid R160 (one hundred and sixty rands) per month in my branch office job, and heard that all programmers earned R500 per month.  My first increase in the computer department totaled R175/month.  In fairness over time, I made more than my dad, and eventually, more than my mom and dad combined.  So it was an excellent transition for me.

21.                February 15, 1969

I entered the computer industry on February 15, 1969, one year after joining Mobil.  Most of Mobil’s software developers were still programming in Autocoder, a low-level assembler type language for the older generation IBM 1401 computer.  It was a punch card-based system that required sophisticated card sorting along with data processing.  I was fortunate in that my initial training was to learn the latest programming language, COBOL, for the newly installed IBM 360 model 30.  (360 representing the third generation computer for the 60s, providing a 360-degree perspective).  COBOL is an acronym for “common business-oriented language,” a compiled English-like computer programming language designed for business use.  The prerequisite requirement before coding was to design and layout the processing logic on sheets using a Program Flowchart Template.  With clearly defined and precise sequenced logical steps, write the program on the preformatted document with each block to accommodate one character per square, ready to be key punched.  Not to get too technical, the applications are compiled by the computer.  It created an assembly or executable program, which ultimately ran on the computer to perform the logical operating instructions.  It is necessary to stress that I found I was very accomplished in this application development role.  More than that, I enjoyed writing large and complex programs for sophisticated applications.  My creative logic ability allowed me to develop large scale programs that tested well before release, therefore not requiring many rewrites to resolve poor programming issues and stood up well to the test of time.  Little did I know at the time that this interest and experience in data processing would stand me in good stead for five decades?  During that fifty-year journey, the applications needed to be redeveloped frequently as the computer hardware and software became more sophisticated.  It opened many opportunities to support management, requiring a rethink of utilizing automation to a higher degree and determine how to exploit the latest technology.

22.                Fixed Asset Register

There was an incident that helped me earn praise.  At that time, the 360 was mostly a tape-based computer where you had an input tape; the computer would do the required calculations, and send results to the output tape drive.  Later, DASD (Direct Access Storage Devices), a multilayer set of disks the size of long-playing records, could access data far quicker with its moving read-write heads and store calculated data significantly faster than a sequential tape system used for processing.  Late one afternoon, the computer operators, yes we had those back then, approached me to say the input tape for the Fixed Asset Register got overwritten.  My challenge was to recreate that tape.  Long story short, I worked through the night, writing programs, testing, executing programs, and the application ran correctly by morning.  It was that dedication that helped me to get the more challenging assignments at Mobil. 

23.                 PVS

The first significant application I helped program was as a team member for PVS—Product Valuation and Stock Control.  It was a sophisticated inventory control application where we processed data for Mobil operations in what was then South Africa, Mozambique, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), South West Africa (Namibia) and Bechuanaland (Botswana).  As product moved around the country and across international borders, the inventory control tracking, currency calculations, and General Ledger entries were all created, generated, documented, and precise.  Ironically that was the beginning of my career-long specialization in inventory (or stock) control systems.

Our 360 computer was so impressive that we held an annual open house.  Here our families could ogle at the magnificent machine requiring false floors and false ceilings to help circulate the air conditioning to keep the computer running at the ideal operating temperature.  To think that I have more power today on my iPhone or iPad than we had with that computer.  Isn’t the evolution of technology fascinating?  Moore’s Law comes in to play.

24.                Moore’s Law

Moore’s law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.  The statement is named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, whose 1965 paper described a doubling every year in the number of components per integrated circuit, and projected this rate of growth would continue for at least another decade.  In 1975, looking forward to the next decade, he revised the forecast to doubling every 18 months because of Intel executive David House, who predicted that chip performance would increase every 18 months (being a combination of the effect of more transistors and the transistors being faster).

25.                 Restroom

I used the restroom one day.  Eric Eales watched me as I stood at the urinal, washed my hands, and ready to return to work.  He said that he was puzzled.  He wanted to know if my penis was dirty.  I said no.  Then he asked me why I did not wash my hands before using the urinal, since my hands were likely dirty, and surely I did not want to infect my private parts.  He opined that there was little reason to wash up after completion.  My ritual today is to wash up before and after.  I think of all those signs in restaurant bathrooms that remind personnel to wash before leaving the facility.  It’s essential advice if you needed to be seated to fulfill a call of nature.

26.                 Wedding Present

Linda and I got married during my time at Mobil while working in the computer department.  Naturally, we invited several colleagues to the wedding ceremony and reception.  An accountant and his wife were among the attendees.  We were delighted that they presented us with a tablecloth and serviette (napkin) set.  Imagine our surprise when we unwrapped it to see that this was, in fact, a re-gifted present where they forgot to remove the card that wished them well for their wedding.

27.                 Robin Ormond

Robin Ormond and his wife Bev were good friends of ours.  We invited them for dinner one weekend.  When Robin arrived, he had to decline our meal because they had eaten before visiting us.  He said that he did not realize that this was a dinner invitation.  Robin was in his 30s when on the way to work by train from the southern suburbs.  After arrival at the station in Cape Town, he had a heart attack and died instantly.  He left behind a bereaved wife, young children, and very shocked colleagues.

28.                Helen

Helen taught me a life lesson.  Helen was responsible for processing the payroll system on the old IBM 1401, and working the multicycle card sorter.  When Helen was not attending to the payroll, she was a member of a contingent of about 50 keypunch card operators in the data recording pool.  What Helen did not appreciate as an entry-level clerk, a minimum level income person was seeing what everyone at Mobil earned, including executive management.  When people are responsible for performing confidential work, they need careful counseling to stay motivated and coached to understand that not every job or position in the company earns the same salary as a keypunch operator.

29.               Mohawk Data Recorder

A Mohawk Data Sciences Corporation salesperson presented their Data Recorder, a tape-based data capture unit to the Mobil computer executives.  The goal was to replace the card punch machines with this latest technology.  A Mobil computer supervisor was assigned the task of performing a cost-benefit analysis.  The result of his study was that it was impossible to justify replacing card punch machines with this new data recorder equipment.  It was cost-prohibitive.  The computer executive manager instructed the supervisor to redo his study and prove that moving to the latest technology will significantly benefit Mobil.  Mobil replaced those card punch machines.  If you are smart, you can always make numbers do what is required.  In my career, I have performed numerous cost justifications, still being savvy about the end goal and preparing indisputable facts.

30.                Manager Bill

I reported to a manager, Bill, who took a surprising liking to me and gave me the more challenging assignments.  I learned later that he was a disillusioned dad.  Bill had a son, my age, who did not do well at school, lived life with a bad attitude, could not hold down a meaningful job, and was a big disappointment to his dad.  Bill was a great boss to me and taught me so much.  I worked for a time with another manager, a younger guy who was not interested in work.  He had married a woman whose father was extremely wealthy, and he just had to hang around long enough for the father to die and have his wife provide him with a comfortable life from their inheritance.  I cannot imagine what life must be like where you see no purpose but to wait for a possible presence of luxury sometime down the road.  I know too that circumstances change.  What if the father’s business went bust and he lost his fortune?

31.                 Neville

When I was a young kid, about 5 or 6 years of age, there was a person in the neighborhood who drove a motorcycle.  He would see me on the road and ask if I wanted to ride with him.  My mother had near apoplexy when I told her, read me the riot act, and warned me about pedophiles.  I never did take that ride.  While working at Mobil, and after Linda and I were married, Neville invited us out to go for drives, including Linda and his mother.  He drove a Valiant.  But the rules were strict.  Linda and his mother had to sit in the back seat.  I had to be upfront with Neville.  The experience was as freaky as they came with Neville commenting on how beautiful my hands were and how gorgeous my eyes were, etc.  Back then, I had no real appreciation of homosexuals.  I was brought up in a very secluded environment.  That car ride took place once.  The problem, however, is working with that type of creepy person in the office environment.  And it is no different to a guy hitting on a female co-worker who is not seeking attention.  For the record I do have any problems with the LGBTQ (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community.  My attitude is the mother cannot control what she created in her uterus, straight or gay, so live and let live.  Everyone gets my full support and love.  We have a gay person within our family circle.  Neville was too much.

32.                Conference Leadership

I know that it is hard to believe today, but I was an introverted person growing up due to my sheltered environment.  Mobil provided me with a fantastic opportunity to help me break out of my shell.  I attended a Conference Leadership training course.  It was an intensive 5-day class where we learned how to guide a group discussion and how to present information.  The presentations were videotaped and played back so that we could see where we needed to improve.  For my final presentation I discussed the death penalty and why I was against this form of cruelty.  Now living in the US, and seeing how many people are incarcerated for years, even decades, and often wrongly sentenced, sometimes because the police or public prosecutor had to find a scapegoat for a high profile crime.  It is more challenging when putting someone to death only to find that was a mistake.  How do you get a “do-over” in that situation?  I am quite comfortable addressing large audiences and have done so on numerous occasions at conferences.

33.                Computer Bureau

My motivation for looking for another career opportunity outside of Mobil was to develop my understanding of how different computers functioned.  What was specific to IBM versus ICL, or Honeywell, Burroughs, or any other brand of computer hardware?  I joined a dozen person computer bureau in Cape Town using a Burroughs B500 computer.  They served client companies with their data processing needs.  The B500 could stop working as a result of an application crash due to programming logic errors.  The programmers could study their code, decide where their logic was faulty, and change the instructions on the computer console; press continue, so the task completed correctly.  The bureau owners were two Charted Accountants (CPA’s).  They had both previously worked for IBM.  While at IBM, they convinced one of the largest retail chains in South Africa to invest in IBM services explaining that IBM could take their information, load it into the computer, have the invoices processed seamlessly, and the checks (cheques) would come rolling in.  Long story short, a few months after signing this deal with IBM, the retailer had to send out a letter of appeal to all their customers to say “we have no idea what you owe us, please pay something.”

I got called one Friday morning by my boss, the one partner, and introduced to a new client who needed an inventory control system.  The owner of the manufacturing company explained his requirements.  My boss announced with much fanfare that we would have the new system designed, written, tested, and operational by Monday morning.  I spent the entire weekend at work and delivered the goods as promised.  My boss was thrilled to death.  After that, I walked out.  I only stayed at that company for eight months.  This concept of over-promising and under-delivering was and still is, foreign to me.  Recall I was newly married with responsibilities and did not see why everything was so incredibly urgent.

34.                Job Search and Cars

My next task was to find a job.  An employment agency in Cape Town was advertising for a software developer for a retail company in Johannesburg (or Joburg as it is known to locals).  This position required extensive retail experience.  If my memory serves me correctly, I believe the person I applied through was Mr. Worthington.  As I sat across the desk from him, he asked about my retail experience.  I told him that I had none, but this was an industry that I wanted to serve.  He was offended that I would even waste his time to apply.  I got the position.

Linda and I moved into a high rise apartment on Juno Ridge in Kensington on the eastern outskirts of Joburg.  As an aside, while employed at the retailer, I decided to purchase a new car.  We bought a Triumph Chicane from a dealer on Eloff Street in the center of Joburg.  It was located about 4 miles from the apartment.  We drove home happy to have such a flashy car.  By the time we reached our apartment, we had called the dealer to send a tow truck to collect the vehicle because it was overheating.  That vehicle spent more time at the dealer in repairs than we had it on the road to drive.  That said, we drove to my in-laws in Pietersburg, now Polokwane, about a 3-hour drive north of Joburg.  Linda called home before our departure.  When we arrived, my father-in-law wanted to know how we could get there so quickly.

In those days, there were no interstates or highways.  We only had two-way, single carriage lanes all the way north.  The reality is that we were cruising at 100 mph (160 kph), slowing down for the small towns we passed through on the road.  That Triumph could move when it was in excellent running order.  We eventually traded the Triumph for a green BMW 518, purchased from a dealer in Pietersburg, from a friend of my father-in-law.  The reality is that we tried to source a BMW from a dealer in the Joburg area and could not locate a vehicle.  BMWs were assembled in South Africa and should not have been in such short supply, but they were in high demand.

35.               Greatermans

I took a position with the Greatermans’ Group, a publically traded company, a retailer consisting of department stores and the Checkers grocery chain.  My immediate boss was Alan Turkington, probably one of the best people managers.  The computer manager’s first name was George.  He was American and provided consulting services to the group.  Executive Management was so impressed with George that they offered him the position to run the department.  Greatermans used a British based ICL computer.  That did not matter to me since I was now more involved with designing systems, versus programming them. 

36.                 Checkers

After a short period, Alan was impressed enough with the work that I delivered that he assigned me to take on a project to install DataPoint mini-computers at each of the five regional offices for the Checkers chain.  Each countrywide grocery store had provisions delivered directly to the store with a delivery note, while the invoice sent to the regional offices.  After manual verification of the transactions tying the delivery note to the invoice, the invoice went to the corporate office.  Statements were sent directly to corporate where confidential discounts were applied.  Reports were cross-checked to the invoices.  Due to the problematic manual system in place, Checkers had to write off about a million rand each year, considerably more than US$ 1 million, where they could not reconcile the numbers.  Did the supplier deliver the merchandise or produce?  If they did, was it the correct quantity and at the approved price?  Was the information provided by the regional office valid?  Back in those days, the rand was significantly more valuable than the US dollar due to very favorable exchange rates.  Sadly today, it costs about R15.00 to purchase US$ 1.00.  For that failure, credit goes to a corrupt South African government who fund their select cohorts from the state-run enterprises, including the revenue office.

37.                 DataPoint

The DataPoint computers used a programming language and database called Sunbelt.  The database consisted of a series of flat files.  These files had to be re-indexed and reorganized daily to restore its corruption.  Putting this technology into perspective, data communication was achieved via a dialup telephone call.  Each regional office had to check that the head office was ready to receive data and send it via the telephone line by each party pressing send and receive buttons on the specialized data transmission telephones simultaneously.  I was honored to develop one of the first distributed data processing systems in South Africa.  Each regional office and corporate had DataPoint computer terminals and keyboards.  Data got keyed into the application that I developed.  At day’s end, data got transmitted to the head office.  DataPoint computers were not used by American banks due to a lack of data integrity.  Each string of data should have a redundant cyclical check digit to verify what was sent is the same as what was received through a verification process.  That was not part of Sunbelt’s system.  Of greater importance, the new system for Checkers was significantly faster than the old manual paper system, errors got resolved considerably faster, and the company was able to realize significant cost savings.  Ivan Sachar was the exceptionally smooth and competent salesman who sold the DataPoint system to Checkers.  He wanted to hire me, but I declined.

38.               Charge Cards and Whitey

Greatermans opened a new flagship department store in Joburg‘s city center.  As employees, we used charge cards that provided discounts reflected on the bill that arrived in the mail.  Linda and I did our bit to help make the store an opening success.  To this day, we have not received the invoice.  Did I say that working for the company I was not impressed with their systems?  That is what George was hired to do—fix the mess.  I am not too sure how many times my father-in-law took my advice.  His banker recommended that he buys shares in Greatermans.  I pleaded with him to find a different investment avenue.  You know that Greatermans is no longer in business.  They closed in 1967 after 40 years of business.  Checkers, a fast-moving consumer goods store, is a member of publically traded Shoprite Holdings in South Africa, the largest food retailer in Africa.  I was at high school with Dr. James Wellwood (Whitey) Basson, who was CEO of Shoprite Holdings from 1979 to 2016 and is now a non-executive Vice-Chairman.

39.                 IBM—Data Center

While working for Mobil, the one company I wanted to work for was IBM.  There was a policy in place that disallowed people to move from an IBM customer directly to IBM.  Once I decided that I had contributed what I could to Greatermans, I applied for a position with IBM with their South African corporate office in Joburg.  During my first year, I worked in the IBM data center, where IBM developed systems for clients, much like the work I did for that small bureau in Cape Town.  I worked on a project for a magazine group.  We got to a point where we needed to do extensive testing, and I had a representative from the magazine support me.  We started the testing process early morning and worked late into the night.  The gentleman I was working with was much older than me.  At some point during the late evening he appealed to me to stop.  He was tired beyond belief and needed to go home.  It stands out as a memory because it was a first I received a request like that, and I did not have sufficient empathy to realize that he could not work at my youthful and enthusiastic pace or duration.

We had an IBM salesman attempt to sell bureau services to a prospect.  The prospect paid a site visit to see our setup.  The client was curious to know what would happen should our computers go down due to a power failure, and then he would not be able to get his job run on time.  That will never happen, said the salesman, and took him into a room to see where the power backup was.  A year or so later, there was a power failure, and the new client wanted to know why his job could not run.  It was explained to him that we did not have a backup system and would have to wait until the power was back on.  Rubbish, he said.  I saw the backup equipment.  The cunning salesman had shown the gullible prospect the air conditioning room — anything to close a sale.  Buyer beware.

IBM was a company that had reveled in folk law.  One legend was about Tom Watson, the CEO of IBM in the US-based Armonk, New York.  Tom was going up the escalator with some of his senior managers when a salesperson was coming down on the other side.  The managers wanted to know from Tom if he was going to fire the guy because he messed up a significant sale.  Tom said he would not do it.  That salesperson, said Tom, was the most experienced and valuable salesperson they had on the team.  The mistake the salesperson made could not be addressed through education.

40.                Norbert

I had a bitter experience that taught me so much about the evils of apartheid and racism in South Africa, and how the education for blacks was substandard.  I was asked to train a black man to write programs.  Norbert held a bachelor’s degree in commerce from a prestigious university in South Africa.  After months of struggle, we both agreed that my training was not working.  I honestly believe it was a cultural situation in that Norbert was incapable of thinking in theoretical or intangible terms.  If a condition was black and white (no pun intended), and something that he could see or touch, he was as smart as the next person.  However, if it was in the abstract, as computer programming is, it was beyond his comprehension.  To amplify this story, a few years later, I met a university professor in Pietersburg, my in-laws’ town.  He taught geography at a black majority university—The University of the North (today the University of Limpopo).  Knowing that most people including blacks, do not have the opportunity to travel, I questioned him on how his students coped.  He told me a story to emphasize a point.  He spoke of a final year student who had to write a dissertation about the continental shelf.  The professor said it was a fantastic paper laying out facts and figures about the available nutrients and how this could be used to harvest crops.  He said the ending spoiled the entire work because the student wrote that the challenge was that the continental shelf was so steep (in reality the continental slope) that the tractors could not manage to navigate the steep slopes.  Here was a student who had never seen the sea, and had no concept about the size of oceans.  As my wife tells the story, when her baby brother first saw the sea, he was concerned that someone would pull the (bath) plug and let all the water out!

41.                 IBM—Finance

After a year in the data center at IBM, I transferred to the Finance Department.  This department supported the financial sector clients, including banks, building societies, and stock exchange.  I will not disclose my boss, George’s surname.  I was now part of a team supporting the most significant banking organization in South Africa.  (I still have a bank account with them today).  Their offices located a short walk from IBM’s corporate office.  At some point, I was asked to meet with Jack Clark, the Managing Director of IBM South Africa.  I asked my manager, how do I address Mr. Clark?  He told me to call him Jack with a capital “J.”  In other words, speak to him with respect for his stature in the company.  It was not required at IBM to call anyone using Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss.  Everyone was on first name terms.

42.                 British Status

I consulted with a British based company in South Africa.  I had the audacity to address the manager by his first name.  He responded, “Do we know you?”  With this corporate culture, the size of your office, carpet, and desk identified the status within the company.  The correct etiquette was to use the appropriate mister title!

43.                 IBM Training

IBM had a liberal policy.  If you did not receive at least three weeks of training per year, your manager had to explain why this situation occurred.  The training was a mix of personal development and technical training.  I recall how we were instructed to make detailed plans in preparation for every meeting, especially with prospects or clients.  We had to take time to write down the goal of the meeting, and what we would consider to be a successful outcome.  It was supported by written questions that would be asked of our client to help ensure the result of our ultimate goal.  In other words, think through what essential points needed discussion.  Work off your list at the meeting.  With all this helpful insight, I met with a manager at the bank.  My goal was to assess the possibility of the bank moving toward distributed processing in their regional offices.  In effect, this would call for IBM to install mini-computers in these remote centers.  Recall my experience at Checkers, where I achieved success with similar technology.  By the time I returned to the office, my boss called me in to say that this manager had called him to say that I wasted his time with a meeting where he had no interest.  So much for my training. 

To make matters worse, the manager I met with at the bank was a pastor who needed to take a full-time position because his church had failed to provide the income he needed to support his family.  I was not impressed that he saw fit to report me to my boss, while at the meeting said nothing to me about his lack of interest in the topic, even if he had accountability for the regional offices.  Some people taught me how not to manage interpersonal relationships.  What an idiot, what an appalling example of humanity.

44.        IBM 3800 Printing Subsystem

My boss George had a goal.  I was to undertake a detailed study to help him achieve his objective.  IBM had announced the IBM 3800 Printing Subsystem.  At that time, most companies used the IBM 1403 line printers capable of printing 600 lines per minute.  The 3800 was a significantly faster laser printer able to produce between 10,000 and 20,000 lines per inch depending on density.  IBM provided significant supporting sales literature to help justify a sale.  The first requirement was that the client company had to be using at least ten 1403 printers to justify an upgrade.  The second possible justification could be the result of a printing bottleneck at some point during the day.  So ever-enthusiastic John decided to camp out in the bank’s computer room for 24 hours and take 1403 meter readings every 15 minutes to understand the utilization of the impact printers.  There were two significant developments related to this project.  The computer center manager told me that the bank would never replace all the impact printers with a single laser printer.  Plus, the fact that they did not have ten impact printers.  What if that laser printer failed at a critical time?  The bank would need a justification for at least two laser printers.  The second fact is that after 24 hours in the computer room, I did not witness a bottleneck having chosen to perform my study at month-end when printing would be at a peak.  My boss was not happy.  I could not justify a single 3800, never mind two of them.  I pleaded with him to change his goal and push to sell a number of the IBM mini-computers, but to no avail.

45.                 IBM Sales Plan

IBM did have one wise policy.  If, as a salesperson, you did not have a particular device identified in your sales plan, and you closed a sale for this item, the salesperson could not earn a commission for the order.  The thinking was that if operations could not plan to produce a product, identified in the sales plan, getting a “bluebird” sale would mess up the production build plan.  At the other extreme, if you had something like the IBM 3800 Printing Subsystem in your sales plan, and did not get the sale, you were not a popular person.  IBM was great at sending successful sales personnel to a 100% club, a sales recognition vacation spot to enjoy the comradery with other high achievers.

46.                 IBM Confidentiality

There was an event at IBM that had me bursting with enthusiasm.  We had an informational session at the 5-star Carlton Hotel at a breakfast meeting.  Jack Clark addressed the group and explained that IBM South Africa was experiencing a cash flow shortage.  He pleaded with everyone to go out and sell the product for cash, versus closing sales on leasing terms.  They were after a cash injection.  Working in finance, we had the most likely option to meet this requirement.  It was the first time in my short working career that I had been privileged to hear confidential information.  To that date, any confidential company information was not shared with minions like me.  I felt so proud to be part of the organization that day and pledged to do my bit to help the company.

47.                 Discrimination

There was a somewhat shocking surprise that I experienced while doing my due diligence in the bank’s basement, watching printers, and taking readings.  I saw a lady with rather large breasts.  That would not have been so surprising, but I then saw another, and another, and another.  Aside from taking readings, I started studying the women working there and their breast sizes.  In all sincerity, I did not see a single lady bearing what I would have considered an average breast size.  As is frequent in a business situation, you befriend people that you can talk to privately.  I asked one of the supervisors to explain to me if what I had witnessed was real, or was it my youthful imagination.  Oh, it was real, alright.  They have a Human Resource Manager whose only qualification for a woman to work there is if she was well endowed.  I am quite sure if this happened in the US today, that would be a valid reason for a discrimination lawsuit.  Small breasted women are not welcome!

48.                IBM Cult

IBM was a company that behaved somewhat like a cult.  One executive drove an Alfa Romeo.  And all those that wanted to see a promotion in their near term went out and bought an Alfa.  Not me.  I drove a General Motors Opel, built in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  Most would wear similar brand suits and bright shirt colors to emulate this executive.  As a maverick, there was no way that I was going to follow the herd.

49.                 IBM Resignation

I worked with two senior salespeople on this bank account.  We all resigned on the same day.  IBM conducted exit interviews, and the result was that our boss, George, who had a very successful sales career before been appointed sales manager, was moved to the training department, possibly in the hopes that he would resign and go away quietly.  I was not the only one who suffered through his disappointment in not getting the unrealistic laser printer sale; the other team members had also received ridiculous goals to promote what the bank did not need or want.

50.                 Retail

My father-in-law had a retail store in Pietersburg (now Polokwane), 3 hours’ drive north of Joburg.  I decided to take a position in a successful family business.  The shop sold menswear, school clothing, sporting equipment, and firearms.  I gravitated to the sports department and decided to use my skills to increase sales.  There were some 1,200 schools in the province of the Northern Transvaal.  Mostly these were black schools, and the majority offered their students to participate in a selection of sports.  Field and track and football (soccer) were the most popular.  I created a mail-order catalog and mailed it to all the schools together with an order form to fill out and to return with a cheque/check.  A delivery driver, who worked for the shop, delivered the merchandise across an extensive territory.  Here again, I learned a sad lesson about apartheid in South Africa.  The driver, a black man capable of communicating with the school principals in their language, in some instances, had to collect a check if one was missing from the order.  Appreciate that South Africa has 11 official languages, including English and Afrikaans.  The others: Zulu, Tsonga, Swati, Ndebele, Xhosa, Venda, Tswana, Northern Sotho, and Southern Sotho.  The reality was that some principals did not have a clue how to write a check, and that was an additional service the driver had to provide.  Our sporting goods sales increased substantially through this initiative.

51.                 Armaments

My father-in-law had an opportunity to purchase a large consignment of Rossi revolvers made in Brazil.  The initial shipment was for one hundred 38 specials.  It would have represented an opportunity to generate a high markup on the consignment of inexpensive guns.  No sooner had the order been placed when we discovered that firearms sold in South Africa had to have the SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) symbol on each gun.  The guns needed testing.  If one from the batch blew up, the entire shipment would be condemned.  What to do?  Each revolver held five bullets.  With 100 guns implied a need for 500 rounds. Cartridges are not cheap, so how to economize?  The first task was to fire each weapon, firing all five shots in the revolver’s chamber.  If the gun exploded in your hand, that would be the end of the test.  Assuming all passed the initial inspection, ship the revolvers off to the SABS and let them experiment and add the required symbol.  What to do about the bullets?  I took a box of 20 rounds, plus a shell reloading device, went to the gun range, fired off four guns, returned to the shop to clean the weapons, and reloaded the ammunition, then repeated the process until all guns got tested.  All the guns were approved, but it was a late lesson in government regulations.  In apartheid South Africa, under the white government, there were very few high ranking blacks who could own a gun, so sales were mainly to whites.  I bought myself a Belgium based FN (Fabrique Nationale de Herstel) 9 mm Parabellum pistol, a 38 special revolver, and a point 22 pistol.  When we moved to the US in 1986, we were not allowed to bring wine or guns.  I was more than happy to get rid of my arms.  Having owned guns, hunted birds and small game, partaken in combat firearm sports, is what makes me now an anti-gun guy in the US.  Possessing a firearm is nuts!  Three percent of Americans own 50% of the weapons in the US.  With the daily killings, we can agree that there are far too many guns in existence in the US.  We should follow what Australia did and buy back all the guns.

52.                Cape Town Calling

My stay in Pietersburg was short.  It lasted eight months.  Although I believe that I had proved my worth, the computer industry was calling.  Cape Town is 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) from Pietersburg, and I secured a job there through a high school friend of mine, Donald Gray.  Don had a computer personnel and recruitment placement company, CPL (Computer Personnel, Ltd).  More about CPL later.  Don had a business relationship with a computer organization in Cape Town, and it sounded like it could be a good fit for me to work there.  Linda and I trekked south, and it was great being in the Mother City again.  I reported to a manager Peter who was older than me, and also a product of Rondebosch Boys School that we both attended, as did Don Gray.

53.         Australian Software Package

The company shall remain nameless for multiple reasons.  It was a subsidiary of a holding company.  They operated a computer bureau doing work for client companies in and around Cape Town.  I was given the task of learning, selling, and implementing an inventory/stock control application for which Peter had obtained the rights.  It was the creation of a company based in Australia.  Peter was a member of the Lions Club, attended meetings with the son of the owner of a major soft drink manufacturer.  We all agreed that the Aussie application should be a perfect solution for this bottler.  The son was prepared to invest, but he was cautious because it was evident that I had not received the training I needed to be useful in support of the application.  With Australia being several time zones away, we did not always receive the rapid response to questions I needed addressing.  What to do?  I told Peter that the sale hinged on my getting practical training before closing the deal with the bottler.  We were in a high rise office in Cape Town.  There was a travel agent at the street level.  Peter told me to purchase a return ticket to Sydney, show the son at the bottler, and bring the signed purchase order to him.  With the signed purchase order in hand, Peter instructed me to return to the travel agent and cancel my trip to Australia.  My job entitled me to drive a company car.  I left the office, drove home to a distraught wife, called my boss, and told him when I received my full salary, and I would return the company vehicle.

54.                 R Rated

This section promises to be R rated.  Peter appeared on the back page of the South African Sunday Times, not a place where you would like to be seen.  He was in bed with someone else’s wife one day when the woman’s ten-year daughter walked in on the fun.  The daughter informed mom that she was going to tell dad.  The case got thrown out of court because a child’s evidence was not admissible in court as she was too young to testify.  But it gets worse. 

The Managing Director of this company, Bob, would hire a secretary, take her to bed, and fire her after he tired of her.  It was a pattern that repeated itself every few months.  Bob hired a 25 year old secretary, the product of an exclusive girl’s school in Cape Town.  She was recently divorced from an abusive husband.  She could not take the advances from Bob and left unscathed six weeks after joining the company, and after crying on my shoulder to share her pain from the unwarranted attention.  We had social events where we met Bob’s wife.  How could she not know what was going on?  On one occasion, the management team and spouses had dinner at a restaurant.  Bob was next to his wife.  On the opposite side of the table was a young developer with his particularly attractive blond wife.  Bob was making a sexual play for her in a public setting.  Does it get more despicable than that? 

The company had a telephone system featuring a light for each extension.  If it was glowing, the line was busy.  Here the operator could take calls and transfer them if the party was available.  We all knew that one of the senior married managers, Gladwin, was having an affair with a married woman in the office.  We would periodically check the switchboard to see if both their lights were on, and know that one more time they were involved with long romantic conversations. 

We were on an elevated floor in the high rise building, and because of the computer environment, gaining access to the office suite needed special security keys.  One of the developer’s father frequently traveled internationally.  On his return, he would present his son with pornographic movies acquired on his overseas trip.  At night, when a fresh batch arrived, the doors were locked to keep the police out, with a safe opportunity to see the next selection of porn.  I cannot deny that I attended one session.  With a wife at home taking care of kids, this was not my priority. 

55.                 Censorship

South Africa had stringent censorship laws.  Every movie shown in theaters had first to be approved before any public screenings by the censorship board.  All books were read cover to cover before being sold in bookstores if they were acceptable to the censorship “police.”  Smuggling porn into the country could result in a long jail sentence.  The message I took away from this company is that the rot starts at the top.  Bob was a despicable managing director and human being, and his lieutenants were no better.  I had another experience that shaped my thinking. 

56.                 Race Issues

In apartheid, South Africa, everyone was assigned to a race group.  The Cape Town environs had the most significant number of Colored people, different from the US term “people of color.”  It is a multiracial ethnic group who have ancestry from various populations inhabiting the region, including Khoisan, Bantu speakers, and Afrikaners.  We were invited to a dance at a club in a Colored area.  In South Africa, whites would not be allowed to attend a function there, as it was against the law.  I went anyway.  We had many Colored people working at the company, and I ended up dancing with one of them.  To me, it felt so natural.  She was a person, in fact, a delightful person.  What is the big deal of mixing with other races?  During my high school days, I had a friend who was particularly angry that the church taught that black people could never go to heaven because they did not have a soul, based on the interpretation of biblical texts. 

57.                Hendrik Verwoerd

When I was at university, we got the news on September 6, 1966, that the architect of apartheid Hendrik Verwoerd, the prime minister of South Africa, got stabbed to death in parliament by Dimitri Tsafendas.  I recall driving around with my hooter/horn blaring in celebration.

58.                 Transition Again

After I walked out of the company in Cape Town, Don happened to be in Cape Town from his office based in Joburg.  We met at my home, and I shared this Australian story with him.  It was of no surprise that Don was cheated in this business relationship with this company, by refusing to make agreed-upon commission payments.  Don asked if I would like to join his team and help people to secure positions in the computer industry.  Linda and I packed our kids, bags, and furniture, and moved the 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) back to Joburg.  As you can tell, we have never been afraid to move.

59.                 Computer Personnel

CPL was an excellent working experience.  Don was a great boss.  He was a people person, enthusiastic, and creative as they come.  His personality never allowed him to have a down day.  He generated enthusiasm for everyone on the small team.  The way we operated was unique.  If we received an assignment from a client to find software developers or managers we would visit the client.  We interviewed managers and other personnel and received a thorough briefing on the type of person required to fill the position.  We documented carefully what the job would entail, and the kind of experience the candidate needed to be successful in the open position.  There was an aspect that we did not share with the client.  We used our judgment to decide would we like to work for this company.  If yes, we made a supreme effort to find them the ideal candidate.  If not, there were other great companies in the area we could support.  We would never place the right candidate in a lousy company, and would never offer the great companies a terrible candidate.  It had to be a win-win match.  The next step was to advertise and see who applied.  We held several resumes in a file of candidates in the job market.  We wrote a detailed evaluation of the candidate, and presented a report to the client, along with references.  In effect, we were selling the candidate to the client.  Most appointments of a candidate to the client resulted in a successful match.  In that way, CPL built a solid reputation for providing a professional service.

60.                 New Opportunity

As ideal as this environment was, things did go wrong.  Don is a visionary, saw golden opportunities.  South Africa was in a downward spiral because of apartheid, or its racial policies, and rapidly becoming the pariah country.  Many citizens wanted to vote with their feet and find a haven for their families outside the borders.  Don teamed up with an international recruiting company looking for engineers, accountants, medical practitioners, and other professional skills for opportunities in America and Canada.  Don placed a significant size advertisement in the Sunday paper.  Our office was located on the 47th floor of the Carlton Center that boasted a 5-star hotel, and a wide assortment of shops and restaurants.  When we arrived at work on Monday, with the foyer filled with people, resume in hand.  On opening the office, we did not have sufficient place to seat all the applicants.  CPL was a subsidiary company, and unsurprisingly the parent company also saw the advertisement.  The parent company did not know about this business opportunity; consequently, Don lost his job.

61.                Secretary

The tasks I had at CPL required the services of a secretary.  Mine was young, attractive, and capable.  She shared with me one day that she and her boyfriend were going traveling and sharing a pup tent.  That is a tiny tent, sufficient to sleep two people and handy because they were going to be riding using a motorcycle.  I escorted her to the local family planning clinic and instructed her to get protection.  Despite her assurances that “nothing would happen” with two young people at very close quarters, who knows what might transpire.  I was mindful not to follow up after her return to inquire if anything happened.

62.                 Video-Based Training

Don joined a company specializing in computer hardware and software training, as well as people skill development.  Shortly after joining this company, I got the call to join this organization.  This company represented an American company producing training material on videotapes.  My role was to help sell “rental units.”  A client company would buy, say, 120 rental units that allowed them to use as few or as many as they liked until the 120 videotape units were used up.  Most agreements spanned 1 to 3 years.  The longer the term, the higher the quantity, the lower the unit rental cost.  Clients had the option to purchase training programs outright, but the local company owner preferred the regular cash flow with rental money coming in monthly.  The training covered computer programming, understanding how to configure operating systems, programming, data transmission, as well as personal development such as selling skills, managing people, etc.  They had more than 1,200 video instruction tapes. 

63.                Oliver Wight Video Series

There was, however, a 56 part series that appealed to me.  It was the Oliver Wight course on computerized enterprise manufacturing systems.  I took a set home and watched the series so often that I could recite every word.  It turned out to be quite an ego trip for me.  When I called on companies to present the concepts that I had learned about, I came across as an extremely knowledgeable resource.  I realized that this was a unique set of instructions, and in violation of what the owner of my company instructed me to do, I sold the course material outright.  When the money came rolling in, the boss stopped complaining.  Frankly, he did not believe that any company would purchase outright versus going with the monthly rental plan.  He did not appreciate that these sales could easily be cost-justified.

It was not too long after I made sales of the Oliver Wight video series that I got calls from the companies I had sold, and they had technical questions they could not answer.  My boss insisted that my job was to sell, and that did not include offering support.  My approach was to provide client support after hours of my time.  With most of the questions asked, I could use common sense to answer, but naturally, I was never sure.  I was able to benefit from the fact that if I called America from home at night, it was still during the middle of the day in the US.  I started a ritual of calling Daryl Landvater and Walt Goddard, both consultants, and part-owners, with The Oliver Wight Companies based in Vermont and New Hampshire.  I explained the challenge my clients were facing, and they provided much-needed guidance.  I was now back to having an unbelievable amount of fun.

64.                 Peter Drucker

Based on my sales accomplishments in 1981, my boss offered me a trip to the US to attend conferences by the American producers of the video training programs we sold.  January 1982 was a turning point in my life with the first opportunity to travel to America.  There were two scheduled conferences, one in Palm Springs, California, and one in Mexico.  With South Africa being the pariah country, we could not get visas to travel to Mexico.  I made a quick call to Walt Goddard to learn that Oliver Wight would be holding a five-day training course in Boston the same week as the Mexican conference, and they would offer me a complimentary seat on that course.  My boss agreed to the arrangement. 

The Palm Springs session was incredibly exciting.  Peter Drucker was the featured speaker one afternoon.  Peter, as you know, is the creator of management by objectives, and the father of management techniques for modern corporations.  He presented his prepared speech and took questions.  When someone asked a question, Peter would give a very detailed sketch of situations for 5 or 6 minutes and then look at the person who asked the question, repeated the question verbatim, and gave a single sentence response.  As Peter explained, if you do not understand the background, it is near impossible to provide a short answer.  Peter made a visionary statement that rang very true with me.  To design systems using automation, you must redesign those systems with automation in mind. 

Oliver White had their thoughts on the topic, as well.  If you implement systems the way business currently operates, you achieve chaos at the speed of light.  Peter Drucker died during November 2005 at age 95.  He was 72 when I met him.  I have a signed copy of his book “The Changing World of the Executive.”  There was a software consulting company that presented at this conference.  I cannot recall the name.  They offered a new method of computer system design.  With my computer background, I asked them if they would support my efforts to promote their methodology in South Africa.  They received the idea enthusiastically.  I did not follow through with this offer because something significantly more exciting was about to present itself.

65. South Africa’s Global Importance

Growing up in South Africa, the white Nationalist Party controlled the media, especially radio, as we did not get television until 1975 and then for only 2 hours a day.  We knew that we were the most critical country in the world.  We were a strategic country and reasoned that ships sailed around our coast on their way from and to other parts of the world.  Then too, we were the most significant gold producer and supplier of many other minerals, including diamonds, aluminum (aluminium), copper, iron ore, lead, nickel, zinc, titanium, and uranium to name a few.  The government exercised strict censorship laws, and there was no such thing as a free press.  We knew that Alan Paton had written his book Cry the Beloved Country in 1948, but that was not available in South Africa. 

66.                New York City

On arrival in New York City, I took a stroll along 5th Avenue.  I stopped at the first bank to see what the exchange rate was of different currencies, and the South African Rand was not listed.  I decided the bank was just ridiculous because they did understand the importance of South Africa.  I moved on to the next bank, and the next, and the next, and none of the banks listed the exchange rate for the Rand.  It started occurring to me that, for most of my life, the government lied to us.  It was their feeble way to attempt to control the minds of the population.  On that trip, I bought Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country book and smuggled it in through customs.  I have since watched the second adaptation of the movie released in 1995.  I kept a diary on that trip to record everything I saw and experienced, recording dates, places, and names of people I met along the way.  I genuinely don’t know why, but Linda tossed that book.  There was a new experience that was difficult for me to comprehend, based on being raised in South Africa with all the government media controls.  I watched NBC’s Meet The Press on television on Sunday morning in my hotel room.  I was astounded that the TV moderator had the right to question senior government officials regarding their actions and decisions concerning politics, economics, foreign policy, and public affairs, and the impact it had on the US or international citizens.  Chris Wallace confronted the guest and demanded answers.  In South Africa, the politicians were treated like God and addressed with reverence, and never questioned.  What a wakeup call.  No wonder I fell in love with the United States of America.

67.                Chicago

I had a stopover in Chicago.  I stayed in a hotel near O’Hare.  Here I needed to visit the offices of the video training company we represented to see their production facilities and meet some of the personnel that we dealt with from South Africa.  Remembering that this was in January, the middle of winter, I got to my room to find it freezing.  I heated the cold room.  It was a cold that I had never experienced before in my life.  On turning in for the night, I decided that keeping the place so warm would make sleep difficult, so I turned off the heater.  I must have woken at about 2:00 am and felt my head.  My hair felt like it was frozen.  In panic mode, I flew out of bed to turn on the heater again.  But my experiences were not yet complete.  I arrived at the airport to head to Palm Springs, California.  I am sure that you, too, have heard the spiel that you go through before taking off.  Please fasten your seat belts, have your tray tables in the secure and locked position, and your seatbacks in the upright position.  I was about to have an experience that I have never had before or since, despite having flown many hundreds of times since I was 18 years of age.  The aircraft was thundering along the taxiway, ready to take off when the pilot slammed on brakes and threw the engines into reverse.  Another plane was crossing our path.  The intensity of the stopping taught me a lesson that I have applied in every flight since then.  The reason that the seat in front of you must be in the upright position is that you fly forward, with your head on your knees due to the rapid deceleration.  If the seatback was not where it should be you are likely to decapitate yourself.  To me, since the 1982 era, the planes have been configured with much less legroom and significantly tighter quarters making these instructions even more critical.  When I see the passenger in front of me prefers to take off in relining mode, I will obnoxiously instruct them to put their seats in the upright position and have done that on a couple of occasions.

68.                Palm Springs, California

When we arrived in Palm Springs, in the Sonoran Desert of Southern California, we stayed at a classy conference hotel.  The reason so many Americans are “snowbirds” is that they migrate from the cold of the northern climates to Florida or Arizona, where the temperatures are significantly warmer.  The desert area of Palm Springs is a place to stay warm.  The hotel has a large outdoor pool.  What amused me is that there had to be about one hundred deckchairs all lined up side by side and row by row, around the swimming pool, all facing south.  That so the visitors could absorb as much sun as possible as they were suntanning.  I had a colleague who was attracted to a lovely girl.  They went to his room, and as he tells the story had the best sex that he had ever had in his life.  After the fun, she said to him that it would cost him $100.  He had no idea that she was a hooker.  He thought that she just admired his body.

69.                 Oliver Wight 5-Day Class

Attending the 5-Day Oliver Wight course in Boston, Massachusetts, at a 5-star hotel overlooking the Charles River was a treat.  I realize that I had thoroughly studied the videotapes and did not believe that I would be in for any surprises.  The classes were expensive at $1,500 for the week.  Remember that this is 1982.  The equivalent amount in today’s 2017 money is $4,000, with an average annual inflation rate of 2.73%.  The class had about 60 company executives, and the course taught by Walt Goddard and the late Oliver Wight.  They were gracious in giving me as much time as I needed, including meeting with me in their hotel suites after class.  On Thursday night, they provided a cocktail party for all attendees, plus any spouses who accompanied them.  Ollie, as he was known, came with his wife Joan, who was spectacular at remembering names.  Joan positioned herself at the entrance and carefully shook every person’s hand as they arrived at the function, and made very sure that she heard and repeated every person’s name.  While serving cocktails, Joan mingled, addressing everyone by name.  At the end of the evening, she was at the exit door, saying goodnight to everyone by name.  What a class act.  During that week, Ollie and Walt agreed that they would support my efforts to work with their team in South Africa on condition that I was fully independent.

70.                 Ollie or Red

Let me make one correction.  To most of the client companies, Oliver White was known as Ollie.  To a small circle of close friends and members of his consulting group and associates, he was Red.  Ollie was a redhead, but by the time I met him, Ollie had lost most of his hair, and what he had, had lost its color.  He was a very patriotic American.  If any of his employees needed to purchase a motor car, and if they elected to buy an American model, he would chip in a $1,000 or more.  Ollie was a legend in his own time.  Joan was reading a catalog one day and saw a fur coat that she wanted.  Ollie called the company, based in Texas, while Ollie and Joan lived at Blodgett Landing in New Hampshire.  The company confirmed that they had the coat in stock and that they accepted credit cards for the purchase.  Ollie inquired if they had a landing strip nearby for a small turbojet.  Everything is bigger and better in Texas, but they could not believe that this northerner would fly the 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers) one way for this purchase.  Ollie lived on Lake Sunapee, at Blodgett Landing.  He was a few steps from the lake, but his house had a full-sized heated Olympic Pool.  If you saw the movie, On Golden Pond, you would understand the magnificent setting.  Ollie graduated from university and was distressed that he could not get a teaching post.  He worked at Raybestos as a stock room clerk.  Ollie was a smoker.  He was guaranteed to get cancer of the throat from being a smoker in an asbestos environment.  Ollie took a teaching position at IBM, saw the need to educate management, and that set him on a path to form his education and consulting company.  When Ollie died in 1983 at age 53, he owned three homes, three airplanes, and six motor cars.

71.                 Caesar’s Palace

I was planning a trip to America, and this time with Linda.  We had to attend a conference at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.  While on a consulting assignment with an automotive client in Port Elizabeth, I asked one of the managers who traveled to the US frequently what he thought of the idea that I reserve the honeymoon suite.  He told me that it was a ridiculous idea and that I would never be able to afford it.  I booked a regular room, taking his advice.  When Linda and I got to the front desk, I plucked up the courage to ask about the honeymoon suite.  I am sorry, sir, it is not available, but we have another room that we are sure you will enjoy.  We get to the place and find it furnished with a round bed and a full-size round mirror above the bed.  Then too, there was a circular bathtub and mirror above the tub.  The room’s walls seemed to be all mirrors.  Linda was not happy and wanted to know where she should position her head on this bed.  Vegas is a fun city.  I wish we could visit more frequently.  When you arrive at the airport, you can already play the slot machines.  Gambling, live shows, and food is something to experience.  I even learned the trick that if you attend a live show, and want to get the best seat in the house after paying for your attendance, remember to grease the palm of the attendant to place you at the best available table.  The more you gift, the better the table.

72.                 Red Eye

Linda was with me to visit with the Oliver Wight organization and to attend meetings, training courses, and visit client companies.  We had to spend time on both coasts.  Being mindful of the expenses, I arranged for Linda and me to fly to Los Angeles from Boston’s Logan airport on a “red-eye,” which is an overnight flight to save on hotel fare.  When Ollie got to hear of my plans, he sprang into action.  Ollie arranged for Linda and me to fly in his jet from Burlington, Vermont, to a private landing strip near to Logan.  He also arranged for a driver to take us to the airport and fly across the country during the day time.  One additional comment about Logan International airport. 

73.                Flight Home

I am unclear about the occasion, but Linda and I were in the US, and we had to fly from Boston’s Logan to JF Kennedy in New York for an onward journey to South Africa.  The day we had to commute to Logan using the underground tunnel to access the airport was the day that they decided to change the way that you paid tolls to use that tunnel.  Previously you had to pay to get to the airport and pay again when departing from the airport.  The change was to pay double getting to the airport, without a payment leaving the airport.  With the transition underway, there was a significant delay in getting to the airport.  Since many passengers got delayed, they delayed the flights out of Logan as well.  By the time we arrived at Kennedy, our South Africa flight had left the gate, and stranded with the probability of having to purchase a new ticket because it was our fault that we were not on time.  As we spoke to the gate agents about solving our problem, we got the good news that the aircraft had some mechanical issues and would be returning to the gate.  We made the flight home.

74.                 MRP (Pty) Ltd.

On returning to South Africa from my first trip to the US meeting with the Oliver Wight Companies, I resigned from my position at the video training company and started my first consulting company, Manufacturing Resource Planning (Pty) Ltd.

75.                 Goal Setting

Allow me to back up.  In 1967 I turned 21 while sleeping in a field in Stellenbosch, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town.  My mother was mortified that her dear son was not at home to be wished happy birthday on this auspicious day.  Sebastian van Reenen and I spent the evening with student girlfriends at Stellenbosch University.  We decided not to drive home late at night and pulled off the road to sleep under the stars.  I was in my fourth year at university.  I recall waking early morning and thinking about my life.  I was born as the eldest of three siblings in a family, seriously lacking funds.  My parents were regular middle-class hard-working people doing the best they could while holding down a job.  I decided there and then that I was going to have my own business one day.  It could not be a business where I needed capital.  My game plan was to start a business where I relied on experience and intelligence. 

If you study the history of the Barry family, you learn that they arrived in the Cape in the 1820s from the northwest of London.  I cannot say for sure that I am direct dependents of those Barry’s, but I know that the original Barry’s were traders.  They took provisions by boat up the rivers in the Western Cape, supplying the small towns along the way.  All the cities have Barry Street, and then you have the village of Barrydale.  As I saw it, each succeeding generation got poorer.  My grandfather owned a farm with a registered Friesland dairy herd (the black and white cows), a grocery store, while my grandmother had a café.  My dad was left to his own devices, qualifying as a refrigeration mechanic and electrician.  There is no question in my mind that while working for a boss, I went the extra mile, but only because I knew it would ultimately benefit me.  I was determined to get a breadth of experience, and if it meant changing jobs frequently, and moving to different cities, then I understood that I would be the eventual beneficiary.

76.                 Company Name

The company name, Manufacturing Resource Planning, was taken from a business planning process named by the Oliver Wight group.  It also went by the acronym MRPII (MRP2), not to be confused with Material Requirements Planning (MRP).  I learned later that over time, consultants have a desperate need to come up with new names for concepts so that they can always present it as original and fresh ideas, even if it the same old stuff dressed up to look different.  I also learned that it was a mistake to name a company after a concept in this ever-changing world.  I had no intention of calling my company based on my name.  My ego was not big enough.

77.                 Learning Curve

Job one was to find a client.  I had sold the videotape series to a large, diverse publically traded packaging company, and they became my first paying assignment.  I studied the way product got manufactured and reviewed their Bill of Materials (BOM).  In this case, the BOM reflected the changes that the product went through in the production process, created like this to support cost accountants who look at the value-added along the build process.  It was a 7-level BOM.  I made a strong recommendation to simplify the BOM and reduce it to a 3-level structure.  Proud of my wisdom, I was on a flight to the US and a meeting with Walt to show him my brilliance.  He quickly showed me my lack of knowledge and understanding and explained why a 2-level BOM would be significantly more efficient and effective for my client.  There is a different solution to satisfying cost accountants by utilizing the associated routings where additional data gets captured.  I went through learning curves on many occasions.  I quickly learned that a person’s normal inclination is to complicate a situation, and it takes brilliance to simplify a solution.  My newest business carried a registered trademark Simple Solutions to Complex Problems™.

78.                Glen Patterson

The late Glen Paterson lived near us when we lived in Edenglen, Edenvale, on the east side of Joburg.  Glen tragically lost his life in a microlight accident in 2008 when visiting family and friends in Canada.  Glen worked for a packaging company.  Glen was assigned as the operational project manager to oversee the software solution they were implementing.  I was the consultant assigned to work with him.  We became friends, and he, his wife Lynne, and children spent time together in New York City with Linda and me on one of our international trips.  As an operations guy, Glen had a well-rounded career.  Over Glen’s years of service, he fully understood and experienced every facet of their operation.  Glen was quiet, soft-spoken, and unassuming.  Two incidents that stood out for me.  Glen was going to provide a training class in the mold of “train the trainer” to teach his colleagues the finer points of the software.  He requested that I sit in the room.  We agreed that I would sit at the back of the class and say nothing, but offer a possible critique at the end of his session.  Sometime during his delivery, the accountant announced with much disdain that these systems were all bullshit.  It took me a nanosecond, and I flew to the front of the class and went for the accountant’s jugular and set him straight on this matter.  I was not going to let my friend Glen get treated in this despicable fashion.  I was there to defend him. 

After the class, we adjourned to the basement, where the general manager provided pizza and beer.  On walking in, the GM asked me how the session went, and I responded that Glen had done an outstanding job.  The GM looked at me quizzically and inquired if the accountant had not deemed that this solution was bullshit?  I learned a lesson that day.  The GM knew his people and could support Glen and control the naysayers on his team.  The general manager was an exceedingly, great people person.  He had his tragedies in his life.  He lived in a house with a swimming pool, as most of us did in that area, including Linda and me.  One day he walked outside to find his young daughter lying at the bottom of the pool, drowned.  He was a religious man and treated every member of his team as the most crucial person in the world.  He fully accepted their failings and made allowances for them.  On my first visit to this facility, I had a unique experience validating why new systems were required.  My appointments always begin with a tour of the manufacturing facility.  As Glen was showing me around, we stopped and admired an injection-molded press.  Glen could not believe his eyes.  He pointed to a mezzanine structure that had been erected to house excess inventory.  Glen explained that there was more than a year’s supply stored up there of the product now coming out of this mold.  He said the current systems in place did not provide the planners with visibility of current inventory levels, and if they did not recall that stock was available, they released production orders to produce additional products.

79. Oliver White Classes in South Africa

I arranged a 5-day Oliver Wight class in South Africa.  I was honored to learn that the group attending this course was the highest number of paying attendees for the Americans presenting in a new country for the first time.  We held several more of these classes.  Each bigger and more successful than the previous one.  Daryl Landvater told me that he would happily fly halfway around the world where he could stay in a 5-star hotel with a Jacuzzi bath in his room, much enjoyed by his wife and himself.  Several of the Oliver Wight consultants took turns in visiting South Africa.  Dick Ling bought a diamond ring duty and tax-free for his wife Nataly, to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.  The expenses for these courses were high.  The Americans flew first class and stayed in 5-star hotels.  I had to meet the costs to pay for their time, and I did not make much money on these ventures.  We had to cover the costs of the hotels where training got conducted, pay for meals and coffee break treats, and the Thursday night cocktail party.  My participation and exposure helped grow my consulting business.

80.                 Dick Ling

Dick wanted to see some of the countrysides, so we drove to several places of interest.  I took him into Alexandra Township, a black city near where we lived in Edenvale, outside Joburg.  Dick was so afraid of what sort of fate might befall him that he pleaded with me to get out of there as soon as is humanly possible.  I guess visiting any shantytown, home to hordes of poor people can be quite intimidating.  At that time, I was driving a BMW, and that vehicle would be entirely out of place in Alexandria.

81.                 Monthly Replanning

There are many experiences to share, but I will never get to the end if I keep detailing this information.  I will list a few highlights.  I provided consulting work for an international automobile assembler and manufacturer.  Their planning was on a monthly cycle.  Consequently, buyers would purchase once a month.  I advised them to convert to weekly planning periods.  They wanted to eject me from the premises explaining that they have trouble getting through purchasing and planning requirements in a month, how do I expect then to accomplish the tasks weekly.  The answer, of course, is that monthly, you have a significantly higher volume of transactions to get through versus a smaller number each week.  In later years after I had moved on, their planning cycle became days.

82.        German Multinational Client

I worked with an automotive component manufacturer who turned out to be a dream client.  The managing director, Tom, was the son of a trustee running the global trust business in Germany.  Tom had to gain experience in a real-world subsidiary environment and was sent to South Africa to run the manufacturing operation.  He held a doctorate in engineering, was young, extremely bright, and a strong leader.  I’ll illustrate one situation.  I recommended that before issuing any materials to production, the planners verified via the computer that materials were all available before releasing the work order.  We had a meeting with the shop floor supervisors, and they thought the idea was ridiculous.  Their recommendation was to pass on the work order, and they would get the product built.  In trying to understand how this was possible, the supervisors explained that each machine operator had a stash of parts under their workbench and could quickly find any missing components required to complete an order.  Tom had the shop personnel work all day on Saturday, return every part under their bench to a locked stock room and entered into the computer system.  By Monday morning, the new discipline and processes were in place.

83.  Truck Component Manufacturer

The automotive component supplier supported the truck and car manufacturers in South Africa.  I witnessed another unpleasant surprise.  It is a reasonable request to ask the vehicle manufacturers to supply a forecast of sales going well beyond the cumulative lead time.  After all, the car and truck companies know what new models are being introduced, what was to be discontinued, and speculation on the volume of sales.  This forecast information turned out to be worthless.  Each automobile company new its market share was going to increase significantly over the next year, and sales were going to soar.  It never happened in reality, so we had to create our forecast for the automotive industry.  Our starting point was to take the aggregate of all cars sold in the country over the past 3 to 5 years and project sales for the next 12 months.  We broke this aggregate down by manufacturer knowing their percentage market share.  Next, we took those automotive companies that were customers and broke the projection further by the automotive models we supplied.  Now we had a meaningful target we could plan for. We had to laugh after this exercise completed.  We had one company provide a forecast using their old method.  The figures were received, and within an hour, they faxed a revision to their numbers.  The reality is that this client had a far more accurate picture of demand than that of their customers.

84.                Building a Brand

Over time, David Beer and I became friends.  David was the editor of Production Management, a monthly magazine.  He requested me to provide him with articles based on what I had learned through my Oliver Wight relationship and consulting experiences.  It helped me to raise my profile in South Africa and led to additional media exposure including a single article in the prestigious weekly magazine, the Financial Mail.  I was interviewed on the radio once.  On one occasion I flew to Durban to work with a company manufacturing material handling equipment.  When I arrived, the production manager pulled out several articles that I had written and prepared questions he wanted me to discuss.  I made several presentations to SAPICS (South African Production and Inventory Control Society), at the national conferences, and several chapter meetings.  I later learned that having a high profile was not difficult in South Africa, but with the size of the US, it was near impossible to stand out and get recognized.

85.             Zimbabwe—A Barter Deal

A German-based software company operating in Zimbabwe asked me to travel to Bulawayo and Harare to present courses on computerized systems, much like those I helped present with Oliver Wight, but to also cover Just in Time production methods.  They warned me that due to the economic situation, they would not be able to pay me, but we could arrange a barter deal.  We agreed that they would provide me with two return airline tickets to fly Harare to Johannesburg and onward to New York via London.  Since we would begin the journey in Joburg, we would trash the Harare—Joburg leg for both the outbound and return journeys.  The way the airlines operate today with all the security measures in place, if we were not on the Harare—Johannesburg leg, our entire flight would get canceled.  It is the only time I can recall that Linda and I traveled in style.  We flew BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation, the forerunner to BA—British Airways).  The airline sent a car to meet us at home to chauffeur us to the airport, and in New York, we had a car to take us to our hotel.  We were traveling business class, but after Linda and I were seated the air hostess asked to see our tickets and explained that there had been a duplicate booking with our seats.  She requested that we follow her to the first class for the Joburg—London leg.  Here we were treated to sleeper seats, food served on fine china, and high-class cutlery.  The steak was sliced to our liking at our places and served up professionally with vegetables.  Having traveled on a minimum of 60 trans-Atlantic flights, this was the only time that we flew business on the remaining legs, and the only time we had the pleasure of first-class travel.

I stayed at a 5-star hotel in Harare (previously Salisbury).  The breakfast was top-notch, but the serviette/napkin that I got was greaseproof paper.  If I wiped my face, it would only smear the egg from one side of my face to the other.  I was rapidly learning how people had to cope in a country that was suffering economically and how sanctions were impacting the lives of business and its citizens.  1985 was the 5th year of Robert Mugabe and the ZANU PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front) in power since independence.  Export earnings in Zimbabwe came from tobacco, cotton, sugar, and beef.  White farmers numbered 4,400 down from 5,000 at autonomy.  I was in for more surprises.

86.    Zimbabwe—Foreign Exchange Allowances

The class I taught included a few personnel from a vehicle assembler.  Here I am describing Just in Time purchasing and production principles.  They explained to me that they are allowed to import products but restricted by the available import funding allocation.  Twice a year, the foreign currency allocation is made available.  They would spend their full allowance on the day of the announcement for fear that the allocation is reduced at a later date.  One of the biggest challenges for them was purchasing tires.  They would assemble the cars, as far as they could with available materials, and move them to a “cripple yard” stored on blocks until the missing components arrived.  They then completed assembling the vehicle and shipped it to the owners.  Some wise residents would place an order for a car, and when delivered, would break up the new car selling the parts for spares.  In that way, they could get double or triple the price they paid for their new vehicle.

87.                 Zimbabwe—Manager

Using my experience of growing up in South Africa under a white-ruled apartheid government, I was in for another surprise.  The software company asked me to meet with a brewery customer.  The executive manager was a black man.  More than that, he was knowledgeable, smart, articulate, and well educated.  We had a great meeting, and he readily accepted the suggestions and recommendations that I made.  I had never met a black man in South Africa with this level of authority.  What were we doing to the majority race in our country?

88.                Zimbabwe—Restaurant

We had fun too.  The software team invited me to a posh restaurant but requested that we get up to some mischief.  The goal was to order a 3-course meal but start at the end.  Start ordering the desert, followed by the main course, and finally, the starter.  It was fun to see the waiters all scratching their heads, trying to figure out what was going on here.

89.         Trenton and Philadelphia

I worked with Al Spaeth, an American living in South Africa who represented the Forman software solution by Formation.  In doing a Google search, this company and their software are no longer in business.  I lost touch with Al.  Formation’s location was in Trenton, New Jersey.  They produced a unique enterprise-wide application that was years ahead of its time.  It was an on-line, real-time system that provided users with an instant replanning and rescheduling solution instantly sales orders got added to the system.  I was invited along with project team members from my client company to travel to the US for training at the development site.  One of the team members was a German national who volunteered to do the driving since he had experienced driving on the right-hand side of the road from his days living in Germany.  Aside from an intensive training session, the company treated us to attend an American National Football League (NFL) game in Philadelphia.  It was a 40-minute drive.  Lincoln Financial Field seats over 69,000 people and is home to the Philadelphia Eagles.  It was the first time I had an opportunity to see football live in a stadium.  The Eagles won, but only in the final minute or two of the game.  To be in a stadium when the crowd erupted with joy is a unique experience.  I have only had one other opportunity to see a game live, and that was in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a 2-hour drive north of us, and where my daughter Robyn attended university.  Linda and I saw the Packers play at Lambeau Field, about ten years ago.

90.                 Clive Lewis

Clive Lewis joined me in business in South Africa.  He was older than me, an engineer, who managed manufacturing plants.  While working for his company, he was asked to be the project manager for a new plant they were going to build.  A greenfield opportunity.  It was a challenge that Clive loved because he could apply decades of experience in designing a factory that would have a perfect flow from raw materials to finished goods with production equipment placed in the most sensible place.  I then had the pleasure of working with Clive to implement a computerized planning system for his new facility.  Clive held strong views that manufacturing was not for a woman because the stress levels were excessive.  The general chaos that ensured was a killer to people.  After we went live at his facility, he had a mindset change.  He welcomed women as part of the manufacturing management team.  Clive shared with me that he did not believe that production could be systematized.  Now with effective planning systems in place, providing weeks’ worth of visibility made managing the facility a pleasure.  Sadly Clive suffered a heart attack.  He returned to work and placed on light duties, and at that time joined me to carry a message that it is possible to plan effectively in a manufacturing environment.

91.   Mike and the begging of the end

During the time that I operated my education, training, and consulting company, I traveled to the US two or three times a year.  It was to attend the Oliver White courses and further broaden my application experience and knowledge.  On a few occasions, I visited client companies of Oliver Wight to see firsthand the way the companies operated with an effective planning process in place.  But there were dark clouds on the horizon.  Oliver Wight appointed Mike in the UK to promote their business in Europe.  For training purposes, they recommended that he be part of the faculty teaching classes in South Africa.  During Mike’s second trip to South Africa, he informed me that Oliver Wight wanted him to manage all finances.  I refused.  Linda’s grandmother passed away and inherited her diamond ring.  We had it reset in a modern style.  Mike saw this and reported to the Oliver Wight Companies that I was stealing money to purchase luxuries for Linda.  As I later learned Mike approached one of the members of our class, an executive in a large corporation, and tried to convince him to take over organizing and running Oliver Wight courses in South Africa.  To cut a long story short, Oliver Wight never ran another course in South Africa.  Mike got kicked out of the group when Oliver Wight discovered that he was stealing from the company with courses he organized in Europe. 

92.                 Dick Alban

In the interim, I had befriended Dick Alban, another Oliver Wight associate.  Dick had a set of books containing every checklist and detail required to establish and control implementation.  I sold those manuals in South Africa.  With the situation Mike caused, I approached Dick to see if there was an alternate organization for me to represent in South Africa.  Dick recommended that I talk to Terry Schultz in Milwaukee.  Terry ran courses and had his videotape series.  I called Terry to ask if he would be interested in my partnering with him.  He said it would be a great idea and I took a flight to Milwaukee the next day.  I now represented The Forum, Ltd.

93.                 Meeting Terry again

After a year or so, I traveled to the US to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to attend a class given by Forth Shift, a software package that I was supporting with a South African company.  On my return journey, I stopped in Milwaukee to meet with Terry for a day.  Terry asked me if I would be interested in moving to the UK to represent his company.  I declined.  He then offered me to join him in Milwaukee as his number two guy had just resigned.  I said that would be of significant interest.  I called Linda from his office.  A bomb had gone off that morning in Eastgate, at the time the biggest shopping center in the southern hemisphere located not far from where we lived.  Linda made an instant decision to take up Terry’s offer. 

94.                 Independence Day 1986

I returned to the USA over the Independence Day weekend of July 4, 1986.  Terry had his small team of employees stay at a resort hotel in Lincolnshire, Illinois, a 90-minute drive from his offices.  Terry gave each of us a t-shirt with a picture of a bald eagle and a symbol that read “America the Beautiful.”  The bald eagle is the USA national bird.  I still wear that same t-shirt on every 4th of July.  I presented to Terry and his group his educational material.  I learned his specific information from his videotape series, Business Requirements Planning (BRP).  If I passed this test, we would take the process further.  It was no cakewalk.  I got grilled by Terry and his adviser to address recommendations to many practical business situations and to see how I would advise client companies.  At that time, I had to take a series of tests in Chicago with a Management Psychologist, Dr. Duane Lakin.  It, too, went well, and Terry was encouraged to take this opportunity further.  The next step was for Linda to accompany me to meet Terry.  We met in St. Louis at an APICS (American Production and Inventory Control Society) conference in October 1986. 

We returned to Milwaukee after the conference and met Terry’s wife, Mary.  Terry treated us to a gourmet restaurant in Lake Geneva, 45 minutes away.  The dinner should have been a wakeup call.  Terry consumed a bottle of wine on his own, and the return journey was the scariest I have ever had, and the only time I have been in a car with a drunk.  The motivation for an opportunity in America was too high, and Linda and I elected to move forward.  Next on the list was to find a home.  Esther Van Lare was a realtor who guided us.  Inside of a couple of days, we purchased a 2-year old repossessed house from a bankrupt builder held by the bank.  Terry helped us secure a 100% mortgage for this home through the bank.  We returned to South Africa to pack and relocate to the US.

95.                Living in the USA

I arrived in Brookfield, Wisconsin, after Christmas 1986.  My first need was to purchase a car.  I bought a Pontiac 6000 with zero down and financed over three years.  When purchasing an automobile in the US at year-end, the dealers will do any deal to make their yearly sales quota.  Linda and our two children arrived at the end of February 1987.  Here too, we bought a Honda Accord with zero down.  You have to love this country with its easy finance.  On my arrival, I found that the cement driveway of my home was a sheet of ice.  Being innovative, I got out my hammer and chisel and started breaking up the ice.  Neil Koepsel, a neighbor, came over and asked if I had ever heard of salt?  Spread the salt over the ice on the driveway, it melts.  Task complete.  That was to be the first of many lessons as we learned as we transitioned to live in a four-season climate with extreme heat, cold, ice, and rain.  Neil and Barb Koepsel arranged for an indoor block party to meet the neighbors.  We learned that the rumor mill was rife with stories that Africans (blacks) had bought the house we occupied.  They all believed that the property values would plummet, and the area would go to hell.  Yes, racism is alive and well in the United States, and Milwaukee has a reputation of being among the worst in the nation.

On my first day of driving to work, I ran into a challenging situation.  The drive was not too far, maybe only 10 minutes, and I took careful notes drawing a map to know precisely where I needed to make my turns.  The only problem was that the wet snow coated all the street sign names, and I did not have a clue where I was driving.  Those were the days long before GPS. 

96.                 Terry Schultz

Working with Terry proved to be interesting.  Terry and Mary had been on vacation in Hawaii over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.  Terry had to take medication for some or other ailment.  He did not have a fun time in the Aloha State as the drug was not working due to the large intake of wine that neutralized the drug. 

I attended an education session that Terry gave to a large electronics company in Milwaukee.  A plant manager asked Terry a question.  Terry responded that in all the years he has been teaching, it was the dumbest question that he had ever heard.  The CEO stated that he never wanted to see Terry on the premises again. 

We flew south to work with a company to present course material.  That night Terry invited the CEO to dinner.  The CEO expanded on some of the challenges he was facing.  Terry, now happy with a large intake of wine, recommended to the CEO that he downloads data from his IBM mainframe to an IBM System/36 (much like a mini-computer), process locally, and send the results back to the mainframe.  I was dumbfounded because I knew that Terry’s recommendation was technologically impossible.  The next morning Terry asked me to brief him on what they had discussed over dinner.  I shared the computer transfer story.  A week or so later, the CEO called Terry to begin the project.  Terry declined and said that he had a close working relationship with Anderson Consulting and would get them to follow through with this assignment.  Terry explained that he did not have sufficient resources for this project.

97.                 Bearing company

I had my troubles too.  I was given the assignment to work with a Japanese owned bearing company in the south.  I thought that my course was going well.  Terry told me that the CEO of this company called him to ask if they did not have anyone at The Forum Ltd., who could speak English.  There was another exciting development with this company.  In studying their production process, I saw that they would produce ball bearings consisting of an inner ring, outer ring, balls, and a retainer.  They had a sorting department who would measure the inner and outer race and store it in boxes depending on whether they were over or undersized, and similarly sort the balls themselves.  Eventually, they had a matched set of parts and could assemble the bearing. 

Understanding that this was a problem for the company, management requested funding to purchase new machines.  The Japanese management refused the request because the engineers would not know what type of equipment they should buy.  That caused some severe and adverse reactions from the local engineers to be treated like ignoramuses.  The Japanese management recommended that the engineers visit the Japanese factory to learn what might be necessary for selecting new equipment. 

On the flight over, the engineers were not happy knowing that they would find lights out factories with robots creating perfect parts every time.  They were shocked to see the equipment in use was years older than that in their operation in the States, and no robotics, or lights out factories.  They saw that the machine operators continuously monitored all parts coming off the machines to ensure it was within tolerance.  If not conforming, they immediately made machine adjustments.  Well maintained old equipment with highly trained machine operators was the key to perfect parts every time and no need to go through a sorting process that added no value to the end item.

98.                 Ken Wantuck

Terry established a business relationship with Ken Wantuck, who, in conjunction with Terry, developed a lecture led and video educational series and book entitled Just in Time for America.  Here too, Ken had worked for a US-based company that could not compete with their Japanese counterparts in terms of quality and other metrics.  Ken was sent to Japan to teach “those people” how to make accurate calculations in conformance with the US standards.  When Ken arrived, he quickly learned that the Japanese knew what they were doing and that their performance was significantly better than the US counterparts.  Ken taught US plants the Toyota Production System techniques, called it JIT for America, and over time migrated the thinking and process to the current Lean JIT or Lean Manufacturing.

99.                 Kent Ely

Terry developed a business relationship with Kent Ely, who was a quality specialist.  Here we added Total Quality Management to our portfolio of teaching and consulting.  Kent previously worked for a local manufacturer of machines that got sold internationally.  He told the story that each product produced got stored on a cardboard base because the product leaked so severely that trying to clean oil stains off the floor was a challenging job.  As QC manager Kent had to address the production processes to improve the products to be oil leak-free.  Those were some of the principles and concepts that we taught in our course material.

When you think about it, Terry was smart, made intelligent business decisions, other than he was too stupid or addicted to get help and cut out the drinking.  It did not take long for him to lose it all.

100.  Intervention

Mary was Terry’s second wife.  Mary decided she needed an intervention to stop Terry’s drinking.  The staff, about 9 of us, Terry’s sister and daughter, attended classes to explain how alcoholism affects the brain, how to treat addiction and conduct a successful intervention.  The facilitator was an Episcopalian pastor, a very tall individual who said he had never experienced a failed intervention.  The idea was to invite Terry to a meeting where we would all be present, and tell him how much we loved him, and that he should leave immediately to get treatment.  At the last minute, I decided not to participate because my legal status in the US was tenuous, dependent on my having a position with The Forum Ltd.  If Terry decided to kick us out, we would have to leave on the next flight back to South Africa.  The intervention was a failure, Terry and Mary ultimately divorced, and I was eager to find a way to remain in the US legally. 

101.  Law Suit

Terry was contending with a potential lawsuit.  There was an education and training company in the Northeast called The Forum.  They objected to this small company in Wisconsin, also in the training field calling themselves The Forum, Ltd.  They issued a cease and desist order.  This after Terry had been in business for several years.  As a significantly larger company, with deeper pockets, they had the clout to follow through on their threats.  Ultimately Terry negotiated a $1 million settlement that he said he required to rename the company and to rebuild his brand.  After settlement, Terry took the money and shut the company.

102.  Immigration

During my trip to America with Linda in October 1986, I purchased a book Getting into America by an immigration attorney Howard Deutch.  The least complicated way for me to gain legal access was for Terry to buy my South African company.  I sold it to Terry for $1.00.  In effect, I could apply to work in the US, based on being an intercompany transferee.  The pre-condition is that I had to hold an executive position in my company, and as managing director, that was the simple part. 

I gave my South African company to Clive Lewis as a going concern so that Clive could make as much money as he could.  Sadly, by this stage, Clive added to his medical woes by suffering a stroke.  Terry arranged for me to see an immigration attorney in Milwaukee, a partner in one of the largest firms.  With my careful reading of Howard’s book, I found the attorney’s knowledge and experience to be sadly lacking.  Ultimately the attorney followed Howard’s recommendation.  The papers got filed.  I had a work permit, but Linda could not work or earn money.  The rules were so strict that our children were not allowed to get paid for babysitting jobs or delivering newspapers.  If any of our family got a felony charge, we would all get banished from the country.  So no drunk driving, or speeding, or reckless driving.  I was bound hand and foot to Terry.  If I stepped out of line, Terry could instruct his attorney to send us back to South Africa.  However….

103.  Peter Steyn

It did not take me a long time working for Terry to realize this relationship was not going to work.  Back in my days working with Don Gray at CPL, I worked with Peter Steyn.  As coincidence would have it, Peter, Sandra, and his children moved to the US at about the same time that we did.  Peter took a position with CCSC (Computer Consulting Services Corporation), a company owned by Steve Botes, a South African living in New Jersey.  The company recruited personnel globally to fill computer positions in American companies desperate to hire software developers.  For CCSC to bring people into the US legally, they used specialist immigration attorneys to prepare the required documents and filed with US Immigration authorities. 

I called Peter to tell him that I was in trouble, and what could he recommend.  He put me in touch with a New York-based attorney, who applied for a change of status for me.  That implied I would not be tied to Terry and could be more flexible in finding a different opportunity.  Steve Botes came up with the idea that we executed.  He and I would form a company, Modern Business Solutions, Inc., and we would have a 50/50 ownership.  Once my papers came through, he would relinquish his interest in the company, and I would be the sole owner.  CCSC billed the consulting work I performed until I was allowed to be “employed” by my own company.  Steve took a commission off the top of each invoice and paid me the balance.  I considered this to be an equitable arrangement.  My gratitude for Peter’s assistance with this arrangement was beyond words.

104.  Steve Botes

Sadly things did not work out for Peter long term.  Steve was a generous guy but also worshipped money.  He considered himself god’s gift to women, and the combination got him into serious trouble.  Steve wanted to spend more time flying and moved his office to Atlanta from New Jersey.  He saw an opportunity to sell a software solution that tracked school test performance.  With two goals in mind, he set off to sell the software to the Georgia school state superintendent and to help get her elected to governor.  Steve ended up in jail.  To the best of my knowledge after prison, Steve got deported to South Africa.  After these years, I lost touch with him.  I am still in contact with Peter Steyn.  Peter lost his investment in CCSC and the promise of a lucrative pension and payout.  What a sad ending to a faithful and supportive business relationship with Steve.  I wrote a letter appealing to the judge to be lenient with Steve for the support that he provided me.  At that stage, I did not yet have all the facts about the prosecution’s case.

105.  Peter Not Guilty

Why Peter Steyn was found not guilty: Going back to Peter’s days at CPL in South Africa, and his time at CCSC, Peter kept a large spiral-bound notebook.  Peter recorded every phone call and every meeting in date order.  Peter used his many volumes of journals to show that he was never in any meetings with Steve to discuss this fraudulent embezzlement action, and was unaware of Steve’s shenanigans.  Who would have thought that a career-long habit saved Peter from involvement in a crime where he was not complicit.  Peter’s primary purpose of recording details in the notebooks was to make sure that he never let any “things to do” be forgotten, or fall between the cracks.

106.  Modern Business Solutions, Inc.

It took about a year before I was entirely independent of Steve.  To put a timeline on this, I started work for Terry at The Forum, Ltd., in January 1987.  In June 1988, Linda, the children, and I left for South Africa on vacation.  Terry advised me not to return to the US.  Terry spoke to his attorney to confirm this was the best course of action for Terry.  He was amazed to see me on my return, and I promptly resigned as we had details worked out a business relationship with Steve.  I was now independent, and the challenge was to get consulting work.  We formed our second company in America—Modern Business Solutions, Inc.  While in Terry’s employ, I worked for a company making textile products in Wisconsin.  I approached them, and they became my first client.  But the question was how I secure additional business when I don’t have a nest egg set aside for living on with a wife and two children to feed, and for marketing and advertising.

107.  Tom Dorrington

While still living in Edenglen, Edenvale, outside of Joburg, where we had built our own home, I met Tom and Cynthia Dorrington, who lived in the neighborhood.  Tom is American and Cynthia, a South African.  Tom had interviewed me for a position at the company where he worked.  Don Gray, from CPL, warned me that Tom was not happy in his job and was planning to move on.  I declined Tom’s job offer.  Tom was concerned about South Africa’s future, especially for his son having the possibility of fighting in a futile war, sold up, and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, about the same time that we moved States side.  Now with my own business, I had to be a super quick study to learn how to be successful in America.  I called Tom.  Much like the one word in the movie The Graduate, “plastics,” Tom’s one word was “collaborate.”  I asked a salesperson, Steve Shattoe selling the Data/3 software if he had any client leads for me, and he came through with several that kept me occupied and funded for a long time.  I am ashamed to admit that as much as a savior as Steve was, I lost contact with him.  There was no Facebook or LinkedIn those days.  My recent Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn searches did not reveal any leads.

108.  Focus Forecasting

The feast and famine got to me.  I needed a more secure income stream.  Linda was not allowed to work until I had my “green card.”  We only became US citizens 11 years after we landed on these shores, in addition to spending $10,000 on immigration attorney fees.  I was on my own and motivated to succeed.  During my Oliver Wight days, I heard about Focus Forecasting, the brainchild of Bernard Smith.  Bernie developed a technique using simple formulas to generate a forecast.  In simple terms, he took 42 months of historical data, aggregated it to 14 quarters, created a nine quarter forecast, prorated or spread it back to monthly figures, and you were ready to plan for the next 36 months. 

109.  Demand Solutions

In 1992 I became a representative for Demand Management, Inc. (DMI) selling their Demand Solutions (DS) product using Bernie’s Focus Forecasting technique.  Realistically not too many companies were doing much forecasting at that time, and the most significant selling point of the concept is that you did not require an advanced mathematical or statistics degree to understand how it worked.  DMI did the marketing and advertising, and their global representative group got leads.  My territory included the upper Midwest territories of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.  Our task was to present the software solution, prepare proposals, close sales, educate, train, install, and keep the clients happy with ongoing support. 

Over time I built a small team of a dozen specialists.  I sold more than 300 client companies over the ten years ending in 2002.  I worked extremely hard during this time and frankly made a lot of money.  One year I decided that I had to enjoy the American lifestyle and leased a Cadillac STS, the V8 sports sedan version.  During that year, I drove 60,000 miles (nearly 100,000 kilometers).  I would be up early in the morning, leave the house at or before 5:00 am and return home late at night.  I would do one-way day drives to Chicago (2 hours), Indianapolis (4 hours), Minneapolis (5 hours), etc.  The following year I leased another Cadillac but drove 60,000 miles over two years.

110.  Inventory Turns

During my days in South Africa, I was shocked to see how inefficient some companies operated.  I did consulting work with a company making components for trucks.  This company boasted a plant with every machine painted in the same shade of green, with an off-white floor to see if there were oil leaks.  In the center of the factory, they had a huge cage to house the WIP (work in process) inventory.  They measured productivity and machine utilization very carefully, and the results were more than impressive.  What I quickly learned is that the WIP cage contained an enormous amount of inventory.  In studying their stock turns, they barely achieved four turns a year, implying that at any moment, they held a three month supply of components.  The reality was that once the machines were adjusted, they kept running the equipment flat out to get those effective utilization and productivity numbers, and producing inventory that was not needed and ended up in the cage.

When I arrived in the US, I knew for sure that every company in this country operated at levels of professionalism significantly higher than anything that we could ever achieve in South Africa.  One of my early assignments was working with a stationery manufacturer in the Chicago area.  Same thing, four turns.  I mentioned the textile company in Wisconsin, the owner of the company was their chief buyer, and he knew a bargain when he saw one.  He was forever buying raw materials even if there was not a need for it—but the price was right, consequently, the same situation, four turns.  I quickly built my confidence, realizing that the reason I was called in to work with these companies is they had challenges that needed addressing.  In so many cases, why not free up working capital tied up in inventory that is stored unproductively.  That includes raw material, packaging, components, and finished goods inventory.  Could that money not be put to better use?

111.  Dramatic Improvement

In my South African days, I worked with a large multi-division publically traded packaging company.  They sourced their raw materials from a paper mill.  They clearly understood that as one relatively small operation in dealing with a large mill, they had no clout in dictating deliveries.  They operated with three inventory turns a year.  We implemented our computer-based planning systems, and a few changes took place. 

First, we laid out a forecast of what we believed we would get in terms of customer orders over the next year, revising this forecast monthly.  Based on those projections, we planned out what raw materials would be required, netting out what was currently in stock.  The net requirement was now clearly visible.  Mills plan their production on a rolling cycle.  We had the buyers work with the mill to understand when they were going to produce the required raw materials for my client.  Within a year, the client increased inventory turns to 9. 

I clearly understand that when I am talking to prospects about what we could achieve, under no circumstances do I say you can go to 9 turns from 3 inside a year.  I would instantly blow all my credibility.  What I have done consistently is to speculate on how much money could be freed up by increasing turns by only one a year.  It is true even if the client company is turning inventory 45 times a year. 

It was always easily cost-justified because of the benefits of inventory reduction to make the software and project investment a reality.  It included improvements for the productivity of all resources including labor, equipment, and materials.  In that way, I have earned business and significantly outperformed the promise. 

There is always more waste in the operations that management will not accept.  They all know that they are working at maximum efficiency.  While talking to prospects, under promise and over deliver is a professional mantra.  There is an important concept that went with my negotiations.  Never discuss the possibility or probability of a headcount reduction.  When the discussion is broached, my sincere belief and response are that the business will grow with decent systems in place, there would not be a requirement to hire additional people as sales increased, but to fully use the capabilities of the current trained team to absorb the growth.

112.  Pareto

I stated earlier that I worked with more than 300 client companies that I sold and supported using the DS (Demand Solutions) software.  To go into detail with each assignment will be annoying in the extreme.  I will touch on one or two remarkable experiences.  When working with these client companies, I frequently came across technical requirements that were not addressed with the DS software.  I would challenge the software owners at DMI (Demand Management, Inc.) to make enhancements.  Imagine a situation where a company has a large number of customers.  Here 20 percent of the customers are responsible for purchasing 80 percent of the product.  It gets into the Pareto rule.  Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto (15 July 1848 – 19 August 1923) was an Italian engineer, sociologist, economist, political scientist, and philosopher, now also known for the 80/20 rule, named after him as the Pareto principle.  It was derived from observations that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.  The concept is applied in business, including the stratification of inventory into an ABC analysis, where A items are the critical few numerically small number or percentage, and C the less important but more significant quantity of products.  It is not always a hard and fast rule, and variations such as 90/10 or 75/25 may still be valid for analysis purposes.  In the US we have the top 1% controlling 43% of wealth in America and with that the political clout.  The top 5% controls 72% of the wealth.  It represents the most significant income disparity since the Great Depression.

113.  Item by customer

The original DS software did a great job of controlling and planning inventory.  When working with a client, if they lost a key customer, it might be detrimental to their business and desperately needed control by critical customers as well.  It was one of many enhancements that I had the team program, item by the customer.

114.  Inconsistent Representative Agreements

I was fortunate to land a large publically traded manufacturer of consumer goods as a client.  This multi-divisional company had operations countrywide.  It is terrific when you get a call and request that you start working with a new division.  But this too caused problems.  DMI created a separate representative agreement for each sales organization.  In one situation, they gave the representative in Texas exclusive rights to all businesses in the state.  When I wanted to implement a solution for my client in that state, there were severe conflict problems.  The Texas rep wanted the business, and there was no possible way that I was going to give up my hard-won account.  I won the battle but did not enjoy all the drama that went into this sale due to the short-sightedness of DMI to not have a standard agreement with which all sales representatives had to comply.

115.  Surgical Instruments

One of the more fascinating assignments was working with a medical device manufacturer, included in their arsenal, instruments used for surgical operations.  The hospital would schedule, say, an open heart surgery.  The scheduling called for the surgeon, anesthetist, and supporting nursing contingent, plus importantly, an available operating theater.  I learned that, with respect, the surgeons are prima donnas and will only use a specific brand of instruments that they insist on using for their surgeries.  At the moment the patient and operating team are assembled in the operation room, a cart with all the necessary instruments and medications are wheeled in.  The cart is staged in the distribution center within the hospital.  Before this step, the supplier, or medical device manufacturer in this situation, has already supplied all the instruments that are required based on a forecast of demand.  The instruments are sourced and sterilized before dispatch to the hospital.  Remember hospitals are countrywide, and each surgeon has her or his request for specific branded products, so this is not a simple scheduling task.  It is the type of challenge that excites me to help problem solve.

116.  Abattoir

I worked with a slaughterhouse.  Say they receive an order for 100 T-bone steaks.  The cows are roaming the field, so lead the cow to the slaughter and obtain the required T-bones.  But what about all the other meat on the cow?  Co-products and by-products.  The abattoir receives hundreds of orders per day for cuts for beef, pig, and lamb.  These orders have to be assembled and processed.  Ultimately waste control is essential, so what to do if we have an imbalance of requirements.  Naturally, management must determine if they will short deliver to customers to balance demand, and make up the difference on the following day or week, or to place some of the surplus meat in cold storage or freezer.  Realistically planning includes what volume or weight can fit in the refrigerated truck, and that will factor into the production run.  Labor is an issue as the company has a limited number of skilled resources in an industry that suffers from high levels of injury.  All in all a scheduling challenge.

117.  Credit Cards

I worked with a company that produced credit cards for banks and retail organizations.  I am not sure that I have ever encountered higher levels of security.  To gain access to the production facility, they require you to hand in your driver’s license, and you were under very close supervision as you toured the facility.  This so that you can be inspected on exit to verify you are not leaving with a handful of credit card blanks.  The process is complicated.  Most banks have several different cards, possibly identified as debit, and gold, silver, and platinum credit cards.  The chip in the card has additional processing requirements.  Each card produced has the customer name printed on the card, with an assigned card number, expiration date, and security code.  The end product is matched with a corresponding letter to be mailed, along with legal documentation.  Mailing by the credit card generator is on behalf of the bank client.  Naturally the banks or retailers begin the process after receiving requests for cards from customers.  What is unknown is how successful a campaign will be to solicit new customers with say, zero percent interest on outstanding balances for the next 12 months.  There might be an overwhelming response to an advertisement and the credit card processor does not have sufficient card blanks, literature, and envelopes to meet the needs for the increased demand.  Collaborative communication is key between the bank and card processor, but not always practiced.

118.  Garage Doors

I worked with a garage door manufacturer.  The initial information conveyed to me is that this is an industry that is impossible to plan.  Intriguing.  It has the risk of being a little technical, so please bear with me.  The company told me that their computer system had thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Bill of Materials (BOM) on file.  Every order received had to have a BOM constructed with the specifics of the customer order to control the process through production, and to plan raw material, packaging, paint, and fasteners, etc.  Garage doors may be manufactured from wood, fiberglass, steel, or aluminum.  There are two types of insulation: polystyrene and polyurethane.  The door can be single, 2, 3, or 4 horizontal panels.  With and without windows.  The finish can be any of 6,000 colors.  The appearance can be classic, carriage, or contemporary.  All doors are made to measure and can vary in width and height in 1/8th-inch increments.  Faced with this daunting array of choices, the door company had taken each order and created a unique BOM.  Technically the company was working as if they made to stock (MTS) requiring this unique BOM for each build. 

My first task was to persuade the company to adopt an Assemble to Order (ATO) build strategy.  It is the same method used by auto manufacturers.  Here we start with order entry and ask the customer questions.  What material do you want for your door?  What type of insulation?  How many panels do you require?  Do you want windows in your doors?  What color do you want?  What finished appearance do you desire?  What is the width of the garage door opening?  What is the height of the door from the ground to the top of the door?  By adopting this process, the company would construct a BOM to support this order, identifying the BOM by an order number, and save the database from being cluttered with redundant data.  More importantly with the way they operated previously, it was impossible to forecast the models, options, and accessories.  Then too it is difficult to determine the popularity of options based on orders received.  Now this ATO approach information would support creating planning BOMs to plan materials from suppliers and capacity in the plant.  All that could be gleaned from the initial history was the rate at which orders were received and if the trend was up, down, or level.  By following the ATO strategy, trending is determined. 

It was a successful assignment.  In the end, this privately held company sold to a larger corporation.  To visit this company required a one-way 90-minute drive.  On one night, while driving home in the dark and heavy snow, a snow truck driving in front of me was clearing snow off the road.  When I realized where I was after the cloud cleared, I was barreling down toward a barrier protecting a bridge.  I still do not know how or why I did not have a severe accident that night.  Have you ever had an experience where there is suddenly no road noise?  That happened that night too.  I was driving on ice.  Now the challenge is how to slow the car down without applying the brakes.

119.  Reuben Olson

Reuben Olson worked with me.  He was driving home one night and fell asleep behind the wheel of his company-owned Cadillac and drove into the post supporting an overhead bridge.  The car was a total write-off, but with all the protective devices in the vehicle, all Reuben hurt was his pride.  Our team put in long hours.

120.  Potency control

My experience covers inventory or stock control, and especially inventory record accuracy, but how do you process product that has a half-life?  I worked with a bioscience company that manufactured radioactive seeds used to destroy cancer in patients with prostate cancer.  The potency of those seeds would deteriorate over time.  As an example, the half-life of Palladium-103 is 17 days. That means that the prostate receives half of the dose in the first 17 days, then one quarter in the next 17 days. The required dose is delivered in three to four half-lives.  Now think about the software application that needs to program for this eventuality.  Then to the software needs to keep control of the seeds by batch, with one or multiple lots produced on a specific day—so lot and date tracking are critical.  The doctors would need to clearly understand the precise potency of any lot of seeds they were to administer to the patient.

121.  Lawnmowers and snow throwers

I worked with companies manufacturing lawnmowers and snow throwers.  That implied they had their winter and summer production plans balanced.  So how do you go about forecasting next season’s demand?  Simple, you say.  Look at shipments for the past three years, and extrapolate orders by taking trend and seasonality into consideration.  Not so fast.  In this industry, the products are sold through distributors.  What if last season you had an abnormally low snowfall season or surprisingly cold summer season with low grass growth?  In both situations, the distributors might still be sitting with high levels of inventory in their warehouses due to the previous season-low demand.  The start of the new season demand will be low or slow.  It is necessary, therefore, to communicate with your customers, the distributors, or even large retail groups to determine their on-hand inventory position.  Now, what is the likely demand that they will require at the start of the new season?  I will not get into the added complication of consignment stock.  Who owns that problem?

122.  High fashion merchandise

High fashion merchandise is another area that presents a challenge.  To keep it simple, let’s say you have a new line of shirts, blouses, suits, and dresses, whatever.  How can you possibly have an accurate forecast for something that you have never sold before?  It is highly unlikely that you have never manufactured or sold shirts previously, so you use the history of what was sold in the past, and use that as a guide to the likely demand for the new season.  You will probably plan at families of product, say all dress shirts, irrespective of size or color options.  That could be the first yardstick to use for future demand. 

Generally, high fashion merchandise is presented at trade shows.  Retailers and wholesalers will take orders for the new season products.  If using the past demand for trade show merchandise and projecting potential demand, will show a level of higher or lower interest with the latest product line.  The manufacturer can adjust the future demand pattern according to market acceptance.  After the season arrives, and after the initial rollout of the new season merchandise, keeping daily track of demand for replenishment provides the most accurate picture of the success or failure of the lines.  The solution here is to track separate demand streams, possibly one for the trade show, and another for product rollout.  Product production is adjusted accordingly.  I will not elaborate on using the planning bill of materials to prorate aggregate demand to color and size options.

123.  Cores/Spares

Planning cores presents its challenges.  Say the alternator in your vehicle fails.  You have a choice of purchasing a new or a refurbished unit.  The price and age of your car will determine your choice.  But what happens to the old alternator unit—the core?  The core, or in this case the alternator, is returned to the manufacturer, stripped, and rebuilt to be like new.  The challenge is for the manufacturer to plan which components need to be available for the rebuild.  Then too, at what rate are old units returned for repair.  The year of manufacture has an impact.  With older vehicles, more core returns are received than later model cars.  Here the system needs to track what components got replaced on previously returned cores.  You may have a policy that all bearings, regardless of the state of wear, are replaced.  With the detail information available in your systems, future demand calculations are at the end item level, and planning bill of materials will provide the planners with likely component demand.  This demand compared to current available inventory will show planned replenishment over time.  Tracking this information also helps determine Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF).

There are additional demands that present an exciting challenge.  Airlines never want to contend with an “aircraft on the ground” (AOG) situation.  It may be the result of the landing brakes not working effectively on the aircraft.  Here careful records are kept of the number of landings that the plane has completed.  With an aggregate look at all similar types of aircraft, a determination is made when a replacement repair needs scheduling.  Say every 1,000 landings — another MTBF metric.  Naturally, companies like Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, and Lockheed Martin, etc., provide the airlines with valuable preventative maintenance information.

124.  Political influence in planning

How easy do you believe it is to plan demand when politics enters the picture?  I worked with a small armaments gun and ammunition manufacturer.  The situation should be so easy.  With a minimum of three years of history, project future demand based on trend and seasonality.  Easy.  Barack Obama was elected president of the US to office in January 2009 and ended his 8-year term through January 2017.  The National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the largest lobbying groups in America, advised its members that Obama is going to take their guns away.  Motivate the public with fear.  That drives up sales.  During the administrations of Bill Clinton (8 years) and George W. Bush (8 years), Americans spent an estimated $21.1 billion and $22.9 billion in 2016 dollars on guns and ammunition, respectively. Under Obama (half the total time of 16 years), Americans spent more than the entire amount combined.  Fear of the removal of guns and ammunition alarmist rhetoric was repeated during Obama’s eight years.  Obama did not take people’s arms.  The Republicans would not allow him to enact any gun laws. 

The National Rifle Association donates millions of dollars every year to Republican lawmakers in Congress.  Republicans are in the pocket of the NRA.  The NRA gave Trump $21 million to his presidential campaign, the highest amount the NRA has ever given to a presidential candidate.  Those same Republicans line up uniformly to block proposed gun control legislation.  The implication of these facts appears obvious: Politicians are refusing to stem the bloodshed of gun violence because they’re getting what amounts to a legal bribe from lobbyists. 

Every member of congress gets rated by the NRA as to their support of the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms.  The higher the rating, the more campaign dollars are provided.  Firearms were used to kill 13,286 people in the U.S. in 2015, excluding suicide. Approximately 1.4 million people have been shot using guns in the U.S. between 1968 and 2011, or about 30,000 per year.  The Vietnam War for the US began November 1, 1955, and ended April 30, 1975.  During that two-decade period, 58,220 soldiers lost their lives for an average rate of death of 2,900 per year.  Since Trump’s election in 2017, arms and ammunition sales declined 17%.  Forecasting these wild swings is a real challenge.

125.  Paper Shredder

I worked with an office supply manufacturer producing paper products and machinery.  The customer base consisted of large office product retailers that operated nationally and some small family-run businesses as well.  They received a call one day from their biggest customer to say that they could source a paper shredder from China at approximately half of what a similar model cost from this US producer.  My client decided that they were up to the challenge and harnessed the brains and creativity of their product development engineers.  The existing shredders required machining and assembly with numerous fasteners.  The new product they created still required some machining, but they made the frame with plastic housings.  Assembly required the parts to be snapped together, all in a fraction of the time of the earlier models.  They retained their customers with a new low-cost model, and sales increased dramatically.

126.  Buy Online?

Consultants can be pretty stupid sometimes.  I worked with a company that made health care products.  Hair combs are one example.  They requested a consultant to visit the company and recommend an innovative approach to sales.  Their current market was to sell through retail.  The consultant (and a person I knew) strongly recommended that they dump the retailers and embrace online sales.  The company could not fathom why somebody would buy a single comb online and pay more for shipping than the product itself.  It was not such a big deal to pick up a comb from your local pharmacy.  Even if ordering a dozen combs and who needs that many would not make economic sense.  The consultant lost this assignment.

127.  Collaboration

It seems like in my career, I began working with a packaging company in South Africa, and by luck and circumstance, gravitated to several different packaging companies in the US.  I worked with another publically traded packaging company.  This client company was initially owned by an investment firm.  I was presenting the DS software to the management team, and they highlighted a critically important need.  They had sales personnel stationed in many cities across America.  How would the DS product be able to send information to each salesperson and get feedback based on the forecast for each of the sales person’s customers? 

Easy, I said.  DS had a feature where you could extract data for each salesperson.  The DS user administrator could take each of these separate exported files, compress them, attached it to an email, and forward to the respective salesperson.  We would provide each salesperson with an application on their laptops, and on receipt of the email, they could expand the file, attach it to their database, make appropriate adjustments over time, export the data, compress it, and email back to the corporate administrator who would consolidate all the sales peoples data and then share information with the respective sales managers.  The management team sat there in total silence.  Finally, they asked me if I thought that salespeople were savvy enough to be able to do all this technical computer work where they do not have the aptitude for managing this process.  They then asked if I had ever heard of the internet.

128.  Sales-Lynx

There and then, I asked them if they would work with me, and I would develop an internet-based system for them.  The year was 2001.  My son Sean graduated with a computer engineering degree.  I employed him and a few others, including one of his best friends, Jim, who held the same degree, to help program what I named Sales-Lynx, an internet collaboration tool.  The first requirement was that this must be developed using Microsoft SQL (MS SQL) database.  The second requirement was that all user interfaces had to be accessible via the internet.  But it was not all plain sailing.  The idea was to use the Sunbelt database in DS and convert it to the Microsoft database.  Recall that Sunbelt was a series of indexed flat files.  Microsoft SQL does not permit redundant data, so in extracting data from Sunbelt, requiring redundant data, resulted in a significant cleanup that needed to take place through a rigorous conversion process. 

Once over that hurdle, having a salesperson restricted to only seeing their data was simple, and then having the sales manager seeing their direct reports information was again possible using MS SQL technology.  The other neat benefit was the salesperson could slice-and-dice their data to view it in multiple ways.  If they wanted to see “A” customers, with only “A” items, they could achieve that.  We allowed the salespeople to download their data to their PCs so that they could take the data with them, review on aircraft trips, or share data with key customers.  If they had internet access at the customer, this feature would not be required.  We were able to restrict factory cost data from being displayed so the customers would only see what they had to pay per unit and extended price.  We provided the capability of sales personnel, adding notes at aggregate or detail data levels.  It turned out to be a big success.  In 2005 DMI purchased this application and branded it as Feedback.

129.  DMI antagonized

In developing this solution, I did not win friends at DMI.  Their attitude was that I should have come to them with the idea, and they could have produced the solution.  The reality is that I did approach them with many ideas that they rejected.  The owners of the company, the late Steve Johnston, and Mike Campbell were making so much money selling what they had with an international group of resellers and reasoned why rock the boat and spoil what you have if you perceive that you have built the very best mouse trap available.  I presented the DS product to a Milwaukee transport company who agreed to purchase the product if we migrated it to a Microsoft SQL database away from Sunbelt.  That was just one battle I did not win.

130.  Supply-Lynx

With my relationship now showing DMI that I was creative, we parted company in February 2002.  My Sales-Lynx was dependent on the DS product, so what to do next?  DS had another significant problem, and that was the naïve forecasting formulas that Bernie Smith had developed years before releasing his book in 1991.  There is a professional body of academic knowledge and experience that has defined a selection of algorithms that would likely produce a higher quality of the forecast.  We redeveloped our software to include the series of formulas from Forecast Pro and named it Supply-Lynx Internet Collaboration (SX). 

The users loved our solution because it was significantly more user-friendly to navigate and to present results.  Mike Baird, who was part of our team and a part-time forecasting lecturer at a local university, conducted several tests using both DS and our SX solution.  The results showed that over time, the Forecast Pro created a forecast that was significantly more accurate when comparing actual to forecast, and the variability of the errors was substantially smaller, allowing client companies to plan with much lower levels of safety stock inventory.  Then too, we were not restricted to forecasting in months but had the flexibility to forecast in weeks and days.

With our team growing, we moved into offices in Brookfield’s Bishop’s Woods.  The offices built on a tract of land that had previously been owned by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.  Linda called me from home on the early morning of September 11, 2001, telling us about the terrorist attack in New York City.  Our team rushed to my house to watch the planes flying into the World Trade Center and seeing them collapse.  With our deep-felt emotions and confusion as to why this was happening, we closed the office for the balance of the day.

131.  Ted Kanavas

Ted Kanavas died of cancer on July 3, 2017, at age 56.  I met Ted when he worked for Harris Data in Brookfield as a sales manager.  Harris Data developed and sold an enterprise software solution.  I partnered with Harris to interface Demand Solutions software to provide a value-added forecasting function.  While we were developing our Supply-Lynx software, Ted joined our team to help promote and sell our software.  Ted also had the responsibility to help us secure venture capital so that we could hire additional developers and pay for marketing and advertising. 

My business plan was over 100 pages with significant detail, including a cash flow analysis that spanned five years with optimistic, average, and very conservative estimates.  To Ted’s dying day, he was an ardent Republican and always supporting loyal Republican causes.  His employment relationship with us required time off to perform his duties as a Wisconsin State Senator and to attend congressional meetings in Madison, the State Capitol.  Ted had several lunchtime meetings with supporters and donors.  Ted said that he knew every deep pocket in Wisconsin who supported the Republican cause and helped fund their political party.  Ted believed he could tap into those relationships to get us the funding we required. 

Ted orchestrated a presentation to the local angel investor group.  I still have the sports jacket that Ted strongly recommended I purchase to match the dress code of the wealthy investment group.  We were not successful in getting any investment money.  I blamed Ted for this.  I did not believe that he could present our case as effectively as I could.  He lacked my enthusiasm, breadth of understanding, and experience for a solution that I valued.  Ted teamed up with a friend of his and flew to California.  They met with several investors.  The outcome was they could not secure the $5 million I was looking for but could get access to $50 million from investors who would ultimately take over the business and kick me out.  That did not appeal to me.  Ted and I parted ways when we realized that sales would close at a slow rate.  With us being unsure of the potential income would keep us in business, we had to reduce costs.  Sadly Ted was expendable. 

I did, however, learn one vital lesson.  Investors are looking for traction.  If you could show them a graph where sales were increasing exponentially, then you have their attention.  If you are presenting a concept, wrapped up with lots of blue skies, then despite 100 pages of a detailed business plan with every justification in the world, you will not be successful in raising capital.  I should add to that at the time we were looking for money, the stock market was not doing well, and several investors told us that they would not pull money out of a depressed market unless to support a substantial venture with significant guarantees.  I had expenses getting this mission off the ground.  I had to have legal documents drawn up for the investors to sign where they attested to the fact that they could afford to lose their investment if this venture failed.  Jim Doyle, a Republican, was governor of Wisconsin at the time I was trying to get financing.  The state promoted small businesses and would help fund ventures.  I enthusiastically applied.  I was unsuccessful.  I learned that most of the money got awarded to out of state companies.  Even the state wanted to be sure of getting a return on their investment.  What a disgrace!

132.  First Client

We worked with a company producing chemicals for the tire industry.  It was a global operator, and the business relationship turned out well as they became one of our first clients when we created our own SX software after parting company from DMI.  We naturally gave them the very best attention possible and saw to it that we would meet their every need.  It was, indeed, an international account.  Their data center based in the UK and our software housed on a server in the US.  When we were ready to roll out the application, I flew to Brussels, Belgium, to do the initial training.

We had a gentleman from The Netherlands who elected to take charge of the evaluation of the software with a contingent of 15 people sitting around a large conference table, each with a PC linked to the internet.  One test that he wanted to conduct was to see how responsive the application would be when all 15 people tried to use the system simultaneously.  Recall that we are in Europe and the computer server is in the US.  He gave the order to participants to adjust and to time how long it would take for the change to complete.  Well, the changes never completed. 

I’m in Europe early morning, and my team is still sleeping in the middle of the night in Milwaukee.  What to do?  I certainly did not understand what had gone wrong.  I knew that it should have worked.  We had the managers take a break and attend to other duties.  I sent Sean an email appealing for help.  My crazy son had to take a bathroom break in the middle of the night and for some strange reason, checked his email.  He responded near instantly and said that he would look into the matter.

133.  Microsoft Sequel Database

When anyone purchases Microsoft’s SQL, you have a choice of the version you can acquire.  Knowing what I was up against, Sean logged on to the client’s US computer to discover that they installed the entry-level SQL that allowed for testing applications but restricted to single-user access only.  So with 15 users trying to access the database from Brussels, obviously, that could not be accomplished.  Sean had to wait for daybreak, talk to the client’s computer team, and had the appropriate version on SQL loaded.  The rest of the training went well. 

There was another situation that fascinated me after the company had been operational a few months later.  The client requested additional functions programmed.  When ready, we needed to deploy the upgrade to the server in the US.  We had a feature in the software where we could see who was using the software at any point in time and their location in the world.  The application was operational 24X7 to support global users.  We had built in a feature that we either lockout any or all users or to send a message to request that they shut down their application so that we could affect an upgrade.  To say that I was excited to stand and witness this upgrade taking place is an understatement.  I was very proud of Sean and our team.

134.  Flemish

I met with a manager at a client company in Belgium.  He received a phone call while we were in conversation and asked my permission to take the call.  He conducted his discussion in Flemish.  After the call, I told him that I understood every word as he was telling his friend about his wife’s pregnancy and childbirth.  It was the first time that I had heard Flemish spoken.  It is so similar to Afrikaans that I could easily follow the conversation.  Doing some research, I see that there are different dialects of Flemish: Flemish-Dutch, Belgium-Dutch, and Southern-Dutch.  Afrikaans was derived from the Dutch language.  Flemish varieties are spoken in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, as well as the French Flanders language.  The official languages of Belgium are Dutch, French, and German.

135.  Y2K

The year 2000 was critical in the computer industry.  There were millions of applications that got developed during the 1900s.  Recall my career began in 1969, working on the IBM 360 and developing programs in COBOL.  Back then, when we had to work with dates, using a 2-digit for the year was an efficient way to program.  69, representing 1969.  Minimizing data record length usage helped programs operate faster.  With all those many programs in operation, what was going to happen when we reached the year 2000 represented as 00?  To calculate a date range, what happens when you subtract 69 from 00?  We certainly did not program for negative numbers in the date field.  The short answer is that the applications would no longer work.  That requires companies to acquire new applications to work in the new millennia if their existing applications did not comply with these date issues.  That, in turn, created a situation where billions of dollars spent on software upgrades or replacements. 

When the year 2000 rolled around, it was as if the computer industry had fallen off a cliff because there were not too many companies with an appetite to invest any more in IT (information technology).  We built our Sales-Lynx in 2000, and our Supply-Lynx starting in 2002.  It is not difficult to see that sales were not going to be brisk.  By 2005 we had sold five systems, and we had run out of money.  Our only option was to close the doors.  October 10, 2005, will remain the lowest point in my life.  I was devastated, humiliated, angry, and filled with so much emotion that I had difficulty controlling myself.  To get out of the mess, we moved out of our home and into an apartment in early 2006.  Eighteen months later, during November 2008 we bought the condominium we are currently living in.  We were of the first to move in along with four other families.  So what did I do to earn an income?

Daryl Landvater and Chris Gray, the computer specialist with Oliver Wight, spoke about the sunrise and sunset evolution of software.  A software solution is newly developed and promoted with lots of fanfare.  The software company cannot get sufficient traction with sales, and quietly disappears on the horizon.  Tell me about it.  That is what happened to us.

136.  Global Electronics Company

One company that we were presenting our Supply-Lynx software to was an international publicly traded electronics company.  The Vice President, Jack, was very excited.  Their current forecasting process consisted of an enormous Excel spreadsheet stored on a server.  Salespersons’ data got extracted and emailed to them to review and to make adjustments.  The function we offered was so superior and significantly less manually intensive that he motivated the company to invest.  Alas, the agreement to purchase our software came days after we closed the shop.  I had a face-to-face meeting with Jack to explain our dilemma.  A few days later, he contacted me and requested that I make contact with the owners of WebConcepts, a City of Industries (near Los Angeles), California based company that expressed interest in acquiring the software.

137.  WebConcepts

I met with WebConcepts CEO, Ray, and I agreed that he had to hire Mike Baird and me and to give us guaranteed employment for a minimum of 18 months.  In turn, I would provide the source code and help sell the electronics company.  Ray and his older brother, Richard, who financed the company, were originally from Burma, now Myanmar. 

The chief technical officer, Yudha, was not in favor of the deal because he said he could develop the entire system in a week, something that we had taken us 12 person-years of development.  Yudha was not precisely what one would call an upright individual.  He possessed six cell phones.  He gave each of his girlfriends a cell phone, and they had the number to one of the six he carried.  They all knew that they were special, and he rotated who he would sleep with, and by having multiple phones, the girlfriends would not know of the existence of others.  His excuse for the neglect of the five he happened not to be sleeping with that night is that he had a critical task that required him to work very late at night.

Ray, too, had his problems.  He drove a late model Mercedes sports car and wore the most elegant clothing available.  Living in the Los Angeles area was very important to Ray.  He did business with the film studios and believed that his image was critical to secure business.  Richard and his wife Jean lived in Dallas, Texas.  Richard spent many years working for IBM and saved diligently.  After retirement, he helped fund WebConcepts. 

138.  Electronics company visit

Ray, Mike, and I sat in on a meeting with the electronic client.  They were looking for specific functions needed to roll the software out to China.  There were about a dozen people at the meeting, sitting around a large conference room table.  One of the female managers had particular technical questions that she wanted clarity on to assure her that the software would meet their needs.  I guess I was sitting there with my mouth open.  I knew full well that the required function was not in the application, but could be enhanced. 

Ray gave her every assurance that everything she requested was already part of the solution.  It is one reason I have been critical of the software industry.  If, as a prospect or client, you are lied to, how can you tell?  Frankly, I had a fun time working at WebConcepts for the two and a half years I stayed there.  I got to know the finer points of the product WebConcepts had developed, essentially managing and controlling sales of DVDs to retail companies by the film studios.  Our forecasting application front-ended their application to support planning for new releases, and replenishment of inventory on the shelf.  Richard fired Ray after I left because he was rightfully concerned that expenses were totally out of control.  Ray’s insatiable appetite for luxuries exceeded income.

139.  SCM Solutions, LLC.

DMI sold Demand Solutions to Logility, a publically traded software company.  That allowed Steve and Mike to retire.  Logility brought in a new CEO, Bill, to run DS and to make his mark made wholesale changes.  It did not make the representatives happy, and many left the company.  They had commission privileges removed or reduced, and the management style offended many of the sales representatives.  Logility ultimately became a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Software.

In 2009 I incorporated SCM Solutions, LLC.  The SCM was representing Supply Chain Management.  It was now my third company, and second in the United States.  We continued on a path to represent software companies, providing education, training, consulting, and services to help make client companies profitable.

140.  JustEnough

Ralph Thiery was a representative with DS during the time that I sold the software covering Ohio and other states east of my territory.  Ralph and his partner Ron, plus their team was one organization that parted company from DS under the new regime.  Every so often, I would get a call from Ralph with a new idea of what we could do as a representative for a different software solution and to continue to earn income.  One idea was for us to sell JustEnough software.  They marketed as an American product, but under the covers was developed in South Africa.  I called an associate in South Africa, Carl, to give me a reference for this company.  Carl told me they were f*****g crooks. 

Not heading the advice, I went out and sold the software.  My first client was a textile company.  Since we were traveling to South Africa, I decided to stop in and meet the JustEnough management team and developers on their home turf in Joburg.  I did learn that the development team would be releasing a new and improved version of the software soon.  Great news.  I conveyed that information to my textile client.  When I originally sold this client, we charged them $50,000 for the suite.  They were enamored with the function in the upgrade as it addressed a significant shortcoming with the original product.  The US executive and owner of JustEnough thought that it was a great decision on the part of the textile company and quoted them $1 million for the upgrade.  The comment from my South African contact, Carl, came true.  I stopped representing this company immediately.  Regrettably, the textile company is now stuck with the software and will never pay an extortion price for the upgrade.

141.  Credibility

Please understand that I have been selling and supporting software for many years.  In my IBM days, I would present a solution, and if the client made an additional investment, I thought I was the most phenomenal salesperson on the planet.  After I left IBM and kept up my sales and support role, I quickly learned that the clients were buying from IBM and not from me.  I was facilitating the acquisition of the IBM solution, really no better than a glorified sales clerk.  After leaving IBM I understood that prospects were buying from me.  The prospects believed in my ability to solve their challenges by demonstrating that I clearly understood their business needs and the opportunity for addressing their issues with the software I represented.  It included my solution that would address their needs.  You do not sell 300 plus prospects just because they like you, or you happen to knock on their door.  As stated in my opening, and as a reminder, if there was a lack of integrity with either the prospect or client I was consulting to or the software company I represented, I moved on.

142.  Avercast

During the days that Ralph and I sold DS, the application had a significant shortcoming.  The solution would determine a demand pattern projecting forward 36 months, but did not have the function to plan replenishment of inventory.  One of the many representatives, Gene, wrote a replenishment model making sure that he retained the rights of his software.  The good news is that we added another product, Gene’s, which we could sell to prospects and clients.  Gene was one of several representatives that left the DS fold after the sales to Logility, and now under new management with Bill at the helm.

143.  Ralph Thiery

It is getting repetitive, and will not be the last time that Ralph called me, this time to say let’s sell Gene’s product Avercast.  The good news is the Gene was looking for representatives to help promote his solution, and we had a ten-year track record with Gene.  Ralph had a prospect in mind.  We visited an automobile component manufacturer in Ohio and quickly won their business.  I had a trip planned to South Africa, and while on vacation, Ralph contacted me to say that the day I arrive back I must get to Ohio for a meeting with the client so that we can document the function and features they required.  Gene had preapproved these enhancements, according to Ralph.  Ralph was using my skills to write specifications, not something that Ralph had done in his career. 

In the end, there were ten separate specifications.  I had the client sign off on each of my documents to verify that our collective understanding was correct for each of these provisions.  With their acceptance signature, I sent these to Gene.  Gene said that he did not approve the enhancements to his software, despite what Ralph had said and promised.  We informed the client that these enhancements would not be forthcoming.  They decided to sue!  Who do you think they targeted?  Ralph because he was the salesperson on the account, or Gene because he owned the software?  No, neither.  They decided to sue me because I had written the specifications.  That was the day I stopped representing Avercast.  They did not follow through with their threat to sue me.  How much blood can you get out of a stone?  The manager at the company who worked with us resigned and left the employ of our client.

Gene Averill passed away on February 1, 2018, at age 76.

144.  Anand Nahar

Anand Nahar earned an undergraduate degree in textiles from a university in India.  He completed a master’s degree in operations research at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia.  After graduation, Anand joined i2 Technologies, a publically traded US company run by an Indian gentleman, Sanju Sidhu.  i2, among other functions, offered a factory planning application that Anand supported.  Anand’s father had his own business, where he helped people finance used vehicles in India.  The father demanded a third-down payment.  If the customer missed a single payment, he would repossess the car, sell it to the next person looking for a used vehicle.  Anand grew up in a home where business and money dominated the conversation.  As is a common practice in India, Anand married Anju in an arranged marriage.  As Anju told me the story, she lived in a home with 20 family members.  The home environment was vibrant all the time.  After the wedding, Anju lived with Anand in an apartment in Atlanta.  Anand’s job required him to travel extensively, so Anju was home alone most of the time.  It was a huge adjustment for her.

After a time working for i2, Anand and Anju returned to Bengaluru (previously Bangalore).  The couple has a son Adit (born 2004) and daughter Aditi (born 2006).  Anand is a non-practicing Hindu, mostly a vegetarian, but his children attend separate single-sex Catholic schools.  As an aside, Adit attended school with 66 pupils in his class taught by one teacher.  While at i2 Technologies, Anand became friends with Pari Nagappan Annamalia.  Anand learned in his support role at i2 that the factory planning software was near impossible to install, and extremely user-unfriendly to learn and operate. 

145.  Planvisage

After Anand returned to Bangalore, Anand and Pari decided to build their user-friendly factory planning solution, naming it Planvisage—envisage your plan.  My 5 cents worth: I thought this to be a stupid name because the word “envisage” is not commonly associated with the software.  Planvisage is not a memorable name either.  Neither Pari nor Anand were skilled developers, so Anand hired Jogy Thomas (a Catholic), a bright developer.  Pari, by the way, also had an arranged marriage, and he and his wife elected to live in Singapore.  i2 Technologies was acquired by JDA Software in January 2010.

While Ralph was still involved with DS, he heard that Pari had called on DMI/DS to add a factory planning feature to their forecasting and replenishment offerings.  The new CEO at DMI/DS, Bill, decided that he knew precisely how to negotiate with anyone, and he would call the shots.  Part the way through the meeting, Pari realized that this was not meant to be a win-win relationship, and abruptly got up and left the meeting.  Ralph, not born shy, contacted Pari and said that he and I would represent Planvisage in North America, had a client that was very interested in the solution and would like to propose Planvisage to the company.  It was in early 2010.  And yes, I got Ralph’s call requesting me to learn the software and help sell and install Planvisage. 

With the usual back and forth with legal sorting out terms and conditions, we closed our first deal with this packaging company with eight factories.  We got on-site support from Pari.  The way we wrote the agreement, the company could start with a single plant and add new plants as and when required.  Since the software was negotiated at a reduced introductory price being the first install in the US, we built in an annual 10% escalation in price clause.  We could not possibly know at that juncture that this company would be on a journey where today they have 50 factories.  The bad news: ultimately, only 13 plants purchased the software over several years, and six plants stopped using the solution, now available to move to other facilities within the same organization.

146.  Demand Planning and Sales and Operations Planning

The Planvisage software was well-architected and an easy to use application.  To say that I was impressed would be an understatement.  But it too had its shortcomings.  Imagine having a solution to plan a factory taking all the bottleneck work centers into account, and optimizing capacity and the production flow throughout the factory, securing needed raw materials and components as required.  Planvisage planned based on orders received.  If you wanted any long-range planning, you would need an additional source of information to project longer-range demand, say at least a year out.  If you wanted to plan for capital replacement or investment or new facilities, you might need to plan 3 to 5 years forward.  That function was not available in the software, but Planvisage did support importing an external file to provide longer-range planning visibility.  I met Anand face-to-face for the first time at a trade show in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during June 2011.  By this time, Anand and Pari had parted company after disagreements, and each went their way.  Pari joined JDA (now the owners of i2), and in 2012 moved to Tata consulting.

During my meeting with Anand, I recommended that he should consider adding a fully-fledged demand planning solution inclusive of forecasting, replenishment, and distribution planning.  It was an area where I had extensive experience in recent times with the DS product beginning in 1992, and then in developing my Supply-Lynx solution in 2002, and later representing other software solutions.  Anand said that he would need to discuss this concept with his investors and respond to me then.  When Pari severed his relationship from Planvisage, Anand did not have the funds to buy out Pari’s share of the business and subsequently acquired investment capital from two investors.  One investor was previously the senior sales manager for SAP in India; the other lived in the Bangalore area.  In December 2011, Anand contacted me to say that they wanted to go ahead with my recommendation and build out the software suite to include demand planning and S&OP (Sales and Operations Planning) function. 

147.  Written Agreement

Before putting a single word on paper, I drew up an agreement where I stipulated that I wanted a 5% royalty of all sales globally for the demand planning and S&OP modules.  For the record, my S&OP experience dated back to 1982 when first representing Oliver Wight, the originators of this concept with Walt Goddard, Dick Ling, and Tom Wallace as the key contributors.  Then to my first implementation of this concept was with the division of the packaging company where I helped them accelerate their inventory turns to 9 from 3.  S&OP is executives’ handle on the business, balancing supply and demand, and tying it to the company business plan.  Also, together with Anand, we agreed that any travel to India would be reimbursed in full by Planvisage.  Anand accepted the agreement, and at the beginning of 2012, I got busy writing the detailed specifications.  I took the position, somewhat cynically, that the developers had never visited a retail store or factory, and in my specs walked the developers through why the function I was laying out was critical to solving business challenges.

148.  Sean’s influence

At the outset, I wanted the application to be internet-based and all functions accessible via a smartphone, tablet, notebook, or PC.  I needed the flexibility that the software operates from a server in the client’s computer center, or run as a cloud solution.  In early March 2012, I pleaded with Sean to read some of my specifications.  He was not impressed.  I had written the specifications showing screen displays for a PC.  Sean said that I should invest in a book “Mobile First” that recommended the GUI (Graphical User Interface) must be designed for smartphone, and then migrate it to a tablet, and finally to a notebook or PC.  The idea is that it is easier to migrate display information from small to large but impossible to start large and attempt to shrink it.  None of my logic was of concern, but I needed a re-write where the GUI was concerned—and I was even more confident that my specifications would be impressive with this improvement. 

149.  Bangalore

On August 19, 2012, I arrived in Bengaluru (Bangalore) India.  My flight arrived at midnight.  Anand drove me the 30 minutes to the hotel from the airport.  If this were daytime travel, with traffic congestion, the trip would have taken more than an hour.  It was my first visit to India, and education was underway almost immediately.  I could not believe the number of large construction trucks on the road, nor could I understand why there was so much road construction underway so late at night.  Anand told me that due to traffic congestion during the day, the trucks were not allowed on the roads during daylight hours. 

I saw a business park with several high-rise office buildings lit up, appearing that all offices were occupied.  Anand explained those offices belonged to companies operating call centers, mainly for US businesses, and therefore had to work at night to accommodate the US regular daytime office hours.  These business centers were impressive.  Across the street are new high-rise apartment complexes to house workers in the call centers. 

Anand had me stay at a hotel owned by his uncle, about a 20-minute walk from his offices.  The hotel can best be described as an economy hotel caring for regular business people.  With jet lag being a reality, I woke the first morning at 6:00 am and decided I desperately needed a shower after the long journey and short sleep.  Have you ever taken a cold shower?  I later learned that to save money the hotel does turn on the hot water until 8:30 am.  Most India companies start work at 9:00 am.  The breakfast menu in the restaurant did not look too appealing, so I took a pass on that.  I’m sure the locals loved it but did not appeal to my appetite.  Anand had warned me not to drink water from the tap at the hotel.  We met early morning, and he bought me a case of 24 bottles of water.  I stored it in the small refrigerator in my hotel room.  I used the balance of the day to sightsee the area.

I found a 5-star international hotel about a 10-minute walk from where I was staying.  I checked out their menu and ate breakfast for the rest of my stay.  I found an upmarket mall, UB City, India’s first luxury mall.  Stores included Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Este Lauder, Rolex, Armani, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, etc.  It was also about a 10-minute walk in a different direction.  With a wide selection of restaurants at UB, I ate there every night.  The “UB” represented United Breweries, one of the biggest breweries in India, and its owner Vijay Mallya regarded as one of the wealthiest in Bangalore.  If you have ever had the pleasure of drinking any of the Kingfisher brands of beer, then you know who UB is.  UB owned numerous office, retail, and apartment building in the city of 12 million people.  Vijay Mallya became a controversial figure long after I left India.  He started an airline United Spirits that went bust with employees not being paid for 15 months.  As I write, Vijay Mallya is in the UK facing extradition charges for fraud and other crimes in India. 

While walking around Bangalore, it was not difficult to see the 250,000 stray dogs that roam the city.  In walking to work, I was surprised by several sights.  The pavements were broken, and I wondered if I would sprain my ankle.  That did not happen.  Growing up in South Africa, I thought I knew what poverty was.  It was incomparable in Bangalore.  I asked Anand if there was any financial support for people who seemed to live in the streets.  He said that a significant sum of money got allocated to the poor, but politicians siphon off the cash before it reaches the needy.  I passed a building where the locals used the restroom.  It was easy to find because you could smell it a mile away.  The streets were a useful place to dump the trash.  The volume of rubbish had to be seen to be believed.  I read in the local paper at the time that they thought the city should encourage a recycling program. 

Watching the traffic was an education.  I have asked many people after my return, “What direction do cars drive on the one-way streets?”  Both ways.  Anand explained that the traffic fines are so low, at about US$1, that they are not a deterrent.  Laws are generally ignored.  Watching entire families balancing on scooters was another sight to see.  Dad is driving with his helmet, mom at the back with junior sandwiched between mom and dad, and another child in the front of dad.  None of the other family members wore a helmet—only the driver had to have one as demanded by law.  The Tuk-Tuks (taxis, rickshaws) were an experience.  I took a ride on one to be able to say I did it.  It is a scooter with a bench seat at the back that can hold three people, the driver in front, and a canopy covering the passengers and driver with an opening on both sides to embark or disembark.  I hopped on one because it was raining.  We pulled up at a traffic light when another Tuk-Tuk came flying by and drenched me.

My time in the office was as fascinating.  Planvisage is on the 4th floor.  When you enter the building, there is a sign to say that the only elevator in the building is to be used to ride up only.  People needing to go down must take the stairs, for others use the stairs both ways if you are fit.  I did.  I saw open electrical connections with bare wires.  I guess there are no building codes.  If there are any, no one adheres to them.  If desperate, and you needed to use a toilet, I hope that you did not need to sit.  Remember, in India, the fashion is to use a hole in the ground, and you know Indians eat with their right hand because the left is used to wipe up after a squat.  Yes, they do wash hands before eating.  The stench was something else.  At least in the hotel, I had a conventional toilet.  I forgot to mention that Anand spoke to his uncle, and they turned the hot water on earlier so that I shower at 6:00 am.  About a year after I left India, Anand moved into a new building that his father had built.  I only saw photographs, but it had large windows with brightly lit open-plan offices.  August is monsoon season and malaria is rife.  I was inoculated for the disease and did not get affected.  One of the developers told of her dad who was in hospital suffering from Dengue.  It is a virus transmitted by mosquitoes, prevalent during August.

My meeting with the development team went well.  I prepared slides to walk them through the logic required to have a successful solution and handed them the specifications as far as I had written to that point.  I worked on writing specifications for the balance of the year, resulting in approximately 1,000 pages with 122 individual modules.  I said earlier that Jogy Thomas, the lead developer, was a smart guy.  Unfortunately I believe that Anand had a negative influence on Jogy’s work.  With my focus on retail, I required the software to cater to a retailer’s corporate office, divisional offices, distribution centers, and retail stores. 

I recommended catering for a receiving and replenishment network.  There was a need to focus on suppliers and customers.  In a retail setting, tracking individual customers are not necessary.  For distribution and wholesale companies, tracking key customers is critical.  Since the factory planning system was not dependent on all of these nodes in a network, they cut the detail significantly and consequently weakened the architecture of the solution. 

With hindsight, I realized when seeing the shortcut that Anand did not attend any of the discussion sessions.  If he was more knowledgeable, he might not have been so eager to request a compromised solution.  There was an additional factor at play, Anand wanted this application to be programmed as quickly as possible, so encouraged cutting corners.  The quicker he had something ready to market, the sooner he would see revenue from this application.  I left India on August 30, 2012.

150.  Early disappointments

As I stated earlier, the balance of 2012 was taken up with writing the rest of the specifications.  I did get an initial disappointment.  Anand said he would pay my air travel and meal expenses after he made the first sale.  He picked up the tab for the hotel if his uncle ever charged Anand for that room.  I had a troubling experience while staying in the hotel.  We had monsoon rains one night, and I decided to try the dinner meal in the hotel restaurant.  They had a pizza oven, and I decided that it should be a safe option.  With the meal, I ordered a beer.  With the place settings, they served a glass of water.  I knew not to drink that, especially after the warning Anand gave me.  The server was slow getting me my beer and presented me with the pizza.  I took one bite and thought that my innards were going to explode with the scorching peppers cooked into the pizza.  I had no option but to grab the water and drink as much as I could to neutralize the burning pain.  I did eat the rest of the pizza, but only after the beer arrived. 

Over the weekend, Jogy invited me to have lunch at his home.  He met me at the hotel and drove me to the outskirts of Bangalore.  Here too, it was a 25-minute drive that took well over an hour during the week.  The men assembled in the dining room to eat while the women congregated in the kitchen to prepare the meal, serve the meal, and clean up after the meal.  Men and women do not mix.  They were gracious to provide me a knife and fork as I was not adept at eating with one hand.  Before my trip to India, I had many conference calls with Jogy on factory planning topics.  I was impressed to see that Jogy lived in a new home.  The easiest way for me to describe it is to picture a shoebox placed upright on the narrow edge.  The house went straight up for four floors.  The floors were all marble, including the staircase and the lightening all concealed.  The home was magnificent.  On top of the house was a balcony structure where the family (wife?) did the laundry, and the wash lines strung across to dry the washing.  Jogy’s office was on the top floor.  My greatest puzzle during the meal was the cows that meandered along the road outside, mooing as they walked.  Cows are sacred animals, so they have free reign of the place.  I did learn that Anand loaned Jogy the cash required to purchase the home.

151.  Anand and Anju’s condominium

During the week, Anand invited me to his home.  It was a 15-minute walk from the office.  Anand and Anju live in a four-story condominium on the ground floor.  There are two units side by side, but a top-level is a single unit occupied by the owner of the building.  Here too there are marble floors everywhere with concealed lighting.  Anand, Anju, and their children Adit and Aditi joined us for dinner.  They have a domestic who served us. 

As you enter the home, you are required to remove your shoes.  Each house has a shrine, and the house is considered consecrated ground, hence the requirement to remove shoes.  What intrigued me is that Jogy, a Catholic, also has his shrine in his home, and you are required to remove your shoes.  I was very impressed with Anju and found that her English diction was significantly more precise than Anand’s.  She spoke without a trace of an India accent.  Anju’s goal was to be a teacher at Montessori School.  At both meals, Jogy’s and Anand’s, they made every effort not to serve a dish that was spicy hot.  I should add that growing up in South Africa; we frequently ate Indian foods, especially curries.  Where we live in Milwaukee are there are a significant Indian population and several excellent Indian restaurants.  Our favorite is The Taste of India.  My favorite dish is lamb masala.  It is complemented with naan, samosas, and Kingfisher beer.

152.  Local’s shopping district

Sometime during the week working with the developers, I decided to take a break at lunchtime and walk to the nearby shopping district.  I saw a very long, narrow road, where it felt that if you could stretch your arms wide, you might be able to touch the shops on either side.  The multitude of people had to be experienced to appreciate the mingling.  All the shops were small, and each seemed to offer their specialty.  It included selling food or snacks.  I visited a few toy shops to purchase gifts for the granddaughters, including model tuk-tuks.  Several stores had generators outside the entrance doors since power failures are frequent.  If you picture this crowd of people, now imagine a few cows intermingling with the people along the narrow road.  A sight to behold.

153.  How to get leads and close sales

2012 became 2013, and Anand nor our team sold new client companies.  Naturally, Ralph thought it best if we gave the software to two companies to use it in production to in effect test it out in the real world.  Ralph had worked with Eric, who, before our involvement with the software, had traveled to Bangalore to receive training on Planvisage.  At the time Eric was working for a pharmaceutical company.  In the end, after purchasing the software, paying all expenses to have Eric travel to India, they abandoned using the software before they even got it operational.  Eric was a beneficial resource to offer advice on the factory planning system. 

Eric was now working for a global electronics company, among other products offering security systems.  It was with this division, also a global player that Eric implemented the demand planning solution.  The idea was that when fully operational, Eric would be able to recommend the solution to other divisions.  A great concept that did not work.  We never closed any additional business with this organization.  Nor did we earn a commission as the software was never purchased.  To the best of my knowledge, they are still using this software, but without a software maintenance agreement in place, they could not obtain updates released periodically. 

Ralph worked with another individual, Bill, who he deemed to be the most brilliant person on the face of the earth.  Bill worked for a company Christine Alexander located in Seattle, Washington.  The reason I mention the company is because I checked today and discovered that they are out of business.  No surprise there.  Bill was assigned to this company as a consultant to turn this business around.  A husband and wife team owned the company, selling highly decorative women’s clothing through stores and via the internet.  Each garment embroidered with beads.  Since this was to be another software giveaway, I paid my expenses to fly to Seattle, including car rental, hotel, and meals.  It is a long and sad story that I will cut very short. 

The company had several personnel issues in that they needed to hire creative people.  It appeared that those people were not respected and overruled by the wife—the creative partner.  The company, through mismanagement, had racked up substantial debt and was under pressure to reduce the debt burden.  I decided that if I could get someone to sit and listen to my recommendations, including the brilliant Bill, I could have provided guidance to use the software effectively and help contribute to the company’s success.  We loaded the software, did minimal training, and we were requested to put everything on the back burner while they addressed financial issues. 

Bill was eventually appointed CEO, but he did not have the best people relationship with anyone within the company, and as I stated above, the organization closed.  In my business dealings with Bill, I found him impossible as a communicator.  I have been using Microsoft Excel for many years.  In talking to Bill over the phone, he requested that I type in a function.  His directions to me were not clear.  When I asked for clarification, he spewed out some of the vilest verbiages I have ever heard come out of anyone’s mouth.  Then too, there was that situation that he would fly home to Ohio every weekend.  One weekend to his wife. The next weekend to his lover.  When it comes to my relationship with Ralph, I never seem to learn, and it always costs me money.

154.  Terminology

It is a little technical but bear with me for a moment.  I have referenced the term “factory planning” many times.  In reality, Planvisage’s solution was named Production Planning and Production Scheduling.  The way the developers wrote the application, if you looked inside the code you would find these two separate components.  The reality is that you could not get benefits if you only used the one function.  From an industry perspective, if you wish to use jargon that everybody in the industry uses, the proper identification is Advance Planning and Scheduling, or its acronym APS.  I could not believe how difficult it was to get Anand to adopt the correct terminology.  From that aspect, he was pretty obstinate.

2013 became 2014.  I can list several companies that we called on, but that would be a tedious exercise.  Anand kept promoting the APS along with Demand Planning, and I was able to share my experiences with Anand along the way. 

155.  Stellium

In January 2015, Anand entered an agreement with Stellium to acquire the rights to the Planvisage software.  Stellium got access to all the source code.  It is critical to understand that I was not aware of this transaction until January 2016, but more about that later.  Stellium employed more than 100 consultants with offices in Bangalore, India; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Houston, Texas.  Their main activity was consulting with companies implementing SAP and Oracle.  If you are not familiar with these software products, they cost millions of dollars to purchase and take years to implement.  Having skilled and experienced consultants are essential to successful implementation. 

If you Google SAP implementation disasters, there are dozens of case studies available on the internet.  SAP originates from Germany, and Oracle is American.  SAP has a module called APO—Advanced Planning and Optimization.  In line with other SAP modules, APO requires millions of dollars’ worth of investment and years to install.  Stellium found this to be an unreasonable burden for their clients and searched for an alternative product.  The Planvisage software, with its APS and Demand Planning, filled this need impeccably.  Then too, it cost a fraction to acquire, and implementation could be under a year if the client company data were clean.  Toxic data always extends the implementation period.  Every company will assure you that their information is pristine, but as soon as you begin working with it, the worms start crawling out the woodwork.  The Stellium development offices are a short distance from Planvisage in Bangalore.

Two partners owned Stellium.  Venky is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology.  The university has graduated many successful computer people, including the heads of development at Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, to name a few.  Venky worked for consultants in the US after graduating to learn the American way of business.  Venky resides in Bangalore and is a frequent flyer across the Atlantic with multiple visits a year to the US.  Randeep qualified as a lawyer in the US and is resident in Houston, TX.  Venky has the title of CEO, Randeep COO.  Both men are in their early 40s, married with children.  With Randeep’s lack of detailed knowledge of computer systems, he hired Alex to be a Senior Vice President of the software in January 2015.

156.  New business relationship

In January 2016, my patience was wearing thin.  I started pressurizing Anand to begin making payments for my 5% royalty for the demand planning systems that he had sold.  Anand informed me that he would not pay me anything because they changed the GUI—Graphical User Interfaces that I had specified, and to him, that was justification for reneging on the deal.  For those of you who are not software architects, understand that my specifications included suggestions of the type of data required on a smartphone, tablet, notebook, or PC for each module.  This information is to be used as a guide only.  I realize that I could not present the developer with a blank sheet of paper.  I was thinking through the process in detail and had to document precise ideas that would need to be seen somewhere in the display. 

I had an agreement in writing.  However, I could never engage an attorney in the US to fight a case in India.  The cost would have been prohibitive, and the royalties due may never have covered attorney fees.  I had to suck it up and move on.  What was galling is that I had met with Anand, his wife, son, and daughter, had a meal in his home, met his developers, and thought that a handshake would have been good enough.  Getting screwed after investing a very long year, plus all the expenses to travel to Bangalore, left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Since I had met some of the Planvisage developers, I learned that some of them had jumped ship and joined Stellium.  Jophin was the first contact I made and asked him if this was typical of the way that Anand would treat his business partners.  Jophin told me that he discovered that he has been drastically underpaid and requested Anand to double his salary.  Anand refused.  Jophin resigned, took a temporary job, and then joined Stellium. 

157.  Alex

It took a few days, and I got a call from Alex to ask if I would like to work with the team at Stellium.  I agreed.  Ralph was equally annoyed at the way that Anand had treated me, so we decided to offer the packaging company an opportunity to migrate to Stellium and end the relationship with Anand.  In July 2015, I had proposed a significant upgrade proposal to the packaging company for an unlimited number of software licenses to roll out to the 40 factories at that time for the sum of US$500,000.  Anand was delighted.  I made an identical offer to our client company if they wanted to invest in the Stellium product.  In the year that Stellium owned the software, and now employing several of the ex Planvisage developers, they had made some impressive improvements to the software that I was able to demonstrate.  My thinking was that if Anand wanted to screw me I could take this account away from him.  And over time I knew how much he worshipped money.

158.  Health Supplements

Before this fall out with Anand, he had sent me a lead to a healthcare supplement company in Vancouver, Canada.  I got to a point where they were ready to invest in June 2016.  Out of courtesy, I invited Alex to be on the call with me to finalize licensing arrangements.  Alex recommended that they not pay for the software until such time it was up and running to their satisfaction.  I was horrified.  Recalling that I sold more than 300 DS systems, making an offer like this was plain stupid.  The problem: They have little ownership of the solution.  If, like every other sale, they paid upfront, they would work very hard to make the investment pay for itself as soon as possible.  Now we would have to be the drivers of getting users to adapt to the new solution. 

I can write a dissertation on managing expectations and change management.  What we quickly ran into was a user community that wanted the software to be modified to work the way that their manual systems worked.  Doing that would not deliver the required and requested benefits.  During my initial onsite visit, my contact was with Jennifer.  Her boyfriend is South African.  To say we hit it off immediately is an understatement.  I studied the operation and prepared a 20-page document recording my findings and recommendations.  Included in negotiations and proposals was to add the demand planning module to the APS investment by year-end 2016. 

Alex had other ideas.  He resented the fact that I was earning support consulting money by working with this company, and he decided that Stellium should receive it all without any funds flowing in my direction.  At the end of 2016, he stopped me doing any more support work for this Canadian company.  By the end of 2017, I never earned a penny in Lighthouse consulting revenue.

159.  Lighthouse

Here again, I need to explain some redirection with Stellium.  SAP would not permit a consulting partner to work with one of their clients and offer a competitive product.  Any Stellium consultant recommending the Stellium APS in place of the SAP APO was violating the agreement.  Stellium needed a change in strategy.  They branded their software solution acquired from Planvisage as Lighthouse.  Stellium could now offer Lighthouse, registered as a separate company, and not be in violation of the SAP agreement.  Naturally passing qualified leads from Stellium to Lighthouse to get around this legal constraint.  The developers kept adding new functionality and making the product more user-friendly. 

I was in regular contact with Scott at the packaging company.  We agreed that we would present the software to the management team, including plant managers, from several of the operating divisions.  I prepared a few slides, and Ralph and I met with Scott via web meetings to agree on a strategy that would satisfy all managers.  Out of courtesy, I invited Randeep and Alex to the meeting.  I thought it a great idea now that we were changing solutions from Planvisage to Lighthouse to meet the management. 

We had about a dozen managers sitting in a U-shaped arrangement in the conference room.  We included Thilak, a Lighthouse consultant who had joined the team, and now resident in the US.  He had worked with Planvisage for seven years and was very familiar with the software and a close personal friend of Jophin’s, one of the developers in Bangalore.  No sooner had I opened the meeting when Alex got up, moved to the front of the room, and took charge of the meeting. 

Two facts were obvious.  Alex had no concept of what the packaging company wanted, nor did he know the finer workings of the software, but spoke in broad principles impressing nobody but himself.  The meeting was not a success.  Alex is like other Americans I have met.  To him, having the title SVP (Senior Vice President) is critically important.  As an executive member of this company, and appreciate it only had a headcount of 8 people, Alex did not believe it was his role to learn the detail workings of the software.  I do not think that he ever loaded the software on his computer.  Why should Alex?  If Alex required to provide a demonstration of the software, he would get Thilak or Jophin to operate the computer.  I should quickly add that in my DS days I did not sell 300 companies without knowing the detail workings of the software, and by this time was very familiar with Lighthouse software as well.  Scott was not happy because the strategy he had laid out with Ralph and me did not get addressed.

160.  Randeep

I met with Randeep in a face-to-face meeting in Detroit during October 2016.  It was a brief breakfast meeting during which I pleaded for Randeep to fire Alex as he was not adding value, but instead being a hindrance with all our prospect and client contact.  Randeep said that he would decide if and when that might take place.  Recall Randeep was a lawyer, and Alex had joined Lighthouse from a consulting company and was supposedly knowledgeable.  To add insult to injury, it took me 7 hours one way to drive to Detroit, stay in the same expensive 5-star hotel that Randeep was staying in, and not realizing that Randeep only had 20 minutes for this meeting.  My understanding was that this was going to be at least a half-day strategy meeting.  I drove the 14 hours because I figured the airfare would be quite expensive, and Randeep had no plans to reimburse me for travel.  Am I stupid, or what?

161.  November 30, 2016, executive presentation

Alex arranged with the packaging company to make a follow up presentation, this time to the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), COO (Chief Operating Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), CIO (Chief Information Officer), Business Unit Directors, and other high ranking members of the company for the session.  Ralph and I were there along with Thilak.  Randeep attended via a webinar conference call.  The meeting day was November 30, 2016—my daughter’s birthday.  The session, held in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Not surprisingly, Alex needed no input from Ralph or me, despite that we had worked with this company since 2010, including several onsite visits to several facilities.  Alex launched forth with 60 PowerPoint slides.  Is it necessary for me to say that the executives want to see the software in action—not sit through boring slides—as PowerPoint is not what they were purchasing?

162.  OLAP and OLTP

Now I need to get somewhat technical.  There are two computer processing strategies one can follow when developing software and interacting with a computer server.  OLAP and OLTP.  Online Transactional Processing (OLTP) is where you go to your banking terminal to withdraw or deposit money.  The database is updated in real-time immediately with that type of transaction.  Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) is where the computer runs a program, usually every night, to build a relational database of information that allows the user to slice-and-dice data to see information presented in multiple ways, provided that the OLAP is designed to support specific user needs.  An example might be a desire to interrogate data beginning with the corporation, select one division, now presented with all its product families, choose one, see all the products making up that family, select one, and see the customers who purchase that product by volume displayed in descending profitability sequence. 

Alex had the developers spend weeks on developing a number of these OLAP displays.  It is essential to understand that this was not integrated into the Lighthouse solution.  The developers extracted data from the database in Excel format, and used this Excel file to mock up Alex’ dozen requested OLAPs.  Alex was asked during his presentation what would happen if a salesperson visited a customer to discuss forecast demand, and would the salesperson be able to make adjustments to this data?  Yes said Alex.  He had Thilak show the appropriate OLAP, and Alex said it was simple to support the sales personnel using this tool. 

The IT director was in the room.  What he and I both knew is that if the salesperson made a few adjustments to forecasted demand, to now reprocess the data to update the OLAP database could take between 30 to 60 minutes.  It was selling snake oil at its best.  In brief, this is not the tool that the salesperson should use, but rather an OLTP solution (you know, the bank analogy).  But then why would incompetent, know nothing, Alex be aware of this?

He was carefully, thoroughly, and consistently destroying any creditability he might have had.  What upset me was that if any of the management in the room requested Alex to make an adjustment and show the results in the OLAP, it could not happen.  It was not an integrated, fully functional solution.   There were additional disturbing episodes that took place.  I’ll recount another. 

163.  Q&A

The CEO asked about forecast accuracy.  At this time, I was burning with frustration seeing all the incredible stupidity taking place in that meeting under the jurisdiction of Alex.  I decided to field that question before Alex could jump in.  I explained to the CEO that they would need to establish a forecasting process and have a system in place to increase the accuracy over time by having the salesperson held accountable for valid measurements of results and communication.  I further explained that it was essential to determine at what level of detail you were going to measure forecast accuracy.  Was it at the item by customer level, a product group level, a divisional level?  I said that it is not impossible that you begin with a forecast accuracy of say 30% and over time, increase it to 90%.  Alex interrupted my conversation to tell the CEO that forecast accuracy will always be 85%.

164.  No more questions

Something interesting happened after that encounter.  All the managers stopped asking Alex any questions.  Questions were directed to me.  Allow me one more.  The manager in charge of distribution asked if we had the function to determine the best way to replenish regional distribution centers from the distribution center hub.  What was the best method of transportation, their fleet, or using third party carriers like UPS or FedEx?  His real question was could we determine the cost benefits of the alternate strategies?  I said that we did not have that available function, but that with the necessary transport tables could easily program that for the corporation.  Alex nearly had a fit that I would be as bold as to say that we did not have the function available.  Alex said that we had that capability in the current version.  He should know because he was clueless as to what was in the solution.  He only had two years to learn about Lighthouse, but then too, that was not the job of an SVP!

Alex only got fired in June 2017, 30 months after he was appointed, and not a single sale to show for his efforts.  When I first encountered Alex during January 2016, I extended a hand of friendship and offered to support him in any way possible.  He told me that there was nothing that he could learn from me.  At that time I had created 20 YouTube educational videos used for training and marketing purposes, but all directed at Planvisage.  I offered to redevelop those for Lighthouse.  Alex said that there was nobody who would tolerate my face on so many videos.  Interesting that my face does not appear on the video, with one or two small brief 10 second exceptions.  The majority being training materials features software screen displays. 

As of October 2019, our videos got viewed 33,000 times, a current average rate of 15 per day.  2 of the 20 are now available for viewing.  I deleted the balance.  The available two videos are educational.  One teaches the principles and logic of Material Requirements Planning (MRP), and the other explains the philosophy behind Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP), executive management’s control of the business.  There were additional factors that upset me. 

Alex has three young children.  On some of my conference calls with him, they would enter the room at his home that he used as an office he would and scream disparagingly at the kids to get the hell out the room and shut the door behind them.  That abuse did not endear me to Alex.  As an SVP, Alex was highly paid and could show nothing for his service.  Here I blame Randeep.  I pleaded with Randeep to let Alex go.  Randeep did say that with Alex joining a new consulting company after his departure that he would not retain his position for long because he did not have the right work attitude.  It took Randeep a long time to figure that out. 

In the months since Alex’s departure, Randeep has not been able to sell anything.  The scorecard shows only one sale in 3 years, and that was my sale to the company in Vancouver.  I met with Randeep in Chicago in September 2017.  He was telling me that he was having trouble sleeping.  I spoke to Randeep again in early December 2017, and he told me the same story.  This time, he added that his wife was awake with him the previous night because he had severe chest pains.  To me these are apparent attacks of anxiety and a probable precursor that Lighthouse is on a path to bankruptcy.

165.  Venky

There was a management change in November 2017.  Venky said that he would take over the management of Lighthouse.  Obviously, with Randeep’s lack of technical knowledge, he was not coping.  Let me return to that October 2017 meeting.  Venky was in town, and he and Thilak went to visit a prospect in the Chicago area.  It was symptomatic of the Lighthouse strategy.  They will not involve me with these sales calls, even if to use me in a support role selling or consulting.  It would be a 90-minute drive to this prospect from my home.  An easy drive.  However, by involving me, if we got the account I would get 50% of the sale.  They would prefer 100% of the total deal.  With this prospect, they could not move the sale to the next level. 

We are living in Donald Trump’s America.  Racism has never been as prevalent as Trump supports and encourages white supremacists.  Picture two highly qualified Indian nationals, one from Bangalore, one from the Washington DC area, calling on a company to present their solution.  Then too they have no credibility with any sales in the US, and they come with strong accents.  To me, it was no surprise that they were not invited to take the opportunity further.  They had told the prospect that I would follow up with the next steps if they were interested.  If they did make this offer, why not include me in the initial presentation?  Nothing developed. 

Then too, they had an opportunity to present to a company in Florida that made flavor additives for soft drinks.  The Indian team was ready, made the pitch, then nothing.  There were other instances in St. Louis, upstate New York, and other centers.  So they had the leads but were unable to close any.  To repeat my contention, I had 300 DS sales.  I am a successful salesperson.  The simple reality is that American management is turned off hearing the Indian accent.  There is so much anger in the US that many jobs are being subcontracted to Indian companies and mostly offshore to save on expenses.  If you will believe me, I explained this “Indian” situation to Randeep in our October meeting.  But there are none as deaf as those who will not hear.

166.  Operations study

To help the packaging company make an investment decision, I spoke to Scott, and we agreed that I would visit another division their facility in Dayton, Ohio, in mid-November 2017.  It to perform a week-long study to learn about their operation and explain how Lighthouse would address and support their needs.  Randeep told Thilak that he could not accompany me.  If I have not stated this earlier, I have enormous respect for Thilak.  He is a great team player.  He is married, and his wife was expecting a baby girl in March 2018.  (Anora was born March 16, 2018).

The Ohio packaging division had performed their study and determined that their inventory record accuracy was 32% and forecast accuracy of 26%.  For the uninitiated—that sucks.  Imagine a one in three chance of having needed material available when it is urgently required.  Imagine planning demand with an invalid projection.  In the absence of a valid forecast all the company can do is sit and wait for the next sales order.  If you don’t have the required capacity or raw materials or packaging, oh well—we’ll get it to you sometime in the future.  You only have to hope that your competitors suck worse than you, or they will eat your lunch by taking orders away from you.  Their competitors love this situation. 

With the detail, the Ohio division provided, I had valuable information available.  Scott scheduled a conference call with Thilak and me to provide additional information to help make this study a success just before my departure.  Immediately before our communication with Scott, Thilak and I had a call with Randeep.  He forbid me to go on that visit, and with our conference call to Scott, we had to inform him that I was not allowed to proceed with that visit.  Understand that I had been working with Scott since 2010 and had performed these studies at other divisions, so Scott was well aware of my capabilities.  To say Scott was disappointed in canceling this visit is an understatement after he had arranged for the personnel to be available for me to interview them.  And Randeep is trying to close a deal with this group. 

The next week Randeep calls me and requests that I now do a study the following Thursday and Friday.  I informed him that I was not available due to other commitments.  That was a lie, but how do you do five day’s work in 2 days?  And since he had already upset the client, why would I now want to volunteer my time and at my own expense to undertake this study.  I had told Scott that to get this done, it would be on a no-charge basis.

In March 2018, Lighthouse finally lost this account.  I was not too surprised because, within the Lighthouse team, they had nobody with any experience of working with large corporate accounts boasting 47 manufacturing facilities operating under several diverse divisions.  It was situations that I had encountered multiple times in my career, beginning with my days at IBM, where I was part of a team working with the leading banking organization in South Africa, as well as during my tenure with Demand Solutions.  Here I managed a large publically traded corporation, a manufacturer of household products throughout the US with numerous production facilities.  Closing additional sales were so simple, but I made it my business to be associated with the decision-makers at corporate.  It helped that I established a reputation for providing professional service, education, training, and support.  It was not something that the Lighthouse personnel understood nor wanted to learn.  Aiming to close business where they could earn 100% of the sale, versus splitting commissions with me was just not part of their mindset.  And naturally 100% of zero is not that great either, as in this situation.  Lighthouse was quite happy to work with a non-decision making manager and hoping that one day the sale would materialize.  After the effort that Ralph and I had made with this company since 2010 it was more than a travesty to lose this account, moreover when they cut us out of this deal after I submitted a $500,000 proposal in 2016, and kept motivating the investment until Lighthouse decided they had a better strategy.

In the end, Venky, Randeep, and Thilak all left Lighthouse.

167.  Sean’s company medical device client

In April 2017, my son Sean asked if I would be interested in a project that could provide me with income through the balance of the year.  His company had worked with a medical device company for several years, and they were installing a new global SAP system.  His company built a web-based on-line order processing system that would need upgrading to SAP from the previous enterprise software system.  There would be an income split where his company would earn some of the revenue from my services, and I would get about 70% of the fee.  Then too, since I would need to commute 2 hours one way to the Chicago area, I would be paid the same hourly consulting rate while traveling, plus I would get paid mileage.  It sounded too good to be true, and I enthusiastically accepted the assignment. 

Upon arrival at the new client company, I learned that Switzerland was global headquarters.  The American market was its most significant volume of sales.  Before I was assigned to work with this account, I learned that they had dropped the initial SAP consulting group and had recently signed up with new consultants, based in Germany, but with offices and consultants in the US.  By the way, SAP is a German-based software company with a strong presence in the US.  I was assigned to work with a young team member, Jody, from Sean’s company but report to Laura at the client company.  Laura had 15 years with this client and was responsible for working with Sean’s company over several years to get the web-based order processing system operational.

My role was to learn about the current three critical order processing interface programs with the existing enterprise application and write specifications for three similar order processing functioning interfaces to work with SAP.  It sounded easy enough.  The first interface was a tax calculation system.  Taxes in the US vary by state, the county within the state, and sometimes includes city taxes as well.  The system uses the purchaser’s name and addresses detail, interrogates the tax calculation system to verify the address details were valid, and according to merchandise requested, determines the tax payment.  The second interface was to calculate shipping or delivery rates.  How did the customer want merchandise shipped?  FedEx, UPS overnight, next day, 2-day, or United States Postal Service regular or expedited services, or cheapest alternative?  Naturally, the selection would impact the total cost of the order.  The third interface was the payment interface.  I will not get into too much detail but use just one example to illustrate my responsibility.  The old system used PayPal for payment purposes.  The new method to interface with SAP was likely going to use JP Morgan Chase’s Paymentech.

The project had a large number of people working on this project, about 120 in all.  The consulting company had around 40 people assigned to this project full time — some consultants based in Europe, with some resources in the US.  The overall project manager was from Germany and would travel to Chicago every three weeks or so with a few support personnel.  The client company had several persons assigned to the project, some full time, some part-time, most with subject matter expertise to verify that their functional needs would be satisfied as the company migrated to SAP.  The distribution center manager was one such specialist.  The client company had a project manager, in this situation was an IT (information technology) manager.  Over and above the dedicated workers, the client company had several executive-level managers who expected to be kept apprised of progress and developments.  Then there was Laura.  Laura reported to the director of IT and worked in close coordination with the client project manager, also a computer person.

The modus operandi was that we would have regular team meetings, usually about 15 people, in one of several available conference rooms.  We meet on a specific topic with the attendees from the consulting group and the user community sitting in on discussions.  I was regarded more as a user person versus the SAP consultants.  I found these meetings fascinating.  We sat around the table talking.  Nothing ever got decided, and action items were few and far between.  But that was fine because we would meet again and hash the same old stuff all over again.  Progress was slow to non-existent. 

I should clarify that in this environment, the political fights were ever-present.  Allow me to explain one situation.  In attempting to write the specifications of migrating from PayPal to Paymentech, I had no problems understanding the current system in PayPal because Sean’s company, through Jody, could provide me with all the detailed specifications.  On the JP Morgan side, we attended web-based informational training sessions.  Paymentech offered three levels of security, from general to highly secure.  The accounting department decided that for the good of the company they needed to invest in the highest level of protection and go with Level 3.  Ironically this was the cheapest cost option because the likelihood of any fraudulent transactions taking place was near zero, and JP Morgan would have the least credit card exposure.  Naturally, the accounting department voted to go with Level 3.  Laura fought this tooth and nail.  Her attitude was that PayPal was closer to Level 1 security, and the need to provide additional informational data to allow Level 3 to perform accurately was unreasonable.  Then too, you have to admit that computer people know much more than the user community would ever know.  (Sarcasm).  I do not see the outcome of the final resolution.

Very early on, I ran into serious communication problems with Laura.  Laura had worked for her company for 15 years and was the interface to Sean’s company during the build of the original order processing system.  In brief, Laura knew it all.  However, to get her to share any information was near impossible.  Why should she tell me anything if she already knew it all?  When I made my best efforts to document what I had understood about the old system, she was swift to point out what an idiot I was because I had not got my facts correct.  I involved Jody in my attempts at understanding, and in turn, she spoke to the original development team at Sean’s company to try and make headway.  But those developers were getting paid for new projects they were working on for other clients and were willing to provide some assistance, but not to do my work for me.  Understandable.  It did not help that in my quest to be professional I decided to show data relationships between PayPal and each of the Paymentech Levels 1, 2, and 3.  Why did you show level 3, said Laura, when I told you we would not use that option?

With the shipment application, I discovered that the supplier of the software was a company less than 30 minutes from my home.  I have been known to use initiative.  I contacted the company, visited them, setting out to understand the differences in data processing between the existing system and the proposed SAP system.  The person I met with alerted his salesperson to keep him in the loop that I was visiting.  For security reasons, the salesperson, in turn, contacted Laura to verify that I was working on this project for her company.  Well, Laura threw a fit.  How could you talk to that company when we have not told them that they are getting the business to interface with SAP?  Interesting.  Because at that stage JP Morgan had not been told that they are the vendor for the SAP solution. 

In a very similar way, I got scolded because I took the initiative to talk to the proposed company, who were to provide the address and tax information for the SAP account.  I reached a stage where I was not sure if there was anything I could do to help contribute to the project.  Each week I sent Laura a list of activities I had worked on by date and duration so that she had no surprises.  I produced documentation to get stored in a database established by the SAP consultants.  It was fascinating in that it was so convoluted that I had difficulty in deciding where to file my documents.  If I did not keep a record of where I saved it, I would never be able to find the location again to add or replace files.

After two months, I had enough.  The final straw came at 5:30 am one day.  I have always been an early riser and always check emails first thing in the morning to see if there is anything urgent that requires immediate attention.  The client’s project manager sent me an email at 10:30 pm the previous night, along with others, including Laura, when I was already fast asleep, requesting me to attend a project meeting at the company at 10:00 am.  It was a Tuesday morning, and I had a Wednesday meeting previously scheduled.  I typically only had onsite meetings twice a week, and another planned for Friday.  That would make it three sessions for the week—but that was no big deal.  Mostly I had work that I could do from home for the other days of the week.  I arrived in time for the meeting and made whatever contribution I could make with my limited experience and knowledge. 

Laura did not attend that meeting.  Jody was there.  Jody had an even longer drive than I did and had to scramble to participate in that session.  On my drive home, I get text messages from Jody and Laura requesting me to call them.  I returned the text messages to say that I would be in the car for 2 hours and to call me on my cell phone.  After I got home, Jody did connect with me.  She had a message from Laura to tell me not to attend the Wednesday meeting, and that I should not have participated in the meeting earlier that day because I did not have Laura’s permission to participate.  Having worked with Laura for two months now, I knew that she never arrived at work before 9:00 am because she took her kids to school before going to work, and she had a bit of a commute, so my calling Laura at 7:00 am to get her permission would not earn me any Brownie points.  Laura generally left work on time to pick up her kids, but would sometimes respond to emails after she got the kids to bed.  Then too I had never had to seek her permission in the past, why now? 

More than anything that riled me up was that Laura did not have the courtesy to call me and discuss this incidence one-on-one.  My rationale was that Laura wanted to show Jody what a great manager Laura was and by instructing Jody to tell me not to attend the next important meeting, ensuring that the details would feed along the gossip chain.  So, after two months of a ten-month project, I resigned, and they never saw me again.  During Christmas 2017, I asked Sean how the project is going.  He told me the medical device company is negotiating to appoint a third SAP consulting group.  You can imagine that a significant amount of continuity is lost when you keep replacing costly SAP consulting partners.  My conclusion is that I was wise to get out of there.  Then too at my age, I don’t need to be treated like some naughty kid by a woman who is clueless about managing people effectively.  Yes, the money would have been helpful, but my sanity remained intact.

168.  Conclusions

As I look back on a 50-year career, what have I learned, and what have I achieved?  My name is not Donald Trump, and my father did not hand me millions of dollars to get established in business.  I made the best of the hand I was dealt.  Any parent wants the best for their children, and when I see what Robyn and Sean have achieved, then I am a proud father.  Robyn made it to a position of director of marketing operations for a multibillion-dollar discount retail organization, and Sean to senior vice president digital for an advertising company reporting to the CEO.  Even if the kids do not admit it, I believe that I set the groundwork for them to be successful, and I readily accept it was their drive and determination that got them to where they are today. 

When I was growing up, I did not have parents who discussed business at the dinner table, as I did with my kids.  Linda and I were better qualified to guide our children in terms of what to study at university.  And Linda was always the slave driver to ensure that Robyn and Sean did their school work diligently.  When we sent them off to university, Linda even read them the riot act, warning them that failure was not an option or they would be yanked out of college immediately.  They honored us by graduating with honors after four years of studying diligently.

The business had another benefit.  For the most part, Linda was a stay at home, mom.  That is not altogether accurate.  Linda undertook responsibilities for the company including all the accounting, legal, insurance, and human relations type work.  In many cases when we worked from home or in an office nearby, Linda had the freedom to multitask but work around the kid’s school programs.  It became more challenging with our relocation to the States.  Linda had to learn a new skill set, how the business got conducted in America.  When we started growing the business and hired several people, Linda had to help develop an Employee Handbook, with the guidance from a professional company.  Our taxes were more complicated trying to untangle personal from the company, and record-keeping was a critical responsibility loaded on Linda’s shoulders. 

We gave our children opportunities to travel, certainly more than most people.  I believed that allowed them to be more open-minded and less judgmental, more tolerant, thanks to the breadth of their travel experience.  We traveled across America and had trips to Europe, primarily when Robyn studied in Spain for a semester.  As I witness how they are raising their daughters, I see the positive influence that they are exerting with their daughters.  Robyn’s twins at 12, have had several international trips.  Sean’s girls have seen several seaside cities in the US and to Jamaica.  To put this in perspective, when we arrived in Brookfield, Wisconsin, we mentioned to a neighbor that we were taking a drive to Chicago.  They informed us that no sane person would ever do that with all the traffic in that city.  We had just relocated from Joburg, and Chicago did not subject us to a challenge.  But then some people are provincial.

I know that Linda would have preferred not to have to take a full-time position.  Linda boasted a 16-year career with Kohl’s Corporation, after working for another retailer for a few years before that assignment.  Linda needed to get out of the house for her sanity when we were at a low point in our business.  Working for us helped develop her knowledge of the Microsoft Office products, and that stood her in good stead at the job interviews.  Then to Linda has never been shy working with computers.  Linda is an expert in Excel and Word.  I have heard Linda offer advice to others on how to manage a small business experiencing a downturn in a lousy economy.  It comes across as highly credible because we have been there and done that.  Linda retired on May 16, 2018.

I have learned that when one door closes, another opens.  I believe you must ready yourself to take the opening.  Fear can paralyze anyone, and optimistic determination will see you through any venture.  If I had to do it all over again, would I like to be working at Mobil with a secure pension?  When I see how companies have changed, and how security is not a guarantee, then I have no regrets.  I did a training course at Mobil.  One comment made was that you never want to look back on your career and realize that in a 30-year career, you had one-year experience 30 times over.  I can safely say that I escaped that trap.  The constant moving did allow us to be adaptable, and again an antidote to fear.

Yes, it has been a great life.  Having Linda in support, despite all the criticisms I had to endure, has been worth it.

2018 will be a different year.  Its called retirement.  My twin granddaughters received my support facilitating their school book club.  Sean’s oldest daughter had me talk to her 6th-grade class about the water crisis facing 4 million people in Cape Town, South Africa.

Thank you for reading.

January 16, 2018.  Updated April 15, 2018, May 2, 2018, July 5, 2018, and October 25, 2019.

Comments Off on My 50-year career.

Western Cape, South Africa. Impressions from my 75-day visit during Q1 2019.

The scenery in South Africa is magnificently dramatic. The beauty of the countryside with its vast, majestic mountains, great oceans, gorgeous weather, and a large variety of fauna and flora, is breathtaking.

Map of South Africa highlighting Cape Town in the southwest and Pietersburg/Polokwane in the north. The area we drove with Paternoster in the west, Knysna in the east, and Montagu in the north. New Berlin, Wisconsin, USA alongside Lake Michigan. The Great Lakes in the US and Canada.

Click on the first image to see in full, then click center-right to advance to the next image, finally clicking “X” top right at the final image to exit.

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and Linda, my wife, in Pietersburg/Polokwane, 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) north of the Mother City.  We left South Africa for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States with our daughter and son, departing from our residence in Johannesburg in January 1987.  In the 32 years, we have been away from South Africa, we have visited family and friends nearly every year for two to three weeks at a time.  2019 was a different year.  Linda retired in May 2018.  I shut my business in 2018, so we planned our 75-day trip.  I was debating calling this a vacation.  It was not an event where we suntanned ourselves on the beach most days.  The trip was more of an obligation to visit nonagenarian mothers, and visiting friends and family.  We had disappointments.  There were friends we did not have time to visit and places we did not see.  We restricted the trip to a portion of the Western Cape, the area around Cape Town, and journeyed briefly between Paternoster on the west coast to Knysna on the east coast, to Montagu, Bonnievale, and Barrydale, in the northeast, driving about 6,000 kilometers (3,800 miles) during that time.  Herewith some of my impressions.

When I write about South Africa, the country of my birth, it is not a myopic view of the country where we lived in Cape Town, Pietersburg/Polokwane, and Edenglen, Edenvale near Johannesburg where we had our home built.  We have been fortunate to travel.  We have crisscrossed the United States, our adopted country and new residence.  I have visited Canada on numerous occasions, Mexico, the Caribbean, England, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, India, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia.

The scenery in South Africa is magnificently dramatic.  The beauty of the countryside with its vast, majestic mountains, great oceans, gorgeous weather, and a large variety of fauna and flora, is breathtaking.  We experienced pleasant and friendly service in retail stores and restaurants, some unbelievably compassionate people in nursing home care facilities especially the home where my mother is taken care of at one extreme, and the third world reality of total government incompetence, corruption, ineffectiveness, and lawlessness at the other.

Our two and a half month visit cost R61,000 (Rand) (US$4,362), excluding airfare and four nights in hotels that we prepaid from home.  We stayed with friends and family without charge and had the use of a motorcar costing nothing, except petrol/gas.

Naturally, I will not repeat detail here shared in recent blogs previously written to highlight the beauty of South Africa within the province of the Western Cape. (Click each heading below to load on a separate page).

We were in for several pleasant surprises during our visit.  The use of paper straws was evident in all the restaurants we frequented.  Being so environmentally conscious was an enjoyable experience.  More so than Wisconsin, the State where we live.  Other parts of the US, especially Hawaii and California are environmentally progressive.  In South African grocery stores, customers pay for plastic bags.  Consumers are encouraged to invest in reusable cloth bags, available for purchase at the checkout for a nominal fee.  At the store near our home in the US, we get a 5-cent refund for each recyclable bag used to pack our groceries.

One of my favorite restaurants, Rambling Rose in Montagu, run by Sergio and Cay Fernandes with our special server Elton who did a great job of taking care of our every need.

The facility where my mother is cared for in Bonnievale by a compassionate team of caregivers under the owner and leadership of Nurse Jane Phillips.

Restaurant meals, haircuts, manicures and pedicures, massages are unbelievably cheap in South Africa, usually about 10% to 15% of US charges.  Tipping is only 10%.  I recommend the husband and wife team of Michael and Carla of Carma Hair and Wellness Centre in Montagu. Servers in restaurants are abnormally pleasant and friendly, especially if they are Zimbabwean nationals who are well-spoken and articulate, which seemed to be the rule and not the exception.  The quality of restaurant food is unparalleled.

When you drive from Cape Town’s airport into the city of Cape Town along the N2 (national road/interstate), you will see Khayelitsha spread out on the left-hand side of the road. Khayelitsha is the Xhosa word meaning “our new home”. The unofficial count is it houses one million people. Notice the satellite dishes, and how the electrical power is linked to the homes, sometimes illegally.

Almost every public parking area in South Africa operates with official or unofficial car guards.  In some situations, they work within above or below ground parking garages where you pay for parking such as at a shopping mall.  They serve to protect your vehicle from break-ins and other vandalism.  The parking attendant earns their money from motorists who would generally tip them R5 (US$ 0.35).  I elected to park in the street level parking at the Blue Route Shopping Center in Tokai, for a quick visit to the bank.  That visit took an hour.  On exiting the mall, I now had the challenge of finding where I parked.  Searching diligently, I was delighted to have a car park attendant show me to my car.  I am amazed that he could recall and connect both my car and me.  I rewarded him with significantly more than R5.  What service.  With the high unemployment rate in South Africa, this is one way to earn money, especially for foreign nationals.  A Google search reveals many car park attendant stories and videos.  Parking attendants typically gross R36,000 (US$ 2,500) per year, tax-free.

We were in South Africa for one public holiday, Human Rights Day, on March 21.  We did not miss any in the US during our time away from home.  South Africa has 14 public holidays, including an extra day in 2019 for voting on May 8.  The US has 8 Holidays.  The government workers and banks celebrate two additional days, Martin Luther King Day, and George Washington’s birthday, while the rest of us working stiffs toil away.

One highlight was attending David Kramer’s “Langarm” (long arm) production at the Fugard Theater in Cape Town on February 24, 2019.  Growing up in Cape Town during the 1960s apartheid era, this musical appealed to my senses.  I loved the bilingual nature of the presentation that made me feel at home.  The storyline with twists and turns matching Chapman’s Peak drive, the talented band, the professional actors and singers and dancers, the humor, the theater in a former church, everything was beyond first-class entertainment.  I was sitting next to an Afrikaner and his wife.  She loved it; he hated it and sat frozen throughout the entire performance.  Many of the lines in the show were not “politically correct” in today’s world, but that, frankly, added to reliving the tragedy of our past.  I believe it was nervous or embarrassed laughter shared by most.

South African’s know how to laugh at themselves.  The government tests to determine if you are white.  Slide a pencil in your hair. If it falls out you are white.  The concept of “try for white” because you would live a more privileged existence.  I wrote about my experiences in my 50-year career blog where I attended a party in a Colored area dancing with fellow workers. Totally against the apartheid laws.  I guess it is wretched to look back and see what we lived through, accepted, and experienced.  That is the joy of theater, and a reminder of what most of us have learned, matured with understanding over time, in attempting to be more accepting society, less racist, more tolerant, and living without prejudices.

We spent a night staying in a cottage high up the mountainside in Hout Bay (wood bay) with friends to watch the sunset.  It was another opportunity to have a break in our routine and again admire the beauty of this “fairest Cape in all the world.”

Our visit to Cape Point was a highlight.  It is located at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, sheltering False Bay. It is located 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Cape Town’s city center.  Kelly Izzard invited us on a morning hike.  She is a member of a club enjoying this activity frequently.  Rugged rocks and sheer cliffs towering more than 200 meters (650 feet) above the sea and cutting deep into the ocean provide a spectacular background for the park’s rich biodiversity.  Cape Point falls within the southern section of Table Mountain National park.  The natural vegetation of the areas – fynbos (fine bush/shrub) – comprises the smallest but most abundant of the world’s six floral kingdoms.  We drove into the Cape Point Nature Reserve heading for Buffels (buffalo) Bay, one of the more beautiful and desolate beaches of Cape Town.  Here we hiked and saw Antoniesgat (Anton’s hole) one of several caves on the Cape peninsula formed by the consistent pounding of waves against the headland.  It is particularly beautiful and ridden with rather mysterious tunnels.  Hiking is somewhat tricky in places where if you are not careful it is possible to sprain an ankle.  We were following an unbelievably wretched smell that turned out to be a giant whale that beached, died, and was slowly decomposing.

Kelly provided us with this exciting legend of Antoniesgat.  When the Dutch East India Company took over islands of Indonesia in 1752, on the island of Sumbawa some of the islanders resisted.  The leaders of the rebellion Lalu Abdul Koasa and his son Lalu Ismail were captured, banished for life as political exiles, and taken to South Africa, incarcerated in the slave dungeons in Simon’s Bay (Simon’s Town today).  After three years, Lalu Abdul managed to escape by digging a hole in the wall and taking a boat tied alongside the prison.  He headed out to sea, eventually landing along the shore at Cape Point, near Buffelsbaai (buffalo bay).  Lalu Abdul laid low for several years spending time in the partly submerged cave, known as Antoniesgat, below the steep rocky cliffs of Rooikrans (red crown).  He befriended local sheepherders.  He became quite a spiritual and political inspiration to the slave community of Cape Town’s “Deep South” and wrote books.  Here is a beautiful passage from one.  “When I stood on Cape Point Mountain and watched the mesmerizing views of the Atlantic Ocean on the left, and the Indian Ocean on the right, I would think that this was a perfect place for my safety.  Isolated and far away in the distance and in time from the memory and the danger of imprisonment in the dreaded underground prison room for slaves in Simon’s Bay.  At Cape Point I could feel peace through walking every day through the environment, studying mountains, flora, fauna, wildlife and capturing my observations with notes and drawings in my diary.”

We saw this Southern Elephant Seal on the coast at Fish Hoek.  This seal is about 12 feet (3.5 meters) long, is onshore to shed its fur and skin, or molting. It stays on the beach for 3 to 4 weeks and during this time does not eat.  These seals have no fear of humans or dogs.  They can dive to 2,000 meters (6,600 feet), and stay underwater for 2 hours.  Part of our afternoon entertainment on a windy day, and walk on the beach.

We drove six hours to Knysna, part of the Garden Route stretching 300 kilometers (170 miles) from Mossel Bay to the Storms River.  We stayed in a delightful cottage with a nearby walk to a restaurant, and a pleasant drive to the East Café Head restaurant with a view through the Knysna Heads.  We enjoyed it so much that we returned the following day for a second meal.  It offered a fantastic view of the bay.  Here we saw the minimal remains of the wreck of the 460-ton sailing boat Paquita.  Built-in 1862 in Newcastle, England, it ran aground on Beacon Rocks at Fountain Point on October 18, 1903.

We visited Groot (large) Constantia (“consistency” from Latin) twice, each time taking different friends to restaurants there.  In 1685, during an annual visit to the Cape, Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein granted the grounds of Groot Constantia to Simon van der Stel the VOC (Dutch East India Company) Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.  Van der Stel built the house and used the land to produce wine as well as other fruit and vegetables, and for cattle farming.  Groot Constantia Wine Estate produces award-winning wines to please every palate.  Jonkershuis (Jonker’s home) Constantia restaurant is nestled in the traditional heart of the Groot Constantia Wine Estate next to the historic homestead and surrounded by ancient oak trees.  Simons Restaurant setting is relaxed with an open kitchen atmosphere to keep you entertained.

I had been in South Africa for a week and not having had any exercise, decided to go for a 75-minute, 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) walk along Route 62 near Montagu, in the Western Cape.  R62 takes you to Barrydale from Montagu, a dual lane, one in each direction, carrying a 120 kilometer per hour (75 mph) speed limit.  Most motorists consider this to be the minimum speed and a few are content traveling at 160 Km/h (100 mph).  I saw one driver hardly able to maintain half the posted speed limit.  The question is why his car is even roadworthy enough to be on the freeway.  I always walk facing on-coming traffic.  One motorist was kind to honk his horn or toot his hooter as he barreled past three cars from behind me on my side of the road, and just in time for me to jump off the road’s narrow sidetrack onto the grass verge.  I did not appreciate on the outbound journey that I had the wind at my back.  That realization became apparent when I turned around.  The road runs along the base of a valley, so the Langeberg (long mountain) mountainous scenery, landscape, and plants are a joy to behold.  To spoil the view, lining the roadside, I saw:

  • aluminum/aluminium soda/cool drink cans,
  • beer bottles both intact and smashed,
  • plastic bottles,
  • tin cans,
  • cigarette packets,
  • Styrofoam boxes discarded from fast-food restaurants,
  • plastic bags large and small,
  • corrugated boxes,
  • Six car tires/tyres,
  • a front end bumper from a car,
  • wooden planks,
  • several dead rodents,
  • and the list goes on. 

We are not a civil society, are we?  The fallout I had from family and friends was fascinating.  They all questioned my sanity to venture onto a road like this with little regard for my safety.

I found speed bumps/humps within the suburbs to be intrusive and dangerous.  I understand the purpose is to slow down motorists.  I was driving a white 2002 VW Golf with under 80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles).  Roadside markers identified some bumps, others appeared out of nowhere, especially while driving in the shadows along tree-lined streets.  If not taken slowly, it felt as if your suspension was going to be ripped off your car, or maybe suffer a cracked or broken sump.  Many times, I found these humps to be a solution in search of a problem.  Troubling too was the number of bumps in relatively short distances.  Many parking areas, primarily shopping centers, business parks, elite residential areas, or medical facilities seem to favor this type of obstruction.

In the United States, the Uniform Plumbing Code specifies that faucets “shall be connected to the water distribution system so that hot water corresponds to the left side of the fittings.”  In our household kitchen, we have a single-handle hot and cold mixer water dispenser.  It is located on the far side of the sink and operates horizontally along the countertop.  To dispense hot water, you open the tap away from you, for the safety of young children.  We, therefore, have a standard that applies countrywide.  In South Africa, a country with a severe problem of water shortage, more often than not, you have a hot water faucet and separately a cold-water tap.  Frequently these taps do not have an indicator as to whether it will dispense hot or cold water.  Running water to test for temperature seems like excessive waste.  In one situation, I used a shower at a holiday cottage and determined that the hot water came from the right-hand tap.  The hand basin placed immediately outside the shower had the hot water on the left.  I could see the logic in that it made life easier for the plumber who routed the hot water closest to the respective taps.

We observed a troubling medical procedure.  It was evident that hygiene was not on the top of a nurses concern.  If you administer a drip into a patient at a hospital, why sterilize your hands before inserting the syringe, and why wear gloves?  My sister, who is a registered nurse, assured me that the gloves protect the nurse as much as it does the patient.  This cavalier attitude at a private hospital in affluent Constantia in South Africa was difficult to comprehend.

I found the absence of street names while driving a challenge.  Many roads exist without reflecting their names.  You get to an intersection and have no idea if this is where you should turn due to the street not being named.  I have often thought it must be a challenge for visitors knowing they need to turn left at Church Street, only to find Kerk Straat, the Afrikaans for Church Street.  South Africa has eleven official languages, the street naming possibilities are endless. I did see some street names placed between tree branches making them impossible to read unless you exited your car to take a closer look.  Even Google Maps is a challenge.  We were trying to find a specific retail store while driving in Worcester.  Being smart, we searched using Google.  Following directions, we ended up in a residential area far from the business district.

There are challenges to driving in South Africa.  I am behind a large truck/lorry that needed to make a tight left hand turn onto a narrow farm road.  All is well.  However, an impatient motorist behind me decides that high speed overtaking across double white lines is in order because he is in a hurry, and his time is critically important. I did take note of his license plate.

I was disappointed to find that some large corporations are nowhere near as efficient as I would have expected.  I started work in January 1968 for Mobil Oil in Rondebosch, a suburb of Cape Town.  To open the Standard Bank checking the account for a direct deposit, I needed to provide an address and telephone number.  I was living at home, so I used my parent’s residential address in nearby Claremont, as well as providing the bank with my parent’s telephone number.  Each time we travel to South Africa we need to apply for a new debit (ATM) card to withdraw cash from our savings account.  For security reasons, the bank invalidates the ATM card if not used for six months.  The bank requires a local telephone number where they can send security code for verification, to obtain the new card.  Before approaching the bank, I bring with me from the US an old iPhone and get a South Africa sim card with a local telephone number.  I can now comply by supplying a local cell phone number for the bank to use to send a code to verify that the account belongs to me.  Soon after arriving in Cape Town, we applied for new cards in January 2019.  Bank fraud in South Africa is a severe problem, especially with so much theft occurring.  I was pick-pocked in March 2013 losing my US driver’s license, Standard Bank ATM card, US credit cards and a small amount of South African cash.  The day before our departure in late March 2019, I went to the bank to request they delete the temporary South African cell phone number from my account, and change it to my US cell phone number.  After standing in line for 40 minutes, not a record as I waited an hour on a previous visit, I handed the bank clerk a sheet of paper with my South African and US cell phone numbers requesting that she replace the South African number with the US number.  In looking at my account, she asked about other information such as email addresses.  I had her remove all the old emails and only kept my current email address.  Then she blew my mind by asking about telephone numbers.  She questioned the one that was my parent’s old number that had been in their system for 51 years.  I agreed it would be wise to eliminate that one.  On returning to the US and waiting a few days to get over jet lag, I tried to log in to the Standard Bank website to verify that there were no fraudulent transactions on my account since my departure.  To complete the login I had to enter a code sent to my now disused South African cell phone.  It took a few days and a few telephone calls to Standard Bank’s support center from the US to get everything changed to using my email address rather than a cell phone number.  I saw in the South African press that at Standard Bank Boksburg (near Johannesburg) branch; a woman was so frustrated by the lack of attention to her issue, she went outside and drove her car into the bank building.

May 2, 2019 update.  When we moved to the USA 32 years ago, we could not get life insurance from US insurers, (but could from Canadian companies).  We elected to keep paying for our insurance with Old Mutual in South Africa.  When we became US citizens 20 years ago, we bought life insurance in the US and had the Old Mutual policies “paid up.”  Since that time Old Mutual pay us monthly from investments, directly into our Standard Bank non-residential account.  This morning I get an email from Sipho Maci, a “Learner” in the Non Resident Support division of Standard Bank questioning these Old Mutual deposits with the threat that without documentation “will result in funds being transferred to a non-interest bearing suspense account held in our books.”  I decided to telephone to discuss but 20 minutes after listening to stupid music elected to hang up.  Answering an international call after pressing the compulsory 1, 2, 3, 4 is not part of customer service when calling the Standard Bank nonresident division.
May 3, 2019 update. Sipho emailed “Apologies for the message, it was sent in error.” Translation–I screwed up.

If this is appropriate, I want to put in a positive word for T-Mobile.  For decades, we were AT&T customers.  Each time we had to make a special arrangement to use our cell phones in South Africa and naturally pay a fee, and pay each time we used their service.  About a year ago, we changed carriers to T-Mobile.  We spend a flat monthly fee that includes unlimited data usage.  On our 16-day drive to Canada during September 2018, we asked T-Mobile what the conditions were to use the phone in Canada.  None.  Just use it as if you were still in the States.  For the trip to South Africa, they told us the same thing, except the calls would cost US$ 0.25 cents a minute.  Use it as if you were in the US.  It was a blessing for the many times we used Google Maps to find out of the way places—and not have any additional data charges.  None.

South African Post Office (SAPO) is the national postal service of South Africa and is a state-run enterprise.  The only shareholder is the South African government.  In terms of South African law, the Post Office is the single entity legally allowed to accept registered mail and as such operates a monopoly.  In 2018, they employed 18,119 people.  A good friend of mine required documents mailed from his bank a mile away, it took 12 days to arrive at his home.  If I need to send business documentation to my family in South Africa from the US, we only use FedEx, UPS, or DHL because that is the only way I have a guarantee it will arrive at its destination.  Many international family and friends have learned the hard way that if you mail packages to South Africa using SAPO, the likelihood of it arriving at its destination is slim to none.  The contents will be probably be stolen somewhere along the delivery route.  I was reading Facebook comments made by South African’s in the US, that chocolates and candy/sweets mailed from South Africa to the US never arrive, as these gifts are eaten somewhere in transit in South Africa.

What do South African’s do within the country?  Use private enterprise.  PostNet was founded in 1994 when there was an urgent need in South Africa for an operation that could deliver a range of efficient business solutions.  Today, PostNet is South Africa’s largest privately-owned counter network in the document and parcel industry, trading across over 370 owner-managed retail stores.  PostNet serves more than 70,000 “walk-in” customers per day, countrywide.  There are five product types within PostNet: Courier, Copy & Print, Digital, Stationery, and Mailboxes.  The incompetence of the ANC government to operate anything professionally opens avenues for entrepreneurs to step in and provide effective solutions.

Driving is another challenge in South Africa, more especially when you are familiar with the United States driving on divided highways with multiple lanes in each direction.  Even in residential areas, we have broader roads, often divided with a median in the center.  The multi-billion Rand minibus taxi industry carries over 60% of South Africa’s commuters.  These passengers are from the lower economic class.  Wealthy residents drive their cars for safety and convenience.  The taxi industry is almost entirely made up of 16-seater minibusses, which are sometimes unsafe or not roadworthy.  Minibus taxi drivers are well known for their disregard for the road rules and their proclivity for dangerously overloading their vehicles with passengers.  Due to an effectively unregulated market and the fierceness of competition for passengers and lucrative routes, taxi operators’ band together to form local and national associations.  These associations soon exhibited mafia-like tactics, including the hiring of hitmen and all-out gang warfare.  These associations also engaged in anti-competitive price-fixing.

  • Traffic police appear to be afraid to issue citations to taxi drivers as many operate like criminal syndication.  Turf war killings of rival gangs are not uncommon 
  • Taxis use minivans that typically hold 12 to 16 passengers.  But they have been stopped with as many as 42 children in their vehicle
  • It is not unusual to read that 30 people are killed due to high-speed driving when two taxis collide head-on due to overloading and being un-roadworthy
  • I exited an interstate (national road) with two lanes feeding a T-junction and traffic light (robot in South Africa) at the bottom of the off-ramp.  The left lane had only one vehicle waiting for the light to turn green, and the right lane had traffic backed up to the exit ramp.  A taxi screams down the left lane and turns right forcing a motorist to stop suddenly to avoid an accident
  • The Thruway is backed up due to a severe accident a mile (kilometer) or two ahead.  The shoulder becomes the ideal race track for the taxis to get their fares to the destination quickly, while motorists are dumfounded
  • There is a turn lane for drivers and a flashing arrow to permit cars to clear the intersection.  A taxi blocks the drivers from proceeding, and a string of fellow taxis follow, all using the turn signal from the wrong lane to clear the intersection while the legitimate traffic is held up
  • A friend has a business operating out of a suburban home.  They have a dozen employees.  Each evening the employees are driven to the local taxi rank for their onward journey home.  A taxi operator stops the employee’s driver and threatens his life.  Offering a convenient transport service to the employees takes money out of the hands of the taxis according to the operator.  The employee is told to arrange for the taxi to come to the suburban home to collect the workers.   Due to the risk of having taxis in residential areas, posing the potential for additional crimes, the community will not tolerate this situation.  The police offered to intervene if this threat happened again
  • Picture a situation where I am driving in the affluent area of Constantia (a suburb of Cape Town) with narrow, winding, tree-lined, and hilly roads.  I get to a stop street and have difficulty seeing cross-traffic due to the fences blocking my view.  Cross-traffic is not required to stop.  High walls protecting the mansions reduce my visibility.  A taxi comes barreling over the hill from the left traveling at twice the posted speed limit.  Linda could have died with our vehicle getting t-boned.  I was able to stop in time
  • Taxis sometimes organize protests by blocking all traffic lanes or driving very slowly across all lanes on the main arterial roads, or interstates/national roads
  • The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith has recognized the recent taxi violence as the conflict between two taxi associations, saying the taxi industry has come to “heavily rely” on assassinations.  “There is almost no conviction rate for this, so people kill with impunity in the taxi industry.  Killing is a viable business practice sadly, and there’s never any consequences for it,” he said
  • Anything that I could wish?  In the US, we drive on the right, and we have a right turn on a red traffic light if there is no oncoming traffic.  It would be great to have a left turn on red in South Africa.  Then again, you have taxis that never wait for any color traffic light, or stop sign
  • Over the past decade, the price of fuel in South Africa has increased by a staggering 118%.  In the US the countrywide average fuel price during the same period: USA 2008 $3.61, 2018 $2.657, a 26% reduction
  • Cape Town was rated the most congested traffic city in South Africa for 2018.  It required motorists to sit in traffic for 170 hours that year.  That is the equivalent of almost 20 eight-hour days
  • I had to drive from Tokai, a suburb of Cape Town to the airport along the Simon van der Stel freeway, the M3 merging onto the N2.  It was 9:00 am and initially headed in the direction of the city of Cape Town together with office workers driving to work.  This 30-kilometer (19 miles) trip should not take more than 30 minutes according to Google maps in “normal driving conditions.”  (That averages 60 kilometers per hour, or 40 miles an hour for freeway driving).  Most of the M3 and some of the N2 carries a 100 Kph (60 mph) speed limit.  It took me an hour (30 kph, 19 mph average).  I drove most of the M3 in first gear in the VW Golf.  I noticed that several motorists were so frustrated that they crossed the center median to U-turn, attempting to avoid high-speed oncoming traffic, to find another way to their ultimate destination.

Motorcycles make up another class of traffic that are a law unto themselves.  It makes sense that bikes are a popular method of transport on these congested roads.  On any of the main arterial roads, when clogged, or slow-moving, you find motorcycles weaving between the two rows of vehicles at high speed.  If as a motorist, you wish to change lanes, checking your rearview, driver-side, or passenger-side mirror is essential, as is indicating your plan to change.  I find it amazing that many motorcyclists wear shorts, or t-shirts while riding.  Many do not wear helmets.  They have no protection should they come off their bikes.  On the interstates or national roads, it is common to see motorcycles traveling at speeds significantly above the maximum-posted speed limits.  I even saw a motorbike pop a wheelie!  A friend in Cape Town told me this week that he was driving in heavy traffic when he saw an obstruction ahead.  It was a young kid lying in the road next to his red motorcycle.  He read the following day that it was a 19-year old who was killed by a hit-and-run taxi driver.

Many motorists seem to have a death wish.  A solid no-overtaking line, or worse yet a double no-overtaking line, represents a challenge to see how many vehicles you can overtake before the blind rise or bend disappearing to the left or right from the motorist’s view.  These maneuvers often executed at 160 km/h (100 mph).  I find this degree of lawlessness or recklessness in South Africa quite troubling.  Many country roads are a single lane in each direction with a “yellow path” on the side.  Legally this is not to be used for driving, but most motorists will pull over into the yellow lane to let a speeding motorist pass.  Trucks do this frequently especially if they are navigating an incline.  Then too if you have an oncoming motorist barreling towards you because they are busy overtaking across solid white lines, the yellow lane becomes a welcome safety lane.  Talk about Kamikaze drivers.  Some trucks have stickers at the rear stating, “Yellow lane driving is not permitted.”  The yellow lane has a practical purpose for emergency vehicles, especially when traffic backs up.


  1. Never indicate – it gives away your next move. A real South African driver never uses indicators
  2. Under no circumstance should you leave a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, this space will be filled by at least two taxis and a BMW, putting you in an even more dangerous situation
  3. The faster you drive through a red light, the less chance you have of getting hit
  4. Never, ever come to a complete stop at a stop sign.  No one expects it, and it will only result in you being rear-ended
  5. Braking should be as hard and late as possible to ensure your ABS kicks in, giving you a gentle, relaxing foot massage as the brake pedal pulsates.  For those of you without ABS, it is a chance to stretch your legs.
  6. Never pass on the right (the fast lane) when you can overtake on the left (the slow lane).  It is an excellent way to check if the people entering the highway (from the left) are awake.
  7. Speed limits are arbitrary, given only as a guideline.  They are especially NOT applicable in South Africa during rush hour.  That is why it is called “rush hour.”
  8. Just because you are in the right (fast) lane and have no room to speed up or move over does not mean that the South African driver flashing his high beams behind you does not think he can go faster in your spot
  9. Always slow down and rubberneck when you see an accident or even someone changing a tire.  Never stop to help – you will be mugged
  10. Learn to swerve abruptly.  South Africa is the home of the high-speed slalom driver thanks to the government, placing holes in key locations to test drivers’ reflexes and keep them on their toes
  11. It is traditional to honk your horn at cars that do not move the instant the light turns green.  It prevents storks from building nests on top of the traffic light and birds from making deposits on your car
  12. Remember that the goal of every South African driver is to get there first, by whatever means necessary

If Henry Ford looks down on South Africa, he must be turning in his grave.  By my unscientific estimates, more than 90% of vehicles on South African roads are white, and smaller sized vehicles than we drive in the US.  In the US white is most popular (23%), followed by black (19%), gray (17%), and silver (15%).  The 18-wheelers, many towing a trailer, are no smaller than their matching brands in the US.


We drove from Montagu to Barrydale, a 60 kilometer (40 miles) drive for lunch.  The busiest restaurant, by far, was Diesel Creme.  They have a selection of memorabilia that was more than entertaining.  It certainly takes one back in time.  Barrydale is named after Joseph Barry, a well-known merchant of the 19th century.  In fact, every town and village in the southwest Western Cape has a Barry street.  A few years ago I obsessively took my son-in-law to see Barry Streets in numerous places.

South Africa’s Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande says his department’s production team was “working overtime” to clear a backlog of close to 200,000 driver’s license cards.  It occurred after a 5-month long strike due to a labor dispute, and an upgrade to a new system in 2018.  My cousin explained that when you apply for a driver’s permit if they could not issue the license immediately, you get a card confirming your application stating that you will receive it in due course.  When traveling on the road and many miles from home, you may be stopped by the police to check for valid driver’s licenses.  You show the police the card, but the officer issues you a citation to appear before the magistrate several weeks from that day.  It necessitates another long-distant trip to this town.  The magistrate will throw the case out of court, but you have the inconvenience of taking time off work, traveling some distance to this town again, for what?  Only because the police will not accept as legitimate a card issued by another South Africa administrative department.  I was stopped four times in South Africa to have my driver’s license checked.  On three occasions, they waved me on after a cursory look.  The fourth time the police officer diligently entered all the details into a handheld device.  I use an international driver’s license, but none of the police was knowledgeable enough to know that it had no validity without simultaneously examining my US driver’s license.  I had no plans of handing that one over.  It is far too valuable as an identity document, and should they choose to confiscate it; I would have to go to extraordinary lengths to have a replacement driver’s license issued.

When roads are under repair, to facilitate workers, a single lane is blocked off with cones and barrels while being worked on, and traffic restricted to travel in one direction on the remaining path.  Control takes place at “stop and go” points.  Typically, motorists can expect a 10 to 20-minute delay for maintenance depending on the length of road repair.  I encountered road works on the drive from Robertson to Ashton and Montagu.  Between twenty to one hundred cars and trucks wait during this hold-up.  When released you have vehicles bunched like sausage links, as they proceed to their destination.  It must be a traffic engineer’s worst nightmare as the natural flow of traffic is disrupted.  You see this caravan of vehicles upsetting the normal flow of traffic as it moves through towns blocking intersections.

I was driving from Montagu to Cape Town.  With road works along the way, my sister recommended that I avoid the “stop and go” into Robertson with a 20-minute wait and a 50/50 chance that I may be held up.  There are five of these obstructions on the drive.  Some have a hold up that is generally under 10 minutes, with no detours available.  To avoid the Robertson stop, I needed to detour towards Bonnievale.  On the Bonnievale road turn back toward Robertson.  It might add 5 minutes of driving time but may save 20 minutes.  I thought the turnoff was near the Arabella Wine Farm.  Arabella had a sign in their vineyard not far from the road to turn to the left to get to their farm.  It was at that turn off that I saw this massive 18-wheeler blocking the sign to Bonnievale, and I saw the sign after I had already gone too far.  Who places a turnoff sign after the intersection?  Only in South Africa.

One way local unemployed people earn an income is to beg at the traffic lights (in South Africa, robots), or the “stop and go” roadblocks.  They use this restriction of traffic to sell their wares or plead for charity.  Traffic lights in town provide an additional opportunity.  Hawkers or beggars in the city take their lives in their own hands as the lights turn green and the vehicles reach maximum speed with these poor souls often caught in the middle of traffic. 

I stopped in a pharmacy/chemist in South Africa and was fascinated to see brand name products that sold in the US but in smaller pack sizes.  In the US, I might buy an over-the-counter multivitamin in a pack size of 250, but it is only available in 25s in South Africa.  I found this situation across the board including toothpaste, cosmetics, over-the-counter medication, toiletries, skincare, etc.  My breakfast cereal is sold in smaller portion sizes than I get in the US.  In discussing this with friends and family, many would not agree that with a high cost of living, and high inflation, smaller quantities at lower prices created a more affordable choice—especially among the poorer classes.  Besides, we know that packaging makes up a high percentage of a product cost and may not be that beneficial in the end.  According to Business Insider, gasoline/petrol prices in South Africa increased 200% over the past ten years, including a tax increase over that period of 165%.  Business Day reports that Eskom, South Africa’s electric utility company, increased rates 350% over the past ten years, with additional increases planned over the next quarter.  According to the OECD, South African’s average household net adjusted disposable income per capita is US$ 10,872 a year, compared to the United States’ US$44,049, and a global average of $30,563.

Constantia Uitsig (view) is a wine farm boasting a heritage dating from 1685.  They opened Heritage Market in December 2017 with five quaint cottages including Nest Deli where we dined twice.  In fairness, we spent money at neighbors Alexander Fine Chocolates and Kristen’s Ice Crème. 

Jakes in the Village, located in Tokai, features a local cuisine with vegan options.  It earned a 4 out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor and provided us with great food and service.

On driving back to Montagu from Knysna, we stopped over in Riversdale to eat at the Paddavlei (frog lake) Kunsgoete (art stuff).  An avant-garde establishment if ever there was one.  The woman who served us had spent a number of years in the US prior to moving to this tiny town from San Diego, California.  The food and service were great.

We had a family celebration at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa located above the Atlantic Ocean, flanked by the majestic Twelve Apostles and Table Mountain in Camps Bay, Cape Town.  You can eat from the buffet, or ala carte menu, all for one price in the Azure Restaurant.

We had a birthday celebration at the very highly rated The Table, De Meye Estate in Stellenbosch.  The bad news is that the chef couple Jessica Shepard and husband Luke Grant planned to make a change in their careers and seek another interest.  I am unsure of the status.

We all have our tastes; many developed over the years.  While in South Africa, we had our daily fill of Americano or Cappuccino coffee.  I had no plans to order a double-expresso.  Back home we are blessed with a full-bodied aroma coffee.  Hello Starbucks.  We use a coffee maker using pods that brews a stronger, tastier cup than I could get in South Africa.

Security in South Africa is like Chinese water torture, a process in which water slowly drips onto one’s scalp, allegedly making the restrained victim insane.  In the South African context, this process evolved over the decades.  Being controlled is the operative word, as in jailed within your own house.  In the 32 years since we left the country, homeowners and businesses to an alarming degree, have needed to tightened security on an ongoing basis further improving their safety annually.  I clearly understand that in a lawless society with minimal police presence, this is a necessity.  With a residence, the first requirement is to ensure every window and external door has burglar proofing to ensure no one can force entry.  Reinforced glass is helpful.  Divide the home into zones, separately protecting each area.  Say the living area versus the sleeping quarters, or garage.  Before setting the alarm, all windows and doors must be closed and locked.  If not securely closed, the homeowner will trigger the alarm.  The idea is that should there be a break-in; the alarm system will identify which zone is compromised.  Naturally, the signal is linked to the security company by telephone who will send security personnel to provide help and assistance as soon as the alarm is triggered, when applicable apprehend the villains, generally with police help.

All entry doors must have a steel security entry operated with a key or remote lock to unlock from within the home.  Generally, the bedroom area will have another security gate in the passage to stop any potential intruders.  Next, secure the outer perimeter.  High precast or brick walls are a prerequisite.  Often residents add palisades, a steel stake with razor-sharp points that might impale a burglar trying to gain entry to a property.  In turn, protect with razor-sharp coils of steel, and that topped with electric fencing.  Do not forget to add a closed-circuit camera recording device to use as evidence in a court case, or to view what is taking place outside should you hear something.  If you have a driveway to your garage from the surrounding property fence, ensure that you have a retractable gate, remotely controlled.  Finally, add a few dogs.  It is imperative to have a small dog that is alert and sensitive to noises, and the dog’s bark will alert the big dogs who scare the daylights out of any potential burglar.  The dogs must be trained not to take food from a stranger.  Burglars might feed dogs poison to kill them.  As we walked in the suburbs to get exercise, we could have performed an audit to see which homes had the most alert and vicious animals.  The barking was often incessant as one set of dogs from one home would alert the neighbor’s dogs, and the cacophony continued down the street. 

What has led to a security industry in South Africa?

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is the national police force of the Republic of South Africa.  The provincial borders share 1,138 police stations in South Africa, with a Provincial Commissioner appointed in each of the nine provinces.  SAPS employs 193,692 people.  I attempted to use their services when I was pick pocked in March 2013.  The security offices in the shopping center had video footage of the theft and naturally the criminals.  Reporting the incident to the nearby police station was a waste of time.  For them to follow up would have entailed work.

Close and very long time friends of ours suffered deep emotional stress after their son’s demise.  The stolen cell phone was in use for several months after the incident.  The detective requested they continue paying the bill allowing for the interrogation of the current user.  That never happened.  The police chief got promoted to a new location.  The inspector in charge of the case reassigned.  The three witnesses identified had never been interrogated, and the case file is missing.  A year later, there is still no resolution to this tragedy.

Protests are a daily occurrence in South Africa.  “Service delivery” is an excuse.  If the locals don’t want to pay for schooling, then burn buildings within the schools or universities.  If the trains do not run on time, set the coaches alight, or steal the copper wiring.  South African’s observe the role of the police to protect the protesters—certainly not to stop the vandalism.

As I write, here is another incident I saw in the South African press.  “The latest burning of another eight train carriages in the Cape Town central train station is an indictment on those responsible for the management of our rail network, and they must account to the city’s public for the ongoing inaction to protect this essential public transport infrastructure,” Plato said in a statement.  He added that while the cause of the fire in the latest incident has not been determined, the reality is that more than 40 carriages have been burnt in arson attacks since 2017.  Plato said not a single person has been charged as being responsible for any of the more than ten incidents over the past two years.”

In the United States, there are over 18,000 Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies around the country, and estimated between 750,000 and 850,000 sworn officers.  With a population of 327.2 million, this equates to 245 police officers per 100,000 people.  According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2008 Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, the Wisconsin state had 529 law enforcement agencies employing 13,730 sworn police officers, with a population of 5.4 million, about 254 for every 100,000 residents.  South Africa’s total population in 2017 was 56.72 million.  With 193,692 police officers, that equates to 341 police for every 100,000 residents.  South Africa has an adequate police force, but not an effective one.

There are numerous studies in South Africa relating to the corruption within the South African Police Services (SAPS).  Here is an extract from one study.  “In recent years approaches to examining the subject of police corruption have shifted from asking whether or not corruption exists in any given police agency, to ask questions about the size, nature, and impact of the problem.  Decades of experience suggest that if you look for corruption in any police agency, you will find it.  Often likened to a disease, corruption can only be effectively addressed once its existence is recognized.  However, just as some diseases are considered taboo, so too is the topic of corruption in many police agencies.  Talk of it can make police officials, particularly at senior levels, visibly uncomfortable.  It is because it draws attention to the murkier areas of policing which are often out of the sight of the public.  It brings to the fore a critical tension between the functional requirements of police members to combat criminals and the organizational needs of the police agency to be accepted in the eyes of the public.  Police corruption lurks in the arena where a police member’s discretion starts and organizational control ends.”

With the SAPS being so inept, what are South African’s to do?  They have supported a booming security industry.

The Security Association of South Africa is a body representing private security companies.  There are, at present over 9,000 security companies rendering residential, commercial and industrial security services, which comprises guarding, electronic monitoring, armed response, and asset in transit services.  There are currently more than 500,000 security officers in the employ of these companies.  Security companies exist because of the high level of crime and South Africa and the total ineptitude of SAPS.  The reality is that we saw more security vehicles parked alongside the roads, than police vehicles on the streets.  Therefore, we have 193,692 police that are mostly idle, some corrupt, and 500,000 security offices that are active.  A friend told me jokingly that when a police station is attacked, they call the services of Armed Response.  Besides, with all the looting that takes place in South Africa, the consensus is the police are called to protect the looters, and nothing is done to stop the crime.

Where does this leave South Africa today?  State-run enterprises include:

  • Transnet (freight logistics)
  • SAA (the South Africa Airways)
  • South African Express (airline)
  • Eskom (world’s eleventh-largest power utility in terms of generating capacity, ranks ninth in terms of sales, and boasts the world’s largest dry-cooling power station)
  • Denel (armaments and military equipment manufacturer)
  • SAFCOL (forestry)
  • Alexcor (diamond mining)

To illustrate one major South African government state-run enterprise Eskom.  Eskom operates in dire financial straits through a carefully orchestrated plundering of finances, mismanagement, and lack of maintenance, establishing fraudulent supplier contracts, and widespread corruption.  Eskom’s current debt is R600 billion (US$43 billion).  Eskom’s debt burden is much more significant than South Africa’s entire income from personal income tax (R556 billion).  Although Eskom incurred massive losses in its last financial year, it still managed to pay each employee an average bonus of R88 000 (US$6,000).  The total bonus paid of R4.2bn (US$ 300 million), (2016: R2.1bn), even though Eskom made a loss.  Eskom’s external auditors, SizweNtsalubaGobodo, found that Eskom had incurred R3bn (US$200 million) worth of irregular expenditure.

During our visit to South Africa, we had to adjust to a life with periods of no electricity, a concept that the electrical utility, Eskom, called “load shedding.”  Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza said the operational side of Eskom required “crisis reaction” as well as time and speed to fix the current load-shedding situation.  Mabuza said seven generating units were currently out of the system due to boiler tube leaks.  The number of power outage hours at thousands of locations across the country showed an increase of over 100% in power failures in 2018.  Eskom highlighted that power outage is mainly caused by the overloading of transformers – especially during cold spells – and this is often because of theft, vandalism, and illegal connections.  Electricity expert Chris Yelland, however, said the causes include planned load shedding, cable theft and vandalism, aging infrastructure, a lack of maintenance, and system overloading.  Networks are the responsibility of municipalities to which Eskom provides electricity, and aging infrastructure are behind many power outages.  Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer said the contract for early detection of faults in the extensive network of tubing inside boilers lapsed 18 months ago and had not yet been renewed.  There are currently seven generating units, which have broken down due to boiler tube leaks as Eskom struggles to maintain its aging power fleet.

Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe said the power utility had burned between 20- 25 million liters of diesel by running the open cycle gas turbines as a last resort and there are no diesel stocks available in South Africa, except for cars and small utilities.  Adding to Eskom’s woes is the loss of 1,150 megawatts of power from the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric generation station, amid the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai.  (In fairness, this only accounts for less than 1% of South Africa’s electrical power needs).  Yelland said cable theft is an additional problem for both municipal networks and Eskom’s grid and causes a high percentage of outages.  In brief, South Africa’s power stations are capable of generating approximately 50,000 megawatts of electricity that feeds into the electrical grid.  Realistically with many of the maintenance issues, there is 40,000 MW available regularly.  The government introduced a process of “load shedding” to reduce the amount of power available due to supply or maintenance issues.  One to eight stages of load shedding is applied, with each representing 1,000 MW of unavailable electrical energy.  It is a complicated process as it varies by region and time.  Generally, consumers lose power for two and a half hours at a time from one to three times in a 24-hour a day.

Energy expert, Ted Bloem, explains the reason behind load shedding is that we don’t have proper coal, and we haven’t invested in coal mines, it will take at least five years to sort the coal mess out.  “We’re going to have load shedding of this level or worse for the next five years.  Rocks in the coal cause the current load shedding.  The corruption at Eskom continues.  A year later after the new board has come in, I have warned them for ten years that they were going to run out of coal,” says Bloem.

What is the impact of load shedding?  I was fortunate to have invested in an Apple Watch.  At night, I could use its flashlight to perambulate the dark bedrooms and hallways to find the bathroom.

  • Imagine sleeping in bed with your alarm clock next to you.  As the power trips, it starts flashing noon.  When you wake, you see 1:27.  What does that tell you?
  • Imagine being in a grocery store.  You get to the checkout with your trolley or handbasket, and the power goes out.  It did with us while in a national chain store.  Fortunately, they owned the liquor store next door, and those cash registers were still operational on batteries.  We were carefully chaperoned from one store to the other, verifying that we would not take a short cut to our vehicle with unpaid groceries.
  • You wake before 6:00 am to prepare for the next round of load shedding, but then you are unsure if we are at stage 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6?  Is the current stage scheduled to start at 6:00 am or 10:00 am, or 2:00 pm, or 6:00 pm? 
  • Stages are changed at short notice to accommodate the lack of available generating capacity or increased with new capability that has come on stream.
  • The government is considering adding stage 7 and 8 to its options to further cut the electricity supply.  South Africa has a theoretical capacity of 51,309 MW total power from all sources.
  • Fortunately, there are busy and confusing single page tables available where you can try to figure out the date, your electric grid area, the selection of stages—not knowing what is scheduled for disruption today, and then you recall that the internet is down.
  • Have you been to a restaurant where the servers give you a list of menu items not available because they do not have working ovens?  They have a few meals prepared before load shedding.  
  • You want to use your iPhone, but your Wi-Fi is not available.  You try to use data from your carrier, but that too is not available.  Their system is overloaded, and their battery backup has failed.
  • I went to bed at 8:00 pm because the load shedding had kicked in.  I knew at bedtime that the next round of load shedding was to take place at 4:00 am.  I woke just before that time, only to only find the schedule had changed.  Stage 2 replaced Stage 4.  The next load-shed now planned for 2:00 pm.
  • Picture trying to run your business, or organize your day with these erratic and somewhat schizophrenic changes.  The cost to the country’s economy is uncalculatable.
  • I have a family member with his own business.  Labor shows up at 7:00 am for the start of a shift, power goes down at 10:30 for two and a half hours and workers are standing around on the payroll, waiting for the next load shed at 4:00 pm.
  • Thanks to Eskom and load shedding, when power is restored, it triggers the residential security alarms.  The security company calls to verify if there was an incident.  Sadly, the call only came after 20 minutes or longer.  When chastising the security company representative for taking so long to call, the response was that they had so many customers to call.  Realize that power might have been restored at 2:00 am so the phone call would wake one in the early mornings.
  • The surge that comes on once power has been restored does significant damage to electronic appliances by frying printed circuit boards.  It has led to a boom in UPS (uninterruptable power supply), and surge protector sales.

The only thing worse than load shedding is being surprised by load shedding.  Herman Maritz and Dan Wells developed EskomSePush; a free web application that allows users to view what regions will be affected by power outages on any particular day.  During load shedding, or when there has been a change to the load-shedding schedule, the app will send users push notifications.  The app features timers are counting down the amount of time until load shedding starts.  It provides detailed information on over 50,000 locations in South Africa.  Sometimes the app does not respond because the hits to their servers with inquiries from all over South Africa crash their servers.  Sigh.

  • You drive along the main road, and the traffic lights are dead.  It is now the survival of the fittest.  Who can get through the congested intersection as quickly as possible, only to be stopped by the next traffic intersection without functioning traffic lights
  • Imagine driving on a local suburban road with several other cars during load shedding at night.  The collection of vehicles provides lighting the way.  You turn off onto a side street in the suburb, and all you find is pitch black darkness.  There are no streetlights, the houses are in darkness, and there is no full moon to light the way.  Visibility is negligible.  You know you need to turn into a street with an island at the intersection.  You are not driving a Subaru that casts a beam when you turn the steering wheel.  Will you make your turn safely, or hit the island?  No fun at all.
  • I spoke to a woman who was in an elevator/lift when the power went out.  Otis reported that they would get there as soon as possible, but they had many call-outs.  2-hours later, with limited fresh oxygen she was rescued. 

If you arrive in South Africa by plane, and you expect professional service from custom and immigration agents.  You discover that they resent the fact that you are intruding on their conversations that they are holding very loudly with comrades on the far side of the building.  Eye contact?  What is that?  Do not expect to be welcomed into the country.  Your passport is rubber-stamped mechanically without so much interest as learning how long you plan to stay.  We previously entered South Africa in November 2017 through Johannesburg and received the same shoddy treatment as we did in Cape Town on this recent trip.  Nothing changed.  No improvement.

Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape on April 6, 1652, to establish a halfway station for ships traveling between the Netherlands and East Indies.  The goal was to provide fresh water, vegetables, and meat for passing ships on the month’s long voyage.  He was responsible for his employer’s directives, the Dutch East India Company.  Van Riebeeck found a phenomenal infrastructure of roads, rail, cities, power grids, farms, and a booming industry.  It is this message promoted by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government.  Van Riebeeck then stole this infrastructure from the local blacks.  It is this rationale that the ANC uses for its policy of expropriating land without compensation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Kohisan are the traditional nomad non-Bantu indigenous population of southwestern Africa.  They were the inhabitants that van Riebeeck bartered with for animals; many years before the Bantu migrated south into what is today South Africa.  The “occupiers” built the infrastructure over four centuries, providing jobs and income for the locals.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” Willian Shakespeare in Julius Caesar.  I have an undying love for the country of my birth.  I am completely mortified by what the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is doing to destroy the country through corruption and lawlessness to turn the country into another Venezuela.

One can argue that the ANC is not blameless, but looking for retribution after the way that white Nationalist Party government treated blacks under the apartheid regime.  South Africa legislated onerous and racist apartheid (separation) laws in 1950.  Marriages and sexual relations between Whites and other races were banned.  The Population Registration Act of 1950 introduced the government’s classifications of race: Bantu (Black Africans), Colored (mixed race), White, and Asian (Indian and Pakistani).  It is complicated.  At some period, the Chinese were treated as “honorary whites.”  This legislation could split families, as parents and children could potentially be registered as different races.  A series of Land Acts set aside over 80 percent of the country’s land to its White citizens.  The government required non-White citizens to carry passes (known as dompas—stupid passes) authorizing their presence in restricted areas; created separated facilities for Whites and non-Whites to limit their communication; limited the action of non-White labor unions and refused non-White participation in the national government.  Due to these apartheid laws, “over 17,745,000 Africans have been arrested or prosecuted” between 1916 and 1984.

Let us step back in time to understand how we got to this point.  The original inhabitants of South Africa were the nomad non-Bantu Khoi and San, or Kohisan people.  Bartolomeu Dais, a Portuguese mariner, was the first to explore the coastline in 1488.  Vasco da Gama with a fleet of Portuguese ships rounded the Cape in 1497.  The Dutch East India Company under Jan van Riebeeck established a settlement in 1652.  British sovereignty was established in 1815, paying the Dutch 6 million pounds for the colony, outlawing the Dutch language, and instilling English language and British culture.  In 1820 five thousand settlers migrated to the country.  1830 was the beginning of the Great Trek, as Dutch-speaking inhabitants moved north.  From 1852 to 1902 sometimes called the Republic of the Transvaal operated as a nation-state.  In 1866 alluvial diamonds were discovered.  Between 1870 and 1880, mines at Kimberley produced 95% of the world’s diamonds.  The first Anglo-Boer (Afrikaans farmer) war broke out in 1880.  In 1886 gold was discovered — the Second Boer War 1899 to 1902 resulting in upwards of 30,000 lives lost.  In 1910 the Union of South Africa formed under the leadership of General Louis Botha, and Jan Smuts his deputy with the South African Party (SAP) following a pro-British white-unity line.  In 1922 the South African National Congress—the forerunner of the African National Congress (ANC) was formed to fight for voting rights for black and mix-raced people.  In 1914 General Barry Hertzog formed the National Party (NP) championing Afrikaner interests advocating separate development for the two white groups (English and Afrikaans).

In 1948 the National Party formalized and extended the existing system of racial discrimination and denial of human rights into the legal system of apartheid (separate development).  1960 heralded the establishment of the Republic of South Africa, withdrawing from the British Commonwealth.  Homeland Citizens Act of 1970 authorized the forced evictions of thousands of black people from urban centers into “homelands” or “Bantustans.”  In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly identified Apartheid as a “crime against humanity” resulting in 91 member states voting for, 26 abstentions, with Portugal, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States, voting against the measure.  The Africa National Congress (ANC) took control of the country in 1994 with a one-person, one-vote mandate and after national elections voted out the apartheid Nationalist Party white government.  Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, with a law degree and who had spent 27 years in prison, was elected the first president and served for a single 5-year term.  Thabo Mbeki, a British educated economist, followed next as president and was ousted by Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma with a grade two education.  Zuma perfected how to siphon funds from government-run enterprises to share with selected family members and comrades.  Zuma was ousted in 2018 after several terms to be followed by Cyril Ramaphosa, a lawyer by profession, reputed to be one of the wealthiest people in South Africa.

More than anyone, Jacob Zuma proved to be a highly corrupt politician.  Zuma initially indicted in 2007 on 18 charges of corruption, fraud, and racketeering, including accepting bribes from a military contractor.  The arms deal, made by the government of Nelson Mandela in the mid to late 1990s, involved the purchase of naval vessels, submarines, fighter jets and other equipment from European nations including Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK, France, and South Africa. The deal totaled 30 billion rands, or between US$3 billion to US$5 billion at the time.  Zuma alleged to have sought bribes from Thales to support his extravagant lifestyle.  French arms supplier Thales may still face charges.  South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog alleged that the billionaire Gupta family had exploited their ties with Zuma to win state contracts.  Schabir Shaik was found guilty in 2005 of trying to solicit a bribe from Thint, the local subsidiary of French arms firm Thales, on behalf of Zuma.  Zuma had extensive state-funded upgrades to his rural homestead at Nkandla.  Zuma’s rule is estimated to have cost the South African economy R1 trillion (approximately US$83 Billion).  Zuma is married to six wives with an estimated 20 children.

What is the responsibility of a government?

  • a government to provide the safety of law and order, protecting citizens from each other and foreign foes
  • The government as protector requires taxes to fund, train and equip an army and a police force; to build courts and jails, and to elect or appoint the officials to pass and implement the laws citizens must not break
  • Using the United States as an example, a political structure comprising the President, Congress, Supreme Court and departments of Treasury, War, State, and Justice.  Critically the three branches of government; the Senate, The House of Representatives, and the Office of the President are co-partners where one does not have jurisdiction over the other.  A system that calls for compromise to meet the will of the people
  • The government as the provider of goods and services that individuals cannot provide individually for themselves, including the means of physical travel, such as roads, bridges, and ports of all kinds, and increasingly the means of virtual travel, such as broadband. This infrastructure can be, and typically initially is, provided by private entrepreneurs who see an opportunity to build a road, say, and charge users a toll, but the capital necessary is so significant and the public benefit so apparent that ultimately the government takes over
  • The government can cushion the inability of citizens to provide for themselves, particularly in the vulnerable conditions of youth, old age, sickness, disability and unemployment due to economic forces beyond their control.  Providing social security that enables citizens to create their financial security
  • The government to heavily fund education, encourage more active citizenship, pursue binding international trade alliances and open borders to all immigrants
  • The most important priority of the government as an investor is to provide education from cradle-to-grave, and schools, roads, medical care, firefighters, etc.
  • Governments need to be concerned about monopoly enterprises that block innovative entrepreneurs from getting a foothold in the market and moving technology forward
  • To establish a “social contract” with the people who trade some independence for protections and other services, and usually granted through a constitution
  • The most basic duty of a government is to protect its people from violence.  It may include the military, police who enforce laws, and organizations to ensure the health and safety of the environment and food chain
  • A capitalist market economy controlled by buyers and sellers where the government verifies the fairness
  • Citizens on their own without orders will create problems.  Businesses without controls may harm the population

It is worth reflecting where South Africa succeeds or has failed.  South Africa is the only country in the world where they have enacted laws to protect the majority from the minority.  One such act that has backfired is Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), and its derivatives such as Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE).  BEE is a racially inclusive program launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving black people (African, Coloreds, and Indians) South African citizen’s economic privileges that are already available to Whites.  It is a form of Affirmative action.  Let me illustrate where this does not work.  A government entity will release a tender offer for software development.  A BEE registered company will win the tender with an inflated bid to grease the palms of its management cohorts.  After a couple of years, the BEE appointed company cannot deliver the solution, and a tender is awarded again without the stipulation of BEE qualifications.  A white-owned and white run company with highly qualified technical people is now assigned the project and completed in a few months.  It turns out to be their most profitable assignment because they priced it higher than the previous BEE contact.  The BEE or BBBEE stipulation is responsible for more whites parting for countries outside of South Africa, than any other.  BEE does not create a level playing field. In 2020 974,400 wealthy blacks have benefited from BEE, shutting out 30-million impoverished people.

What I find troubling is that when the ANC took control of the country, many of my family and friends were terminated from their jobs. Positions that had to be filled by blacks. In some situations, whites were forced to train their replacements, taking as long as a year to attempt to get the new hires up to speed. Many remain in South Africa today, and several of those struggling to make ends meet without government financial support.

An attitude exists in South Africa among the majority population group.  If you are unhappy with your circumstances, take action to destroy things.  School and university fees are not free, so burn down the schools and universities.  That solves the problem, does it not?  Trains do not run on time.  Set the coaches alight, and steel the copper wire driving the trains—again proving what?  I will not get into the fact that petty crime is a way of life.  Then again when you have a government that is corrupt and siphons off as much as it can for their own pockets from the State Run Enterprises, it becomes a free for all in a lawless society.

We brought back souvenirs, including these placemats. I am very partial to all things protea (the national flower of South Africa).

On returning home and reflecting on our time in South Africa, it is a joy to live in open spaces.  As we drive in our suburbs, we notice the absence of high walls, with barb wired tops and electrical fences crowning that.  Security gates that do not block access to driveways.  We live in freedom with our broader roads and the absence of drivers maniacally driving at any speed to get nowhere in a hurry.  We live in a sane society.

We arrived home near midnight to find a strange electrical fault.  The power in our bedroom and bathroom was out, while the rest of the condominium was working correctly.  In checking our condominium passages I found the same anomaly, most lights were working, but some sections were without power.  When we woke up, everything was working correctly.  Later in the morning, we received a phone call from Wisconsin Electric to apologize for the outage that affected 1,000 homes in our area.  I do not recall Eskom called their customers apologizing for ongoing and repetitive load shedding.  But then again their customers are a general nuisance and inconveniencing them is inconsequential.

In my opinion, much of South Africa’s mess traces to the Nationalist government’s apartheid policy.  They did not see the need for effective black education because they were the laborers who did not need knowledge.  The ANC came to power a generation ago, and did not provide an adequate education for their people because their only purpose was to vote ANC!  Now the country sits with generations of uneducated people, uneducable, unemployable, with a government not competent enough to create permanent jobs, with financial shortages due to corruption.  The pass rate for final-year students at state schools in South Africa rose to the highest level since 2013, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said.  Of the approximately 800,800 students sitting for the exams late last year, 78.2 percent passed, Motshekga said.  About 312,700 people (39%) are eligible to study at higher-education facilities such as universities, she said.  Almost half of the children who enrolled in the first year of schooling in 2007 did not write the full-time tests.  South Africa’s Department of Basic Education lowered the pass rate for mathematics to just 20% to keep children moving through the country’s struggling school system.  The World Economic Forum ranked South Africa’s quality of the education system 138 out of 140 countries.  Of the 12,372 students at 249 private schools and testing centers who wrote papers set by the Independent Examination Board, 98.9 percent passed.  About 90.7 percent achieved a mark high enough to enter university.

Cyril Ramaphosa has appealed to the million whites to return to South Africa.  Why?  South Africa ranked the unhealthiest country on earth.  The ten measures were healthy life expectancy, blood pressure, blood glucose (diabetes risk), obesity, depression, happiness, alcohol use, tobacco use, inactivity (too little exercise), and government spending on healthcare.

On May 8, 2019, South Africa will hold elections.  I will stick my neck out and bet that the ANC will win the polls again, albeit with a reduced majority.  The status quo will remain.  Corruption and lawlessness will be intact.  The white flight will continue, the currency will weaken, and inflation will continue its upward trend.  I am not confident about the countries future having read two books by investigative journalists:

  • Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s Gangster State: Unraveling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture
  • Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers: Those keeping Zuma in power and out of prison

I follow South African news sites daily.

As I ponder a quarter century of ANC rule, I question what exactly have they contributed to South African society? I think in terms of any field of endeavor: medicine, science, engineering, literature, music, military, political, sport, education–or any other that you can offer. I would love to stand corrected.

As you read blogs on this website that I established in September 2016, it has cost me under US$1,000 for hosting costs, bearing in mind that I did not add in my time for writing blogs.  In Myburgh’s book, he references a similar technical website  (WordPress) developed for the province of Free State under Magashule’s control that cost R95 million (US$ 7 million) but not sure how many websites this entailed, or was it just one.  More corruption anyone?  The potential in South Africa is unlimited, but it will require robust, honest and ethical political leadership, without all the racism calling for the killing of whites. I appreciate Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane’s rhetoric, but sadly a message that will not be heard by all South Africans.

If you know what an idyllic location to live might be, nothing beats the Cape Town and its environs, or many spots in the Western Cape. The scenery, the weather, the people. It competes with the Carribean and other scenic spots in the world. If only the politicians did not set out to destroy the country.

Naturally, many local friends ask us if they recommend visiting South Africa.  I always respond with a resounding yes, with one stipulation.  Only travel with a reputable tour company who provides a fully guided, well chaperoned, and safe, escorted service.  With a high unemployment rate of 27.5% or 6.2 million people without jobs, this has resulted in high crime rates and affected by a general lawless society due to government corruption.

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Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa

Franschhoek has blossomed as a tourist destination, especially with the wine farm tours and tastings.

Linda and I married in February 1971.  For our honeymoon, we elected to stay in Franschhoek.  Linda and I recall the honeymoon suite at our hotel differently.  I remember that they only provided a single bed; Linda says there were two single beds.  No matter, a honeymoon suite with only single beds is a travesty.  We have no idea where we stayed, so 48 years later we were unable to re-visit the old haunt.  Franschhoek has blossomed as a tourist destination, especially with the wine farm tours and tastings.  Art, crafts, and bead shops are very popular.  I have another family tie to Franschhoek.  My mother’s maiden name is Maris and traces her arrival in South Africa to the French Huguenots.

The first Huguenots arrived as early as 1671, when the first Huguenot refugee, Francois Villion (later Viljoen), arrived at the Cape.  By 1692, a total of 201 French Huguenots had settled at the Cape of Good Hope.

The Huguenots were French Protestants who were members of the Calvinist Reformed Church established in 1550.  From the mid-1500s through mid-1600s, Huguenots were persecuted in France for their religious beliefs.  Therefore, thousands of Huguenots fled to other countries where they could enjoy religious freedom, including South Africa.  Simon van der Stel (Governor of the Cape) set aside land for Huguenot settlement in Franschhoek (‘French corner’) and Drakenstein (present-day Paarl) and gave orders for the French to be interspersed with the other burghers (Afrikaans citizens).  His reasoning for this integration was “that they could learn our language and morals, and be integrated with the Dutch nation”.  Today, many farms in these areas retain their French names.

In 1688 French Huguenot refugees began populating the valley establishing farms and businesses bringing with them their experience in agriculture. The name of the area soon changed to le Coin Français (“the French Corner”), and later to Franschhoek (Dutch for “French Corner”), with many of the settlers naming their new farms after the areas in France from which they came.  La Motte, Champagne, La Cotte, Cabrière, La Provence, Bourgogne, La Terra de Luc, and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms — most of which still retain their original Cape Dutch farmhouses today. These farms have grown into renowned wineries. Many of the surnames in the area are of French origin, e.g. Du Toit, Marais, Du Plessis, Malan, Malherbe, and Joubert.

Not your grandfathers tractor ride. This, fortunately was only a short transfer ride. Enjoy the noise and shakes.

Our specific wine tour featured five vineyards, transported by bus and tram, depending on the wine farm’s location.  We used the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a hop-on-hop-off tour. It is one of the best ways to discover the true essence of the Franschhoek Valley – picturesque vineyards, breath-taking scenery, warm hospitality, world-class cuisine, fine wines, and a 300-year history.  Passengers experience a unique and leisurely way to see the Franschhoek Valley as they journey through rolling vineyards in a vintage style railway tram and open-air tram-bus stopping in at some of South Africa’s oldest and most distinguished wine estates.  A combination of tram and tram-bus transports passengers around a loop of stops allowing them to hop-off at each stop and experience the activities on offer, be it wine tasting, a cellar tour, lunch or simply a stroll through the vineyards and when they are ready, hop-on to continue the tour.

Linda and I decided prior to visiting the first wine farm that we would not feel good at the end of the day tasting four wines from each of five farms for twenty samplings.  We agreed that we would buy a single tasting to be shared at each farm.  When there was coupling with biltong (jerky), a cheese board, chocolate, or any other treat, that too would be shared.  The alternative was that we would gorge ourselves.  As it was, we were meeting my cousin for dinner at the Tuk Tuk Microbrewery. Tuk Tuk, a craft beer microbrewery serving bespoke brews and Mexican-inspired food.

La Bourgogne

We visited Franschhoek for two nights in early March 2019 staying at the Riverside Cottages on the Le Bourgogne Farm in the loft, a very spacious accommodation.  La Bourgogne is a subdivision of the farm Bourgogne that was among the first Huguenot farms proclaimed in 1694.  Simon van der Stel granted the farm to Pierre de Villiers.  However, 1800 saw the first involvement of the Le Roux family, a relationship that endures to this day, with neighbor Gappie Le Roux managing the farming operations.

On our wine farm tour, we elected to taste wines from La Bourgogne to learn more about their products.  That morning we enjoyed breakfast in their restaurant.

When the late George Mayer bought the farm, it was his aim to make olive oil, notwithstanding the lack of olive trees on the farm. Today the farm has approximately 2500 olive trees, which were planted in May 2008, bar about 220 which went in May 2005. The majority of the trees planted are Frantoio, with liberal sprinklings of Corantino, Lecchino, and Mission. The oil produced to date has been of excellent quality. La Bourgogne started with their own olive pressing on the farm. The 2011 harvest won a Silver award with the South African Olive association.

La Bri

The original grant of La Bri is one of the oldest Huguenot-allocated farms in the Franschhoek Valley.  The farm is situated in the valley previously known as Olifantshoek (Elephants Corner).  The name La Bri is probably derived from the outlying town of Brie, which was the stomping grounds of the de Villiers family in the early 13th century.  L’ Abri is also French for “the refuge or Haven”, a perfect name for this property, as it is safely nestled in the imposing amphitheaters of the Franschhoek valley.  La Bri featured Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Holden Manz

Located in the top, southern-most corner of the Franschhoek Valley, in the embrace of its spectacular mountains, the 22 hectares Holden Manz Wine Estate is situated between the Franschhoek River and Stony Brook at 300 meters above sea level.  An exclusive grower of red grapes, the Estate only cultivates its top 16 hectares under vineyards, notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot.  Long, cold and wet winters allow the vines to rest well, while hot dry summers and gentle autumn allows for slow ripening.  Featuring a rich and diverse terroir influenced by its unique natural surroundings, with three different soil types and a marked seasonal climate, the estate’s vineyards are perfectly suited to its intention – the production of ultra-premium wines made for the discerning wine connoisseur.


GlenWood is a family owned boutique winery located in an area of outstanding natural beauty very close to Franschhoek.  GlenWood has been developed from scratch over the last thirty-three years to become a leading South African wine producer and wine exporter to 12 countries.  With only one exception, all wines are made from grapes produced on the farm, thereby reflecting the unique terroir of our small valley.  The wines are uniformly and consistently highly rated by wine judges and have received numerous awards and prestigious listings.  GlenWood features Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Noblesse.

Grande Provence

Grande Provence Estate wears her 300-year history with dignity.  Her lush vines spread across 47-acres with gentle vistas over the valley floor, with the rugged mountains beyond. This is heartland South African wine country at its very finest.  Grande Provence features Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz.

As part of their social responsibility programs, Grande Provence supports a number of causes. We were impressed with the cheetah program. Cheetah Outreach has two facilities in the Western Cape, Somerset West, and Franschhoek. Here they offer cheetah encounters. The primary goal is to promote the survival of the free-ranging, South African, cheetah. From an estimated 100,000 cheetahs at the turn of the 20th century, the population is currently estimated to be 7,100. Shrinking habitat, dwindling of natural prey, and conflict with human activities are the primary causes of this critical situation. There are about 1,326 cheetahs in South Africa of which approximately 500 free-ranging cheetahs live on unprotected farmlands in the northern part of the country.  This population is the focus of the work

The Gallery at Grande Provence is considered to be one of the most highly regarded galleries in the Cape, with a reputation for showcasing some of South Africa’s finest established and emerging artists. Regular exhibitions are held with the major disciplines being shown throughout the year. The Gallery exhibits a carefully selected group of artists from South Africa, Europe and America. The Sculpture Garden has a continually evolving collection of monumental works in a variety of media.

Driving to Franschhoek from Montagu was a treat.  It is evident with my blogs and videos showing mountain passes, that I am enamored with the scenery as we crest the hills, and descend the dales.  In Wisconsin, from where we live, we need to travel long distances to see similar beauty along the Mississippi River. 

Franschhoek Pass is located in the Western Cape, Province of South Africa on the Regional road R45 between Franschhoek and Villiersdorp.  The pass was formally constructed in 1822, by a group of soldiers under command of Major Holloway, under orders from Lord Charles Somerset.  Jan Joubertsgat bridge was part of the construction.  It is still in evidence today, as one of South Africa’s oldest bridges.

Franschhoek Pass also known as Lambrechts Road was called Olifantshoek 150 years ago. 

Franschhoek Pass (R45) is also called Lambrechts Road, though – more poetically – a hundred and fifty years ago it was known as Olifantshoek (Elephants Corner) after the now mythical herds of elephant, which once roamed these valleys and mountains. This long, steep and dramatic pass with its variety of scenery was South Africa’s first properly engineered road. During weekends, city folk stream to the pass on bicycles, motorcycles, skateboards, and vehicles to enjoy its sheer magnificence.  Sadly, fire devastated the pass two weeks prior to our visit—and this is evident along our journey.  Where we stopped, we looked down on the town from on high.  The town becomes visible as we descend on the winding road complete with hairpin bends.  Our good fortune is that we did not have vehicles in front of us to impede the view. 

We highly recommend Franschhoek as a great place to visit.  We had dinner with a family who moved to Franschhoek two decades ago as their ideal retirement community.

PS. This was a cold day and a few days later I had a cold. My fault for not bringing anything warm on this trip.

On June 21, 2019, the Western Cape was hit with very strong storms. After rock falls, the Franschhoek Pass was closed. My sister sent me these photographs published in the media.

A motorist escaped serious injury on Saturday morning after a rockslide at Franschhoek Pass during rainy weather. Marc Thackwray, 28, suffered a few bumps and scratches but was otherwise uninjured after massive boulders rained down on his car.  Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa said the pass was closed because rocks had fallen on to the road. Authorities had to turn motorists away from both sides of the pass.

An additional rockfall took place on July 3, 2019.

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