These "Tale Spinner" episodes are brought to you courtesy of one of our Canadian friends, Jean Sansum. You can thank her by eMail at
Vol. XVIII No. 01
Destroyed cane fields|
(Click to enlarge)
We passed through Curepipe coming down to the Plaisance plains, where the sugar cane fields had been almost levelled to the ground by "Gervais". It seemed to us that the southern part of Mauritius had not been hit as hard as its northern part.
We did not have to wait long and boarded the Air France aircraft flying to Reunion. Jose waved goodbye as we climbed the stairs into the aircraft. It was a short flight for the 226km distance between those two islands. Mr. Jean Baer, from Switzerland, was CEMENTIA´s representative at Reunion. He was waiting for us at the International Airport Gillot (now named Roland Garos for the French aviator who was born in Saint-Denis).
Mr. Baer drove us from Saint-Marie to Saint-Denis, the capital of the Island "La Reunion" that was the Department of France in those days. He had booked us into the hotel "Mercure Creolia" for one night as our continuing flight had been confirmed for late the next night. We would be only one day late according to the original schedule, that had to be changed due to "Gervais". The cyclone did not do much harm to Reunion, except that there were several downpours there.
After we had settled in our hotel, Mr. Baer took us out for lunch. He knew where to go to have good French cuisine as he lived here as an elderly loner, calling Reunion his "bloody island". He was a polite gentleman and liked Ljiljana´s presence on this occasion.
Cement Silo Station at Le Port|
(Click to enlarge)
After lunch we went out to Le Port for me to check and view the small silo station, which had two silos of 2.500t storage capacity of bulk cement each. Attached to it was a small packing plant, yet it was obvious that they would have to enlarge this station as soon as possible. Recently Bamburi cement works had started exporting clinker via Mbaraki loading station in Kilindini harbour of Mombasa. A small cement mill had been installed near the silo station and it would grind clinker into cement for local market. However, its capacity was not enough to satisfy a rising market demand.
We inspected the terrain near the present station regarding construction of larger silo(s) at Le Port as well. I was interested in the soil-Baering capacity, and Mr. Baer told me that they encountered huge "balls" all around under the foundations of old silos. I had to laugh about the balls, that in fact were the volcanic bombs or smaller lapilli´s which resulted from some old volcanic eruptions on the island. I explained that CIPAG had a similar problem regarding the foundations at Athi River cement works near Nairobi.
We returned to the hotel a bit tired but could not refuse Mr. Baer´s invitation for an extraordinary dinner. It was a real pleasure, but both of us were tired after the very bad days on Mauritius. We had time for some sight-seeing tours of Saint-Denis and Saint-Paul, as our flight to Djibouti was due to leave late the following night. Mr. Baer explained that there was little he could show us around these two cities. In Saint-Denis he had mentioned the Natural History Museum and the Léon Dierx Art Gallery, but they would not impress us as we had come from Salzburg. At Saint-Paul there was an interesting and tasty street market, but it was not open that day. The historic town was the island´s original capital and that was it, Mr. Baer said. He believed that visiting the Botanic Gardens at Saint-Denis would be a waste of time as we had seen a much better and larger one at Pamplemousses on Mauritius. So he drove us around, pointing out the volcanic origin of the "bloody island" he called Reunion Island.
Volcanic eruption on Reunion Island South|
(Click to enlarge)
There are two notable volcanoes on La Reunion: the Piton de la Fournaise (2.631m) at the eastern end, and the other one higher, the Piton des Neiges (3.070m) north-west of the Piton. Both volcanoes like the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues were created by hotspot volcanoes long ago. The Piton de la Fournaise is still active, as it has erupted more than 100 times since the 1660s, when colonization was started by the French East India Company.
The Piton volcano is a "sister" to Hawaiian volcanoes, because of the similarity of climate and its volcanic nature. At night we could observe the Piton de la Fournaise activity as a lava flow as we looked through the aircraft window. From the air it looked dramatic as the red lava flowed down into the sea. We did not have time for a day-long trip on a sightseeing tour to one of the large volcanic valleys.
Mr. Baer was a kind host and we had another good meal in one of his favourite eating places. We left the International Airport Gillot on Air France, with a stop at Antananarivo on Madagascar, prior to continuing to our next destination in Djibouti. We were tired of travelling on our holiday, which had already lasted over a month. Hopefully Djibouti would be the last stop. I had to survey and inspect the harbour at Djibouti, where somebody was interested in putting up a silo station to import cement in bulk, including a packing plant for bagged cement.
To be concluded.
NOTE: Zvonko sent a large number of pictures along with this series of articles. They are arranged in several albums here. These albums will be slow to download as they are very large files.
Album 1: Mauritius Island on Arrival
Catherine Nesbitt writes: Thank you once more for another delightful read. I know this was the last issue of 2011, but it seems to me to be a happy start to a new year. (I hope that´s OK with you!)
ED. NOTE: Thank you, Catherine, and all the others who sent me New Year greetings! And speaking of NY greetings, I should mention that the one I sent to you was dictated by my cat, Happy, complete with scanner digitally installed by Jay.
Mike Yeager writes in his blog at http//:www.aretiredboomer.blogspot.com about
I woke up early on New Year´s day, 1 or 2 in the morning, and realized I´d slept through New Year´s Eve. It´s not unusual for Katie and me to go to bed before midnight on New Year´s Eve. What is unusual is not being startled awake by fireworks and people yelling, and then having a hard time getting back to sleep because erratic explosions continue on into the wee hours of the morning. In Green Valley, the land of retirees, however, I didn´t hear one firecracker or one person yelling. It was blessedly quiet all evening.
One could make the conclusion that New Year´s Eve is a holiday for the young. There was a time when we would at least stay up and watch Dick Clark or someone ring in the New Year on TV. But we´re not even interested in that anymore. Seeing a bunch of inebriated people jumping around and yelling is not my idea of a good time.
Last New Year´s Katie and I were in Hawaii, staying at her son´s home. This was by far the noisiest celebration I have ever witnessed in the US. A ban on aerial fireworks was going into effect the next year, so people in Hawaii went nuts. I hated it. It actually started many days before the 31st, building to a crescendo around midnight and then carrying on days later. On New Year´s Eve the smoke from all the explosions was so thick in Nuuanu Valley, we had to close all the windows, because we were all coughing and choking.
I remember the very first time I was allowed to participate in the New Year´s Eve craziness. It was in the 1950s in Ferguson, Mo. My parents decided to let my sister Karen and me stay up. Dad told us that when midnight came, we could go outside and make as much noise as we wanted. He gave us each lids from pots and pans and instructed us to hit them together like cymbals and yell at the top of our lungs. I couldn´t believe we would actually be allowed to do that. Our dad was always telling us crazy stuff and invariably mom would put a stop to it. But when I looked over at mom, she just smiled at me in approval and took a sip of wine.
Just before midnight, we stepped out onto the front porch. I looked up and down the street and to my surprise our neighbors were all standing out on their front porches too; well, almost all of our neighbors anyway. I noticed a few dark houses, like our next door neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Howard, who were in their 70s, and the family down the street who belonged to that strange religion. At 12:00 we all began yelling and knocking our pan lids together. I thought it was great fun and over much too soon.
The worst New Year´s Eve of my life and the one that soured me on the holiday from then on was in 1967 in Vietnam. I stayed in my hooch that evening quietly drinking and smoking a joint with one of my buddies. At midnight we stepped out the screen door to watch countless tracer bullets and flares fill the dark sky. The sound was intense, not unlike when we were under attack. I didn´t enjoy it.
Someone shot one of our Vietnamese interpreters, Chang, that night. For years I assumed the culprit was our redneck supply sergeant. He was crude and prejudiced. He called all Vietnamese "gooks" and along with our first sergeant was behind the movement to not allow our interpreters to eat in the mess hall. I stopped eating there as well in protest, but nobody cared or even noticed. In just several weeks from that night, we would experience the ´68 TET offensive and be the intended victims of a much bigger and more lethal barrage of aerial ordnance.
A few years ago, I attempted to get in touch with anyone from my former unit over the internet. I received one reply from a guy who worked at my base camp at that time. He was in communications and knew many of the same people I knew. He told me he was actually there when Chang was shot. A bunch of them, including Chang, were up by our headquarters hooch and at 12:00 all began to shoot their rifles into the air. One of the sergeants, not the supply sergeant, lost his balance and fell over while firing his rifle. The automatic weapon sprayed the whole area and this guy told me it was lucky they weren´t all killed. However, one of the bullets hit Chang by accident. They immediately arranged for him to be medevac´d to the division hospital. All these years I thought the evil sergeant did it on purpose.
I´m always glad when New Year´s is over. Waking up at 2:00 a.m. New Year´s morning and experiencing the quiet made me thankful I´m at this stage of my life. It seems like a long time ago when I banged those pot lids, yelled like bloody murder, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
In Lew´s News, he wrote: In one of my drawers of memorabilia (it also goes by the sobriquet of "junk") I found a page of "Wise Sayings". It has no apparent connection with anything else. I find myself wanting to share them with you, so here goes:
There´s no job so simple that it can´t be done wrong.
A committee can make a decision that´s dumber than any of its members.
Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn´t have to do it himself.
Never mistake motion for action.
Even if you´re on the right track, you´ll get run over if you just stay there.
People who know the least are the people who argue the most.
Nothing in fine print is ever good news.
Never give a party if you´ll be the most interesting person there.
After all is said and done, more is said than done.
It´s easier to stay out than it is to get out.
Kindness consists of loving people more than they deserve.
If more people listened to themselves, they´d talk less.
If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.
It´s especially hard to work for money you´ve already spent for something you didn´t need.
The trouble with being punctual is that there´s no one there to appreciate it.
The older you get the harder it is to lose weight because you and your fat have become friends.
Going to college won´t guarantee you a job, but it´ll give you four more years to worry about getting one.
You don´t have to brush all your teeth; just the ones you want to save.
Today´s Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.
Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.
Catherine Nesbitt says you don´t have to be an engineer to appreciate this story:
A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Small variations in the environment (which can´t be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down to the supermarket don´t get pissed off and buy another product instead.
Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project, in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem, as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra effort.
The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution - on time, on budget, high quality, and everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box weighed less than it should. The line would stop, and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing another button when done to re-start the line.
A while later, the CEO decided to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share. "That´s some money well spent!" he said, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report.
It turned out, the number of defects picked up by the scales was zero after three weeks of production use. It should have been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers came back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren´t picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.
Puzzled, the CEO travelled down to the factory, and walked up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed.
A few feet before the scale, there was a $20 desk fan, blowing the empty boxes out of the belt and into a bin.
"Oh, that," said one of the workers. "One of the guys put it there because he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang."
Pat Moore forwards these definitions of
State-of-the-art: Any computer you can´t afford.
Obsolete: Any computer you own.
Microsecond: The time it takes for your state-of-the-art computer to become obsolete.
G4: Apple´s new Macs that make you say, "Gee, it´s four times faster than the computer I bought for the same price a microsecond ago."
Syntax Error: Walking into a computer store and saying, "Hi, I want to buy a computer and money is no object."
Hard Drive: The sales technique employed by computer salesmen, especially after a Syntax Error.
GUI (pronounced "gooey"): What your computer becomes after spilling your coffee on it.
Keyboard: The standard way to generate computer errors.
Mouse: An advanced input device to make computer errors easier to generate.
Floppy: The state of your wallet after purchasing a computer.
Laptop: A device invented to force businessmen to work at home, on vacation, and on business trips.
Disk Crash: A typical computer response to any critical deadline.
System Update: A quick method of trashing ALL of your software.
This issue marks the beginning of the 18th year of publication of The Tale Spinner.
It all began with my writing a note to CARP (the Canadian Association of Retired People) asking if there was anyone out there who would be interested in corresponding with me. There were 40 replies!
Daunted by the thought of writing to 40 different people, I suggested that we share our letters. I proposed publishing letters sent to me in a newsletter, which I would then forward to all the others. The recipients could reply to the letters, write their own, or correspond directly with the original posters. (That was in the days before we worried about identity theft or spam, and addresses were printed with the letters.)
At the suggestion of one of the 40, the newsletter was called "The Sansumite", but I eventually decided that indicated it was a travel letter, when I was interested in anything and everything about the writers. I eventually renamed it "The Tale Spinner", not being aware that there were other letters online with the same name.
Among the original subscribers were Anne Rahamut, Bill McNair, Bruce Galway, Dixie Augusteijn, Ernest Blaschke, Geoff Shorten, Kate Brookfield, Dick Monaghan, and Warren Ngo. Over the years we have lost Ernest, Geoff, and Dick, but the others are with us still.
Many of the stories told in those early days were about World War II, and Ernest contributed many of his experiences. Geoff also wrote about the war, and if I remember correctly, when it ended he was somewhere on a tropical beach, covered with sand. These stories are from so long ago that I have forgotten them, and the early editions were not catalogued, so searching them is hopeless.
Dixie told us of her life on a farm in Ontario, her years in in South America, followed by her time in Holland, and subsequently of her life after she returned to Canada.
Kate wrote about her travels, accompanying her geologist husband, Mike, on his forays around the world. Others, including the editor, also sent travel stories.
Dick was our sadly-missed humorist, and his tales about his wife, "Miss Kate", were often libellous.
The contributors whom I have mentioned were all among the first 40, but since then we have had many memorable posts from subscribers who joined us in the following years.
Now it is 17 years later. We have lost many readers over the years, for one reason or another, and have gained new readers. We are not as young as we were when we started, and Dixie has already celebrated her 100th birthday. I will celebrate my 90th this month, which I find almost impossible to believe, but birth certificates don´t lie. Or at least, not usually, and not from so long ago.
And so we begin our 18th year. Any and all contributions to the Spinner are welcome, though editorial policy dictates that material should be an antidote to the unending spate of bad news in other media. In other words, I hope for many stories, articles, jokes, and poems that make us laugh.
I owe a vote of thanks not only to our contributors, but to our webmasters, Burke Dykes and Jay Sansum, who have put hundreds of issues on their websites. You will see their URLs at the bottom of each issue, and they are both well worth checking out.
Happy 2012 to your all!
Bruce Galway recommends this site for striking underwater footage from Fiji and Tonga:
Catherine Green sends the URL for an unforgettable wedding video:
Catherine also sends this link to a video which shows why you should always read labels before you buy. It shows from the lists of ingredients that many companies which sell products supposedly including blueberries and other fruits contain no fruit at all:
Gerrit deLeeuw reminds us of this clever video from Australia which lends perspective to our everyday problems:
Pat Moore forwards this link to the Gutenberg Project, where people with Kindles and listeners to audio books can download books for free in a number of formats:
Pat also forwards this video, Wonderful World, by David Attenborough for the BBC:
Kiva, a non-profit organization which makes micro-loans to small entrepreneurs, has partnered with Ladies´ Home Journal to make a small number of free trials available for new lenders. Most loans are for $25, and when enough lenders have chosen an entrepreneur to support, the requested loan is made available to the woman with a small store, or a man with a tiny farm, or a number of women banding together to run a small business, or whatever. If you´re quick, you may be able to make a loan for free by clicking on
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened - as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding - she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another:
To check out the features of the "freedictionary", which changes daily, go to
"Although there may be nothing new under the sun, what is old is new to us and so rich and astonishing that we never tire of it. If we do tire of it, if we lose our curiosity, we have lost something of infinite value, because to a high degree it is curiosity that gives meaning and savour to life."
- Robertson Davies