Archive for June, 2010

From gloves to love

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

South Africa celebrates Youth Day with a public holiday and I was in Edgars at the Eastgate Mall that afternoon. I didn’t know that Edgars had Youth Day sales until my counterpart from Florida A&M University (FAMU), Professor Joe Ritchie, bought a pair of gloves. This is what happened to him… he took a pair of gloves from the shelf; it was on 25% discount. He took it to the checkout counter and the cashier gave him a Youth Day scratch card. He got lucky. He had another 50% discount as indicated on the scratch card. Not a bad deal after all.

Incidentally, I needed a few pairs of gloves for my students and myself to survive one of the coldest Joburg winters in recent years. And how could I resist the temptation on discount upon discount? So I went to the same shelf, took the same gloves, went to the same checkout counter and guess what? The friendly cashier told me that I won’t be given the chance to scratch the Youth Day discount card because I was buying the discounted item. My jaw dropped, I turned my head and looked at Joe, I think I was able to tell to him that I was denied the chance of my lifetime to try my luck on a huge discount merely through my eye contact. I was devastated. The cashier went on to explain the terms and conditions of the Youth Day scratch card. Utterly disappointed, I told her to save her breath if she was not going to let me scratch the card. Anyway, I still got 25% off the price tag.

I then met up with another Professor from FAMU, Andrew Skerritt, after the scratch card fiasco and he rubbed it in with a joke. He suggested that maybe I am not black enough. He ended his line with his one-of-a-kind laugh. Andrew’s words kind of struck me right on the spot. Joe is African American, the cashier is Black South African and I am Chinese Malaysian, I don’t know what colour category I fall into for South Africans. But wait a minute! This situation became more delicate than I thought: a simple case of misunderstanding and miscommunication at the departmental store checkout counter can be so easily turned into a racial issue based on skin deep appearance. Yes, our minds can be so easily tricked into taking a shortcut to explain our problems. We just need to keep reminding ourselves not to fall into that trap.

To know more about what we are doing in South Africa you may go to the following sites:
– Chinese: http://theicampus.org/worldcup
– English: http://famustu.net/worldcup

The quest for Sony’s 3D TV: Act 1

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Live broadcast has always been an important part of any international sports event. When the 2008 Beijing Olympics announced that people around the world could enjoy live broadcasts of the Games in high definition, I was wondering how many people would actually have access to the super crisp and clear pictures on their TV screens. It is still relatively expensive to get an HDTV set now in 2010; the price was even steeper back in 2008. But it was not much of a big deal to me because HDTV was merely TV in higher resolution.

In less than 2 years after the epic Beijing Olympics, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa caught my attention when they announced that they are going to broadcast the games in 3D. Even though the same skepticism creeps into my mind again regarding the issue of accessibility, after being mesmerized by James Cameron’s Avatar, I really was looking forward to experiencing a football match in 3D. This is something that I need to see it with my own eyes because I find it hard to describe Avatar to my friends who have not watched it, or only seen in on the so-out-of-century 2D cinemas.

The 3D broadcast advertorials on the Emirates flight to Cape Town and the billboards in Cape town had just drawn me closer to the quest of the ultimate couch potato experience. As the team was checking out the brand new Cape Town Stadium, which is closed to the public since last week, and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront area, we found a Sony Centre in the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. One of the employees told us that Sony has a special booth with a few 3D TV sets in one of the open areas in the mall.

We walked around the mall looking for the special booth with much excitement. I was looking forward to dodge a football coming towards me after I put on the 3D glasses. Unfortunately, we were greeted with a bucket of cold water pouring on our heads. The booth was not ready yet. The contractor was still working on the floor and wiring. We were told that it will be ready when the mall opens on Thursday. The machines had just arrived from Japan, still in a box. The contractor was hoping they can set it up properly because the manual and onscreen menu is in Japanese. I offered my help, but the TV sets were still in a box, and they assured me that I won’t get a free TV in return.

It seems that early birds don’t always get the worms. Now that we are so hyped up, tomorrow, we shall go out to Braemar Road, down Wessels Street, cross the Main Somerset, roam Portswood Road till we see the roundabout where the Sony 3D billboard resides, tunnel through the Red Shed Craft Workshop and seek for our 3D TV extravaganza again at the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. Well, the journey takes 15 minutes on foot.

(I am with 2 faculty staffs on a reporting trip with 6 undergrads to South Africa for World Cup. The team will meet another team from America. Click here for more info about this cross continent project: http://theicampus.org/worldcup , http://famustu.net/worldcup)