Virtual terrors

November 3rd, 2016 by dad

Dorje and I went to the Virtual Reality arcade at the Waterfront this weekend. We played three ‘games’ (one was simply a visual experience). Space pirates, where the aim is to destroy enemy spaceships which come from all directions, firing lasers back at you which you need to dodge or use your shield on. An underwater experience, where you get to experience tropical fish, beautiful coral reefs, whales, turtles and jellyfish, and a zombie game, which we played as a team, where you need to blow away hideous zombies pouring through surrounding corridors, out to eat to your brains.

A zombie from behind
A zombie from behind.

For those who haven’t experienced VR before, it’s a completely immersive experience, with the goggles on, reacting to your movements, you only exist in the virtual world. So which one did Dorje find most terrifying?

Yes, the beautiful coral reefs. Dorje is not a fan of water, and the experience of being in the deep sea was quite real!

Is that a tropical fish I see?
Is that a tropical fish I see?

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Psychedelic West Coast Flowers

September 27th, 2016 by dad

On Sunday, Dorje and I went for a trip to the West Coast National Park. Seeing as my Telkom line was down, Dorje was a little more agreeable than usual.

It was also the first time taking my new car on anything like the open road (and off-road), and it was great not to use my hand to stop the window sliding down on a bumpy gravel road.

Some Psychedelic Trance from Tip records was the soundtrack of the day, and our attempts to emulate the music make me grateful not everything ends up on Youtube.

We stopped and took a walk through the dunes to a deserted beach. Dorje discovered what looked like an ancient tortoise shell. It felt a bit like polystyrene, but was almost certainly a tortoise shell that had been lying in the dunes for a very long time. Unfortunately the shell got left on the dunes after Dorje put it down to put his shoes back on. It was hot, and we weren’t summer-ready, so there was no going back. We were gone for a couple of hours, and in spite of the park’s roads being packed, it still being flower season, we didn’t see a single person on the path, or on the endless beach. It makes me happy places like this still exist:

It’s probably a little late in the flower season for the best blooms, but we did find this:

The park helpfully provided a list of fauna to look out for. The West Coast park is not exactly known for its large animals, and it’s telling that the list included three types of snake, numerous birds… and the dung beetle. Everything was clearly avoiding the heat, so although we spotted lots of dung, we didn’t even spot a dung beetle. Fortunately a tortoise on the road out meant we didn’t return with an empty checklist.

Searching for dung beetles:

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Bloodthirsty ancestors

April 15th, 2016 by dad

Dorje had a school assignment to design a family crest. He decided to do one for his mom’s side of the family since one of my barbaric ancestors has already developed one for my side. Here’s what he had for inspiration:


A severed head on a sword, with the motto “Think On”… It’s probably a good thing my father lost touch with most of his family, as I’m not sure I would have wanted to meet the bloodthirsty great uncle G, mumbling “Think On” to his victim’s heads as he impales them on his sword.

So, I was intrigued to see what Dorje would come up with for his mom. Once the DOTA2 (Defence of the Ancients, an online game, his current addiction) logo had been rejected, here’s what he came up with.


Reptilian eyes and carnivorous teeth. I’ll leave the interpretations to you…

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A ball of magma and a laptop

January 24th, 2016 by dad

Since Dorje stopped playing Pokemon, all he’s wanted has been a new computer. His old laptop was a bit of a wreck. The screen couldn’t support itself, and the power supply loose, with a habit of losing the connection. Since the battery was also entirely flat and unchargeable, that meant the whole laptop shut down.


So, for the last birthday and Xmas, with the help of family and friends, he’s been saving up for a new laptop. After a delay in delivery, it finally arrived on Friday.

I sat down on the couch, and started tapping on the cardboard box containing the delivery. Dorje didn’t notice, and entered into the ongoing world where I was Flare, a novice mage who had now graduated mage school, but was being attacked by an old classmate, Venom, who’d for some reason had never liked Flare.

As the battle raged, I placed the laptop on my lap, and started tapping louder. Flare now needed help from IceRath, as he was struggling to cope with Venom’s acid attacks.

I picked up the box and started lifting it above my head, and lowering it again repeatedly. Dorje still didn’t notice.

Venom had now managed to clone himself multiple times, and while Flare and IceRath had defeated multiple Venom’s, the real Venom was still untouched.

My arms were getting tired. Flare cast a solid ball of magma at Venom, and as he did so I handed Dorje the laptop. I was a little worried he’d toss it aside as Venom deflected the assault, but Dorje finally noticed the Loot sign on the box, and realised what it was. Venom was quickly defeated, and we opened the laptop.

We planned to install Ubuntu on it, but first decided to take a look at the Windows install. It’s been well over a decade since I used Windows, and I was curious to see how far it’s come.

The installation didn’t last long, as after having to painstakingly scroll down through a list of timezones (UTC +1 Windhoek, UTC +2 Helsinki, etc etc) to try and find our local timezone, and then finally being asked to create a Windows account in order to proceed, we gave up in disgust. I was trying not to be too biased against Windows, but don’t think I succeeded too well.

On to the Ubuntu installation. Besides needing to disable the “secure boot” setting in the BIOS, the installation was a breeze. The time zone was beautifully displayed on a graphical map, and correctly picked up as South Africa. Keyboard and language defaults were all correctly picked up. Everything just worked smoothly, and, after seeing the setup processes side-by-side, there were no worries about Dorje opting for Windows.

Dorje was soon installing Minecraft, and marvelling at the smooth experience. If he’s ever going to be a pro gamer, which these days is top of the career picks, he’ll probably be grateful for learning to play on a laggy laptop, and was already doing better in his epic PvP battles on the Minecraft servers.

This particular laptop came in a choice of colours – black, white, red and gold. Dorje chose white, and so far has been strict about washing his hands to avoid getting fingerprints all over it, and avoiding all food or drink anywhere near it.

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Last day of the holidays

January 19th, 2016 by dad

Yesterday was Dorje’s last day of the holidays, before starting Grade 7 today. Did we spend it up a mountain, swimming in a rockpool? Watching Star Wars? Dorje’s caught up with all six Star Wars movies (and I highly recommend the edits by Jeremy M West – they vastly improve the prequels, so much so that Episode 1 is now one of the my favourites), but the new release, which I’ve already seen twice, is reserved for his mom. Hopefully he can drag her away from work before it’s off.

So a rockpool then? No, getting Dorje outdoors is as much fun as pulling teeth, or watching the original Star Wars episode 1. So, we played some Settlers of Catan instead.

We’ve played quite a bit this holidays, and I was starting to feel a little bad about winning every game so far, although not bad enough to think about giving Dorje an easy time. This time it was just the two of us, in a 2 vs 2 variant, where each player takes two colours, and both need to reach 10 points for the player to win.

It was an intense battle, but I was on top again. Dorje was losing interest and making noises about giving up. My orange player had already won, and now I just needed red to follow and the game was mine. I gave him the story about never giving up, but actually wanted the glorious feeling of a slow, crushing victory.

Suddenly, the dice took his side, and there were two consecutive 10’s, the one number that give neither of my teams any resources. Dorje could see my dust ahead and started to get interested again. Then we realised that my orange player was a little hemmed in, and future growth would be slow and expensive. My red team was on its own. In a flurry of activity, Dorje’s white team reached 10 points. It was a race between our two laggards, Dorje’s blue and my red. Dorje scooped the longest road for blue, and was on 9 points, one away from victory! We were both sweating, and not just because it was another insanely hot day. But he couldn’t pull it off. My turn! In deep trouble now, Dorje almost certain to win his next turn. But I get a road building card and sweep in, taking the Longest Road, and his two points. Now my red is on 9, and Dorje’s blue is back to 7! I need one more to win. Dorje is stunned that I’ve pulled it off again. But I’m one resource short! It cannot be. I should be safe though, Dorje won’t be able to get three points this turn, and I’ll definitely get the one I need next time.

But no! The longest road changes hands again, and Dorje is on the brink. But he too can’t finish it off, and it’s back to me. I have to pull out all the stops to get the longest road back, but again I’ve exhausted all my resources, and can’t get that final point.

It’s Dorje’s turn again. On 7 victory points to my 9, it looks grim for him. He has to take the longest road back again to have a chance, but little does he know that even if he does, I’ve got enough to reclaim it and get the extra point. Victory is mine!

Dorje reclaims the longest road, but surely he can’t build a settlement as well. He can’t. I prepare to be gracious in victory again. But no! He builds a city instead! A city! Dorje almost sends the table flying as he leaps up in celebration, which I slump down in my chair, defeated.

Who says Catan can’t get the adrenaline pumping and the calories burning? No need for climbing a mountain after all…

First day at school, and Dorje is back with me in the afternoon. I’m on a conference call, and finish up to find him fast asleep on the couch at 7pm. After weeks of late night Minecrafting and Youtubing, it’s clearly going to take his circadian rhythms a while to get used to the early mornings…

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Off a cliff into the mists

November 5th, 2015 by dad

Dorje and I have been ziplining before, the first time being in a lightning storm above the Tsitsikamma Forest, and the second time a few days later across the waterfalls in the same area. But that was December 2013, so it was time to visit the one right on our doorstep, in the Hottentot’s Holland Mountains.

We chose a wet weekend to do it, and the view below disappeared into the mists as we shuddered our way up to the starting point. Some of the group grumbled about the view, but the mists added to the atmosphere, and the platform on the other side of the first line was hidden from sight, so launching was a leap into the unknown.

With visibility so low, and with it being the first line, most people braked too hard and ended up stranded on the line. It was made worse by the guide being barely visible, and most people mistaking his frantic signals to speed up as frantic signals to brake. Dorje being so light, ended up well away from the platform.

We probably spent as long on the first line as on the rest put together. Soon, everyone began to get the hang of it, and as we descended, the mists cleared, revealing the glorious views below.

Dorje, being so light, quite often ended up short, dangling above the ravine even without any braking at all. So, by the time we got to the fastest line, Dorje has probably forgotten how to brake. As he came hurtling in, the guide frantically signalling him to slow down, Dorje misread the signal as speed up. There was an almighty crash as he hit the emergency brake, and was then flung up, hitting his head, and then slowly sliding back down the line. The guide seemed very concerned, repeatedly asking him whether he was OK, but the helmet did the job it was supposed to, and all that happened was that Dorje had to pull himself back to the platform, a technique he was getting lots of practice in.

It wasn’t a surprise that, with the next line being much more sedate, Dorje braked too hard on the next line and again came to halt far from the platform. Cue more upside-down hauling himself to the platform.

It’s only an hours drive from Cape Town, and well worth it – don’t be put off by a little bit of rain. Unless you’re really scared of heights, the most strenuous part was the bone-shattering drive to the top.

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Washed up pirates

August 1st, 2015 by dad

Dorje and I were washed up pirates today as we took a walk from Noordhoek to the wreck of the SS Kakapo. We hadn’t planned to go to sea, but Silvermine is still closed, even to walkers, so we ended up on the beach.

Our wreck was a lot less successful than the Kakapos, with much loss of life. Being pirates, the locals were immediately on the hunt, and we had to flee, armed only with our cutlass (Dorje, as captain) and club. Besides the two of us, there were two other survivors, but sadly our shipmates couldn’t outrun the hunters on horseback.

The cutlass came in handy when a tentacled sea monster grabbed hold of Dorje’s arms, and he barely got free, but the sea monster came in handy for slowing down the rampaging horsemen. We fled into the waves so that our followers would lose our trail, but the threat of sea monsters, and the even more immediate threat of actual bluebottles, soon had us on the sand again.

After the previous day’s storm, the beach was quite wild. A newly-dead seal, with a fly coming out of its eye-socket sent our brave captain running.

What was our loot? A rich supply of kale chips, of course…

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June 4th, 2015 by dad

Dorje has got me interested in lots of activities so far (lucid dreaming, pokemon), and the latest is a game called Minetest. Or rather, he was interested in Minecraft first, and I came across Minetest as something that runs natively on Linux (as well as Windows, Mac, BSD, Android), is free and open source, and runs far quicker than Minecraft, making it usable on relatively old hardware.

Minetest is heavily based on Minecraft, but it’s not a clone. In good Unix fashion the vanilla game is relatively empty, and it’s the mods that add all the action. There are no mobs (creatures) in the vanilla game, but there are numerous mods that add them, such as the Mob Framework, which turned the world from one where I blissfully roamed around hacking at things with my pickaxe, to one where death lurked around every corner (at least until I figured out that I should hide indoors at night).

Although Minecraft obviously has far more users, Minetest, being open source, is much more open and easy to enhance. Mods are written in Lua, also used by another of his favourites, Battle for Wesnoth, so I can already guess Dorje’s first programming language.

So far I’ve probably spent more time updating their wiki documentation than actually playing the game, since I’ve never played Minecraft and have no idea what I’m doing.

Although I have created this impressive fortress.

OK, all I did was dig some holes in it so I have a place to cower inside at night, and add a few doors and windows, but it’s home!

Here’s a picture of a slightly more comfortable environment someone else created (from screenshots).
Screenshot from

If Pokemon nationals wasn’t in two weeks, I think Dorje may have been tempted to stay home this Saturday for a Minetest session!

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Platbos Family Fest

May 14th, 2015 by dad

Last weekend Dorje and I went to Greenpop’s Family Fest in Platbos Forest. After some grumbling about missing Pokemon, he settled into the idea of getting muddy and helping plant thousands of trees.

The existing forest, which claims to be Africa’s southernmost, is a beautiful piece of ancient indigenous forest, with some trees over 1000 years old. As with all south-western Cape forests, it’s gentle and welcoming, with small trees and a low canopy, and lots of space on the forest floor.

However, it’s also tiny and vulnerable, surrounded by alien Port Jacksons and very vulnerable to fire. Platbos is restoring forest to almost of its remaining land, and the good yet sad news is that there may not be too many more Forest Fests in Platbos, as since the project began in 2011, a hige area of land has been replanted, and in two or three years time the land will be completely covered.

Friday evening we explored the forest, late enough to see the glow-worms which had somehow survived the epic undead battle raging around us. I was tired not long after, but Dorje wasn’t ready for the tent yet, and decided to stay up. Some time in the night I woke up, realising it was a little too quiet, and went to find Dorje, sitting half-asleep, listening to the music around the campfire.

Somehow he made it up for planting the next morning. I hadn’t thought much about what to expect – perhaps some military-style chain gang? An arboreal version of this?

But no, it was lots fun, with the supervisor more likely to break into dance than crack the whip.

Dorje insisted on staying up as long as I did on Saturday night, listening to Paige Mac, Lemonella and others, so at least I can say he didn’t stay up later than me. Not surprisingly though, he missed breakfast on Sunday.

There were lots of activities in the day, from forest yoga, walks, games, but Dorje found Psychedelic Theatre’s poi area and parked there for the rest of the time.

This week, sans Dorje, I go back to do it all again in the Friend’s Fest version. Less puppet show, more…?

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Raiding the Domain of the Guardian

May 2nd, 2015 by dad

Today, Dorje and I embarked on a dangerous raid into the domain of the Guardian. The Guardian possesses a precious jewel, hidden at the very highest point of the mountain. After scaling the peak and bagging the jewel, the Guardian began to emerge. An immensely powerful, yet slow moving, creature, it first ascended to space before falling back to earth causing a calamatous crater. Fortunately we were well away by the time this happened. If began to hot-foot it after us, but, after battling our way past numerous lesser Guardians (while Dorje had powerful spells, I was armed only with a dagger), we made it to safety.


Or, put another way, Dorje and I climbed Platteklip, which was busier than I’ve ever seen before. There was a church group, many hundreds large, descending, so we were passing a constant stream of walkers (or in some cases, crawlers). Having got to the top, we headed to a cliff for some food before going to Maclears beacon (the source of the jewel above), and, eventually, back down again. We started walking at about 1pm, and got back down at about 6.45pm, so it was a good, long walk, and Dorje’s longest by far.

He’s still sleeping now, at 9.30 am, but I’m sure will never forgive me if I let him miss Pokemon, so time to wake him up.

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