Gary and Shelley Wedding Speech

Delivered as Best Man at Providence on 18 December, 2010

Welcome everyone to Gary and Shelley’s wedding. I am Warwick Chapman, known to most people here as Budgee. I have the good fortune of being a friend of both the bride and the groom, and the rather ominous responsibility of having introduced them to one another.

So on behalf of the bride and groom, I would like to thank all of you for having come up here to celebrate this day, especially those of you who knew that I’d be saying a few words – it’s very touching that you still decided to come.

The crucial role a best man must play on this important night is to provide accurate information about the groom such that everyone here has a good idea of just what Shelley has gotten herself into.

I thus thank you Gary for asking me to be your best man. It is a great privilege and I shall not disappoint. First, however, what I must do as a best man is make a heartfelt toast to two people without whom we would none of us would be here today. Hopefully as the night goes on, each of us will have a chance to spend some quality time with them. So I ask you to rise, and join me in toasting the bar staff.

We couldn’t do it without you guys. Thanks alot.

There are many things I can say about the man with the hairiest toes in the world, and a few things perhaps I shouldn’t. But before I tell you about this fella Shelley’s just married, let me propose a real toast to three smashing young ladies.

Lord Alfred Tennyson said simply that “A happy bridesmaid makes a happy bride.” Mary-Leigh and Nicole you two make a fine complement to our stunning bride tonight. I know she appreciates all the support you’ve given her over the last weeks and especially today. I could not possibly complete this toast without mentioning Deidre and that beautiful cong she sang in the chapel. Please rise and join me in toasting the Deidre and the bridesmaids.

More than just a few of us here tonight met GazziPuff 11 or 12 years ago at the University of Natal, Durban Rowing Club. There, being but a slight of a fellow, and a finicky technician in the bowseat, he earned himself the nick name – FairyG.

And who could forget the photo of Gaz published in a mainstream weekend newspaper, dressed in a tiger suit, his hand in a claw pose with the campest of growl expressions on his face. Accordingly, the paper misspelt his name “Gay” Ainsworth. So GazziPuff, even though you’re a FairyG and Gay – you’ve bagged yourself a gentle, intelligent and above all gorgeous wife and are now laughing in the face of these prophecies we wrote in your name. Good show.

Shelley, you no doubt have some idea what you’ve got yourself into, but for the benefit of those less familiar with the dirty details, let me share the sort of treatment Gary might come to expect from a wife. You see, Gary’s doting mother spoilt him as a child, as a teenager, and even as a grown man.

Many people thought us rowers nuts for dragging ourselves out of bed at 4am each day to go rowing. Gary’s mornings, however, were somewhat more comfortable. You see he’d be woken with a cup of tea, and a pair of pre-warmed socks thanks to his darling mother who couldn’t bear the thought of our Gaz getting cold feet. Well, Margaret, I’m pleased to say that your boy is married, and its now Shelley’s job to make the tea and warm the socks, though, perhaps it might just be the other way around!

Just whatever you do Shells, don’t wet his socks and put them in the freezer. You may end up with the fire brigade outside your door in a bad mood. Gaz, ever the prankster, at SA Student Sprint Champs about 100 years ago, found himself pranked and saddled with a hard, frozen pair of his trademark long rowing rugby socks. In a moment of sheer brilliance he decided the obvious solution was to heat them in the oven – sounds good right? – as long as you don’t go off to a fines meeting shortly thereafter and leave them in the oven to combust. Chop.

This is the same dude the Poms decide to make their Safety officer while he was working in the UK. Safety first Gaz. Shells, keep a leash on him, you never know what could go down. And whatever you do, never ever respond when Gary asks you to check if something smells funny. Not unless you want whatever it is he’s holding all over your face… that one never ever fails to amuse him.

Sure this man has matured over the years, but beware of the rare failure to be discrete. A fellow rowing friend, Caroline Reid, related to me an almost lost story of one of Gary’s first flings in varsity which unnerved him more than just a little. So concerned was our Gaz, that he confided in Cally that this lass “had gone from friend to psycho over just one kiss.” Unfortunately the lass was standing right behind him. Smooth dude.

For Gary’s Bachelor bash at Inanda Dam, we asked Shelley a set of questions about Gary. At the party, we put each question to Gary, and then compared with Shelley’s answer. A most illuminating exercise.

One of the questions asked whether Shelley knew that Gaz used to wear an Alice Band and if he still had this hair style would she have even given him a second glance?

Gary’s answer (granted he was properly trousered and full of confidence): “She would’ve loved it!”

Shells responded: “Yes I have actually seen photographic evidence from Lauren Carrol!!! Honestly if he was still sporting such fashion accessories when I met him ,we would not be here today. ”

Another question referred to Gary’s incessant whining, asking Shells on average how many times a night does he moan about something?

Gary’s reponse: None

Shelley’s reponse: He does tend to be a winger. If I had to give it a number I would say between two and three. Just tonight I have heard that he has a bite on his arm and that he hopes it won’t lead to tick bite fever (because he has had it three times before!) and that he also has a paper cut which is actually very sore!

Gary took his rowing very seriously at varsity, making up for his significant lack of height with spirit and commitment. Rowing itself aside, Gaz was the inspiration of the sense of humour department, president of the association of pranksters and fellow in the institute for inebriation induced creative dancing. He’s the sort of legend that makes fun times great.

Gary provided many notable figures in the rowing community with simpler, easier to remember names. One unfortunate fellow, who I had the pleasure of cover tackling into the Msunduzi for harassing one of our UND ladies, protested that I had wet his, and I quote, “10000 grand Diesel watch”. We all laughed at him heartily. Gary called him “Diesel watch guy” from that day forward. Others to suffer the misfortune of Gary’s programme of renaming were “Model boy”, “Big nostril dude”,

Gary lived with me for a year or so a couple of years ago. We were hopeless single people, and occasionally we did what hopeless single people do, and went to Billy the Bums for a burger and beer. We were wingmen, wallowing in our uselessness. These were good times.

There one night, we bumped into my dear old friend, and evidently also hopeless single person, Shelley Wright. At the moment, I decided that I was actually tired of Gary being in my house, holding me back, so I took it upon myself to inflict Gary on Shelley. Gary was instantly smitten. I cant be certain but I’m fairly sure that Shelley wasn’t. As we walked out, he said to me, “Soo… do you think I’ve got a chance? You know, she’s way outta my league.”

Naturally, I assured him Shells was keen as beans – of course I had no idea if she was – but it was my duty as wingman to say such things.

I am, however, sure of one thing. If there are such things, Gary, Shelley is in your league. Gaz, you are the consummate gentleman, quite possibly my most loyal and forgiving friend, you’re brutally honest, trustworthy and reliable. And you have the biggest BIG toe nail I’ve ever seen.

Shells, I’ve known you a few more years than Gaz – since Glenwood and Girls’ High days, through our beautiful friend Annie, who, incidentally, I also arranged to have married off to a rower.

Shelley, you are a gentle soul, caring, thoughtful and I know you love Gary dearly. I know you’ll take care of him and I have no doubt that he’s already devoted his life to loving and caring for you.

I wish your partnership endless love, good fortune, and despite the Pope’s recent comments, a great many children.

Could I ask you all to rise and toast the bride and groom.

INDIASOFT 2009 Speech: “Looking Ahead – From an African Perspective”

Delivered as part of Panel Discussion, 27 February, 2009 – INDIASOFT, alongside:

  • Her Excellency Madame Ana Vilma Albanez de Escobar, Vice President, Republic of El Salvador
  • Her Excellency Mrs Lamia Chafei Seghaier, Secretary of State, Computer Science, Internet and Software, Tunisia
  • Mr Rene Mangin, Vice President in charge of Economic Affairs, France
  • Mr Siddharth, Secretary to the Government of West Bengal
  • Mr N Krishnan, Director General, Software Technology Parks of India
  • Dr Pradeep Ganguly, Director, Department of Economic Development, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA
  • Dr Peter Del Fante, Chief Executive Officer, Adelaide Western General Practice Network
  • Mr Oshim Somers, Director, ESP Enterprise Solutions Provider Pty Ltd, Australia

 

Transcript of the speech follows, with the visuals used in delivering the speech available in Microsoft PowerPoint format here. The text is included in the notes attached to each slide:

 

Honoured guests, delegates, I am here today to outline my thoughts on the opportunities presented to the Indian IT and software development community by the developing economies on my continent of Africa. 

I live in Durban, South Africa, which, aside from the Kingsmead cricket ground and beautiful beaches, is known for several things, but two of them noteworthy to this audience are:

1. the fact that Durban’s population includes the highest concentration of Indians anywhere in the world outside of India; and

2. an interesting culinary invention called the “Bunny Chow”.  A Bunny chow is a half or quarter loaf of bread, with the centre removed and the resulting cavity filled with a generous helping of mutton, chicken, beef or bean curry. 

South Africa was also home to an early friend and participant in the liberation movement in South Africa, the Mahatma – Mohandas Gandhi.  Gandhijee arrived in South Africa in 1893 to practice as a lawyer and was virtually immediately a victim of the racial discrimination that became the oppressive nationalist regime of Apartheid.  For the rest of his time in South Africa, he fought for the rights in the many Indian nationals living in South Africa.

Africa’s post-independence history is possibly one of the greatest tragedies in the history.  From the first post-colonial era independence of Ghana in 1957 to South Africa’s final transition to democracy in 1994 and beyond, the opportunities of a free Africa have regularly been dashed by a plague of what the world has come to refer to as “failed states”.  Even in 2009, well into the 21st century, Zimbabwe provides the most recent example of failed state.

There is however, promisingly, a growing commitment to democratic rule, good governance, clean governance, service delivery and ultimately economic growth on the continent.  The current spell of liberalisation in governments and leadership across a range of African states is reminiscent of Indian efforts during the 1990s to stimulate the growth of your economy.

From the early 1990s, the leadership of Prime Minister Rao and his Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, now your Prime Minister, is credited with the starting the liberalisation of the Indian economy which finally produced the growth rates needed to begin lifting your nation out of poverty and developmental stagnation.  Since then India’s Economy has blossomed, driven by a hard working, technical and intelligent workforce who are all the more relevant in the information-heavy world economy of the 21st century.

This history is relevant, but I was not invited to INDIASOFT to deliver a history lesson – I am, instead, here to talk about the opportunities that the growth being experienced in African economies provides to the Indian IT and software development community.

One of the key sets of the challenges facing African governments in the early 21st century is the shortage of skills available to the growing economies.  Most serious is the shortage of technical skills, such as those in engineering and technology.

I don’t believe Africa’s problems are uniquely complex.  Like so many such cases in the past, the problems are almost always simple but the people involved make can them complex.  I believe Africa’s problems, when broken down into manageable chunks, are simple problems which need to be approached in a well considered and practical fashion and in the overall context of a liberal market economy.

Build relationships with your African clients; consult, build trust, consult, communicate and then consult again.  Consult with your client on a regular basis to ensure the solution remains relevant to the local requirements.

Creating practical solutions to simple problems is a key factor in producing sustainable advancement and development.  This means deploying the right solution, not overselling and not deploying solutions which produce an unrealistic skills requirement for maintenance post deployment.  Skills development and skills transfer are two key priorities for Africans in any engagement with professionals brought in from other parts of the world.

Another approach to the shortage of skills, and one which my business has based an entire product on, is to design solutions which reduce unused functionality and flexibility – or bloat – in the interest of keeping the skills requirement low.

I think of the 80-20 rule often used by economists to describe phenomenon such as 80% of conference delegates are listening 20% of the time, and suggest that when it comes to software, at very most, 80% of software users utilise 20% of available functionality – though I think this might be more like 95% of users utilise only 5% of functionality – think of all of that functionality in Microsoft Word which you have never touched.  Why not then cater to that 80 or 95% by delivering software with less bloat and more simplicity and practically lower their costs of deploying and managing what would otherwise be a complex, and possibly multi-tiered solution.

Since I have mentioned the concentration of conference delegates, I should tell you that this morning, while trimming my beard, I was thinking of the recent success of Slumdog Millionaire, and decided to trim my beard such that I best resemble Anil Kapoor – I hope you approve and moreover, I hope I absord some of the Slumdog success as a result.

Speaking specifically of South Africa, it is important to understand that while South Africa is fairly unique in Africa by virtue of its wealth, infrastructure and peaceful transition to democracy, we also share many common challenges with the rest of the countries in Africa and indeed the rest of the developing world.

My business, THUSA, based in Durban, South Africa has already a growing partnership with a software development business from Gurgaon, Haryana and I have little doubt we will in time built further relationships with other such businesses in other parts of India.  One of our personal challenges, however, and one not yet solved by your offering, is access to specific niche resources which are no doubt difficult to find anywhere in the world, but the development of said resources in any country can only be an asset to that country.

Specifically in my case, I am talking of rare resources such as developers skilled in the same language used by Google, called Python, and with an intimate knowledge of open source network systems running on the Linux operating system.  This sort of resource would require:

1. not only a knowledge and experience of software development and a specific language, but;

2. because they are not simply developing a pure application atop an already prepared stack, but an interface between a wide range of open source network systems, the operating system and the user, they are required to have a working knowledge of

a. those systems

b. platform

c. how to present to the user

Additionally, I firmly believe that open source software has a cemented role in supporting the growth of developing economies the world over and I know African governments are legislating for the use of OSS where it provides a practical and sustainable alternative to proprietary software.  Not only does using OSS provide opportunities to reduce foreign outflows of capital, but it increases openness, freedom and flexibility.  By this I mean that as a function of the open availability of the source code, solutions can be freely customised, extended or focused to the requirements of the government, state, corporate, small business, or even individual involved.

So, in summary, Africa needs the significant wealth of skilled resources in your IT-focused economy:

1. to provide sustainable solution and software development with a focus on local resource empowerment though skills development and skills transfer – you must create a win-win scenario;

2. to provide solutions which achieve a balance between functionality and maintainability – vendor-lockin through the tactics of fear, uncertainty and doubt – FUD – are a thing of the past.  Build a partnership with your African clients and deliver solutions which meet their needs and empower them to maintain those solutions themselves.

3. to provide specific niche technical skills which would otherwise only be available from the USA, Japan or European countries; and

4. to provide open source-based solutions where you are certain they can be provided and truly lower the total cost of ownership while getting the job done.  The opportunity save costs and improve openness which are presented by OSS can only be realised if the deployment is done in a manner which is sustainable.

In closing, I would like to say that this, my first visit to India, has been a truly wonderful experience.  In India I have found a people proud of their achievements and invigorated by the pace of progress, yet at the same time filled with humility and friendliness.  During this trip, I chose to stay with Indians in their homes here and in New Delhi over the past week and have been privileged to be a guest and recipient of the most generous hospitality I have ever experienced.  

A new Indian friend of mine recently said that Indians, and specifically, Bengali’s, will feed you until you are fed up.  Literally speaking, I cannot disagree – I have been significantly fed on this trip – but figuratively I must disagree – I am most certainly not fed up; my eyes are opened and my spirit soaring.

India, thank you for your spirit.  Thank you for hospitality.  India is great.  I will be back.