Next: Science is now so complex that we can no longer ask What? We can now only wonder Why?

This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back in the

Message just come thru from Kasaba mechanic. I had almost forgotten that in 2 alpha I was headin' back to Durbs, committed to home by New Year. Daxi is ready to go! (Are you Ready? No...Naidu).
So 2 alpha will take the next flight out from Wilson and head back to the Bay asap!
What a wonderful respite I have had in Nairobi in the past few weeks. Managed to get a few mini-adventures under the belt, not least of which was a long imagined stroll along the crest of the Ngong Hills. From the beginning of the walk taken from the south end near the Leaky homestead one looks down on a sunbaked lake linked by a single dirt track to the main road south. Seeing this from the height of the Ngongs put another idea in my head. Get hold of a float plane and 'do' the lakes of Kenya. I will email the idea to alpha 5.

Flight log 091113(10h30Z/13h30local)
Dash 8 flying out at 14h30 to Arusha. That's it! Can get some nice aerials of Kili if the cloud is off.

Flight log 091112 12h30Z/15h30L

It's always about Kili. The first time was like seeing a dream. It was Kathmandu and Marrakesh all rolled into one. Flying high is like time travelling - you can glimpse a place that you can never go to. But Kili..that's real, I can, if I want to, climb to the top and stand there on the heights and be the lord of the Universe.

One day the pilot circled low and tight so we could see down the caldera.
I remember mostly the shock I felt at how little white there is on the top these days. Whether it's global warming or lack of moisture does not seem as relevant as the sadness I felt at the certain disappearance of this vast incongruity so near to the equator. When the first explorers reported seeing snow in the tropics they were labelled as liars. Now the evidence is leaving us.
After the Anglo-Boer war had ground to a sickening halt, my late grandfather and cousin headed up this way for an adventurous 2 years. They lived and worked on an Apple farm owned by my Grandfather's cousins, a fmaily by name Pohl, and of German extract. Sympathies for the Boer cause had been high from the German empire under Kaiser Wilhelm during the 3 year war and here in Tanganyika the lads found many friends and many adventures. Oupa told us many a time of how they had trekked with 2 Askaris (guards) to climb Kilimanjaro. His cousin warned him about the spiders and advised him to stay armed. True enough they were visited by an arachnid or 2 the size of a large rat and rapidly dispelled of them with their revolvers. At night they would sleep up a tree with a roaring fire beneath for the lion and leapards.
This was all my old history in Arusha. Now it was a rambling and chaotic African metropolis that still had the feel of a one horse town.
The next flight out is only tomorrow. I have some time to explore so I acquired a bicycle and headed out of town with my camera.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One shot only!

There's this airstrip angled at a crazy 12 degrees. One side is a 2000ft canyon and the other a solid wall of rock. To land there you fly up a perilous gorge at exactly 9500ft AGL and then when a hug chunk of the cliff face appears on your right to have been carved out, you hit a right and line up with the top of the cliff.

If you are a mamba pilot you'll maintain a steady 9400ft and 95kts as you crest the cliff edge and then dropping gently down to 9200, you hit the deck and hurl your props into full reverse thrust and stop just short of the end of the runway. That's if you are a mamba pilot.

Yeti Air wasn't so mamba a year or two ago and hit the security fence on finals. 17 tourists perished.
Welcome to the Hillary-Tensing airfield in Lukla, Nepal.

If you survive the arrival, you can then head up the Khumbu Gorge on a leisurely stroll up to the Everest Basecamp....but that's another story.

Tonight at 17h00 Zulu time, we fly in 2 Twin Otters to Lukla. May the crazy gods be with us!
Meantime...check these movies out!

Flight Log RTW091111

Vic and I left Lambidada (VNLD) at 7h00 local time heading for Lukla (VNLK). Vic experienced some problems pre-takeoff, so I circled for some 20 minutes before we finally got airborn. Overall our coms and systems are working well. The extensive time spent on getting up to speed with the multiple parallel systems we need to operate in the virtual space has paid off as we are now able to rapidly troubleshoot any problems as they arise.

I prepped Vic with the correct approach and landing procedures for Lukla and he did a textbook landing, hitting the deck on the threshold and coming to a stop before the runway end.
Very impressive and shows that he has years of experience of real world aviation to draw on.

After some yak tea we found a gap in the rapid turnaround of Twotters (De Havilland Twin Otters) and headed back off down the valley to the closest field to Lambidada, really just to see some other part of the area. I found it hiding in the lee of a hill and making the drop in approach quite technical. Vic ended up landing back in Lambidada, lost but not abandoned!.

Few some hours it seems, we battled with sporadic technical and coms problems till I finally joined Vic back at Lambidada ad we decided to call it a day after one more half hour flight.
I thought it would be a great idea to head south, leave the great mountains behind and see the fotthills of the Himalayas which kind of melt into northern India.
The xxxx airforce base is exactly 30minutes by Pilatus form Lambidada and we headed off in great spirits. So great were my spirits that I clipped my left wheel on the ridge on take-off. An almighty thud alerted me to the mishap, but the PC12 just kept climbing so I figured all was well.
From the handling once I was up to speed I realized that I had damaged the left UC which now was unretracted, along with the nose wheel. I planned for a cautious and slow landing at xxxAB and good thing too, as the affected wheels just collapsed on landing leaving me with a well dug in nose and blocking the right side of the runway. Vic, needless to say made another textbook landing and slowly taxied past my nose down wreck waving like he was bloody Douglas Bader!
There and then we agreed to continue this journey of aviation delight and head on around the world, hopefully soon finding ourselves in controlled airspace to test our flying and coms mettle.

It's your carb, Uncle!

Hector Carbuncle could be the ugliest man on the planet. But, he's a friend of mine, an old friend and probably irreplaceable. Without him in my life I would be half a person, unable to look at myself in the mirror and say, 'Gosh you're a gorgeous creature!'

Hector is his real name, Carbuncle, thank heavens, not. The latter sort of grew onto him as an epithet to his continual and haughty opinions on everything from global politics to motorcycle maintenance. I can't recall the exact moment that set it it off, but there is always an echo of it when I struggle to kickstart my now, aging Chinese motorbike. He's there over my shoulder saying in his irritatingly self-righteous manner, "It's the carb, uncle, the carb!"

Stripping and cleaning a motorcyle carburettor is a good afternoon's work. You have to half strip the bike to get at it then make sure that all the teeny wheeny springs and jets don't sproing away forever.
Then there's the actual setting of the float valve and this requires some delicacy and a search for my feeler gauge set. So I put it off till tomorrow and tomorrow never comes. Everytime I try to kick life into my Jialing, there's Hector, haranguing me.

In addition to being a pain in the ass, Hector is also acutely unreliable. If his name hadn't been Carbuncle it certainly would have been Herpes. He keeps popping up at the most inopportune times and has to be treated with the utmost respect, especially in public. I always intend to keep him in check at such times, but mostly don't manage, regretting my lack of self control later.

I should have stopped the friendship years ago. What can a man like him have to offer? If he was a competent mechanic or perhaps a bit better at networking computers..maybe he would be worth tagging along.

But there is simply nothing there. He doesn't even drive, coming to think of it. In the last few years he has always arrived and left on foot, once or twice on a bicycle. Always rushing off on some adventure or other, as if ugly people have the right to fun.

I do get a tad jealous when I imagine him out there, alone, taking on a swollen river in a bright yellow canoe. Or simply getting on his pedal bike and heading off into the night. Once, after a bit of an absence, he casually mentioned having attended the Argus Cycle Race in Cape Town. "Ah! So that's why I haven't seen you....How did you do?"
"I didn't race. I watched from a deckchair in Simonstown."
" what else did you do in the weeks you've been gone?"
"Well, most the time was spent getting down there. I rode my bicycle . Took me a few weeks."

The sod! That's what he does. Takes my dreams, and does them. Tells nobody and then let's it slip much later.
I suppose that's why I can't get rid of him. He's a part of me. Makes me feel guilty about who I am. Tells me in no uncertain terms that while I am feeling good about looking good he's doin' what I should be doin' to really feel good.

So, H. Carbuncle has made it to my blog pages. Probably because he has turned up in my life again, ranting at me in his own endearing way. "You stupid son-of-a-bitch! You are just so flipping arrogant! If I count the number of times you tell me that you are off on such and such an adventure and then it never happens....well, put this in your hat. My entire life is a non-stop exciting adventure and I quite frankly don't know why I waste my time even talking to you.

A thought flashed through my mind, "Because, you idiot, I am the only person who gives you and your ridiculous lifestyle any attention. Nobody else even notices. I am at least JEALOUS!" I pause and the words form on my lips, "You just let me know what little adventure you are planning and I will join you.....WATCH THIS SPACE EXE!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sex, Excrement and Beautiful Women


Local Klu Klux Klan threatens to sue the author of this blog for libel! Watch this space for the full story...all the gory details!

Having been thrown off the KKK mailing list I now am able to spend more time with the beautiful people on Heeealth all about it!

Previously I mentioned a subscription I took out purely by chance. Every day I receive an update from Health Kicker. I have hundreds of them sprinkled all over my unopened inbox. My bi-weekly email purge usually happens over a plate of oats (see blog on this) and a mug of unsweetened tea. The conscious reduction in sugar somes from a nagging thought in my head that maybe my diet is a little skewed towards the easy stuff, the tasty stuff, the BAD stuff, the refined carbos!
So, it was with some interest that I scanned the first of the Healthkicker updates about to be tossed into eternity.

Leader Article: 'What is Normal Eating?'

Having spent some time getting to understand how the human body metabolizes the food we eat and separating myths from half truths I filled up my tea mug and settled down for an interesting read. Now, remember that most my fellow subscriptants on this site are sub 30ish and non Bridge and Tunnel folk from Manhatten. This alone gives a slant on what is said. As I read the comments I have a picture in my head of the author and sometimes it makes for real good television.
This is how it works......
The originator of Health Kicker wakes up in the morning after a night of perfect sex and strawberries with a perfect stranger who is perfectly gone by breakfast and then she has a perfectly indulgent cold shower in a translucent rooftop shower cubicle overlooking the Hudson River.
Over brekkies she scours her fave lifestyle sites for anything health trend related and by the time her croussante is barely cripple she has the first hook for her own blog.
In her own very zippy and accessible style she shares her daily collection of tales with her salivating awaiting following by adding the words, 'Well, what do you think?'

We all think something and we all like the idea of our comments and name being read by sub 30 somethings in New York, so we add our bit and feel great.
What a recipe for a successful blog! Do the math and work out how many girl hours you command with a daily site like this and you understand, once again, the power of the internet to carve a singularly successful yet virtual cash kitten.

So, the original article by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. which appeared in was reprinted by twikletoes who runs health kicker and got the attention of a whole lot of health kicker psychophants like me who, instead of getting on with the day, decided to add it in turn to their own blogs.......

But what really interests me is the personae and their comments.

Meet HisKeiki, sub30s Hawaaian lass whose homepage is preempted with a 10ft wide banner headline proclaiming: 'I want to be the one you want && Love. I'm lost without you."
She writes: 'i've never thought about eatin "normal", lol. I eat what I want when I want, but I do try to incorporate healthy things and always drink enough water.'

If you look at her svelte 20 something body you can understand how there in Alabama or wherever she lives there really is no need to think about what you eat.

Close on her heels we meet Orlando!
Orlando's profile pic is a BIG Close Up of a human eye. This is a real live manhattanner who strangely only seems to have confidence in the physical appearance of his right eyeball and then prevents anyone but for his close and chosen ones, eyeballing his website by hiding it behind elaborate passwords.

Despite this reclusive and depressive existance his comment on normal eating shows that he really does have something useful to contribute.

My confused question is simply this: "In a subworld populated by beautiful young women what is Orlando looking for? Is he hoping to meet someone? Is this a desparate cry for help from the oppression of the megacity? God only knows.

I am reminded once again of my good and old friend, Hector Carbuncle, whose sole comment on eating the last time I saw him was, "Well of course you agree that the Atkins Diet doesn't work!"
Thankfully I don't hear from him too much since he got involved with the local chapter of the KKK, fondly hiding under the pseudonym of ZEN and The Art of not so subtle racism. It appears from my thinning inbox that I have been banned from Hector's mailing list, thereby liberating 3 hours a day from answering his one line insanities. The challenge now is to rid myself of the health kickers. That, I am afraid will be more difficult. They are, after all, a lot more sexy that Hector and the KKK.

The problem, of course, is that very sexiness and the desparate need that we all seem to have to be desired and looked at by the attractive sex. Meet 'Secret Diary', who clearly has no need of any personal physical appearance crisis but apparently is consumed by it.

SD is my personal favourite. In fact I feel I know her deeply and intimately, such is the need for people to share their innermost secrets of the Internet. Maybe this is the REAL BEST DIET! Share your weightloss program with the entire world and the effect should be Weight Watchers exponential!

There is of course a sadness to all this and the awareness of how privileged we are to be living in Africa, where real issues are there to be dealt with. When there is no food to had and ultra thin bodies are related to dreadful pandemics, there is no more room for the indulgent cries of fattened first worlders.

Somewhere here there is a lesson to be learnt...or maybe just a universal truth about us humans. What do you think? Comment!


Wisdom from the kitchen:
Gran - I read somewhere that in Nairobi the women don't work.
Me: Yes, they do.
Gran: Not in the house, I mean. Who does your ironing?
Me: A man....yes, when it comes to house help (or as they still say in boys) it is mostly men. The question is what are the women doing?
Gran: It comes from long time ago when the men went hunting and the women looked after the children. They worked out the other day, there was an article in the paper, we have so many million or billion blacks in the country and the average zulu produces so many children. In 10 years how many zulus are there going to be? They said that they must learn to use the land they have been given. So many farms have been given to them and they are all lying fallow. They have just put lots of donkeys and cattle on them them. Here and there some of the women have started growing cabbages but they do not plant for the market. they are not a vegetable eating nation. They eat cabbages, madumbis (wild potatos) and African potatoes. They don't plant peanuts and wheat. One old farmer stayed behind and showed them but it didn't help. Some of the Africans sublet those farms to white farmers who then farm for them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Blithering Idiots! Flying Fandangos!

Let it be known to all aviators and flying men alike, that on this 4th day of the month of November in the year 2009, Victor Hugo and Andre Smith did join the ranks of a select group of airmen by overflying the highest point on Planet Earth, Mount Everest.
What makes this achievement even more commendable is that Aviator Hugo completed his first flight training session in the legendary Pilatus PC12 while taxiing for takeoff at Tribhuvan Airport, Kathmandu, before departing for Everest.
If this is not a heroic achievement, then what is?

Well, if that weren't enough, his trial by fire came at the holding position on runway 2, VNKT (Kathmandu) where he literally drove up the rear of the leading Pilatus, who then spent the next hour patching the damage and trying to reconnect to the IVAO network.
Meantime, another global aviation madman who just so happened to be passing overhead at 33000ft on a "Wonders of The World Tour', saw Vic's ZA call sign and swooped down for a quick cuppa tea and a chat. Clearly he was missing home! Kathmandu is after all quite a distance from suburban Pretoria and with the Currie Cup now well and over, Malcolm X clearly had nothing else to do but sit glued to his flickering PC screen and fly around the world....on autopilot.

By this time Smith was up and running again with a superglued bum and, being of a heroic disposition, bent time to set their departure for just before daybreak....

Sunrise over the Himalayas is a sight to behold and if it wasn't for Hugo's continual and nervous chatter over the coms, Smith may well have taken some better photos. But, a promise is a promise and he had to ensure that Hugo was well clear of the trees that had previously interrupted their training flights.

By this time the world seemed to have woken up to their endeavour and there were no less than 4 other planes buzzing behind us. Victor was so excited now that I feared he would lose control in his exthusiasm to make new, foreign friends. But, such is the nature of this ethereal world: we pass by each other like ships in the night, seldom much more than a blip on the TCAS.

By the time we reached Choma Lungma (The Mother Goddess of the World using the 1960s colonial spelling), the mountain morning was in full swing and with great veracity Hugo identified the mountain, 'by its characteristic shaped spike'. Smith quetly confirmed the identification by looking for the highest piece of rock.

In a rare interview with Smith we can share in the actual moment of flying into aviation history:

"All in all we probably spent a tad more time circling the summit than the 15 minutes that Hillary and Tensing spent on that auspicious May day of 1953.

We did a few left banks mostly because Victor has a good view out his left window and then in crystal clear weather, headed off over the Khumba iceflow down the Khumbu valley that is so well trodden by decades of Everest worshippers and these days.....adventure tourists.

A curious silence accompanies a plane descending fast from 29000 ft down into the coolth of a rift in the earth. The Khumbu Valley leads down to one of the most challenging landing scenarios for any pilot...Lukla Airstrip.

Lukla was the inspiration of SIr Edmund Hillary as a way of facilitating local development and better access for future expeditions to Everest. If you can survive the landing, then get past the dreaded Nepalese nipper-squitters and finally trudge up the Khumbu valley to Base Camp, you are regarded as being at least mentally prepared for ...... climbing Everest? No, for the first view of the great lady, for it is that which will change your life forever.

We, kind of cheated, to tell the truth, as, in the pressurized comfort of the rather spiffing Pilatus, one experiences nothing of the real challenges of the mountain. The mind devastating lack of oxygen, the 100mph winds that pluck you off treacherous precipices and the knowledge that before she was conquered, Everest had killed 14 climbers, was blissfully far from our splendid sense of achievement.

One such person who crossed this barrier was 37 year old Maurice Wilson, who decided that the best way to scale Everest was to crash land his plane onto the mountain near the peak and then, after a short trot to the top, to climb down.

Clearly the 1930s British Aviation Authorities knew more about altitude acclimatization than Maurice did and prompty impounded his aircraft.
However, in true bush pilot style, he found another way and......well....the rest is history....or should I say mystery!

This remarkable chap is, I now see, the purpose of our flight to Everest. WIthout having imagined and set out on this expedition of our own, my mind would never have turned to the history of Everest Aviators and in turn I would never have 'discovered' Maurice. In return for this, this madcap, larger than life adventurer, gives us a message from his chilly grave on the mountain....just go fo it! The worst that can happen is that you die and that is going to happen anyway....rather doing something BIG and EXCITING than eating a cheese burger in front of the TV.
Maurice simply ignored the authorities, painted 'Ever Wrest' on the side of his second hand Gypsy Moth biplane and flew out of England for India. He knew nothing about mountaineering and even less about flying but, against all odds managed to fly all the way unaided. When he got to the middle East he was banned from any of the refuelling stops enroute, so he simply packed a couple of spare jerry cans in his front seat and flew all the way to India with zero spare miles. In fact, the story goes that he actually glided in when he got there!

Banned from Everest, he headed off up to the mountain, disguised as a buddhist monk and making friends wherever he stopped. He had no mountain gear and no experience of ice or snow climbing but a huge confidence in his ability to overcome.

After several attempts on climbing, he finally headed off on the 31st May 1934 into his personal oblivion, writing in his diary: 'Off again. Gorgeous day!'

His body was found a year later at 22700ft lying next to his ripped up tent, just below the North Col of Everest.

Wilson had said that he was inspired by the 1924 British expedition and the then upcoming Houston Flight over Everest. This remarkable effort is well documented no least in the annals of advertizing. For some time after this heroic flight in open biplanes, any aircraft advert worth its salt referred to the Houston flight.

Flying higher than any before. a British aviator, Lord Clydesdale, as he was known, was chief pilot on this first flight over Mount Everest in 1933. His official title was Air Commodore Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 14th Duke of Hamilton and 11th Duke of Brandon, KT, GCVO, AFC, PC, DL, FRCSE, FRGS, (3 February 1903 – 30 March 1973). The other chap was Flight Lieutenant D.F McIintyre.
The extremity endured by the crews of these aeroplanes was instrumental to the introduction of pressurised cabins in modern aircraft, it also was the first detailed and scientific survey of the Himalaya region, and resulted in the birth of Scottish Aviation Ltd (now part of BAE Systems).

In recognition of his role in the expedition, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross in 1935. As a pioneering early aviator he was regarded in much the same heroic way as the astronauts a generation later.

So, little did we know, as we fired up our laptops and skype driven coms, that we were about to share in the experience of some of the most eccentric, amazing, crazy adventurers of all time!

Heading down past Lukla we finally located and found another impossible airstrip, Lambidada, in the foothills of the Himalayas. I got down after an initial aborted attempt which saw me soar over the edge of a 2000ft cliff after coming in too fast.

Victor, guided by my near miss, did a near perfect touchdown. After the manditory photoshoot, we both limped off to bed in our tattered mountain tents....whoops!...where exactly are we?!!?

Finally we would like to thank our sponsors, the wonderful group of dedicated pilots and Virtual engineers who make up Hugo Aviation, here seen posing with Chief Construction Engineer, Petrus' extended family outside Victor's new cardboard and string Flight Simulator enclosure. Believe have no idea how true this one is!

And to the dedicated PIC programmers and neuro-psychologists at Smith's NeuroNav Systems, a BIG THANKS for getting us there.....and back in 2 pieces!

May 31st 2001. Smith, frustrated at having to continually ask directions of strangers, conceives of the idea of starting a virtual navigation business!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Weight of the Con

It's highway robbery! And it's in your local shopping mall.
I was shocked yesterday to see a blatant con being played out at Musgrave Centre. In the foyer there is a space reserved for beauty pagents, perfume promotions and toyland demos. But now a large sign caught my eye. "Free Health Check" and another proclaiming "Lose weight in 12 weeks!".
I love these health checks. They are designed to persuade people to join some gym or other and I always do them. They can never find anything wrong with me, but always manage to still end with the line stating that I will clearly benefit from their gym contract. When I say that pedestrians don't need gyms and that I use a bicycle for transport or that I do yoga the stock answer is often quite extraordinary. It ranges from gyms being crime free to obscure muscles that I don't use.
But today's free offer wasn't about a gym. In fact these guys have no facilities at all, only a scale.
Their free health check involved telling you something you already know. That you are overweight. Then, for only R350 they offer to weigh you every week for 12 weeks and at the end of that time the person who lost the most weight gets a cash prize. If you gain weight you pay them a R15 fine!
WOW!! The people were lining up. Mothers bringing their children, wives pushing their husbands to the counter, all the while the slimy man behind the desk was dispensing meaningless platitudes about how well it all worked. He even had a live version of the before and after poster. A confused and non-speaking young man who matched the 'after' poster guy was hanging around as eveidence. And guess what? Even better...if you are not already on a programme 'we' can advise you and recommend some diet products. Guess whose products they are?
I am continually amazed at the mass ignorance of people. So much is written about the dangers and uselessness of rapid weight loss and yet they are prepared to give their cash to an arbitrary stranger selling nothing but the dream of being thin. There was no mention of any expertise on their staff. They proferred dietry advice, "Avoid too much meat and eat vegetables." was the best he could come up with, completely ignoring the multifaceted and complex nature of metabolic variations in people.
I considered for a moment giving R350 to this jerk and then just not eating for 12 weeks. That would lose a shit load of weight, but considering how thin I already am, I realized that all it would take is for a fatty to figure out the same ploy and I will have a miserable and dangerous 12 weeks for nothing!
Should I go back and challenge them? Should I embarrass them in front of their doting masses? Should I object to the Centre? Or should I just leave these ignorant philistines to happily throw away their health and wealth on the pitifulness of free enterprize and the human condition.....


In the old radio days when 'Life with Dexter' and 'The Goon Show' competed to see which one could distract me more from my Anchovie toast, there was a game show called 'Money Or The Box!"
Well, it is still alive and well in Gran's kitchen.
Having decided though rigorous and double blind studies that the only thing that guarantees regular and soft bowel happiness is daily cooked oats, I am engaged in a repeated morning conversation with Granny.
Gran: "If you want porridge, half fill the small pot with water and put the stove onto 6, then take the Jungle Oats out the cupboard and add it to the pot as soon as it is boiling."
Me: "There is still some Bokomo Quick Oats. Shall we use that rather?"
Gran: "No, it is not as good. They use the dregs of the oats. Just look at it and you can see it is all small pieces"
Well, this morning I looked at it. Then I made several little piles of oats and presented it to Granny to confirm her statement. Not too surprizingly she came up with a sure fire decision as to which was the better oats...and she was totally wrong. I must admit, I put the cheaper oats into a more classy saucer.
"There you are," I said, "You can't tell the difference! And what's more, the instructions on the quick oats say to cook for 4 minutes and the Jungle Oats says 2 minutes!?"
Gran looked at me like I was mad and replied: "It's not the oats, it's the box! Can't you see that it is easier to use a box than a packet!"
Me: "But then why don't you just pour cheaper oats into a nice glass bottle?"
Gran: "What! That means I have to get another container."
Me: "So, it's actually not the oats, it's the packaging you like."
Gran: "Yes, I like the green box".

(copious laughter in background from advertizing executives)

Mumbo Jumbo Homeo Kapomo

Now here's a story.

A blog or 2 ago I wandered around the idea of what it means to be a healer. I considered, purely on statistical bases, the chance of Joe Average being 'cured' of hiser malady by visiting hiser friendly local homeopath.
I recall talking abut the 1 in 3 rule that applies to medical treatments. 1/3 of ailments are psychosomatic and hence can be treated with anything from mumbo-jumbo to placebos. 1/3 will simple disappear if left alone, so can be ostensibly treated with anything from mumbo jumbo to placebos. The remaining 1/3 requires a proper medico-scientific intervention to be addressed. It is in the last third where the life and death dramas of modern western medical science play out there greatest successes and failures. It is arguably in the other 2/3 where our western doctors have lost the plot. In the rush to provide health care to the rich and health care to the masses we make the mistakes of either too little attention and time on each patient or too much money made from a single encounter.
I tried to make an appointment with a 'good' cardiologist for my 88 year old mum today. The first half hour slot I could get is on the 22nd Dec 2009. That is 6 weeks time. Between now and then every hour of every working day there is taken by someone in dire need of expertise in respect of their ticker. Quite a thought...makes me put on my running shoes earlier than normal today. (That is the next blog!)
Back to the alternatives....I needed to drop off a parcel with an old acquaintance this morning, a gentle Peace activist who now works as a healer, dispensing happiness and useless pills. Well, the pills may be strictly speaking useless but clearly something is bringing the customers back and back again.
One of the key things about homeopathy is that back story. On your first appointment you have a minimum of 1 and a half hours during which the practitioner takes copious notes from an in depth conversation about who you are, where you are from and what makes you who you are. As apposed to the normal western medical experience, each patient is seen as a total individual and is treated as such. This extends to the actual remedies being different for different people for similar ailments.
So, by applying the 1 third rule, it is easy to see how homeopaths and other traditional healers can get it right most 2/3s of the time. That, in any book is a good cure rate.
However, the danger is when the practitioner loses sight of this basic rule and develops a Christ-like healing complex and starts to imagine that sHe can cure all....or at least dispense in all cases. The best example of these are homeopathic vets who are extremely adept at healing pet owners.
Clever homeopaths cross refer with allopathic doctors. The best combine both in one practice.
Even better would be a solid allopathic doctor who did the same as the homeopaths but threw away the little potions and pills.
In many medical training institutes there are doctors and professors who understand this, and try to stress the need to treat patients in their context. This becomes increasingly difficult where healthcare is regarded as a human right and the vast rural realities are overburdened and under resourced.
The risk of being a stressed functionary or medical technician is one of actually having a lower cure rate than the traditional healers, because to get the same 2/3 success rate science needs to get their 1/3 right all the time....unless they can learn how to operate equally well in the first third....the human touch part.
Of course, pandemics like TB and HIV/AIds slew these success rates heavily and have effectively demonized the traditional healers, who now are way out of their depth when it comes to treating the underlying challenges of a immune compromised person.

My conversation with my homeopath friend went from conscription and anti-racism to the notions of healing in our society. The aha! moment which gives rise to this blog came when I said, pointing to the rows and rows of prepared pills in hand labelled bottles, "Well, I have strong personal doubts about the biochemical efficacy of those pills, but an increasing understanding of the role they play in allowing you to be a healer..."
He answered unhesitatingly, "Oh yes, you are quite right, I understand that very well, you are right."

Once again, by engaging and questioning I have moved from a place of strong rejection of a form of human behaviour to an embracing once again of it. And the best thing of all is that it is so suspension of disbelief needed, unless you are the patient.

Right now I am going to run down to the local book shop and buy the most scientific technical book I can find. My left brain needs stimulation.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jesus calls, Mahmoud calls, Thor and Wotan call!

Jesu Christu, in tuo spirito, may the thunder summon all brave men to take to the sea to rape and pillage in my name! May the infidels succumb and other flavoured delights! May Joseph Smith find more missing books in a Wisconsin trailer park...

Hurray! I have finally found a cause worthy of PRF (Personal Religious Fervour).

Watch...and be converted!