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, October 7, 2011

The Apple falls far from the Valley...

Thursday 6th October 2011 and thanks to Mikhail Peppas for the title...
An Icon has died. It is the end of an era that started on the
Californian West Coast and is now in your pocket and if not, either in
your dreams or somehow has a direct effect on your life. I am talking
about Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple inc. who died yesterday at
the age of 56. That I am also 56 makes it even more poignant, as we
find ourselves in a time when so sadly many of our peers are leaving
the planet.
As a reminder of our close yet distant journey together, I will be
showing the classic film, Pirates of Silicon Valley, at our home in
Nairobi this evening and hopefully on other occasions , shared with
friends. The movie is a docudrama looking at how the rivalry between
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates created the energy that spurned the personal
computer age.
One of my fondest memories that define who I am and what I love doing
most is from the day I first heard about the Apple computer. I was a
young electronics student at the then Natal Technikon in Durban, South
Africa and our electronics lecturer, one Mr Whittle, showed us the
circuit diagram of the new Apple computer he had just purchased at
Deon's in Johannesburg. I was rivetted and wanted immediately to try
and make one from the circuit. But the next day this idea was
supplanted when I heard, at Tech, that the son of a friend had an
Apple at home and I could go and try it out. My friend, Thomas
Potgieter and I ran all the way from town to Ridge Road, some 4kms
away, and when I arrived there my life changed forever. The first
software that we looked at was called FSIM. It was a very basic flight
simulator program with an aeroplane made of a simple cross that you
could control from the keyboard. I was blown away and knew that I HAD
to have one of these.
Some thirty years later and I am still empassioned by the technical
and creative magic of what the original FSIM software has become.
These days it provides a fully immersive real world experience of all
aspects of flight and is used in various forms in real world flight
training. It is so accurate and realistic that the FAA (US Aviation
authority) has certified X_Plane, a modern day derivative, as a valid
way to build up hours for real life pilots. But more so it has fuelled
in me a deep hunger to travel the world and see in real life some of
the marvellous places that I have visited in my virtual world of
aviation. It is this blurring between the real and the dreamlike
virtual that has, more than anything else, defined the new world of
social media and digital identities. The world at our fingers is now

I did get my own Apple 2 eventually, but it was the much cheaper
Taiwanese copy, the CV777. This was my first and nervous foray into
buying online (though it was ordered then by mail). It reliably served
me until it was integrated into the broader community in my great
robbery of 2007. I wonder if those skelms have any idea of the history
that lurks in those rows of silicon chips?

Even if you have never had an Apple, the mouse and graphic interface
you use on your PC is thanks to Steve Jobs.
It is said that you use a PC but have a relationship with your Apple.
For me, it is always a relationship with my computers, no matter what
they are. But this is entirely because I learnt to love these plastic
and silicon beasts through the Apple Story.
And it is that story that I will celebrate tonight as I raise a glass
of the finest to a true hero of our generation.
As they mention in the NYT obituary: While the revolutionaries were
rioting on the campuses of the West Coast in the 70s, two young
friends were busy changing the world in a garage, just down the road.

budgie 6th October 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Science for Survival

Monday, July 11, 2011

Here, there and everywhere

TIRED OF THE RISKS OF BEING A PEDESTRIAN IN KENYA.....Ida and I decided to find somewhere really dangerous to visit....Having rejected anywhere in South Africa as being just too fraught with crime and tinkering we went thru our collection of old 7 singles and VHS flicks & came across 'Midnight Express'.Made sometime in the 70s, this tale of a young American caught smuggling hishhash out of Turkey, scared the living daylights outa me and I not only immediately gave up coffee but decided to never ever visit Istanbul. However, some years later (actually last week), I read a review of the movie which made me reconsider taking up the old beans again.

To quote: In Mary Lee Settle's 1
991 book Turkish Reflections, she writes, "The Turks I saw in Lawrence of Arabia and Midnight Express were like cartoon caricatures, compared to the people I had known and lived among for three of the happiest years of my life."

Add to this the fact that my daughter, Sarah, had been not once but twice and returned only with tales of apple tea and sunsets, I decided to 'go and see for myself'.

So, we said a cheerful farewell to our pet giraffe and headed off to the place
where East meets West.

Part of the deal when headin' out to Attaturk country is the optional cultural immersion course provided by Emitrates Air.

We learnt 2 invaluable lessons:

(1) Islam and High Fashion can co-exist and

(2) Musgrave Centre in Durban is cheaper than the duty free section of Dubai International Airport.

Arriving at Attaturk International Airport I have an uncanny feeling that this is like home...with some crucial differences. Basically everything here is called after the Big Guy, Attaturk and it seems really justifiable as we discover later. The terminal, the customs, the friendly officials, functional and bright lights...all tell of a
functional society.

I am addicted to airports, besotted with aeroplanes and would be quite
happy to just stay there all week, but there is a strange calling deep inside
DO they drive on the left or the right? Can't say yet as all seems so fluid and
me that says, 'venture forth in the name of the African Explorers, venture forth into the land behind the veil.'
smooth, an antidote to the last few days of frustration at the chaos of
the Kenyan driver mindset. On a beezlebub scooter 2 chaps, one with helmet, the other, dark hair in the sun.
This is a sexy country full of sexy people, some behind the veil and others in gay abandon. Hippies, punks, burkas, apricot sellers, technofingers, waterpipers galore, tea drinkers, silver sellers, pedestrian cobbled lanes, pavement cafes, trams and prams. Seemingly no agro, crime is not a concept in this part of town, Taksim Square, where restaurants and sexy people radiate out into the East of Western Europe and the west of the East.

Sarah, my somewhat
traveled d
aughter still has some apple tea left in Cape Town. But clearly needs more.

' Ok sooooo! ISTANBUL!!!

Places you must try an
d go to.... :

The Blue Mosque of course
The Hagia Sophia
Topkapi Palace and the gardens surrounding it
Dolmace Palace
Buyuk Ada Island (beautiful little island in the Marmara sea, no cars only horse-drawn carriages and bicycles... and horses roaming free everywhere)
The underground wat
The Egyptian spice market
er chambers in Sultanahmet - its very close to the Hagia Sophia...
The Grand Bazaar, of course...

Take a ferry to the Asian side and just walk
around and explore, especially around where the train station is... just further on from there is also where you take the ferry to the island...

At the end of that long shopping street in Taksim that i was talking about, there are lots of very cool little shops and cafes and allyways.... just explore around there!

Go to the University grounds... they are close to the Grand Bazaar

Go and eat LAHMACUN - you will find
it almost everywhere!!!! Its
sooooo yummy :-) Also have lots of sutlac (rice pudding) and really good baklava... and drink lots of tea and apple tea... Ooooooh, im so jealous!!!!!! Please bring me back as much apple tea as possible :p

Have and amazing time, if i think of anything else, ill email you!!!!

Lots of love xxx

Okee, now I have a mission! Tomorrow I will take an arb direction and walk for an hour. Stop,

Take a 2 minute video clip of whatever it is I am looking at and then trot home. Maybe I will find

a cycle shop en route. Then the next day I can cycle for an hour!

Monday, March 14, 2011

"On a clear day you can see Mt kilimanjaro...and Mt. kenya."

Nani Croze stood and turned her sunblued focus from horizon to horizon. As if for the first time. We were 6 dogs, 2 tennis balls, several piccaninis and a golf ball on an evening walk.

Squinting at the one mountain we can see, Nani asks a small boy attached to a large Rotweiller what mountain that could be...."Longonot", he replies, confidently.

As if it were the only mountain, magnificent, melancholic. In Africa we can be everywhere and nowhere.
Unless you once had a farm. Then it's home.

Somewhere en route we divert to visit an exhibition of art, pinned up on bushes and the wire cages of 3 sweet-smelling camels.
The artist and camel herder turn out to be the same person, Hassan.
18 hours later we are still at Kitangela Glass. Take the first turn left after the Nairobi National Park and follow the signs.

Some folks get horribly lost and give up. Bad move. Even the right road is way out of synch with the average macadamized adventurer. It's times like this I am happy to be South African. The worse the road, the more my instincts tingle.
So stick in there and get there. Even if you are a travel weary Kalahari First Person who survives on the smell of a root and the thirst of the hunt, you cannot be prepared for what you will encounter in Nani's world.

The closest I have come to the feel of this unsolicited Eden was my first time in Piccadily Circus. 1977 and Londoners were looking decidedly different. Malcolm Maclaren had opened a shop called SEX in Kings Rd and a swathe of red was about to sweep the world.
That it had a short and sharp life as the pure knee jerk of a frustrated generation was inevitable, but for a brief time it gave colour and voice and a vivid alternativeness to a world tired of tired hippies and undisciplined children.
Punk never was a particularly great idea, hardly a movement of the people, but in Piccadilly Circus that 70s day I was forced to engage with a chaotic mix of pinstripe suits, art for revolution, colour for no reason, body piercing unimaginable and by simply standing in one spot, a world passing around me.

It is lunch time. Nani's husband , Erick, thought he would retire in London one day, but didn't. He doesn't quite know whether he is actually retired yet or not. "I am waiting for this lady..." he points warmly to Nani. I have only eyes for her strong working hands, an equally strong gold band on her right ring finger.
She is on the phone to a French woman who is lost, coming to buy a pig. It turns a pet.
In the small of my back a sharp pain tells me that Vultjie, a 31 year old Egyptian Vulture wants more custard.
A man in a harlequin boiler suit is reprimanding a Sikes monkey, a big bugger who, despite having had half our breakfast, is still waiting for his gap to grab our freshly baked bread.

OK, so take all the aggression, frustration, pinstripes, buses, taxis, grey skies, bobbies on the beat, safety pins away, replace Piccadilly Eros with a 25 metre rust and glass crocodile with a barbeque in its gaping mouth and that's where I am, facing due south.

That is if Heaven has directions or Eden a magnetic field, because it seems that Salvador Dali died and woke up here....sort of in my body.
Alice couldn't make it to tea but Dr Suess and Doolittle did. The horses smell of lanolin and the swimming pool of jasmine.

A pair of star-scrossed starlings bathed furiously in the shallows behind the dragon's tail this morning, unable to distinguish between me and the baboons who occasionally sit and on the swimming pool wall and watch Mzungus swimming.

This all works, I think, because no living creature here tells another to 'Get outa my country'. This is Eldorado, Naniland and like Piccadilly Circus, is a chaotic mix of a well kept secret garden and a shared public space.

Once upon a time, a dashing German named Ludwig, left his piece of Africa to his equally dashing cousin, Nani.

This was all she needed for her artist's heart to explode into abundance, a little like they say our universe did.

There have been, from time to time, other minor universes bursting into existence. the Owl House in South Africa, Barcelona, Macchu Picchu. But Naniland is the real thing.

You have a few options once you get here. Arrive, be blown away, see the glass blown, see the blown glass and buy a memory.
Or, book into one (it really does not matter which one as you will certainly return to try the rest) of the Suessy, dangly, mother Hubbard houses and work your way from the heart of this alternative universe back to a life that can simply never be quite the same again.

Oh yes, you will have to pay for the privilege, but that, like any real artist knows, is never the real deal. If the great creator within has half an eye open you will leave here with a deep desire to find your own creative way of paying back Nani, Erick, Mary, Savannah, Tolstoy, Vultjie, Monkey, Askari, Hassan, Kilo, etc etc etc etc for allowing you to feel that it's A OK to wear pink pyjamas to .... well....wherever.

p.s. Even if your religion forbids dogs you will find yourself totally comfortable with sharing the dinner table with other animals...and delightfully, Nani and Erick.

Before sunset worlds collide and once again upon a time, 8 varied sized homo sapiens shared a water hole on a cliff with 8 baboons.

Never have 2 South Africans, 1 Londoner and 6 yelping children got into the drink faster than after the arrival of 1 very commanding and distinctly aggressive Alpha Male.

That, of course was not Erick, who however did arrive a little later for his daily exercise. Or, as he said in a soft voice, "All I wanted was a swimming strip and this is what Nani gave me."

Nuff Sed!