Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitise and archive books and other cultural works and make them freely available on the internet.

It was started in 1971 by Michael Hart, a student at the University of Illinois.

The university had a Xerox Sigma 5 mainframe computer in their Materials Research Lab. By befriending the operators, Hart was given an account with a virtually unlimited amount of computer time; Hey! It was there and they didn’t really have a whole lot they could do with it. Everything was so new!

Michael Hart & Sigma computer

Now, what would the average 24yr-old male do with this novel ‘thing’ called “access to a computer”? We know what most of us would do NOW: Search for titty pictures.


But there was no internet then, no World Wide Web. This would only come later, starting with something like this:

1973: Global networking becomes a reality as the University College of London and the Royal Radar Establishment of Norway connect to the American ‘ARPANET’. The term ‘internet’ is born.

1974: The first Internet Service Provider is born with the introduction of a commercial version of ARPANET, known as Telenet.

What Michael Hart did was amazing: He decided to just ‘make things available’ to anyone who could access them. As he added free content, his idea grew to wanting to encourage the creation and distribution of ‘ebooks’ – as many as possible in as many formats as possible for the entire world to read in as many languages as possible. The aim became ‘to break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy’. His initial goal was to make the 10,000 most-consulted books available to the public at little or no charge, and to do so by the end of the 20th century.

He named the project after Johannes Gutenberg, the fifteenth century German printer who propelled the movable type printing press revolution which made knowledge more widely available. There are now over 56 000 books available free on

see wikipedia Project Gutenberg


Incredibly, the Sigma 5 base memory was just 64K Bytes. Maximum memory was limited by the length of the instruction address field of 17 bits, or 512K Bytes.

Freedom Day

April 27 1994 was the first post-apartheid election where all South Africans were free to vote.

** pic voting **

Freedom Day.

“Wherever South Africans are across the globe, our hearts beat as one, as we renew our common loyalty to our country and our commitment to its future.”

  • Nelson Mandela


Hluhluwe again

I know it may seem boring and Tom definitely voices that opinion strongly but we went to Hluhluwe again – and he came along, a rare event nowadays. What swung him was the restaurant food. We debated as a family and decided to stay in the cheaper rondawels, but to eat at the buffet. Tom also slept in both mornings as we went on our 6am game drives, so all-in-all he quite enjoyed the chilled vibe and the grub.

Leaving home was interesting. We left at 5am.

Hluhluwe Apr2018 (1)

. . and then again at 8am with a changed tyre. It’s a tedious story.

Saw the usual stuff plus these:

Hluhluwe Apr2018-001.jpg

As I spotted the first one crossing the road I thought Bibron’s Blind Snake! Not for any good reason, but it was the first thing that came to mind. I’ve always wanted to see a Blind Snake. Then I thought beaked snake, snouted snake, some underground snake! What were they? I’ve asked Nick Evans, maybe he’ll enlighten me. Length: About from my wrist to my elbow. Say 300-350mm.

Big creatures we saw elephant, buffalo, five white rhino, one croc, one lion, and kept looking for more as the kids were keen. Suited me, as there are always birds to see.

We also saw about eight slender mongoose, one little band of banded mongoose, two leguaans (water monitor lizards), a number of mice at the sides of the road (after grass seed?), samango and vervet monkeys, red duiker, bushbuck, nyala, impala, kudu, zebra, including one that had lots of brown who would have been wanted by the Quagga Project.

Hluhluwe Apr2018

Hluhluwe Apr2018-002

My best bird sighting was a falcon skimming low in front of us heading towards a line of trees along a stream, then shooting up and over some bushes to ambush a dove. It pursued it helter-skelter but then another falcon seemed to interfere and the dove managed to get away. Just then Jess piped up: “Gee! You certainly get excited about birds!” I hadn’t realised I’d been shouting. Hmph! I said, that was better than any attempted lion kill!

Those Special Years

Even if we live to be a hundred, the first twenty five years are the longest half of our lives. They appear so while they are passing; they seem to have been so as we look back on them; and they take up more room in our memories than all the years that succeed them.

  • paraphrased from a quote by Robert Southey, English Romantic Poet


With music like this, no wonder ‘our’ best years were so memorable:

So basically it seems we have ten years of knowing nothing, then fifteen magic years of knowing everything, doing everything and having the most fun and then about fifty years of think WTF happened!? – and some regretting we didn’t get up to even more stuff in the magic fifteen.

Aitch Art Connoisseur – Again

I wrote about Aitch’s eye for and taste in art here when she spotted a Willie Bester in Cape Town in 1993 and bought it over my “are you sure?” ignorance.

Around about the same time we met Ingrid Weiersbye on Barry & Lyn Porter’s game farm at Hella Hella and Aitch loved her work and quietly bought two of her paintings, later presenting them to me for my birthday. Ingrid is married to Barry’s brother, ecologist with KZN Wildlife, Roger Porter.

Well, sure as anything, Ingrid just got more and more famous and I’m sure whatever Aitch paid, the paintings are worth way more now. This one is on offer for over R20 000:


And I think ours are better!

Ingrid Weisersbye (2)
Old ‘Natal Robin’ – Ingrid Weiersbye
Ingrid Weisersbye (3)
African Wood Owl – Ingrid Weiersbye


More about Ingrid Weiersbye:

Born in England, raised in Zimbabwe, Weiersbye has held eight solo exhibitions. Beside these she has printed five limited edition print releases, has participated in numerous art and environmental projects and her work has been published in several books. She has been well supported by corporate and private collectors, particularly in the UK, Germany and South Africa.

• She has exhibited work for seven consecutive years at the Society of Wildlife Artists’ annual exhibition in London.
• She has exhibited at the British Birdwatching Show for three years at which she won the ‘best stand’ award in 1995 in the art category for her bird paintings.
• She was invited by the Tron and Swann Gallery in London to participate in several major art exhibition from 1992 to 1996 including ‘Parrots of the World’, ‘Wildfowl and Waterfowl’ as well as the British Game Fair.

Additionally she exhibits on most major South African wildlife exhibitions of international wildlife art held regularly at the Everard Reade Gallery in Johannesburg.


Robert’s 7th edition. Handbook of Birds of Southern Africa.  Published 2005…main contributing artist

Roberts 7

Roberts Bird Guide – Kruger National Park. Published 2006…main contributing artist

Roberts Bird Field-guide. Published  2007

Roberts Geographic Variation of Southern African Birds   published 2012…co-author and sole illustrator

Roberts Variation Weiersbye

Birds of Botswana Field-guide, Published Princeton University Press, 2016…co-author and sole illustrator

Birds Botswana Pete Hancock Ingrid Weiersbye

Roberts Comprehensive Field-guide to Southern African Birds. Published 2016…co-author and main illustrator

Roberts 7 Ingrid Weiersbye

Mkhuze with the Excells

Long-time friends of Trish’s from Cape Town days, Val & Pete Excell came out from the UK to visit in 2009. Trish was finished her chemo and was ‘in remission’. She had been with Val when their little Claire – now about 30 – was born. Val had bought two new Nikon P90 cameras, one for her and one for Trish, so they were excited about the four million pictures they were about to take.

We stayed in a beautiful bush camp – Nhlonhlela has solitude and its own cook and guide – sheer luxury! Patrick the Shembe was great and taught us plenty about his ‘home patch’. He showed us a green, a bronze and a black dung beetle and two yellow and black beetles, and taught us how to tickle a scorpion.

Patrick the Shembe teaches

Mkhuze with the Excells 2009

One night in main camp (disorganised KZN Wildlife!), then three in bush camp

The kids were in a lovely pre-teen space and just reveled in the experience.

Mkhuze with the Excells 2009-007

Twelve year-old Jess: Help me Dad, I can do this with you; Eight year-old Tom: LEAVE the wheel Dad, I can do it on my own.

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Lots of slow walking in the lush green countryside.

MkhuzeExcells2009 Val Pete_2


When we had to drink  for medicinal purposes, the kids manned the kombi-pub, pouring the champagne and opening the beers and savannahs.


My boy went fishin’ in the harbour with his mate. Buying bait I realised I’d left my wallet at home, but Kevin at Tackle Centre in Old Fort Road said “Pay Me Later” and saved the day.

Tom & Ryan Fishing.jpg

That was Sunday 1st April and I paid him by EFT on Wednesday.

They caught one mullet – “one kilo Dad” (I’d say half) – and a few tiny glassies.