There’s an instinct to point fingers; to find someone to blame for the information hellscape in which we now find ourselves. Every day one tech giant or another is forced to play defense, whether it’s Facebook being called out yet again for letting advertisers exclude audiences by race or Twitter bending to the whims of white nationalists who want to target reporters. Because we can’t quit the products, we become desperate for the companies to save us from ourselves. For more, read this article on WIRED.
When something “sounds right” to us we forward it – we promote Fake News. When something “sounds wrong” we ignore it. If it was true even though we didn’t like it, we promote Fake News. Unless we get into the habit of being careful and – at the least – waiting for more info, we’re part of the problem.
It usually takes only minutes to check. Until you have checked – whether that’s quick, or you can’t find it – WAIT. Don’t forward! Adding ‘Dunno if this true, but . . ‘ doesn’t help. Don’t Forward. Just as we are in lockdown and social distance, so we need to Break The Chain of information that we don’t know is true. Don’t Forward it. Let it die in your ‘inbox.’ Rather write your own post to trusted friends asking ‘Do you know anything (not just ‘heard of’) about the rumour about ‘X’?’
There are many ways to check: Wait to see if the story comes up on News 24 or Mail & Guardian or Eye Witness News. Or go to specialist fact-checking sites like these (remembering always that ALL humans have bias – no site magically gives THE ONLY CORRECT viewpoint – keep reading, keep checking):
snopes.com – ‘the definitive internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.’
Africa Check: Africa’s first independent fact-checking organisation with offices in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal and the UK checking claims made by public figures and the media in Africa.
Politifact Pulitzer Prize wining site run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times (Florida) newspaper. “PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by U.S elected officials and others who speak up in American politics…. The PolitiFact state sites are run by news organizations that have partnered with the Times.” Read about their principles under ‘About Us.’
FactCheck.org “FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania….a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for U.S voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.”
FlackCheck “Headquartered at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, FlackCheck.org is the political literacy companion site to the award-winning FactCheck.org. The site provides resources designed to help viewers recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads in particular.”
OpenSecrets.org “Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the Center for Responsive Politics is the nation’s premier research group tracking money in U.S politics and its effect on elections and public policy.”
Fact Check (Washington Post) “The purpose of this Web site, and an accompanying column in the Sunday print edition of The Washington Post, is to “truth squad” the statements of political figures regarding issues of great importance, be they national, international or local.”
Duke Reporters’ Lab: Fact Checking Includes a database of global fact-checking sites, which can be viewed as a map or as a list; also includes how they identify fact-checkers.
You can tan me hide when I’ve died, Clyde, and hang it up in the shed. ‘Cos I have developed a quite – not a very, but a quite – thick skin. I meet Bruce for a beer at The German Club, which has become a bit more like an Old Rhodesians Club. This is some years ago.
I think Bruce phoned ahead and asked to speak to the chairman. The man who’d answered said ‘Chairman? Ve’s all blutty Chairmans HERE!’ I think he did, but I’m not sure.
I’m with TomTom who sticks out a bit in this euro-centric, deathly pale, colonial atmosphere. There are some stares. Tom has a blue lollipop which he pops into my empty beer bottle and raises every now and then for a suck, which looks like a swig! Ah, well, we’re used to stares.
Hell, in the years since then its got way more challenging and my skin has thickened even more. I have an Epic Epidermis. Since I became a Mom, I have loitered around many a lingerie department asking store ladies to please measure Jess and make sure she gets a good bra fit. I have discussed panty sizes with skeptical mamas. I am quite used to ‘Ja, Right!‘ looks . . I just give a huge smile, make a joke, ask nicely, act matter-of-fact. Most people are just fine. Some are simply magic and ‘adopt’ Jess and take her under their wings for a brief while. They’re the STARS!
Where they act weird I just let it go. It’s like a duck’s water off my back.
Back in 1640 Rembrandt decided to take a selfie, so he whipped out his pigments – lead white, bone black, charcoal black, a few ochres and vermillion – and took the selfie you see here.
He called it Self Portrait at the Age of 34. He had tried out a similar pose in an etching of 1639, Self Portrait, Leaning on a Stone Wall, looking rather more rakish.
These are two of over forty self-portraits (or, um, selfies) by Rembrandt van Rijn and, like most selfies, they depict him in a favourable light, at the height of his career, richly dressed and self-secure.
If it had been now his second one would have been Self Portrait, Leaning on my Porsche.
Edit: Rembrandt was a johhny-come-lately.
Albrecht Dürer’s self-portrait of 1498 was probably ‘the first independent self-portrait ever produced.’ A German artist is thus said to have introduced the process of artistic introspection that has fascinated viewers ever since.
This from a new book The Self-Portrait edited by Tobias G. Natter.
Of course I myself was also an early adopter, getting going with selfies back in 1973 . .
You have to marvel. Awesome wonder and all that. Be gobsmacked. Cameras were invented around 1826 and the first personal cameras were sold to the general public around 1900 when Kodak Brownies cost $1.
– 1000memories blog tells us this – By 1930 about a billion photos were being taken a year By 1960 about 3 billion photos a year By 1970 10 billion By 1980 25 billion By 1990 57 billion By 2000 86 billion
And then we decide ‘Fuckit let’s REALLY start taking us some pictures!’ – let’s all carry a camera around all the time. And even if there’s nothing to photograph, let’s just take a picture of ourselves. That way we’ll ALWAYS have a subject. Brilliant, aren’t we?
So today we’re taking about 380 billion photos a year AND we’re keeping them. Many early photos got lost, nowadays most don’t! Not even the ones where you cut off Aunt Enid’s head. Nor the close-up of that sandwich you ate. Holy guacamole!
My kids add to this treasure trove of priceless art:
An old post from my pre-marriage blog vrystaatconfessions.com
My first recollections are of life on the plot outside Harrismith, playing with Enoch and Casaia, childhood companions, kids of Lena Mazibuko, who looked after us as Mom and Dad worked in town. I remember Lena as kind and loving – and strict!
The plot was was in the shadow of Platberg, and was called Birdhaven, as Dad kept big aviaries filled with racing pigeons, then later with fancy pigeons.
I was there from when I was carried home from the maternity home to when I was about five years old, when we moved into the bright lights and traffic of the 1955 Harrismith metropolis.
I remember suddenly “knowing” it was lunchtime and looking up at the dirt road above the farmyard that led to town. Sure enough, right about then a cloud of dust would appear and Mom and Dad would arrive for their lunch – meat and veg – and a siesta, having locked up the Platberg bottle store at 1 o’clock sharp. I could see them coming along the road and then sweeping down the long driveway to park near the rondavel at the back near the kitchen door. They would eat lunch, have a short lie-down and leave in time to re-open at 2 o’clock sharp. I now know the trip was exactly three kilometres door-to-door, thanks to google maps.
Every day I “just knew” they were coming. I wonder if I actually heard their approach and then “knew”? Or was it an inner clock? Here’s an old 8mm movie of the old green and black Ford Prefect on the Birdhaven circular driveway with big sister Barbara waving out the window – four seconds of action:
1. Birdhaven and ruins of our house; 2. Glen Khyber, Dougie Wright, Gould & Ruth Dominy’s place; 3. Jack Levick’s house; 4. The meandering Kak Spruit.
None of those houses on the left were there back then.
Back then they would buzz around in Mom’s Ford Prefect or Dad’s beige Morris Isis.
Our nearest neighbour was Jack Levick and he had a pet crow that mimic’d a few words. We had a white Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Jacko that didn’t, and an African Grey parrot Cocky who could mimic a bit more. A tame-ish Spotted Eagle Owl would visit at night. Our next neighbours, nearer to the mountain, were Ruth and Gould Dominy and Ruth’s son Dougie Wright on Glen Khyber. They were about 500m further down the road towards the mountain, across the Kak Spruit over a little bridge. Doug’s cottage was on the left next to the spruit that came down from Khyber Pass and flowed into the bigger spruit; The big house with its sunny glassed-in west-facing stoep was a bit further on the right. Ruth and a flock of small dogs would serve Gould his tea in a teacup the size of a big deep soup bowl.
Judas Thabete lived on the property and looked after the garden. I remember him as old, small and bearded. He lived in a hovel of a hut across a donga and a small ploughed field to the west of our house. He had some sort of cart – animal-drawn? self-drawn? Self-drawn, I think.
Other things I remember are driving out and seeing white storks in the dead bluegum trees outside the gate – those and the eagle owl being the first wild birds I ‘spotted’ in my still-now-ongoing birding life; I remember the snake outside the kitchen door;
I don’t remember but have been told, that my mate Donald Coleman, two years older, would walk the kilometre from his home on the edge of town to Birdhaven to visit me. Apparently his Mom Jean would phone my Mom Mary on the party line and ask “Do you have a little person out there?” if she couldn’t find him. He was a discoverer and a wanderer and a thinker, my mate Donald.
Bruno the doberman came from Little Switzerland on Oliviershoek pass down the Drakensberg into Natal. Leo and Heather Hilkovitz owned and ran it – “very well” according to Dad. Leo came into town once with a few pups in the back of his bakkie. Dobermans. Dad said I Want One! and gave him a pocket of potatoes in exchange for our Bruno. He lived to good age and died at 95 Stuart Street after we’d moved to town.
rondawel – pr. ‘ron-dah-vill’; circular building with a conical roof, often thatched;
spruit – stream; kak spruit: shit stream; maybe it was used as a sewer downstream in town in earlier days?
stoep – veranda
donga – dry, eroded watercourse; gulch, arroyo; scene of much play in our youth;
My granny Annie had an older brother Ginger. He was the oldest of the seven Royal Bains and a great sportsman. They owned the Royal Hotel and were not to be confused with the Central Bains, who owned the Central Hotel!
This old report was reprinted in the 1997 Hilton vs Michaelhouse sports day brochure:
Drop goals were four points and tries were three in those distant days. I like that the one side was “smarter with their feet” . . and that that beat “pretty passing”.
I’m a nurture over nature fella, but a century later Ginger’s great grandson repeated the slaughter of the Michaelhouse girls . .
Aitch thought she’d do nursing after school; very soon found out that wasn’t her, so she tried blood confusion. Well, that’s what I would say and she’d correct me: ‘Transfusion, Koos!’ Bit better, but then she discovered cardiovascular perfusion. Now that she regarded as a career! She loved it.
About ten years later she left for her first job in the private sector, pharmaceutical sales. 1985 – the year I met her. She excelled in sales. Soon I was reaping the benefit. One of her first rewards was a trip to Phinda private game reserve.
Soon after, we got married. I mean, hello-o . .
Phinda Fauna and Flora
Phinda Private Game Reserve is home to an incredible diversity of mammals. Predators like cheetah, leopard and lion are tracked on a daily basis and visitors stand extremely good chances of seeing them. The territorial white rhino favour waterholes and wallows. Herds of elephant and buffalo move throughout the reserve and are easily spotted
An impressive 378 bird species are recorded. Rudd’s apalis, Neergaard’s sunbird and pink-throated twinspot are endemic to the Maputaland region. Lemon-breasted canary, southern banded snake-eagle and grey waxbill are characteristic of the coastal plain. Among resident birds in the Sand Forest are Narina trogon, African broadbill and square-tailed drongo.
Thomas Tommy Swanie junior was slightly hypermetropic for years but now he has finally inherited my fine genes and is now -0,75. Slightly short-sighted.
Like me, he can also see into a lot, read between the lines, has great insight – and while his foresight is still developing, he has strong hindsight where he can very clearly see where things were not his fault but someone else should be blamed.
I’ll nab a shot of him wearing his Tommy Hilfiger frames . . . in the pic above he’s fooling around in Mkhuze game reserve with my minus fours, saying the usual ‘Gawd! How do you see through these things!? Oh, there you are, with one eye I can see clearly!’
Steve replied: I can picture him giving you the inscrutable eye over those frames. Question: Did he first take a fancy to the Tommy Hilfigers, then make the discovery he could not see very well? Any chance he learned the art of accommodating a constant 0.75 to affect the outcome?? I know my daughter had that tendency. She loved a bit of extra minus while I felt I was committing a crime against the memory of Frank Duro. One day working for me in Auckland NZ she ordered her own pair (‘yes please I will have those with extra minus and a multicoat – the expensive one’). She celebrated her milestone when reaching -2.50! By then she was living away from home and found an optom that would give her all the minus she wanted – as long as she paid.
Me: Ha! Jurgen Tolksdorf taught me to be less scared of minus, especially if they have exophoria. Or was that euphoria!? Anyway, Duro himself would have re-assured you that ‘Alice’s Rectum’ . . ‘alles sal regkom.’
I’m a bit skeptical of the current big we must combat myopia thing. We’re glued to screens close-up, low myopia is no problem. I’d hate to have been hyperopic. I believe in combating high or increasing myopia, but moderate myopia is often an asset, in our close-up world. I tell moderate myopes your eyes are fine, your vision is fine, your near focus is fine, it’s just your far focus that’s out; relax, enjoy.
Later: Now Tom is astigmatic: -0,75 cyl. He’ll need to check before he goes for his learner driver’s licence, then we’ll put new lenses in his ‘old’ Tommy Hilfigers. Speaking of which: No sign of any interest in getting his learners! Talks of driving at 300kmh but no real urgency to start. Amazing. I couldn’t wait!
Here’s an older Tom in his Tommy Hilfigers:
Jess is in hiding. Six attempts at her learners has deflated her. Anyway, they both walk far distances, take taxis and use ride-hailing apps bolt (taxify) and uber, so maybe that lessens the pressure of getting your licence? Also, Dad’s taxi . .
alles sal regkom – all will be well; or, ‘all will come right’
It actually happened. How often have we joked about it but every now and again you get a real live one. I sent an email to a colleague:
I’m checking Gran’s eyes; today – five minutes ago. She’s 75 and has a fly and a cobweb running around in front of her one eye the last couple days. Grandson insists on komming saam, to sit in the room while I check Ouma out. Huge oke, like 6’4″ and 120kg, so who am I to argue?
Just when I’m about to tell Gran she should see an ophthalmic surgeon to rather be safe, he pipes up from the rear dark corner where he has sat quietly up till now:
‘Doctor lemme arse you this: Why’s my arse so sensitive to lart?’
My colleague replied with a similar tale:
I have two Afrikaans gay men that visit me in the practice … both now in their 70’s; fight like cat & dog but they are really good together.
One was a hairdresser and the other worked for the railways.
The railways fella complained to me, ‘My arse hurts when I read …’
My mind turned south and I was tempted to reply, ‘Maybe ask K__ to back off until after you’ve finished reading.’
Translations if you ain’t a Seffrican:
ouma – gran
komming saam – accompanying gran into the consulting room
For years before 1989 I wanted to see a Bufftail – a Buff-spotted Flufftail. I heard plenty, but saw none. First at Hella Hella; Then in 1989 we moved into our first home in Westville and there was one in our yard! We heard him all the time!
But still I didn’t see him. It grew into an obsession. Seeing this little day-old-chick-sized bird was a real desire. I stalked around the garden, lying still for ages as he stopped calling whenever he detected my presence. I lay at the nearest window with a searchlight, bufftail calling within metres. All in vain; the bird’s caution and patience far exceeding mine.
I’ve written about my quest before. We stayed in River Drive for fifteen years and have been in Elston Place for thirteen. Here we also hear a flufftail but not as often nor as closeby.
And now a friend moves in to a new home and – less than two years after moving in – films this from his balcony:
Aargh! Rob Davey!
Here’s the Bufftail hoot again – from xeno-canto.org – sharing bird sounds from around the world:
. . and here’s one to show how small they are – thanks, birdlifetrogons.blogspot.com
*** I haydid – is a Friderichs-ism. Bobby – from ‘Slunnin – used to say ‘I haydid!’ in mock displeasure when things went skew-wiff. Eg: ‘I haydid when my fridge gets carried out the back door!’ – another divorce . .
“Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after a pandemic will seem inadequate.” Don’t panic, but do prepare.
Here’s why everyone should self-isolate:
So if you’re wearing a mask at work right now; or telling your workers to stay home and work online; or insisting people wash their hands often; you’re going to be mocked if nothing much happens. If all hell breaks loose, no-one will give you credit; Later they’ll say ‘We all did that,’ forgetting – or choosing to forget – that they did not – until much later; and they’ll ‘forget’ that they initially mocked your ‘over-reaction.’
We humans are weird. Try telling a hugger not to hug. Or a handshaker not to clasp paws. Why? Oh, just to reduce the chances of transmitting a disease. You may cause mortal indignation. Later it’ll be, ‘Why didn’t you TELL me!?’ or ‘I stopped hugging quite soon.’ Our memories work overtime to show us up in a good light.
1/ Get your flu shot. Reason: To save health-care resources for others in need.
2/ Make sure you and your household are prepared for a period of self-isolation or quarantine lasting two weeks, or perhaps longer.
3/ If you develop symptoms of a cold or flu—even mild symptoms—please stay at home. Don’t try and impress by coming to work while you’re sick.
4/ If a member of your household becomes ill, stay at home – you and her both.
5/ Let’s all start practicing more restrained physical interactions, and thus set good examples not only among ourselves but also for our colleagues and friends. That means skipping hugs and handshakes, for the time being. Instead, you might put your own hands together and bow your head slightly to greet or congratulate someone. Or maybe an elbow bump, if you really must make contact.
6/ Prepare now to stop your work on short notice.
7/ Be prepared to cancel your attendance at gatherings – scientific conferences, work, academic or social events – as new information arises. Even if an event organizer decides to push ahead, you don’t have to go. Think about not flying – or delaying purchases of airfares until an event is closer in time, given the current uncertainty.
9/ And maybe the hardest advice of all: Practice good personal hygiene. Cover your mouth with your forearm or the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze unexpectedly. (If you know you’re sick, then you should have disposable tissues handy. Use those to cover your nose and mouth completely, and dispose of each tissue after one use. If you find yourself coughing or sneezing repeatedly, stay home, avoid contact with others. Wash your hands thoroughly after you’ve touched shared surfaces, especially before eating. And most difficult of all, avoid touching your own face. This coronavirus can survive for hours as tiny droplets on surfaces, which we may inadvertently touch (“fomite transmission”). Then, when we touch our mouth, nose, or eyes, we can infect ourselves.
10/ Get your news from trustworthy, reliable sources. If it becomes clear that infections are spreading locally, or even if you are just concerned about that possibility, then avoid crowded public venues.
11/ If you do isolate yourself, whether because of illness or concern, make sure to maintain frequent social contact with your family, friends, and the lab via phone, email, or whatever works best for you. Don’t let physical isolation and loneliness make you feel miserable. We are all stronger together, even if we might have to be physically apart.
“Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after a pandemic will seem inadequate. This is the dilemma we face, but it should not stop us from doing what we can to prepare. We need to reach out to everyone with words that inform, but not inflame. We need to encourage everyone to prepare, but not panic.” — Michael O. Leavitt, 2007, former Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Interesting: How do they test for COVID-19? Labs use a molecular biology technique called RT-PCR to detect the virus genome in a patient’s sample. This technique targets specific regions of the genome and allows labs to distinguish it from other viruses. This is real science done by real scientists – the ones who develop vaccines. Please read about them, and read their work (eg. here) and not the rubbish written by know-nothing “anti-vaxxers.”
Kosi Bay is a wonderful place and the campsites are superb. Good birding and great habitat. It’s an estuary system comprising of four lakes – Amanzimnyama (dark waters), Nhlange (reeds), Mpungwini and Makhawulani – the system is connected by meandering channels and fringed wetlands before it runs into the Indian Ocean via a shallow channel and estuary. Kosi is one of the most beautiful and pristine lake systems on the African coast. A boat excursion from Lake Nhlange to Lake Makhawulani is a scenic meander through the reed channels, offering an opportunity to snorkel along the mangrove banks,.
So if you want the full Kosi experience you ideally need a boat. Fortunately for us, on one of our three trips there in 2002 / 2003 good friend Greg Bennett lent us his boat. The freedom this gave us, plus the knowledge of the area provided by a local guide made all the difference.
Jon Taylor joined us. His RAV4 was feeling intimidated by my mighty kombi, so we kindly let it do a little work . .
Driving through the beautiful Eastern Free State you see many flat-topped sandstone kopjes like these. But suddenly you say, ‘What’s on top of that one? It’s a CASTLE! Can’t be. But it is!’
Truth is, you knew it would be there – as you’ve been invited to visit it – to be at the dress rehearsal dinner, where the resident chef is going to present his first full meal to a small group of discerning – and two not-so-discerning – guests, courtesy of King and Queen of Destiny Castle, Mike and Denyse! So like the Grand Old Duke of York, you drive up to the top of the hill . .
. . where you’re welcomed and taken inside, up the spiral staircase, past the knight in shining armour, to an antechamber where the drinking can begin . . see the thickness of the castle walls! We’ll easily withstand a siege here.
On to dinner, where Aitch and I feed the kids first so that they can be asleep when the ribaldry begins. Once they’ve had their fill we shoot two bears, wrap them in the skins and soon they’re snoring.
Let the feasting begin!
Bottles are smashed open and revelry ensues . .
Common ground is found: Hey! We’re both bald! No I’m not! Oh, now I’m not . .
For once, it seems I was the photographer. After dessert we repair to the rooftop to gaze at the heavens through a telescope, and drink another toast to life, to life, l’chaim!
Good friends, great hospitality, lovely food – and of course, lots of vino!
. . and so to bed
What a stunning amazing place – a dream started by someone decades earlier, then realised by Mike and Denyse Fogg.