Seventy Long Years

On the 14th July 1951 the biggest hugest massivest humungousest stroke of luck to befall him in all his life befell Pieter Gerhardus Swanepoel. By far. By a very long long way the biggest.

And he didn’t realise it, still doesn’t.

This morning Mary will wake thinking, I wonder how Pieter is, I hope he’s alright.

Happy 70th wedding anniversary, Mom n Dad.

COVID Hits Home

Last year on the 18th March, before Cyril could tell us to Go Home, Stay Home, I dived under my duvet and stayed there. I’ve been here ever since.

On 1st June Raksha said Let’s open up again, and I said ‘No! Keep your head down!’ On 8th June she opened up, can’t wait on a wimp. I said ‘No-one will come. Who’ll be foolish enough to roam the streets, never mind go have their eyes tested!?’ We’ll see, she said.

Prenisha was with her. Let’s go! said Prenisha. They hired locum optometrists and got going. We won’t make breakeven turnover, thought the hidden wimp, all panicky. They did – every single month! They paid the rent, paid their own salaries, paid our locums’ salaries, paid expenses. And – bless them – they even paid me a salary! Undeserving fugitive. Were they paying me to stay away?

And so it has gone. Thirteen months later, joined now by Yandisa, they’re still doing a wonderful job, I’m still under my duvet. But now one of them has tested positive and we have closed, as everyone takes time to isolate; recover for the one and avoid for the others.

One day at a time. We’ll test and monitor and open again when we can.

What STARS!!

~~~oo0oo~~~

A Decade

It has been a decathlon. It would have been useful to have you around. Still would be. Ten years without you, but very few days where we don’t think of you.

We had a good system going, you multitasking and me doing as I was told; After? Let’s just say a couple things did fall through the cracks. A couple more than would have.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Blood on the Floor

The ole man has another tale to tell in the dramatic saga that is LIFE when approaching your centenary:

‘I looked down in the shower and my red facecloth was lying there. I thought Who The Heck put it there? Its usually in the bath, not the shower.’

Then I looked again and it was bigger than my facecloth and growing in size. It was blood. The shower floor was covered in blood. I immediately knew what it was.’ (He always immediately knows what things are, what caused them, and if you wait half a breath he’ll tell you the cure for it as well).

It was my diverticulitis again. You bleed out your bum from little pouches in your colon rupturing. I had an op, you know, years ago, but now it was back.

I called the office and two ladies came to help. I told them the cause and they lay me down and inspected my exhaust pipe. While the one was gazing intently up there, the other one said Hey, Look! There’s a big cut on his ankle!’

Turns out there was a sharp splinter on the corroded part of the shower aluminium door at ankle height and I had cut my ankle without even noticing it.

They bandaged me up and all’s well. AND as a bonus, I now know my bum’s fine.

Poor ladies need a medal, dark glasses and probly therapy.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Magistrates Court

Welcome to the real world! Walking towards the entrance of the Durban Magistrates Courts, the first convo I overhear is, "Ons sukkel om n prokureur te kry vir Pa, hulle se almal, 'domestic violence?' en dan weier hulle." !!
Once inside I wander around, lost. A tall masked man all dressed in black sees me and asks Need Help? I say 'First Timer.' He says, Well, see if you can get legal aid, otherwise, here's my number. My fees are low for first appearances. Lovely friendly guy, name of Neville. Sounds very English! I tease. Neville Ngcobo, he says in a private school accent. I say my friend inside is N Ngcobo too! Ms N Ngcobo. I'll have to give you an even better deal! he now teases. 

A scrawny lil guy with an older guy is nearing the end of his tether. 'If he say-s that one more time I'm going to swear him!' he threatens in that unmistakable Durban-Delhi accent. Older guy with him tells him Calm Down.
'Go and wait outside, security will call you in by the name of the person on the list,' says the man at the info desk on the first floor. I go out onto the lawn. Lovely day. Sunny with a nice breeze, which I keep so its always blowing away from me. As the sun strengthens I seek shade for my bald head.

At 10.42 I go in and ask security wassup. 'No, we're still waiting for the list,' says the man  

At 11.24am there's a stirring. Everyone crowds towards the door. Names are called and people move in, going to support their people. Quite a few names are called with no reaction. No-one to help those poor blighters. Then Ziggy's name is called. I go in. 'YOU for Nonsikilelo Ngcobo!?' the lady with the list asks pointedly. I nod, walk in.
Now I'm in court D, waiting. The court official ladies are talking: 
We got a 'theft.' Hey, we got a 'driving under the influence.' Eish, when last!? We seldom get those. All we get is DRUGS.
Some poor young fella is up before the beak. He's entirely on his own. No one to support him. He is asked what language he prefers. English, he says. Magistrate looks up and peers at him over his specs: Own lawyer, represent yourself, or legal aid? asks the robe. I'd like legal aid please, says the young man. The magistrate intones, 'No bail is granted. You are remanded in custody till your next court date on 21st June.'  He tries to be brave but his shoulders slump slightly. 
I ask the policewoman in court if I just need to wait and get a bit of attitude, but at least she confirms Ziggy is here. Tells me, 'Wait outside, I'll call you.' Damn, I wanted to watch and listen!
At last there's Ziggy! She sees me with huge relief, so tears roll down onto her mask. She's been in police custody for three nights, barefoot and no cellphone. I signal relax relax and bump my heart "Don't worry girl, stay strong!" When no-one can see she whips her mask down and mouths "I'm so so sorry!" with more tears!
A legal gentleman (legal aid defendant?) asks, Who's here for Ms Ngcobo? I say I am, sir, and he comes over very polite and asks who am I? How'm I related?  Family friend? Where's her Mom? I give my details and her Mom's and he asks, after checking if I can confirm her Mom's address is real: How's R500 for bail? I say that's fine thank you. 

He tells the judge: First offender, no record, no job, no child, has a place to go to, has someone who'll pay. Will his lordship accept R500 bail? Prosecutor agrees. Magistrate says his ritual and agrees.  Tells her to show up on 24 June early am, tells her what happens if she doesn't: warrant for her arrest and forfeit bail. Then he grants bail. Relief. Zig tries to disguise her tears.
They keep her while I am taken downstairs to go and pay bail. Then back up two flights. There's Zig still. Hand over receipt and clerk says wait, you need to keep this to get it refunded.
And we're outa there. Ziggy barefoot since Friday. Hungry. I give her the packet with all the goodies n toiletries, toothpaste, tissues etc I'd packed for her Friday, Saturday, Sunday and today. Finally I can give it to her (no parcels allowed, no visitors allowed, nothing, both police stations said, even though the 'your rights' pamphlet they gave Ziggy clearly says she had the right to have certain visitors). 
She uses a kilometer of toilet tissue first, then cooldrink. Thank you SO much, Geezer!

We have a long barefoot walk to my car. She asks do you have a spare mask, Geezer? Oh thank you so much! Mine is full of prison! She's been wearing it for 72hrs straight, slept with it on in the crowded holding cells.
Then home. She has three weeks to ponder. 

~~~oo0oo~~~

The day before, Sunday, my lawyer had torn himself away from visiting friends in Ballito and joined me at Durban Central police station. They wouldn’t let him see Ziggy as he didn’t have his special Lawyer ID card, but they did take a note to her asking if she had a family lawyer, so at least she knew for the first time someone outside was aware she was inside.

Monday after the hearing I sms’d him: Got R500 bail, case set for 24 June. Thanks for your help! Tuesday I wrote his ladies, Your Boss was a star on a white horse on a SUNDAY, please send a bill. They wrote back a formal lawyer’s letter on a pdf, ‘Thank your for the gesture, we will not charge you for the work done on Sunday.’ So I sms’d him, ‘Does that motley crew you hang out with* know that you’re actually a gentleman?’ His reply: ‘Probably not. I don’t want that to get out and ruin my reputation.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Ons sukkel om n prokureur te kry vir Pa, hulle se almal, ‘domestic violence?’ en dan weier hulle – Battling to get a lawyer for Dad; When they hear ‘domestic violence’ they don’t want to get involved.

* He hangs out with a bunch of geezers who swim from pier to pier in the early mornings. With the sharks and – IN SPEEDOS! At their age!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Took me sixty six years to learn what to do in a magistrate’s court. I spose some okes can do it with one hand tied behind their back. Maybe even both hands . . .

I’m Losing My Social Skills and I Don’t Want Them Back

This heading really struck a chord with me. I clicked on it right away. Turns out it was about working in an office, then staying at home under COVID, so I could relate to that; but this was a far more serious case involving discrimination. His or her full post is here.

So very different, but a kernel of truth that related to me in there: I liked and could relate to his or her conclusion: I don’t want my old social skills back. He’s happy with giving less effs than before, and targeting more well-deserved effs where they’re deserved. And so am I.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Some of the comments on that post were great, too:

  • ‘I have worked through my people-pleasing issues;’
  • ‘I am curbing ‘a life-long habit of “giving ‘effs” to others who really did not deserve the deference?’
  • ‘It’s not that I dislike people, and have given them the mental “heave-ho,” instead it is that I love myself enough now to no longer allow my peace and sense of self to be captured and manipulated by others (even well-meaning others).’

~~~oo0oo~~~

I like to think its all part of a well thought out logical process. But it could, of course, just be the normal progression of life:

The progression of life . . .

Balls n Balls n Birthdays

I met Jaynee J through optometry. She had launched a hugely successful large-format glossy trade magazine VISION which changed the way eyeball marketing was done in Africa. So I had to meet her.

And there she was: This gorgeous blonde Pomshell laughing, thriving and swigging champagne! Succeeding and enjoying. Larger than life. Full of adventure, mischief and mirth. Unforgettable!

She got hugely involved in things optometric and ophthalmic, becoming famous in no time. Then suddenly one day Jayne’s focus changed. Oh no! She was no longer solely focused on us Eyeball Mechanics! She had a lot of strange new men in her life. What was going on?

Then I saw: She’d launched a similar magazine for vets. Veterinary surgeons. Testicle Mechanics. Now when I’d visit her, weird okes would rock up at The Rock with scarves tied round their heads. Everyone knows where a scarf goes. Around your neck. But these ous were on motorcycles. Holly DaveySounds they called them – and they had a weird sound. I dunno, a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning was always good enough for me.

Ever-versatile, our Jaynee J had transitioned from eyeballs to dogs balls. Detailed descriptions followed of primitive de-nackering surgery in Mocambique vs high-tech de-nackering surgery in Sandton. I think she enjoyed my empathetic squirming.

Jayne Champagne

Ever-mobile, she moved from Lonehill to the Reeds to the Rock to Vilanculos. Every place she moved into was The Best and Wonderful and became a place where great meals were served with champagne. Always lashings of champagne. ‘Hold the bottle at 45°and you won’t waste any!’ None was wasted.

Recently Jaynee J had a big round birthday and her kids Jessie and Jason gathered a bunch of tributes and made a video for her. Lots of lovely people saying lots of lovely things. All true, like this tribute.

She has also featured here and here and here and here and here and here.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Top pic: Jayne acting godma to our kids.

A Jessie Makeover!

Jessie’s new friend Sandy took her off to the Pav and sorted her out like a big sister! Even though she only takes Jess up to her shoulder, she’s a great big sis. They did hair, clothes, shoes – actually boots – nails, eyelashes, the works. A vast improvement from her boring Mom, me.

~~~oo0oo~~~

iNyanga vs EBM

On the way to Tobias Gumede’s umuzi north of Jozini on the Makathini Flats of the Pongola river floodplain, you pass a nyanga’s advertising billboard. He can sort out all your problems.

Not all his own, though, so he died and the new nyanga re-wrote the promises when we last went there.

Tobias’ home had also been upgraded. He’d added a covered entrance porch:

Leaving his home and continuing north you cross the Pongola where a magnificent old fig suffers the depredations of progress, erosion exposing its roots to a dangerous degree.

~~~oo0oo~~~

The new nyanga sign says (take my translation with a pinch of salt):

his gift we built

(can’t) stop

that which advances

the big (important) traditional doctor

~~~oo0oo~~~

April 2018: Tobias has just walked in. He has come to work straight from the hospital where they measured his blood pressure: 204 over 124! I sat him down and told him don’t move until that BP is down! So, much to his dismay, he’s under house arrest today. He has taken his muti and will take again tonight and tomorrow, then we’ll see if we can release him! But I’m fine! he protested, so I told him in gruesome detail what high BP can do to you, with a graphic artistic demonstration when I got to the ‘fall down dead’ stage. ‘Twas a powerful performance.

Glad he didn’t see the nyanga. I’m an EB Medicine Man. Evidence-Based Medicine EBM.

Later: I bought a supply of his two tablets and kept them at home with strict instructions: If you forget to take your tablets at home, take them here. Never miss! Yebo baba.

March 2020: On his last day before the COVID-19 lockdown I gave them to him to take home. Now it’s April 2021 and he assures me he takes them faithfully. I once again asked him, When you hear a man has suddenly died, what usually killed him? He couldn’t answer right away and I prompted him and he remembered. Oh yes! The ‘PRESSURE.‘ Yep, Take Your Pills, I droned.

~~~oo0oo~~~

I’m a Missionary

I regard myself as a missionary. It’s an important job. There are a lot of people who need help and I – like the man from head office – am here to help them.

Take my mate JonDinDin and his eating habits. Weird. He made a porridge for me once and when I had finished picking twigs, bark, seed husks and I think even a few pebbles from my teeth, I politely asked him, ‘What The Actual Fuck?’ Roughage, he said. Fibre. Gives you moral fibre, makes you rugged. I explained health food to him and gave him some solid dietary tips. You know what food is good for you if it tastes lekker. If it tastes really REALLY good it’s health food: Mental Health. And that’s the important health, right? Mental Health. Also drinking. Eight glasses of water a day is for elephants after a drought. Drink when you’re thirsty, and sometimes drink stuff that makes you feel witty, clever and like you can dance like Nureyev. I don’t think he thanked me. Weird.

Take Chas and his perseveration. Someone has to be there for him. I say to him, Chas, if you have paddled from Hella Hella to Goodenough’s weir, you have paddled from Hella Hella to Goodenough’s weir. You’ve done it. You do not have to do it fifty times. Fifty three, he says.

I say to Allie, Allie, you have walked the Wild Coast. You have been there, done that. Also, if you must swim, there are lots of places you can swim with zero sharks in the water. I introduce a new concept for your consideration: Shark-Free Water.

But do they lissen!?

What made me think of my mission in life was this NEW Gary Larson cartoon. Yes, the wonderful news is that Gary Larson is telling the truth about life again! He stopped doing his The Far Side cartoons in 1995 but recently he started again! Not with pen and ink now, but on a tablet. Here’s the one that got me going:

isn’t Gary Larson awesome! Domestic dogs preaching like mormons or jehovah’s witnesses!! – – telling lies to dogs living the simple, truthful, real life! –

~~~oo0oo~~~

I went on a mission with a missionary once. Got saved and damned . . .

The Head Louse

in the house

– always a great believer in home remedies –

Don’t come and visit! I’ve got head lice. They’re all over. I’ve told Linda to keep great-granddaughter Katie away! I have used over R1000 worth of muti from Aidan the chemist, I’ve sprayed the carpets and bedroom with Doom, I even sprayed my head with Doom, I know I shouldn’t have, but they’re crawling all over my body.

OK. That doesn’t sound right, so I go and visit. No sign of head lice. Have you seen any? ‘Only one, in my bed, but I saw three or four eggs on the lice comb. The louse on my bed was about the size of a grain of rice.’ Hmmm.

I write it down so he can’t mis-hear me or get me wrong: “I don’t think you have head lice. I think you have crawling nerve ends. Peripheral neuropathy.”

I’m wrong, of course. Immediately wrong. This and that.

I spell it out again: “I do not think you have head lice. In fact I KNOW you don’t have head lice. Stop using poisons. Your shingles and nerve endings cause crawling and itching sensations. Basically it’s peripheral neuropathy – nerve damage.” You’re not allowed to say Dis Die Ouderdom, but nevertheless I say, “You don’t have any specific cause, so it’s probably age-related.”

He’s skeptical, but at least when I take him to PicknPay he doesn’t buy any more Doom – which was on his list.

Later I take him the blurb on neuropathy – which is also the most likely cause of his pins and needles fingers and burning feet. It’s a bugger. But it’s not lice.

Nowadays he tells people about peripheral neuropathy.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Dis Die Ouderdom – It’s your age; taboo

Mom’s Back!

Mary is back at the piano after a hiatus in which she broke her hip and turned ninety two.

She says, ‘Yes I can play again. I just need my friend to put my feet on the pedals. Then I can go.’

You go, Ma! Proud of ya!

~~~oo0oo~~~

– she battled when she first started –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Wear Your Mask

None of this is new, you’ve seen it all, but I hope by showing you where it comes from that you’ll be better equipped to handle anti-mask bullshit from bloviaters.

Masks make a difference. They do help. How do we know that? I’ll show you. Usual mea culpa: I’m an amateur who believes the experts – and only the experts, based on real research – not an expert myself.

I’ve gathered some of what experts have done – and then what they say. After that, we’ll check the anti-mask “evidence” spread on social media by non-experts who often say what HUGE experts they are, then tell you masks are bad without doing any experiments (cos designing, then doing, good experiments is not easy and it takes time) and without any valid evidence.

First, why even talk about masks? Because we breathe. We all know people who emit spittle as they talk, and we dodge them and stand back when they get excited! But we don’t all realise that we ALL emit droplets when we speak. Here are two graphs in the same block of someone saying the words “stay healthy” while wearing a mask and while not wearing a mask. The person’s emissions were video’d under special conditions (check the link):

– The number of flashes was highest (top arrow) when the “th” sound in the word “healthy” was pronounced –

Here’s a snapshot of one frame in the video, which corresponds to the top bigger red arrow in Panel A – the highest number of speech droplets visualized in an individual frame of the video recording.

– spit droplets from the ‘th’ in the word ‘healthy’ – so someone saying ‘stay healthy’ could kill you! –

OK, so we have evidence that we spray. Of course, your Granma knew we spray germs when she told you to ‘catch your cough’ and when she avoided you when you had a cold (which is also a corona virus).

Next we found out that COVID-19 can be found on way smaller droplets than these – called ‘the aerosol effect.’ Now you need to not just avoid being coughed on or ‘spoken on,’ you need to be wary of the air where people have been, as aerosol particles linger WAY longer and travel WAY further than the bigger droplets which led to the 2m ‘social distance’ guideline (which politicians and businessmen soon reduced to 1,5m, down to 1m, down to ‘full taxis’ – side-by-side. These reductions were NOT done for our safety, BTW!).

Next, we (“we” – scientists on behalf of “us” – humans who know the scientific method is the best way to investigate things) looked at old epidemics and noticed there was less spread in places where people are used to wearing masks. In April already, this effect was noticed in the current pandemic too.

Next, scientists looked at 172 studies on corona-type viruses. After very careful analysis they gave a sober, cautiously-worded statement (this is a tiny excerpt – click the link to read the full study): ‘We found evidence of moderate certainty that current policies of at least 1 m physical distancing are probably associated with a large reduction in infection, and that distances of 2 m might be more effective, as implemented in some countries. We also provide estimates for 3 m. The main benefit of physical distancing measures is to prevent onward transmission and, thereby, reduce the adverse outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Hence, the results of our current review support the implementation of a policy of physical distancing of at least 1 m and, if feasible, 2 m or more. Our findings also provide robust estimates to inform models and contact tracing used to plan and strategise for pandemic response efforts at multiple levels.The use of face masks was protective for both health-care workers and people in the community exposed to infection, with both the frequentist and Bayesian analyses lending support to face mask use irrespective of setting.’

The most recent study I found was in Denmark where masks were not compulsory and most people did not wear them. A trial showed that people who did wear them in a randomised trial did get some benefit, even when all others around them were not wearing masks.

….

SO: You’ve always known this, but which is the best mask to use? Its not important. Comfort is probably the most important consideration, as wearing it comfortably and consistently is key. Having the ‘world’s best mask’ around your chin helps a rich, approximate, earth-shattering, statistical fokol. That’s zero. May as well strap it around your wrist fgdsake.

If you want a suggestion, surgical masks are generally more protective than cloth masks, and some people find them lighter and more comfortable to wear. The bottom line is that any mask that covers the nose and mouth will be of benefit. The concept is risk reduction, not absolute prevention. Don’t not wear a mask ‘because it’s not 100 percent effective.’ That’s just silly. Nobody thinks burglar guards are 100% effective, they install them to substantially reduce their risk.

Remember ‘All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten?’ Wash your hands often and well; Wear your mask; Keep more distance than you think (3m is better than 2m is better than 1m is MUCH better than french kissing); Avoid closed spaces (any indoors if you can help it; at least reduce that ‘essential’ indoor time); Avoid people (yeah, yeah, as far as you can – and that’s usually more than you do; also reduce your time spent with them); Get your groceries delivered (Checkers charges R35 to deliver up to 30 items within one hour – it costs you more to drive there and back and you’re rating your time at R0 – How much time have you got left on earth? Correct, you don’t know. But you do know that it’s precious).

~~~oo0oo~~~

What about “scientific evidence that PROVES masks are bad for you”?? Search for it. It will take you to wacko sites that tell blatant lies absolutely routinely. Always check the sites on wikipedia; and check their claims on snopes.com, and other fact-checking sites. Here are ten of the best fact-checking sites. Use them!

The Federalist is one bullshit site. They also publish false information and pseudoscience that is contrary to the recommendations of public health experts and authorities; and fake news about election results. Trump fans.

Typical of these sites’ disinformation was taking the Denmark study I mention and saying “A study in Denmark proved that masks are useless for COVID-19,” instead of the truth: The study found that face masks did not have a large protective effect for wearers — but did provide some protection to wearers, and did also provide benefits to other people. Note the difference in language: The DEFINITE conclusions by bullshitters; vs the CAUTIOUS conclusions that real scientists take, knowing things may change.

Another instance was taking one case of a driver who crashed his SUV into a pole in new Jersey on April 23. He blamed his collision on his mask. He told police he passed out because he’d been wearing an N95 mask for too long. Initially, the investigating officers believed him, writing in a Facebook post that he was the only person in the car and passed out due to “insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide intake.” The driver’s bulldust went viral! The police department later updated their post, stating that they didn’t know “with 100% certainty” that “excessive wearing” of an N95 mask was a contributing factor to the accident. They added that “it is certainly possible that some other medical reason could’ve contributed to the driver passing out.”  But bullshit websites crowed “masks are bad for you, you get too much carbon dioxide!’ – and people who should know better forwarded and forwarded without checking (please don’t do that). A quick check can show you: actually, you don’t.

Another website The Gateway Pundit “is known for publishing falsehoods, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories.” So when they tell you ‘All the experts are wrong, we have scientific proof masks are bad for you!’, check their research, then check some real research – and then dismiss them with the contempt they deserve.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Go and find a fact-checking site now. A slightly different ‘ten best’ are suggested here.

There’s also AfricaCheck.org for checking bullshit in Africa – we sure need them, so I sent them a donation. Go and see how they caught Herman Mashaba bullshitting.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Oh, and please note I use the term BULLSHIT very deliberately. It’s a real thing:

In his essay On Bullshit (originally written in 1986, and published as a monograph in 2005), philosopher Harry Frankfurt of Princeton University characterizes bullshit as a form of falsehood distinct from lying. The liar, Frankfurt holds, knows and cares about the truth, but deliberately sets out to mislead instead of telling the truth. The “bullshitter”, on the other hand, does not care about the truth and is only seeking to impress.

Quote: “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”

Bullshitters can exhaust you. As Alberto Brandolini’s Bullshit Asymmetry Principle states, “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” Dr. Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work seems like a very good and kind and decent person. Because she suggests we use generosity, empathy, and curiosity when speaking truth to bullshit (e.g. “Where did you read this? or Where did you hear this?”) can go a long way in our efforts to question what we’re hearing and introduce fact.

COVID and Ordinary People

Trying to stay on top of COVID news? We have no choice but to do so, to best protect ourselves and our loved ones. It’s stressful and draining, but essential.

This post is paraphrased and shortened from an article by Alanna Shaikh, a global public health expert and a TED Fellow, for tips on how to navigate this information overload while staying safe and sane. ( for full article, see here )

1. Look for news that you can act on

When you’re trying to figure out what stories to stay on top of, ask yourself: “Will having this information benefit my life or my work? Will it allow me to make better-informed decisions?”

Accumulating masses of information that you can’t use isn’t so helpful.

For most people, the most critical information for you to follow is how the virus is transmitted. Scientists are still learning every day about how people get infected.

2. Turn to trusted sources

If something reaches you on your whatsapp or instagram in Blikkiesdorp, chances are people professionally covering the pandemic heard it before you did.

So go and see what they say about it. COVID-19 has been heavily politicized, and even some major news sources are basing their content more on opinion than on science.

You can generally trust the accuracy of top news sources like Nature, Wired and The New York Times — to name three examples.

Why? Cos their reputations are at stake. And they have the kind of budget that lets them hire full-time journalists who will stand by the facts or who rely on fact-checkers to verify their information.

3. Check where their information is coming from

No-one actually KNOWS, so be wary of articles or sources that claim to have a definite answer to a complex question.

For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci is currently saying that there should be a vaccine for COVID-19 in early 2021;

the Gates Foundation has a longer estimate; and

others are warning that we may never have a vaccine for it.

Right now, there is no consensus about a timeline — these people and organizations are simply offering their best guesses. Use fact-checking sites – find one here.

4. Look for news that works for you

For ordinary people whose expertise lies outside global health — i.e. us, you and me — find sources of information that you can read and digest without having to devote your whole day (or brain) to it. Like the Think Global Health website; it’s aimed at passionate non-experts. It’s not dumbed down, but it doesn’t assume you have a PhD.

Johns Hopkins University is publishing some great work on COVID — more technical, but not too technical.

So is Vox; they have some terrific explainers.

5. Be prepared to change your behavior based on new information

No source is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you should disbelieve all sources. Research constantly changes and informs and shapes our ideas.

Remember when wiping down surfaces was the MAIN thing? Now, reputable organizations and scientists basically agree on masks, contact tracing and the existence of transmission of COVID by people who aren’t showing symptoms. If you get sick you will probably never know who ‘gave it to you,’ as they would have felt as healthy as you did the day the virus was transmitted.

Some of this info may change again, but we need to keep going along with best practice AS FAR AS WE KNOW TODAY.

6. Refrain from arguing with people who ignore the facts

Save your breath. Yours and theirs might be contagious!

You WON’T change their minds.

You are not a law enforcer.

Like it or not, this situation isn’t going anywhere. This pandemic is awful and complicated and changing. Finding our way through it won’t be smooth, nor easy, nor emotionally comfortable. It’s a constant, dynamic process of learning new things and adapting as we learn.

….

Lovely pic from the cover of Wits Review Oct 2020, magazine for University of the Witwatersrand alumni.

Cars n Aeroplanes

January 2010:

Have you checked my white horse? Well, white VW kombi – WHICH . . was towed into the garage while on holiday two days before new year. Today I towed it again – to a clutch place. I’ve been driving Trish’s ole man’s 1980 Opel Kadett. He handed me the keys, his vision is shot. Glaucoma and deciding not to use the drops for years as they irritated his eyes and blurred his vision. He was right, xalatan is a bitch. But . .

I await the verdict on the kombi’s clutch – which I hope is better than VW’s R17 290.

I KNEW I shoulda fitted a Stromberg.

Peter Brauer wrote:

How thick can ONE man be?

Read what you wrote: ‘Been driving Trish’s ole man’s 1980 Opel Kadett.’

Do you not see the message in that? Let me help you: 1980……Opel . .

Give the kombi to the clutchplate and buy a fucking Opel. Of ALL people I thought you would have learned something as a student.

I wrote:

Problem is – no matter how hard I try – I don’t get the 1980 feeling driving it. I just remember Kevin Stanley-Clarke’s firm statement, as he drove us around Doories in his chocolate brown Alfa: “When driving, always watch out for old toppies wearing hats. Give them a wide berth.” My current cap says DAS Pilsener.

Also, clicking in the gearlock, fitting the steering lock, feeling the ceiling fabric fluttering on my bald head as I drive with all windows open – the aircon substitute. Then waiting for the misfiring to end after switching off – it all brings back TOO MANY memories.

PS: New crutch and “dual flywheel” (TF is that?): R9 900.

Steve Reed wrote:

Like I said: Buy a Toyota.

I wrote:

The WORST thing is, you’re right. As my Toyota patients never tire of telling me. With the Durban Toyota plant just down the road I see a fair number of them and their suppliers; and they have NO doubt as to what I should do. Trouble is: The Hi-Ace minibus has a bench seat – I can’t stroll back for a beer or a kip or to feed the kids. That’s a deal-breaker.

Steve wrote:

I never owned a Toyota in my life, despised them in fact, till arriving here in Australia and had to take the cheapest / most reliable / least offensive on the tweedie handsey (second hand) market.

Try standing on hot used car lots in the Brisbane heat !!!  Water boarding is a kinder form of torture.

Eventually when my head and body was about to be fully done in, I gave way and said “OK OK  I’ll take it”  and by some luck I was standing on the Toyota forecourt at the time.

VERY pleased I was not standing next to a Kia or a Holden Captiva.

As for the clutch, anything that can take six months of the good wife Wendy’s clutch abuse and still be on the road is ok for me. And I am brave enough to say this in front of herThen duck.

I wrote:

It’s a sad state of affairs that I will take anything that doesn’t give me kak in the line of cars and women nowadays.

Which reminds me:
Bob Ilsley was at Addington when I got there in my khaki uniform. He was in legs, I was in eyes. He made woorren legs for the hobbling. He’s turned 81 now, still flies the plane* he made in his garage – a Piper Vagabond – and waltzes around in rude T-shirts. One says, ‘IF ITS GOT TITS OR WHEELS IT
WILL GIVE YOU SHIT.

I’ve made glasses for him since 1980: Glass PGX execs; 3 cyl power, same axis; SAME heavy, dark Safilo zyl frame (same frame, not same type of frame), same add, same same; Tried changing a number of times to new frame, multi, CR39, flattops, different axis, whatever, and every single time we go back to EXACTLY what he had before.

Last year we tricked him. We made a free pair of CR39 flattops (‘temporary’ we told him) in a better frame (still zyl, but thinner) and made him wear them while we took his old specs and “searched for a frame just like his perfect one”. The search continued while his wife, all his girlfriends and mates told him he looked much better. Now he has stuck to them (except every now and then he walks in with his old ones on and kicks up a huge stink in the front office when its crowded about how “These bloody new frames you gave me are NO GOOD!”).
He’s a character. Sharp as  a whistle. He flies and signs off home-built planes – experimental aircraft – before they can be licensed.

* or would still be flying his Piper Vagabond tail-dragger if he hadn’t pranged it on take-off in PMB with his wife on board. He is re-building it in his garage now.

Bob’s Vagabond in his garage, being rebuilt after the PMB prang – never did fly again.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Anyway, owning a Toyota probly makes you more boring in the long run: You, for instance, would not have to catch a lift with friend Bruce to fetch your car in Umbilo Road (and the clutch feels kak, thank you).

We made a detour for lunch – a currie at Gounden’s. Gounden’s is at the back end of a panelbeating shop between Umbilo and Sydney roads. You walk thru the workshop to get to it. Lekker bare place, cheap tables with a big bar doing good trade. Many ous there for liquid lunch. We took quarter bunny mutton, made my hyes water.
Washed it down with Black Label and coke – one bottle, one can, long sips from one then the other. R80 for the both of us. Service: Of the Hey You variety. Ambience: Faint sounds of panel beating in the background.
Gounden opened this “restaurant” to spite his wife when they divorced. Her restaurant is a few shopfronts away, on the street: Govender’s Curry House. We feel in such cases of matrimonial argy bargy, we should support the husband.

~~~oo0oo~~~
My good wife Aitch also should be employed on a test track for concept offroad trucks along with Wendy. A mate from England visited and Aitch drove them around quite a bit while I worked to make money to take them all to Mkhuze. He drives ancient Peugeot heaps and lovingly tends them with kid gloves, keeping them alive long past their date de vente (sell-by date), so this was an eye opener to him. He said a Cockney version of Yussiss! and described how she takes no shit from a gear lever, nor a clutch. She knows first is somewhere up in that far left corner and she shoves the lever there without any how’s-your-father.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Bob is now 82. Last week he came in with his “Recycled Teenager” T-shirt. To proudly collect his – wait for it – Glass PGX Exec Bifocals in Thick Square Plastic Frame.
“Much better” he says.
His CR39 flattops were coated with a thick layer of some spray. Took lots of cleaning with acetone to get them clear and smooth. He did acknowledge they were clearer than they’d been in months. But the execs were better.

Today he’s back from passing his flying medical.
“Told you” he says.
“You wouldn’t lissen” he says.

Today he’s off to Kokstand to check if a home-built – built by the local hardware man – is safe to fly another year. He’ll certify it if all’s well.

Next week he’s on his way to Oshkosh in Wisconsin to the world’s biggest home-built aircraft show. Sleeps in a pup tent in the campground to save tom.

Last time he flew a simulator of the Wright Brothers’ first aircraft. Crashed after 3 seconds. Went to the back of the queue and stood in line again to have another go.
Flew it for 44 secs that time. Longer than the brothers themselves.

Steve wrote:

Amazin. Where do you get PGX glass execs from? That stuff is illegal here – we live in a nanny state though. Had a dude on the phone for 20 minutes wanting glass PGX trifocals.  Banging on about how he could buy PGX exec TRIfocals on the net if only he could get someone to fit them for him. Had not given up and had been trying for 18 months. PLUS of course being a veteran he needed to have them free. Veterans Assistance (V.A) here only does SV or bifocals, plastic only and a free pair every two years. Clear rules. He has been in battle with the head office of V.A. and after 18 months says he is beginning to make progress.  Fantastic. Over here if you whinge long enough, know how to use email, have time, and use the term “human rights” you can have anything. Just shout loud enough. Its all yours. And then the taxes go up.

I wrote:
Your veteran sounds like Bob.

On the execs, I got a definite NO WAY from Zeiss, Essilor and Hoya, but of course in Debbin there are lots of little one-man labs with family connections in places that keep Morris Oxfords running for half-centuries after their sell-by dates.

They woke up Hoya who then found a pair covered in dust. The add was +1,75 not +2,00, but I said “What’s the difference?” and we made them up. Bob’s as pleased as punch, like I told you. He loves a good “I told you so”.

Steve wrote:

Like Horseshoes and Handgrenades, closies DO count.  Excellent.

~~~oo0oo~~~

High as a Kite (if you want to . . )

Faster than Light (if you want to . . ) – Moody Blues “The Best Way To Travel”

I’ve always wanted to fly. Who hasn’t?

But I dislike noise, so while my first flight in a light aeroplane – with an Odendaal or a Wessels piloting it – was great, and my first flight across the Atlantic in a Boeing 707 at seventeen was unforgettable, it was a glider flight that first got me saying “Now THIS is flying!!”

We hopped into the sleek craft, me in front and my pilot Blom behind me. Someone attached the long cable to the nose and someone else revved the V8 engine far ahead of us at the end of the runway of the Harrismith aerodrome on top of 42nd Hill. The cable tensed and we started forward, ever-faster. Very soon we rose and climbed steeply. After quite a while Blom must have pulled something as the cable dropped away and we turned, free as a bird, towards the NW cliffs of Platberg.

Up One Man's Pass - Down ZigZag Pass

“OK, you take the stick now, watch the wool” – and I’m the pilot! The wool is a little strand taped to the top of the cockpit glass outside and the trick is always to keep it straight. Even when you turn you keep it flying straight back – or you’re slipping sideways. I watched it carefully as I turned. Dead straight. “Can you hear anything?” asks Blom from behind me. No, it’s so beautifully quiet, isn’t it great! I grin. “That’s because you’re going too slowly, we’re about to stall, put the stick down”, he says mildly. Oh. I push the stick forward and the wind noise increases to a whoosh. Beautiful. Soaring up close to those cliffs – so familiar from growing up below them and climbing the mountain, yet so different seeing them from a new angle.

Years later I’m married and Aitch, having checked that my life insurance is up-to-date (kidding!) gives me a magic birthday present: A Hans Fokkens paragliding course in Bulwer KZN. We arrive on Friday night and check into an old house on the mountain side of the village.

Hans disagrees with Douglas Adams who said in Life, The Universe and Everything, There is an art, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Hans says you don’t throw yourself at anything with his wings, nor do you jump off the mountain. You FLY OFF THE MOUNTAIN! He tells me how airflow works and how wings fly and then feeds us from a huge pot of stew and we sleep. Luckily I had been through ground school before; years before, when Colonel Harold Dennis taught me how heavy things fly in Oklahoma.

The next morning we’re on the hillside getting air into the wing and learning to lift, turn, run and FLY! The first time you lift off you think No-o! Yesss!!

Soon I’m able to take off at will on the beginner slope and we move up the mountain. I love the fact that you pack your own wing in a backpack and carry it up the mountain yourself. My first flight was fantastic but short, basically straight down and a rough and tumble landing. My next flight is way better, way higher and way longer, as this time Hans attaches a walkie talkie to me and can tell me what to do. “Lean right! Hard right! More!” comes over the speaker and thus he keeps me in a thermal and I keep climbing. Fifteen minutes in the air, rising 100m above the take-off point! 

Aitch had gone off to read her book and chill, so no pics were taken of my soaring with the eagles and the lammergeiers!

Wonderful, silent, wind-in-your-hair flight at last!

bulwer paraglide
– this pic is not me but it was just like that! –

After that amazing and unforgettable quarter of an hour, I descend slowly, and by watching the wind sock I can turn into the wind at the last moment and land like a butterfly with sore feet.

Beyond stunning!!

~~~oo0oo~~~

~~~oo0oo~~~