Micro-Hippos (or tardigrades)

Americans call tardigrades ‘water bears’ and Europeans call them ‘moss piglets’. I think Africans should call them micro-hippos. They’re obviously more closely related to hippopotamuses than bears or pigs. Just look at them. Anyone can see that’s a microscopic hippo wearing his old wrinkled khaki bush outfit.

Anyway, they live in water, like bears and pigs don’t. Microscopic, blobby-bodied tardigrades measure between 0.05 to 1.2 millimeters in length. The wee beasties have endearing features: fat, segmented bodies; oblong heads, sometimes with a tubular mouth; four pairs of chubby legs tipped with grasping claws that resemble those of a sloth. The word tardigrada means ‘slow stepper’; They are famed for their ability to survive in extreme conditions, even appearing to come back from the dead.

They’re found everywhere on damp moss and algae around the world, but you can’t see them with the naked eye. Yet German dominee Johann August Ephraim Goeze discovered them back in 1773. Amazing.

Researchers have found that tardigrades can withstand searing heat and freezing cold, up to 149 degrees Celsius and as low as minus 200 degrees Celsius. They emerge unscathed after exposure to boiling, high pressure, and the radiation and vacuum of space.  They expel the water from their bodies and enter a suspended state known as a ‘tun’. During this state, they retract their limbs and shrink into tiny, desiccated balls, emerging only when life-threatening conditions have passed. OK, so that’s not like hippos, but nor is it like piglets. Bears do their hibernation thing, true.

They come in various kinds. Here’s another one and an embryo:

Now an American scientist is studying how these amazing beasts do what they do. He is Thomas C. Boothby of the University of North Carolina. He grew up in Africa, so I hope he calls them micro-hippos!

More here and here

*Matt Simon on wired.com called them something like “cannons in wrinkled khaki”

I Was Born To Make Mistakes


. . Not To Fake Perfection.

quote by Drake

(Canadian rapper Drake? Old essayist Nathan Drake?).

I found this on empress2inspire ‘s blog here.

She also quotes Canadian singer Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.

and she improves the old saying “practice makes perfect” to

“practice makes progress”. Much better.

Go and check her out.


African Greybeard

I’m coming down to Durban to buy a parrot. Where’s Overport? asks the ole man.

Ole lady phones, all worried as ever. Can you tell us how to get to West Road in Overport, Koosie? I say I’ll try, phone you back. I need to hatch a plot. I phone back and say Come to my place for lunch, I’ll leave work early and I’ll take you, it’s not easy to find. She sounds dubious but she’ll try that.

Ole lady phones back, amazed. He saw sense. We’re coming for lunch, she says, relieved. She can’t see, he can’t hear, so she was dreading looking for a small parrot in a strange haystack.

When I get home they’re on my stoep and Jess has given them tea and Tommy is busy cooking pasta carbonara for lunch for all. My children! Bless them! I had told them I’d love it if you’d give them a polite hello, but you needn’t stay, just make your excuses and go. They decided to completely exceed all expectations and charm the old bullets. Proud of ’em!

Off we go to meet Sumie who has three baby African Grey parrots in a box. His grandfather breeds them in Utrecht. Dad had said he wanted to choose his own. We check them out on the tailgate of my bakkie in West Road Overport. Dad picks one and now I think, Here comes the bargaining. R2500 says Sumie. No way says the ole man and shuffles off to the front seat of my bakkie. He comes back with the bird magazine and shows Sumie his own ad: R2300, moaning how he has wasted his time coming all the way from Pietermaritzburg. Fine, R2300 says Sumie.

And the food, says the ole man. That cost me R100, Uncle Pieter, I’ve just fed them, so give me R80, says Sumie. It’s my birthday on Friday (true), counters the ole man, you should give it to me as a gift. How old you’ll be? asks Sumie. Ninety Five says the ole man (true) so they settle on R50.

Now they debate who’s box is better. Sumie has a shoebox – it’s wider – and ole man has a box some electronics came in – it’s deeper. Ole man realises if he takes Sumie’s he gets both, so he settles on Sumie’s shoebox.

We go back home for our delicious pasta lunch, followed by ice cream and coffee, and off they go back to PMB. The ole man changes into second too soon up the steep hill. He would have hated it that I heard that.


And I didn’t take a single photo! Damn! Well, here they are with great-grandkids:

Gogo Mary & Great_Grandkids (2)

Don’t Look For Logic

How can ANC voters possibly vote for this man!? Or for this party!? Heard around many an SA braai fire.

Well, because of their emotions. The emotion that went with the memory of first voting ANC is very powerful and is very unlikely to change.

And our emotions – yours and mine – work in exactly the same way!

Yes, they do. We do the same.

There is a part of the brain called the amygdala which is, among other things, a kind of “emotional memory center”. That’s a bit oversimplified, but essentially true; when you recall a memory that has an emotional charge, the amygdala mediates your recall of the emotion that goes along with the memory; you feel that emotion again. When you rehearse the reasons you first subscribed to your belief, you re-experience the emotions again–reinforcing your belief and making it feel more compelling.

This isn’t just a liberal vs conservative thing, either. Nor a more-educated vs less-educated thing. Its just us humans.

Say, for example, we’re afraid of nuclear power. A lot of people, particularly self-identified greenies & liberals, are afraid of nuclear. We KNOW its dangerous. If we are presented with evidence that shows that nuclear power, in terms of human deaths per terawatt-hour of power produced, is by far the safest of all forms of power generation, it is unlikely to change our minds about the dangers of nuclear power one bit. We will read it and say “no way!” or “yes, but . . “. Please read it anyway.

The most dangerous form of power generation is actually coal. In addition to killing tens of thousands of people a year, mostly because of air pollution, coal also releases quite a lot of radiation into the environment. This radiation comes from two sources. First, some of the carbon that coal is made of is in the naturally occurring radioactive isotope carbon-14; when the coal is burned, this combines with oxygen to produce radioactive gas that goes out the smokestack. Second, coal beds contain trace amounts of radioactive uranium and thorium, which remain in the ash when it’s burned; coal plants consume so much coal–huge freight trains of it–that the resulting fly ash left over from burning those millions of tons of coal is more radioactive than nuclear waste. *

But no-one is agitating for coal waste to be buried deep underground in a desert far from any towns. So many people die directly or indirectly as a result of coal-fired power generation that if we had a Chernobyl-sized meltdown every four years, it would STILL kill fewer people than coal. Not convinced? Thought not.

If we’re afraid of nuclear power, that evidence won’t make a dent in our beliefs. We would mentally go back over the reasons we’re afraid of nuclear power, and our amygdala would reactivate our fear…which in turn will prevent us from seriously considering the idea that nuclear might not be as dangerous as we feel it is.

Now – in SA in 2017 – if our argument against nuclear is financial, we’re on better ground, but we need to then ask how we could get nuclear power at a less ruinous cost. Are we doing that? Or is our amygdala preventing it?

Here’s another hot button topic: If we’re suspicious of National Health Insurance (NHI) the arguments in favour of it, the financial sums, the logic of sharing, won’t make a dent in our feelings about it. Especially if someone plants the thought of having to queue at public hospitals in our mind. Even though that’s not what National Health INSURANCE is about. Nor is the truth of public hospitals as bad as we imagine: We took Aitch’s mom and Dad to public hospitals and got great service for her hip replacement and his broken hip. BETTER service than we got for Aitch at Parklands Highly Expensive Private Hospital With Thick-Pile Carpets and Artwork on the Walls! Where she picked up a raging infection due to nurses not washing their hands.

NHI is about a national health INSURANCE plan so that all start paying towards having equal access to better health care, with all hospitals being used equally for all. The NHI website’s first words are “The NHI is a financing system . .

We’re used to being ripped off by private care and we don’t mind, because we (16% of the population) are covered for private care – and we thus enjoy the services of 79% of SA’s doctors. Often with our employer paying half. So what the actual plans for NHI actually say is unlikely to change our mind.

Anyway, we don’t need to read those plans. Our amygdala just KNOWS.



*We have had two major nuclear disasters in sixty years: Chernobyl and Fukushima. In that time we have polluted the world with thousands of dirty coal-powered plants for 21 915 days in a row.

Thank you Franklin Veaux. See his blog where he talks about Why We’re All Idiots: Credulity, Framing, and the Entrenchment Effect and learn a bit more about what makes you (us) tick!


Some Valuable Life Skills

The ability to be happy.

A sense of humour!

The ability to be happy while also being alone.

Resilience – the ability to bounce back, the courage to come back:



Life won’t always be fair to you. The ability to bounce back and the attitude of not giving up on life is a rare trait worth trying hard to cultivate.


The ability to make people laugh!


The ability to forgive and forget.

Self Discipline : The only skill you require to master any other skills or habits.
The ability to express your thoughts:
express yself - what i think

The ability to learn (also from your mistakes).

The ability to let go – Of Stuff and of Guilt and of Blame.

Getting out of your comfort zone:

life begins at the end of

Being completely honest with yourself, and both strict and patient with – even kind to – yourself.

Realising how fortunate you are. The knowledge that you have enough already. 

The ability to love yourself – and then to radiate that love outwards.

The willingness to try new stuff with enthusiasm.


These answers were given by various quora.com writers. I chose the ones I liked best and can learn from!

How to Win Friends and Influence People


The alcohol you people drink is called ethanol. This is a molecule that, in highly technical chemistry terms, looks like a hound dog with its leg cocked. Two carbon atoms (black) are stuck together to support an oxygen head (red). Six hydrogen atoms (white) spread out over the molecule to give each of the carbon atoms two feet, the oxygen atom a nose, and the rear carbon atom a tail. Ethanol is small, mobile, water and lipid soluble, so like a dog it can get into all sorts of places that maybe it shouldn’t. Like a dog it can also (sort of) head butt you in the crotch while sniffing to find out, or let others know, where you’ve been.

Ethanol Doggie

And where do you people want your ethanol? Why, in your brains, of course. That’s the point, innit? You might bulldust that you drink for your nose, or your palate, or your stomach or your blood. Rubbish. You drink to get that stuff in your brain. Once in the brain, alcohol acts on the nucleus accumbens. This area is a midpoint between the reward centre of a brain and the parts that make associations and memories. Ah, those memories, right? The good ones that you remember. And then there are those that your “friends” always insist on reminding you about!

Now everyone knows that too much alcohol at once can kill you, but how? It depresses nerve function, makes you sleep and suppresses the gag reflex, so people who are passed out can choke on their own vomit, like rock stars. So if you’re a wannabe rock star but can’t sing, can’t play, can’t grow your hair – there’s always that. The brain also controls things like breathing and heart rate, and enough alcohol can shut down those parts of the brain too. People pass out and their brains simply forget to breathe.

BUT: Alcohol also has its good side, don’t forget! It causes a bunch of dopamine to be released, hot-wiring your brain-ular system.  It makes you feel confident and talkative, because it depresses some shut up! brain functions and deadens the be discreet centre. It also makes you feel good, dunnit? And invincible, right? Erudite, and a very good dancer.

So alcohol is brilliant and worth investing in. Also, depending on what research you choose to believe, a glass of wine per day can either not do any harm, prevent heart attacks, or make you functionally immortal. Long after you finally die, they’ll have to beat your liver to death with a stick. Or transplant it into some lucky recipient who can wake up from their op pre-pickled.

It’s kind of nice to know that – sometimes – relaxation, cheer, wittiness and immortality can literally be bottled. All that’s needed is to take care just how much alcohol you let into your brain at any one time.


– – Paraphrased from a lovely article by Esther Inglis-Arkell here. It’s worth a visit! It showcases Doug Adams’ cocktail, the ‘Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster’ from Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and shows you how to set fire to grog in spectacular fashion. Marvelous stuff!

Wally Menne – R.I.P

Dammitall, I can think of a lot of people whose death would be good for the environment. Wally Menne is not one of them. His is a seriously sad loss for our environment.

Trish worked with Wally at BotSoc and at the big annual plant fair he was so instrumental in organising. The indigenous plant fair was huge in getting more indigenous plants out into gardens all over KZN and in spreading the word and popularising the planting of plants for a reason other than looking pretty. Azaleas are pretty but we all started to need to plant things that fit better into the local soil, insects, birds, etc biosphere.

We all knew that plantations are sterile and suck up water, but Wally gave me this book and taught me the real dangers of plantations:

Wally Menne gave me this book and taught me about the plantation industry

He told me about the plantation industry’s influence on governments and their insidious PR calling themselves “forestry people” and representing themselves as the stewards of forests when they were in fact the enemies of forests and grasslands. They sponsor bird books and create little nature reserves while destructively expanding into precious biodiverse areas, ruining them forever. They “capture” prominent environmental bodies by sponsoring them and wining and dining their representatives. Insidious. “State Capture” is old hat to them. Wally as always said it exactly as it was: He likened their use of  the word “forestry” to the Nats’ use of terms such as “separate development” or “mother tongue education” to put a pretty face on apartheid.

We miss you Wally and we need someone to stand up in your huge shoes. Ain’t gonna be easy. Most of us are easily swayed by persuasive bullshit and a book launch or a ribbon cutting at a new little nature reserve (which incidentally has no real protection).

Tonie Carnie wrote a stirring obituary for Wally in The Daily Maverick.