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.

 

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*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:

resilience

Resilience

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.

Cheers!!

– – 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!

Return of the Wagtails?

For years I would watch a large flock of Cape Wagtails settle down for the night on a low tin roof above the parking area on the roof of my shopping centre, Montclair Mall south of Durban. They would gather in a long line under a roll of security barbed wire. Its just visible, arrowed next to the little grey lift tower far right in picture. True, its a long shot, but I wanted the clouds to show.

Montclair mall roof barbed wire.jpg

The ugly wire gave them a safe place to roost. The most I counted was sixty six of the lil guys.

Then they disappeared. For the last six years or more I saw none of them. Not one. My guess is poison on people’s lawns have put paid to them. Poor buggers do such a good job cleaning up people’s lawns but we humans are impatient! We prefer mass murder to waiting for little feathered tuxedo-clad workmen to neatly pick off the offending insects and grubs one-by-one.

This week one lone waggie made a comeback on the roof! Let’s hope a recovery is starting!

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Cape Wagtail – Mocilla capensis

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.

On Safari with a Bushman – Cook’s Tour

Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique via Botswana. We only had a month, so not as leisurely as we would have liked. Can hardly believe it was fourteen years ago! The kids are now 19 and 15!

Mostly we drove at a leisurely pace and didn’t do great distances. We did put in a long day of driving on four stretches, which allowed us to chill most other days: Lusaka to Chipata in Zambia; Blantyre in Malawi to Tete in Mocambique; Tete to Vilanculos in Mocambique, and lastly Zavora to Nelspruit back in South Africa were all long-hauls. On those days we left early with the kids strapped in and sleeping. We’d drive for hours before breakfast. Aitch always had food or entertainment for them.

LuangwaWithKids (1) Tom

For the rest our days were unhurried. Slowly with the windows usually down, as we didn’t use the aircon. Anyway, speeding and potholes are not a good combination. At places we liked we’d stay up to three nights. Each of our five three-night stays felt like a complete holiday on its own. The Bushman off-road trailer proved its worth at every stop.

Waterberg, South Africa

Zambia

On through Botswana and to the Zambian border at Kasane where a ferry carries you over the Zambesi. One of the ferries had dropped a big truck overboard and got damaged, so only one was in operation, which slowed things down. Took about four hours and we were safely across the Zambezi river in Zambia. Tommy took to the “fewwy” in a big way and called all boats fewwies for a while. The battered and half-drowned second ferry and truck and trailer were visible looking sad at the side of the river. The border post was pleasant enough. They charged us more for our “minibus” and tut-tutted sympathetically at my exaggerated protests that this was not a fee-earning taxi, but just our vehicle! Laughingly insisted “Well, sir, it’s the rules”. Had a good chuckle and they wished us well in their country.

In Livingstone we camped on the grounds of the Maramba River Lodge. It was full, so we squeezed in near the gate – not the best site, but quite OK. Lovely pool again. Drove to the falls at daybreak where a vervet monkey snatched Jess’ breakfast apple out of her hand. Our first sight of the falls from the Zambian side. Spectacular even though low.

Drove to Taita Lodge on the very lip of the Batoka Gorge downstream of the falls overlooking where we had rafted years before. A warm welcome and a great lunch on the deck hanging over the river. Ice-cold beer, great sarmies. Looked for Taita Falcons, saw Verreaux’s (Black) eagles soaring below. Tom & Jess banging on the dinner drum and xylophone was un-musical, but no other guests around, so no one minded – in fact the staff loved the brats and spoilt them with attention. I thought I’d better step up and perform as Aitch had been doing all the lessons and homework, so I taught them Cheers! Salut! and Prost!

Whoa!

On the way out of Livingstone we hit the best section of road we saw on the whole trip – brand new wide black tar with centre white stripe and side yellow lines! Amazing!

BUT: Just as we hit the smooth, the ole kombi died. Stat. Not a shudder or a hiccup first. Just suddenly nothing. That much-dreaded “CAR TROUBLE” thing! Well, after 197 000km I spose it’s OK. Unpacked the back and lifted the lid to stare at the engine. That’s my mechanical trick: I stare at engines.

Some school kids walked up and said ‘Don’t worry, they know a mechanic at the nearby village’, and the toothy one on the battered bicycle offered to go and call him. Sure, I said, not hopefully. “JP” from Gauteng, on his way to service some big crane, stopped his rented car and kindly offered his assistance. Soon he was joined (I was amazed) by Carl the mechanic, who arrived with a metal toolbox on his shoulder, and between the two of them they peered, prodded, unscrewed – and broke the distributor cap! Using mostly my tools and swallowing the ice-cold drinks I passed them, they eventually gave up. ‘Must be something computerised in one of these little black boxes’ was their verdict. Right!

‘There’s a VW agent in Lusaka’ says Carl cheerfully. Right! 200km away. As they’re about to leave, Carl spots a loose wire under near the sump. Finds another loose end of a wire and joins the two. VROOOM!! Apparently the wire was from a cutout switch to a heat sensor in the block. The kombi roared to life to tremendous applause! Well, four of us cheered. JP said ‘My pleasure’, Carl said ‘R200’, I said ‘Bargain’, Trish and the kids said ‘Thank you!’ and we were on the road again!

Next stop Lochinvar National Park at the south end of the Kafue National Park. We’d never heard of it but saw it on the map. Quite a bumpy road got us to the gate after dark. ‘Sorry, but you can’t go in’, said the soldier with a gun. ‘Sorry, but I have to’, said me. ‘You see, I can’t let these little kids sleep out here and nor can you, so hop onto your radio and explain that to your main man’. Back he came – ‘Sorry. The main man says the gate is closed’.  ‘You just didn’t explain it to him nicely enough’ I said – ‘Please tell him I can’t, you can’t and he can’t leave a 22 month old sleeping in the sticks’. Off he went and back he came. ‘The main man will meet you at the camp inside’. ‘You’re a marvel, well done, thank you!’ we shouted and drove in on a 4km free night drive in Lochinvar. No animals, but some nightjars. A primitive camp, so we rigged up our own shower. Nice big trees.

It has beautiful flood plain lakes in the middle of dry surroundings.

South Luangwa National Park in Zambia was my main destination – I had read about it for decades. It was everything and more I imagined. Flatdogs Camp just outside the park was a blast, too. Big shady trees, a hearty meal available if you didn’t want to cook, and a swimming pool with a slide. Jess loved it so much she wore a big hole right through the bumular zone of her cozzie.

Flatdogs pool. Jessica heaven. Wore a hole thru her cozzie!
Flatdogs pool. Jessica heaven. Wore a hole thru her cozzie bum!

We met an American Mom with three kids. She’d married a Zambian man in the USA and had shipped over a converted school bus to tour around Zambia.

Jess and the three ZambiYanks and their Schoolbus
Jess and the three ZambiYanks and their Schoolbus

Then into the park – a long-awaited dream. It was terrific. Saw puku antelope for the first time.

Sausage tree huge-er!
That huge tall Thornicroft’s giraffe suddenly looked small

To get there we had to drive from Chipata town – that dreaded road we’d been warned against! Well, the grader had been a few days ahead of us and it turned out to be one of the smoothest stretches of the whole trip!

Luangwa Road small_cr

On to Malawi

Chembe village on the shores of Lake Malawi, and freshwater snorkelling off Mumbo island in Lake Malawi, cichlid fishes, and bats and swifts in a water cave.

 

MalawiWithKids (5)
Chembe village beach fig tree, Lake Malawi

We stayed at Emmanuel’s. Fair-minded people will agree with my assessment of it as ‘luxury’ but Aitch veto’d that and stuck it firmly under ‘basic with roof’, even though the shower was almost en-suite.

Outside the room, Aitch was in heaven:

Mocambique

Leaving Malawi we crossed the wide Zambesi at Tete, where we stayed in a motel on the right bank as we wanted to head straight off the next morning. Probably Aitch’s least favourite lodgings of the trip – mozzies and an empty swimming pool. Leaving town two garages had no petrol. They said the word was that the town on the far bank had, so we crossed back over the Zambesi, filled up and crossed back again. The kombi liked that!

The mighty Zambesi at Tete

Our biggest luxury was three nights at Vilanculos Beach Lodge. Sea, sand, a bar, lovely food, huge soft beds, friendly staff. Especially João, who spoiled the kids rotten, writing up cooldrinks to our room number! They thought he was a wizard.

We took a boat to Bazaruto Island and then on to Two Mile reef offshore in the big Indian Ocean. Lake Malawi and Bazaruto were Aitch’s main snorkeling destinations and she LOVED them both! Two-Mile reef really is ‘like an over-stocked aquarium’.

Two-Mile reef

Two Mile Reef Bazaruto
Two Mile Reef, two miles east of Bazaruto Island off Vilanculos, Mocambique

Zavora Bay near Inharrime. Stunning lakes and a wi-ide bay; A reef at the point, so you can walk in and snorkel in sheltered water for a kilometre; Lovely cottages – houses, really, on top of the dunes overlooking the bay. Our best find in Mocambique. We hadn’t heard about it before and we fell in love with it. We agreed: “We MUST come back here one day!”

MocamWithKids (13)
Ponta Zavora, Mocambique
Zavora beach
One Child, One Beach

Here’s where the kids got sick. We tested them – high positive readings for malaria. Luckily the lodge owner gave us Co-Artem pills which we fed them and then set off early next morning for South Africa.

When we got to Nelspruit hospital they tested all clear! The Co-Artem had done its job perfectly!

Two Memory Highlights: The rivers – stunning! The Chobe, Zambezi, Kafue, Luangwa, Shire, the Zambezi again (at Tete it’s wi-i-ide and beautiful), the Save and the Limpopo rivers were all magnificent and welcome and we stopped and stared. South Africa has some lovely rivers, but these were wider, swifter-flowing and clearer.

The friendly people. Everywhere we went we were helped and fussed over and we heard laughter and “No Problem!”, and quite often: “Are these your children?”

Accommodation: We camped 14 nights; Basic shelter with roof 6 nights; Comfy lodgings 7 nights; Spoiled ourselves with luxury 5 nights;

Duration: Five 3-night stays; Three 2-night stays; Eleven 1-night stands;

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Cook’s Tour: Thomas Cook (1808 – 1892) was an English businessman best known for founding the travel industry. In 1855 he took two groups on a ‘grand circular tour’ of Belgium, Germany and France, ending in Paris for the Exhibition. The expression ‘A Cook’s Tour’ was humorously used for any rapid or cursory guided tour: “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium”.

 

On Safari with a Bushman – Preparation

Having decided “We’re Going” we wanted to keep things simple.

Over-preparation can cause delays, complications and second thoughts! I took long leave (I asked me, I said yes, I hired a locum optometrist, all good). Trish was between jobs – looking after kids was her current full-timer – so she was good to go. Mario serviced the kombi for us and gave me his usual lecture about looking after it. He told horrific stories about his trips up north in 4X4’s and how terrible the roads were. Especially the road between Chipata and Luangwa, ‘the worst road in Africa’. I made a mental note.

And instead of buying all sorts of stuff I bought a . . . . drum roll! . . . .

1975 Bushman Tracker 1 Off-Road Trailer

R27 500. Made in Nelspruit / Mbombela 28 years earlier. It had a stove, a gas bottle, a tent, a mattress, a table, ground sheets, cutlery and crockery, a spice rack and a 45l water tank. What more could you possibly need?

In the kombi I removed the bench seat in the middle row and fitted the single seat for Tommy’s car seat next to the new National Luna 65l fridge (about R6500, if I recall correctly) so we could walk around both sides to the back bench, to which Jessie’s sturdy and comfy car seat was attached.

That back bench seat also folded down to become a double bed, so we could all sleep in the kombi if need be, as I also rigged a removable bed between the two front seats for Jess and for Tom we had a mattress on the floor. While checking the tyres Jacks Tyres showed me a second-hand kombi mag wheel just like mine, so I bought it. Now we had two spares, like rugged okes!

For each of the kids I had a rectangular six-sided mosquito net “cage” made that zipped closed over them once they were in bed and we then lifted up the four corner straps and hooked them to fittings I had affixed to the kombi roof, completely enclosing them each in a mozzie net “Four Poster Bed”.

We were ready to go.

We packed food for three days plus plenty of snacks – Aitch’s forte. The rest we’d get on the way, in line with my motto: Weight is the enemy!