Saturday, August 19, 2006

Beautiful, strange


How goes the universe? I hope you are all okay. It is terrible when someone you know ends up in a rut. So, what have I been up to?

Well, it is Saturday evening and I'm sitting at home right now. Sad, I know but I did do my bit of socialising today! I went off with Kathleen, Josh and Eebee to lunch at some funny little Chinese place in Cyrildene. We were originally going to go for dinner but somehow, it changed and we went for lunch instead.

We got to this place and had a look at the menu. There was a very small portion of the menu that we all could actually eat, given that I'm a vegetarian, Kath and Josh are both vegans and Eebee is halaal and so basically is a vegetarian whenever we eat out. We had to choose from a selection of tofu and vegetable dishes. Kath and Josh ordered this really cool soupstuff that was kind of like having boiled rocket and strips of tofu. It sounds rather unappetising but it was really nice! Certainly much nicer than what I ordered. I ordered some tofu slices fried in soy sauce and noodles.

The noodles were weird and very fat, not the skinny kind that you expect after having only ever experienced the 2-min kind of noodle. The tofu tasted like smoked nothing and had the texture of a partially scrambled egg...and given that I am not a fan of eggs, this was not cool!

Well after that, I went and had a can of coconut juice to wash it all down. I love coconut juice! It is my favourite! Most people would find it disgusting but I really like the stuff! So, I figured that since I had enjoyed it so much, I should try and broaden my horizons and try someof the other lesser known drinks available from the chinese community.

Big mistake...

If you are ever offered one of the following, scream and run!

The one on the left is the safest bet if you ever have to drink something on pain of death. It is guava juice (even though it is suspiciously white in colour...). The middle one is white guard juice which kinda tastes like ice-cream and maple syrup (trust me...not a good thing!). The most sinister of these is the one on the right: 'Grass Jelly Drink'.

Never again!

On a considerably lighter note, yesterday, I went in to Wits with my cousin, Duncan. We went off to Biosoc, which I havn't done in ages and I had a blast! I doubt that Duncan enjoyed it as much as I did but at least he came. I got to meet a whole bunch of new people, such as Pam, the teacher in training, and Richard, one of the readers of this very blog! If your name isn't Richard, I humbly appologise. My ability to learn and retain peoples names is really shocking. Sorry!

At Biosoc, some poor sod passed out on the grass which was a huge mistake on his part! He was promptly tied to the dustbin with hazard tape,had his shoelaces tied together, had a table cloth drapped over him and had a large sign with an arrow propped against his back. Poor bugger. For a brief period, it seemed he was going to be upchucking all over but luckily, nothing happed.

After the comparatively entertaining Biosoc, Duncan and I headed off to try the other bars on campus. We decided to head off to Baqt (Pronounced 'Bact') in the hopes of finding Laura there. She works there on a Friday as a barmaid. We met up with her and she gave us discounted drinks which was cool! Literally 5 min after we arrived there, it closed so we had to clear off. Laura said that we should all go to another bar called 'The Boz' which was supposed to be really, in her words, 'pumpin'.

It wasn't...

So Duncan and I decided to wait a while in the hopes of finding Laura. She never pitched, so we headed off home. Duncan dropped me off at home and we intended to go out again. However, after a bite to eat, I felt so sick that I couldn't go anywhere! All that alcohol had been very happy just sitting in my stomach on it's lonesome. Once food came into the equation, no-one was happy.

So anyhoo, after that graphic description, I shall bid you adeau (or however you spell it!). Cheerio all! I'll be going off to Biosoc again next week, so any readers of this, I expect you to be there too! Unless of course you happen to be on another continent or something...


Thursday, August 17, 2006

A quickie

Hey all!

I thought I should just write a short entry considering I havn't done anything for absolute AGES! Hope you all are well and that the universe is treating you okay.

I have been working like a mad thing all week! I have done so much since Monday, it is nuts! I have done nearly all of my preparation for the workshop on chimps at the zoo next Saturday and I have prepped dung, TA'ed and discovered the joys of polyurithane and acetone! I have also made an ass of myself twice over the course of a single day!

If I feel particularly inspired, I'll write more tomorrow evening...


Saturday, August 05, 2006


Today is Saturday! Hooray!

So, since the last episode of my life, I havn't really gotten up to all that much.

Yesterday was the day of a protest march against seal clubbing in Namibia. I was horrified to learn that in Namibia they still club seals for their pelts! There are practically no measures in place to control the seal hunting there and as a result, the government keeps the activity of their seal pelt industry under wraps. Here is some facts about it that were e-mailed to me by my friend Kathleen:

Harvests of 7 to 9 month old baby nursing seal pups (which are protected in South Africa) takes places at Cape Cross Marine reserve and Wolf/Atlas Bay in the De Beers controlled diamond restricted area in Namibia. Seals were banned from islands in South Africa and forced to bred in Namibia on the mainland to make their killing easier. Baby nursing seals are rounded up and herded in-land away from the sea. Held in groups they await their slaughter. Panic is high. Released in small groups with their mothers, these pups try to reach the safety of the sea, as they are forced to run between a guantlett of men with clubs. Most of the time, they are not killed with the first blow to the head, and lie there suffering until clubbed or stabbed in the heart, some time later. Harvest quotas are supposed to be set as high as 30% of the pups born. Cape fur seals, a completely different species to the harp seals, suffer natural mortality in first weeks from birth of 25-32% to this Namibian adds a sealing quota. Namibia has stated that the seal pup production is 73% pre-1993 population. Which means in 13 years there has been no growth and the population is 27% lower than 1993. The harvest for 1993 was set at 30% or 50 850 pups on 164 000. The harvest for 2006, with a population 27% lower, has been increased by 68% to 85 000 on a population of 119 000. Taking into account the natural mortality of 25-32% these pups suffer - the 2006 sealing quota of 85 000 will kill all the pups on the colony from 1st July - a seal pup genocide. Namibia bans seals from most islands larger than 3 ha, and forced these seals to bred on the mainland. Numerous former island seal colonies off Namibia are now extinct. Current sealing practices are not humane or sustainable - simple because if practiced on seals in their natural breeding habitat - islands, from which they are banned will directly lead to extinction of that seal colony. Sealers in Namibia, of which there are only 3 concession holders who employ less than 150 workers, use a common garden pic-axe handle as a club and are migrant, part-time workers who are un-trained. No fisherman are employed in sealing industry and therefore if sealing ends, none with lose their jobs or income. Seals on islands that have not been disturbed, culled or harvested - have shown no growth in the population since population surveys started in 1971. Seals currently only breed on 2% of the over 1000 ha protected for them, they are banned from the rest. Since 1988, seals have suffered 3 mass die-off's from starvation from over-fishing, in 1988, 1994 and 2000. Where one third to one half died of starvation. The population has still not recovered, as is still down 27% on 13 years ago. There is no profitable market for seal skins, which receive US $3 per pelt. 63% of the seal pups weight is discarded as waste. Namibia claims seals are a threat to fisheries, yet all breeding cows have been exempted from killing for 100 years. Sealing disrupts the population male-female ratio - because females are exempt, and mostly only the larger male pups are harvested, creating an unnatural female surviving pup population.

I was really sorry about not being able to attend. I think that it is disgusting that a practice that is so barbaric is still happening just next-door! I really wish I could have been there for it...

On the flip side, I am really glad that I didn't actually end up going because I attended a talk about infering animal behaviour from fossilized termite mounds. I realise just how nerdy I sound, but it was really interesting and it resulted in me meeting up with someone that may be my ticket to a free holiday in December!

About a year ago, I went with Helen to help one of the post-doc students with her field work. Her name was Lydia Du Toit and she was trapping mole-rats. We had such a jol and it I got invaluable experience from the whole thing. Unfortunately, Lydia left to live in Germany soon thereafter. She was a joint student of Wits and Pretoria University.

Ironically enough, yesterdays talk was by a guy from Pretoria Univeristy and he had brought one of his students along as well. It turns out that this student of his was the 'replacement student' for Lydia, and is German! And ironically enough, she is also working on mole-rats. She has absolutely no experience with trapping them and so, was looking for field assistants to go on her trip. So Helen and I volunteered ourselves for it and she said that she'll let us know when she's going to go!

*Fingers crossed*!

I also went to the zoo yesterday to see one of the zoo vets for Helen. I was basically acting as driver seeing as she wrecked her car. We got to see a baby Margay (type of wild cat) that had been born moments before that! We also were shown the zoo's new frog breeding project! It was amazing!

I then came home and had dinner with some family friends who are out here from the US. They live in Laguna Beach. It was so nice to see them again! You never really notice just how much you miss people until you see them again...

That's all for today yo'al!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Oh my gas...

Holy bananas! Moments ago I found out that my friend, Helen, just wrote off her car! Well, in all truth, it wasn't moments ago. It was about 20 minutes ago. But the fact remains, she wrecked her vehicle!

Apparently, about 5 minutes after we all left Wits, all being Eebee, Helen and I, one of her tires burst and she lost control of the car! The car flew perpendicularly accross the road and crashed into the barrier on the opposite side. In the process, she miraculously didn't hit any other cars but burst both front tires, trashed the radiator and wrecked the front of the bodywork. The chassis is okay but she sounded really shaken. She is fine too. Not a scratch luckily for her.

Apparently the AA took forever to help out and so she only got home around 9:30 pm. We left Wits around 6:30 pm! Poor kid was stuck on the side of the road for almost 3 hours!

And in other news, today it sleeted in Johannesburg! Joburg hasn't had anything close to snow in about 23 years so today was really exciting! I was on my way to the zoo to fetch a document from Althea with Helen, Brian and a guy from the lab that Helen works in called Trevor. Trevor has spent the last 6 or so months on Marion Island, an island off the South African Coast that is bloody cold! It snows there all the time. So, today while it was sleeting and the rest of us were getting all excited, he kept trying to remind us that it wasn't real snow so we shouldn't get all excited. We just ignored him any filled our bodies with bliss in the form of adrenalin.

At the zoo I met a whole lot of new people while waiting for a blizzard to hit. It never did. In fact, it continued to sleet for another hour or so and then stopped. There were a lot of photographers from different newspapers there to take photos of the recent additions thanks to the baby-boom.

After getting the stuff from the zoo I returned to Wits and had to go off to TA this afternoon. It was fun. For a change, the students actually seemed to know what was potting and so didn't need all that much help. We assisted where necessary but it wasn't really a frequent occurance. Once the TA'ing was over, I just headed off to my office to get something warm to drink. It was freezing all day!

After the warm drink I went off to do my dung analysis which was surprisingly short today. Granted, I only had a single sample to examine but still. I then came home, had some dinner, watched another amazing episode of 'Lost' and returned to my room to discover Helen's unfortunate circumstances.

Speaking of which, I am most annoyed at the producers of 'Lost'! Next week's is the final episode of the season and they apparently have yet to begin/finish (depends on who you speak to) the next season! I CAN'T WAIT THAT LONG!!! The last few episodes have been totally AMAZING and I just know that they will end off the season with a cliff-hanger of note!

Well that's all for now. I end this day's blog with a photo I took in Italy of one of my favourite places in the mountains there. It is what I hope Johannesburg will look like by tomorrow morning! *Fingers Crossed*

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What a brilliant day!

Hi all!

I was just reading some of my previous blog titles and they are all so pesimistic! I thought, seeing as today was a relatively good day I should brighten things up by having some kind of cheery title.

Yesterday I went to the zoo to visit Althea, who is explained below. I went to collect my zoo access card for next year and ended up staying for 3 hours while Althea took myself and Helen around to show us all kinds of stuff. There is a baby boom at the zoo at the moment so we got to see a baby gibbon (ape), black antelope, mona monkey and a heavliy pregnant female chimpanzee! It was so cool! The antelope was being taken for a walk and it was so brave, it walked right up to us! We fed the gibbon mom some banana so we could see the baby. I'm seriously considering looking into getting a job at the zoo. It would be amazing! But it is really long hours hand for 6 days a week!

So today was good for many reasons. Firstly, I got to sleep late-ish. I was supposed to be up at 8:30 but I just couldn't get myself out of bed! I kept falling asleep again. It was rather frustrating but I got up eventually.

I went in to Wits with a few things on my 'To do' list. I had to go to the zoo at some stage to pick up some literature from my zoo-keeper pal/associate, Althea. I'm not sure what I should be terming her. She is a connection that I have at the zoo from third year and she is really cool. She was incharge of the carnivores at the time and our work there was on the cheetah, Cole. She is more of a friend than just some arb person that I know at the zoo. She is in charge of all the primates and reptiles there so I'll be working with her next year.

This is a photo of Cole on top of the mound we created in his cage to try to make it more interesting. If we had taken this photo a few hours later, Cole would have been nowhere near the mound and there would have been a large turd where he should have been. It actually happened...

Anyway, I didn't end up going to see Althea because shehad forgotten to take the paper to work with her so I'll have to go tomorrow some time instead.

The next good thing that happened today was that I got all of my marking done for the second years! They handed in an assignment on Friday but we were not allowed to fetch it until Monday and I didn't manage to do much marking yesterday. So I made it my mission to get through all the crap they handed in to us today. And I DID! Yay!

Then, I got a call from my supervisor, Neville to have a meeting after lunch. I had sent him an e-mail to say that I didn't want to bother him on his first day back after his leave and so I would see him tomorrow but he rather asked me to come to see him today. I spoke to him about all the stuff that I had done while he had been away and how my project is going and he assured me that I was 100% on track and that everything was going swimmingly! I was so chuffed because I had been worried that things were getting a little out of hand.

It rained today! I LOVE the rain! It is one of my favourite weather phenomena! That and snow! I just love the sound of the rain falling on the roof and watching the multitudes of little drops plummet to the earth to splash on the dark earth. That smell is amazing too! Nothing comes close to giving me that experience.

Then, I did my dung analyses and packed up to go home. On my way down to the car with Helen, we ran into one of the masters students from last year, who coincidentally is also named Luke. It was really nice to see him again. He's cool but he is doing his masters by course work and so he is never out and about.

On my drive home it rained again which was amazing!

I got home and had some supper while watching 'The Amazing Race'. It's the family one and my opinion of the show has dropped like a fat person on a diving board. It was my all time favourite reality show but now the family team thing is ruining it! I shant watch any more of this season to preserve my mental image of the best reality show...

Then I discovered that the dogs had taken a dump in the garage which I had to clean up...not cool...

I also discovered that my family just baught a computer today at a whim.It was really random!

That's all for today! Cheerio!