Archive for February, 2010

Be good to the good guys. End the Uganda death law

February 27, 2010

This Blog isn’t a Gay Rights sort of Blog. I don’t think that gays should be given special treatment. Same goes for Blacks, minorities, Moslems, women…

An even playing field.

Be good to the good guys. Help someone worth helping and worthy of help. Always treat the weak well. Look after animals and the environment. And give the scumbags a kicking.

That’s the bottom line.

But this Blog  also thinks governments and religious zealots should stay out of people’s lives if what they are doing isn’t hurting anybody else. What harm is a gay Ugandan doing?

Idi Amin? The guy needed an air strike. He got one. But not in the right place. The Israeli missiles should have been directed straight up his fat arse.

The Ugandan Lords Resistance Army (allegedly enforcing the Ten Commandments) is still forcing heretics and peasants to eat each other and stealing their children for indoctrination and military training. Read all about it in my novel Homunculus.

These are the Ugandans who urgently need the death penalty. I suggest slow strangulation by piano wire. Accompanied by a vigorous bastinado.

Not somebody who is gay. Leave them alone. They haven’t chosen their sexual orientation. The LRA have chosen their behaviour.

Hang em high and read the following post.

Sign if you have time. Petitions don’t really work in Africa. But worth a shot!

Cheers!

Hugh

PS Oh gawd! My wife is now playing the moonlight sonata. Is there anything more lovely on a warm tropical evening than to have a moon, the sound of frogs and singing insects in the palms and the glories of a piano? Hope! Let’s keep going. Let’s fix the world!

———————————————-
Subject: Stop the Uganda death law

Dear friends,

Debate is raging in Uganda on the proposal to execute gay people. We can’t let extremists drown out voices of reason — donate now for opinion polls and ads showing Ugandans choose human rights over violent extremism:

Donate Now!
In just two weeks, nearly half a million of us have signed the global petition against Uganda’s proposed law to sentence gay people to death and jail their friends.

It’s an extraordinary response to a terrifying law — but more is needed. Extremists are escalating their rhetoric — with one pastor showing gay pornography in order to whip up rage. But very few know the harsh details of this draconian bill. And no public opinion poll has asked whether the Ugandan people would support such mass execution.

The Ugandan movement against the bill, which has been electrified by global solidarity, hasn’t had the resources to inform their fellow citizens about the bill’s deadly provisions.

If enough of us chip in, we can help launch radio spots, newspaper ads, and billboard campaigns that reach millions of Ugandans with the truth — and a powerful, human call to protect human rights. Donate now to fuel the defense of rights in Uganda:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/ugandan_voices/?vl

While homophobia is widespread in Uganda, as in much of the world, so is a belief in basic human rights — and this bill is, at heart, an assault on human rights.

The fundamental belief that every life is equally precious, regardless of nation, creed, or sexual orientation, is at the heart of the opposition to this bill. It’s what has led hundreds of thousands of us to sign the petition — which has been sent to Ugandan and donor governments, and will be presented to the Speaker of Parliament in Uganda next week. And it’s what has united the church leaders, gay groups, and human rights advocates in Uganda to join together for justice.

The Ugandans at the front lines of this struggle are doing all they can. Our support — resources that cost us very little — can make all the difference in the world to them. Donate here:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/ugandan_voices/?vl

Let’s rise to this moment, and make their cause our own.

With hope,

Ben, Alice, David, Paula, Benjamin, Ricken, and the whole Avaaz team

PS: You can read the actual law here:
http://www.avaaz.org/death-law

You can read more about the proposed law here:
http://www.avaaz.org/uganda_article

If you haven’t signed it, you can join the petition against the law at this link:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/uganda_rights/?fr

Fish Ate My Feet: Oriental Massage

February 25, 2010

In various parts of Bangkok you’ll find somebody overseeing several tanks of silvery, minnow-sized fish. They’re not for sale. And not for eating.

They’re for your feet.

Here’s how it works. You cough up three US dollars or Baht equivalent, shuck off your shoes and immerse your horny, over-tired feet in the water. Several hundred fish immediately spring into action and begin ‘Operation Nibble.’  Fifteen minutes later they have eaten every scrap of dead skin and left you with feet as smooth and supple as a baby’s behind. Athlete’s foot? History. Tired feet, likewise. The fish don’t just leave you with feet and toes you can proudly display in public but the gentle pummeling they administer while dining acts as an equisite massage.  

I’ll try and find out the species.

Trust me. This is as much fun as you can ever have with a fishtank.

How Heavy Is The Artist?

February 25, 2010

Bangkok Calling!

And here’s a competition.

Bangkok has a sophisticated metro rail system and if you are planning to use it regularly your best bet is to buy an electronic swipe card that enables you to make multiple journeys. The cards are decorated with exquisite water colour images. Mine has flowers.

And on Sunday, by chance, I met the artist.

I shall supply the correct answer in two days time along with a photo of the painting. The lucky winner will receive a bunch of bananas and an opportunity to meet the artist face to face (with the proviso that the award winning ceremony will take place in Bangkok so you’ll have to pay for your flight).

A Farewell To Namibia: Annabel’s Last Column for Air Namibia’s Flamingo Magazine.

February 25, 2010

This Blog has relocated to Bangkok for the time being.  We are still keeping one foot in Namibia (houses, friends, Blog correspondents etc.) but with my wife currently in charge of conservation projects in South East and Northern/Central Asia, I can’t see us back on African soil for at least two years. Sorry to leave, but glad to be here. And I’m sure we’ll have a few stories to tell!

Over to Annabel.

START:

Hi Annabel here again! I’m now six years old but still believe that I am Africa’s youngest Travel Correspondent.

Soon I won’t be.

Assuming that my father actually finishes packing (and I stop unpacking everything and scattering it over the floor again) I will soon be South East Asia’s youngest Travel Correspondent.

That’s where we are going.

Bangkok.

Incidentally, for anybody interested in exceptionally long city names, Bangkok isn’t Bangkok’s official name. If you want to get it right you should respectfully refer to it as:

“The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarm“.

If you really want to get it right just say:

“กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุทธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์”.

Quite a mouthful!

But I am getting off the point.

My mother who has been active (one might say hyper-active) in Namibian nature conservation for some years, has now been given the job of supporting and overseeing conservation projects in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mongolia.

Quite a handful!

I’ll probably only see her five minutes each month. It’s going to be different!

So, chaps, this is my last story for Flamingo. Allow me some space for nostalgia.

I begin.

My writing career started early. My first story covered an expedition to The Family Hideout, an old farm house sitting on a plain of golden, sun dried grass with views of distant purple mountains and fox red super dunes.

I spent several glorious days of isolation there. Didn’t see a soul – with the exception of my parents and the caretaker, who lives five kilometers away.

We ate dinner in the dim, romantic light of solar powered lanterns while bat eared foxes rushed past, woke to find an Oryx drinking water from a little pool by the stoep, and watched heat lightning dancing in thunderous skies.

I was six months old at the time. And it was wonderful.

With a little help from my parents I then did my bit for global warming by scouring Namibia for places of beauty and interest, racking up over half a million kilometers in the process of my quest. I also had to endure many hours of having to listen to my father’s interminable BBC radio drama cassettes and his excruciating singing.

Heaven and Hell.

But overall, Heaven won the day. Particularly if my mother was also in the car and told my father to turn the cassette player off and stop his infernal singing.

If you are just arriving in Namibia and reading this, trust me, you are in for a treat.

Namibia is a country laden with treasures. It’s got the lot, really. Up North, you turn East, dodge elephants on the Trans-Caprivi Highway and you are in lush, riverine forest, and (if rash) can dangle your feet in the Zambezi watching hippos and incoming crocodiles interested in smiling at you.

You could, alternatively sit in a Safari Lodge chair, savour a Sundowner and enjoy the sight of water fowl, mokoro canoes poling past casting fish nets, and listen to the faint  songs and drums of villagers on the other side of the river.

There are a lot of National Parks in the Caprivi Strip and a lot of elephants but for much of the year there is also a lot of water. So my suggestion is drive a 4×4.

Moving South we enter Khaudum NP. Very wild. I spent 72 hours here with the warden, Dries Alberts, on the annual full moon game count. This happens in November (the full moon enables counters to count around the clock) and, if you’d like to take part, contact Dries.

Do so is my advice.

I had a ball – camp fires, mud to roll in, great company –  and I counted lots of hyenas that wanted to eat me. My father, who elected to man the hide during the graveyard shift, counted nothing whatsoever. Typical. In his defence the pump had run out of diesel and the waterhole he was scrutinising didn’t have any water in it. But you’d have thought the dunderhead would have picked up on the fact that there wasn’t any pump engine noise.

Etosha needs no introduction so I won’t waste time introducing it. Suffice to say I’ve been there time and again and every time it has been different.

A couple of months ago I watched two rhinos fighting at Okaukuejo.

The difference of opinion surged in and out of the waterhole, lasted over an hour and made one heck of a row. The snorting was reminiscent of my father’s routine nocturnal performances when in his sleeping bag. The screaming, squeals and whatnot sounded as if someone was peeling a pig. I’m not guaranteeing you a rhino fight. In fact I’m not guaranteeing you anything. This park is unpredictable and full of surprises.

Veering North West, I now mention Palmwag Lodge and Etendeka. I have shared camp sites with elephants on numerous occasions, most notably at Purros, my favourite “magic valley” but only at Palmwag have I shared a pool bar with an elephant. The big guy joined us with a view to draining the swimming pool and hung around rumbling for an hour or so, occasionally tossing back a makalani palm nut.

The bar staff assured us that there was no cause for alarm. But that we should stay close to the bar.

Absolutely no objections raised from my father on that score. And I used the excuse to consume three glasses of lemonade (my official daily ration is one) and one of the best cheese burgers I’ve had in this country. Apart from the one I had in a garden centre in Otjiwarongo. That was a sensation and could have fed a family of four.

Etendeka is a tented camp run by my friend Dennis. It isn’t far from Palmwag (an hour, or a bit, of bone-juddering drive enlivened by leopards, hordes of game and spinal fractures) and that is where I spent Christmas, 2009.

Mince pies, Christmas cake, chickens and spuds plus butternut roasted on hot coals from the fire, gravy par excellence, masses of fresh veg, unlimited drinks… How he put that show together in the middle of nowhere remains a mystery. But Namibian lodges pull this trick time and again. Fresh lettuce in the middle of a desert! Mince pies?

Darn! I’m out of space and it’s time for me to start unpacking all those boxes again.

Next article will be posted from Bangkok! So you’ve not heard the last from me.

Byee!

Annabel

Annabel’s Comic

February 25, 2010

Annabel's comic. Page_1

Annabel's comic Page_2

Annabel's comic Page_2

Annabel's comic Page_3

Annabel's comic Page_3

Tongue in cheek: A New Element Discovered!

February 22, 2010

I received this by email this morning

“Queens University researchers have discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (symbol=Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called pillocks.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact

A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 4 years.

It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium’ s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium (symbol=Ad), an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium, since it has half as many pillocks but twice as many morons.”

Hugh’s Herbs: Herb Rosemary – the Gourmet’s Guardian of the Garden (Rosmarinus officinalis)

February 18, 2010

This is one of the “Swiss-army knife” herbs, it has a wide range of traditional uses, many have been corroborated by modern science, others validated by practical use, and some as yet are unproven, but intriguing. Apparently at the height of London’s 1603 plague outbreak, a handful of Rosemary could fetch as much as six shillings, roughly equivalent in price to 36 barrels of beer or six fat pigs!

Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical Database attributes Rosemary with no less than 746 active compounds, 52 of them anti-oxidant, 27 anti-viral including 13 ‘actives’ that are specifically anti-HIV. Amongst the others 46 are anti-bacterial, 43 anti-inflammatory, 47 cancer-preventive and 25 anti-tumour. As with anything medicinal, reasonable use is advised, it is possible to be allergic to, and overdose on, Rosemary leaves. Its ingestion is contraindicated by people with anemia and epilepsy. The essential oil is toxic by ingestion, dilute it for topical and aromatic uses.

Plant a bush beside your threshold and you’ll be maintaining a host of time-honoured traditions: culinary, medicinal and folkloric. Alongside superb flavouring, this herb has provided a hair rinse, skin cleanser (11 actives are anti-acne), moth repellance, a good gargle for sweet breath – also said to soothe a sore throat, and a headache remedy, furthermore you may find your household less troubled by witches and other evil influences. A sprig under the pillow was believed to prevent nightmares.

The flavour and aroma are invigorating, mildly resinous and camphorous with something of the freshness of new mown grass.The boughs were burnt as a fumigant in French hospitals and will freshen your living room fire. This herb features in Eau de Cologne.

Need to clear your head a bit? This herb will probably help. The anti-oxidants are believed to protect the brain against free radicals and thus may have preventive effect against Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s diseases. Just the scent of Rosemary was found sufficient to significantly enhance the detail of recollection according to a Newcastle University study published in The Journal of Neuroscience 2003, though it may have slowed the speed of recall.  This finding ties in with the widespread belief that this herb aids memory. Rosemary has been traditionally associated with weddings (an ingredient in the bridal wreath) so that the bride shall not forget her life before marriage and with funerals to aid in remembrance of the departed. Why not pin a sprig of this herb to your kid’s lapel next time there’s a history examination and see what happens?

A tisane can be made by steeping leaves of Rosemary in a covered cup of boiling water for 5-15 minutes. The resultant liquor is said to produce fragrant shine when rinsed through your hair, ease a sore throat when gargled, ease a headache and help settle the stomach when drunk. Applied topically it makes a great face wash (some advocate steeping the leaves in wine to draw more actives from the leaf for this purpose). The tisane can be used fresh or refrigerated for use a day or two later.
In the kitchen, Rosemary associates well with tomato, onion and garlic. It’s a staple feature in Mediterranean cuisine, enhancing fish, meat and vegetable dishes and is a frequent ingredient of the French Bouquet garni.  Chopped fine, it is an important herb for pizza and in pasta sauces. Try a few chopped courgettes (zucchini) and onions fried in butter, deglazed with a splash of white wine and a desert spoonful of  Rosemary leaves and you’ll see the power of this herb in its purity. Simple, but epicurean! Too much will make the dish quite acrid and bitter so add little by little and find your preferred flavour level.

A handful of leaves or three or four sprigs is sufficient for perfect seasoning of chicken, pork, rabbit and lamb – often in marinade. If you want the flavour without the prickles, you can make a tea of the leaves and use that in your gravy or sauce. The jus and gravy are transformed! It’s a fine ingredient in stuffings. The leaves can be inserted under lamb skin with garlic cloves for a hedonistic roast!

On the brai, but especially on covered BBQs rosemary sprigs can be applied (alone or with onion and bacon slices) directly to the coals to flavour the smoke. Some people use the wood to make flavour imparting kebab sticks!

It will also elevate sauteed or fricasseed chicken and roast potatoes to glorious heights and the leaves should either be chopped fine, or left on the sprig to be removed entirely as they can get dry and spikey in the oven.

Rosemary

Rosemary provides arid gardens with vigorous, long flowering, evergreen swathes beloved by humans and nectivorous insects alike.

Named ‘dew (ros) of the sea (marinus)’, probably for its pretty light blue flowers and coastal growing habits, this drought-resistant, woody, evergreen perennial shrub of the mediterranean region is related to the Mint family and has waxy, poignantly aromatic needle-shaped leaves, dark above, pale below, which can be stripped from the branch by a downward sweep of the hand. The leaves resemble pine needles and are tastiest when cooked soon after plucking, but they can be chopped and dried for later use.

Easy both to cultivate and to propogate by stem cutting, Rosemary prefers well-drained soil and sunshine and will feel quite at home in a Namibian garden, patio planter or window-sill pot. It likes neutral soil of average fertility and provides welcome evergreen foliage interest and flowers in arid gardens. It takes well to topiary and pot-grown specimens need to be trimmed to avoid legginess. It can grow to form small trees six feet tall.

There are a variety of different cultivars available, notably with white, blue and pink flowers, more silvery or variegated leaves or differing attitudes of growth, bush-like, procumbent, creeping and pyramidal.

Do Animals Self Medicate with Plants?

February 16, 2010

Apparently some do. If you have seen a dog eating grass prior to vomiting then you may have witnessed animal self-medication of a sort. The jury is still out on whether this is a conscious use of an emetic or not. Would the dogs have vomited eventually anyway? This is a question sometimes raised and in response it could be said that people would probably recover from a headache eventually, but we tend to reach for the medicine cabinet to move things along a bit.

Some other examples are less equivocal. Primatologist, Dr. M.A. Huffman of Kyoto University noted that when one of his Chimpanzee study subjects in Tanzania was looking ill and lethargic he witnessed her seek out and eat the pith of the Bitter leaf tree (Vernonia amygdalina). When Huffman’s assistant Mohemadi Seifu Kalunde informed him that the local Tongwe tribe used various other parts of the tree to treat Stomach Cramps, Malaria Fever and Intestinal Parasites, Huffman noted the connection and then established a new medical use for a part of the plant hitherto unrecognized in the 40 years that the plant has been known to medical science. In the abstract of his paper “Animal self-medication and ethno-medicine: exploration and exploitation of the medicinal properties of plants” Dr. Huffman writes

“Early in the co-evolution of plant-animal relationships, some arthropod species began to utilize the chemical defenses of plants to protect themselves from their own predators and parasites. It is likely, therefore, that the origins of herbal medicine have their roots deep within the animal kingdom… Both folklore and living examples provide accounts of how medicinal plants were obtained by observing the behaviour of animals. Animals too learn about the details of self-medication by watching each other.”

That’s pretty unequivocal.

My search of the NCBI PubMed database for animal self medication yielded 295 published medical papers, evidence of a growing branch of human science, Phytopharmacognosy, dedicated to the acquisition of pharmacological knowledge from the animal kingdom. So the answer seems to be that some animals do self medicate with plants, and that science can learn from them.
Some animals also self-medicate to counter undesired phytopharmaceutical influences. After eating toxic plant matter African elephants and Brazilian parrots eat mineral rich clays to detoxify their vegetarian diets.

Recently, via a program on Community TV channel I heard of a translocated black rhino in Namibia that died from ingested plant toxins and I now wonder whether it ate unfamiliar plants or whether its new habitat lacked the specific minerals that could have countered the toxicity? It may be necessary to move their medications together with these animals for successful translocation.

Interesting.

How to express your love this St. Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2010

Here’s a very brief entry in the form of a referral to anyone who’s looking for tips on how to express their love this St.Valentine’s Day!

May Cupid’s arrows fly true for you!

http://slclk.about.com/?zi=1/qFN

Maggot tastes like shrimpy custard

February 12, 2010

In the Irrawaddy delta some kind folk at a mangrove aforestation and crocodile breeding project shared a snack with us.

eating a deep fried beetle maggot in Irrawady Delta

eating a deep fried beetle maggot in Irrawady Delta

The beetle grubs live in the tops of palm trees. It was nicely cooked and had a very rich custard-like consistency and shrimpy flavour.


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