Dr Doolittle

You know what? I’ve always wondered what would happen:

If I conferred with our furry friends, man to animal
Think of the amazing repartee.
If I could walk with the animals, talk with the animals
Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals
And they could talk to meeeeeeeeee…… [Jazz Hands to fade]

But look no further, young Padawan, because now there’s a animal communication course that you can do. It’s in Port Elizabeth, so enough said really, but then there’s a redeeming feature in that the Facebook ad has a Boston Terrier and a telephone receiver on it, so it must be good, right?

Hopefully the animals are going to put some effort into studying too though, because that’s not how you use a phone, is it?

Enough of my questions though, because the course organisers have a couple of their own:

Have you ever considered the possibility that you and your animal have spiritual agreements to assist each other?

I’m sorry, what?

No. No, I haven’t considered that possibility. Primarily, I feel, because an agreement, you see, is something that both parties have to… er… agree to, and I’m pretty sure that I’d remember entering into some sort of mystical, mutually beneficial pact with the beagle. So no, it’s not a possibility that I have ever considered. Next question please.

Could it be that your animal has valuable information for you and because you have never thought about it, you haven’t spent much effort learning how to communicate more effectively with him or her?

To be honest, there are only a few pieces of valuable information that I’d really require. The winner of the 2:30 on Saturday at Turffontein would be good, a medium to long-term outlook on the currency markets would be even better, and the GPS coordinates for the well that little Tommy has fallen down would certainly assist the people currently out searching for little Tommy.

I digress… I find it highly unlikely that the beagle, an animal so thick that it can’t even recognise its own reflection, would be able to furnish me with any of these important details. Look, it’s very good at knowing where the kitchen is when I’m cooking or making the kids’ packed lunches, so if I ever need to know where the kitchen is, I’m sorted. But to be honest, I’m yet to find any other use for it, and it’s been three years now.
And anyway, it can already communicate: it scratches on the back door when it wants to go outside, and it scratches on the other side of the back door when it wants to come back in. It’s not exactly high level communication, but since we have no spiritual agreement to assist each other in place, it’s about as good as things are ever going to get.

Can this course teach me more? Of course it can.

Learn how you can learn to directly communicate with animals. All living creatures have the ability to think, feel, and communicate although most people have forgotten this. This course teaches how to open up to the messages that animals around us are sending all the time.

This makes your household pet sound like a spy. If the beagle is sending messages all the time, to whom is it sending them? And what do they say? And how is it sending them? And why do the recipients want to know? All of these questions will obviously be answered on the course, but if I were to learn how to tune in or intercept these messages that the beagle is allegedly sending all the time, then at best, I would feel that I was eavesdropping or intruding upon its privacy, and at worse, I would probably want to strangle the treacherous little sod.

It all depends on what it’s been saying. But either way, I see no benefit for anyone here.

In this one day course you will learn inter species communicate with each other and how you can effectively send messages to animals and hear their answers.

I can’t help that if someone is running a course on any sort of communication, they should be able to write in sentences which make sense. This one doesn’t, but what it lacks in basic English, it makes up for by promising some incredible things. Not the “effectively sending messages to animals” bit – that’s not tough to do if you’ve got a shoe on your foot some tasty tidbits to reward their good behaviour with. They soon learn what you’re telling them.

No, but hearing their answers would be amazing. Well, I say that, but the beagle is notoriously good at ignoring any command you give it, so do I really want to hear what it has to say?

Now:
Me: Hey, beagle, come here!
Beagle: [looks up, ignores instruction]

After ‘Beginner animal communication course’:
Me: Hey, beagle, come here!
Beagle: [looks up, ignores instruction] Fuck off.

Again, I see no advantage for myself or the beagle here.

The individual who can like to be presenting this course goes by the stage name ‘Animal Benefits’, and a quick look at their Facebook page yields (along with lonely dogs and depressed horses), this gem from last month:

This smacks of the nonsense spouted during the search for Vienna. And you’re going to pay money to sit in a room with this [           ]* for a whole day? Ugh. You’re the one who’s atrocious.

Look, even this light-hearted, so-called example of alleged animal communication is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to justify eating more chocolate:

[delicate female voice] “Oh, but I cannot feed it to my dog, because chocolate is bad for dogs, so I will just have to have it for myself, no matter if he thinks I am being ‘atrocious’ (yes, he used that word, ‘atrocious’)! OMNOMNOMNOM! Ha ha ha!”

To be fair, I have tried the same thing with the beagle and brandy, but at least I don’t charge idiots a fat fee to come and listen how to I do it.

If you willingly choose to pay real money to go on this course, you’re on your own. There are a million better things that you could do with your hard-earned cash and precious time.

If she locks the door once you’ve sat down, it’s been nice knowing you.

Don’t go near any wells.

 

 

* redacted for legal reasons

Missed connections

I was the good-looking guy in the silver car. You were the bloke who looked like a fat, sour-faced Michael Vaughan, driving a pale blue Honda Jazz and who had no clue about how traffic circles work.

I braked hard (which is the only reason that this is a missed connection), you didn’t, but I saw the conflicted look – steeped in both arrogance and guilt – that you shot me as you ploughed onto the mini-roundabout at the top end of Struben Road, blatantly ignoring my right of way.

And then there were those awkward moments all the way down Bowwood in the morning traffic, me following your nasty little car with the Bonnievale Route 62 and silver baby footprint stickers on the boot, and you constantly eyeing me in your rear view mirror, wondering whether you should apologise or get out and fight me. For the record, I don’t do road rage so I wasn’t swearing at you*, I was actually singing along to DJ Shadow’s Nobody Speak, so I was basically just swearing, full stop.

If you want to meet up for some driving lessons, get in touch and maybe together, we can arrange something which might potentially increase the safety of everyone on Cape Town’s roads.

 

* Probably just as well, given how that video progresses [achtung: much swearing].

Licenced to k… drive

I went to renew my driver’s licence today. It’s something you have to do every 5 years in South Africa, so that they can extract just a little more cash from your already hard-pressed wallet.

There’s a rather inefficient system in place to get the all important card. Firstly, you have to stand in a queue to get a DL1 form. It would be nice if you could get this online and fill it in in advance, but you can’t. So there.

Once you’ve completed DL1, you get to join queue two. That’s the eye test queue. Each eye test takes 4½ minutes, on average, so it’s not a quick queue. Still, you had nothing better to do with your Saturday morning than stand in another line, right? Right.

Only once you’ve passed your eye test with flying colours can you move on to the third queue. That’s the payment queue.

You’d think that simply handing over R140 would be a fairly speedy, uncomplicated task, but they seem to take quite a while considering the straightforward deal.

Open another payment window?

I think not.

And what do you get when you’ve paid? A piece of paper that you can hand back to them at a future date once they’ve printed your licence.

Of course, when that time comes, you will have to stand in a queue to pick it up.

Yep. If there’s something that the system to renew your driver’s licence in South Africa is trying to tell the general public, it’s definitely Four Queue.

Confident?

It’s a potential watershed day for South Africa today. Yet another no confidence vote on our rotten president in Parliament, but this one has an edge on the previous versions in that it’s a secret ballot. And the opposition parties even had to go to court to get that ‘concession’.

Albeit that the ANC has slowly been losing ground in our comparatively young democracy, it still holds a huge majority. So at least 20% of the ANC MPs must vote against Zuma in order for the motion to pass (assuming that all the opposition MPs also vote that way, which seems (mostly) likely).

JZ and his people have worked hard – in various ways – to ensure that they are well supported within the party. There’s clear evidence of corruption and wrongdoing, but a lot of ANC MPs are involved in those nefarious acts, or they’re willing to overlook them, or they simply don’t care. Previously, anyone from the ANC sticking their anti-Zuma head up above the parapet has been swiftly dispatched, so the secret ballot is an important step. But then what personal reward is there for being on the right side of history if you’re voting anonymously?

Will it be enough to succeed? Probably not, but I’m not sure that anyone actually has any idea. Apart from the fact that the vote might be quite close, there could be individuals who are saying one thing and doing the other – to the benefit of either side. It’s politics, hey?

Here’s how a secret ballot happens in the RSA Parliament.

And if it succeeds, what happens then? This.

If a vote of no confidence is successful the President and the entire Cabinet will have to resign. The Speaker becomes acting president. The NA must (within 30 days) elect a new president from among its members.

So Baleke Mbete as Acting President. Frying pans, fires.

And if it fails?

Personally, I think it will be a bigger blow for the opposition parties that they’d like to admit. This is definitely their best chance yet at removing JZ, and they seem to have high hopes. Of course, they’re going to talk up their chances, but when you put that public face on, you have to publicly accept the consequences if or when things don’t go your way.

That said, every time there’s a no confidence vote in Zuma, it damages and fragments the ANC further, and so they will surely go again. The ongoing danger is that by next time, the ruling party has worked out which MPs voted against Zuma and has moved to… remind them of their party “obligations”, and realign them with the JZ faithful.

There’s an air of expectation over Cape Town today. It feels like a big day. It feels like things could change. But no-one is willing to stick their neck out and call it just yet. Personally, I think that there’s no chance of the vote succeeding, but I’m just a humble bacterium wrangler and world famous blogger, not a political expert. And I really have no problem with being wrong on this one. None at all.

 

Drones are bad, mmmkay?

Look, I’m not stupid. (Careful now.)

There’s no doubt that some people will use drones illegally and will do bad things with them. Just like some people have done and will continue to do bad things with basically everything else that exists: shoesvans, turtlesfixings, sports equipment, cutlerybits of musical instrumentsdogs, diggers – even fruit.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get my point.

But this BBC article – ostensibly about how criminals using drones can or could be detected and brought to justice – does seem to go out of its way in order to portray drones in an extraordinarily bad light. (Which, incidentally, makes for less than ideal flying conditions.)

I mean, just look at the image they chose to illustrate it:

That’s exactly what I look like when I fly my drone.
Furtive. Disguised. Illegal. Determined. Criminal.
(And with a jaunty tilt on my remote control.)

Still, an excellent demonstration of VLOS. Well done.

And then there are words, like these:

Whether it is flying illicit goods into forbidden places, spying on people, interrupting the work of the emergency services or worrying wild animals or aircraft, the threat they present is growing.

Spying on people? Have you any idea how absolutely amazing your drone equipment has to be to “spy” on people? My Mavic has a 12MP camera. It’s half as powerful as the one on my cellphone. And a lot noisier.
My DSLR and its telephoto lens though? Silent and powerful, like a beagle fart. Amazing for spying on people, and yet its ownership is wholly exempt from any legislation. Hmm.

Sure, someone managed to get some cigarettes and a DVD player (actually quite impressive) into a prison using a drone. And that’s not good. But then, naughty people put mobile phones into chocolate bars to get them “inside”, so should we…  should we ban the sale of Mars bars or something? No. No, we shouldn’t, because they’re delicious and most people just eat them, completely legally.

For the article to then go on and use a quote from a “drone expert” suggesting that drones could be used to disperse bio-weaponised anthrax does seem to be just a teensy-tiny bit scaremongery. Because yes, while it is technically possible, the issue there is not really the drone, but rather the bio-weaponised anthrax, no?

All in all, this does seem to be a disappointingly one-sided article. Yes, it’s about crime and drones, but in telling us about those things, it does seem to suggest that crime is all that drones are going to be used for, tarring all drone pilots with the same sticky brush, and conveniently ignoring the many thousands of us who are operating wholly within the law.
But then of course, we must remember that it’s ever so cool to hate these new-fangled tools of annoyance and terrorism – and their users – at the moment, so maybe it’s just trying to tap into the Daily Mail-created zeitgeist.

I completely understand the need for some legislation around this hobby (both flying drones and production of bio-weaponised anthrax), but I’m growing increasingly tired of the incessant anti-drone rhetoric I seem to be seeing everywhere these days.
I just hope that the individuals charged with making the rules are a little bit less alarmist and blinkered than journo Paul Marks and… well… everyone else, actually.