Headline

There’s a lot of bad news around at the moment: Terrorist attacks, conflict, political upheaval, state capture etc. It’s all rather unpretty and wholly depressing.

Oh, and death. There’s always death.
Look, we’re all going to shuffle off this mortal coil at some point, so if you’re going to go in the midst of such dark times, why not go in a way that at least generates an interesting headline:

Indeed. Tragic tale.

Thus, if you come across a Sky News story headed:

Underrated Cape Town blogger dies after mysterious late night beagle incident

in the near (or distant) future, then you’ll know where not to come anymore.

Not today, Josephine

As the rain falls over Cape Town again this evening, and we take time out to thank those who eventually got around to praying for it, I am writing this and then getting back off the internet, pronto.

See, when “big things” occur overseas, the internet – most especially the rage-first-(maybe)-think-later little bit of the internet called Twitter, which is where I spend most of my internet time – becomes an extremely unpleasant place to be.

There are always people out there who think that they know better than you. The ‘thought-leaders’, the self-appointed ‘Twitterati’.
And look, in some cases, maybe they do.
But the thing is that these people are of a mind that they always know better than you. They’ll go out of their way to remind you of that, and tell you what you should be thinking, feeling, saying or doing. I don’t like these people at the best of times, but at the worst of times (like when a “big thing” happens overseas), these individuals step up their obnoxious campaigns a hundred fold. We are policed, we are told that we must use this word and never use that word. And, again, I’ll happily say that if once you had evaluated their plentiful demands, and found that in some instances you were left wanting, well, fair enough. But in these cases, that doesn’t happen, because there are no right or wrong answers in these cases; only the dictionaries favoured by one political movement or ideology – theirs.

They get their kicks and their pleasure by preying on people, most especially after these “big things” happen. Of course, I don’t ever give in to this thought-policing, but that wholly justified resistance has, in itself, implications. And what I should be doing is sticking my head above the parapet and telling them to pipe down a bit and refrain from getting their knickers in a knot. But when you do that, well, then come the smears, the labels, the faux outrage, the anger (and that’s the only fun bit, really).

And why on earth would I, a mere microbiologist and reluctant beagle owner, want to get involved in that sort of crap? Sure, I’ll happily fight my own battles, but when it comes to repeatedly shouting at the abyss that is their collective beliefs, I’d rather save my time. But remember:

Withdrawing in disgust is not the same as apathy

Because while these people are thankfully free to air their feelings across the internet and beyond, I am equally free to take note of who is saying what and pass my own mental judgement on them. So that next time, when they proffer an opinion or point of view – even on something wholly unconnected with any “big thing” – for me, it will come served with a side salad of pre-warning and prior knowledge.
If it sounds like I’m talking about you, I probably am.

And that’s why once I’ve hit the publish button on this, I’m going to switch off the internet and try to take a second-tier Danish side to the UEFA Champions League Final on FIFA 17.

You should try it – it’s much nicer than the real world.

Religion and the Knysna fires

Busy day for me today, so I’m going to direct you elsewhere (although obviously please come back once you’re done there).

Herewith then, an article by Ivo Vegter (you may remember him from such posts as The Lion, The Bitch and The Ecophobe and Ivo backs me, rubbishes Christine’s Brilliant Idea) about the recent devastating fires on the Garden Route.

As ever, Ivo takes a different angle on the situation, lamenting the hypocrisy and dichotomy of some religious individuals and their reaction to the disaster.

At no time since the start of the tragedy did enough rain fall to make much difference to the fires, but when the occasional few drops did fall, Christians cluttered up the chat groups to thank their god. When the fires burnt out or were successfully fought, they praised the lord.

It’s clearly the writing of an very angry man, albeit that you get the impression that his professionalism is keeping his true feelings somewhat in check. Although (as he notes), his feelings will fall upon stony ground when it comes to the Christians:

We will be told it’s a matter of faith, not reason. That has the merit of being true, at least. There is nothing reasonable about any of this.

It’s an impassioned, yet controlled rant, clearly written in very difficult conditions – and it’s one of the best things he’s done in ages. I urge you to go and have a read.

Good news, bad news

GOOD NEWS!
As of 0600 this morning (it’s Friday today, for those wondering), the Theewaterskloof dam has 5,476,628,400,000 more litres of water in it than its low point on Tuesday at 1200.

BAD NEWS!
That only equates to its volume being 1.14% up on earlier in the week.
Current level = 14.05%*.

 

And therein lies the message that there’s a long, LONG way to go yet till we’re out of this mess, folks. Keep saving water!

* Obviously, there will still be inflows that haven’t reached the dam yet, so this figure will rise a bit.

What is Sea Foam?

And so, the GREAT STORM OF JUNE 2017© has passed over Cape Town. Schools were damaged, trees were toppled, roads were flooded, homes were lost, people were killed. Anyone lamenting the decision to close the schools here yesterday should maybe have taken a quick drive around and seen the devastation.

But I digress. Often.

On a lighter (no pun intended) note, there were also myriad photo opportunities, including some (or more) of spume – the technical name for that foam that covered everything in Sea Point and everywhere else.

But what is this stuff? Why is it there? Can I make my own sea foam? Is it dangerous? Can you eat it?
Never fear. We’re here to answer your questions.

It’s called spume, as I mentioned above. From the Latin spuma – “to froth or foam”.
And it’s there because chemicals within the seawater – usually naturally occurring chemicals such as salts, proteins, lipids and dead algae – act as surfactants. (Just like chemicals that you’ll find in your shampoo and shower gel.) Surfactants are chemicals which lower the surface tension of water, allowing for easy formation of tiny bubbles, especially when that water is agitated. And repeatedly flinging millions of tonnes of seawater from heights of around 10 metres directly onto rocks can certainly be considered agitation. And thus, billions of tiny bubbles are created with every wave hitting the shore.
When they adhere to one another, these tiny bubbles form spume, which is then thrown around by the waves and blown around by the wind until all our local roads are covered.

If you want to see this phenomenon from the warm comfort of your home, you can make your own sea foam in a jam jar. Fill it about 90% full of water (it’s ok, there’s loads to go around after this week), put the lid on and give it a good agitate (shake it). You make bubbles by the forcing air into the water, but then they quickly disappear as the surface tension kicks in and tells the water how it should be behaving.
Now add a teeny tiny drop of dishwashing liquid (full of surfactants) and maybe a drop of egg white (protein) or some of your wife’s Huge Muscle™ Supplement, and maybe a tiny blob of margarine (lipids). You don’t need much of any of these extra ingredients. Pop the lid back on (always a good idea) and give it another shake. This time, the bubbles stay put when you stop shaking. Bingo – sea foam.

Is spume safe? Yes, generally. But there are exceptions.
Those surfactants can also come from non-natural sources: sewage outlets, oil slicks, pollution and other places, like red tide algal blooms. A good sign of this is the presence of foam even when there is little agitation, or foam which is brown, black, red or thick (like a chocolate mousse). These foams are best avoided.

You shouldn’t eat spume. Don’t eat spume. Tell your kids not to eat spume.

6000 miles… Informing, Educating, Entertaining. And now craving a Milk Stout.