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].

Bird Flu back

We have another outbreak of bird flu in the Western Cape. Officially, of course, it’s called Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), but no-one knows what HPAI is, so let’s still with the vernacular, shall we? This latest outbreak, currently confined to two farms in the Heidelberg area, is type H5N8. Again, this means very little to the man (or womxn) on the street, but it is important to us scientists.

There have been 13 outbreaks of bird flu up north since June this year:

The outbreaks involved seven commercial chicken farms, two groups of backyard chickens, three sets of wild birds and one group of domestic geese.

But this is the Western Cape, and we like to do things a little differently. Thus, our outbreak is centred around two ostrich farms. Given that one of the primary symptoms of bird flu is a sore throat, contracting the disease if you’re an ostrich can’t be very nice – like an elephant getting earache or a narwhal suffering with horn rot.
That said, given that one of the other symptoms of bird flu is death, contracting the disease can’t be very nice full stop.

Fortunately, this outbreak seems to have been caught promptly during routine testing (which is what routine testing is all about, of course). The good news about this is that hopefully it won’t have the opportunity to spread. The bad news is that it’s still likely that all 1000 ostriches involved will have to be culled.

You might expect some sort of pithy comment to finish this informative post off, but the whole situation is actually potentially rather serious, so I think we’ll leave that for another time.

Your new desktop?

I flew over some vineyards this morning, while out running with the Western Cape Beagles. I’ve been wanting to fly over a vineyard for a while, and I’m sure that it would be a very different view in summer, but it’s not summer right now.

There’s something quite hypnotic about the rows of vines when viewed from 120m up. Like magnified corduroy. I’ve set the image above as the background on my phone: it really makes the app icons pop. If you want to too (use it as a background, not pop), just click on the image to get to the download page. Help yourself. You’re welcome.

Other photos from the morning here.
And a video (quick and dirty, no editing) of the last run of the morning.