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In the Withaak's shade, Hugh reads in 2020 (part 3)

This is a continuation of the topic In the Withaak's shade, Hugh reads in 2020 (part 1).

The Green Dragon

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May 31, 8:03am Top

... in which, at last, we manage to get both the right preposition and the right part number! (The previous one was part 2, not part 1)

Edited: May 31, 8:07am Top

This week's picture is of an unnamed creek near Sinamwenda on Lake Kariba.

In the course of my reading this week I came across exactly the second ever reference I know of to this place, in a guide to (of all places) the Vredefort Dome. Apparently somewhere near Sinamwenda there's thought to be a small meteorite impact crater. You could have fooled me; and I'm sure nobody knew that in 1971.

May 31, 8:50am Top

>1 hfglen: I had a part # incrementation failure near the end of 2018 and it annoyed me for months. I’m glad your part #’s are back on track!

May 31, 9:49am Top

I have to find separate titles for each of mine. If I just numbered them I'd get that wrong for sure.

Jun 1, 6:38am Top

Vredefort Dome. One of a series of relatively new (2006) guides to World Heritage Sites in South Africa (so there should be 7 or 8 in the series). This one is good, and written with a pleasing sense of humour. ("A shattercone is not what you get when you drop your ice-cream. Instead, it is a specific fracture pattern that spreads over the rocks as the shock wave passes through". There are attractive illustrations and a barely adequate map.
Some 2037-million years ago the Earth was hit by a rock some 10-15 km in diameter; a long time later the city of Johannesburg arose some 120 km roughly north-east of "ground zero". The resultant crater is about 300 km in diameter, and is at least one of the two largest and oldest on earth. In recent years the splash cone in the centre of the crater and part of its surroundings have been given some environmental protection, and an embryonic tourist industry was starting to form around it -- what Covid-19 has done to that heaven knows; probably as much damage as the impact did to the planet. On the ground it is possible to see hills and shattered and variously transformed rocks, all formed within about ten minutes of the impact. The "silver lining" to the apparent disaster is in fact golden; the impact buried the gold-bearing sediments that form the basis of the South African mining industry (and have yielded about half the gold that humans have mined, ever) and protected them from erosion. And that is why the most obvious relic of the outermost wall of the crater is a semicircle of major gold mines from Nigel in the north-east (anti-clockwise) to Welkom in the south-west. In all, surely a must-see for anybody interested in geology.
(Tourist note: there is a much smaller and more recent impact crater at Tswaing, north-west of Pretoria; seeing that makes the Vredefort Dome much more intelligible.)

Jun 2, 12:54am Top

>5 hfglen: Hugh, you reminded me yet again of a science fact article called "Giant Meteor Impact", by one J E Enever, which was published in Analog magazine back when I was a subscriber (in March 1966, as it turns out). Enever considered the effects of a second giant meteor strike on the same scale as the one at Vredefort, but threw something new into the mix: since three-quarters of the earth's surface is covered by water, what would be the consequences of such a strike at sea? Turns out that they would be much more serious than a strike on land. To quote Enever's rather overwrought prose (as quoted by Greg Bear, on his website):
To begin with, the enormous heat of the impact will not only vaporize the mile or two depth of ocean at the bull’s eye, it will also vaporize the crystal rocks below, clear through the Moho, and blow out the surrounding rocks as well. Beyond the area where the mantle is laid bare, rifts will expose hot magma.
The crater is as wide as Vredevoort in South Africa. Though more power is absorbed in producing plasma at the kernel of the events than in a land strike--fearful energy is needed to convert water into a plasma and hydrogen and oxygen nuclei--water is less dense than rock. Despite its incompressibility and high latent heat of evaporation, it is easier to shift en masse than rock. So although the seabed crater is somewhat shallower than that on land, it is just as broad. A blazing wound scores of miles wide scars the sea floor.
A ring waterfall as high as the Alleghenies rushes in to quench it, its circumference that of a county boundary. The fiery furnace opened by this strike will not glow for weeks and months as it would on land; the torrents of ocean rush in, and change at once to pure steam. They stream up in a thin-walled sleeve which is as clear as air, as invisible as the gush of super-heated vapor which flays the flesh from men’s bones in a boiler-room catastrophe.
Here, the glass-clear gaseous water is sweeping up in a volume enough to cloud the planet’s atmosphere. The naked wound on the seabed glows white-hot through the walls of the frightful cylinder which encloses it. But inch by inch and foot by foot, the waters sweeping in win. The column of steam still rushes up to the ionosphere, still spreads out across the heavens, but it steadily contracts. Beyond the rim of the inferno, crustal rifts are already exuding sills of lava across the ocean floor. Convulsions and seisms mount in cataclysmic fury surpassing the power of any natural quake.
What I remember, but Bear didn't quote, is that the article continues to the effect that the world-wide forecast is "stormy" for the indefinite future. IIRC, he also describes the unfortunate sea creatures involved as becoming an "involuntary bouillabaisse".

The article by Enever was published before the Alvarez's published their hypothesis about the Chixulub crater, and also before Carl Sagan's book about the idea of a "nuclear winter". The article was republished in the Analog Science Fact Reader in 1974.

Jun 2, 4:56am Top

>6 haydninvienna: David Fleminger does mention that a number of (tiny) meteorites land in the sea each year, with enough force to be picked up on a seismograph (but then, back when I was still in Pretoria the CSIR had a seismograph in an excavation in a ridge in an unfrequented part of the Botanical Garden; staff were warned to stay away from the entrance unless absolutely necessary, as the instrument picked up the footsteps of even the smallest and lightest of us). He also gives us enough geological history to note that the Late Heavy Bombardment, when Vredefort-size missiles were common, ended some 4000-million years ago. These days, there's a reason why here hasn't been a strike that size since then. Which is not to say it couldn't happen; just that it's unlikely next week. The other point that one could wish that Enever had taken into account but couldn't have at that date, is an experiment televised by the Mythbusters team a few years ago. They shot various missiles into a swimming pool full of water, from an air-rifle pellet to a high-velocity armour-piercing round. The pellet penetrated several centimetres and was recovered intact; as the size and speed of the bullet increased so the penetration decreased and damage to the projectile increased. And so the high-velocity round shattered on contact with the water, and the bits sank gracefully.

I deduce that an incoming Vredefort-size bolide landing in the ocean would probably shatter during a couple of kilometres (at least) of heavy braking and while Enever is almost certainly right in predicting some years of worldwide, dirty rain I wonder if the crater would be that large.

Edited: Jun 2, 7:01am Top

>7 hfglen: Coincidentally: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/chicxulub-collision-earth-crust-hot-water-mi....

I'm not entirely sure the Mythbusters experiment is relevant. I grant that the rock would probably shatter, but of course it would do that anyway, and its not-inconsiderable kinetic energy has to go somewhere. As I understand it, when a high-velocity projectile hits an obstacle, the energy of the projectile sends a pressure wave through the obstacle which may punch a hole right through. The projectile doesn't necessarily go through but its kinetic energy does, and may produce a kind of "scab" off the other surface. (In the case of an armour-piercing projectile and the armour of a tank, the scab goes ricochetting around the interior: bad news for the crew.)

Anyway, we (most fortunately) cannot try it for real. All seems to agree that it would be Very Bad News. I've ordered (ETA: for the grand sum of £2.79 plus £2.80 P&P) a copy of the Analog reader mentioned in #5, so we will see how Enever dealt with the issue.

Jun 4, 4:37am Top

Extraterrestrial Civilizations. The suck fairy hasn't been as active here as one might expect, considering that this is non-fiction written 40 years ago about cutting-edge science. As the LT review says, the search for extraterrestrial civilization is a convenient frame within which Isaac Asimov gets to write about the things he enjoyed writing about most. So we have a quick guided tour of cosmology, space travel and communications. He suggests that there may be as many as half-a-million civilizations at least as advanced as our own in our galaxy, but that's such a big place that with the best will in the world there is no way they could find us, nor we them -- even if we knew what to look for. A worthwhile re-read.

Jun 4, 4:47am Top

What the Victorians did for us. The book of a BBC2 TV series from about 20 years ago. The presence of a flock of bookmarks suggests I'd at least skimmed through the pictures, which are many and excellent, while looking for something else. But I don't recall the text at all, other than seeing (on TV or where?) the effect of looking out through the ripples in the handmade glass of the Crystal Palace. So this is an all-too-brief romp through Victorian technology, informative and most enjoyable. I can only imagine that the underlying series must have been a treat! Certainly the book is a very enjoyable read.

Jun 5, 7:15am Top

>10 hfglen: I love industrial history, ie the history of clever ideas on machinery and stuff. My family has had to endure a lot of turn of the century (and then I don't mean this one) heritage sites, museums, and so on. And the Victorians, with their huge empire, wast resources (and lack of regard for human life) managed some impressive things.
I think I'll see if I can find that book.
(Watching the counter-weight on the Tower Bridge lift-mechanism in work has been on my list for a long time, even if it has continuously been bumped down it in favour of other things.)

Edited: Jun 5, 10:53am Top

>11 Busifer: According to the LT catalogue, Adam Hart-Davis has written several like that, on different periods. I'd happily look them all out.

ETA: And if you ever make it to Durban your family will no doubt be subjected to an exhaustive (and exhausting) guided tour of the Old Main Line to the interior, and the collection of trains and memorabilia held at Inchanga.

Jun 5, 10:56am Top

Reading The Basque History of the World, I'm delighted as I would expect any fan of the late great Sir pTerry to be, to discover that the chief witch hunter of South-Western France in the 16th/17th century was one Pierre de Lancre. A nasty piece of work, it seems.

Jun 5, 11:00am Top

>12 hfglen: I'd love to! As you might remember such a journey was once planned, but things conspired against us and it never came to be.

>13 hfglen: I love when such things pop at me in my reading!

Jun 6, 5:16am Top

More from The Basque History of the World, this time for Tolkien addicts: the Basque name for the Spanish/Basque port of Bilbao is spelt and presumably pronounced Bilbo.

Jun 6, 2:58pm Top

Thunder, flush and Thomas Crapper. All you never wanted to know about the history of the smallest room and the equipment therein. The book takes the form of an all-too-short encycloopedia, and is another delight from the pen (word-processor?) of Adam Hart-Davis. It would make a great bathroom read for MrsLee, among others.

Edited: Jun 6, 5:20pm Top

>16 hfglen: Oh, that sounds awesome! I see it's called an 'encycloopedia.' LOL

Jun 7, 1:10am Top

>16 hfglen: I read your post and was suddenly visited by a vision of Adam's father, the aristocratic Rupert Hart-Davis, saying to him, "You wrote a book about what"?

Jun 7, 5:26am Top

>19 hfglen: Indeed (LOL). Adam mentions in What the Victorians did for us that he is a first cousin five times removed of Queen Victoria. So I assume that Rupert Hart-Davis was a first cousin four times removed. Both sound pretty aristocratic to me.

Jun 7, 6:10am Top

>19 hfglen: RHD was descended from William IV, who was Queen Victoria's uncle. RHD was a nephew of Alfred Duff Cooper, and John Julius Norwich (Viscount Norwich), the historian (and compiler of the Christmas Crackers anthologies), was Duff Cooper's son, so RHD and JJN were cousins. Vaguely related to your original post: in the first Christmas Crackers collection there's a story about a man blowing up a septic tank, which made me laugh harder than anything else I've ever read. Good luck googling it.

Edited: Jun 7, 9:45am Top

>20 haydninvienna: AHD explains that descent, mentioning the illegitimacy in the first generation after William IV. I see why you wish me luck with the John Julius Norwich -- the usual sources draw a blank.

Edited: Jun 7, 2:21pm Top

This week's picture is a hasty shot of a Crimson-breasted Shrike; I think I took it in Marakele (or possibly Mapungubwe) National Park, certainly in May2014.

No details, as I'm not a birder.

ETA: Neither Marakele nor Mapungubwe. Roberts Bird Guide tells me that this picture could only have been taken in the furthest northern Kruger Park, where it's a rare vagrant.

Jun 8, 9:34am Top

>22 hfglen: It's lovely, but their eating habits are terrifying.

Jun 8, 11:27am Top

>23 clamairy: The Crimson-breasted is quite reasonable; insects and small fruits. But the Boubou and Helmet-Shrikes are pretty revolting. (For those who don't know, one of the shrikes has the alternative name of Jackie Hangman, which is descriptive.)

Jun 8, 11:36am Top

>24 hfglen: Like butcher-birds in Oz. They sing beautifully.

Jun 9, 6:46am Top

>25 haydninvienna: That's another common name for the Jackie Hangman here. Would they be related?

Jun 9, 6:51am Top

I've just heard Petroc Trelawny say on BBC Radio 3's Breakfast that part of the problem with restoring Notre Dame after the fire is that they were working on the spire (I dimly recall that's what started the fire in the first place) and so it was surrounded with scaffolding. And so they now have the problem of removing the 40 000 pipes that melted in the blaze. He said there's now a book on the fire and its aftermath, which would (one hopes) be an interesting if uncomfortable read.

Jun 9, 7:16am Top

Reread of Will we ever speak Dolphin?. Back in the day when the library still got New Scientist I always enjoyed the "Last Word" page, and the books derived from the questions and answers there are, IMHO, totally immune to the suck fairy. This volume has a whole chapter on the perfect Martini, which will surely interest some Dragoneers.

Jun 9, 7:26am Top

>26 hfglen: According to Wikipedia, the "Jackie Hangman" is a shrike. It also says: "Butcherbirds are the ecological counterparts of the shrikes, mainly found in Eurasia and Africa, which are only distantly related, but share the "larder" habit". The old world shrikes are Family Laniidae; the Australian butcherbirds (7 species in 2 genera) are in Family Artamidae, which also includes the Australian magpie and currawong.

Jun 9, 7:33am Top

>29 haydninvienna: Thank you. Like I said, I'm in no way a birder.

Jun 9, 7:43am Top

>30 hfglen: Neither am I, I just rely on Wikipedia. What did we ever do without it, I wonder.

Jun 10, 7:04am Top

The Basque History of the World, mentioned briefly twice above. Is there anybody left who doesn't know that Euskara is the oldest language in Europe, and totally unrelated to any other surviving language? Here we have a history of the Basque nation from earliest times, with much attention paid to their sufferings under Franco, and their subsequent recovery. This is my third attempt to read this book, and the first time I have succeeded (don't know why). Seeing the author is the generally excellent Mark Kurlansky there are recipes; in this case they sound one and all revolting. The book is well written and minimally illustrated.

Jun 12, 9:15am Top

Reread of Murder Must Advertise, inspired by and to accompany the BBC Radio 4-extra rebroadcast of the 1979 dramatisation with Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter / Mr Bredon. Is there anybody left alive who doesn't know, or at least know of, Ms Sayers's esteemed mysteries. One tiny point that I'd noticed before and enjoyed again, was Ms Sayers quoting herself: she (no less) devised the slogan "Guinness is Good for You", which gets the briefest of mentions in a pub scene. One I hadn't noticed before was the import of Lord Peter / Death Bredon being absent for half a sentence because he was with a Lady. This evidently places the story after Strong Poison and Have his Carcase but before Gaudy Night, if we believe the lady to be Harriet Vane.

Jun 12, 9:55am Top

>33 hfglen: Best bit in the book: the cricket match, where "Bredon" is persuaded to play and has to hide his real skill (in the book's reality, Wimsey was a star batsman at university). Of course he plays incompetently only until he gets hit by an oafish, over-aggressive fast bowler, and then says to himself (I paraphrase) "blow this for a game of soldiers", and proceeds to take the oaf apart, winning the game in the process. And gets recognised as who he really is by one of the onlookers. It just occurred to me that the book was published in 1933, right after the "bodyline" Test series.

Jun 12, 10:52am Top

>34 haydninvienna: Read that bit this afternoon, and enjoyed! I hadn't connected the date of publication with the bodyline controversy.

Jun 12, 12:14pm Top

>33 hfglen: I really enjoyed that book. It is in that book that Wimsey is described by one of the characters as a Bertie Wooster type.

I read the bit at the start of the book about it being fictional and none of the characters representing any living persons. When I read that I though, "Oh! Oh! This is based on a real story." It was only after doing some research I discovered Sayers had worked in advertising and she obviously did not want any of her former colleagues suspected of murder.

I believe she was also responsible for the Toucan in the Guinness advertisements.

Jun 12, 12:22pm Top

>36 pgmcc: I have long believed that to be true. And cannot look at a picture of a Toucan without getting a thirsty craving :-)

Jun 12, 3:24pm Top

>34 haydninvienna: >36 pgmcc: And then there's the "car race" scene where Lord Peter's Daimler carries all before it. YouTube has a clip of what I believe to be an almost-twin of the Wimseymobile in action:


Jun 12, 5:31pm Top

>32 hfglen: Fascinating! Which dead languages is it related to, then?
(I'm not sure it's fascinating enough for a whole book about it to hold my attention.)

Jun 12, 6:20pm Top

>39 clamairy: If memory serves me right no one exacly know, as if there ever were written versions of the indigenous languges no samples has survived. Presumably some were still spoken in Roman times, but as the Visigoths took over their bastardised version of the language of the bureaucracy became the main languge of the area. Except in Basque.
See ”paleohispanic languges”. There’s some, like Aquitane, but most are speculation, it seems.
There’s some in other regions of Europe as well, like Etruscan and Minoan. In my neck of the woods no evidence of pre-Indo European languages exist, though presumably people communicated with each other as they fell off of the ice sheet as it withdrew ;-)

Jun 12, 7:45pm Top

>38 hfglen: Your mention of Murder Must Advertise and the Ian Carmichael adaption prompted me to dig out our DVD set and start watching it. So far I have watched the first three of the four episodes. My wife slept through episode three so I sent her to bed and will re-watch that episode with her tomorrow.

One thing I found to be a massive coincident was seeing the wall calendar display the date in Episode 1: Friday, 12th June. I was watching it on Friday, 12th June. It struck me all the more because this was the first anniversary of my brother's death and I was painfully aware of the date all day.

I think the Lord Peter Wimsey stories are great fun and Ian Carmichael is perfect in the role. He was a brilliant Bertie Wooster in Jeeves with Dennis Price.

Thank you for prompting this sojourn into the world of Wimsey.

Jun 13, 4:49am Top

>41 pgmcc: My pleasure. Sympathy on the anniversary.

Jun 13, 5:36am Top

Re-read of How to make a Tornado, a New Scientist collection of reports of the alarming things scientists get up to when unconstrained by common sense. Just as entertaining as the first time around.

Jun 13, 5:39am Top

>40 Busifer: Many thanks for this answer, which is far more eloquent and detailed than anything I could manage.

Jun 13, 8:18am Top

>44 hfglen: Thanks. I thought that maybe I shouldn't answer a question that wasn't directed at me personally, but once I started I decided to press "Post" when I had finished.
It's a topic that I've spent some hours on in earlier years, as I find it interesting.

Jun 14, 11:29am Top

Did I ever show you-all this picture of a Black-backed Jackal? I saw the animal at Golden Gate National Park (makes a change from Kruger, doesn't it!) in May 2014.

The good news of the week is that SANParks are starting to re-open their reserves, at the moment to day visitors only. Lockdown regulations mean that they are only accessible to residents of the province they're in, which means that we kn KZN and the good people of Gauteng lose out. But it's a start, and so we can celebrate with Mr Jackal.

Jun 16, 7:43am Top

>46 hfglen: He's very handsome!

Edited: Jun 16, 9:02am Top

In other news, the weather forecast for the next 24 hours includes snow for "parts of Gauteng". Presumably they mean the high-altitude bits of Observatory and Northcliff ridges in Johannesburg (about 1800 m altitude) and an unspecified amount of the lower parts of town. If so, that would be the first snow there since 1964 to the best of my memory. (It's often cold enough in a Johannesburg winter, but usually very dry at this time of year; to have cold and moisture is very unusual.)

ETA: Better Half reminds me that it snowed in Johannesburg in 1981, while we were stationed overseas.

Jun 18, 5:34am Top

I am delighted to see in The Origin of English Surnames that the surname of Hilaire Belloc, held up by generations of parents , maiden aunts and teachers as the very epitome of all that is Victorian, prim and proper (and so a Good Thing), is a close derivative of the good English word bollock. Nuff said.

Jun 19, 2:09pm Top

Inspired by a throwaway comment Pete made near the end of this post (#100), and seeing it's Father's Day this weekend, I opened a bottle of Alvi's Drift Cabernet Sauvignon to have with dinner. Only had one glass, which might be as well, as the kittens are developing ever more devious ways to snag food from their hoomins' plates.

Jun 19, 2:15pm Top

>50 hfglen: Enjoy!

I find our cat is getting cleverer at frustrating my efforts to put him in another room when we are eating.

Jun 19, 6:10pm Top

>50 hfglen: and >51 pgmcc: I am once again reminded how grateful I am that neither of the 2 strays we adopted have any interest in human food at all.

Jun 19, 6:16pm Top

>52 MrsLee: I think they just have not completed your training. You will learn.

Jun 20, 2:06am Top

>50 hfglen: So what did you do with the rest of the bottle? Did Rene and Melissa have a very, very good dinner?

Jun 20, 5:17am Top

>53 pgmcc: agreed.

>54 haydninvienna: Saved it for tonight.

Jun 22, 2:52pm Top

I'm starting to suspect that I'd be viewed as a cat bully ;-) No one of my cats, or my parents' cats, has ever been allowed near food meant for humans, at the table. They have all been fed on the floor, and has promptly been shoved down if they try to get up on a table when there's food on it.
I am very skilled at hissing like a cat, showing off my teeth, and have been known to scare stray cats away from birds' nests and so on. I am the bigger cat, after all ;-)

(Not to say that the cats haven't got human food, but the have always had to wait for scraps. Though I still think it a waste when I don't have a cat to feed trimmings of fish and meat to when I cook. Throwing it away feels like such a waste...)

Jun 22, 3:29pm Top

>56 Busifer: Our cat is not allowed on the table. Bank robbers are not allowed to rob banks.

Jun 22, 4:22pm Top

>57 pgmcc: In both instances, they do keep trying though! ;)

Jun 22, 8:01pm Top

Newt's full name is Newton Thou-Shalt-Not-Put-Thy-Feet-On-The-Table Pulsifer Starchak, and Amy's is Amelia Get-off-the-Table Pond Starchak.

Neither of them has ever lived up to their names.

Jun 23, 3:56am Top

>57 pgmcc: >59 tardis: Seems our kittens aren't unique. We love them dearly, anyway.

Jun 23, 6:50am Top

>60 hfglen: Well, of course you do! I loved my cats even when they deliberately pushed flowerpots over the ledge at 3 AM :)

Jun 27, 6:51am Top

The other day our tenants indicated a shortage of reading matter and that they didn't know of Ursula le Guin, so I lent them a copy of The Earthsea Quartet, which they are evidently enjoying. That caused me to find and reread my copy of The Other Wind, which is immune to the suck fairy and still very enjoyable. What else to offer? Guy Gavriel Kay maybe? Rereads of both parts of The Sarantine Mosaic ensued, and gave pleasure. Terry Pratchett is a must: I thought I'd start them off on Nation before letting them loose in Discworld. But for myself, I re-read Going Postal, and I'm sure I caught more of the humour this time round. Currently busy with re-reads of Tigana (wondering how you'd make blue wine in this world) and Making Money. And am chuckling at an all-too-accurate quote I read in the latter last night, which would annoy the hell out of a noted architect I know from a society here: "It would be hard to imagine an uglier building that hadn't won a major architectural award." He could have added that those condemned to live or work in the award-winners also know them to be grossly dysfunctional, on the whole.

Jun 28, 11:46am Top

I think the travel restrictions of our lockdown are getting to me. I can't help wishing I was here (don't you?)

An African Ivory Route rest camp in the lowveld of Limpopo Province. The nearest town of any size is Giyani, but even that is some distance away. The camp is accessible to high-clearance non-4x4s, but only if you drive the last bit with considerable care. It's self-catering, bring your own bedding and don't ask questions about the plumbing.

Jun 29, 9:04am Top

>63 hfglen: rustic, but looks peaceful.

Jun 29, 11:01am Top

>62 hfglen: A good deed! I've been meaning to reread The Sarantine Mosaic but there's always some new book pressing for attention!

>63 hfglen: I long to be able to travel again, though I'm starting to think that will never happen.
Meanwhile, thank you for allowing me/us to travel though your images.

Jun 29, 11:25am Top

>63 hfglen: I also long to be able to travel. I’ve been realising how much I miss being on an aeroplane, which is actually just a bit weird. And I second Busifer’s thanks.
As to not asking about the plumbing, I take it that the answer would be, there isn’t any.

Jun 29, 11:31am Top

>66 haydninvienna: IIRC, they have long-drops and iffy drinking water. Like you and >65 Busifer: I long to travel, but I think I'd rather go in our truck than by plane.

Jun 29, 11:34am Top

In the June thread, jillmwo asked for pictures of the kittens. Difficult, as they don't enjoy holding still for anything, portraits almost least. However, here they are, watching "kitty TV".

Jun 29, 12:03pm Top

>68 hfglen: What adorable little terrorists.

Jun 29, 12:06pm Top

>68 hfglen: Super picture.

Jun 29, 2:01pm Top

>68 hfglen: Adorable!

Jun 29, 4:06pm Top

>68 hfglen: LOL, they are so cute. And it's great that they have shared interests! ;)

Jun 29, 7:28pm Top

>68 hfglen: Looks like they are having lots of fun :)

Jun 30, 5:04am Top

>68 hfglen: So cute! They are clearly plotting.

Jun 30, 5:28am Top

>74 Sakerfalcon: I thought they were picking out their dinner.

Jun 30, 6:31am Top

>69 haydninvienna:-75: Thank you all!

>75 pgmcc: They'd love to, but the horrible hoomins have closed the top of the tank, having no desire to fish drowned kittens out of it. So they eat kitten-food between eyeing the fishies and drooling.

Jun 30, 3:23pm Top

>68 hfglen: Adorable!

Edited: Jun 30, 8:23pm Top

>68 hfglen: I am charmed. (That said, I can imagine when those sharp kitten claws snatch at a bare foot, there's likely blood on the carpet.) It's such fun to pounce!!!

Jul 5, 11:37am Top

>77 clamairy: >78 jillmwo: Thank you both. Yes indeed, they love pouncing practice. And DD tells me that when she went to the doctor a week or 2 ago, he took one look at her hand and said "You have a kitten".

>75 pgmcc: Some new characters in the kitty-TV soapie were supposed to arrive today but didn't make it (crowds in the pet shop).

Jul 5, 11:44am Top

Today's picture is of a rather tardy European Bee-eater. They come from the Northern Hemisphere in spring (October, according to the Book of Words) and leave in autumn, supposedly March-April. But this one was still in the Kruger Park in May 2014.

Jul 5, 12:06pm Top

>80 hfglen: Great, picture! Thanks for the kitten pictures too.

Jul 8, 2:16pm Top

>81 Karlstar: Thank you, Jim!

Jul 8, 2:30pm Top

Very interesting letter from an Irishman called Sean Sheridan in today's Mercury. This unfortunate has been stuck in Durban for the full 100 days of lockdown, and is evidently developing a form of what I believe is called "Stockholm Syndrome". The letter is headed All tourism roads should lead to KZN; it's wonderful here. The bit I like (which is more-or-less factual) goes "... your definition of 'winter' is one that defies description. Each morning the sun rises, the sky is azure blue and the temperatures, on average are in the low to mid-twenties {Celsius; I fear the cold front coming this weekend may give our visitor a wake-up call}. This is a winter that Irishmen and women would give their eye teeth for ..."

Well yes Sean, this immigrant from the Highveld also loves it, and would love to offer pgmcc and his family some hospitality. But today's main headline also needs a moment's attention: "Schoolgirl, 12, raped going to fetch mask". Sadly, an all-too-common occurrence: not everything is perfect in our earthly paradise.

Jul 11, 9:17am Top

And in all this I haven't noted any reading for ages. So to come more-or-less up to date:

Re-reads of Going Postal, Making Money, Sailing to Sarantium and Tigana all richly enjoyed.

Currently busy reading Today's News Today, the centenary history of the Argus Group (mainly the Cape Argus and the Star of Johannesburg) -- IIRC my father bought this when it came out in 1957. I may have read it once before, a long time ago, but don't recall it at all. Thinks: must look out the sesquicentennial version when the libraries re-open.
Also The Purple and the Gold, a cheerful (1965) account of Johannesburg and Pretoria illustrated with the author's own drawings. The sad bit is looking at the pictures and considering how few of the subjects are still there 50 years later. Again, found in the family archives.

Jul 11, 2:22pm Top

Can one of the USAnian Dragoneers enlighten me please?

John Hays Hammond was a leading mining engineer in Johannesburg in the 1890s, and an even more leading member of the Reform Committee who were the Johannesburg branch of the (failed) Jameson Raid in 1896. After the dust from that settled he went back to the United States, where in due course (according to a book I read this afternoon) he eventually became Vice President. So questions: Who was the President he served under? When?

Jul 11, 4:00pm Top

It does not appear he ever became Vice President. He was a candidate for Taft but did not receive enough delegates. They remained friends and he served as an ambassador a couple times. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hays_Hammond

Jul 12, 11:29am Top

Thank you, Narilka. One hopes he made a better job of the ambassadorships than of the Reform Committee.

Jul 12, 11:32am Top

And this week's picture. Which, come to think of it, should have been last week's (apologies for that slip).

A Wahlberg's Eagle, seen in the Kruger Park in September 2015. (A change from the African Fish Eagle, which looks exactly like the American Bald Eagle.)

Yesterday, 9:34am Top

Started a re-read of Sea Safari with Professor Smith, which differs from most self-published books in being readable. It's the story of an expedition undertaken by J.L.B. Smith the ichthyologist to whom the first coelacanth was reported, his wife and a then-young journalist/photographer/cinematographer named Peter Barnett, the author of this book, up the coast of Mozambique from Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) to Moçímboa da Praia (just over 200 km south of the Tanzanian border) -- a total of some 3000 km -- in 1951. The book itself seems to have been written some 10 years after the event. Prof. Smith rarely if ever made any concessions to convenience or comfort, and comes across as more than somewhat of a martinet. It seems that in between illustrating newly-discovered species of fish, Mrs Smith must have spent considerable time pouring oil on troubled waters. The book is (by the standards of the time) profusely illustrated with excellent photos -- black-and-white, unfortunately -- and this time round I can't help wondering what became of the movies Mr Barnett took; maybe a little asking-around among Grahamstown friends would be a good idea.

Re-read temporarily suspended while Better Half reads the book. We both met Mrs "Fishy" Smith in the early '70s, when she made a habit of attending botanical conferences. We remember her as an immensely kindly lady with the best sense of humour in South African biology.

Note for haydninvienna: LT tells me that Peter Barnett went on to become a highly respected Australian journalist. I'd suggest that no subsequent assignment could possibly have been as tough as coping with Prof. Smith on this one.

Yesterday, 11:53am Top

>89 hfglen: The name rings a bell. A quick Google shows that he was the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's chief foreign correspondent. No Wikipedia page, but there'a a few copies of his autobiography, Foreign Correspondence on LT.

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