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Dr David Baltimore and the Nelson Mandela Science Lecture [Oct. 11th, 2007|11:27 pm]
As Dr David Baltimore rose to speak a smoke and thunder of voices rattled the doors at the back of the Great Hall at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Protestors outside had threatened to disrupt his presentation of the third annual Nelson Mandela Science Lecture.

Baltimore is the President Emeritus and Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology of the California Institute of Technology. His work on the identification of reverse transcriptase – the mechanism by which retroviruses, like HIV, infect cells - earned him the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine at the age of 37.

Baltimore is in South Africa at the invitation of the Africa Genome Education Institute to speak on his experiences in searching for solutions to HIV.

Africa, with 10% of the world's population, has 60% of its infections. In 1994 South Africa, at the dawn of transition to majority rule, already had 850,000 people infected with HIV. In 2007, largely as a result of government negligence and the promotion of "alternative" remedies such as garlic and beetroot, there are 5.5 million South Africans who are HIV positive.

The discussion of HIV and AIDS in South Africa is not without controversy.

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Wolf at sea [Jul. 2nd, 2007|08:42 pm]

It was full-moon on Friday - perhaps elsewhere in the world too?

I joined a large flotilla and off we went from Simonstown out to the lighthouse and then along the coast. It were pretty even though it were colder than a dingo's left testicle.

On the way back, in the dark, most of the others turned on headlamps. I've never bothered with this. Firstly, the whole point of a moonlit paddle is that you can experience the joy of seeing the moon reflected pathway in front of you. Secondly, it attracts sharks.

Well, it attracts fish, and collections of fish attract sharks.

This duly happened and a white-tipped reef shark (about 5 metres long) wafted up to see what all the fuss was about. One of the ladies appointed herself expert and declared, "Form a large mass."

Large mass was created by tucking all the kayaks in together. Now we looked like a LARGE fishing boot with lots of lights on full-glare. With the added bonus of having our elbows all tucked together so we couldn't paddle. Just bob up and down while the shark circled us.

I started getting cold, decided I'd had enough amusement and paddled home. After a few minutes I was overtaken by the rest scrambling for the harbour. No-one's telling what happened to the shark.

And, no, I'm not fat. I've got my life-jacket on underneath the fleece. It were bleeding freezing.
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Dave Barry for President [Jun. 26th, 2007|07:47 am]
I see that Dave Barry, noted US writer, is putting himself up for US president. I asked him a question:

"How do you feel about rock-stars like Bono advising on difficult economic problems in Africa?"

His response is sublime:

"I think that, to be fair, Bono should let an international economist sing with U2."

Now, I may have failed to mention that - besides being a really great economist - I am a passionate and enthusiastic guitarist. Note, I never said anything about gifted ... or even able. Fortunately, my guitar teacher is deaf, so this assists him greatly.

However, please let it be known that I am willing to join U2 on stage any time.
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First there were bananas - now peanut butter [May. 6th, 2007|11:09 pm]

You've got to love YouTube. I really enjoyed Kirk Cameron's take on why bananas are an atheist's worst nightmare (below), but this one is truly extraordinary. Apparently, the proof that evolution is a crock of excrement is purely because life does not spontaneously generate in a bottle of peanut butter.

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I think these are cool ... [May. 5th, 2007|05:28 pm]
Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net
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