Wednesday, July 29, 2009

If I got a tattoo it would say...

I had quite a long discussion (drawn out over a few days in fact) with a friend about tattoos a while back. She wanted to get a tattoo on her foot that said “Dragon” in Chinese…very original…

I was REALLY confused, why would anyone do that? Tattoos are very popular, millions of people have them and some people make a living off them. There is even a reality show (I haven’t bothered to watch) on the Discovery channel dedicated to them (“Miami Ink” I think it’s called). There must be more to the tattoo, something that I don’t understand. It’s like I have this unattractive 10 000 piece puzzle in my head representing tattoo culture, I’ve spent years assembling the whole thing but all the corners and edge bits are missing. This wealth of information all kind of makes sense, it’s just that I can’t place any of it into context within logical reason.

I’ve asked so many people with tattoos about the motivation for getting one. They never give me a straight up answer. In fact I’d probably find a significant positive correlation between the time it takes the person to think of a good reason and how long ago they decided to get the tattoo, a sure sign that they really have no clue…

As for the juveniles that have stubbornly decided to get one (but have not already done so), they seem to be motivated primarily by obtaining higher status amongst the ranks of the ‘cool gang’. I’m sorry, but if your purpose in life is to be cool than you are indeed a very sad person. I can’t think of a soul I pity more than someone who lives their life in pursuit of a goal as pointless as ‘cool status’. I’ll leave my rant about this topic for another day though…

Some of the other (lame) excuses people give me for getting a tattoo are listed below with my two cents worth of opinion following up:

  • I rewarded myself with this tattoo after …

What were you thinking! That’s like saying I’ll reward myself by amputating a digit or having my incisors extracted. Those are also equally painful, permanent and pointless.

  • My BFF and I got the same tattoo…

You need a tattoo to remind you that you have a BFF! Surely the emotional bond is strong enough that you won’t forget about her (guys don’t have BFF’s).

  • Re. Tattooing your girlfriends name on your arm or similar…

Why would anyone think that a tattoo effectively symbolizes a strong link they share with another? In my opinion it would just make the relationship seem cheap and shallow. If the guy below (at least I hope it’s a guy…) saw it fit to tattoo a life size Wookie head onto his leg do you honestly think your token of love in the form of a name tattooed to your arm means anything!? REALLY??? DOES IT???? HUH????? (you pillock…)

  • I had my favourite childhood t-shirt tattooed to my torso

No comment…

  • My tattoo is art

Oh really! I don’t suppose it would be possible to appreciate the images created by your blobs of subcutaneous ink in any other medium (paper, cathedral ceilings, marble sculptures…). Besides, I’ve always found skin to have the EXACT right properties for enhancing the colour and depth needed by great artists… sigh…

As far as I can see, the logical reasons anyone would get a tattoo are relatively few. After much thought, I have composed a list:

  1. My parents demanded I get one (you could have really peculiar parents… just listen to them and you will survive).
  2. I lost a bet.
  3. It covers the scar I got from a nasty hot pie accident.
  4. It distracts people from looking at my ugly, leprosy covered face.
  5. I’m an idiot with no common sense.

So in response to my posts title, if I were forced to get a tattoo it would say

“tattoos are stupid”

I would probably hide it in an armpit or something

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Maddish Scientist part two: Journey to the inner mind

I received a letter yesterday, to be honest, it freaked me out a bit. I woke up and there, on my desk ,was a gray envelope containing the message below. The REALLY freaky thing about this message was how well it related to my previous post. The first post was just something I made up or at least something I thought I had made up... I didn't even know where I was going with it before this letter showed up.

Just read the letter...

Mad scientist log 16 July 2009,

After decades of toiling, I’ve finally completed my miracle solution. Its properties are unique and quite astounding. Years of sourcing rare ingredients, traveling, failed attempts and pioneering alchemical techniques have finally paid off. The solutions secret ingredients and preparation techniques will go with me to the grave. For in the wrong hands, it can be used to devastating effect. I must safeguard it for the sake of humanity (well, not really but it makes me feel more important when I say it like that). Also, I’ve worked bloody hard on it, why should I share… surely a mad scientist is entitled to hone a sliver of selfishness.

You see ever since I was a child I’ve been ridiculed “look here comes that demented boy, lets throw overripe figs at him…” the other kids would say. They constantly mocked me, belittled me and made me ashamed of myself. I wouldn’t respond to their abuse, would you if it was just you and a tuna sandwich against a group of 13 year old boys with beards?

In any case, one fateful school day we all had to stand in the front of the class and give a 5 minute talk on what we wanted to become when we grew up. Each child went to the front and stuttered their way through a badly rehearsed speech on becoming a doctor, lawyer, teacher or some such rot… I, on the other hand, presented the vision of my future as a great interviewer. I would meet, talk to and question some of the most talented and famous humans alive. I would have my own studio and audience. My show would be broadcast to the world!!!

To my dismay, my talk was received by the class in the same manner I was. They pointed, sniggered and even openly laughed at me (even Mr Brandt, the teacher, visibly struggled to contain him self). Were these goons bent on destroying my self confidence and utterly ruining my dreams? It was at that point that something inside of me snapped.

The passive, emotionless, rotten fig covered boy with tuna breath would never be the same…

From that day on, my brow was riveted into a permanent frown. My eyes peered through shrunken narrow slits under the weight of my temple, the load of my anger, the burden of my emotion and the determination to prove THEM wrong. I shunned the light, stayed away from social interactions with others and longed for the activities of the day to end so I could return to my quarters wherein I could continue the relentless pursuit of my goal.

This solution is the key. It will grant me access to the inner mind. A different dimension if you must. The inner mind is that neglected part of the human brain that perceives the world differently to the easily controlled and manipulated outer mind. The workings of the inner mind are sometimes perceived when people act on instinct to make a split second decision, have recollections of things that never happened and is quite possibly even related to this women’s intuition I’ve heard about.

In any case the inner mind tends to be subdued and passive in most humans. People who deny its existence and actively restrain their inner minds suffer subconscious inner mind attacks or SIMAs as I like to call them. Simas are perceived by the average human as a nightmare. Instead of acknowledging and nourishing their inner mind after a Sima, an ignorant person would simply shrug it off, have a cup of tea and go back to bed.

So back to the topic. Inner minds, contrary to their name, are not contained within ones head. When a person is asleep, their inner mind is uncaged and allowed to roam in a dimension I call the “inner mind dimension” or IMD (that’s the best I could do I’m afraid). Rules are different in the IMD, Newtons laws don’t even apply. It is altogether, a very easy to manipulate environment (although some prior knowledge of the dimension does help one to take advantage of this).

With practice, I should be able to use my solution to roam the IMD with my outer mind! The physical world rejected me and stopped me from achieving my lifelong goals. Now I can escape. I’m free to live my life and pursue my goals in the IMD. As for my communication with the physical world, I will do my best to enlighten people willing to learn about the IMD and become aware of their own neglected minds.

Baby steps… they will come.

I have decided to relay my adventures in the IMD to a single mystery man who tells me that he will spread the word in his own way. I don’t understand him or the way he works, all I know is that I can trust him (his inner mind told me so).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Conferencing 101

So here I am at Zoological Society of Southern Africa (ZSSA) conference. Today was registration day and tomorrow is dooms day...

Why doomsday you ask?

I just found out that I'm going to be presenting my thesis in the first session of the first day! Not to mention the changed format of the conference. The last time there were several venues with different talks. So you choose the one you were most interested in and attended. This year they decided to have ONE venue so basically each speaker presents their work to EVERYONE else.

My vision of presenting my work to a small (20-50 people) group of enthusiasts in a cozy lecture theater has been utterly trashed. Instead, I will stand on a stage in a Massive hall, my voice booming on the PA system, presenting my work to around 400 hard core scientists.


(EEbEE has fainted...)

(the end)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Maddish Scientist: Prologue to EEbEE's arbitrary interviews

It’s 1:15am on a dark stormy night. The entire town is asleep or at least hiding under the sheets. Only one soul stirs, a young bald man in his mid twenties. He dons a frayed and tattered lab-coat. What is this man up to? Why is he up so late? Why has he chosen the tallest, darkest, most isolated tower of the old Kasteel to conduct his late night affairs?

This scene is so stereotypical. Surely this individual is a mad scientist (or maddish at least) working on some crazy and despicable invention. Something everyone wants to know about, it has a 95% chance of being pure EVIL! Hopefully we will be enlightened before the end of this post. Hopefully we will not have to pursue the maddish scientist through the streets with pitchforks…

Lightning crashes in the distance. A flash through the window gives a brief look at what the maddish scientist is doing. A concoction is carefully being brewed over a Bunsen burner. Ingredients lay strewn across the old pock-marked and chemically eroded wooden table. The only easily identifiable objects on the table are a half eaten Niki bar ® and a nearly empty bottle of milk. All other vessels contain various coloured powders and solutions. In fact, were it not for the setting, we may have assumed that the maddish scientist was an untidy chef preparing a midnight snack…an EVIL midnight snack (raisin, liver and cabbage pudding or something).

As we draw closer we can hear music in the background. The tune is instantly recognizable as Petrovich Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain.

(here's where you have to press play and read on. It's not a "watch me" video, more a "hear me" one)

The Maddish scientist’s movements seem to be in time with the violent and powerful tones and themes exuded by the music. Occasionally he stops dead and looks nervously towards the ancient doorway or window half expecting a knock or a spying pair of eyes. Reassured that he is working in secrecy he turns back to the task of adding miniscule amounts of ingredients to the concoction upon the burner. Constantly muttering to himself, we come closer to hear what he is saying.

“rubarubabaglacktysweetness… a bit more chocolate for taste …grumblegrumblegrumble …just a bit more… almost there …rhubarhubarhuba..”

He smirks before turning the Bunsen burner off and carefully removes the concoction from the stand with a pair of oversized tongs. Off and onto the untidy mess of a table are flung the soiled pair of rubber gloves and his lab coat. Our maddish scientist makes his way over to the window and looks out at the rain, the unusually large drops relentlessly pound away at the panes.

One minute passes and he stands there…

Two minutes go by, yet still, there he remains…

Five minutes and he begins to show visible signs of impatience while glancing up toward the heavens.

Finally, a flash of lightning followed by the violent rumble of thunder. This is what he has been waiting for. The maddish scientist throws his arms into the air and starts laughing. A more contorted, high pitched and unsettling sound, the ears of an average man are unlikely to ever behold. There is no doubt that a child unfortunate enough to hear him would ever return to peaceful slumber and cotton candy forests in…Muffinland. He goes on for some time, his sinewy neck strains to contain the energy bursting from his lungs and throat. Every muscle quakes with the force and one might even guess that the violent outburst of otherworldly, manic laughter coming from this man is inflicting an immense amount of pain on his feeble underutilized muscles.

All of a sudden he stops laughing and folds over, exhausted, into an untidy heap on the floor. His arms are wound tightly around his gut and his knees bend up toward his sagging forehead till they make gentle contact.

The maddish scientist sleeps…

A beaker of brown frothy liquid cools as the storm passes over.

What has he prepared?

What does the liquid do?

Will he be pursued by agree mobs as a result of the brew?

Alas, we have no way of telling. We must wait and see what the maddish scientist has in store for us when he awakes from slumber.

(sorry. I had to end it here. The post was already over my word limit)

Monday, July 13, 2009

In which EEbEE is WAY out of his depth

So today one of the students in the office came to me for advice. He looked really worried and stressed out so I said "okay, have a seat. What's on your mind?"

I thought that perhaps he wanted me to help him with his broken laptop, fixing his Mp3 player, even advice with some project work or statistical analysis. Nothing prepared me for what he said next though.

"EEbEE, I need your advice about girls..."

What the hell! I think this goes to show exactly how little some people know about me. Sure I'm happy to share my logical and unbiased opinion on any topic. This, however, complicated things somewhat. All of a sudden I found myself listening and trying to give advice to another on a subject I have ZERO experience on.

I've never had a girlfriend, it's not permitted in my culture. I will now sum up how things work in Islam to show you the normal way we go about things.
  1. Meet girl with parents (hers and yours) permission. First meeting often arranged by parents (hence 'arranged marriage').
  2. Check that you are not related.
  3. See if you are interested in each other.
  4. Begin courtship (talking and communication with no physical contact)
  5. Get engaged (now it's official, still no contact allowed).
  6. Get married. (the end...or beginning if you must)
  7. Cake, samoosas, biryani...
Steps 1-5 usually happen very quickly. Normally a month to a few months... then step 6 follows when everyone is ready (can't put a strict time limit on this but usually within a year or two at the most).

So back to my topic. This guy tells me that his girlfriend caught him chatting to another girl in his bedroom and freaked out. He swears the other girl is just a friend and they weren't going to "do anything" in any case... blah blah blah... he still is in love with her (original one) and cares for her but now she has doubts and "all the love" has kind of vanished from their relationship....or something along those lines. In any case she told him that "she needs some space" (which is code for...???) .

I tell myself "Geez EEbEE how are you going to get yourself out of this situation". I couldn't just tell him to bugger off after he opened up and told me some very personal things (this from a guy whos name I only figured out a week previously). So I did my best and gave him my two cents while at the same time trying to cover my ass in case my advice was total Codfish. This is how I advised him...

Basically I said "It sounds like she doesn't trust you any more" (stating the obvious helps sometimes, esp. when people are too drowned in emotion to see what's in front of them). "a relationship without trust won't work, you need to gain her trust back."
I warned him that I wasn't the right person to speak to about these matters and explained why and how we do things in my culture (the 7 steps above).

The next (inevitable) question followed...

"how do I get her trust back?"
I say "Be honest and tell her how you feel. *pause for thinking* You need to let her know that she can rely on you again.*pause longer for thinking* perhaps if you got the other girl, the one she caught you with, to speak to your girl and tell her that you two are really JUST FRIENDS and not in any sort of relationship. *pause for thinking* maybe you could propose to her, as a kind of solid commitment. *pause for thinking and take in his shocked expression* ...maybe just get her some nice flowers..."

I went on to cover my ass more by saying "Please don't hate me if my advice falls through, I REALLY don't have experience with this sort of thing. Just remember that your relationship has to go both ways, it's no use if you love her and she doesn't have feelings for you any more. If that is what's happening maybe you should find another girlfriend. Everyone has a right partner, fate will lead you to her. Just go with the flow."

I really did want to say "I don't know" before sending him away. I would have too if he hadn't just spilled his broken heart all over my desk. Still, let me know if what I said to the guy was at all useful, right or wrong please... perhaps I could track him down and correct myself before he does something very silly.

Otherwise allow me to say upfront. I love living in my world with easy to fix, trial and error/trouble shoot problems and a distinct lack of wierd relationship issues. Then again, maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot by avoiding situations like this. Can one ever have a relationship without complications? Whatever, I'll deal with those when/if they come around one day.

PS: I'm not going soft, it was very awkward for me to talk about that stuff. Honestly, what would you have done? This is one of the few situations I've been in that I had elements of doubt about afterwards. Hence the post...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I finally understand

Let me take you back to when you were in high school. For me this was over 7 years ago (crisis!). How well do you remember your English lessons? I personally remember spending many an English lesson slumped at my desk waiting for something really exciting to happen (it never did...). Sure we had a great teacher and my mates were very entertaining (...behind her back) but I still recall pondering about the point of it all.

This is my mother-tongue language, I KNOW HOW TO SPEAK IT!!! Why, oh why, do I have to analyse crazy e e e e Cummings poems? What's the point of a book review? How will interpreting the lyrics of an Enya song affect my life for the better?

I picked up and read some of the 'greatest' English literature, (works by Shakespeare, J.D. Salinger, Chinua Achebe, Paul Theroux, J.M. *spit on the floor* Coetzee, John Wyndham... ) or at least that's what they told me. I did feel somewhat dissapointed that this was the best that was on offer. I didn't enjoy many of the set works and found it difficult to stay awake while reading others. Still, I persevered and basically put in just enough effort to get 60% for all submitted work.

This did come back to haunt me when I applied for tertiary education after matric. I was somewhat surprised to see that mathematics (the other subject I thought very little of... just get a calculator man!) and English were awarded more credits (used as entry criteria for various courses).

I only really understood the methods behind the madness after going into third year and postgraduate studies. Communication is EVERYTHING and therefore English is EVERYTHING! The better you are at communicating your point across to others the greater the impact you have on them. Once you have honed this ability, success (in whichever form you percieve it) will undoubtably follow. The best way in which one can hone this skill is by learning how others managed to do the same i.e. reading the works of great writers (however boring or pointless they may seem). These people are geniuses, if you can't appreciate what they do then you cannot begin to understand the delicate art that is communication.

As for the seemingly random poetry analysis, book reviews... these were tools used to open our young minds to something even more important than effective communication. Thinking! Back then we all (and when I say we all, I mean "I"...just in case my generalisation doesn't apply to the masses) took things on face value "it's written down in this text book, therefore it must be right" . We were not, as I once thought, being forcefed boring time-consuming crap to keep us occupied while our parents were at work (although that definition still applied to subjects like Counselling , P.E. and Religion). We were actually being taught how to look for deeper meaning. Theories are just that, they aren't right or wrong, merely some guys opinion. We weren't just being taught to question the theories put forward by others, we were also being motivated to come up with ideas of our own.

I wish someone told me all of this when I was still at school. I would have spent far less time faffing around, doodling in the margins, setting things alight, plotting how next to pick on the red headed kid...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pursuit of the pointless

You know, just when I start thinking that the human race is progressing so quickly. Just when I start marveling at the genius that is modern society some Daffy goes and ruins everything. Some tool with no purpose in life decides to do something really stupid and completely pointless.

Manjit Singh is the latest culprit to yank the annoy EEbEE string. Have a look at this.

Man pulls light aircraft with his ears.

With his EARS dude! …. Wh… WHY!? I simply don’t understand. Please! If someone, anyone, can explain why this man decided to pull an aeroplane with his ears please tell me. Restore my faith in humanity. Do we have a purpose on this world? Are we just random entities abusing our minds and free will to accomplish diddily squat (I’ve always wanted to say diddily in a post…milestone reached YAY!)?

Why does the public entertain these buffoons? Why do people recognize and pay homage to these individuals? Human nature never fails to baffle me. Perhaps we have become too advanced for our own good and guys like Manjit put things back into perspective for us. We are in fact a bunch of wallies living off the bright ideas of a handful of visionaries.

I can’t claim to be responsible for the internet, baked bread, the internal combustion engine, nuclear power plant technology… but then again, neither can the people who invented these respective items. They have all merely responded to a situation, found solutions to problems that wouldn’t have even existed if the rest of us weren’t around in the first place. Maybe we should all take credit for advancing the human race. That would inadvertently mean that we’d all have to take the collective blame for everything wrong that humans do/have done as well. Where do we draw the line? I’m even more confused now.


Of course we could just as easily throw all logical thought processes out of the window and continue our pointless pursuit of that holy grail of accomplishments…

…pulling a DOUBLE DECKER bus with our ears.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Mass migration to Pmb

It's hard to believe, but I've been living in Pietermaritzburg for over two years now. What's even harder to believe is that... well... I like it here.

Sure Pmb has it's negative points and bad areas. It is, after all, a city built in a hole in the ground with lots of factories pumping out industrial waste to fill that hole with hazardous levels of heavens knows what... I'm also pretty sure the people that live next to the 'Duzi river (also the outlet of our city sewerage) have mutated to a point that they can breed with cabbages. Road manners and driving skills are shockingly aweful, mostly because it seems like 60% of Pmb drivers are well over the age of 90 and drive banged up beetles with "I've been an AA member for over 70 years" stickers covering the rust holes.

This beetle would fetch a high price with the old folk I'd imagine

When you think about it though, every other town/city also has flaws. Anyone punting Cape town will conveniently leave out the, annual flooding, horizontal freezing rain, wind and 10 km long shanty town between the city and the airport from their discription. Durban is shockingly hot and humid and it's hard not to breath in without inhaling at least a handful of invertebrates. Jozi is overcrowded with bad traffic, trigger happy Nigerian drug lords and a serious lack of beaches. Bloem... well I don't know much about Bloem but I would avoid it anyways, their rugby team is AWEFUL (yeah thats the best I could come up with).

Still all things considered. Pmb is the place to be, nice people, chilled lifestyle, if you're into sports we host the Comrades runalotathon and the Duzi Canoe/paddle boat thingy (I'm indifferent about these... can you tell?). It helps that 50% of my matric class lives/works/studies here, they are excellent company. Best of all, Pmb is just the right size to have the benefits of a city and a town. I could go on about finer details but they aren't very amusing to read about so I'll stop there. (phew, think I got myself out of that one quite nicely...).

I guess what I'm trying to say to all my friends abroad is... PLEASE move to Pmb. It's awesome here (trust just is). I was quite excited to learn that one of my friends from 1st year at Wits is going to be around from next week (EXCITEMENT!). Hopefully this will cause a chain reaction resulting in the rest following.