Afrikaans makes you smarter

…if you learn it to become bilingual, *grin*. It turns out that any two languages will do.

Having been born into a very English-speaking household, making the transition to studying (and often practicing) medicine in a very Afrikaans environment was entertaining, in a darkly-humourous-while-deeply-uncomfortable way. Once, when being interviewed in Afrikaans and asked to describe my abilities to understand and speak the language, I accidentally but likely very accurately exchanged the word for “fluent” (vlot) with the word for “rotten” (vrot). However, the foundations laid in school (where it was a compulsory second language) and six years of an immersive environment has led to me becoming a passable Afrikaner in most situations…and assisted in the acquisition of a beautiful wife along the way.

The perpetual debate for bilingual parents has always been whether to raise children from the outset in one language, and then introduce the other later, or to speak both from the beginning. Common wisdom suggested the former; research is now emerging to suggest that bilingualism is good for the brain in all sorts of ways. This article from the New York Post summarises it nicely.

Lekker, ne? Niks van daai Alzheimers vir my nie! 😉

PS – If two are good, are three better? Hau, eish!

Finding beauty in unexpected places

For some time I have been watching a trend emerge; a meme and theme that resonates within me. Recently I’ve witnessed it progress from conception to creativity concrete reality, and now the evidence abounds. While I inevitably and unavoidably turn to the wilderness to find my peace and beauty, I am grudgingly but increasingly forced to admit that it can be found closer to home. What am I harping on about? Parkour.

Parkour has been around for a long time, but has emerged so gradually into our modern lexicon that most people can’t remember first seeing it. That it has become embedded in our culture is inarguable: compare a classic Connery era Bond movie with the latest Craig incarnation and you will see realise the significance. Although originally based on the undeniably Francophone principles of simplicity and elegance of movement, even true parkour traceurs will no doubt admit that the interpretation of movement through the environment enouraged by the offshoot ‘free running’ enrich and enhance the activity. To me, parkour/free running embodies an innate urge to embrace our wildness, and is a natural expression of human animals seeking fulfilment within the bounds created by an urban environment.

There are plenty of examples of individuals aspiring to “GoPro/YouTube Hero” status out there in the internet ether, but I am recently and deeply encouraged by the emergence of films that not only celebrate the athleticism and courage of the participants but also the beauty to be found in the concrete jungle: the urban fringe not distant on the basis of distance itself but rough through it’s edginess rather than just being on the edge. You are familiar with the concept: often the most innercity and developed areas are the least human. Despite this, the traceurs and cinematographers have brought movement, life and fluidity to our most stale structures; flow in our concrete fondament. I myself am trapped in a daily cycle of urban living, longing for the release and vibrancy of the wild; when I watch this breed of film I am renewed by the wild beauty to be found in our ‘tamed’ surrounds.

Is this a sport, a lifestyle… or our newest and most visceral form of dance?

King Vision Self-Laryngoscopy


Some time ago I posted a video clip of self-laryngoscopy with a C-MAC. For the sake of proving I don’t necessarily endorse on product over another, here’s a shot from a recent airway course…

Yes, I do have a gag reflex. These video laryngoscopes are remarkably atraumatic when used carefully, allowing this kind of visualisation without discomfort. Don’t try this on sick patients, however.

Evaluating the risks of extreme sports

I stumbled across this article examining the risks of various extreme sports from a statistical viewpoint on the BBC Future webpage.  It makes makes brief, interesting reading… and I was particularly attentive as I enjoy several activities that are mentioned.  Bottom line: BASE jumping and high-altitude mountaineering are a fairly effective way from dispatching yourself from this mortal coil (pun intended), whereas sky- and SCUBA-diving are fairly equally safe.  Of course, this analysis doesn’t assess the potential physical and mental health benefits to be gained from spending lots of time getting exercise in the fresh air  (or water!).  For a wider discussion, see the preceeding piece on micromorts as a measurement tool.

Evaluating the extreme from a good vantage point 😉

SASA 2012 Presentations Available

You’ll no doubt recall my rough notes from the 2012 South African Society of Anaesthesiologists Congress last month, which were surprising well recieved.  The good news for those that wanted more detail and info from the sessions I missed is that most of the presentations are now available in PDF format on the conference web page.

Click here for the list of presentations

 Click the link to open the list, and then either open the presentations or right-click and save them for your viewing pleasure.  Kudos to the organisers for the effort and to the presenters for allowing open access to their work.

Blog tweaks, tweets, upgrades and fiddles

If you’re a regualr reader (or an observant occasional one) you’ll have noted that I have been adding some changes and upgrades to this blog in the last few weeks.  This is partly because I am a card-carrying gadgetologist (*grin*), but mostly because I am trying to keep riding the wave of ease of online media.  People want to have everything fed directly to their cortex in a continous stream, and be able to tweet, FaceBook (when did that become a verb?) and share effortlessly.  However, the essence – of simplicity and something interesting to read – is something I’m at pains to retain.  To balance this equation, I need some empiric data: your comments!

I’ve integrated the following recently:

  • Search function – top right and easy to spot from any page
  • Easier link to the galleries – mindless viewing pleasure
  • Email subscription function – new posts direct to your inbox!
  • Streamlined sharing, direct-to-email and direct-print links at the bottom of each post
  • Twitterfeed for those spontaneous thoughts and images

Behind the scenes, I’ve upgraded the blog’s engine and post archiving system, which should make it quick and easy to use.  There is also now a mobile interface, so you an read the blogin a pared-down form on your smartphone.  It is difficult for me to assess these changes and especialy compatibility across platforms , however, so I really do need your comments and insights.  Try the links, subscribe via mail, rant, enthuse or complain – I welcome it all!

Rambles from the Road – Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route

My delightful and talented wife has been invited to present her Masters dissertation at a conference which is being held this week at a hotel bordering on the Kruger Park. To her credit, she invited me to come along, so with a week of leave in hand we flew off to Lanseria (near Johannesberg) and took a hired car into the hinterland. If you know my approach to hired cars (“They make the best 4×4’s”) you’ll already be imagining where this could take us…

Due to other commitments, Fran flew up 18 hours ahead of me, and being a sweet and doting husband I of course insisted that she take my new pride-and-joy GPS. It’s been more than five years since I had a new GPS, so I’m suitably excited about this one. (At this point, female readers are wondering what I’m on about, and the males are nodding appreciatively). In any case, I may as well go and buy another, as by the time I reached Gauteng it had a name (“Hannah” – it’s a Garmin Montana, capiche?) and has been claimed forever by my better half. True to her gentle and understanding nature, I am still allowed to program geocaches and press buttons if I ask nicely.

We have two days free time to get to Kruger and no commitments along the way. As a result, we have always been exactly where we wanted to be: wandering. Last night brought us (via various roadside stalls and geocaches) to the Blyde River Canyon, where we stayed surrounded by scores of polite, pale European tourists and perversely red-arsed baboons, in fairly equal proportions. At least the Germans and their consorts did not leave a calling card on our patio table to enhance the aroma of our morning coffee.

In the many intervening years since I last laid eyes on the Blyderivier it has lost none of its beauty, and has gained or retained an appellation I had not remembered: third largest canyon in the world. It is exceeded only by the Grand and Fish River Canyons, and is certainly the greenest of the three. What did surprise me was the quality of the surrounding attractions: either Mpumalanga Tourism or the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve has excelled in making sure that the various resorts, viewpoints and other amenities are neat, staffed and functional. They deserve much commendation, especially for the way in which (at least in appearance) the local communities have been integrated in managing and maintaining the attractions. I hope tourism in the area continues to thrive.

The road calls again; more to follow later!

Flashback… Betty’s Bay Paragliding with Tom

Been doing some blog maintenance, as it was pointed out to me that the links had all died, so I’m also trying something new here…linking in YouTube videos.  Bear with me while I test, and watch this old clip from flying Betty’s Bay in 2006.  Can you remember the days before GoPro cameras, wrist-watch vario’s and reversiblebackpack-harnesses?  Look at the size of those things!

Aha!  It works.  More to follow 🙂


PPG – Goedverwacht Dawn Patrol

Great flight this morning from Goedverwact Microlight Airfield near Durbanville with Keith, Callie, Martin, Hannes, Mias and Thys.  I was particularly glad to get in the air, as my PPG motor needed some work done recently and I was worried about misbehaviour.  We kitted up before sunrise beneath heavily overcast skies with a low cloudbase, but the morning blessed us with a gentle northerly wind in which to launch and then cool, calm flying conditions.  I’m afraid you will have to put up with iPhone photos, as I have lent my usual flying camera to my friends Cathy & Andrew as they depart for a motorbike circuit of South America: they’ll get better use out of it!  I’ll use it as an excuse to take my SLR flying instead, *grin*.

Preparing before dawn at Goedverwacht
Keith in flight

Our route meandered through the Durbanville Hills to the west until we reached Morningstar Airfield, where we did some low passes and admired other flying machines while they admired us.  Thereafter we cruised through the farmlands at low level, following the river for a while.  We then turned east and flew to the Klipheuwel wind turbines, landing back at Goedverwacht.

Route in blue
Morningstar Airfield
"Local traffic, Whisky Mike X-Ray, motorised paraglider and five others departing east from Morningstar at 500ft..."
Klipheuwel wind turbines

What a pleasure, in good company – thanks guys!

"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth..."