Many will be eagerly awaiting news of Mark Shuttleworth's arrival at the International Space Station (ISS). Shuttleworth will be the first African to have travelled into space. I'm putting on a few links about where to get more news about his extra-terrestrial journey, and when to watch the (southern) skies for a glimpse of the ISS while he is there.
The aptly-named Shuttleworth will be launching into space from Baikonour launch pad in Russia. The Johannesburg Planetarium says that the launch has been delayed until 8:30 South African time, tomorrow.
He will arrive on Saturday - watch for evening sightings in Southern skies from Sunday (thanks to Claire Flanagan, Wits PLanetarium). Check the planetarium's web site for times which will be posted on Friday (in case the shuttle orbit changes). The ISS site will also have details. Easier sightings are ones with lower "mag".
Shuttleworth has a web-site here. DSTV are showing material from the NASA channel on channel 38.
He is also involved in projects to improve education in Africa. As a committed open-source fanatic when it comes to education (and as much else as possible) I enjoyed reading The Shuttleworth Foundation's response to Micosoft's offer to provide software to schools.
Apparently someone is claiming - if rather hesitantly - to have proved the Poincare Conjecture. I don't know what that is - I mean I don't know enough to understand what a 'simply connected closed 3-manifold' is yet. I definitely don't know enough to contemplate conjectures about them. But on a level I can understand a bit more (I geuss my number theory is a teensy bit more robust than my branch-of-Mathematics-where-manifolds-are-found is), some new big prime numbers with special properties are being flung about with gay abandon. Nithia will have to attempt an explanation of the Poincare thingummy when he returns to the wintry South next weekend. It's convenient to have a mathematician-type lurking about the house sometimes...
= Alka = 16:00
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= 21.4.02 =
This is the most beautiful thing I have read for ages:
burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.
I haven't become a part of the blog community really. I've never been very good at group identity - team playing - all those things are something that I have to learn still. But I have to agree with Nithia, who has definitely caught hardcore blogomania, and become a peace blogger. War is stupid. Violence is futile. I understand it not. I sit here and look at the garden outside and the light on the leaves and the cats and the sweet domesticity of my home and wonder how people can contemplate killing and maiming other people. I remember one of my psychology lecturers telling us that it's impossible to kill somebody if you see their humanity. If that is true, and for the moment I'll assume it is, then how do murderers get to that point? Soldiers - that I understand; that's shooting 'the enemy', not an individual (not that I support it, I just understand that it may be easier to kill when you never see your victims). But one-on-one violence?
I heard Heila Downey (a buddhist teacher) speak about this in a dharma talk. She spoke about the rage and suffering that people who perpetrate acts of violence live with. She works with prisoners and I asked her how the prisoners who practise buddhism are treated by the other inmates. This is in Malmesbury maximum security prison near Cape Town. It seems as though they are just filled with rage and torment. Heila is not some bleeding heart liberal - she had to identify her father's body after he died from multiple stab wounds (thirty of them). I'm in awe of her compassion.
So, it seems that people can find redemption from that torment by taking responsibility for their past actions - but others simply exist in hell. And they deal with it by perpetrating incredible acts of violence and hatred.
But can the same be said for war? Can the same be said for acts of institutionalised violence, like those perpetrated under the apartheid system in South Africa? Nithia wrote a sad and lucid post about apartheid - and post-apartheid - South Africa the other day. It was inspired by Mike Golby's ruminations about apartheid and other South African horrors. It was strange to read because I have been thinking so much about these kinds of issues lately.
Last week I was helping a friend's daughter with her History homework. She had to write about the differences beteen pre- and post-apartheid South Africa. I told her about living under the State of Emergency in the eighties, when it was absolutely normal to see tanks and ratels moving through the streets. I remembered seeing a policeman running after a screaming child - she couldn't have been more than seven years old. He had a baton raised. I still can't really feel that police are the good guys. The ANC said, "Make the country ungovernable". I suppose that we are still living with that now. South Africa is in no way easy to govern. All the youth who sacrificed their racist education by living the slogan 'Liberation before education' are paying for it - literally. I'm lucky that I had a better education (revisionist history and banned books excluded) and a priviledged upbringing. But I still find it difficult to reconcile the historical and contemporary national parts of myself. I'm South African, and like most of us here, I think that also means that I'm complex.
But I love it here. I don't include myself in the groupp of people who want to rush out of the country. I mean - where to? George W. Bush's America? No thanks. It may be taking a while for our liberal legal system to help most people live a better life, but I see housing projects being built. I see urban renewal. I see hope and tears and laughter and anger and beauty and ugliness and corruption and idealism and genius and stupidity co-existing. I see heaven and hell twined around each other, and that's how existence works. It seems to be the DNA helix of human being. It seems that South Africa epitomises what is means to be born human on this planet. I celebrate the fact that as a woman I have my rights entrenched in the constitution. I celebrate the fact that I can share a house with a wonderful friend who happens to be a different race to me. I work with people who are different colours and speak in different accents, because we have so many official languages now. I celebrate the fact that when I was a teacher I had the opportunity to go back to school and see kids of different races giggling and fighting together as they struggled through adolescence. I don't idealise it. There is plenty of ugly racism in this country. There is hard work ahead. There is poverty in the streets I walk through to get work in downtown Johannesburg. There is dirt and suffering. But I love this place where there are cafe au lait kids and black people holding white people and vice versa.
= Alka = 19:57
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= 17.4.02 =
"At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where. And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time. The inner freedom from the practical desire, The release from action and suffering, release from the inner And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving, Erhebung without motion, concentration Without elimination, both a new world And the old made explicit, understood In the completion of its partial ecstasy, The resolution of its partial horror."
I am connected again. Two weeks leave and a disconnected telephone line - ouch. I forgot to clear Nithia's post box and so - the telephone bill languished, unpaid. Well - there was gardening and T'ai Chi and painting the cottage and studying, studying, studying... so much of that.
On Saturday morning I went to T'ai Chi and we were working outside. It was wonderful. There was a soft, misty rain and I could smell red and yellow leaf mulch. I was in the front row and moved through the Form before an old oak tree. Breathing in; sap rising. Slow grace. All the pain and suffering in life - it's worth it to get to these moments of stillness. I don't know how many I have left. Maybe we get a fixed number, but I prefer to not think about it too much. I consider myself lucky to experience them. I look at some people and feel my heart contract. I wonder if they have had any? Surely they must. It just wouldn't be fair. Existence would be utterly unendurable. But then, existence is not necessarily endurable. And my unendurable seems to be perfectly ok for others. I couldn't live without silence, or without respect, for example. I have tried in the past, but I couldn't endure it for long.
And then there are my friends: I would find life thoroughly bleak without friends to share a bottle of wine with. You know the kind of friends I mean? Those people who know what you're laughing at when everyone else has a poker face. Those people who hold you in your grief and ugly sadness. Those people who sit and chat about the mysterious beauty this universe has to offer. Those people who can sit with you in silent companionship and dance with you for raucous hours at all night parties. Sometimes I think I've lost a part of myself when a friend like that disappears. Or when a friend I've thought was that turns into something different - 'delusions are endless, I vow to cut through them all'... But I'm realising that sometimes, the dead wood has to go. That's just how it works. Sometimes people are together in life for a while - friends, lovers, whatever - and the time is short. The paths diverge quickly. That's heart-wrenching but I just have to remember that although the lessons can hurt, there are no mistakes. When I first heard that I dismissed it as new-age claptrap, but now I'm realising that it's true. I think there are inappropriate actions (after all, I'm a wannabe Budhhist) but I don't think that they have to regretted as mistakes. Guilt is so destructive. I'm so tired of it; my own and other people's. No, I think these little mistakes are closer to learnings. Lessons. I have what I call the 'theory of increasing devastaion' - if you don't learn the first time, you'll have to keep on learning but the lesson gets harder and harder. That's true for my life. I've observed that. And I get angry when I do this, but it's ok I geuss. It's alright to mess up. It's unavoidable. I would never have learned anything if I had never messed up anywhere.
= Alka = 12:45
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= 8.4.02 =
I get childish about George W. -
- becuase I hate seeing morons throw death around. I hate seeing anyone throw death around, but I can't help feeling that it's easier for this to happen when a moronic public elects a moronic president. But then, I geuss Thabo Mbeki isn't doing too well lately either. What is it with these power-mad fucks that rule countries? Since when did democracy become defined as a nation giving one person the power to wage war and ignore science?
Did you know that there is an entire radio station dedicated to slagging off George W? Support them by buying select items such as the following bumper stickers: 'If you can read this, you're not the president' 'YOU voted for Bush and all I got was this lousy recession' ..and my favourite: 'Milosevic, Suharto, Bush: pioneers in electoral innovation'. For those who lack the mature humour and satire displayed in these examples, there's always the 'The pretzel lives!' option.
Also of interest is this web site about running for president: Candidate 2012 (thanks JOHO).
Have you ever noticed that George W. looks like a monkey? Sorry monkeys, but that's the way it goes. Note great potential for Google bombs on =conduit= today - so go for it and link George W. Bush to this post in my blog.
= Alka = 17:30
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Would you look at that archive link on the left? I mean - what is that? Where are they? I'm not dealing with that now. Yuck man, sis, no - this Blogger thing is being very badly behaved lately.
= Alka = 17:05
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Yay! Apache is up and running at last and I can finally access localhost documents. My struggles with httpd were ugly, with lots of bad words, but at least now I can work properly. It feels good to see my phpinfo() working sweetly. All this time, I've been slapping MySQL together and banging around in the dark with php here, HTML there - but I couldn't see anything in order to test it. So now I'm polishing up a little snoop script for my login page. Moenie met my box vok nie! Well. You know what I mean...
Nithia seems to have gone all silent. I hope he hasn't become trapped under a tunnel below the river in a train again.
I've done enough work today.. I'm trotting home to cook, eat and slip into bed with Sherlock Holmes. Ah yes - it's the little things.
= Alka = 17:00
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= 5.4.02 =
I posted a bad link a couple of posts ago - it was for IMC Palestine. You can use that link, or you can read the original post with it's corrected link here.
= Alka = 15:50
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= 3.4.02 =
Your wondrous toe nails grow; impervious, fumbling. Licking from the slippery hollow of a mannish hiker.
I've posted the NAPWA statement because I agree with it wholeheartedly. I support their action and their demands. I was horrified last week when a medical aid rep from Liberty Life (haha) made a pitch to us about health insurance. What did this darling of corporate ethics have to share with me and my colleagues? The knowledge that her company's HIV cover is higher for people who become infected 'by mistake'.
I have to say that I haven't met many people who caught AIDS on purpose. Is the insinuation that people who get infected with HIV through sex are somehow 'guilty' and should, literally, pay for it with their lives -- or at least the quality of their lives? Pathetic. I'm getting a persistent logic error on that one.
= Alka = 14:22
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The National Association of People Living With HIV/AIDS (NAPWA-SA) strengthens its rolling action against the discriminating policies of the financial institutions.
Unfair and discriminating treatment posed by the policies of the insurance companies, finance institutions and banks to the people living with HIV/AIDS can no longer be tolerated by the National Association of People living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. It is against this background that NAPWA members from Gauteng, Limpopo and Eastern Cape are embarking on a series of picketings and sit ins inside the offices of Sanlam, Old Mutual, Metropolitan, Hollard, Standard Bank, First National Bank, ABSA, Nedbank, NBS. Gauteng Province is starting today with National Banks, tomorrow we will be targeting insurance companies.
The Eastern Cape Province will hold its picketing on the 4th and 5th of April 2002 at Goven Mbeki Avenue, in the Nelson Mandela Avenue.
In Limpopo Province Cde Daisy Sikali (NAPWA Provincial Coordinator) is leading a picketing of about 50 NAPWA members at ABSA and much troubled SAAMBO, while in the afternoon they will be picketing at Standard Bank and First National Bank near Landrose and Marray Street in Mafikeng.
We are intending to force these institutions to close down rather than continuing with their inhumane practises. It is high time that we are all equal in the eyes of insurance premiums irrespective of HIV status or else we will make their operations very difficult so long as they remain adamant. NAPWA picketing is starting today the 2nd of April 2002 and will continue indefinitely until our demands are met.
Our protest will be in a form of peaceful picketing and sit-ins targeting Banks and Insurance companies in some Provinces. This protest will be part of our struggle against unjust policies by Banks and Insurance companies, which discriminate against PWA's. We are going to station about 15 people in each and every targeted bank and insurance company.
We felt that PWA's are the ones who must take a lead on issues, which directly affect them, as April is a health month. Our members have been encouraged to do voluntary work at clinics and hospitals as part of Letsema/Ilima during the health month.
NAPWA felt that the Banks and insurance companies should review their policies, which discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS (PWA's) and treat them equally like other citizens of the country, as the law requires. Targeted insurance companies and Banks are Metropolitan, Old Mutual, AVBOB, Sanlam and Hollard; Standard Bank, First National Bank, NBS, and ABSA.
We are also targeting medical institutions such as Oliver Tambo memorial hospital that also has health officials who are still discriminating against PWA's who attend the hospital.
The struggle for treatment has raised debates, which has brought about confusion to our people. We have cautiously noted that once the dissidents raised their views there is confusion and we urge all stakeholders to concentrate on finding solutions rather than creating more problems. A bosberaad of all the stake holders including the government, pharmaceutical companies, NGO's, CBO's, HIV/AIDS Service Providers, etc must be organized to resolve the treatment problem in this country.
Our position has always been conspicuous on antiretroviral drugs that as more than 30% of the people of our country are unemployed and poverty stricken they will be unable to afford these drugs because they are expensive. We fight for cheaper generic antiretroviral drugs, which will be affordable to our people, more especially those in the rural areas.
As NAPWA we believe that women should be given a chance to discuss and debate about NEVIRAPINE as it directly affects them. NAPWA also believe that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), South African Med Control Council (MCC), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Borhinger and Ugandan health authorities should provide us with information and/or facts on the latest reports on nevirapine before it can be dispensed to public hospitals whilst government continue with its pilot project.
As NAPWA we are encouraging our people to use condoms, solemnly to avoid infection and re - infection by HIV because we believe by doing so we will prevent more infections and prolong the lifespan of those already infected by HIV.
We hereby invite all the citizens of our country i.e. churches, NGO's, Political organisations and other stakeholders to join us in a fight against unjust policies by Banks and Insurance companies.
Have you seen the IMC in Palestine? Our world is filled with war. Last night I felt so calm and relaxed; I do still. It seems absurd that over he border, people are being persecuted for their sexuality. In Ramallah and Bethlehem, people are being shot. Bethlehem is filled with tanks and journalists are no longer allowed in.Breyten Breytenbach is there and the Palestinian Solidarity Committee is calling on Mbeki to cut diplomatic ties with Israel and order South African representative Hannelie Booysen to join Arafat's compund in a show of solidarity. Well, I don't know if I would have the guts.
I am starting to wonder if we ever break free from the persecutions of the past, or if they only revisit us in the form of the persecutions we learn to perpetrate when we have power and freedom. I can't imagine that that is truly being liberated.
When Zimbabwe was liberated from colonialism, how many of the horrors of the past were really sloughed away? When the Jews were given Israel as a refuge, whether or not that was correct, how many of the horrors of their history have been cleansed from their memory? Either human nature is prone to horror and destruction and fear - well, yes. Or - and I prefer to think that this is more true because it gives me hope - or, we are bound up in our past until we have the courage to let it go. And I have to be convinced that we can let it go, because not all people who have experienced horror and destruction and persecution are filled with hatred and anger and that special brand of self-righteous conviction that leads to destruction and war.
I wonder what the US has to do with recent developments in Palestine?
= Alka = 13:18
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Touching the earth
I am filled with a strong inclination to blog today. Let me hope for time later - because it's in short supply right now.
I started Tai Chi again last night. It was wonderful - I didn't realise how much I have missed it.
We all walked down the pathway which twists under tall, leafy trees and leads to a small hall in the grounds of the school where Leo's dojo is. I did the beginner's class and it came back so easily. The movement, the way it feels, the way I feel my breathing and my body and a relaxing strength afterwards. I felt rooted in the ground, as though my feet were planted in the earth and spreading out from the toes. After my class I watched the intermediate class, which works with broadsword. They trained outside under the indigo of our autumn night sky and the soft brightness of the lights in the parking lot. Everything was silent, except for Leo's voice and the sound of feet slapping the ground.
I love that silence and discipline.
Erika still insits on paying for my class in exchange for my teaching her daughter Maths. I think it's a good deal for me - I get to do two things I love every week.
= Alka = 10:11
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