• Climate change and personal responsibility

    The Copenhagen Climate Change conference opens next week. It is the 15th major meeting since the start at the Earth Summit in1992 in Rio de Janeiro. Along the way we had the Kyoto Protocolin 1997 and an attempt to extend the Kyoto Protocol at the Earth Summit in Montreal in 2005. Copenhagen Very few of the meetings around the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have produced any tangible results - but next week’s conference in Copenhagen is shaping up to be a bruiser.
  • Offline copies of wikipedia

    I have been involved for a number of years with Hilton Theunissen and the Shuttleworth Foundation and their efforts to bring computers to township schools. A part of that software suite was an offline copy of wikipedia. Early attempts I have blogged before about my own project Wizzy Digital Courier putting thin client labs down in South African classrooms. That also included a copy of the english language wikipedia.
  • Ukweshwama - Zulu bull-killing ritual

    Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has a number of ceremonies conducted at his palace in Nongoma, his only traditionally-built palace. Zulu ceremonies Zwelithini, the sixth zulu king since Shaka and his brothers carved out a piece of South Africa for themselves in the mid-1800’s, is the first one to have to deal with the modern media and concepts like Human Rights. He has a bull-killing ritual, scheduled this year for December 5.
  • What is a racist?

    Living in South Africa, this is a much-overused term, derogatory, harking back to the Apartheid era. In my opinion, it indicates a strange paucity of the English language in a very necessary area. Let me start with a lot of my own opinions of words I have used in Africa, starting at primary school in Kenya. kali Aged 6, a critical, central word in our vocabulary was kali, loan word from kiSwahili, that (like most swahili words) had broad, multiple meanings.
  • Gugulethu taxis

    Toyota Cressidas are nursed into longevity serving as taxis in Gugulethu township, Cape Town. I have blogged about Mzoli’s Meat before. we went there yesterday for a birthday celebration for Lerato, and this time I made an effort to photo the ubiquitous Gugulethu taxis. In the township proper, it seems that every other car is an aging Toyota Cressida - recognisable by the square rear lights and the grille badge in front.
  • Arithmetic Processing using Associative memory

    Associative memory is capable of performing highly parallel arithmeticcomputation on large datasets in constant time. Associative memory is a type of computer memory that is accessed by virtue of its contents, not its location. Rather than saying What is the value at location 42? it says All memory locations with the value 43 please stand up. Why is this useful, and when is it used ? It is used whenever a fast search must be made through a list of candidates- for a CPUcache, or a fast network switch.
  • AIMS Graduation 2009

    The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences held the graduation dinner for the class of 2009 at the Muizenberg Pavilion on June 25, 2009. Present were Vice-Chancellors from three of Cape Town’s Universities, and the Kenyan Ambassador Tom Amolo. I was invited to attend this years graduation of the 2009 AIMS postgraduate diploma on what was forecast to be a stormy day, but it cleared up in time. I have blogged about AIMS before - on the opening of their Research Centre.
  • Computers in schools in Gabon

    I visited Gabon for the last two weeks of May 2009 by invitation of Yoan Anguilet, who has a business and NGO there promoting ICT and Science literacy in schools. We had met previously when setting up AUST, a new university in Nigeria. Yoan had invited me to set up a similar system at two schools in Gabon, as a precursor to a larger effort later in the year.
  • Zimbabwean Home Affairs, food security

    The Ministry of Home Affairs, Zimbabwe is position in the Zimbabwean government is currently subject to a tussle of control between Zanu-PF and MDC. However it is overshadowed by the Provincial administration in the communal areas, which largely controls food distribution. The Ministry of Home Affairs controls, among others, :- Zimbabwe Republic Police (responsible for internal security) Registrar General (Electoral roll) Immigration Board of Censors (Newspapers, TV, Radio) Lotteries and Gaming Board (Income in tourist areas) Especially because it controls the Police Force, it is a powerful ministry.
  • Splitting South Africa's ANC party

    The African National Congress has led South Africa since 1994 - the start of majority rule. Disaffection with Jacob Zuma’s recall of Thabo Mbeki has set an unwanted ball in motion - a potential split of the party before the next election. I have written about the ANC before - about Leadership in Africa, the election process, the rise of Zuma, and the election at Polokwane, While it is not a one-party state, the ANC dominates the political landscape, with over the 2/3rds majority needed to change the constitution.
  • Annual Sangoma ceremony in Zululand

    Five Sangomas Every year, Sangomas outside Eshowe hold a ceremony to honour their ancestors and strengthen bonds between those of like professions. I have written about Sangomas before - Khekhekhe’s First Fruits ceremony. I was in Zululand again for two weeks, to attend the Umgido Umkhulu - a ceremony co-hosted by Mama Cebekhulu, who is a teacher of a friend of mine Karen. Karen is doing another stage of her Sangoma apprenticeship- as a Twasa (student) of Mama Cebekulu.
  • Dark Matter in the Universe

    What is exciting about Cosmology today is how much we do not know. The observable universe - baryonic matter we are fairly sure comprises only a few percent of the total mass of the universe. The rest is a mystery, but mainstream theories split it between Dark Matter and Dark Energy. I work at the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), and we are blessed with some great visiting lecturers, and I have followed the courses on Cosmology and Quantum Mechanics with interest.
  • Xenophobia in South Africa

    At the end of May in South Africa, a lot of violence erupted, apparently targeted against other black africans by fellow black South Africans. Meeting other Nigerians, almost all of them, given a little time, bring up the subject. I found myself having to apologise for the violence, and make some explanation of it. I had left for Nigeria the week before, to install the computer network at the african University for Science and Technology.
  • OLPC and Intel Classmate PC in Nigeria

    OLPC screenshot Today, I visited two schools in Abuja, Nigeria, both of which were pilot schools for the new low cost laptops targeted at schools in the third world. One Laptop per Child started in Galadima Junior school, in Abuja Model Village, and Intel launched ‘One laptop per teacher and child’ at Jabi Junior Secondary school, in Jabi district, Abuja. Nigeria seems to be a testing ground for low cost laptops - pioneered by Nicholas Negroponte’s OLPC, but being ambushed these days by other offerings, like the ASUS EEE PC and the Intel Classmate.
  • Nigerian infrastructure

    Abuja, Nigeria, the capital city, suffers from lack of infrastructure. Potholes, no landlines, power cuts every day. Nigeria as a tourist In 1992 as a tourist on an overland truck, I travelled through Nigeria from the Cameroon border in the north, down through the city of Kano and its magnificent central market, to the bustling and wild city of Lagos. In Nigeria “Benin” is a western province - the sleepy francophone country to the west is pronounced differently and must be identified as the republic of benin.
  • Launch of AIMS Research Centre, Muizenberg

    Stephen Hawking On May 11, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences opened its Research Centre. Present were a host of dignitaries, led by Stephen Hawking, Michael Griffin, the current administrator of NASA, and Nobel prize-winners David Gross and George Smoot. A lineup indeed. I have posted about AIMS before. The bread-and-butter of AIMS is a post-graduate diploma course for African Mathematicians. This broadens the role of the institute to include research.
  • Zimbabwe - Thabo Mbeki and Aziz Pahad

    Since the election itself, we have watched, in slow motion, the frantic backpedalling of ZanuPF to steal the elections after the fact. We have all watched Zimbabwe’s slide from prosperous neighbour to failed state in the past 8 years. There was much wringing of hands by western countries - watching another African basket case grow from what was a functioning economy with educated populous. Granted - there was a lot of unfinished business from independence -particularly about transfer of ownership of land to black Zimbabweans.
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors

    Zimbabwe went to elections last weekend. The Movement for Democratic Change use the open hand as a symbol, ZanuPF the cockerel. ZanuPF were so bereft ofideas that their slogan was “Get behind the fist” - a clear counterpoint to MDC’s open hand. That makes international opinion the Scissors - unable to conquer the Rock. I have watched, aghast, Zimbabwe’s economic slide for 6 years. My first visit to Southern Africa was in 1999 - and I decided against visiting Zimbabwe then because my trip would have been too short.
  • Habeni Primary

    Classroom scene Habeni Primary school is in Zululand, and has recently acquired a computer lab. Courtesy of Kelsey Wood and Wizzy Digital Courier, it also has Internet. Education In Africa, children walk to school. In South Africa, where I am based, schools and clinics are the only large buildings in the rural areas, and are thus easily spotted with their long roofs. The minimum requirement for a school are rooms, teachers, blackboards, and students.
  • Khekhekhe's First Fruits ceremony

    Myself and Khekhekhe In 1999 I visited Khekhekhe with Graham, to negotiate a price for National Geographic to do a piece on him. I wrote up that encounter at the time. Khekhekhe held a ceremony on the 23rd of Feb every year - which he called the First Fruits ceremony. It seemed really to be a time for the old Mthethwa Sangomas to get together, Khekhekhe to show his prowess with snakes, and some beasts to die for the table.