Sentinel vs Vandal

August 20, 2011



Tawzalt is scanning the garden, alert for intruders while I am having a wee dram of the Bowmore 12 on the porch. She is very distrustful of the staff in the neighboring apartment building who enjoy watching us over our garden wall during shift changes. In the background you can just make out our actual night guard in the little guard house.



When not keeping an eye on the neighborhood, nighttime is a good time for group hole-digging. Zel gets the hole started while Tawzalt inspects his work.

They follow this up whith a high-speed chase game and wrestling match which my phone has no chance of photographing in the pitch black.

I have to wonder where the association between camel and soap came into being. My conception of camel is pretty much the antithesis of soap. I don’t think a soap exists that can de-funkify a camel.

Hmm. Maybe that’s the pitch. This soap is so powerful, it can clean a camel, you should use it on your whole family.

Camel cleaning –> use on the whole family.


This camel soap is in no way related to the open source software.

NGS stock photo of donkeys by Ira S. Lerner

I just came across this article at National Geographic. I must admit I have quite a fondness for African donkeys. They just keep keepin’on in the most difficult circumstances. Their bray is other-worldly. It sounds pretty much like the Tusken Raider that tries to kill Luke just before he meets Ben Kenobi in the original Star Wars.

Genetic analysis proves that the African wild ass, which may be down to the last few hundred individuals, is the ancestor of modern donkeys. The same study by an international group of researchers suggests that a subspecies, the Nubian wild ass, thought to have vanished, might have survived after all.

It turns out that the Wild Ass of East Africa is the living ancestor of all modern donkey lineages. These asses were domesticated by pastoral nomads around about 5,000 years ago. That’s potentially in the same ballpark as the domestication of the Azawakh dogs by those same nomads.

I believe we have managed to negotiate a lease for a house in Accra. The real estate market here is INSANE. Monthly rents are at the same level or higher than in DC and are paid one or two years IN ADVANCE!

For that money you get a stripped house with no appliances or hot water heaters or air conditioners. You further may not have working plumbing or electricity. You need to also get a generator because the power is quite unreliable and finally you need a giant water tank because city water service goes out for weeks at a time. Furthermore, leases are very favorable to the landlord. Standard terms are that the tenant is responsible for making repairs to the property.

It is really quite amazing. Of course, this real estate boom may be related somewhat to the relatively recent discovery of oil offshore.

Anyway, we have found a place that we can make nice. It has one very, very awesome feature. It has is on a 1.5 acre plot within a 10 foot wall. There is a tropical garden and some very old trees that are perhaps 5 stories tall.

Our house in Accra (probably, we hope)

And there are frogs.

House frog

Amazing Radio Show

October 22, 2009

I love the show Radio Lab from WNYC. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich explore science topics with a cool attitude and an edgy sound mix. Last week they ran a show called “New Normal”. It’s a must-listen for any Robert Sapolsky fan.

If you haven’t heard of Robert Sapolsky and have any interest in Evolutionay Biology, Human Origins, Animal Behavior, life in the African bush or the effect of stress on people and animals run out and get a copy of A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons.

Actually, you should read the book and then do the radio show because the interview with Robert Sapolsky gives away the wrenching ending to A Primate’s Memoir. Anyone who has read this book – you must listen to this show. There is an incredibly uplifting revelation about how things have worked out for Sapolsky’s baboon troupe.

The 3rd segment is about the Balyaev fox breeding experiments where Dr. Balyaev bred tame foxes in 10 generations and how that changed the animals.

Direct link to download the RadioLab MP3 podcast.

Yahya Jammeh came to be head of state of The Gambia in 1994 through a bloodless and possibly accidental coup. His regime has become increasingly paranoid and repressive. About a year ago, Jammeh issued a decree that any hotel housing a homosexual would be closed and any homosexuals found discovered in The Gambia would be beheaded. Jammeh has always been obsessed with juju (aka black magic or witch craft). He has recently become convinced that his aunt was killed by witchcraft early this year and has launched a broad campaign of retribution among his own people.

Up to 1,000 people have been kidnapped… since early February and taken to detention centres or to [President Yahya Jameh’s] farm in Kanilai, accompanied by the President’s personal protection guards, the police and the army, according to an Amnesty International communiqué released on 18 March.

Amnesty says in its communiqué that witch doctors were invited to Gambia in early 2009 soon after the death of President Jammeh’s aunt; the President reportedly believes witchcraft was used in her death.

Victims [say] they were held for up to five days and forced to drink herbal concoctions that made them hallucinate. Many said they were severely beaten, some at gunpoint, in many cases nearly to death.

“I was among several villagers who were forcefully abducted from home by a group of armed soldiers and some civilians on 9 March,” Kebba Saneh from Makumbaya village in Kombo district told IRIN. “I was forced to drink drugs which made me unconscious. There was no way we could try to escape.”

read the full report at