Kanthan's blog

'Reject your inner dung beetle'

1 January 2022 — If you’re visiting any of South Africa’s magnificent game reserves and look down, chances are you will see one these: Scarabaeus Zambesianus is the African Dung Beetle, and its lot in life is to find a mound of fæces, roll it a couple of hundred metres from where it was...

Racist emoji

30 August 2020 — Have you ever heard someone says something that sounded completely outrageous, and you turned around to see a smile on their face and heaved a sigh of relief? Humans rely on a wide range of signals to communicate with each other, and most of these are non-verbal: What we say...

Yes, but is it paedophilia?

4 July 2020 — Even after his death, there continues to be outrage — deserved, in my opinion — around Jeffrey Epstein's 36 recorded counts of sexual abuse. Some of his victims were 14 years old. But this is 2020, and even well-meaning people commenting on the matter get taken to task, for...

Some thoughts on GDP

22 August 2020 — I was asked a question: "Would I be right in saying GDP is not always a good indicator of an economy?" My response: "GDP is an important piece of a larger puzzle which should never be looked at in isolation." Here's a brief explainer: GDP (gross domestic product) is the...

My grandfather

19 July 2020 — My grandfather was born 16 December 1903. Twenty four hours later, the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane. In 1914 when he was 10 years old, World War I broke out. When it ended in 1918, he was 14. 22 million people were dead From 1918 until the time he turned 16 in...

Rats and dogs

3 April 2020 — Can dogs be trained to sniff out Covid-19? Medical Detection Dogs, a UK NGO founded in 2008 on the premise that dogs can be trained to sniff out diseases, is hoping this is the case. They are working in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (...

Smoking killjoys

2 April 2020 — In Italy, cigarettes and other tobacco products in that country can only be sold by designated tobacco shops called "tabacchi". These outlets are ubiquitous and easily recognisable by very distinct blue sign with a large 'T' and the words 'sali tabacchi, valori bollati'. The...

Day 6: The political game-changer

1 April 2020 — Many people have noticed that the Ramaphosa government has quite efficiently been rolling out water supplies to communities following the declaration of the Covid-19 State of Disaster. Not only water supplies; provisions for emergency housing in the form of tents or other...

Day 5: Beware the police state

31 March 2020 — Just a brief, philosophical note today on Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778), Genevan philosopher, writer and composer. Rousseau was famously against property rights. I quote: The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said 'This is mine', and...

Day 4: Covid-19 crisis will prove to be the death rattle of the EU

30 March 2020 — Italy, country of my eldest daughter's birth and home to some of my dearest friends, has borne the brunt of Covid-19 tragedies thus far. As I write this, 812 people have died in the past 24 hours pushing the death toll to 11 591. There will be much speculation in the years...

Day 3: Check your privilege; seriously

29 March 2020 — As pictures roll in from around the country of our urban masses crammed into peri-urban slums (which we sanctimoniously refer to as informal settlements), many of us have taken to sharing sentiments about how privileged we are to be relatively safe within our middle-class and...

No time for tears

28 March 2020 — Edcon CEO Grant Pattison reportedly broke down in tears this week on a conference call to suppliers. "We only have sufficient liquidity to pay salaries... which we deem a priority during these uncertain times." There was much sympathy for Pattison when the story broke. "His...

Boris's Bravado

27 March 2020 — Day 1 of lockdown in South Africa greeted with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement today that he had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The news was greeted with mirth and derision by the usual suspects. They pointed to BoJo's previous...

Toward an objective reality

17 March 2020 — Seth Goddin earlier this month wrote about the notion of "objective reality". I quote: Objective reality is measured. It’s not based on talking points. It’s repeatable and verifiable. When humans share an understanding of how things are objectively, we’re able to make...

BoJo is right to run with Huawei 5G

12 March 2020 — UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson staved off his first rebellion in parliament this week.  In January, the UK said it would allow China telecommunications giant Huawei to build part of the country's 5G phone network. This upset the Trump administration in the United States...

Have you watched these banned films?

8 March 2020 — Did you know that Wonder Woman (2017) is banned in countries belonging to the Arab League? (The 22 members of the Arab League are Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia,...

I'm grateful for the SANDF

7 March 2020 — There are some things in life that help me sleep easier, and one of those things is that we have a singularly incompetent South African National Defence Force. Think about it. Half of our 26 fabulous Gripen fighter jets don't fly because of lack of funding. Ditto our frigates...

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at Home is over, for now

6 March 2020 — Some 21 years ago, when I was managing editor of the Cape Times, I had acquired as my desktop computer at work an Apple Power Macintosh G3 with its matching Sony Trinitron monitor. It was both beauty and beast by the standards of the day; blue and white polycarbonate clocking...

Here's how to look at our budget deficit properly

5 March 2020 — South Africa's budget deficit for this year is R370 billion. (That's the difference between the money government receives in taxes and the amount government spends by borrowing.) This triggered a thought as to what we could have spent that money on as a nation, and as I...

Remembering Fela Kuti because music

4 March 2020 — Driving my 12 year old daughter to school this morning, and the iPhone god of randomness popped by Shakara by Fela Kuti. And I told 12 that Fela had been beaten to death by Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, and she asked why, and I said that's what dictators do. But that I would...

My Super Tuesday prediction

3 March 2020 — Today is Super Tuesday in the US. This is the day when the greatest number of states within that country hold primary elections to determine who is going to be the presidential candidate later this year. More than a third of the voting delegates to that presidential...

Israel goes to the polls... again!

2 March 2020 — Israel goes to the polls today for the third time in less than a year. Here's what this is about: Early last year, Benjamin Netanyahu was on track to become Israel's longest serving Prime Minister, but he had a fragile coalition with a one seat majority in the Knesset (...

The real value of Boomers

1 March 2020 — The United States is braced for the single biggest transfer of wealth in history. "Boomers" make up about 45 million households, worth about US $68,4 trillion, according to Cerulli Associates. an asset management research group. As they die over the next 25 years, their heirs...

'I can't believe it's not butter!' redux

29 February 2020 — The Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens, was once only found in South America, but today is quite ubiqutous. The United States Spain, Portugal, southern France, Italy, Croatia, Malta, the Canary Islands, Switzerland, the Black Sea coast of Russia... Yes, and right here in...

My budget takeaways

27 February 2020 — Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivered his 2020 budget speech yesterday. Brief highlights for me: No major tax increases. Fuel levies increase by 25c per litre. A 60 litre tank will cost R15 more. A R16,4 billion allocation to South African Airways for "guaranteed...

Should some religious groups be barred from foster care because of their beliefs?

26 February 2020 — A fascinating case has made its way to the US Supreme Court.  In 2018, Catholic Social Services, an arm of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, took the city to court accusing it of violating the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion....

RIP, Shaun Johnson

25 February 2020 — Woke up to the news that founding editor of the Sunday Independent, Shaun Johnson, had passed away and was momentarily incredulous. Born November 1959, he is just two years older than I am.  I have a flashback now to sitting across from him at his desk circa October 1999;...

Who guards The Guardian?

24 February 2020 — Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? This Latin phrase traces back to the work of the Roman poet Juvenal, written around the late first or early second century, It translates to "who will guard the guardians?" Surprisingly, the original context was not in the sense of the modern...

Corona versus Ebola: some stats

23 February 2020 — The Democratic Republic of Congo announced their tenth outbreak of Ebola in 40 years on 1 August 2018. The number of cases has exceeded 3 000, making it the country's largest-ever Ebola outbreak. It is the second-largest Ebola outbreak after one which hit West Africa from...

Every so often, the Internet gives us something truly wonderful

22 February 2020 — Fancy listening to Folk Music of Afghanistan from 1971? Or Afro-Cuban Jazz from 1966? The Internet Archive has begun digitizing long out-of-print vinyl and making it freely available. As I write these words, I am listening to "Profiles" by Gary McFarland (1966). It was...