Weekly Head Voices #141: Albert was Burning really hard.

Impression of AfrikaBurn 2018 by the Tall Philosophical Neighbour, aka DJ Fiasco, aka Super Hanz.

As we were walking back from the ice truck to the BURNIVERSITY, our home away from home, one of our newly-made Canadian friends said:

Albert is burning really hard.

Albert (name subtly changed to protect the innocent), who by that time had presented his first improv theater workshop at our camp, had struck me as a brilliant and already open-minded human being.

To me it was surprising that he required any burning, let alone burning of that intensity.

The last week of April was overflowing with more lessons.

I learned that even when I try my best because I am at the Burn, I am unable to take part in a kundalini awakening. I am sorry. Science has seeped too far into my atoms.

I learned that running in the desert is even more amazing than my wildest expectations.

I spent the whole week in my sandals. Besides the “official” runs, I broke into spontaneous running multiple times per day.

We ran a lot.

We learned (again) that people respond superbly to being encouraged to learn together in the desert. The BURNIVERSITY saw many burners pass through its hallowed halls, both as students and as teachers.

I learned (again) that modern humans yearn for disconnection and focus now and then. I could see their eyes light up as they realised the implications of successfully eating an expensive chocolate with mindful attention, direct experience mode fully activated.

We learned that people yearn even more to understand happiness. It was clear that BFAM’s workshop on the (neuro-)scientific basis of happiness hit home, quite hard, in spite of its unavoidable information density.

I learned that our yoga teacher was in fact able to radiate even more serenity than she already did last year. Students leaving her class every morning glowed. Yes, glowed.

We learned that you can come back more healthy from the burn than when you started. Eat like royalty (thank you D and H, it was amazing to see you create together), do yoga, meditation and exercise every day, connect with other humans and get your sleep every night. The eternal party is just one of the many facets of the Burn, and should be treated as such.

Maintain balance.

We learned that it is indeed possible to squeeze so much disconnected experience into a single week that it starts feeling like a micro-lifetime.

Thank you friends for making all of this happen.


Weekly Head Voices #121: Autumn tripping.

This post right here is Monday April 3 to Sunday May 7, according to at least one of the homunculi in my head!

The first stop on our East Coast autumn break road trip was Storms River Mouth Rest Camp. With the Indian Ocean smashing the rugged rocky shores, one would have to be forgiven if one were to describe the surroundings as epic, because this really is.

After a FOMO run in the rest camp itself (PRIMAL INDIAN OCEAN SEA WIND IN THE FACE YEAH) we family-walked the first few kilometres of the Otter trail, me with GOU#3 on my back. Here’s one impression of the view we were treated with:

After the Otter-trail-taster and a short rest, we hiked through the coastal forest in the other direction, to the mouth of the Storms River. The mouth can be crossed via an awe-inspiring hanging bridge:

By the time we got there, the longest bridge was blocked by a family of baboons, led by an extremely large male. Except for the promising Darwin-award candidate who thought that he could goad one of the baboons from the bridge and was promptly blocked by an extra baboon who got on the bridge behind him (baboons: 1, human: -9), the humans fortunately realised that these primates were not to be trifled with. (Darwin-award candidate was spared by the baboons, and hence did not win the award, at least not on that day.)

After a few days with family in St Francis, including a barefoot run on the beach (divine, but foot muscles were toast afterwards), we drove up to the Addo elephant park, and got to spend the night at the new Nyathi rest camp.

Nyathi is one of those places that gently but forcefully makes you go completely quiet when you arrive. I believe the term “gobsmacked” (by nature) is entirely suitable.

Surrounded by hills, with grassy plain stretching out before you, families of zebra and baboons going about their business and absolutely no digital connectivity of any kind, the best you can do is let all of that beauty smash inwards through all of your senses.

Let us drink from the firehose of natural beauty!

After a substantial amount of the abovementioned smashing, a great beer is in order. My current favourite is the Nine Inch Ale, not only because it reminds me of my favourite musician OF ALL TIME FOR EVER AND EVER, but because it’s really really tasty. Also, Red Rock Brewing Company has a genius label designer.

After the road trip, I tried to squeeze in as many days of work as possible before my Dutch homies arrived for the Burn… the AFRIKABURN.

With a really small crew of 6+1, this year we built and ran an official themecamp called BURNIVERSITY. The idea was to try and extract the best parts of going to university, namely the delight we experience when learning together, and to transplant them into Tankwa Town.

It took off absolutely beautifully!

After class, the BURNIVERSITY faculty gets to chill in the shade(ish).

As the week advanced, our small stretch tent filled each morning with visitors, both coming to learn and to teach. Besides our Yoga (best at the Burn so there) and Mindfulness (I gave those, I’m secretly very happy with how they went) classes, we had new and old friends teach Improv Theatre, Jazz Singing (this blew my mind, thank you Max), Non-violent communication, Hip Hop, the Anthropology of AfrikaBurn, and more.

The quality and depth of interactions we had with Burners from all over were just phenomenal.

Together with the rest of our adventures, it feels like I spent four weeks together with my besties in the desert, not one.

Already I look back with much sweet wistfulness.

(I have the start of a more detailed AfrikaBurn post in the drafts folder. I’m still considering whether I should finish it or not. Let me know in the comments what you would like.)

There’s still some dust that surprises me every now and then, and still some equipment that needs cleaning up and returning. In the meantime, I’ve sort-of accidentally stopped reading twitter, and I’ve sort of accidentally started checking facebook even less regularly than usual.

It seems that a week of talking more than usual about Mindfulness, doing more breathing and focus exercises with others, and, most importantly, connecting fully with fellow human beings (partially thanks to complete digital disconnection), might have scrambled my brain a tad.

Have a great week peeps, I hope to see you again soon!

Weekly Head Voices #106: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

The view from the top of Paarl Rock.
From me to you: The view from the top of Paarl Rock as seen through my telephone and google’s megamind going through all my photos and trying to stitch them together.

Well hello everyone! I missed you, but due to reasons (read on…), this is the first time I’ve been able to get around to a weekly head voices.

I woke up one day and decided that the super-inventive internet handle I had chosen when registering my first personal domain in 1999 somewhere, namely cpbotha, was not cutting it anymore. I think this specific seed of discontent was planted when I joined someone’s livecoding.tv stream, only to have them mangle the in hindsight unpronounceable pronunciation of cpbotha (ku-pu-byooothuh).


Nobody told me about this additional requirement in ’99! I will ask for my money back.

In any case, after some fancy twitter footwork, I now have an additional handle: cvoxel. I realise this is only interesting to me and maybe one or two other nerds, but here we are. There might be some personality fragmentation behind all of this. I’ll have a chat with me later.

Friends in more advanced countries, when I show them the sun and the beer and the beaches and the mountains and the WILD BEASTS over here, usually simply point at my miserably slow internet connection, thereby restoring their faith in the balance that exists in our world. Due to another recent change, I can now offer this as a retort:


This kind of bandwidth is pretty respectable for the balmy southern tip of the African continent. (plus that those internet packets are flying about 1km through the air, which is pretty cool!)

This year I did not go to AfrikaBurn, because reasons (read on…). Fortunately the photos only started showing up after the week (no internets for the burners of course!), but they did cause some really acute feels of nostalgia. It’s strange how last year’s experience, our first (Pompen en Pimpen forever!), has managed to become so deeply ingrained. I really hope to see you there next year.

My oldest sibling has started an adventure in Kiwi-land. His family will soon follow. I am happy for the adventurers, but I’m also sad to have them so far away.

A caffeine-infused mitochondrial interlude

You probably remember that adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is the most important form of energy that is produced for the largest part by the mitochondria in the nuclei of all of your cells. ATP is broken down when energy is required. ATP powers things like muscle contraction, cellular metabolism, signaling, and so on. Without it, you would be useless. Dead actually.

I just learnt from the wikipedia article that your body turns over its own weight (!!!) in ATP every day, which is pretty awesome.

The first factoid I wanted to mention, is the curious link caffeine has with ATP. So as you’re going through the day expending all that energy, ATP gets broken down into its constituents, one of which is of course adenosine. This adenosine binds to the adenosine receptors in your brain. When a certain threshold of adenosine receptors are bound, your body decides that it’s time to rest, so you get sleepy. During sleep, the adenosine is cleared as your body builds up new energy stores.

Caffeine is, besides being magical, a sort of adenosine impostor. When you drink coffee for example, the caffeine in your tasty drink will go and bind with your adenosine receptors, hence making it impossible for real adenosine to bind, but it will do so without actually activating those receptors. The end result is that your brain does not realise that it should be feeling sleepy, and so you don’t feel so tired.

I find it interesting that caffeine in fact interferes so fundamentally with this important physiological process.

What I found slightly more mind-blowing than that however, is the fact that the mitochondria, the little organelles where most of this ATP production takes place, and which are embedded right in all of your cell nucei, actually contain foreign DNA.


Yes children, you have your own precious DNA in your cell nucleus, but the mitochondrion, the cell’s powerhouse, has its own separate genome. Long ago, we seem to have started a symbiotic relationship with a bacterial organism. Actually, we flat-out went and merged with them at an extremely intimate level.

Let us all take a few minutes to say hi to the beautiful little alien endo-symbionts embedded in our cell nuclei, without whom everything falls apart. We are all chaotic but somehow walking cellular mega-cities, and it’s just lovely.

My universe expanded

About those reasons…

Well, GOU#3 was born a few weeks ago.

She’s a beautiful pink little not-yet-walking but rapidly expanding cellular mega-city. I and the other more developed cellular mega-cities in this neck of the woods and all of our billions of cells are truly happy to have her with us.

May your neurotransmitters rejoice.


Weekly Head Voices #91: They’re back.

So after exactly no-one asked me when the Weekly Head Voices would be back, or why they stopped, I decided to reverse my almost-decision of quitting. This hiatus made me realise that the WHV are one of the few tenuous connecting lines between me and a tiny group of readers, people I am quite fond of, dotted around the world.

Sunset at AfrikaBurn 2015.

Again inspired by the information-and-entertainment-dense way that Swimgeek manages to do it, I’m going to try this in bullet form.

  • We, that’s me with friends DWR, PK, TvD, CvdB, MJ and a Very Flat Cat, spent the whole week (Monday April 25 to Sunday May 1) at AfrikaBurn 2015. We built (the desert truly is rock hard – try ramming a metre of rebar down into it, then repeat) and ran Pompen en Pimpen, bicycle repair and pimping theme camp extraordinaire, on the corner of 9ish and Binnekring. The experience unfortunately is exactly one of those things that is more or less impossible to explain in words. I’ll try a few keywords nonetheless: Hard labour at the Best Party Ever; music never stops (sleep never really comes); engineered herd humanity; so many people, so much space; gifting really is great. We’re going to have to go again.
  • Damnit. I’m not very good at bullets.
  • As if fate were a thing that could taunt me, a super interesting project at work has resulted in me:
    • Buying an early 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pro. It’s super portable and the battery lasts more than 6 hours, but I still like working on my klunky Linux-running Acer laptop more.
    • Learning Objective C and X Code (AppCode is miles better).
    • Working on an experimental iOS app.
    • Learning to program Apple Metal on iOS and on the OSX desktop (way before most other people).
  • In another project I got my hands dirty with three.js. What a lovely library for doing WebGL! We’ll soon be shipping a product feature based on this.
  • Shortly afer having resigned myself to never ever finding a new house that we all liked, we found a house we all liked! If all goes according to plan, and the various mafia bosses we’re borrowing money from cooperate, we will soon be moving in to a place of our own. I guess this means we are sort of settling down again.

Have a beautiful week tiny group of readers!

Weekly Head Voices #87: Good Reads.

Two days ago, I received this in the mail:

Visualization of Variation and Variability by Stef Busking & Integrative Visualization of Whole Body Molecular Imaging Data by Peter Kok

For various reasons I was temporarily ever-so-slightly misty-eyed. Well-done boys, I’m SUPER proud of you!

Other books you might also like.

I’ve recently finished reading two other mind-expanding books:

The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin: Liu Cixin is a wildly popular Chinese science fiction author. I found this recently translated first edition of a trilogy to be an awesome first peek into modern Chinese science fiction. The translator, Ken Liu, managed to produce an English version of this story that still managed to bring across themes of Chinese history and culture. On top of that, you also get a computer consisting of 30 million soldiers arranged into inter-connected logic gates (think that’s far-fetched?), artificially intelligent quantum entangled photons (told you), and much more. I’ll be lining up as soon as the translations of part 2 and 3 appear.

I read William Gibson’s Neuromancer probably shortly after it was published in 1984. At that stage, I compensated for lack of internet by working my way through the local library, book by book. Through the succeeding years, as the internet came onto the scene, and cyberspace became more of a reality, I’ve re-read Neuromancer a number of times. Each time, it caused more goose-bumps than the previous.

In my eyes, Gibson already deserved his status as literary author many times over. With The Peripheral, he has shown, in an exceptionally suave and absolutely in-control way, that he is the final boss of modern writing. The number of mind-bending ideas that he develops, whilst fleshing out characters that feel more real than some real people, all the while masterfully having the reader ride along with the two protagonists and having us figure out the story along with them, is nothing short of amazing. (Yes people, I am positively gushing. It’s that good.)

Other news.

  • The OSSSA core team has recently doubled in size. There are two of us now. Thanks to the extremely welcome addition, we are now actively busy gathering information on all open source software entities in South Africa, so that we can create the go-to resource for this. If you’re in SA, and you’re into OSS, please respond!
  • Due to a whole team of intrepid Dutch adventurers with fairly concrete plans, please look out for the Dutch Bicycle Repair and Pimping Shop at AfrikaBurn 2015, because you might just find us!

Have a great week people, wherever you are!