Weekly Head Voices #159: Extreme.

The view from Waterkloof Restaurant’s balcony, on a fairly perfect evening.

In theory, this edition should cover the period of time from Monday November 19 to today, Wednesday December 19, 2018.

I am very late with this post, because down here we were first busy winding down the year with all of the completion-madness that that entails, and then the vacation started starting.

It hasn’t yet stopped being busy starting.

We are now entering what the Dutch call komkommertijd, and, as I’ve just learned, the Germans Sauregurkenzeit, referring to the period when everyone has left and there’s not really anything news-worthy happening.

Extreme dining

To celebrate the occasion of the official partnership between my partner and me adding another year to its growing collection, and due to my partner’s impeccable timing and ingenuity, we spent an amazing evening at what is currently South Africa’s best restaurant, at least according to the 2018 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards.

I would like to share three observations:

  1. The Waterkloof experience is a superbly balanced combination of location (see the photo above), architecture and interior design, art and ambience, all acting as context for the almost other-worldly culinary adventure, itself consisting of pairings of wine and perfect little dishes, the latter again artfully manipulating appearance and taste, space and time.
  2. South Africa is a country of extremes. Just the previous night, close family had been the victims in a violent but fortunately non-fatal home invasion.
  3. If you ever manage to find yourself at Waterkloof, take this advice to heart: The small dégustation menu with wine pairing is most probably more than enough. (We selected the normal. By what felt like the 15th course, we were dealing with the dilemma of having to abstain from eye-wateringly beautiful culinary creations.)

Extreme Solar

For many good reasons, we are currently seriously evaluating upgrading the house with a photovoltaic solar power system.

It turns out, as I should have expected, that there’s a whole universe of new toys and gadgets to evaluate.

We are currently looking at the following main components:

  • 2 x PylonTech US3000B LithiumIon batteries for a total of about 7 kWh of stored electricity.
  • GoodWe GW3648-EM Hybrid inverter: This coordinates everything between the PV Solar panels, the grid and the batteries. When the sun is shining, it charges the batteries, and powers as much as possible of the house, only using the grid when there’s no other option. During the evening, it powers the house using the batteries, again only using the grid when absolutely required. Due to strict rules down here in Cape Town, we are limited to inverters with a maximum output of 3.6 kW, even when no feed-in (to the grid) is planned.
  • The PV Solar Panels: I am still considering options here. I would prefer monocrystalline, and as close as possible to the 4.6 kWp maximum supported by the GoodWe inverter to maximise the amount of sun in our power diet.

As a first step, today we had a number of intelligent geyser controllers installed. These devices enable me to keep the geysers (we heat all of our water electrically down here…) off for most of the day, only switching them on an hour or two before hot water is usually required.

They look like this:

GeyserWise TSE geyser controller. I should have done this ages ago. Who came up with the idea that a water geyser needs to maintain its high temperature 24/7?

The rest of this exercise will be considerably more expensive, but  am really looking forward to being able to harvest most of our electricity from the lovely African sun!

I have one final bit of nerd-news, and it comes in the form of a…

WHV pro-tip #23972847376: If you are doing data science(tm), or machine learning, or visualization, or any other dataset-oriented work, I can highly recommend DVC, or DataVersionControl. We have started using this on one of our projects to manage different collections of DICOM images, and it works incredibly well.

Extreme health

In conclusion, I would like to mention a recent and very impressive study by the Cleveland Clinic about the correlation between cardiorespiratory fitness and all-cause mortality.

I’ll start with this quote:

In this cohort study of 122 007 consecutive patients undergoing exercise treadmill testing, cardiorespiratory fitness was inversely associated with all-cause mortality without an observed upper limit of benefit.

Let’s “unpack” that, as they say.

The researchers spent about 23 years measuring the cardiorespiratory fitness of just over 122 thousand subjects as they were running on a treadmill.

Measuring that many people gives your conclusions quite some statistical power. Also, the treadmill doesn’t lie, as people will often do, inadvertently or not, when self-reporting their fitness level.

What’s also interesting to me is that they didn’t observe any upper limit to the positive effect of fitness. Every additional amount of cardiorespiratory fitness, up to crazy levels, correlated with longer life.

The upshot of all of this is that there’s really no excuse. That one most important thing we can do to live long and prosper is to exercise.

It’s what Spock would have wanted.

Running on a dirt road in Betty’s Bay. I love running on dirt roads, although on this particular morning I was already tired before I started. The tiredness unfortunately did not decrease. I think there might still have been some virus involved, or, more probably, just standard bad vacation habits involving craft beer in the evening.

Weekly Head Voices #156: Karma Chameleon.

Scene from a recent lunch with a very flat cat. Whilst appreciating these moments with direct experience mode set to 11, one does have to realise that it’s all much more complicated than it looks.

Welcome to this, the 156th edition of the Weekly Head Voices, voices who are planning to sing about the two weeks from Monday October 8 to Sunday October 21.

Summer has arrived, and it’s really very hot down here.

As I’m writing this at 21:41, I am doing my best to limit my motion to the absolute minimum in a bid to keep my temperature within healthy limits.

You have to imagine me sitting utterly still, almost like a chameleon on a twig, with only my fingers making small darting movements over the keyboard.

Time is fun when you’re having flies.

Karma Running.

This morning, after losing all my karma in traffic (there was an accident on one of the main roads in my town, resulting in the normally already impressive level of stupidity of the driving mob, which I am part of, reaching hitherto unseen levels; WHEN IS THE AI GOING TO TAKE OVER PLEASE?!), I started my long road to forgiveness, and zen, by taking a barefoot run on the beach near my place of work.

It looked like this:

Goldilocks sand: Not too hard, not too soft, just right.

I wish I could better communicate how it felt.

Imagine the 30 Celsius morning sun on your back, a slight breeze from the sea and your bare feet rhythmically brushing the wet sand as you glide softly along the coast.

Simply keep on doing this until your body creates the stillness that your mind needs.

This is my new favourite run.


A friend from work told me about this idea of exercising at 80% of your maximum heart rate.

The idea behind this is to train your aerobic system without injuring anything, and also to be able to do so with much more volume (read: more kilometres).

Four weeks ago I tried to squeeze in too much running in the half hour I had at my disposal. Due to me being doubly stupid, I also did this in my Xero Tolerance 5mm sole sandals, and so I was rewarded with a brand new kind of pain in my posterior tibial tendon.

This is the same tendon previously mentioned on this blog, also in the context of running injuries.

However, this time I must have injured the tendon more effectively than the previous time (practice makes perfect!), because the pain seemed to be a more permanent new inhabitant of my foot.

Long story short, the suggestion of lower heart rate training came at the perfect time, with my ankle serving as a continuous and visceral (literally) reminder to keep an eye on my heart rate.

This has been going swimmingly.

I am slowly increasing my distance, but, more importantly, runs are again characterised by a whole lot of grinning.

It has not escaped me that a man running on sandals (or barefoot) with a probably fairly unpredictable-looking grin on his big hairy face could give fellow humans pause for thought.

Grab bag of thought- and/or debate-provoking pieces.

Not exercising worse for your health than smoking, diabetes and heart disease, study reveals

Over a period of more than 20 years, 122000 people were put on a treadmill at Cleveland clinic. It turns out that exercise plays a crucial role in not dying.

Core quote: “Being unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test has a worse prognosis, as far as death, than being hypertensive, being diabetic or being a current smoker”.

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

I’m really sorry about this one, fellow meat lovers.

This also looks like a pretty solid study. Core quote: “The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world.”

(I have slowly started to work on the vegetarian recipe section of my notes.)

World’s largest sleep study shows too much shut-eye can be bad for your brain

It is well known that we here at The Voices are huge fans of sleep.

However, now it turns out that lots of sleep is not going to cut it. You have to sleep just the right amount: Not too much and not too little.

You probably knew this, but this large study confirms it: Between 7 and 8 hours of sleep, no more and no less, is best for optimal mental performance.

Hard hitting quote: “One startling revelation was that most participants who slept four hours or less performed as if they were almost nine years older.”

The End

Thank you for connecting with me by reading this post. I am already looking forward to our next encounter, whichever form that may take!

You must vaccinate

Image courtesy of dbtechno.com.

I was mistakenly under the impression that, at least in my social circles, the whole vaccination issue had been put completely to rest, but based on the number of serious questions that I’ve been asked recently, this unfortunately does not seem to be the case.

For those of you who don’t have time, I’ll cut to the chase immediately:

Yes, you simply must vaccinate your children.  This is the best and safest choice, for both your child and your fellow humans.

No, there is no link between vaccination and autism.  No, spreading out the (MMR) vaccinations is not safer, it is in fact more dangerous.  Also, the “vaccine overload” hypothesis is flawed.

For those of you with a bit more time or those of you who are not willing to take me on my word, I’ll go into some more detail on each of the points mentioned above.  Most of what I write here is based on articles in the Wikipedia.  I’ve deliberately done this, because these articles are accessible and readable to everyone, and they do link to the original scientific articles that they are based on.  Feel free to jump to any section.  Also, each section ends with a short summary of its contents to make it easier for you to skip.

Recent history

This section is based on the Wikipedia article on the MMR vaccine controversy.

In 1998, Andre Wakefield and co-authors published a paper in the Lancet where, based on 12 case reports, they speculated on a possible link between the MMR vaccination and autism, and also speculated that it might be better to space out the vaccinations.  Of course the press and media picked this up and went completely wild, causing a health scare in the UK.  It is important to note that both of these claims were highly speculative.

It later turned out that Wakefield had received 55000 (fifty-five thousand) UK pounds from Legal Aid Board solicitors who were gathering evidence to use in a case against vaccine manufacturers, and that a number of parents of the children taking part in Wakefield’s study were directly involved in the law-suit.  Wakefield did not mention any of this at the time of publication.  Ten of his 12 co-authors have since completely retracted their interpretation of the paper.

In short, the author of the paper that started most of the modern vaccination-autism scare was completely corrupt, and his corruption directly affected this specific research.

He did manage to cause such a scare in the UK, that measles (one of the diseases that MMR vaccinates against) is for the first time in decades at almost epidemic levels.   Since then, there have been cases of measles killing children, something which would most probably not have happened had the vaccination compliance not been at an all-time low.  Isn’t that absolutely crazy when one considers that measles was all but eradicated?

In the years between 1998 and the present, there have been numerous extremely well-designed and large studies, none of which have been able to find any kind of link between vaccination and autism.

To summarise this section: The research that the vaccination scare is based on, was deeply flawed and based on corruption, not science.

Spreading out of vaccines

This section is based on the Wikipedia article on the general Vaccine Controversy.

In some cases, parents opt for spreading out the vaccinations, because they mistakenly think that this is safer than not doing so.  The flawed idea that administering all these vaccines together could be dangerous is called the “vaccine overload hypothesis”.  It is flawed for the reasons:

  • Common childhood ilnesses represent a much heavier load on the infant immune system.
  • The vaccination cocktail given currently represents less than 10% of the immunological load of the vaccinations given to children in the 80s.
  • Numerous studies have shown that the combination of vaccinations does NOT damage the infant immune system.

Importantly, if you spread out vaccines, you increase the time during which your child is susceptible to the diseases that are being vaccinated again, thus greatly increasing the health risk to your child and all other children it comes into contact with.  You are a bad parent if you do this.

To summarise this section: Administering the vaccinations together does not damage your child’s immune system. Spreading out vaccines is dangerous for both your child and all children it comes into contact with.

Celebrities campaigning against vaccination

Recently, a number of celebrities, most prominent of which Jenny McCarthy and her partner Jim Carrey, supported by Oprah, have been campaigning against vaccination.  You have to remember that these are actors and entertainers, with almost ZERO medical or scientific background or training.   McCarthy dropped out of nursing school to become a Playboy Bunny: There’s nothing wrong with that, but you really cannot base important medical decisions, concerning the health and survival of your child (!!), on the opinions of an erstwhile nude model!

To summarise: Think carefully about the scientific and medical backgrounds of actors telling you how to care for the health and well-being of your child, even more so when it concerns life and death issues such as vaccination.

The logical conclusion

To the best of our scientific knowledge, vaccinations as they are administered today are safe and do not cause autism.  In spite of this, research continues day and night to make sure of this observation.

On the other hand, if you don’t vaccinate, the risk of your child getting ill and dying is significantly higher.  If a large enough number of you don’t vaccinate, we lose our herd immunity and then there is a very real risk that many more of our children will get ill and die due to your inaction.  Do you seriously want to take this very real risk with your and my children’s lives?

Post scriptum

I hope that this has helped.  If there are any issues that are not clear, or missing, or you are not convinced, please let me know so that we can discuss and so that I can improve this article.

Extra resources