Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Was Tagged

On checking my private Plurks last week I found that Between Keyboard and Chair had been tagged by a Plurk friend, Rantz, in Australia. Now according to the rules of tagging, you have to do three things:
  1. Shout the tagger's blog
  2. Write 5 interesting facts about yourself
  3. Tag six more blogs
So the first task at hand is to shout Rantz's blog: rantz, the content of which he describes in the header as "blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah". Actually, the blog covers a variety of topics and is worth dropping by for a read and a look at his pondcam.

Now to come up with five facts about myself. You'll have to decide if they're interesting.
  1. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I've met my wife 50 years ago and have been married to her for 44 years.

  2. I'm a Linux junkie and have been running openSUSE Linux almost exclusively on my 5 home systems since 2000. I keep Windows on a partition on one laptop in order to do my taxes each year.

  3. If you're familiar with the Grateful We're Not Dead blog here's another tidbit. After I finished playing in the Mississippi River Boys in 1985, I put my guitars away and didn't pick them up for another 13 years. In May, 1998 I started attending a monthly Music Night held at the home of Gord Breedyk and Evelyn Voigt. This was a sing-along event and I played guitar to accompany the singers. Common interests with Gord Breedyk and Bruce Penniston discovered at Music Night led to the formation of Grateful We're Not Dead.

  4. I started Carleton University in 1962, dropped out in 1964 and didn't complete my BSc in Chemistry until 1976.

  5. In July 1988 I took a contract in Kingston, Jamaica for 3 weeks to teach basic computer skills to Civil Engineers. I fell in love with the country and the people and from 1989 until 2001 my wife and I used to spend 3 to 4 weeks in Kingston, Jamaica each year on holiday.
And finally, the last task: tag six other blogs. Some of these may have already been tagged, but here goes in no particular order:So with this final task completed I'll go back to sleep until inspiration hits me with an idea for the next article. At least that's how I see it from Between Keyboard and Chair.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

60 Years In East Africa

60 Years in East Africa: Life of a Settler 1926 to 1986.

This book is the autobiography of Werner Voigt (1905 - 1997). It is written in a flowing conversational style and is an easy read.

Werner writes at the beginning of the book:
This story is written as I remember the different episodes; a bit embroidered, perhaps. I make no claims to the historical accuracy of my account. In many cases, the names have been changed.
As a young boy, Werner Voigt dreamed of reliving the adventures of Robinson Crusoe. In 1926, soon after completing a diploma in "Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture" at the German Colonial College he found himself on his way to Bagamoyo, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in East Africa on a three year contract with a plantation. That three year contract turned into a sixty year affair with East Africa.

On arriving in Africa, Werner worked as a plantation Manager, running and constructing plantations until the funds dried up during the Great Depression. Fortunately, he had saved sufficient money to purchase land at Mufindi in the southwestern highlands in the Iringa District. Through his story he shares the hardships, rewards, jubilation and disappointments he and his family experienced: the building of his first house; the arrival from Germany of Helga, his teenage bride-to-be; their 1000 Km honeymoon and gold prospecting trek; the disappointment of the coffee growing failure and the success of their Pyrethrum crop; the eight years of internment in British camps during the Second World War; starting from scratch again as "Tenants at Will" on what had been their own property prior to the War and having to accumulate sufficient funds to repurchase the property; the death of their eldest son, Werner; the success of their tea plantation; and finally, their decision to sell the farm and leave Tanzania in 1986.

Werner's autobiography is filled with many anecdotes containing interesting details about East Africa and the people he knew and loved.

Werner sums up his lifetime in East Africa as follows:
When I arrived in Bagamoyo in 1926, I was called "Bwana mdogo" (little Mister). Later, I was simply, "Bwana". When we got our own plantation, I became "Bwana mkubwa" (big Mister). When Tanzania became independent, we were all just simple "ndugu" (comrades). Later, I became the "Bwana mzee" (old Mister) and in the last years, I was called "Babu" (grandfather). These were the symbols of a lifetime in East Africa.
This book is an interesting read and reveals details of life over the decades in East Africa that you will not encounter in history books.

60 Years in East Africa is available from:

General Store Publishing House
499 O'Brien Rd
Box 415
Renfrew, Ontario K7V 4A6

and can be ordered online as well.

A worthwhile read. At least that's how I see it from Between Keyboard and Chair.

Addendum (2008-11-10):
I am not the only one who found this to be a fascinating story. One of the author's daughters forwarded me reviews that appeared after the book was published in the mid 90s.
  • Betty Kilgour, Author and Columnist, A number of Betty Kilgour's books have been about her experiences in Africa
  • "On reading Werner Voigt's magnificent book, 60 Years in East Africa, I was blown away. I found myself embarked on such a magical journey of adventure, joy, sadness and love, I was unable to lay the book down.

    Told in a simple, direct, quietly elegant manner, it conveys not only the Voigt's amazing true story of their years in East Africa, but also the love and respect they feel for the African people.

    A book as grand as 60 Years in East Africa belongs in the company of such sweeping epics as ... Out of Africa - what a movie this book would make!"

  • Dave Brown, Columnist, The Ottawa Citizen. (comments in an Ottawa Citizen column about Werner and Helga Voigt)
  • "Like most uncommonly competent people, Werner Voigt saw disasters as minor setbacks. The solution to a failed crop was to try another crop. When locusts arrived by the millions, one avoided invitations to barbecues from staff members, who would be offering locusts as a delicacy. They replanted and started again."

  • Mora Johnson, Columnist, West End Flyer, Ottawa
  • "Sixty Years in East Africa is a fascinating autobiography of a person who has chosen an unusual and interesting life. I found the book difficult to put down."

  • DRB, Editor of Tanzania Affairs, Issued by the Britain-Tanzania Society, 1997
  • "This book is a rare gem ... this book is not to be missed ...

    It is the adventure-packed, gentle and moving personal story of the 60 years the author spent in Africa ...

    Do not start reading it when you are expecting visitors - you might resent the intrusion. Do not start reading it late at night (as I did) - you will miss a night's sleep! And watch out for the film that will surely follow."

Need A New Body Part? Just Grow It!

It appears that we're rapidly approaching medical procedures previously only encountered in science fiction. In April 2008 the US Defence Department announced the establishment of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) and the US government budgeted $250 million of private and public money over 5 years . The key component of this Army-led collaborative initiative was to "harness stem cell research and technology in finding innovative ways to use a patient's natural cellular structure to reconstruct new skin, muscles and tendons, and even ears, noses and fingers".

Well things have progressed quickly, and as reported in the Ottawa Citizen via Canwest News Services:
American military researchers say they have unlocked the secret to regrowing limbs and recreating organs in humans who have sustained major injuries.

Using "nanoscaffolding", the researchers have regrown a man's fingertip and the internal organs of several test subjects.

The technology works by placing a very fine apparatus called a scaffold, which is made of polymer fibres hundreds of times finer than a human hair, in place of a missing limb or damaged organ. The scaffold acts as a guide for cells to grab onto so they can begin to rebuild missing bones and tissue. The tissue grows through tiny holes in the scaffold, in the same way a vine snakes its way up a trellis.

After the body part has regenerated, the scaffold breaks down, is absorbed into the person's body and disappears entirely.

The military plans to announce the breakthrough at the 26th Army Science Conference in Florida next month.
Previous research in England (2006) had shown that nanoscaffolding could be used to grow skin for grafting in severe burn cases. And in Australia in February, a PhD student released research papers showing how nanoscaffolding can be used to repair nerve damage.

The next question is, how soon will these types of procedures be readily available to the general public?

It never ceases to amaze me, the scientific advances I've seen over my 65 years and I expect to see many more before I shuffle off this mortal coil. At least, that's how I see it from Between Keyboard and Chair.