Christmas gifts just for you

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Christmas is Coming Soon

Isn’t it strange that shops can start putting up Christmas decorations in November already? It used to be that December was the month, but hey, what can be wrong with having permission to start shopping for Christmas early? What is even better is that you can start thinking of the day and who you will spend it with. What would you like to share with your nearest and dearest ones? Since Christmas falls during the summer vacation, many people are at their holiday destination, and have to plan how to get all their purchases to come along with them. What if you were to take a little different stance this year and take this extra time to plan some gifts just for you?

I am not talking about things that you can buy in a shop or bring home from an online expedition. No, I am referring to those intangible things that only you will know about yourself. What are your favorite places, who are your favorite people and what are your favorite things to do? Do you have a favorite author, or a kind of food you just adore? How do you really envision your Christmas day and what does it mean for you? Is it just a day to share presents, or is it more than that? Have you taken a moment recently to think about creating some wonderful Christmas gifts just for you?

We all have our own experiences of Christmas, and some are better or worse than others, there is the heavy retail aspect, and then the family get together, but what about creating your own version of Christmas? One where you can take the day for yourself and your loved ones and make it into a feast of things that you like? If you love the water, then pig out on swimming and such like. If you like the mountain, go for a hike and explore places you have never been to, the Drakensberg, Pilansberg etc. It is time to have a new Christmas and one with gifts just for you! So what would your ideal Christmas look like?

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Edna Cane’s 10 writing tips

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10 Tips for Aspiring Writers: Author Edna Cane

Edna Cane is one of those amazing human beings who inspire others to reach for their dreams regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in. Born and bred in Witbank, she wrote her first song at the age of 15 and her first book at the age of 17. She had a rebellious streak – wild parties, the wrong friends, and an abortion at the tender age of 20, followed.

A few years ago, Edna survived a horrific accident that left her in a coma for weeks. She had to wear nappies and couldn’t bath on her own. She eventually recovered, met her husband and started writing again. Edna doesn’t spare herself in her autobiography, Totsiens aan Gister, a heart-rending tale of a girl who beats all odds, believes in herself, and becomes a successful person in her own right.

Edna is the author of 5 inspirational Christian novels as well as an audio book for the visually impaired. CruGuru publishes her books – it is printed via Create Space. Edna is also a songwriter and motivational speaker. She has her own two internet radio programs on Radio Sarie (www.radiosarie.co.za) and Kalahari Stereo (www.kalahari.info). She reads from her books and plays her own songs.

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Edna Cane’s 10 writing tips

  1. Read, read, read – never stop reading if you want to be a writer.

  2. Do your homework if you want to write about a specific topic.

  3. Don’t repeat the same words in close proximity to each other.

  4. Listen to your publisher.

  5. You only need one word to be a writer. A word becomes a paragraph, a paragraph becomes a page, a page becomes a chapter, and a chapter a manuscript.

  6. Allow the characters in your book be true to themselves.

  7. Be sure that you actually do want to be a writer. It is very hard work.

  8. Don’t lend out your ears to anyone. Follow your heart and intuition.

  9. Don’t let anyone take your dreams from you. Never stop dreaming.

  10. Try your best. When God sees you are trying, He will do what you can’t!

Readers who want to order Edna’s books can contact her at www.ednacane.com or www.facebook.com/ednacaneauthor. The title of her latest book is Donker Hoop.

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Author: Louise Viljoen

Louise Viljoen is a competent and accomplished writer who contributes to various websites, blogs, and print media. She’s available as freelance writer and can be contacted at freelancewriter@truewan.co.za.

Water on Mars

 

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NASA Confirms: Liquid Water on Mars

NASA has now confirmed that there is evidence of liquid water on Mars at the present day. Although it is known that Mars once had an ocean that may have covered a third of its surface, and that there is ice on Mars, liquid water has only now been confirmed.

Where is the Water?

Steep slopes close to Mars’ equator, including that of the Coprates Chasma, are marked by dark streaks called recurring slope lineae. These are produced by flowing saltwater and observations suggest that the water appears during warmer seasons where the temperatures are above -23 °C.

The recurring slope lineae was first spotted in 2010 by Lujendra Ojha, then an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, on photos which had been taken by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Where is the Water Coming From?

One of the questions scientists now need to answer is where this liquid water on Mars is coming from. At the moment the team is favouring the hypothesis that the water is atmospheric in origin. This means that the surface salts are absorbing water from the surrounding atmosphere. A second hypothesis is that the water is fueled by an aquifer or melting subsurface ice.

Life on Mars?

The finding of liquid water on Mars at the present new and exciting questions as to whether life could exist on the Red Planet. It is still unclear if the saltwater’s composition could support life (for instance in the form of bacteria), but that will form part of the studies going forward. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future”, Michael Meyer – NASA’s lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program – said.

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The Importance of Mathematics

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The importance of mathematics proficiency

One hundred critical and scarce skills are identified as being necessary for the South African economy to grow. Ninety-three of these skills include passing mathematics by at least 50%. However, there was a steady decline in the number of Grade 12 students taking mathematics as a subject since 2012.

In 2014, only 12% of 2014 matric students achieved more than 50% in the maths exams. The Minister of Education confirmed that 327 public and some low-cost private schools offer maths literacy only, instead of pure mathematics. The reason may be that these schools do not have the required qualified staff for teaching maths. It is, therefore, easier to teach mathematical literacy instead.

The current number of qualified mathematics teachers is unknown and projections of the number of suitably qualified teachers needed to teach at this level is not available.

What are the socio-economic implications for South Africa if this situation continues?

  • A declining economy because the need for technical skills where maths proficiency is key is not met
  • Rising unemployment
  • Unemployable young people are released annually from high schools and further education institutions
  • The labour market cannot accommodate them with their current level of skills.
  • Xenophobia and social unrest
  • Increased poverty
  • Health deterioration
  • Increased dependence on state resources

Suggestions to address the shortage of mathematically proficient citizens:

  • Develop and include mathematical concepts in indigenous languages. Universities should focus on developing syllabuses to this effect.
  • Gather data and do projections for the number of teachers needed for teaching mathematics up to Grade 12
  • Supplying teachers capable of teaching maths in their mother tongue should be the focus of universities and teaching colleges
  • Include indigenous languages in the teaching syllabus from Grade 1 to 12. Every child or student should be taught in his mother tongue.

The education system’s inability to deliver tutoring in the mother tongue of the pupils is at the root of the problem. Universities and colleges should take urgent action to address this shortcoming.

Teachers should have the ability to teach, but who should teach the teacher?

 

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The Health Benefits of Laughter

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The Countless Health Benefits of Laughter

Milton Berle once said that “laughter is an instant vacation” and there are many who would agree with him and say that laughter can relieve stress. Steve Wilson, a psychologist, stated that he believes “that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off… they might be healthier too.” And many studies about laughter and its affect on the body have been undertaken.

Each of us can attest that laughing – even if it is just at a silly joke – makes us feel better. Doctor Scott Weems said in an interview that “comedy is like a mental exercise” and Charlie Chaplin once said that “a day without laughter is a day wasted”. But what are the affects of laughter on our bodies and why does it make us feel better?

Well, laughter reduces stress hormone levels and triggers the release of endorphines. This means that laughter does have a physical influence in making you feel better and happier. Just think of the last time you had a really good laugh – didn’t you feel less stressed and happier afterwards? But it’s not just your stress hormone levels which are reduced. Laughter can also lower your blood pressure as it improves the flow of blood.

Your immune system may also get a boost from laughter, as it may boost the T cells in your immune system. Another health benefit is that laughter may relieve pain. Although it may not get rid of all types of pain or get rid of it completely, a 2011 study by researchers from Oxford University did find that laughing may relieve pain.

As a cherry on top, laughter is also good for your mind. Doctor Scott Weems, a cognitive neuroscientist, found in his research that people who were exposed to comedy are better able to answer semantic associates tasks.

These are just a few ways in which laughter can help you in your everyday life. Why not try to bring more laughter into your life through comedic films or books? There is even laughter therapy available, should you want to take that route.

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Author: Carin Marais

Carin Marais writes web articles, guest and blog posts, and fiction. To contact Carin for articles and guest posts, or to read her work, go to her website, her blog Hersenskim or follow her on @CarinMarais.

HOMO NALEDI – More Answers or More Questions?

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HOMO NALEDI – The Missing Link?

With the revealing of new found Homo naledi fossil in September 2015, in the Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng, one might wonder if it will finally provide the answer to the missing link for evolutionists as some might believe, between man and ape (if there was any) or does it now rise even more questions? Some of these questions will remain hanging, especially while the fossils could not be dated yet and might not be for years to come, as two dating methods already failed. According to Wikipedia, the lineage to which the Homo naledi belonged suggests it could have lived 2.5 to 2.8 million years ago. Nonetheless, this marked super exciting times, especially for paleoanthropologist and also National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Professor Lee Berger from the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS).

Triumph for Berger – at last!

After Berger started working for the WITS University in the early 1990’s, he battled to prove others in his field wrong believing that the roots of our species lies in East Africa. He believed that South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind holds the answers. Almost 20 years with minor findings would seem to strengthen the ideas of his counterparts, until he and his son found primitive hominin fossils sticking out of rocks about 16 kilometres from the Rising Star caves in 2008. After he called on recreational cavers to be on the lookout for any fossils, Steve Tucker and Rick Hunter finally discovered the chamber in 2013 in the cave explored by many others before, including themselves.

Underground Astronauts

Within a few days, Berger was snowed under with applications after his requests on social media for a specific kind of scientists to do caving work, some two years before the big announcement. They would remove the Homo naledi fossils from the Dinaledi chamber deep inside the Rising Star cave system. This followed the accidental discovery of this chamber by the two cavers (Tucker and Hunter) while looking for new discoveries. The two men are both of slender build, however one of them dislocated a shoulder while pushing through the narrow area on his way out. Apart from the obvious criteria of certain qualifications and skills, the cavers had to be of petite built to fit through a very narrow (18 centimetres) part followed by a 12 metre vertical shaft, the only entrance to the cave. Six women from all over the world, comically referred by Berger as his underground astronauts, were chosen for this delicate but extremely dangerous and difficult work.

Most Peculiar Graveyard

Although the ritual of burying the dead in a common place was always solely a human trait, all evidence point to the Homo naledi disposing of their dead into the complete isolated and almost inaccessible Dinaledi chamber. A large amount of skeletons from all ages being dumped over a vast period of time were found. The bodies were supposedly placed through the narrow opening into the chamber around the time of their death. It would be impossible for the fossils being carried into the chamber by water or predators, or by any other means for that matter. No other type of fossil was found amongst those of the Homo naledi.

Interesting, no doubt!

  • This species has both human (hands for tool usage, feet and their burial rituals) as well as ape like characteristics (shoulders for climbing and a small brain). Biology found enough features to categorise it into the hominin species. When aged, it could change what was known about human development before, says Professor Berger.

  • The average H. naledi was about 1.5 metres in height and 45 kilograms in weight with a small brain similar to earlier Homo species.

  • The bones of fifteen individuals were found to date (1 550 fossil pieces), but according to Berger, this is just the tip of the iceberg and many more is still to be found.

  • It is still unclear how they could move around within in the deep dark passages. Could they have used some kind of fire torch?

The Evolution Debacle

The famous saying goes: Desperate times call for desperate measures. As far as it goes for the evolution of our world and it’s habitants, a saying of Modern times call for modern measures might apply. Everything is ever evolving forever more. The one constant in life we can count on is change. Different types of evolution take place every single day in all areas of life, which doesn’t necessarily provide proof for any Darwin theories or question Moses’ creation theories in the Holy Bible. It is just as it is, thanks to our ever-changing modern life and technological inventions. We all have our own theories and whether we believe in the Bible or the big bang is up to every individual to decide for themselves. As long as we never stop learning, questioning and seize to change for the better.

Deforestation – the end of human life on the planet?

 

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Time to get real about sustainable life on earth

The World Forestry Congress in Durban has finally reached a place where experts are no longer beating about the bush: We are all going to die if we do not pay attention to what we (the human species) are doing to our planet. The truth can no longer sustain the awkward dance to the tunes played by greed and politics. The message is short and not-very-sweet: Preserve forests or the end is in sight.

Environmental activists, long relegated to the ranks of the criminally insane, have been right all along. But there is no satisfaction in the vindication. How sad it is when something so devastating is true. The world has lost forests the size of our country in very recent times. Communities from South America to Africa, from Nepal to Canada via Norway, depend on the forests for their livelihood. Some of these communities are desperately poor, in spite of the fact that their trees provide products to the design snobs of the wealthiest groups in the world. Those that shout green values the loudest are often the same people that insist on natural wood products from ancient trees.

Goran Person, president of Think Forest, suggests that a bold push for bio economy is the answer. Of course, but is it not too late already? Although the rate at which the world is cutting down its forests has slowed down in the past twenty years, the consequences of what went before cannot be reversed, and the process continues albeit slightly slower. United Nations Development representative, Martinez-Soliman, points out that some parts of the world are heading for disaster still. The world population continues to grow, in spite of the loss of life due to war and famine, flood and fire, earthquake and the biggest population migration (in the form of refugees) in the history of the world. That means more food will be required. Everybody knows commercial farming, and cutting down forests to create the space for it, is a short term solution.

BUT

  • More creative ways of producing food remain cumbersome and do not make the rich richer, so will they bother?
  • Most Africans to this day rely on biomass for fuel.
  • The global damage is irreversible. Forests give protection against climate change (trees absorb carbon dioxide). Deforestation worsens soil erosion, landslides and flood damage.
  • 2-billion people rely on forests for their livelihood of which an estimated 60-million indigenous people are entirely dependent on them.
  • The biggest losses of forested areas are in the tropical zones of Africa and South America.

The political will and the power of a vibrant social conscience lag behind science in this field. There are solutions, but humankind is too busy with more pressing challenges to address the biggest problem of them all. Join social initiatives and watch your own addiction to comforts that do harm. If we do not wake up our children’s children will have to flee to another planet. You’d better believe it!

Ref: BDlive

Deregulation and the Petrol Price

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Will deregulation lead to a lower petrol price?

Every month we all wait with bated breath for the announcement on the petrol price for the next month. Will it go up again? Will be we be lucky for a while? It is not only vehicle owners that are affected by the petrol price. Everybody is affected. A higher petrol price means a rise in food prices, a rise in transport prices; in fact, a rise in everything.

It is interesting to note that the petrol industry is the only industry in South Africa that is still regulated. Many analysts believe that deregulation of the petrol industry will immediately result in a sharp drop in the petrol price. “Not a chance!” says Peter Morgan, director of the Fuel Retailers Association. Morgan points out the following interesting facts about the petrol price to support his belief.

  • It is not the petrol price that causes a rise in prices; it is the diesel price! Consumer goods are transported with diesel, not petrol. And guess what? The diesel industry has been deregulated for some time! And what happened? The price of diesel immediately went up. The same thing will happen with the petrol price, says Morgan.

  • Why will the petrol price not drop after deregulation? Morgan says the answer is very simple. A very large percentage of the petrol price is made up of the price of crude oil and an astonishing variety of taxes and levies. The retail margin on the petrol price is a mere 7.24% while the wholesale margin is only 4.79%. So it comes down to this simple fact: retailers can scarcely afford to offer a lower petrol price because they already earn a pitiful profit margin.

This may indeed be the case, argue proponents of deregulation, but industry analysts forget about the very nature of a capitalist environment where competition is fierce. Why, for example, will a large retail group not offer a lower petrol price at their own petrol stations simply to attract customers to do their shopping at their shops? Think about it for a second: if you have to spend a certain amount at a certain retailer in order to qualify for a much reduced petrol price at the petrol station of that retailer, will you not rather shop there?

Perhaps deregulation should be put back on the agenda. I think the petrol price will drop, at least at some petrol stations.

Quality venison production

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WS² positioned for quality venison production

Wildlife Stud Services (Pty) Ltd, also known as WS², is an independent wildlife registering authority that delivers up-to-the-minute genetic advisory services.

Genetic experts address challenges in wildlife breeding industry

WS² utilizes the revolutionary ILR2 (International Livestock Registry) software by ABRI, the Agricultural Business Research Institution.

The software takes into account the specific needs and challenges experienced by the South African Wildlife Industry. The registering, recording and genetic evaluation system has an enormous international user base involving 45 countries. Jointly the global databases depict more than 40 million farm and game animals!

Highly-trained genetic experts and front-running SA wildlife breeders also assisted in developing and adapting the highly-effective WS²-system to address the local state of affairs pertaining to the wildlife industry.

The quest for lucrative outlets for venison products

The SA game industry was severely affected when the European Union announced an immediate ban on beef and game meat exports in February 2011 due to SA losing its free from foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) status.

In February 2014 the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) lifted the export ban and declared South Africa FMD-free. Since then meat export to certain EU countries was allowed to resume on a limited scale until the organisation is satisfied SA has the necessary bio-safety protocols in place to prevent new cases of foot-and-mouth developing.

According to Agriculture Minister, Senzeni Zokwana, the ban had cost SA an estimated R4bn. The challenge now is to negotiate SA’s re-entry into the profitable EU market and to find lucrative outlets. In an article by Gerhard Uys in Farmer’s Weekly, Charl de Villiers, head of game marketing at Mosstrich, remarked: “We’ll try to export to our previous clients, but in Europe, wholesalers plan ahead and if something has not been on a European menu for a long period, people forget.”

Genetics to play a significant role in venison production

Dr Paul Lubout, head genetic advisor and managing director of Wildlife Stud Services, reckons WS² is perfectly positioned to assist game breeders in bringing a more competitive product to the local and international markets. Genetic selection will boost game meat production and assure a sustainable and high-quality product.

Wildlife Breeders’ Journal 2016

WS² has just announced that they have started planning their Wildlife Breeders’ Journal for 2016. Members are welcome to book advertising space in this authoritative publication. Please contact WS² at admin@ws2.co.za for more information.

Reference

Uys, G. (2015). Farmer’s Weekly | Game exports after FMD. [online] Farmersweekly.co.za.

How to write a novel

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Want to write a novel?

Writing a novel is extremely hard work. The words don’t just jump on the pages as some would believe. Very few writers can write books off the top of their heads, in one go. Writing, more often than not, is a case of trial and error, and tiresome rewrite after rewrite. You spend hours in solitude, slaving to arrange and rearrange words and paragraphs so they hopefully make sense and tell a convincing story.

Ask writers how they write and you get a myriad of answers. Some swear they sit down and start typing whatever pops up in their heads. They don’t plan ahead and are just as surprised as the reader as to what their characters get up to and where the story takes them. Others insist on laboriously scheming and plotting preliminary outlines and character sketches before they even pen one word to paper.

Many aspiring writers search for articles on how to write a novel. They read all about planning and structuring their first draft. They learn about setting and plot, conflict, and how to keep up the suspense. In the end, they spend so much time reading about how to write a novel that they never actually get to the point where they start writing their novel.

There is no magic formula when it comes to novel-writing. George Orwell, author of Animal Farm (1945), had the following to say: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible (1998), advised: “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”

The best recommendation I could find on how to write a novel is stop procrastinating and to start writing. Keep at it no matter what and finish sentence after sentence, page after page, and chapter after chapter. Get the story out of your head and onto paper — that is the first and most important step in novel-writing.

References

Petit, Z. (2012, June 22). 72 of the Best Quotes about Writing. Retrieved Aug 9, 2015, http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/72-of-the-best-quotes-about-writing

Quotes about writing. (n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2015, from http://pasikarppanen.net/quotes/q-writ.htm#Writing is heaven