Seven years in the USA – Happy 2012!

January 6th, 2012

Today seven years ago, the little family Joubert put foot on shore on the West Coast… not of Africa, not from the small ships ‘Berg China’ and ‘Voorschoten’, and the year was not 1688… It was on the West Coast of America, California, 5 people with 2 bags each, a violin, guitar, clarinet and teddy bear…and with the same hope, passion, and enthusiasm as our Huguenot forefathers in the 1600s at the Cape of Good Hope. If I knew then what I know now, would I do it again? Quoting Carl Sagan: ‘What I’m asking is, are we happier…is this world fundamentally a better place?’ I’ll spend the next 48hrs contemplating just that. In the meantime 2012 is beckoning with a wide grin and waiting just around the corner! I may have to revisit Carl Sagan and conclude ‘Small moves, Ellie, small moves…’

In the past seven years we danced on the mountaintops – but also trembled in the valley of death. We had soft rain on our faces, and also blizzards and hurricanes on our back. The gentle winds lifted our kites and we set our sails for new horizons – while wild storms tied us down and threatened to sink our ship. We survived! I guess we experienced the entire spectrum of life. We grew and flourished, holding on to our values, each other and the biggest of all, that is Hope. Home will always be where the heart is. And our hearts will always be tied to our roots. The dance of life is included in the fight for survival of the fittest. Our challenges indeed become our joys, and with faith, hope and love, we will not go quietly into the night. May the treasures of 2012 be reachable and the harvest fill our barns once more. And may we look out for each other and the small blue dot we inhabit.

Peace and Joy to all! Happy New Year!

We destroyed the soul of Higher Education, we killed the soul of Science.

February 8th, 2011

However, in a paper from 2001 I advocated just the opposite. I recall saying that the transformation in Higher Education could lead us back to its true essence. Could help us rekindle its Soul. And if a University is a ‘place of light, of liberty and of learning’ not a single transforming force would have the capacity to diminish any aspect of this spirit.

So what changed?

In my 2002 paper I highlighted 3 transforming forces: (1) corporatization (2) accountability (3) new technology. The evolutionary process by which higher education has been transformed through the ages is needed to adapt our structure to fit into a socially and technologically altered world. The knowledge centre around which higher education revolves would not be quenched by these transforming forces.

Or will it…?

Corporatizarion/marketing… new technology… accountability. Contemplating the changes in academia over the past few years, and the metamorphosis that science has undergone to enhance the pace of research, I can see (and feel) how the face of science has been influenced, how its soul has been altered. As with any reductive analysis, not a single one of these forces would indicate a capacity to cause a revolution in academic science. However, collectively the new corporate spirit in science, with paid-for services, kit-based analysis, and intellectual property demands have changed the face of science, and diluted its soul. Just how, I feel every day. The battle for the soul of science has only just begun.


January 21st, 2011

My cochlear stem cell SEMs!

It was only after seeing the structures with the electron microscope…
that these collaborators realized they were on the right track in producing stereocilia from cochlear stem cells. I do weekly imaging sessions for them to follow the course of their experimentation, improve on physiological conditions, wile optimizing correlative techniques between light and EM imaging. A lot of time is spent searching for the proper cell development (at 5,000x magnification that is quite a challenge on a 12mm circular plate!). Optimizing the SEM signal for high-resolution imaging of structures a few micron in length, and the tip-links at the nano-scale, this remains a challenge for Tungsten-filament Variable Pressure SEM. Eurekas and high-fives are common during the imaging sessions!

American poets

January 9th, 2011

I now know why, living outside America, we were never introduced to American poetry. In fact, we thought America never had any remarkable poets… Had their voices been known outside these borders, nobody would want to come live here. The rate of immigration would have slowed down… even stopped.
And where would America have been then?

America: I’ve given you all and now I am nothing (Allen Ginsberg)
America stop pushing I know what I’m doing…
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

We’re living in another recession
and I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked
(yes Allen)
What is it with you, oh America, that you act like a flock of blind sheep without a shepherd
no direction till someone popularizes one iconic item, markets one flawed artifact
and you all jump into the river, a migratory stampede into over-indulgence
exploitation that leaves the weak naked and the rich spinning more gold
demanding our jewels, our relationships, our off-spring
shameless America

our mother Earth is dying and her children dance in rags
and in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway
across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night
to free us with new poets
who can tell the naked
and rekindle a flame in the mediocre minds of my generation
so the windows of the skull can again reflect the light
that called us here
to America
Oh yes, Allen
it also occurred to me that I am America

end of a romance

July 22nd, 2010

Today I installed my new Tousimis CPD. Then the first trial run. I was overjoyed. It was awesome. It was fully automated, efficient and precise. And quiet.
I was perplexed… Gone are the days of screeching, hissing, whining and bursting sounds echoing down the hallways, so that students turned their heads, and looked scared around the door when the critical point drier was running. We did call it ‘the bomb’ in the 80’s!
Is this the end of the romantic era of SEM processing? One lonely tube is still convulsing, exhaling carbon dioxide. For the rest… peace and quiet and precision.
I think I’m going to love it!

…owned by the Malan family since 1688

February 13th, 2010

Today I was picking out wine for the Birthday/Valentine’s/Symphony weekend. Under ‘More Imports’ my eyes rested on a bottle Chenin Blanc from South Africa – Simonsig, and then proudly: ‘owned by the Malan family since 1688′… Next to the Simonsig there is a Chardonnay from Fleur du Cap, a miniature Table Mountain on the label – ‘inspired by nature’, and ‘matured underground in the Berkelder, Stellenbosch – reflecting our closeness to nature’.

And I wonder, how do you compensate for tradition and heritage. How do you replace ’since 1688′. Can you even try to fill it in? Or do you continue life with a void, half undone, wounds slowly turning into scars? We did dislodge the roots of 325 years…

The secret to fulfillment on the road ahead may lie in seeing myself as a citizen of the Earth. The familiar places with vineyards, mountains and beloved nature will always be part of our heritage… as well as our future. Only now we embrace a bigger landscape, a wider sky, a more complex life – while never escaping the influence of the past. Never growing on without appreciating back. A plant with cut roots will wither away. Transplanting a 325yr old tree can be accomplished only if the roots are supported by abundant mother soil – to nurture new growth in the now unfamiliar sky.

Everybody needs to breathe after the rain!

January 24th, 2010

this little guy was cleaning out his home on Skyline Blvd after a week of torrential rains…


A new year, a new decade!

January 1st, 2010

ForĀ  2010, the inspiration and energy of the great Greek poet, Odysseus Elytis:

Brothers, I shout, wherever you are,
wherever your foot may tread,
build a fountain,
Your own Mavroyeni fountain.
The water good,
and the hand of noon all stone,
holding the sun in its open palm.

At the same time, the peaceful reassurance of Thomas Wolfe:

Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same… the glitter of moonlight on the water, the glory of the stars, the innocence of morning, the smell of the sea in harbours… all things belonging to the earth will never change…

My new site is looking good!

December 29th, 2009

Awesomeness is once again on the interwebs

Hello world!

August 17th, 2009

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

August 17th, 2009

still here – getting a face lift…!