This post has nothing to do with going anywhere, but I had a close encounter with fame (by proxy) today and I couldn't resist.

My friend, Charmaine, has just started a Master's degree in bioinformatics. Talking about it to her left my head spinning with technical terms from a world I know very little about. I latched onto the fact that most of the software they use is written in Perl. Now that I know about. Perl is just perfect for this kind of work. DNA is just a bunch of very long strings and pattern matching is what bioinformatics is all about..

Charmaine was telling me she's going to be at the Bioinformatics Hackathon happening in Cape Town this week and next. A very cool idea -- lock 20 hackers in a room for a couple of weeks and see how much coding they get done. All the code is open source so there will be dancing in the corridors anywhere that work is being done on the human genome.

The fame bit: The hackathon got a mention on Slashdot today. Check out the hackathon's blog too.


The main purpose of this blog (for now) is to keep track of doings and happenings on my upcoming trip to the US. I have spent a large portion of today at the US consulate applying for a visa, so it seems most appropriate to start today,

Bureaucracy is one of the stranger human habits and Americans seem to be as fond of it as any other bunch. The consular staff were friendly and reasonably efficient, but they were terrible sticklers for having exactly the right bits of paper. They sent me away once to fetch an obscure bit of paper that I didn't know I needed. An hour and many kilometres later I got back to the consulate to discover that they didn't actually need it after all. Bizarro.

The other bizarre thing was the visa application form. Not having much experience of such things, I found it very odd indeed. Not only did they want to know obscure personal details, like my mother's name, they also asked some strange questions. My favourite was Have you ever participated in a genocide? I would love to know if anyone has ever answered "Yes" to that one. It's just as well they didn't ask Are you a native of planet Earth?, which would have presented an interesting moral dilemma.

I must have been reasonably convincing because they agreed to let me visit for a whole year. I only want to go for two months, but still...