Thursday, 31 December 2009

Defiling the sanctum of the crown jewels

Pleasures precede pain

Fortunately, I have not been sworn to secrecy on this one, a friend of mine had been invited to an orgy of questionable practices and let his presumed machismo get the better of him.

A prescription drug on the verge of becoming recreational was injected in his member not so much to ease erectile dysfunction but to allow for erectile over-functioning – apparently what he had to offer could not be allowed to fade after natural use had been exhausted.

Finding me a shoulder to cry on, he was in excruciating pain that one of his balls appeared to be growing into an ostrich egg and that is how under questioning I found out that something called Androskat had been used and this information was necessary for his doctor to diagnose what the cause of this erectile malfunction was.

Boxers, shorts and briefs

I have written in a few blogs about the need for comfortable underwear to prevent widespread gusset anxiety [1] and in discussion once I found there was a generation divide between those who use briefs, those who use fitting shorts and the generation after mine that use boxers – one has to give each generation their dues.

I grew up when it was just not on for your things to show an outline which we called “rough-parking” so everything and the crown jewels went under to present a flatness of sorts – for those who were not anatomically shaped to encourage such decorum one felt great pity, some of us were otherwise blessed to say the least.

The pall of the underwear terrorist

Now, this foray into the realms of undergarments has been brought about by the news of the recent terror attack attempt on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 [2] on Christmas Day from Amsterdam to Detroit, we first heard that the culprit had suffered burns to his legs but the detail afterwards could only have been stranger than fiction or even friction considering what we learnt.

The pictures of the underwear [3] would have had the whole male population of the earth grabbing for their balls, their goolies, their most precious crown jewels and whatever else those priceless elements of manhood might be called – a light hit just has you bent over with pain you cannot only express in grunts, they are tender and need tenderness though there are some who could deign to put them through grotesque CBT (View link with the utmost discretion) exercises – that is all I will say of that.

Self-hate most abhorrent

It would appear our young man was sexually repressed [4] in some way from what has been published of his postings to some Islamic social forum but to have been convinced to carry explosives in your underwear so close to your sexual things is just beyond the pale.

It makes one question how the proverbial 72 virgins would thence have been appeased in the afterlife.

I know my own anatomy and I know I would never be caught dead in underwear like that, maybe that is also a generational thing, but I really cannot find a handle on this matter at all – it can only be the height of self-hate, self-abhorrence and malevolence to want to cause oneself this kind of harm and then in the process bring down an aircraft over a city – it defies every explanation.

Take your pants off

This would definitely lead to our getting our knickers in a twist in a manner of speaking about security, with the shoe bomber we took off our shoes, the time when we would be asked to take off our underwear or be told not to wear them at all looms, I would not even consider how some apparatchik would extrapolate the use of tampons and what else.

Would you take your pants off, Sir? Said the customs officer; that means completely different things to the American as opposed to the British, I hope, I never have to hear that in circumstances I have not willingly placed myself in.

The whole picture of pants on fire does now feel a bit too close for any comfort; the pictures do have a haunting aura about them as one remembers pains once felt in places that take your voice away completely.

This has been nothing short of defiling and invading the sanctity and sanctum of the most tender and noble crown jewels of mankind – what an infidel.

Sources

[1] Widespread Gusset Anxiety [akinblog.nl]

Yes, size does matter [akinblog.nl]

[2] Northwest Airlines Flight 253 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] Terrorist Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab underwear photos with PETN go viral

[4] Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's charred underwear | Mail Online

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

No Gloria in Emesis

Warning: To be read only by those with a strong disposition, it is full of talk of emesis, sickliness, vomit and puking.

Tired out completely

It was a hard slug getting home on Monday evening; I think I had tired myself out after chemotherapy, the long walks and the visit to the library.

A few chills had set in as I trundled to the tram stop just in time to catch the tram going home. I was homing for bed and not long after a snack, I was under the duvet and ready for sleep.

I was out for just over 2 hours and got up for my elevenses, well, I take my pills twice a day, though only one set has to be taken every 12 hours, there are 5 sets of pills, the other 4 are taken daily and I have split them into the morning set and the night set.

This regime is easier than when I first left hospital with pills to take 6 times, 4, times, 3 times, 2 times and once a day – it called on all your powers of organisation to sort out.

Then there is the emetic suppository to be taken as needed, an anti-constipation powder to be mixed in water and taken for the Fentanyl pain patch that gets changed every 72 hours.

Puking all the time

This was the first time that my chemotherapy session and pain patch change coincided and this probably lead to the sickly feeling I had throughout Tuesday.

Just before my first elevenses, I was feeling quite nauseous so I went over the toilet bowl and threw up violently but nothing of substance came through, the feeling continued all day, I could hardly eat and really could ingest no medicines in that condition – I took the anti-emetic suppository hoping it would alleviate the situation but it seemed like a long shot, I was on the verge of calling the hospital.

During one of the 5 times that I was sick, I was in the middle of a telephone conversation literally answering back between each puking session, it was an absolutely rotten feeling.

Neighbours bring strength

I settled back in bed and more or less spent the day lain down and hoping for some improvement – afterwards, I found that my neighbours had returned from holiday, we had a chat and as usual they were there to help and the first thing I could keep down was some bouillon they made for me.

I gained a little strength to do some shopping, had some fruit and when it came to my nightly elevenses, I took the anti-emetic medication which also comes in tablet form along with my main medicine and the suppository.

What a day, glad it is over, thanking God for His mercies and looking forward to another day – it is white outside – it has been snowing again after the complete clear-up on Monday.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Pleading the 5th chemotherapy

Goodbyes without tears

I went for my fifth chemotherapy session this afternoon; it was a bit emotional because my guest, a friend of over 25 years who had visited to spend Christmas with me was also leaving.

His flight arrangements were such that he could not accompany me to hospital as he had done on Christmas Eve, we had to part ways to the tram stop and go in different directions.

I would dearly miss the company as I return home this evening from the library, but my heart is full of thanks for the visit, the company, the gifts and much more.

My tea time, again

Since the bus routes have changed, getting to the hospital is no more as easy as it once was, my walk was a bit brisk and slightly halting but I got to the oncology/chemotherapy room, just in time after getting some chocolates to share with the staff and visitors.

There was just one available place for me to settle into, so put my coat in the cupboard and settled down to my cup of tea – I always prepare my Smoky Earl Grey tea in a flask to take when on chemotherapy.

Two of the faces were familiar from earlier sessions but I had never met the others, the man to my left was being infused with different parcels of fluids, the red ones, I later found out to be blood.

Aging with laughter

Anytime a patient is to receive an infusion, the nurse cross-checks the date of birth with what is on the parcel, our man was 87, quite active, quite spritely and with a quick wit.

It was not long before one of the nurses named Nicolette ended up in joke with Nicorette, the anti-smoking patch, that drew laughter even from me who generally cannot follow Dutch jokes.

This time, I took my infusion through my right wrist; I could later pour tea with my left hand but could never get to unscrew the top of the milk bottle, I had to call the nurse for help.

We had some banter about Christmas and how she spent it, but earlier she expressed delight in seeing I was without crutches, walking almost completely normally and without me special shoes.

Now for sleep

Most of the patients had left before my session was over and when the young man of 87 was leaving, he said goodbye and as I tried to reply, the nurse said I was English and in almost perfect English, he bid me farewell and hoped we would meet again.

Within 75 minutes, it was all over, I tried to catch a nap to no avail, instead of going straight home, I took the tram to the library having walked through the park in front of the hospital seeing a national monument to slavery that I had never before properly observed.

My next visit is in 3 Fridays to see the oncologist and the sixth chemotherapy session is slated for 18th of January, nothing that eventful happened and really now, I just want to get some sleep.

Nigeria: Sahara Reporters comes of age

A picture to the world

I am no doubt utterly confused with the news of the failed terrorist attack on the Northwest airlines flight 253 [1] from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

Invariably, rather than offer a direct comment, I have decidedly combed the newswires and tried to keep abreast of the news, commentary, views and opinions on this matter.

To first deal with the almost trivial but particularly seminal is the fact that the grainy photo of the culprit, a 23 year old known as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab which appears on the CNN news stories and its news site on CNN.com [2] is from the SaharaReporters.com website [3], that information appears boldly when seen.

The coming of age

It is the coming of age of the guerilla news agency that has become the source of factual or sometimes sensational exposés that local news agencies would not dare to print; as I had written sometime ago [4], the lack of press freedom and the harassment of news outlets in Nigeria, calls for an organ like the vibrantly aggressive SaharaReporters.com.

It goes without saying that the publishers are on the Nigerian security agency watchlists and as other publishers of similar organs have been seized at airports and literally messed around with for months, it must be said that the powers that be would do anything to prevent the truth, half-truth, speculative or lie from gaining any public attention.

Essentially, I have avoided using SaharaReporters.com as my main source of information about Nigeria, sometimes some of the contributors also let their emotions get the better of them and allow sentiment and the subjective to becloud the objective; it is by every means a resourceful agency in the midst of the murky entrails of the present-day Nigeria.

Change should come

It remains the go-to source of information and breaking news about Nigeria that does not suffer the threat of proscription and that now calls for bit of serious housecleaning to polish up their act.

I do not know how the site is funded but the flashing adverts really do have to go, it takes away from the seeming professional look the site, I think would like to portray; they have to develop a better funding structure to keep the site alive for access and traffic as it gains more popularity.

The contributors have to be better vetted, whilst the open forum setup is good, there should be some editorial control in terms of quality of copy, the conveyance of ideas and balance in debate.

Polite comment should thrive

Most importantly, I can never find myself commenting on that site, some of the comments are laced with contemptible vitriol, unwarranted abuse and exchanges that are atrocious to say the least – a comment policy needs to be put in place, people should not be able to vent in such a way that it makes the comments unreadable – some standard needs to be established.

Now, Nigerians can get quite into it with their comments, but such a site now commanding an international profile needs to help in promoting Nigerians as being able to engage in discourse and debate without the need for derogation – people should be able to express themselves forcefully, politely and respectfully, it should not be too much to ask for – maybe a marketplace comment section can be created to accept those views, but there should be a separation between reasoned comments or dialogue and the mob at their most frenzied cantankerousness.

Once again, all kudos to Sahara Reporters [3] for their sterling work on Nigerian issues, reluctantly but quite necessarily.

Sources

[1] The latest on Northwest flight 253 | The Economist

[2] Sources: Terror suspect is son of bank executive, attended college - CNN.com

[3] SR Headlines

[4] Nigeria: Ribadu and kids get bundled out of NIPSS graduation [akin.blog-city.com]

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Nigeria: District 9

A viewing of District 9

The release of District 9 [1] created a bit of Nigerian angst for all sorts of derogatory references made about my motherland and countrymen, however, I never like to comment about issues and events like this without having read the book, watched the film or verified the sources of the information in the discourse.

This Christmas offered me the opportunity to watch District 9 and really I am surprised about the angst it created.

Realities appearing in films

The subtext of Nigerians creating a scam, feeding on alien flesh in order to gain power and running illegal markets could easily have been taken with a bit or mirth and laughter if we did not take ourselves too seriously and did not always fall to defensive postures when subjected to unmitigated abuse.

Whilst this was a film for global distribution and it might have not helped the presumably dented image of Nigeria and Nigerians, it is not strange that the reality of the animosity between Nigerians and South Africans was depicted in this way.

Just about 2 years ago there were riots in South Africa about aliens, then, it was about nationals of other countries in that country and whilst a majority of Nigerians wherever they are in the world live honest, irreproachable, dignified lives, there are the few who besmirch the name of our great country with nefarious activities that are at best shameful, sometimes utterly despicably criminal and beneath contempt.

Taking ourselves too seriously

We should not allow those few to define the context of the many more, the work of dealing with that begins with individuals families, communities, society and also what our leadership and government who should work to promote in thought, in deed and in verifiable results in Nigeria and abroad images of good conduct, civility and the reduction or absence of corruption.

What I saw in District 9 was not outlandish in any sense, it was interestingly a warped perception of Nigerians and the name of the leader of the criminal Nigerian group bearing a semblance to an erstwhile president did not leave me full of any indignation – there are things his regime could have done to prevent that kind of publicity, but that is beside the point.

If I might add, the language of communication between the so-called Nigerians was not Nigerian to my hearing.

The real District 9

The more critical issue in District 9 has the danger of being missed; which is first the inhumane treatment of minorities or people different from us, the scheming activity of a father-in-law to get rid of his son-in-law because he felt the man was spineless and the willingness to expend human lives in the quest for the profits of biogenetical engineering.

Those in my view affect the whole of humanity and must command the greater attention than the hurt feelings of certain cellophane-skinned Nigerians whose activism against the mentions added to increased curiosity about the film and its seeming box office success.

The ridiculous reactions

The inability of Nigerians to suffer a modicum of self-deprecation or a joke at our expense just made the whole thing ridiculous, the Minister of Information’s intervention with the banning of the film in Nigeria was a publicity coup for Sony.

In the end, there is a part of the Nigerian psyche depicted which was as truthful and it was bitter to accept, there are people who would do anything to attain power, even supernatural power and if aliens would provide that means, there would purveyors of snake-oil remedies that promise such powers.

Sadly, the DVD I watched was bought in Nigeria, whilst the packaging looked like an original product with all the trimmings, it was the first time I could not watch a supposedly internationally released DVD on my system without glitches that jumped scenes, skewed conversation and even froze on my computer.

I would hate to think Nigerians had also bootlegged a DVD that portrayed them in bad light – Now, that would not be funny at all.

Source

[1] District 9 - Wikipedia

What rice for Christmas

Up and about late

My Christmas day was a very slow start, it was probably well into the afternoon before I managed to slip out of bed by which time a number of phone calls and text messages had come through that I did not get to handle because my phone was in vibrate mode having been set to that ay church the day before at the Christmas carol service.

When I did get up my friend was already cooking the beef and tripe but was unsure of what we should have for Christmas lunch.

Rices for choice

There was one for making stew and white rice, the other for making jollof rice and fried plantains. Considering I had put much stock into acquiring ingredients suitable for jollof rice, we went for that and postponed the making of stew till later.

So, there I was in the kitchen, softening the dried barracuda fish cuts in hours of boiling and preparing the seasoning for the jollof rice – my eventual scheme involved first frying the rice and then pouring the cooked vegetables and seasoning into the rice afterwards.

The plantains then went into the electric fryer and within 90 minutes we were done for our Christmas meal which we had to the strains of the gospel of Saint Matthew.

Giving Jesus a look in

An interesting difference that started with the nativity story through the ministry of Jesus Christ, there was no way the significance of Christmas would be lost on Christmas day.

Unfortunately, by the time we settled down, the Queen’s speech was over and television was a bit of a drag between those who are fed up with Christmas and those who make Christmas a complete fawning annoyance – forget the religious significance, Jesus nowadays cannot get to blow the candles on His birthday that is if he ever gets invited in.

After a few cups of Smokey Earl Grey tea, it was really time to put our feet up or in my case lie down on the inflatable mattress and watch television through shuttered eyelids.

Of Christmases past

It is a long way from my Christmas days in Lancashire where after dinner my surrogate mum, my dear friend’s mother tries to get us out of the house looking for Sambo the slave who was buried some 200 plus years ago in some windswept wilderness whose grave still gets tended today or plodding in the snow where my wish for the sun is so intense, I cry for warmth.

In truth, my last three Christmases were spent in the sun in Gran Canaria, the memories of being at the beach at Christmas are fond.

As the night drew nigh, my friend suggested we watch his District 9 DVD; there has been much Nigerian angst about the film, it was important I had a good viewing before i comment on the film – this was a good opportunity to do that.

Christmas was quiet, good, fun and wonderful; I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas day too.

The tolerance of chemo means more

New routes to hospital

Christmas Eve saw another visit to the hospital to see the oncologist, usually, I see the oncologist the Friday before the Monday when I go for my chemotherapy sessions.

The bus timetables changed over a week ago and with it the bus routes also changed such that the easy one-changeover trip to the hospital was no more an option.

Now, I had to take the tram and then a 5 minute walk to the hospital, since I no more use crutches, it was not that difficult a trip to make.

My friend of 25 years had arrived the day before to spend Christmas with me and offered to accompany me to the hospital, having company at hospital is always good.

We arrived for my 14:45 appointment some 20 minutes early and eventually got called in by the junior doctor I saw 3 weeks ago.

Not now let off

I thought I would get the promise of being let off chemotherapy, he was quite impressed with the improvement on my feet, all good young but thin skin, looking healed but he wanted a second opinion from the consultant oncologist.

He came in and he also expressed his happiness with the improvements which he attributed to my responding well to the chemotherapy, he then asked how well I tolerated the chemotherapy.

I honestly told him I just felt more tired and sleepy but suffered no other side effects, with that he suggested that I have up to 8 chemotherapy sessions.

Whilst I was quite disappointed the logic was that if one tolerates chemotherapy that well then more should be given rather than less because it makes the treatment presumably more complete. If however, I was hardly tolerating the stuff then there would have been a case for discontinuance.

Meeting the priest

Then I was put in the emergency queue for blood tests which basically had me going through as I submitted my forms to the blood clinic.

After that we went to see the catholic priest who I make a point of visiting on the oncology appointment days but never on the chemotherapy days, he was about, that was good because I had a card and present for him.

We had a lovely talk and then he offered to pray for us all, his prayers were quite deep and very meaningfully aligned with the Scriptures, in fact, my friend and I were quite taken by it all, considering Pentecostals seem to think they have a handle on prayers – one has to give some credit to Catholicism, and I have, the more, since I met this young priest.

Shopping for Christmas

On leaving the hospital, we shopped at a Ghanaian shop for condiments, food and ingredients for Christmas, got some meat from a Halal shop and eventually returned home.

I later went for the Christmas service, which was a bit too funky for my liking, clapping to Christmas carols with guitars and drums in the background are just what my kind of traditional Christmas is about, I suppose, I would be looking for something more sedate next year.

What a day it was.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Opening the mouth of the father - Part 4

With Christmas cheer, I publish Part 4 early.

The third part of this series Opening the mouth of the Father – Part 3

The opening gambit

Like a surrealist drama the wedding list was coming alive with a reality that was about to hit us in the face like a flipping wet tilapia, we were about to be slapped from side to side as if we were in some repetitive motion of turning the other cheek in perpetuity, our pockets had better be deep and be deep enough.

So, we opened the ceremonial table with 20,000 smackers but for the seriousness of the situation at hand; I am getting married, I might well have picked a fight with the chap who took occasion to literally make jokes of the events – I would have liked to be where I could laugh rather than be on the verge of tears.

For all it was worth, I was going to enjoy it as well as I was going to remember it for what it stood for, for all the participants in this bizarre ceremony called a traditional welding ceremony – welded, I meant that, indeed.

Hail to the chief

These settings need a chief to bless the occasion, some moneybag who had earned respectability in the community not so much for duty and stature but for the accumulation of filthy lucre from whatever source that was of no concern to the people who pay tribute and give their untrammeled obeisance.

So, to get this nondescript high chief to the high table a Chief’s Table fee was required, I needed the tough negotiations of the IMF with the persuasion of a Ponzi scheme purveyor on my team like I needed the next breath of air, my people drew skill and inspiration from places beyond our realms of everyday life.

At 25,000 tilapia slaps, the chief deigned to dance to the table with the dignity and grace of the big man who has come to town, the ceremony was beginning to get into gear.

A mute father and mother

Speeches need to be made at these meetings and apart from the MC whose verbal diarrhea was about to be as infectiously painful and debilitating to the extreme, the parents would have a few words about their daughter, not too much would come from mine in those proceedings, as I soon figured.

They called it, Opening the Father’s mouth, and soon after was the Opening of the Mother’s mouth, the smart quip thought about using birth forceps or calipers with the help of jacks and spanners to open the mouth of big daddy and better still, a parental kiss might just be killing two birds with one stone – they would not have it – each negotiation had to be thoroughly exhausted, the intermissions taken up by different kinds of bought entertainment.

Father remained mute until we had received 20,000 tilapia slaps and mother came not too far behind on 18,000 wets, since we fish by the dragnet and harvest by the earthquake shaking of the trees to split their fruit, someone must have assumed we had come by money so easily that we spend better than the gushing of oil from the troubled Delta region.

Some elders for hire

However, the chief and parents were not happy to sit at the table by themselves, the Family elders had to take their places at the table because the precious daughter was about to leave for the home of her most auspicious lover – auspicious should read love struck beyond reason.

A number came forward, about 6 or so and only on the persuasion of 19,600, they probably had other weddings to attend, we needed to make it worth their while being there for the purpose of, well, filling their pockets – our quip who was on the verge of having a knuckle driven at him without regret swore those “hell-ders” were rented – the danger of marrying out of your community means you do not know who is for real. This was no day for Miss Marple and her sharp intellect.

My people were introduced without too much of ceremony, thankfully, we did not have to pay to approach the table, they sat comfortably, maybe a bit uneasily too.

A compound rent it was

Maybe there was some sense in the Family and Compound Women fee, they helped in every way to arrange things, food, decorations and much more, a gratitude fee in the ceremony – no hard feelings; the compound element must have come from the fact that my prospective in-laws were tenants in a multi-tenancy compound, it did not hurt that much when it topped out at 19,000.

The incredulity of the Family and Compound youths however left one utterly exasperated, our quip suggested we were also paying the riff-raff to keep them from misbehaving – it was a stretch to our understanding of traditions but opportunities had been opened for everything including the kitchen sink.

A sibling triviality

They were pacified with the unkindly whack of 17,000, everyone was going to benefit from the marriage of this amazing daughter of the compound it seemed because we parted with another 15,000 smackers for the First son who happened to be 15 and this was apart from lining the pockets of the toddler Brother and Sister with 14,500.

By this time, there was no point having a calculator, our reserves just had to be inexhaustible, we seemed to be up to the challenge at each call but none of it was looking funny at all.

When before, it had been suggested that this relationship had legs, it did have legs but the legs were really for us to run, but we were so deep in it now, we had to see it to the end – nothing else could faze us as the ceremony progressed.

Pension arrangements in the playground

We had to cater for the Father’s Age grade and the Mother’s Age grade as if these people had sworn to each other as kids that when their children were to get married their pensions will be supplemented by the proceeds from the daughters’ marriages and the matter of the dowry was yet to come to the table – it was going to be interesting after all this.

They respectively won that jackpot with a pot of 26,000 and 15,500, it would seem the women get sold in marriages and still get the little end of the compensations that come at the ceremonies.

Why did we not find the literary tome on the marriage practices of the Andoni and just give this a completely wide berth – but as we were resolute, love conquers all, it would conquer this and leave us somewhere – a place difficult to imagine as one weathers this maelstrom of the certainly certifiable.

The Mother’s Labs left us flummoxed, nobody bothered to ask where the test tubes and cultures were, we flush away our doubts with a cool 15,500 and all our cards were now on the table and everyone ready to show hands.

Knock down the door, gently

The ceremony was in full swing in asking the hand of our beauty, our beloved, our prospective wife and partner who through this ceremony was fast becoming converted into a purchase, a possession with a ranking that could legally make her a slave but love, only love conquers all – we would live through this and tell the stories with great laughter and jollity at subsequent family reunions – this ceremony would return to the family in about 20 years – the parents were made for a great fortune through the giving away of their daughters, barring changes to this custom or tradition.

When the time to came to bring the bride out of the confines of the family home to be joined to her bridegroom we had come to the epoch of the ceremony, it would reach an unprecedented crescendo that would make the faint-hearted faint – someone had better have the smelling salts handy.

It was called Knocking on the family door – this would present a number of decoys before we have the real deal, our lady of the day, the joy of our bosom and the one to whom the whispers would mean the whole world.

You cannot imagine the number that opened that family door.

To be continued …

Monday, 21 December 2009

Caught in the middle of feuds

Tired of the squabbles

He really tires of being caught in the middle of squabbles that might be significant to those involved but really just about stress him out unnecessarily.

Here he was trying to allay the concerns and feelings of his parents about his health which had suffered a crisis but now had reached a miraculous turn-around.

Then, when he was in hospital, there was that situation when his father was eventually informed of the truth of the circumstances just as he was preparing for some major celebration, his mother however was kept in the dark, for all sorts of reasons.

Consideration driving purpose

One of such reasons was, these people are now in their retirement years, they run around enough being concerned about the welfare of their children and grandchildren, obviously, the last thing anyone would want to introduce into that situation was the news of a child being very ill in some foreign hospital where they had no immediate access.

The father however was informed because he asked a direct question that put the answer beyond feigning anything else, one just has to be truthful in those circumstances, the mother, on the other hand lives in some religious institution involved in activities that makes Old Testament repentance look like kindergarten playschool.

God have mercy

To impose that news would have taken it into the stratosphere of the incredulous, he thought, at least, along with his siblings.

When his mother finally found out, it was the warpath paved with weapons for the ultimate assault, God have mercy, God have mercy, God have mercy on those who stood in the way, God have mercy, indeed.

So, armed with the news of confirmed medical developments, he sent a short text message to the phones of his mother and his father at just about that same time.

This should be news for all

His mother then called to warn that this type of news should not be broadcast, he is fed up with it all, prescriptions from abroad with the conveyance of fearful import along with all sorts of modes of amelioration – give him a break, I say, give him a big break, thank you.

Surely, such news of recovery should be broadcast to all, well, even the narrator cannot see the reason to keep it quiet since many already knew the situation.

At the end of the day, whatever is going on there should be sorted out there, they who are abroad have enough going on here to be so bothered about these seemingly external factors of conflict, feuding and passionate dislike, he pleads, let me not be your battleground.

His father had called earlier, was thankful for the recovery and prayed that both health and welfare be restored along with all the loses that came about due to the illness – that was definitely more edifying and easy on the ears.

None will take credit

The fallout is interesting, they both sent him medicaments, traditional and herbal with their different acclaimed potencies and those things lay in their bags just before either party claims that their thing brought about the source of good news.

Not one will take credit regardless of the efficaciousness of these things all because the poison of conflict leaves one lacking in any confidence in these things – he just does not want any of that on his mind.

Meanwhile, one fasts for weeks, the other prays in the witching hours, all for the good but where do these prayers go if at least for once between yourselves before you think of your son you cannot be friends or trust each other?

The question lingers, but no one wants to be caught in the middle of feuds.

44 Reasons to give thanks

Without a care, not a jot

Just a year ago when I became 43, I was a man at the height of my powers, the world before me and about to embark on the 1st of my holidays in the sun in luxury and comfort.

My job prospects were good, I was in control and enjoying the direction of the project I was on, I literally had no care in the world.

It was time to reflect on the day I was born and I got my father to recollect that day in the bleak winter of 1965 when he went with his wife to the hospital to check-out a discomfort that really was I about to be born in less than a few hours after he had been told he could return home whilst my mother was kept under observation.

A long year that turned

Today, I look back over the year and realise that it has been one long year in which there were great possibilities that would not have had the opportunity ever to write about this day and the things that have passed.

Up until May when I had my second summer holiday, I was fine, even June, my life continued without as much as a worry and then I was suddenly struck down with shingles, it completely took away my strength, I had never been so helpless and vulnerable ever, but it was not a sickness unto a death but unbeknownst to me a warning, a dire warning to which I took no particular heed.

My health was slowly deteriorating, friends were noticing stuff, my vitality was ebbing away but I more or less shrugged it off.

However, there was this little matter of the athlete’s foot on both feet that did not seem to subside with all the anti-fungal medication I threw at it.

Serious threats to my life

By the time I knew it, the situation that deteriorated to such an extent, my flesh was dying whilst I was living in what was aptly described as fungating tumours, at the end of September, I was diagnosed with cancer in my left foot and there were signs that my right foot might succumb too.

I learnt of pain like I never knew of all the pains I ever had, in fact, there was incontrovertible evidence that I was really dying and the possibility that without serious medical attention I would have lost everything including and most of all my life.

Thanks

I thank God that faith rose in me that it would not be the end of me, my doctors, nurses, neighbours, friends, family and well-wishers rallied round willing and wishing me to good health and a speedy recovery.

Today, I stand at 44, having been through a rapid recovery in my health that it is literally a miracle and ready like Job to be restored to more than I had lost in relation to all I had a year before.

I am full of gratitude and thankfulness to the Most High God, the Heavenly Father, my Lord Jesus Christ, for today, for today is a day I almost never saw but I live to tell the tale in health, in strength and great hope and expectation for the future.

Thanks to my friends and family too, thanks for being with me to celebrate this amazing day wherein I turned 44. Thank you very much as I look for 44 and more reasons to give thanks.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Opening the mouth of the father - Part 3

The second part of this series Opening the mouth of the Father – Part 2

It will be traditional

Opting for a traditional marriage ceremony was probably the best choice since I am religiously averse though my bride as any typical Nigerian is quite religious.

One might well be persuaded of the need, but it is not that pressing, the traditional ceremony presents the opportunity for some very unconventional activities and the maybe some cultural education.

The landlord’s daughter who got married not too long before had such a splash, it appears, the tenant is on the verge of outdoing the landlord, one should keep an open mind before one begins a flight of fantasy.

Talking about money always

Preparations were in high gear, money for all that was necessary, drinks, food, cake, dresses, the list was interminable, I might as well have a mint in the backyard, but love conquers all.

The Master of Ceremonies was the uncle of the bride, a cantankerous and garrulous rotund man with a voice that boomed with an accent of English so thick, I was convinced I really was back in Nigeria, really back in Nigeria without and confusion of that fact.

As the day of the event drew near, many panicked as I tried to keep my cool European reserve, delegate tasks by project management and keep an rein on everything except the demands for money for the silly, the stupid and the incomprehensible – I grinned out as I gritted my teeth, how long would this go on for?

We are here to ask

My family had arrived, mother with her friends, my siblings all, my friends from youth all here to celebrate this long awaited event, once the questions about marriage are over, I can be sure that not a second would have passed after the wedding day before I am asked about children – people all seem to be in a hurry for you when in fact, it is you and her that would share that same roof.

That is a somewhat a way off, all the arrangements for visas and travel are coming on nicely, it would not be easy at first, but love does definitely conquer all.

I cannot say I am nervous, but you never know these things, the eventuality of a rogue village goat running amok and pulling the tablecloth off the high table with its horns, scattering the well arranged flowers, drinks, glasses and plates all over the place, leaving the bride in tears, I close to tears and someone suspecting some enemy wreaking havoc for jealousy and spite – my imagination is definitely getting the better of me.

Cherish the day

When that day is over, a sigh of relief cannot come too quickly for all concerned, it would be a great and magnificent day, I dared pray that it would all go nicely, everyone would say the nicest things to each other, the families would be friendly to each other and no funny relation would take that opportunity to vent and hopefully, everyone who really needs to be invited has been invited.

The ceremony had been set for the early afternoon, accounting for African time, we might just add another hour or two to the programme, someone had tried to meticulously time each issue on the agenda but I thought it was ambitious at best; these things have a life of their own.

People do not just walk to the table, they dance to the high table with a coterie of dancers and singers, drummers drumming at the decibel limits, the percussion allowing for the most impossible hip gyrations, it would be a lavish spectacle, I just hope the video guy is prepared to capture everything, we also got three photographers to ensure there was a continuous record of events.

Let the ceremony begin

Now that everything had been set, the MC got to the microphone and after a preamble of prayers stories, jokes and a basic idea of why we were meeting, the agenda for the day kicked in.

The first thing was Opening the ceremony table, apparently, the high table of almost 20 seats bedecked with an array of expensive drinks, the best crockery, the finest cloth and all the trimmings was hardly ready for a seating.

We were in an auction cum bargaining banter, cash was the key to opening any event or action in this ceremony, with 5,000, nobody was looking at us, at 10,000, there was a nod but no approval, at 15,000, we were told we could do better than that, especially, since one was from … it took 20,000 to consider calling anyone to the table.

Let the ceremony begin...

To be continued...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Do you have a job for me?

A call I received - Introduction

Yesterday morning, I got a call from a very enthusiastic recruitment consultant who found my CV on a jobs board and thought my experience and skills-set would be useful and suitable to his client.

This consultant had placed 37 out of a 100 technical staff with his client, so he probably had a good idea of who and what his client needs.

An hour later, he called me deflated stating some technical person had seen my CV and somewhat “trivialised” the context of it.

However, this consultant was not about to give up on my prospect, he asked me to write an email to him explaining how and why my wealth of experience should not fall into the pigeon-hole I had been placed in.

I have reformatted that email into my blog format and here it is.

What I am about

Below, you will find my cause and purpose, my views and drive, what makes my work-life exciting and in the end, it is a simple expression to any organisation to give me a job that can change your organisation for the better.

There are things in here, specific to my CV that I have left in place, parts of it might be a bit technical, but the thrust of it is that I try to put a fully human dimension on the use of information technology for the benefit of that organisation.

If you do have an interest as regards my being employed by your organisation, please leave a comment or send an email to forakin at gmail dot com.

Meeting that challenge

Dear Recruiter,

Thank you for our conversation yesterday and the enthusiasm you showed in my skills which unfortunately were not appreciated by the people who reviewed them. I have decided to take up the challenge of explaining why it is myopic to consider my activities in "Desktop Deployment" trivial and why it should be seen as beyond just the desktop or just deployment.

It is a bit of a long email, but it is difficult to put this kind of thinking in a CV or relate this easily without the convenience of an interview, I hope you will have the patience to read it through and let me know your views either by reply or a phone call. Thank you very much for your time and the challenge.

My experience

Now, it is quite easy with simplification to look at a person's career in terms of the tools the person uses to perform a job, but anyone can use tools, but it is a talented artisan that can produce objects of amazing value, worthy of commendation and admiration.

Indeed, for more than 13 years, I have used Microsoft SMS 1.2/2.0/2003 and now Microsoft Systems Center Configuration Manager 2007 to manage environments, the smallest being BT/Infonet with just about 1,500 users and the largest being over 40,000 users in ING Bank.

Seeing things from different ends

Whilst the Mission Critical vision appears to view things from the backend to the user and mission critical pertains to what keeps a business running from day-to-day, I have extended the vision of how I use my tools to understand how 1 user or 40,000 users can connect seamlessly to their organisation and access the mission critical applications they need to perform their duties to make the organisation competitive, profitable and leader in whatever field they are in.

Critical to this observation is that SMS (I will use this broadly to encompass all tools to do with software control & deployment) is used to deploy software, applications, utilities, tweaks, patches & updates to user's systems which might be online, offline, in-house or some remote place.

For this software to deploy consistently to achieve close to 100% success rates, you need uniformly configured systems, this boils down to understanding the range of hardware (desktops, laptops & devices) in your organisation, deploying a basic common framework of the operating system, handling the common and different software requirements of the user, streamlining your application pool and being able to manage that from the centre whilst touching each and every system in that organisation.

The power of position and responsibility

Just as downtime in the mission critical application systems can shutdown a business, I appreciate even more that as an SMS administrator; I can shutdown the business if a poorly packaged application is deployed to user systems which can be up to 40,000 users.

Hence, suddenly, my responsibility is not just being a plain postmaster of deploying applications, I need to know what those applications contain, who is repackaging those applications, what operating systems we have out there and if they are manageable - if not, find a consistent approach to the management of these systems.

Influencing the chance for good change

I cannot allow changes to take place in the back-end systems in the weekend that might affect the way users access those back-end systems on a Monday morning because the back-office people thought their change was minor, but we have a major situation because it is easy for the back-end engineer to think locally to their big-expensive systems (mainframes, enterprise databases), when I have to think globally about the effect on 40,000 employees who need critical access to these back-end systems.

You begin to realise the kind of planning that needs to go into serious enterprise desktop deployment or rather, management, if it is work consistently and produce results that do really reduce the cost of ownership at the desktop and reduce the overall cost of IT from service calls and management costs and so on.

What I am about - again

That is the value of my 22 years in IT and my 13 years in enterprise desktop deployment, I am not just a technician, I am a facilitator, a collaborator, an enabler and an unquantifiable benefit to any organisation that entrusts that kind of job to me.

I was employed to do a quick and dirty job of desktop deployment in Canon in August 2006, I left after 2 years having changed that organisation in ways that no one realised till I pointed it out; in the process a whole new department was created to handle the issue of the "user experience" of connecting to the organisation with minimal issues.

The structures I put in place allowed for one of those weekend backend changes halting the business to be redeemed with SMS because we could deploy consistently, verifiably and successfully an essential patch that got everyone reconnected before noon on Monday.

Engaging all communities

In that two years, everyone began to realise any change was global; it affects something, if not everyone; communication is essential because people need to know how changes might affect them; technicians have to be customer friendly because the user satisfaction helps company productivity; architects need to liaise with administrators but user feedback is the best knowledge resource to determine if your solutions are really working; if not, seek advice and change the situation to a working situation.

In short, to be blind-sided by the simple concept of desktop or deployment is to miss the whole point that users are key to keeping an organisation running and whilst the mission critical team is critical, without users being able to connect to the mission critical systems [through their globally deployed but individually configured desktops, laptops, devices with the adequately distributed software] you have no mission critical solution.

Seeing things from different ends - again

I look up the organisation from the eyes and hands of the user, 40,000 of them in some cases to affect and effect change because I touch each and every system with my tools, others look at their servers and if they are up, they think everything is OK - welcome to a new perspective of what the desktop really should mean - managing the user experience with whatever tools, skills and abilities you might have.

If you have read this far, thank you for hearing me out, I do however wonder if this makes me suitable for your organisation, I'll say any organisation that wants the mission critical environment to be consistently accessible to the user environment should consider having me on board.

Thank you.

Connect to my LinkedIn Summary (PDF)

Dr. Beetroot is feeding beetroots

Dr. Beetroot is dead

It is with sadness that one reads of the passing of Dr. Manto Tshabalala Msimang [1] of South Africa, she was if you have forgotten the Health Minister during the tenure of President Thabo Mbeki.

This is significant because a certain study avers that between 2005 and 2005 about 300,000 South Africans died from HIV/AIDS whilst the President and his Health Minister took on the view that HIV did not really cause AIDS, that HIV/AIDS medication was too expensive and this medication could sometimes be harmful.

Speaking out of turn

It could well be that they had valid arguments but some of what they said did not have relevant research to support the claims, meanwhile, their fellow countrymen languished in the ravaging grip of the disease.

The Doctor in a conference on AIDS in Canada then went on to advise that people with HIV/AIDS should take olive oil, lemon, beetroot and the African potato which offered beneficial qualities to sufferers.

It is from this statement that she became widely known as Dr. Beetroot. Indeed healthy diets are necessary and there is a poverty issue related to it in terms of taking drugs but not associating that with rich diets that would help the efficacy of those drugs, but the drugs were essential.

The bad legacy of suspicion

It needed a willingness of the Mbeki government to acknowledge there was a problem with about 20% of the population affected, to consider negotiations allowing for drugs to be made available for more affordable cost and to have socio-economic plans implemented to lift people out of poverty into conditions that would be conducive to fighting the disease effectively.

By pandering to the politics of suspicion borne of their old apartheid struggles they failed many even though the people blindly supported this stance for the brotherhood of the liberation struggles.

Change eventually

Commonsense eventually prevailed after activism, global opprobrium and with a very competent deputy Health Minister who later got sacked for lacking the loyalty of being a team-player whilst Dr. Beetroot was retained with her rumoured alcoholism problem and liver disease issues.

That, I think was one of the low points of President Mbeki’s tenure for all the great things he might have achieved. When Mr. Mbeki was ousted, and Dr. Beetroot was replaced, we all heaved a sigh of relief.

Much as one is saddened, one is outraged that political expediency reigned over a situation that should have had a more compassionate and responsible handling – the death of Dr. Beetroot marks the end of the embarrassment South Africa became in the fight against HIV/AIDS as personified in the office and statements she made.

Sources



[1] BBC News - South Africa HIV-row minister Tshabalala-Msimang dies

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

He walks the earth in our shoes

Late for an appointment

I was in hospital again today for an appointment at 15:00, unlike my other appointments, the Orthopaedic department does not seem align its scheduling with the Oncology or Internal Medicine departments.

I usually get a letter in the post asking for me to attend at a particular time, there are times I have wanted to shift the appointments but somehow the personnel do not have the availability that allows for such flexibility.

I made it to the hospital by bicycle and I must say it was dreadfully cold last night when I was out at the main library, I was dressed like an Eskimo with my leather gloves doubled over and I arrived for my appointment a few minutes late – I do hate being late, but my day seemed to start a bit slower than I wanted.

Hats off in greeting

After waiting about 20 minutes I was called by the man who did my shoe fitting in November, I do not know his technical capacity but he seems to be the hands-on man, the orthopaedic consultant was in the office along with a specialist nurse.

As one is wont to do, I took off my hat before shaking hands which seemed to impress the consultant as he remarked to the nurse in Dutch, they introduced themselves and I sat down.

Everyone wanted to see my foot which I said had improved considerably, the shoe and socks came off but before I could get my scissors, the nurse came forward with hers and cut the bandages off, they were quite impressed with the condition of the foot.

New treatments recommended

The consultant advised that I reduce the use of special shoe by half over the next two weeks. I could now use my normal shoes for outdoors and the orthopaedic shoe mainly for indoor use, they also recommended that the Mepitel dressing be discontinued because the dressing will now not help the skin thicken and firm up as it should, the Vaseline massages of the soles should also stop because the grease would not be as effective.

Tomorrow, I can collect from my local chemist a special cream that I can apply to my feet to deal with the dryness and help complete the healing process.

In the process, I can also reduce the use of the crutches, but considering I had lost some muscle mass over the time I was unable to put weight on my left foot, that support is useful, I think I would return the crutches soon after Christmas.

Pulling one for the hat

During the conversation, we did talk a lot about hats, the consultant liked my hat and asked I got it from, well, there is a milliner in Cologne who has been making hats since 1969, they are a married couple and every opportunity I have had, I have visited to get a hat or two.

When I first shopped there some 6 years ago, I bought a pork-pie hat that allowed for the front end to be pulled down almost in trilby style, of all the hats I have bought from that shop, it has been the most durable, so the last time I was there, I bought of that style and I have been quite happy with them.

If you in need of capable, efficient and professional milliners with a traditional sense of purpose and service you can visit Gronau M. & A. at Friesenplatz 12 in Cologne, and if you say they were recommended by the black man from Amsterdam, they will probably go Aha! Smile and serve you very well.

Walking the earth in our shoes

As the meeting closed, the consultant, revealed he had been at a concert where a prolific drummer who used to be part of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s band played, he had been in Kenya for 8 years and could speak Kiswahili and since he was visiting London soon, he wanted to know where Nigerians mostly congregate.

He seemed to have a keen interest in things African, but more broadly, he just liked to know where his patients came from. For an orthopaedic consultant, he probably has walked the whole earth in the shoes of the many who have been under his care.

I thanked them very much for their care and concern, wishing them a merry Christmas, we now have a tentative arrangement to another appointment in March 2010 after which I suppose my foot would have been certified completely healed and back to its full functional ability.