Wednesday 27 June 2007

Don't piss me off

Between Early and Late

I could be utterly irrational at times because it takes just that little thing to piss me off - BIG TIME!.

Whilst I might be up around 7:30 or earlier in the morning, I just find it ever so convenient to get to work somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00. I do strive to make it closer to 10:00 but I do not run the public transportation systems.

Besides, leaving early means I probably would not get a seat on the Metro for the first 20 minutes as able and fit university students travel like old people needing support and occupying more space then necessary.

Now, getting to work early is really moot in my case except when I really have to attend meetings, my work is not in anyway operational, it is project and strategy driven, so what is important is that I put in my 8 hours per day, regardless of what end of the clock the 8 hours sits in.

A few weeks ago, the project manager I work with brought up this issue of arriving earlier; I strove to accommodate this “inconvenience” till I relapsed to type. I had hardly walked in this morning when an email arrived about this “so-called” agreement – that quite set me off.

Two days to the end

We have been vacillating on the terms and conditions of a contract tenure and status towards a renewal to start in July without much progress and as it stands, I really do not have a contract after the 30th of June 2007.

So, I told him, since I only really have two days to run of my contract, I would endeavour to see that agreement through for those two days.

Frankly, I hate being micro-managed by petty tyrants exercising undue influence, it is really not necessary for me to be in before 10:00AM, but it is essential for me to fulfil 8 hours of work each day.

This whole thing then set the stage for a meeting with the director of my team who is trying to persuade me to take a permanent contract – Fat Chance! If I have to endure this kind of organisational annoyance and managerial aggro.

Punctuality and attendance are two different things for different types of people in a workforce; my situation is more about attendance than punctuality.

I have a month to make up my mind about this whole thing after meeting the director; having clearly highlighted my non-negotiable terms – I will not work in an operations team even though I am providing them solutions; I would not report to anyone below VP or the contract is off; I would not take on financial privation for the benefit of the company; basically, HR would have the runs because of the distinct things I would require in my contract.

I might yet again disappoint him if someone else does not take time to learn to walk on eggshells, I think I need a long holiday and the lack of rest is making me a tad irritable – must be that time of the year. Do I need to get sun-burnt? You bet, I do.

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Insult laws an insult to democracy

Humourlessly derisive

Sometimes, one is almost in great shame to be African when news of crass stupidity emanates from the continent about leaders who think they are demigods.

Obviously, there is probably some sense in protecting public officials from unwarranted insults and verbal attacks accompanied by threats of violence.

However, the whole thing about insulting leaders and having the freedom of expression of the culprits curtailed to the extent of exercising the law of crime and punishment is a bit of overkill.

Indeed, some culprits might have to be cautioned in order to forestall civil unrest, but that should be as a very last resort.

Lèse Majesté

In Thailand where lèse majesté laws are part of the culture, it is understandable that revered monarchies can expect a level of protection from unnecessary assaults to their person or office, however, there is a Quid pro quo in this relationship - between king and subjects; the monarch should be seen to carry his office with grace and respect to the point of being irreproachable.

What I fail to appreciate is leaders who assume a position of authority either by democratic mandate or some putsch of suspicious intent who then suddenly arrogate to themselves lèse majesté mystique as if they were kings anointed of God to rule over man and not answerable to anyone.

This kind of primitive exercise of humourless conduct is unbecoming of democracies not to talk of the 21st Century, of all times.

Writing fiction as truth

So, a secondary school teacher asks a final-year class to write a humorous essay about the mistress of a fictitious African leader; some zealous sycophant comes across the material and automatically suggests that the President of Mali has been insulted.

This becomes a charge that goes to court and they end up with suspended jail terms in a hearing that took place in a closed court.

So much for democracy in Mali if it cannot be underpinned by the all important freedom of expression because some patronage seeking prosecutor has been consumed with irrational zeal and reckless abuse of office and error of judgement. This is unlike a case in Zambia where the courts are not only more circumspect, they were reasonable and stopped the deportation of a satirical journalist for using animal metaphors to describe the president.

Insult laws an insult to democracy

It would appear laws similar to this silly exercise in stupidity called "insult laws" exist in 48 out of 53 countries in Africa, allowing for the freedom of press to be curtailed and giving the government to power to stifle debate, dissent and opposition.

Germany and Poland has laws that make it illegal to insult foreign heads of state, especially those present in Polish territory when it comes to Poland and that is sensible enough.

If only we could see more noblesse oblige and less lèse majesté aggrandisement, we might just get on with making Africa less of a global laughing-stock when more important things are there to be done.

Makes you wonder, if the President of Mali really does have a mistress, a concubine, a harlot, a harem, a dominatrix in his palace or he is given to more unmentionable lewd conduct?

Now, I would be persona-non-grata in Mali along with Thailand, Turkey, Zambia and Zimbabwe. I am doing fine.

Stupid laws

Becoming persona non grata in Thailand

Cellophane skinned lion hearts

Ms. Hilton has Checked Out

Lessons from the slammer

The circus that revolves around the celebrity of Paris Hilton has now brought in the wild cats; don't we all find those quite fascinating?

Ms. Hilton has now been released from jail early for good behaviour and the overcrowding situation in the facility.

There are many lessons we can learn from this experience and they should be well noted. Jail will not necessarily kill you, though it is a privation that is best avoided by keeping within the law and when sanctioned, not straying away from the provisions of that instruction.

Ms. Hilton's case shows that celebrity, money and influence does skew and attempt to remove the blindfold from the eyes of Lady Justice as the scales sag under the legalese of powerful attorneys being paid outrageous sums of filthy lucre to blunt the sword into a kid's glove for caressing and upholding the selfish interests of the privileged - they just cannot stand being under the law, if they can afford it.

Lady Justice

Lessons from the experience

Ms. Hilton herself has intimated that she is more grateful for what she has, this is revealingly useful because in a generation where many know the prize of everything but the value of nothing, knowing how to value your freedom but following the basic civil laws of society is an experience that would not be forgotten too quickly.

The clamour that followed the seemingly preferential treatment of Ms. Hilton meant certain things had to be done right, like her really going to jail.

The sad thing is small-town attorneys, judges, police officers and prison officials who encounter celebrity of the status of our principal always seem to lose their professional judgement that the spotlight of the media frenzy also gets directed at them - they bask in this limelight in the hope that a greasy pole of patronage might be offered them to climb up to some higher level of notoriety - the poor sycophants of fame, out-doing each other shamelessly for a morsel of ignominy.

Lessons from her appearance

It is respectable enough that Larry King has scooped the first interview with Paris Hilton to be aired tomorrow and you can be sure that Larry would prise some useful information out of the girl for us to determine if she has had a Damascene conversion or she is just in a temporary relapse from the Simple Life - realities could be a bit more tasking.

The simpleton fans of Paris whose mundane lives find refreshment in her antics might now be committing themselves to the goal of serving time just to be like their idol - the role models we chose nowadays. Enough of this tittle-tattle.


Blogging about Hilton

Safe in the hotel safe

Knowing me again

In what must be looking like a rarity, I must say I was quite content with my hotel accommodation in Berlin this time.

The staff could not help but fall over themselves with every kind of complimentary offer one could think of, free champagne at the bar, fruits in large dish in the room, chocolates that I worried about the aphrodisiac qualities they might excite, service personnel at the door almost before you complained.

I had stayed at this hotel some 4 years before, but this time I was given a room on the 7th floor overlooking the forest that makes up the Zoo in Berlin - I was surprised when I found an envelop in my room acknowledging my return visit.

It is nice to know that one is remembered and treated even better as a return guest; however, one is concerned about the data retention element of this customer service ideal.

One has to give for the other, the recognition factor or the indifferent generality, I would suppose many would prefer to be recognised.

High speed rotten connection

However, I did have issue with two things, the first being the High Speed Internet connection in the room, it was high-speed but rotten performance, I was online but could hardly maintain a decent enough connection to download my email which timed out at every attempt.

There was nothing the hotel could do about it (an external service) that I resorted to remote controlling a box at home which handled all I wanted to do though it seemed the remote session lost connection every minute, it was annoying but for the much improved remote desktop client that does not give up before 20 tries.

At check-out, the hotel offered to reduce the charge by 50%, but I found myself remonstrating as usual, I always prefer the service to the cop-out of compensation.

Safe entry

The most interesting part was really the in-room safe, as you would realise we are celebrating 40 years of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) which is fine and we are all used to the 4-figure Personal Identification Number (PIN) which came about because the designer's wife reckoned she could only remember 4-digits, the designer - John Shepherd-Barron - having once been in the army had been planning on a 6-digit, just like his army recruitment number. The rest is history.

Now, in resorts in Spain, most hotels provide a room safe for a hiring fee, the safe requiring a keyed lock, in other countries, some allow for a PIN from 4 to 6 figures with instructions varying on complexity.

Card swipe manic frenzy

This safe required that you swipe your credit card down a slot to activate/lock or unlock the safe. So I put our valuables in it and swiped the card, the safe engages the lock. An afterthought gets me back at the safe and swipe all I could, the safe would not budge.

The service man comes over swipes once and the safe opens, I look like a fool, but he then tries the whole process himself - first swipe locks the safe, seven swipes later, the safe responds.

It would appear, it is the speed of the swipe that determines if this thing works, it could be annoying, but two things come to mind.

The first being the possibility that the card reader can store information, at least it stores enough to know that a swipe-lock with one card cannot be swipe-unlocked with another card.

The second is, one of the reasons one would want a safe is to store the credit cards along with other valuables - in tourist places, it is sometimes better to pay cash than have some unscrupulous staff fleece your card not too long after your dinner, only to get home and notice large sums of money have gone walkies.

If you then have to lock the safe with what you initially intended to store in the safe, this seemingly safe idea is probably highly risk averse on the side of the hotel because the credit card would always be on your person or outside the safe but seriously inconvenient and risky on your part.

I say no to credit card swipe safes, the PIN method should be better though there might be possibilities of losing the contents to a determined thief anyhow by gently checking which keys have the newest prints and doing the permutation, even that would be a bit far-fetched, after a few tries the safe would go into a locked mode that would require service personnel, anyhow.

Sunday 24 June 2007

Pride without Prejudice - Berlin

Fake Davids on parade

Probably a mega-container load of imitation Michelangelo-Davids was smuggled into Germany and tipped over in the heart of Berlin’s Kurfurstendamm as sculpted bodies of firm abdominal muscle filled everyone with a political correct green of envy.

Forget the fake Rolex, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci or common Calvin Kline; made in China for a farthing and sold in Europe for a bomb, for the sake of vanity some might just cost an arm and a meal – hedonism is in town.

Six-packs, on floats and on the road like a rerun of I Robot clones masquerading as men, one could almost read a by-line in the gossip columns that made that rather unkind observation, we are growing old and it is showing. Must get the PA to book a lunch date with Dr. 90210.

Show it, flaunt it

It was Christopher Street Day as it is known in German-speaking countries, Gay Pride in others, the whole town could see the flamboyance, hear the noise and it was as good a family day out for a spectacle as any.

It somehow make up for the bare-arsed cheek of a hotel guest who wearing leather chaps forgot to wear denims underneath as he stepped out of the lift to present himself to the public in mooning glory – that beats the sagging trousers, you couldn’t get gob-smacked for it was too impolite an observation to react to.

As we watched the parade, the weather gave way to the forecast, it poured rain like the flood was back, we all sought shelter, but the parade weathered that storm as we empathised about how those perfect bodies crafted in the addiction of gym worship got drenched “to the skin” – they had nothing on top and basically swimming trunks – ditch “to the skin”, they were literally naked.

Well, really, there was too much jealousy in the air to be that concerned, if those bodies dissolved like salt in water we probably would have rejoiced, no end, we would have been the best bodies around.

Dragging the shoes

Meanwhile, many got into their glad rags and most especially those in drag – the clothes were feminine, but no naturally born woman would wear dresses like that – I suppose that is the litmus test between drag and women’s fashion.

I could not help but notice a few shoes and boots, heels so high, you will need a space shuttle to ascend to the point where the feet rest on the in-lays, any normal person would instantly suffer vertigo. As the rain subsided for the semblance of sunshine to reappear, I snapped a few shoes that walk our streets only just once a year.

You will have to wait till tomorrow to see the whole collection. Here is a sampler.


Saturday 23 June 2007

Condolezza brings condolences - maybe more

Would Condi be doing Condolences?

One can only begin to wonder what Condolezza Rice would be attempting to achieve when she gets to the Middle-East today.

There is no argument that Israel does have the right to defend itself and it should be done vigorously, however, the manner and strategy at play does leave one wondering what they intend on achieving.

I am still of the view that focus has shifted – if that was ever the focus - from dealing with Hamas and Hezbollah militarily to the point that it is looking like the economic obliteration of those societies and psychological propaganda with the hope that wanton destruction of all types of infrastructure would make people withdraw support from those organisations.

Whose terrorists are they anyway?

Until we move from the view of looking at those organisations through the blinkered view of terrorists, because only Israel, America and Europe labels elements of Hamas and Hizbollah as terrorist – we would fail to realise that these groups also represent the aspirations of people who have been deprived and wronged on the one hand, they are also the least corrupt of the leaderships emanating from their peoples.

There is no doubt that Europe and America are very well at variance on the matter in the Middle-East, it was evident in the eavesdrop between Bush and Blair – where Bush thought Syria held the keys to stopping the shit and Blair saw a bigger issue.

Arms away

To now hear that in the midst of the outrageous abuse of military might Israel is acquiring new precision weapons from America leaves one completely gob smacked – America is helping to add fire to an untenable situation which might now go on for another few weeks.

The Arabs would take good note of that and hopefully would give a Condi a stern view of this atrocious development.

I could be that it is American weaponry that is used to cause suffering, pain and loss in the Middle-East, the availability of which feeds Israeli bravado to the drunken swagger of believing there is a military solution to this conflict.

I think NOT.

Peace born of negotiation

Like it or not, Israel would have to negotiate with these “terrorists”, if they do succeed to eliminating military threat of Hezbollah by bombing television stations amongst other things, they had better be ready for guerrilla warfare.

Taking a foothold in Lebanon might bring in a less desirable grouping of terrorists – Al Qaeda in Lebanon on the border of Israel would be the least acceptable conclusion to this military escapade.

I have my doubts any of the proponents can achieve the objective of peace with this indiscriminate bombing and the possibility of new arms from a seemingly rotten cause.

Friday 22 June 2007

Welcome in Amsterdam - Let us walk

Getting out a bit


We stow our bicycles away on a moored ferry, there are probably more bicycles than people in Amsterdam, I have 4 in different stages of usability, I was once a closet circus act.

As I got to the Amsterdam Central Station on Sunday, the weather was fine and gay as the sun came out in radiance not too oppressive and the breeze was moderate enough for a leisurely stroll.

I have never taken the deceptively long walk from the station to my home, deceptive in that, I can very well see my apartment block from the station on a good day, but it is a good 40 minutes away by the plod.

The WikiMapia view of my walk is from the Central Station on the middle left South bank, down the waterfront to right where the right where the second bridge links to the island strip which is in the middle of The IJ known as Het IJ - IJ is also a Dutch diphthong with the closest English sound being that of the letter I.

Living by the water presents its surprises and this time I realized how much one misses out of nature, wonder and the work of man when we get on one vehicle or another - even on my trusty bicycle, I miss so much.

With camera handy, I began snapping away, the slideshow is a depiction of an Amsterdam I have not cared to notice.

The detail however, is a narrative from the bicycle shed as a moored ferry, the absent gas flares around the Shell Building, amazing views down the IJ towards the old Amsterdam harbours in the East where I live.

This is one side of Amsterdam, far from the madding crowd.

PS: Welcome in Amsterdam is a literal translation Dutch to English in what we call Denglish - I reviewed a book on Denglish in April 2006.

Thursday 21 June 2007

Guinness Book of Rotten Records

Breaking wind

Last weekend had a brother and sister deprive themselves of breath for as long as they could hold out under water in the quest for a record. They both lasted 11:07 (sister) and 15:58 (brother) minutes, putting Lithuania on the world news for most of the weekend and having to be hospitalised afterwards. They are both now doing fine.

Last year, is was a little 4 year old boy doing marathons in India, he entered in Indian Limca Book of Records having done 65 kilometres in 7:02 hours, he is supposed to be gunning for a place in the Guinness Book of Records, if he has not already been taken into care.

Breaking the body

It would appear there is some sort of craze to break records in the sub-continent; where in Europe, the youth just want to be famous for the sake of being famous; their counterparts want to be famous for some endurance, outrageous or stupidity feat, hoping that the crass publicity machine of the Guinness Book of Records finds a place for them.

So we see things like dancing non-stop for 85 hours - my feet; singing non-stop for 130 hours - my vocal chords; creating an almighty cacophony in marathon drumming for 16 hours - my hands and ears; basically, things of no particular value to society apart from attracting gasps of horror or something friendlier, have become talk of the town.

Breaking out desperately

Underpinning these quests are parents who seek to live their dreams through their growing kids, the worst part of this situation can only be exemplified in the now common practice of selling off kidneys to pay off debt, as covered in a BBC World documentary a few weeks ago, where one parent said he would also sell off the kidneys of his children when they are old enough to donate, having sold his and still remaining deep in debt - they, the children, unfortunately have been born into a world to bear the wrongs, the ills and the poverty of their forebears and would have no say in what is essentially their well-being.

I am thankful that though I had very ambitious and successful parents in an accountant and a school principal, he knew I was not a break-even analysis and she knew I was not the curriculum personified - they never impressed on me what to do as I vacillated and hesitated about what to do for a career - I always had their support even when I was impossible.

Breaking trust

Where this inordinate quest to be listed in the Guinness Book of Records gets mad, irresponsible and outrageous is depicted in the filming of a 15-year-old performing a Caesarean Section under the supervision of his parents, to become the world youngest surgeon.

I think not; a surgeon has to be suitable qualified and certified by the relevant medical authorities else a scalpel in the hands of a child performing a delicate, risky and life-threatening incision because you have watched by rote is a butchering to put it mildly. We already have too many of those in our streets, teenagers stabbing each other.

This is as unethical as it can get and no surer penalty can be visited on those parents than to be struck off the register of medical practitioners, the only danger being the child would be under more pressure to be the youngest doctor, fastest surgeon or worst still, most dexterous murderer.

Breaking records of records

It was only in January that I lamented the fact that the world's oldest people were dropping off with such regularity that we are approaching a new record, the oldest person to have held the record for the shortest time ever.

I feel I am going to break a record, the one for being the most unimpressed by all these antics of rank stupidity and reckless ambition for useless recognition.

I should have called the Guinness Book of Records for that, now I have to officially break that record again - How to excel, believe me.

PS: Since 2000, it is now known as the Guinness World Records - would that be longest period of time elapsed before realising a world renowned book had a name change?

Arise! Sir Satanic - Oops! Salman

Burn baby burn

Effigy burning season has started again in those cool Muslim cities where feeble sensibilities have been so hurt that civil unrest fills the streets far from the source of opprobrium.

Was it the cartoons in Denmark, the Pope's speech in Germany or now, a knighthood honour in Britain; there appears to be a pressure cooker about to explode or a tinder box about to be ignited, fires burn in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and any other Mohammedan conurbation - fuelled by unscrupulous leaders of the religion who advocate unacceptable uncivilised reactions to be carried out by illiterate people who are lead to believe there is reward in committing crimes in the name of religious honour, here and in the hereafter.

I really tire of the way people flock to a cause without reasoning why. It is doubtful that a majority of the people who take offence at the subject have bothered to leaf through the forbidden tome before some "so-called" scholar adopts an interpretation for discord.

Not for honour not to dishonour

However, back home where the Queen honours her subjects on her birthday in the Birthday Honours List, the honour is usually in the gift of the Queen or at the behest of her government but this is after vetting by an honours committee and the litmus test of government approval.

One can only consider it dereliction of duty, if not naivety, to have not realised that any honour awarded to Salman Rushdie would have excited the passions of many who cannot be persuaded to be objective to the point of causing a diplomatic row.

In literary circles, Mr. Rushdie has received many honours but not to the extent of bagging the Nobel Prize - this might be for so many reasons, like others who are more deserving and many more who have not used the pen to cause so much offence skirting the limits of civil responsibility by their insensitive exercise of the freedom of expression.

How that now becomes a service to literature escapes me, in fact, a knighthood in the services to football to David Beckham would have created a lot less controversy and probably adulation for those whose indolence affords them time to burn effigies. If this knighthood had been awarded after a Nobel honour, the shock might have been shared and absorbed.

Books amiss

This is a sorry state of affairs and to have attached this to the Queen's Birthday Honours list rather than the Prime Minister's retirement list is unfortunate, as it is causing a rumpus in Tony Blair's dying cabinet and unnecessarily perturbing the ground under her feet.

In my view, along with a profuse apology to the Muslims, even though there is really no one who speaks for Muslims as a whole and commiserations to Salman Rushdie, this knighthood should go into abeyance.

Like the cartoon on the front page of the business pages of the Daily Telegraph today indicates; this decision might have come about in the clichéd smoke-filled rooms, but with the ban on smoking coming into effect in July, fresh air might just be what these almost corrupt, probably insensitive, secret chamber freemason-like committees need to arrive at more commendable decisions about who is really deserving of honour.

Meanwhile, Midnight Children have heard too much from Satanic Verses, if there be no Shame, there is enough division between East-West, but let the Moor's last sigh be greeted with order being restored and inflammatory statements being curtailed.

Arise! Sir Satanic, just before the sword is swung swiftly in the horizontal plane and peace reigns on earth.


Blogs on Muslim unrest

In search of a humorous God

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Hutu chikin Nigeria? Inaa!

Does it really matter anymore?

This represents the unacceptable state of affairs in Nigeria, the issue of safety and security. Having not visited Nigeria for a long time, I have always been anxious for people who return with such regularity as if they are taking a walk in the park.

Obviously, many of these people have quite well laid out plans for their arrival, transportation and safety when sojourning in the country, but I am just beside myself with terrifying incapacitation when criminals run riot and despatch people with armed efficiency without any consideration for life or property.

Now, people do live in Nigeria - 140 million at last count - and are probably inured or resigned to the fact that things are just the way they are in Nigeria - I suspect this is a problem mainly with large citties - I have family in that country and I exercise confidence that they are all well and secure in the hands of Him who watches over all.

They came, they terrified and they left

I did experience the brutal reality of armed robbers entering my home, threatening us with guns and the possibility of getting shot whilst they ransacked our home and made off with every significant material possession.

They calmly executed their mission without emotion apart from when the "sergeant" asked the "major" to shoot us and he said our having cooperated meant that we would be spared - my uncle got kicked about a bit, but thankfully none of us came to any physical harm.

The emotional and mental harm is a different thing; it was not till 3 hours after the event that we found we could not even stand on two feet without a swaying stagger, we were traumatised and in serious shock - none sought treatment, we just carried on with our lives, grateful we could recount the story - my subject says the same thing 19 years on, "It was like a movie but I thank God I'm alive to tell the story"

That was Nigeria, the last and lasting image of Nigeria before I returned to Europe.

VGC - a shattered illusion

It was only a few weeks ago when I asked what VGC meant, apparently it is supposed to be some sophisticated gated community in Lagos where everything was probably more American or European than America or Europe itself - A Paradise by the Lagoon, probably the euphemism for titan mosquito territory, namely, Victoria Garden City.

A young man returns to Nigeria to honour his country with his football talent from his comfort zone in Europe, after the match, he stops over to fill his car with petrol in VGC and gets attacked by "armed robbers", who shoot at his car indiscriminately harming his friend.

"Armed robbers", well, maybe not really, because they did not make away with the car, despite having such massive fire-power, probably hired killers - those are even too dangerous to describe - no entreaty could deliver you from the demonic possession of those who get paid to take life, here, you can only call on a Higher Power as your life flashes before you like a movie in slow motion.

The crab complex

This reminds me of an interesting observation of a friend about fisheries, you never have to put a lid on a bucket full of crabs, every crab trying to escape is always pulled back by those still sitting in the bucket.

It is an appalling analogy, but it would take a number of initiatives to take a stand against criminality in Nigeria, and it has to start with tempering the inordinate quest for wealth to the exclusion of any matter of principle; the purging of our crime prevention infrastructure; an anti-graft agency that pursues seemingly respectable mega-thieves in positions of great influence and prosecutes them objectively to a just conclusion and the revival of the concepts of that old War Against Indiscipline.

Without this, the crab-complex would thrive, each drive to improve the country gets thwarted by the other crabs - elite and masses - who cannot bear to see Nigerian in any light but the almost, maybe, probably and trying circumstance.

The comfortably complacent

I expect reactions; things are not all that bad and I am just being hysterical - well, but we build houses like maximum security prisons and traverse territories that contrast our amazing lives of opulence with proximity abject poverty, then expect things to be just so right.

The time-frame is just recent weeks and four international footballers have been attacked in Lagos - Obafemi Martins, of English side Newcastle, Benjamin Onwuachi, of Greek side Ionikos, Femi Ajilore, of Danish club Midtjylland as well as Romania-based Ifeanyi Emeghara - these are the ones that made the news, talk less of everyday Nigerians.

This is completely unacceptable and it feeds the perception of Nigeria being a sort of failed state.

Let him speak

I conclude this piece by offering what Obafemi Martins said, verbatim, courtesy of BBC News.

"A lot of things are wrong with the system in Nigeria and when you are helpless you need to go and hide somewhere,".

"I was born in Lagos, I am a Lagosian but when I don't feel safe in my hometown then something must be wrong.

"It's a great thing to play for your country, put smiles on the faces of people and also feel safe among your family and fans.

"But when the situation gets out of hand, I don't think coming home is something I can contemplate."

Shikenan! - Hutu chikin Nigeria? Inaa! (Enough said! Holidays in Nigeria? Don't think so - Hausa)

A Closer Look at the Failed States Index - Sudan is really worse than Iraq

Assess before debunking

Having reviewed a few comments on the Failed States Report for 2007, I have decided that it is important to pay a bit more attention to the detail of the figures because certain sceptical views are beginning to pick away that the generalisations.

There is one thought that contends that the methodology is primitive and does not measure up to the standard of metrics used to rate universities, but can that really be the case?

One however can understand that it is difficult to accept that Sudan is more a failed state than either Iraq or Somalia, maybe, but we need to look more at what is being rated.

The Fund For Peace organisation has exposed 12 indicators on which they have based the scoring that has resulted in the rankings we see.

Beneath these broad 12 indicators are some sub-levels of analysis which would have weighted averages; these are all computed using their copyrighted (Conflict Assessment System Tool) CAST methodology and patented CAST software.

The CAST methodology derives most of its information sources from the Thomsen Dialog which is a collection of over 900 databases packing over 15 terabytes of content aggregated from reputable publishers, including news feeds, broadcast transcripts, articles from newspapers and magazines, financial analysis information, references, and research and technical data - this reference in Wikipedia has a postscript seeking balance for this assertion.

This huge database of databases has been piling on data since 1966 and it well predates the Internet as the first online information retrieval system.

The Methodology

The Methodology consists of 5 steps which are followed in chronological order, the detail of which you can follow through from the links below.

Pre-Assessment Steps
Rating the Twelve Indicators

This step is as detailed as represented below for Rwanda, a monthly breakdown of each indicator.

Rating Values

Assessing the Core Five
Identifying STINGS
Building a Conflict Map

The STINGS make interesting reading covering unexpected scenarios that could impact on conflict assessment, I reproduce that below.

STINGS is an acronym used here to describe:

Surprises (e.g., currency collapse)

Triggers (e.g., assassinations, coup d'etats)

Idiosyncrasies (e.g., non-contiguous territory, a deference to authority)

National Temperaments (e.g., cultural or religious perspectives)

Spoilers (e.g., disgruntled followers, excluded parties)

The data set that goes in the whole calculation is computed monthly and laid in a chart is illustrated below.

There are probably a few black arts in deriving a final conflict perspective of and country, but I would be the first to suggest that this all thing does look a bit thorough.

Believing Data or Perception
Now, anyone could probably argue and win the premise that Sudan cannot be more of a failed state than either Iraq or Somalia, I would contend that the data reads a lot different from perception.

Looking at the 12 indicators against the data for the three countries, certain facts become clearer.

The Dirty Dozen

Social Indicators

I-1. Mounting Demographic Pressures

I-2. Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

I-3. Legacy of Vengeance-Seeking Group Grievance or Group Paranoia

I-4. Chronic and Sustained Human Flight

Economic Indicators

I-5. Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines

I-6. Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline

Political Indicators

I-7. Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State

I-8. Progressive Deterioration of Public Services

I-9. Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread Violation of Human Rights

I-10. Security Apparatus Operates as a "State Within a State"

I-11. Rise of Factionalized Elites

I-12. Intervention of Other States or External Political Actors

The comparison

The scores for the top 3 failed states show a variation of just 2.2%, though no margin of error is specified, typical consumer awareness studies would accommodate a margin of error of ± 3.0% meaning there is hardly a cigarette paper between these three states.



























































However, one just has to review in detail the country profiles of the said countries to see clearly why the numbers have turned up this way.

For instance, I-2 - Sudan already has over 2 million internally displaced people, Iraq has only just topped 730,000, I-3 - There is clear group grievance between the Shias and Sunnis as Al Qaeda operatives fuel the conflict, the situation in Sudan is between Blacks and the Arabs along with the atrocities of the Janjaweed, however, this is not as pronounced in Somalia. I-9 - Politically, Iraq has more of a government apparatus than either Sudan or Somalia and the human rights record of Sudan is definitely worse than that of both Iraq and Somalia.

At 1-12 - Iraq and Somalia have been invaded by the Coalition Forces and Ethiopia respectively, Sudan has skirmishes with Chad in the border areas and the peace keeping forces are in Sudan by grudging permission of the government in Khartoum.


It is incumbent on the all who develop an opinion on the Failed States Index to study the detail of how these figures came about before they are dismissed outright because of the uncomfortable reading they represent.

It may not be beyond reasonable doubt, but I do not have alternative empirical evidence to dispute these findings apart from acquired perception, neither do I want to be caught by the same bug that bit many regarding the Nigerian Census where people plucked figures out of the air to support there pre-conceptions whilst ignoring the data.

I would hope having an alternative source of global information quite separate from government organs like the CIA and the UN should give us more confidence to see beyond some force globalisation or imperialism painting the Dark Continent even a darker shade of black.

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Ghana makes Nigeria a truly failed state

The World is more unsafe

In May 2006, I covered the issue of the index of failed states as The Coalition of the Unviable, the heads-up from NaijaBlog led me to the Failed States Index for 2007.

My friends, things have not improved; rather, they have gotten worse all over, literally every country from the most successful Norway to the least viable Sudan have registered heightened states of uncertainty or turmoil - they both retain their positions from last year.

The worst 10 feature with last year's positions in parenthesis. 1. Sudan (1), 2. Iraq (4), 3. Somalia (7), 4. Zimbabwe (5), 5. Chad (6), 6. Cote d'Ivoire (3), 7. DR Congo (2), 8. Afghanistan (10), 9. Guinea (11) & the 10. Central African Republic (13).

Junk analysis

Sudan, obviously because of Darfur is a powder-keg and a stain on the conscience of the whole world; that the atrocities have been allowed to thrive for so many years - it would probably not leave that spot for another few years.

Since the troop-surge more or less came after the sampling time of May to December 2006, we might have to wait for the analysis in the next report, but it appears things have not improved at all in Iraq.

Zimbabwe does not deserve to be in the top 10 at all, but for what the Grand Despot of Africa has done to that country, it should be treasonable for anyone to commit such a crime against their fatherland and it is unforgivable that the whole world cannot bring all things to bear on this really untenable situation.

Africa lags again

8 African countries counting as the most failed states in the world; this cannot have us complacently blame the issues on colonialism or slavery, these problems are created by Africans exploiting and oppressing other fellow Africans; most foreign intervention has been to stop the killing, the raping, the plundering, the dying and the suffering - how we can divorce these issues from true democratic representation and accountability escapes me?

Nigeria has also moved up 5 places from 22nd last year to 17th, there being no improvement in all the 12 indicators apart from 2 bearing on few internally displaced persons or refugees and minimal intervention from other states or external actors.

The twelve indicators

The indicators remain the same

  1. Mounting demographic pressures
  2. Massive movement of refugees and internally displaced peoples
  3. Legacy of vengeance - seeking group grievance
  4. Chronic and sustained human flight
  5. Uneven economic development along group lines
  6. Sharp and/or severe economic decline
  7. Criminalisation and delegitimisation of the state
  8. Progressive deterioration of public services
  9. Widespread violation of human rights
  10. Security apparatus as "state within a state"
  11. Rise of factionalised elites
  12. Intervention of other states or external actors

The lament of Nigerian potential

Nigeria scores quite high in [3] with the antics in the Niger Delta and the occasional religious skirmishes around the country. As [5] obviously feeds into the security issues for life and infrastructure, the elections are the manifestation of [7], the state within a state is obviously now the PDP and the devil-(not god)Fathers of nepotism, corruption and patronage which comprise part of the factionalised elites in [11].

The only place where Nigeria seems to have the most positive outlook is in the fact that we are not under-going sharp or severe economic decline - I bet that is a subject for serious debate and disputing for some.

For those who worship and commend the ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, pause to ponder - in 2005, Nigeria was 54th out of 76 compared to 22/146 (2006) and 17/177 (2007) - leading the country into terminal decline whilst vented his vindictiveness on people as he lost the plot for the country is too telling for words - that was a plummet of 34 places in a widening sample in two years - I doubt if any other country has suffered so great a movement.

And before those who cannot take criticism invade my pad, just consider why the figures are the way they are and if there is any reason to do Nigeria down unfairly, remembering that this was well before the elections in April 2007.

To crown it all, Ghana sits at 125 - 108 places apace of Nigeria - as Ghanaians now consider their prospects back home - they have hit a gusher, hopefully they would not acquire the curse of black gold - it does not take too much to do things right and it starts with honesty and truthfulness. With Ghana turning into the African Tiger and Nigeria's African Giant emulating an African Black Sheep - Nigeria, it's your turn to change for the better.

Monday 18 June 2007

AIDS PEOPLE - The heart of prejudice - The Genevieve Magazine fallout

Social Responsibility irritates Socialite Reporting
I would never have thought I would be responding in any way to an article that appears on NaijaGal (Opulent and Edgy), her material which has by-lines that jump out on the Nigerian Blogs Aggregator hardly inspire me, but everyone has their niche contribution to the Blogging World and she fulfils a need of sorts.
However, she has waded into an area in which her contribution to the matter implies she has no expertise, knowledge or even hazard, an idea, about the furore that has come up about the insensitive coverage of HIV/AIDS in the so popular Genevieve Magazine, and for that, I would not hold my peace.
She ends her piece with - I say, "Please, let it be". She has apologised! Let's all work together.
My response - fleshed out.
This is how I began my response as a comment, but then I decided it was best to expose it as a blog than have it hidden in some comment and lost from required viewing.
I very well appreciate the time you have taken to highlight Betty Irabor's apology but I do not agree that she has completed the service of righting her unfortunate wrongs. I would, however, be the first to commend her for responding the way she has, for starters.
The fact is her article opened up a Pandora's Box, highlighting a number of issues when it comes to HIV/AIDS and how people and probably seeming enlightened Nigerians react to the issue of HIV and AIDS - prejudice, bigotry, apathy, ignorance, indifference and insensitivity.
AIDS People - the heart of prejudice
Her magazine being the popular organ that it is would have to go one further and start educating people about the facts about HIV/AIDS in terms of the dangers of exposure, the need for testing and the humanity of what she called "AIDS People".
There probably is a danger of exposure to HIV in beauty parlours and barber's shops due to the use of sharp instruments; reusable instruments should be hygienically sterilised after each use and disposable instruments must be unwrapped in the presence of the customer, used only once and properly discarded, but this should be regardless of whether an HIV-infected person is in the vicinity or not - that is just common sense.
Rather than getting hysterical she could have calmly asked for a newly unwrapped blade in the first instance and definitely going for an immediate HIV exposure or AIDS test would not have yielded any results to calm her anxiety, you need as least 3 months of incubation for the antibodies to be recognised by any tests.
What is not lost on readers of this article is the full caps and quoted hysteria expressed in the phrase "Suddenly images of my life as one of those "AIDS PEOPLE" flashed before me. Oh God. No!" That is as graphic as you will get the prejudice against HIV/AIDS and Betty Irabor's writing talent does not fail her here.
AIDS People or able people?
Here in Europe where the so-called AIDS PEOPLE live amongst us as productive members of society rather than stigmatised, ostracised, emaciated mendicants in need of false sympathy and that so-called ground-breaking cover-girl approach, Betty Irabor would have had to had to step down from her very public position on her own magazine and then embark on a serious educational and peace-making mission as mandatory community service.
This is a rough road she must travel and it would not be cut short with a measly apology and seemingly contrite self-flagellation (To say that the tone of her article would have been better but for editorial time constraints is disingenuous at best and almost dishonest having been caught in a maelstrom she has little control over.)
Social Responsibility and consequences
It is time for Nigerians to step up to the plate in social responsibility, also time to deal with uncomfortable issues with an honest and persuadable perspective - unfortunately for some, a few pages of essential fashion and tittle-tattle would be lost to this social responsibility crusade - it would be the best thing Genevieve magazine can embark on, it might even win them more commendable awards than one for being good advertisement fodder.
A Google search for "Genevieve magazine AIDS education" does not yield much in the context of the magazine that is supposed to cover women and social issues, it is a poor reflection that is in need of a radical redress.
Have we taught Genevieve magazine how to care again? No, not until the magazine goes beyond platitudes if Mrs Irabor thinks the people most offended and in need of an apology are just the Jegede-Ekpe's, she needs to read her public again - Was it a mix-up? That would be a gross understatement, it was an outright error of judgement and someone has to own up to that, at the very least.
This time, it would not be swept under the carpet for the sake of Naijagal's "Work Together".
The morning Dew article that caused the rumpus - Courtesy - NaijaBlog

Sunday 17 June 2007

As Nigerian as WaZoBia - Time-wasting courtesy calls

Angelic crowning

A couple of weeks ago, Funmi Iyanda posted a congratulatory advertisement where the newly sworn-in president was being crowned in some sort of celestial glory by some angel.

So silly was the picture, the diadem being placed over a fula (traditional Hausa cap), both the crown and hat would have fallen off the moment the hands were lifted from the crown - ironic.

The madness that overcomes Nigerians in this kind of show through advertisement is at times comical but is a cultural malaise that eats into the core of what is Nigerian.

Tasking tasks tasked tasker (sic)

Along with this the pages of Nigerian newspapers with the unusual contexts of tasks and tasking - it should be a rarity to use tasks as a verb or tasking in the present continuous - the context being conveyed is akin to thinking about a subject and doing something about it. So, agency, vested interests or patrons task the president with some ideal and the President tasks others with other ideals.

Unfortunately, the President does not have time to do any of the tasks, generally, when you win an election well-wishers and allies pick up the phone and send their congratulations - In Nigeria, that is too technologically advanced for many to comprehend, just last week, the President had to entertain a 300-strong delegation of people from Kaduna State including the governor who had left their posts to seeking presidential patronage in the name of goodwill.

I doubt if more purposeful state visits carry entourages this large.

Attending to the wrong crowd

So, in this rather hopefully crowded schedule of running Nigeria, he had to make time to acknowledge and entertain these time-wasting mendicants whose main goal was nothing to do with the matters of state, but a jolly at the expense of Nigeria to achieve nothing for Nigerians. It would appear these delegations would expect the Federal Government to pick up the tab for this unwarranted junket.

The man is beginning to impress me, breaking with tradition and taking a laudable stance, he acknowledged them and then upbraided them saying "While I appreciate this great outpouring of affection and the pledges of support for which I feel humbled, I must say that there is so much work to do in our country today and I will like to concentrate on the crucial task of repositioning our country for peace, sustainable development and prosperity."

That is as good a put down as anyone would give in a very sympathetic and diplomatic way. It transpires, he had warned off delegations from his state. You can expect people to accuse him of being parsimonious rather than smart and frugal with a sense of responsiblity - it does not feed into the Nigerian hedonistic complex and inordinate quest for all things free at other people's expense, especially the treasury looting and largesse sharing part.

The President himself has offered to visit all Nigerians, meaning he would chose his time and make it purposeful, that is not to say the states would not go overboard in outdoing each other when entertaining the President. Can't we just do this through email, SMS, video conferencing, radio, television or smoke signals?

As Nigerian as WaZoBia

However, this endemic time-wasting activity is as Nigerian as WaZoBia (WaZoBia is a concatenation of the Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo translations of come), most of the time we receive guests unannounced and it is a matter of courtesy to accommodate and entertain these guests, the logistics of handling 300 guests are hard enough for a country that cannot conduct free and fair elections.

In official parlance, this abuse of other people's private space is called a courtesy call - Yes, how can I massage the ego of a self-important person? By aimlessly visiting for a useless photo-opportunity whilst pretending to discuss immaterial issues and thereby killing time, wasting time and squandering money.


Enough congratulations, says President

Please, I've got a job to do

Friday 15 June 2007

Frankly, I don't give a puff

I do not fuss

Some might not agree, but I am hardly one to kick up a fuss about much. In some ways, I have the luxury of being able to start work somewhere between 7:00AM and 11:00AM.

I must confess, my arrival is nearer the top end, but the issue of getting to work late is a relative term depending on your function and responsibilities.

I like later starts and late finishes, I find that I am quite productive as office occupancy diminishes; one concentrates better to achieve lots for the day.

What I have found a bit irksome is the number of lung tarring puffers that stand in the way of the back entrance to our office block, chatting away, blowing exhaled (regurgitated) smoke into your face and literally stubbing their cigarettes out on the door frame as I arrive in the morning.

For a while, one has been of the mind of remonstrating to the Facilities Manager, I am glad to say someone else must have been just as displeased and unimpressed with the situation. I felt elated, I am not all that a fuss-pot after all. Phew! I almost despaired for what was becoming of me - intemperate, impatient and intolerant whilst being ever so empathetic - Me know I well.

An email winged its way into our mailboxes from the man-in-charge, a tersely worded (Dutch tone) - stay well away from the doors of the personnel entrance/exit - notice with the advice to use the newly cobbled-together chicken coop as the smoker's corner.

Smokers must be having a really raw deal - I care as much as to say, I quit 23 years ago. I don't give a puff - Now, how do you say that nicely?

Indecent Exposure Law is good

Flash of flesh

Many a time I have walked down the street and been almost compelled to make a citizen's arrest either with a possible charge of outraging public decency or indecent exposure.

I know I have covered this topic to the point of door-knob boredom, but it matters and it should matter.

Only two days ago, a judge and knight of the realm was cleared of "flashing" on the train in what presumably was a case of mistaken identity, though the accuser is only too convinced that she had her man.

Beyond that, "streaking" would almost certainly get a caution if not a custodial sentence, psychological evaluation might warrant sectioning.

With Summer warming up on us, there would be cases of unacceptable public appearances masquerading as trendy and fashionable when in fact the supposed freedom of expression is no less an obscenity.

See no pants

So, in what is amazingly a rare piece of commonsense values, Delcambre in Louisiana will adopt a law banning the wearing of saggy trousers. I can very well see why the unnecessary exposure of one's underwear or unseemly body parts in places not accorded the right to nudity like a beach or pool should agitate the puritan and the square; it should affect everyone and it should not be condoned.

Some have said the law is racially motivated because this is the kind of fashion of hip hop fans - I would brook none of that - there is no reason for any member of the human race not to appear decently covered in public, regardless of the Emperor's New Clothes we wear as fashion.

In the end, I do not want to see your underwear; the whole reason why it is called underwear is because it should be under your clothes. Then love handles, exposed bellies from ill-fitting cropped tops, if you have no shame, are you game for a police caution and a hefty fine?

This is a law that has come into its time, if we can ban smoking, this would not be a long way off - hopefully.

Thursday 14 June 2007

Nigerians in the news

Half of a Booker Prize

What elation we would all have felt when Nigerians featured in the news for doing commendable and laudable things. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun, quite a few blogs celebrated her win including interviews with respectable press - it all gave us a very warm feeling as well as the £30,000 self-raising additive to her bank balance.

A full Man Booker prize

Then when he wrote Things Fall Apart in 1958, he cannot have thought things would be coming together so nicely for him in 2007, although he is paralysed from waist down, he is eulogised by many and definitely a ripe candidate for the Literature Nobel Prize; Chinua Achebe was honoured once again and so deservingly with the Man Booker International Prize for the whole body of work that has educated, inspired and enlivened so many around the world. £60,000 falls together in his kitty.

These people as usual are almost like prophets unsung at home but lauded abroad where they live creating overwhelmingly positive images of Nigerians considering they were born indigenous Nigerian.

The Brood of the Spanish Inquisition

Spain, a country that is speedily developing a reputation for being outrageously racist if we are to go by that abuse that black English footballers have endured playing in that country or the kind of language that their national football coach reportedly used as pep talk just before the World Cup last year.

Now, this is just an unpalatable few, one should not tar all Spaniards with the same ignominious brush, but, I am worried as I read on Ugo Daniels' blog a rather serious event that should be recorded as a murder.

Osamuyia Aikpitanhi was subjected to the most dehumanising treatment by the Spanish immigration authorities as they tried to deport him from Spain to Nigeria, having been an illegal alien. The story is too distressing to recount, however, there is a petition being signed here by many to the Spanish Ambassadors to Nigeria and the United Nations.

Basically, there is no reason for any human-being to be treated the way he was, then, if it has to take a petition for the authorities in Spain to get onto this matter and begin the prosecution of those involved, I am disappointed.

In fact, on the Nigerian side, I would have expected that the Ambassador be summoned to the offices of the Minister of External Affairs to explain in detail why this should not develop into an almighty diplomatic fallout.

Osamuyia Aikpitanhi might have been an illegal alien in Spain, but he was no animal and above all he was Nigerian - if this case is treated with levity, it devalues and compromises the ability for our representation in foreign countries to deal with higher profile incidents, if only for that fact they would not be well practised to demanding and ensuring the human rights of their fellow citizens abroad.

The brood of the Spanish Inquisition must not get away with this, not today and not ever again.

Leave to mug and the kill cop

So, a window cleaner at his job in Luton, England is descending his ladder as some opportunist attacks him with the view to mugging the window cleaner, in the process two window cleaners get stabbed. A policeman intervenes to save the men and we end up with a big news story, his daughter was just going to be one year old and she has lost her father.

Tennyson Obih had only recently been granted leave to stay in the UK, however, how a roving mugging murderer could have qualified for a status that many more deserving Nigerians would have cherished escapes me.

One could almost see this man enter a plea based in diminished responsibility, but I beg to differ, it is madness to try and attack two people, then kill a policeman, having earlier forced his way threateningly into a neighbour's flat and made away with a car and a box of DVDs.

There is more to this than meets the eye, but mercy is utterly far from a cop-killer, they would send him down forever.

Tongue-tied private equity

Wol Kolade, a paragon of success met with a rather unpleased Commons committee to defend the activities of private equity in the UK - it would appear the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association of which Mr. Kolade is chairman were ill-prepared, poorly briefed and found dithering as the Members of Parliament posed even the simplest questions to the trio of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive - the Chief Executive has since resigned from the Executive of the BVCA as at this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kolade who is instituting measures to make the BVCA well able to deal with a newly unfriendly public profile facing private equity has smartly realised that they can be better schooled by the Confederation of British Industry.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

Clothes line or clothes nurse

Not trendy but enduring fashion

Working in the Netherlands as a technical consultant sometimes has me as probably the best formally dressed man in any office in the land.

I would not be absent in a 1950s London street, bowler hat, pocket square matching tie, brogues or better, umbrella and the Daily Telegraph under my arm.

However, the Western Europeans summers does make one suffer, the high humidity, something strangely absent from the area of the Tropics I grew up in means one has to dress a lot lighter with cropped sleeves, new wool suits and sometimes the anathema of a missing under-vest.

There is no point secreting manly pheromones in the office; that is no place to exact the full penalty for being attractive or being attracted to others - Perish the thought!

The clothes nurse

Clothes can tell a few tales and now they are being made to monitor your health through sweat for acidity, salinity and perspiration.

This technology should find application in recuperating patients, the chronically ill or injured athletes, but there is a marketing opportunity to a demographic of health freaks who would be pleased to know just that little bit more to develop a hypochondriac complex.

When these monitors begin to gather data and this data gets transmitted in such a way that it can be intercepted, it becomes a problem - it would be easy to see who is vulnerable and probably take advantage of that person - someone about to have a fit or a heart attack might just have that aggravated by the fact that an onlooker snoop knows just when to pounce.

The extension of this technology would be when it becomes reactive - a wearer begins to choke on something and the clothes administer the Heimlich Manoeuvre - the clothes malfunction and one is dangling from a clothes line - Now, what is the haute couture for clothes that nurse you?