Tuesday 30 June 2009

At my most vulnerable

Unable and incapable

I found myself in a place I never want to return to again, suffering from shingles but thankfully without the pain or the itch I was weakened to the point of vulnerable helplessness.

My being in Berlin for a long weekend only had me do something useful for just 2 of the days I was there, my hotel room was more a recluse but I had the pleasure of meeting Olumide of Loomnie.com though warning him first that if he had never had chicken pox before I was a seriously great risk.

We went to a Nigerian restaurant called Fifty-Fifty at Mainzerstraβe 17, not too far from Boddingstraβe underground station, unfortunately their website does not reflect their activities.

The atmosphere was mellow, the music was good and the food was excellent, the service was also very nice, our outlet here in Amsterdam just cannot compare on all those levels – one will return there but rarely to the one in Amsterdam.

On Sunday, I was completely put out, I had strength for nothing, my flight back home the next day was to be very late because I had planned to do things on the Monday – I could not face that tomorrow that I had to book an earlier flight back home.

It was becoming so obvious that I needed help, my taxi driver walked up to get my luggage, my voice was failing from weakness, and this was not I.

All the help I could get

When I got to the airport, the check-in for my flight was running late, at one time, I was crouched down, then kneeling down; the check-in clerk came round from his side of the desk to lift my luggage unto the belt.

After I was checked-in, the clerk asked if I would like some assistance to get to the plane, in my condition I obliged and at that point I realised, I had never been so vulnerable and helpless like that ever.

I like my comforts, I like service, but they are all as a result of a strong disposition for things being taken care of with expertise, professionalism and well, service.

A realisation in self-pity

As I turned away to go to the lounge, I just broke into tears, the clerk had phoned up the lounge to take care of me, arranged a wheelchair service to take me to the plane, arranged for a caddy to meet up with me in Amsterdam and help me to whatever transport I required.

When I got to the lounge, the lady was expecting me, as I sat down she came over to serve me a drink which again exposed my vulnerability, but she was cool about it and said she was there to help.

45 minutes later, the wheelchair arrived, I was through customs sat in the wheelchair, into a goods lift and then onto a bus because the plane was not on any of the airport gangways. I was first on the plane and others joined some minutes later.

An inaccessible airport

I could not eat but I drank lots of tonic water, the flight was smooth and comfortable, when we arrived in Amsterdam, I had to wait for most passengers to get off. The airport caddy took my rucksack and walked me to the concourse vehicle that I rode to the lift near baggage reclaim.

Interestingly, I have noted many times before, the airport at Schiphol is not fully accessible, I do wonder how those who are more incapacitated make it round the airport.

The caddy helped collect my suitcase and walked me to the taxi-rank where I got a taxi home. My neighbours let me in and prepared a pot of soup for me.

The night was quite easy, one thing I have noticed is when I am ill, I just have periods where I am completely helpless and suddenly I feel strengthen and able to do usual things.

The shingles are now moving past the blister stage to the drying-up stage, I have been spared the pain or maybe I have a higher pain threshold than I thought I had.

Saturday 20 June 2009

Nigeria: On transparency about Yar'Adua's health

Between the personal and the presidential

Last Thursday, the High Court in the Federal Capital Territory at Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria barred [1] President Umaru Yar’Adua from suing until he leaves office.

It would appear the purposes of justice could not be served if Mr. Yar’Adua sues on a matter of personal issues but is able to cloak access to matters of interest to both the defence and the court under the wide-ranging presidential immunity that he enjoys.

The President was suing the Leadership Newspapers Group and all its chief personnel for defamation, in fact, the five-count charge read as follows – that they had “allegedly conspired to indulge in illegal act, defamation of character, injurious falsehood, painting or engraving matter known to be defamatory and sales of painted or engraved materials containing defamatory matters.”

Interestingly, the President had engaged the services of the State through the Director of Public Prosecution such that what could have been a civil case attuned to libel had been escalated into a criminal case punishable under the Penal Code Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

This judgement however infers that the President cannot use the machine of State to advance the defence of a personal issue. Defamation applies to a person, however in the capacity of President, sedition might be adequate but too much of a nuclear option to stand objective scrutiny, it would have prosecutors laughed out of court.

We don’t know how well he is

At issue was the report the newspaper published on November 8th 2008 that the President was ill. The truth or falsehood of this report is beside the point. It is common global knowledge in the public domain that the President of Nigeria suffers an ailment that could be considered incapacitating at certain times.

This common knowledge might well be false but it is not helped by the President not having levelled with Nigerians the truth about his health and the rumours that we have heard about him having a possibly serious kidney or renal ailment.

We have in many ways gleaned information for all sorts of sources and the seemingly sudden travels abroad by the President veiled in secrecy have not put paid to the possibility that something more sinister might be afoot.

A medical report can help

In an decently organised setting, it would incumbent on the President to present a medical report of health and capacity to hold office and really it is only within reason that anyone buffeted with claims of incapacity whilst another truth is self-evident should present incontrovertible proof contrary to the reports and at once close all debate on a topic that gathers undue interest because of the lack of transparency.

It is no fault of reporters, journalists, newspapers or bloggers that rumours abound about the President’s health, it is squarely the fault of the President and his handlers that these rumours have thrived and nothing has been done to quash them by reason of useful evidence, rather they have resorted to legal menace and harassment to maintain this unacceptable situation.

This situation has allowed some apparatchik to institute a case for defamation for allegedly filing a false report on the President’s health and the prosecution thought it could push the case through court without having to produce evidence of the state of the President’s real health along with the possibility of being evaluated by experts retained by the defence.

I would suggest this dismissal spared the President his blushes about what could have been an unedifying revelation of every biopsy, treatment, drug and assessment made by doctors over at least 2 decades.

Who holds the levers of State?

The concern is, if indeed there is cause to believe that the President can be incapacitated by an ailment such that he cannot perform the calling of the office of the President of the Federation of Nigeria and we do not see the effective transfer of articles of power and responsibility to the vice-President as required by the constitution, the whole ship of state falls into the hands of faceless mandarins, cohorts and handlers who are not accountable to the electorate and possibly cannot be called to order by other arms of government.

This would be untenable and really cannot be allowed to continue, but it is on this basis that the case the President bought must collapse, not necessarily on the possibility that the report made by the newspaper was false but on the system of events and mismanagement of information along with the dereliction of duty to the electorate to assure us that his health as President is good and that none of the presumed problems he might have with his health leave him incapacitated to fulfil the needs of the office of the President.

Transparency trumps privacy on health

Holders of public office must realise that they should not be impervious to scrutiny but where that scrutiny impinges on the person’s privacy there should be sanctions, however, when it comes to the health of that person with the corollary that the person may not be able to perform their duties, transparency trumps privacy and the onus is on the person to provide truthful verifiable information that puts paid to rumour and conjecture.

The only reason this was news was because it was the President and after he has left the Presidency, the case would be moot, meanwhile, the President has one simple duty to perform for Nigerians, provide the basic evidence that proves he is hale and hearty and we can go ahead and shoot down all the rumours that have been spread about our healthy and strong President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


[1] Court bars Yar’Adua from suing for defamation | Vanguard News

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Arrival Hall

Collecting the arrivals

Playing hostess not necessarily with the mostest can be exhilarating, the preparation that showcases your homes like it has never been for years in memory and the cleaner is invited twice in one week to shift the dust to other surfaces and stuff stray objects into malformed boxes.

The most important part is collecting your guests from their port of entry, the bus station is hardly sophisticated, the train station is tolerable but the airport is another place entirely.

You may not be sure of the expected arrival time of a bus, that of the train is set except where there are delays, strangely, I have waited for trains at the end of a seeming 6-hour long journey only to learnt 5 minutes before its arrival that it had been cancelled – it beggars belief.

The Arrivals Hall

Going to the airport suddenly seems like the most organised arrangement, you know the flight number, the expected arrival time and the signboards indicate if it has arrived or not – the waiting time is mostly expended in the baggage reclaim – that function is still not computerised, you need brawn to get your chattels off the cargo hold.

Now, I have met many at airports but Schiphol is a completely different experience, raucous it is rather than civilised, it is a party atmosphere and never reserved.It is a Dutch peculiarity, I have decided.

Family and friend groups, as many as 10 could be there to meet their quarry with colourful balloons, banners, cameras and kids running around, you will think it was a circus.

The passenger arrives and as the doors open, a tumult of joy and noise ensues, enough camera flashes to induce unwarranted discomfort and here I was thinking we were welcoming an entourage from Bombay – on closer inspection they were native Northern Europeans returning from an orgy of sun worship having sacrificed their natural tone for a possible skirmish with melanoma.

The love

I see the lady wait for her man and as she sees him, tears well up, a rush to a hug as she sweeps him off his feet – yes, I got the gender positioning right. Full labial smackers rather than the customary Dutch three kisses then other members of the welcoming party get theirs, but you see whose relationship is deepest.

Absence could make the heart grow the fodder of sadness but the expectation and arrival shows that absence does make the heart grow fonder still.

Where the relationship is familial, it appears the matriarch gets the first show of deep affection before anyone else, however, when that relationship skips one generation, one has a wry smile as grandson runs up to grandparent and this conversation ensues to the exclusion of the parents.

My life in a soppy universe

In those situations, one does wonder about that parallel universe, the one I woke up in a few months ago with a wife and 2 kids – dreams so sublime are nightmares in disguise because the thinking part of me wondered when wife and kids happened to me without me knowing or participating – the cold sweat, the palpitations and the sudden jolt into the comfort of reality.

The couples are young still, they are all still having children but some did not let the placenta drop before they were on to the next, they cope but it cannot be fun, if it were my situation.

My guests arrive, handshakes and hugs, after a drink we are back at my boudoir – need to turn down the sheets, it is almost bedtime.

Monday 15 June 2009

Twitter and my other social networks

Online on long

For someone who first went online some 15 years ago with a CompuServe [1] account and having been online literally non-stop since June 2000, I am not particularly enamoured by the many social networking fads and there are quite a few.

I started blogging over 5 and half years ago and did because I felt I ruminated a lot about events and issues around me but never really have a forum in which to express myself or air my views.

Probably, I should have been political, but after a brutal encounter with student union politics where the authorities interfered with anyone who dared have independent thoughts, I felt the game was just too dirty for my sensibilities – however, when I did politics, people knew I was in politics that was 25 years ago.

Links to strange places

There are so many social networks they are as comforting as a scratch to a rash, but one does really wonder what real purpose they serve, but each to their own.

The only mainstream social networking site I am registered to is LinkedIn [2], this is a professional setting for networking with people you have associated with in your career.

As I entered details of my work life, I began to make connections with people I had worked with over the years, we commended and recommended each other based on memories of our experiences and before you know it, you have a self-referencing career profile.

Someone comes across your LinkedIn profile and finds that you are connected to other well known persons, that can be taken at face value or more inquiries can be made – before you know it, you are connected if not working through the connections made within the LinkedIn network.

Though, I have not yet secured an opportunity yet with LinkedIn, I know as a self-employed consultant that in the last 10 years, all projects I have been on have come about through undocumented networks, LinkedIn in my view can take that further sometime in the future, I think.

A commitment to Blogs flagging

Blogs can be difficult to write and it could take time to incubate and then appear as an opinion, I have held issues for months at times before I felt the time was ripe to write with inspired fervour.

Somehow, my blogs are not short, they are fully referenced, attributed and painstakingly researched, well, I try, it might not be as thorough as one would like it but my write-ups are not academic treatises.

The advent of Twitter [3] has somehow changed my blogging perspective, as system whereby you condense a topic, a reference and your opinion into 140 characters must test anyone’s abilities in concision, precision, brevity and context, you bet, mine have been tested.

I have been quite a purist about Short Message Service (SMS) messages, I hate abbreviations and what is known as SMS English, I once received such a message from my kid sister, I politely told her I could not understand what she had written – it took my mother transcribing it to traditional English for the penny to drop.

The Twitter spirit is fabulous

Anyway, I do like Twitter, it makes you think about how to put it all together in one Tweet making allowances for a reply or a ReTweet. This means you Tweet must be at least 2 characters plus your Tweeter identity short of 140 characters. Sometimes, you have to rephrase a Tweet and still maintain the original context, but I wonder what this would make of communication.

Would we all become masters of the soundbite, earnest purveyors of the dramatic put-down or scribblers of putative one-liners?

I am not sure that Twitter would radically affect the seeming verbosity of my blogs but this outlet is very useful; in 140 characters, I could be serious, silly, salacious, sceptical, sanguine, sarcastic, probably scandalous but never seditious.

A toolbox of Twitter spanners

Beyond that, Twitter came in useful when I found myself the only passenger on a boat, I sent a Tweet announcing where I was and one announcing my arrival on terra firma – it offers public insurance with private assurance.

There are so many Twitter tools out there but I have selected three for their ease of use, basic functionality and follower management capabilities.

I use the PowerTwitter Add-on to Firefox [4], it automatically expands the shortened URL to the source and shows pictures and video links if the short URL points to those elements. I can immediately see who I am following and who is following me.

My Swiss-Army Twitter knife

Twhirl [5] is easy and portable, the reply, ReTweet, favourite and direct message icons are available when the mouse is moved over the image of the Tweeter. I use the http://is.gd URL shortener because it gives the shortest URL and only this weekend the sequentially generated part moved up from 4 characters to 5 characters.

Then suddenly I got all this following from lewd profiles, those I did block but I also ended up blocking some profiles I should have just stopped following – I found out how to better work the system over time.

Just like my blogs the general theme of my Tweets is also about things too concerning to ignore, so really, I am not interesting in some other get-rich- quick Internet money making idea – if the ideas were so good, the purveyors of such Twitter Spam would be serial entrepreneurs making money not part of the nuisance of online noise.

Between friends, acquaintances and hobos

Just like I learnt with ICQ over 10 years ago, in the first day, I was connected to 50 people who did not say more than “Hello”, I was so clueless about who they were, what their interests were and they had not bothered to fill in their profiles. I cleaned out everything and ended up with just 5 connections. The same logic has applied to all my other networks, I engage with people who engage me because there is no point taking traffic you cannot use. It is already a jungle out there.

So, this is where Tweepular [6] came in useful, it shows mutual follows, unrequited follows and followers – in fact, it is a crude tool I use every other day based on the last time a Tweet was published and the content of that last Tweet to decide whether to follow or not – so that the point in time when I check Tweepular my decision is a hammer and that momentary Tweet is a nail.

The developers of Tweepular are such fun loving crazy people, as it generates your data the progress bar has the Twitter bird moonwalking – makes me smile everytime.

What I would like

I would like to see a proper reference to Tweets I have replied to so the thread is consistent and if necessary one should be able to easy expose a thread to public viewing.

I have published my Tweets on my blog, on the left there is a full-colour Flash based record of recent Tweets and to the bottom right of my blog, you can find a list of my last 50 Tweets.

Tweepular intends to create a feature to show Recent Unfollowers, but really, are we that bothered? In the end, the ideal TwitterVerse is to be followed by just the same people you want to follow, we would never get that ideal but people are getting on my list the more their one-liners have content, context, sense and probably some humour too.

I am not on FaceBook, I am just not persuaded of its usefulness at all and Flickr handles my photographs efficiently, in fact, I have had a few published in forums, guides and journals.


[1] CompuServe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] LinkedIn Home

[3] Twitter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] Power Twitter : Add-ons for Firefox

[5] twhirl | the social software client

[6] Tweepular Login