Tuesday 24 August 2010

Brick by heavy brick

Each heavy dusty brown brick of a blog entry
“Brick by brick”, she said, “stone by stone” she continued, “we build a house to call our home” – the strains of music written by Anna Wilson for Habitat for Humanity International, I wonder if that song is now for me.
I have been cast as an eccentric Howard Hughes with enough money and the madness to buy up the Great Wall of China and rebuild it at any other location that satisfies my whimsical fantasies.
The metaphors are apt, after almost 7 years of blogs numbering about 1,500 and 2,750,000 hits; I have to move this blog elsewhere because my blog hosts are bored with this venture and will close on the 1st of January 2012.
Compatible to none
I have agonised about where to re-host my blog considering all the formats the host offers are not at present compatible with import formats for Blogger or Wordpress.
Painstakingly, blog by blog, jot by jot and tittle by tittle I have been taking each blog from the 8th of December 2003 and moving it to this location at Akinblog.nl there is still a lot to be done.
References from Wikipedia, journals, researchers and bloggers might be lost, the comments my readers have offered, the footprint that akin.blog-city.com had and so on – yes, I feel like I am trying to move the Great Wall and its history to another place and time.
At least, I hope Google does not get bored of hosting blogs, the small Scottish company move-proofed its asset of bloggers with proprietary formats and now I have a good headache about migration, I have been assured a tool would eventually help our move but I wonder when that would be available.
Thanks for the wheelbarrows of support
I have already moved all that I have written in 2003 & 2004, 2005 is almost done and everything in 2010 is already here.
I want to thank you all for following me here and hope you will continue to be interested in my views, opinions, rants and controversies at Akinblog.nl.
Brick by heavy brick, we would move, completely – however for the time that Blog-City continues to exist, I will simultaneously publish at both locations.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Always have your condoms at the ready

HIV as weapon
The case of the German singer Nadja Benaissa being prosecuted [1] for grievous bodily harm and attempted bodily harm in having unprotected sex with partners whilst knowing she was HIV positive makes interesting and controversial reading.
There are various camps pitched between considering her acts criminal to properly apportioning responsibility in relation to sexual liaisons between infected and uninfected partners.
For the case of the man who allegedly became infected through having sex with her, I am beginning to wonder if the onus of proof should not be extended to ascertain the particular strains of the virus because it does not appear to be conclusively proven that she infected him, rather the assumption has been made of her culpability without addressing the possible promiscuity of the partner.
Abdication of personal responsibility
My greater concern about these prosecutions comes from that of responsibility, each partner in a sexual liaison should be in charge of securing their personal protection when indulging in a sexual act.
I find it reprehensible that people would abdicate that responsibility and then seek to blame others for their personal irresponsibility when things go wrong.
In the passion of the moment or conversely in the moment of passion, if people can assume without verification that a partner is not infected with the virus and then engage in unsafe sex, the consequences are dire and the results can be life changing; it might be a consideration for a female to wear a femidom but surely anyone who likes wick-dipping should for all intents and purposes have condoms in their pockets.
Now, for a more clinical approach the partners can be as pragmatic as to obtain saliva test swabs from the local chemists and make a crude determination of status before copulation, but how many do have the presence of mind to do that?
The assumed invincibility of being active
There is a stigma attached to having the HIV virus and not everyone has reached the point where honesty about status is as forthcoming as the Karma Sutra positions they might persuade each other to take.
In another article I read earlier this week [2] with the graphic detail of homosexual sex, what was interesting was the inclination for the penetrative partner to assume that they are at lower risk of infection than the partner who receives the penetration.
The other matter of condom aversion with heterosexuals and homosexuals alike does not seem to be addressed too, this following on from the hubris of being the active partner and thence the almost invincible partner.
Another issue about sexually transmitted diseases is that the more common infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis makes the HIV negative partner more susceptible to infection but that chronology of events would normally not be forensically proven by the time the vindictiveness of prosecution and persecution takes hold.
Preventative measures of dispute
In another set of circumstances there is the matter of circumcision being preventative [3] of infection along with the recently announced microbicide gel [4] which is purported to prevent the transmission of the virus to women.
I have my concerns about the risks involved in conducting these tests in South Africa that sacrificed the health and safety of over 10% of the subjects to arrive at the conclusions and the effectiveness thereof is quite in the lower percentiles of success.
Obviously, the other question about this gel is whether when applied by an infected female partner it prevents the male partner from contracting the disease, they all do not constitute a panacea for risk.
None is so innocent or so wronged
In conclusion, I believe the responsibility must be shared; each person should take the responsibility for their sexual health and wellbeing seriously and personally without succumbing to the delirium of passion.
If a clear decision is made not to engage in unsafe sex as a matter of course and where that does not happen the question of trust is properly verified medically these atrocious persecutions should never happen.
Where one partner can play victim whilst visiting the full force on the law on the other when during the sexual event all common-sense had been thrown out of the window, this becomes unsafe from a justice and fairness perspective and though prosecution might exclude one person from the public sexual pool, I have my doubts that it serves as a deterrent to people from engaging in risky behaviour and it could well prevent people from seeking out the very truth about their status whilst engaging in promiscuously enjoyable behaviour.
In a more dispassionate application of the law, the wronged might well be excluded from the sexual pool by making it public knowledge that they also have become a public sexual risk just as much as the original culprit in the case. The foolishness on the part of the assumed victim should not be excused just as the prosecution for the alleged "crime" is being pursued with questionable vigour.

Friday 20 August 2010

Amsterdam SAIL 2010 is underway

Amsterdam SAIL 2010 is underway
What a fantastic day it was watching the tall ships sail in regatta style with guns, smoke, music, fanfare and much more.
The SAIL Amsterdam 2010 is underway. The day before, I walked around the neighbourhood and viewed the preparations much of which seemed to cater for the commercial aspect of things – kiosks for food and drink, recycling bins strategically placed and every little shop trying to cash in on the foot falls including estate agents.
However, one must not forget the maritime heritage of the Netherlands and most especially Amsterdam from the arrival of Stad Amsterdam with sails unfurled to the marines and navy – the submarine (Dolfijn, of the Walrus class), the battleship (Tromp ) and sail training ship.
In some ways, I was not inconspicuous, I had many pictures taken of me too, wonder what the interest or attraction was.
The night entertainment at the main podium had the Dutch navy as the band and they were good at everything. Just at the time of the fireworks one boat played out Eine Kliene nachtmusik (Mozart) from its horns – amazing stuff that cannot be captured on still images.
In any event, I took loads of pictures and they appear on my Flickr slideshow all to be annotated soon.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Way past the day of the jackal

The dogs of war
Whilst his books are a riveting read, I cannot say that Frederick Forsyth [1] is a likeable person by any stretch of the imagination.
However, that is beside the point, by happenstance during one of his researching escapades for material he was in Guinea-Bissau in 2009 [2] just when a violent coup d’etat was being played out.
For most of what has appeared in his many books, Mr. Forsyth is a fundamental security risk to many governments and institution that it was too difficult to consider his presence in Guinea-Bissau at that particular time to have been a mere coincidence.
Mr. Forsyth has been known to dabble in attempted forced regime change in Africa before, his repentance was suspect.
The veteran
For a man meticulous in detail to a fault in his plots and intrigues, it was interesting to learn that he was still quite “old-school” when it comes to technology that he neither uses a mobile phone nor computer.
Upon his “learning” of the events in Guinea-Bissau, he had to borrow a phone and dictate 1,000 words of copy, though it is not clear if this was to his wife or to the Daily Express, a newspaper in the UK that he writes for.
Except if he were speaking in Shibboleths and codes, it is possible that interested parties could have eavesdropped on his conversation and for their own ends.
One would thing a person of his stature would have moved with the times and probably had a computer and a mobile phone both with encryption and some sort of scrambling device.
The day of the jackal
In a Hardtalk interview [3] with the BBC, Mr. Forsyth accuses US spies of attacking his wife’s computer just around that time though he has no forensic evidence to provide of that claim apart from presumably informed sources he calls ‘friends in low places’.
It brings to mind the recently screened episodes of Sherlock [4] on the BBC which carried the deductive and investigative acumen and partnership Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson into contemporary times from the late Victorian times with finesse.
Many would agree that ideas need to evolve with the times to find new applications with newer tools rather than be fossilised in period settings good for nostalgia and historical analysis, it would appear that Mr. Forsyth from the reading of the articles has forgotten that the day of the jackal is over and he should be dealing with a new protocol of modern times.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Woken by a levitating bag

Shutting eye shutting down
Sometimes, I wonder about my sleeplessness in bed but sleepfulness in anything that moves, cars, trains, buses, planes, boats; I seem to find the spirit of slumber overtaking my wakefulness quite easily.
For all the canal trips that I have been on in Amsterdam either as a tourist or a host I have hardly ever kept awake long enough to survive the hour.
The gentle rocking motion that does wonders to quieten upset babies in their perambulators appears not to have deserted me at all.
Don’t steal my sleep
However, in all that slumber is some awareness I cannot account for but am grateful to have as experienced years ago when I noticed a bag theft on a train at Amsterdam Sloterdijk and like an zombie made for the thief, grabbed his jumper and as the train doors were closing, he dropped the bag and made off.
In fact, there were 2 in that game, in the cloud of the eerie haze of sleep, I saw one man get on the coach and drop some money, as the passenger leant down to help pick up the coins the other man walked by picking up his bag of legal documents and made for the exit – it all looked so strange and hence my reaction.
Meanwhile the passenger was none the wiser about it until I returned the bag to him; I was offered a police job in Bahrain – thank you very much, but no thanks.
Drop anchor on bags
One lesson I had learnt from that episode was to put my bags on the inside where the window seat is not occupied on a train and I take the aisle seat.
If the seats have arm rests, I twist the bag strap around the arm rest as an additional protective measure; we are usually warned about pickpockets at stations but the pickpockets are usually bag snatchers.
However, I have never heard an announcement like that around the Antwerp Central Station, so you can imagine as my journey from Brussels stopped at Antwerp I was in the stupor of sleep when I suddenly woke up to see my bag levitating with the aid of strange hand.
What to lose?
Even I was surprised by my reaction because all I did in almost deadpan Englishness was ask him, “What are you doing?” He mumbled something about looking for his ticket as my bag was allowed to yield to the force of gravity to land where it once was.
As I stood up, the man made for the exit, quite a close encounter that was, in one of those instances where my bag was not as tethered to moorings of the seat as one is wont to doing. It was a different kind of train and seating arrangement compared to the usual service.
Maybe I need to find that part of my brain that triggers sleep while in motion and have it lobotomised before I come to grief, though I do know that I have never witnessed any car accidents I have been in, sleep spared me the shock of those events and denied interested parties useful commentary from an eye witness because my invariably were closed at the time.
Thankfully, I did not suffer any loss apart from the loss of sleep at the point that I believe I was dreaming.

Thursday 12 August 2010

The Quinquennial Amsterdam Sail Event Arrives Outside

Change we cannot avoid
My neighbourhood is changing and it would be changed for a little longer than 5 days in just about a week.
The signs are appearing and the signs are there, crowd control barricades, towering structures for big signs and more, roads to be closed, pontoons to be erected, a bridge to be removed and houseboats to dock elsewhere.
It happens quinquennially and in 2005 we had 2.5 million footfalls in this vicinity, it could well be more this year and I wonder if we are prepared for the crowds and the inconveniences.
To the force of the wind
I live at the Amsterdam Eastern Docklands, it used to be part of the old Amsterdam sea port but it has been gentrified with architectural edifices that draw crowds of tourists and most especially students of design and architecture.
The waters outside my apartment block would host Sail Amsterdam 2010 [1] from the 19th of August to the 23rdinclusive.
Tall ships, naval ships, replicas and yachts from all around the world would on the first day sail in formation like a great regatta through the North Sea Canal and berth on the IJ River and the IJ harbour in what would be the biggest free event in Holland.
Advantage small shop
The takeaway shops have been shoving junk mail in my letterbox informing of their amazing junk food deals and anyone who has as much as a button to pawn would probably deign to take advantage of the situation.
It is one special event that we might well savour and enjoy with the amazing views that would be offered from my 7th floor apartment.
Ahoy! Seadogs - Anchors aweigh!

Saturday 7 August 2010

Nigeria: Our exorbitant government

The brood of corruption
It can be so easy to be blind-sided with the claims and counter-claims of Nigerian politicians and lose sight of the serious piece of information that underlays the mudslinging.
The former President Olusegun Obasanjo had in a recent interview accused the National Assembly of corruption and offered examples and figures to justify his claim.
However, members of the minority parties did not take this lying down, they accused the ex-president of grandstanding, spreading falsehoods without substantiation and rounded that up with saying he was their grandfather in corruption [1].
Slush funds to each for favours
The conflated interviews and statements of the President Obasanjo and various minority members of the National Assembly give an interesting insight into the workings of our legislature and probably our democracy too.
The president opined that the legislators allotted bogus allowances to themselves and inflated budgets with the view to profiting from the allocations because they chose their preferred contractors and consultants in the execution of the projects.
The legislators accepted that accusation then confirmed that President Obasanjo in the quest for a third term in government bribed legislators with NGN 50 million (c $330,000) each, then challenged the press to seek audited sources of income of the ex-president through his tenure.
Cost of corrupt enterprise
They were all agreed that politicians are corrupt but tried to subscribe to pedantry by asking the ex-president to identify specific legislators who are corrupt, but that is beside the point.
The core issue is that the Senate costs 3% of the national budget, no mention is made of the additional cost of the Representatives, but even if that cost an additional 2%, it beggars belief that such a non-productive sector of country can drain 5% of the budget.
One senator offered that the recurrent expenditure in our democracy always exceeds the capital expenditure, the latter being what really benefits the people.
Each legislator according to the ex-president now costs more than NGN 250 million (c. $1,7 million), I would suppose that means annually.
Telling it as it is
He laments the lack of transparency which cannot be asserted if the National Assembly would not pass the Freedom of Information Bill that has languished in the legislative doldrums for years.
At least, we cannot say that the ex-president does not know what he is talking about when it comes to the cost of the legislative arm of government and he believes they are costing too much for the Federal Government to maintain.
Whilst he compared the cost of the legislature in 1999/2000 to today the article in the Vanguard failed to provide that comparison correctly because the current cost of NGN 250 million per head is the same as the $1.7 million quoted in the article at today’s exchange rate.
Exorbitant is unacceptable
But the most important piece of information in these exchanges is really in the statement made by the Minority Whip, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora and he said, “My sincere view is that the cost of running government is exorbitant in Nigeria.
Taking the word exorbitant, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary [2] defines this as not coming within the scope of the law or exceeding the customary or appropriate limits in intensity, quality, amount, or size.
The WordWedOnline [3] volunteers: Greatly exceeding bounds of reason or moderation and Answers.com [4] suggests: Exceeding all bounds, as of custom or fairness with excessive, aberrant, flagrant and extreme as synonyms.
This corroborates views [5] I have expressed variously about the outrageously lucrative perks of Nigerian political office, irrevocably damaging the democratic landscape with people going to unmentionable extents [6] to grab office and remain indefinitely incumbent.
Change has to come
It is means on the basis of cost alone, our democracy is unsustainable but one does wonder how change can be made to bring the costs down to reasonable, fair, just and equitable.
In the end, we can only thank the ex-president and the legislators for volunteering information we have never been able to obtain by any other means, we wish they continually taunt each other with abuse, accusation, blame and chicanery, the results might just be their undoing and the hopefully the making of our democracy.
Long live Nigeria and death to the leeches that have bled her to a chronic anaemic state.

Friday 6 August 2010

Ms Campbell has since left the building

As diva as is obnoxious
There was reluctance but one could not help but be captivated by the news that that epitome of diva was making an appearance at the war crimes trial [1] of Charles Taylor in The Hague.
For a supermodel, Naomi Campbell who a few years ago was bedecked in haute couture [2] for each day of appearance for a 5-day community service sentence in the United States to the glare of the paparazzi made exacting demands not to be photographed on her entry to and exit from the venue; one could only suppose she decided to inconvenience the tribunal as much as she felt inconvenienced.
Her appearance in the hopes of the prosecution was to link Charles Taylor to the trade in blood diamonds that were then used to arm rebels in the Sierra-Leone civil war, her testimony providing the tenuous but plausible case against the defendant whilst the defence had hoped the same testimony would be as non-committal as to rubbish the presumed culpability of the Mr Taylor.
In the end, Ms Campbell ruled the airwaves, brought focus to the trial but left most reeling with disbelief on a number of accounts.
As diva as is unconcerned
She was woken up to receive a pouch from strangers send by some unknown benefactor, she reviewed the contents and said they were “dirty-looking” stones, she told Ms Mia Farrow and her assistant Ms White about it and either of them volunteered that the gift might have come from Charles Taylor and she gave the pouch of “dirty-looking” stones to a charity in South-Africa.
Ms Campbell’s reluctance to testify might rightly or wrongly have been in fear of running the gauntlet of Mr Taylor’s hoodlums but it was interesting to note that having received diamonds which have had great value to the benefactor, a lady of her standing would have been more conversant with polished diamonds set in works of fashionable taste and quality than dirty-looking stones.
Surely, these stones (rough diamonds) were hardly the girl’s best friend, in a proverbial sense, pearls were cast at swine and they were trampled on in the mud; much more would have been appreciated of a finished work of craftsmanship in a ring, a necklace or some other fashionable accessory.
As diva as is unaffected
In a show of dead-pan condescension masquerading as ignorance, Ms Campbell volunteered she had never heard of Liberia before that encounter which in essence shows that one does not need brains or an education, talk less of geographic insight to wear good clothes and sashay down a catwalk – Ms Campbell is however no idiot by any stretch of the imagination, she is smart and wily.
She cleverly extricated herself from opprobrium by stating she was ignorant of where the gift was from, she was unaware of the value of what she had received and none the wiser when her lady friends jumped to the conclusion the stones were diamonds given by Charles Taylor.
She appeared at the trial by summons at the behest of evidence offered by her lady friends which did not tally because one talked of a stone and the other of stones but if anything, dare I say that Ms Campbell has suitably made gossips of Mia Farrow and Ms White.
As diva as is inconvenienced
For all the greater cause of humanity regarding the suffering of Sierra-Leoneans and the need to get to the truth, we might be willing to weigh the sacrifice of Ms Campbell’s inconvenience against the greater good but we forget that the whole essence of diva is to be odious, indifferent, unconcerned and be as uncooperative as one can be.
Whether Ms Campbell was a credible witness is neither here nor there but she offered the best test case of how to make yourself unbelievable under oath and frustrate the cause of justice without being implicated.
One lesson that should be learnt by these tribunals is, to strive to get at the facts and the truth but avoid as much as possible the spectacle of diva if your credibility is not to be subsumed to media feeding frenzy for celebrity over the facts and substance of your activities.
Ms Campbell has since left the building.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

A reactivated network of sleepers

The return of the rummy
The project has been reactivated but uncertainties persist. It feels like a spy network of sleepers called back into service. Sometimes I wonder if I could have been a better gentleman and for the way I have been treated walked away from this debacle before I was twice bitten and messed up again.
July and August is serious holiday time in the Netherlands, even our transport services adapt their timetables to cater for reduced traffic, even the public works agencies schedules their infrastructure maintenance for these times, closing railways, bridges, tunnels, roads and many other services.
In effect, things move a bit slowly and the uptake for new opportunities is rare, though I have had quite a few jobs begin in July and August when I think of it.
Memory not well served
We have to make the best of the situation; the quids need to roll in as it does take a while for one to get back on an even keel after all that has happened over the last year.
I was welcomed back, we shook hands and shook heads but no one felt culpable, there would be new faces in charge who have to get up to speed by chatting to us or just speed past by ignoring us and then be brought back to the reality of things.
As for where we left off, my memory recalls a few passwords and it has lost others, they will all be reset and we might just get back into the flow of the politics, the meetings, the coffees and the excitement of executions, rollbacks, roll-forwards, escalations, priorities and typical office experiences of order in the midst of great anarchy.
For the most important thing, is my pocket square coordinated with my tie? Only just.

Monday 2 August 2010

A Blog-City Quit Notice

Like a quit notice
I got notice on the first of August from my blog service provider Blog-City that they are closing down their service on the 1st of January 2012.
This might seem a long way off but not for one who has had a blog running for almost 7 years; it is like disastrous to say the least.
My blog is the core part of my large footprint on the Internet, it is the online expression of my views, in some other cases it journals my life, experiences, thoughts and much more which I cannot recreate.
The thought that it is about to lose its web identity has occupied my mind for most of the day, it has not sunk in yet and I am losing sleep already.
Getting out not keeping up
The service is being withdrawn not for financial reasons but because the owners do not want to commit any new development time to the service when others are better with more functionality.
I had noticed that we were not keeping up but it did not matter as long as my blog was hosted and I could do the simple things I have always done on my blog, a few links and not too much whizz.
A growing sense of loss
In 2003 when I decided to start blogging, it was like a pioneering thing, I could use my name on any of the available services, now, uniqueness would almost mean the obscurity of starting all over again – all records, all histories, all references lost.
It is almost like losing a mobile phone, it is not the phone that matters but the contacts list and even more importantly if you communicate a lot by texting, all that is lost too – the gravity of this development is reverberating and I am not being melodramatic.
I chose Blog-City for its ease-of-use and accessible functionality, it was a small Scottish company that I felt would endure and it is why I took out a 5-year subscription and I should have been suspicious when that offer was no more available on renewal, the novelty of blog hosting has worn off and the gurus are on to new exciting things, I suppose.
What happens next?
The concern now beyond backing up my almost 1,500 blog entries is how to keep the content online beyond Blog-City, maintaining the publication dates and possibly the formatting on another hosting site – that job must start now rather than wait till 2012.
I guess it is time for me to register a domain name too, if only I can just keep that screaming thought out of my mind for just one second – What is going to happen to all my content? – I might be able to see beyond the breaking of what was essentially bad news.
I hope Blog-City provides every possible and useful means of help those of us who have been long-term supporters a smooth transition to new platforms or hosting services and I hope I can provide you my readers and supporters a managed transition to wherever else we might end up.
How could I have been so na├»ve as to think even blog hosting can be permanent – such is life.