Friday 31 August 2012

Thought Picnic: Start that journey now

The journey
There are some difficult journeys we need to embark on in our lifetimes and making that decision to go on that journey can take time, resource and sometimes daring and courage – that little reserve you have left.
The amazing thing is when you start that journey, the foreboding of dragons and threats that seemed to seize your thoughts that you procrastinated and hoped for an alternative miracle just dissipate.
You might well find the dragons but having prepared for that journey you realise you are equipped to slay it if need be or befriend it and have to carry you through even more menacing jungles – like the Psalmist says – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.
The journey is a story
There is that destination that you can only get to by embarking on that journey, you are given assurances beyond your capability that you will not only complete that journey but also complete it well.
Never forget to tell the story of your journey because the journey of life ticking away in seconds, jumping ahead in minutes and marking time in hours that days seem so long but months end so soon reveals in splendour the joy of living.
As bright days follow the darkest nights, the power of hope to expect, faith to attain and love to be secured can never be held back. I took the first step on my difficult journey and a world has opened before me that I would never have seen if I remained where I was.

Monday 27 August 2012

Old Printers Never Die

Printing desires
My career in information technology does not have office doors or opening hours when I visit friends or relations. There is usually one little problem that requires a good looking at and sometimes I will think up an elaborate solution just because fundamentally I believe using computing tools should be a pleasure to the user at work and at home.
Recently, my cousin just wanted to print to an old printer she was never able to get to work with her laptop – what she wanted was a simple solution and decided to have a look.
Her idea was to connect the printer to her laptop whenever she wanted to print anything but that presented a number of inconveniences I felt should be eliminated.
It’s old but not to be sold
First of all the printer was a HP LaserJet 4L printer, it think a second generation one because it a non-detachable USB cable that went into that back of a not easily accessible old desktop running Microsoft Windows Vista.
Immediately, I thought I could share the printer and that would mean everyone would be able to use the printer over the wireless network.
I have always hated Windows Vista security and the idea of each person having to log on to the system to print was just extraneous, they all belonged to the same IP subnet but each computer was in a different standalone workgroup – all functions of inconsistent installation methods offered by Microsoft.
I shared the printer and then removed password protected sharing which meant any printers and the Public folder were open for usage to those on the network.
Where is the driver?
I started with my cousin’s laptop which was running 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition, it saw the printer but could not download the driver from Microsoft Update. Hewlett Packard said the driver was contained in the installation of Windows but there was nothing I could do to get the driver.
I modified the properties of the printer to allow the Microsoft Windows Vista to render the print jobs for all clients and tried again to no avail. Then I got the printer to work from other laptops running 32-bit Windows 7 of various editions – the installation just downloaded the driver from the Windows Vista system.
Now, if Hewlett Packard was saying the printer driver was within the Microsoft Windows version and consequently obtainable from Microsoft Update but during installation it bombed out searching for the driver automatically, somehow, there had to be a way to obtain the printer driver because Hewlett Packard was just not providing one.
What was even more surprising was none of the forums I contacted had any clearly thought through solutions, it all seemed like some trial-and-error activity eventually solved the problem and that was just not enough for me, I had to understand the how and the why.
The most persuasive solution offered was Microsoft has my printer driver, so I decided to search for the printer driver on the Microsoft website.
That is how I came upon the Microsoft Update Catalog, it expects you to be running Microsoft Internet Explorer or a browser with IE Extensions else in my case running Google Chrome thanked me for visiting before asking me to upgrade my Internet Explorer installation.
At the Microsoft Update Catalog, you are presented with a text search box into which you can type in your search terms, I was specific – HP LaserJet 4L – and that offered a number of choices two of which were for PostScript drivers – those were not the ones I needed.
Getting the driver
The description of each driver is clear enough, with a button to Add [1] the driver require, as indicated in the graphic and once the drivers required are added, click on View Basket [2] to see the added driver(s) with the option to download.

Clicking on the Download [1] button on the graphic below presents a dialog box asking for where to save your downloaded file(s) and the downloaded file is a Microsoft Cabinet file with a .CAB extension.

You can either extract the files into a folder but right-clicking on the file and choosing where to extract the files and then install the drivers from that folder using the dialog that appears after Windows Update fails to find the files needed or use the Windows Package Manager (PKGMGR.EXE) from an elevated privileges command prompt with the command line:
pkgmgr /ip / /quiet
This integrates the driver into the system so when the driver is being searched for by the wizard, it will automatically be found and installed.
In conclusion
The long and short of this treatise is, if the manufacturer of any of your old devices suggests the driver you require is available within the operating system or from Microsoft Windows Update but the drivers cannot be automatically found and downloaded – go to the Microsoft Update Catalog and get the driver you need.
Your old devices need not be replaced because of the frustration of not being able to find the right driver or because the forums that should provide clear directions just assume too much of enquirers and their knowledge of these things.

Sunday 26 August 2012

London: A Preacher on the Tube?

Smart changes
Having learnt that the changeover from the Hammersmith & City line to the District line to the East was literally an interminable walk at Barking Station, I was minded to get off just before Barking.
I decided to change at West Ham and took a seat, to wait for the District line tube to arrive. I have also noticed that some people take up the priority seating places for the slightly incapable though on most occasions those seats have been vacated for me since I do use a cane.
At other times, I have demanded the use of priority seating if it is obvious that the occupier does not require it.
The voice of a preacher man
So, getting on the tube at West Ham, I had hardly settled into my seat when a man decided to introduce himself. I was quite taken aback, I have not seen people preach on public transport for decades and that was in Nigeria. I can even remember sharing a garbled message of the gospel with my accent so out of place in Nigeria, people probably listened – my accent being a cross between English and Nigerian influences is indicative of the fact that it is not being put on for effect.
The message started with questions about life and death, the possibilities of paradise and judgement amongst other trains of thought that seemed to begin to lack any form of coherence – I live-tweeted the event surmising that someone might soon tell the preacher man to be quiet in a not so polite manner.
The audience was captive, many were returning from church and could well identify as Nigerian – not that it mattered to me between his saying aks for ask and with an accent that was as unnaturally regional to any known speaking it was just a matter of time.
Put on my shiny black shoes
Then a man took on the preacher, and excoriated him for wearing shiny black shoes, looking really dapper and having a designer bag slung over his shoulder – in the assailant’s view, this rather ostentatious look was distracting especially to women whom he believed would be enticed by the looks of the preacher thereby distracting them from the gospel.
In what looked like a sign of displeasure, turning into an argument ready to erupt into a shouting match, the preacher kept his calm as he tried to reason with the assailant – the message of the gospel had been derailed as other Christians on that coach began to voice their displeasure that the assailant who was now determined to have his say and allow no further preaching to continue until he was ready to disembark
In some ways, the assailant was probably Christian but whatever legalistic teaching he might have been subjected to would undoubtedly have been of the see not, read not, say not, touch not, wear not, appear not, walk not, seat not variety that it would have made Levitical laws look utterly tame.
Eventually, the assailant disembarked where the preacher would also have wanted to get off but the preacher stayed on the tube to wrap up his message with some encouraging words before stepping off at the next stop.
Your freedom versus my freedom
In one of those Twitter exchanges, someone advocated the freedom of worship and religion which is all fine and well in the places of assembly where such adherents decide to congregate, the London Underground is, however, a public space and it is illegal to preach in such an environment without a licence because it disturbs the peace and the people’s right to be free of such influence is infringed upon by another exercising their supposed rights.
Interestingly, I observed on my way to church this morning that the tube driver was a Sikh. We are to find ways to co-exist with practitioners of other religions and no matter how compelling the Great Commission we must be more intelligent and innovative about how we share the good news without daring the law to put us in uncomfortable situations.
Much of what can be tolerated in many religious countries will not necessarily find the law so sympathetic if any of the passengers had decided to call the London Transport Police to report a breach of the peace.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Social Media: Education is Always Better than Sanction

I originally wrote this for my Akin Consults Blog, however, whilst I was catching up on reading material that I usually share on Twitter by taking the headline, the URL and adding a short opinion of mine, I happened on this article 26 Internet safety talking points, it to me is one of the best articulated views on Internet usage and policing, some of which will apply to the topic covered further on in this blog.
I have because of this update changed the title of the blog to reflect these ideas and I think anyone who uses the Internet or anyone who is involved in formulating Internet policy will find these talking points quite useful.
Social media – the fall guy
Over the last couple of months, social media and by that I mean the use of Facebook, Twitter and Blogs has taken a bad rap in Nigeria.
From politicians uncomfortable the ease of access, freedom of expression, unrelenting scrutiny with the attendant abuse that would put Mosaic curses in the shade through its use by swindlers, kidnappers and murderers for incomprehensible ends.
The same social media has been exploited for political advantage too, for engaging the youth in the political process, for aspects of good and sometimes bad propaganda, for crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing and the dissemination of ideas.
The problem is use
However, it is the tragic case of Cynthia Osokogu that brings to the fore elements of usage that we need to very aware of. The young lady apparently met two men while interacting on Facebook, began a business transaction with them that involved her travelling to Lagos where she was picked up, drugged, raped, beaten up, murdered and then dumped in a mortuary where her family finally discovered her.
Fundamentally, the problem here is not social media, or Facebook in particular, Facebook just served as a medium of communication that could have been achieved by other means though maybe not with the same ease.
The problem with the use and I emphasise the word use of Facebook is people have by reason of the ease of interaction lowered the thresholds of trust they have such that they probably do not go through more stringent steps of ascertaining and verification of activities they get involved in.
Before social media they existed
Before any of the social media we have today, swindlers, confidence tricksters, kidnappers and murderers existed just as there were people to be taken advantage of through foolishness, ignorance, naivety or vulnerability.
We so easily let our guard down hoping that the social media vehicle we are using will take up the slack and do the vetting for us but there is no substitute for doing the basic things of not meeting strangers outside your comfort zone, informing people of what you are up to, documenting whatever you are involved in and taking a friend with you if need be for your safety.
When I am going to meet strangers, I always leave a sheet of paper on my table with all the contact details along with a backup element that can be found if there is a need for that.
Some basic analogies
The analogies to use are simple – you do not because you have bought a new knife use it recklessly, you are probably going to be more careful with its use lest you cut yourself. Likewise, the ease of communication offered by social media should have your suspicious and alert mechanisms at their most primed to ensure you are not sucked into a vulnerable situation from which you cannot extract yourself.
In the same vein, you do not because you have a fast car put your foot down on the accelerator and go over a cliff with glee, with a fast car comes better brakes and better control – if those controls are used wisely, you are in a safer vehicle for it protections rather than for its speed. Likewise, the ease with which you can share information should inform the carefulness involved in keeping some of that information back
Common-sense with social media
I have always worked on a simple principle – If in DOUBT, keep it OUT – there is just no need to dump all that information out there just as you do not have your home as thoroughfare for the public to walk through at will without restraint.
We are naturally careful about our private information, it should not be different from our adoption of social media and like our mothers used to say when were kids – Don’t take sweets from strangers – the same principle should apply to anywhere we interact with strangers – we do not know them well enough to trust them and God only knows what they have in mind for us.
Conversely, we should try to believe the best of everyone whilst retaining a modicum of suspicion, it does not have to border on paranoia, but a healthy dose of paranoia is not bad or the principle of personal safety and the possible elimination of dangerous situations.
The real problem
Without making little of the tragedy that befell Cynthia Osokogu, social media is not the problem, it has never been the problem, it the use of or the lack of knowledge of the common-sense uses of social media that is the problem and that is where people need the most education that it should not lower the needs to ascertain, determine, verify and be careful about the people we interact with and it cannot carry the burdens of trust and trustworthiness that come from being streetwise, smart and discerning of character, aims and intentions.
We once had letters, then telephones, then telegrams, then telex, then facsimile machines, then mobile phones and now the smorgasbord of easy communication untethered and free – we are however still human and have not metamorphosed into cyborgs – it means those very basic human characteristics still matter and years from now newer modes of communication will be created and hopefully human-beings will know not to abandon their gut instincts for the thrill of technology.
To Cynthia Osokogu – Rest in peace – no know can begin to think of the harrowing experiences you went through as those men took your life and to your family my heartfelt condolences.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Thought Picnic: Resumenda vox mea

Fiducia mea frangitur (Latin)
Of all the things I lost to illness and there are many things to which I cannot begin to put a quantifiable monetary value on, what has been most difficult to recover has been my confidence.
The ability to project myself with the extraversion that comes with knowing what I know and knowing what I can do had diminished that I had literally lost my presence in voice, in tone and in assertiveness.
It fell to just my ability to write to keep an aspect of my expression alive, that was the only kindling I had left and it never failed me.
The bearing environmental factors
However, when it came to pushing my professional abilities, I just did not have the verve and the drive, that is where I needed the most help, this, being able to rediscover myself and stand tall knowing who I am.
Something in my character had become feeble and fragile as the worlds I built around me collapsed in ruinous calamity; a tale to make strong men cry in anguish, if not in resignation.
The environment in which I had suffered great ruin was no more fertile for the regeneration of self and esteem, something radical had to be done.
Making changes
That chapter was closed by following some advice I took over 12 years ago when an occupational therapist told me I was suffering the classic symptoms of a mid-life crisis 10 years early and that I had to do something radical like change my career, change my country of residence or do something as mundane as take up a new hobby.
That was when I moved to the Netherlands and it amazingly rejuvenated my zest for life, my sense of daring and adventure along with the renewed hunger for learning that I took on a Masters course with enthusiasm I had not known for ages.
Making changes again
Just to show how the change of environment can alter perspective, focus, realities, vision and boost morale to levels that make things happen like miracles – I have only relocated six days and things are looking really exciting, I feel confident, I have found my voice and that quality of assertiveness is coming forth quite noticeably.
In due course, I will share even more about what is going on, but the power of a journey to new places to change the direction of life such that one is not left in a rut cannot be underestimated – I have lived this reality twice already – I know.

Thought Picnic: Managing Friends for Real Privacy

Everyone needs privacy
If anything bothers me about the whole furore regarding Prince Harry’s wild and wanton frolics in Las Vegas it is the fact that he has no real friends around him.
There is no doubt that there are certain standards of behaviour expected of the young man who is third in line to the British throne, however, I am more persuaded of the fact that an exacting public persona does not need to become the whole expression of any famous personality.
Therefore, wherever he goes in the world with all the trappings and privileges he has, he should in his private time outside the requirements of official activity be able to enjoy himself as any normal person of his age should without the fear of having his private moments splashed across the global rags offering titillation, excoriation, opprobrium and commentary from the holier than thou crowd whose private sinful lives will make the devil blush.
Keeping true friends
This is where the powerful, recognisable and very rich need real friends, people who can be trusted whose friendship is borne of genuine affection rather than those star struck who for bribes and greed for filthy lucre will betray confidences just to have been seen with influential people.
People who will protect the dignity, the privacy and the secrecy of each other as if they have sworn blood oaths on the pain of death to defend to the last the relationships that have come through the roughest times unscathed.
I dare say that such can only be achieved by mixing in the circles where the person is respected yet not adulated or deified, amongst people who can be quite honest with their advice without being tongue-tied or fawning in nauseating obsequiousness. There is no easy way of saying that those of influence who seek privacy should mostly do so amongst their class or their betters.
Discernment should precede enjoyment
One can understand that the prince would not want to have an unnecessary security cocoon around himself and it will be almost impossible to vet all those that come in contact with him to know their backgrounds and motives before they are allowed to associate.
The prince himself should be more discerning and forthright, choosing his posse with a better sense of judgement; he should know those who are really devoted to him from those who are devoted to making something out of being in his circle.
Laying down some rules
I cannot say he has that much to learn from his brother, Prince William but there are lessons of history to appreciate. Some 5 years ago, Prince William and Kate Middleton went their separate ways and what I observed of that separation was Prince William not speaking up for the lady he loved when his friends made fun of her background.
I would suspect someone Prince William respects sat him down to give him a decent lecture on how first to show the essential level of respect to Kate to woo her back to be his bride and wife whilst telling him to read the Riot Act to anyone who dares snottily derogate the person of his lady.
That Kate Middleton is now a Duchess and will in time be Queen Consort of a future King William V and the heads of those who have not made restitution to Kate Middleton for their disrespect might well bring the vultures back to the Tower of London.
Meanwhile, Prince Harry needs to make a list of all his friends and ditch those are really not his friends whilst crennellating his privacy with those who matter and will fight to ensure the ramparts are never breached.

Thought Picnic: The Little Things

Too means more
The question I seem to hear frequently pertains to how I am settling in back in London. I decided when I tweeted a few days ago about returning home to England that there was no point explaining to people why home could by ancestry be Nigeria and home by reason of birth and many factors of my upbringing and outlook could be England too.
The operative word being too to indicate a shared allegiance rather than an abandoned one, as one person engaged me during the closing ceremony of the Olympics – I had tweeted that I was proud to be British too even though I identify more as English and rarely if I could help it as Black British – my race whilst it is used for identification purposes to help others is hardly a function of my expression or projection – I rarely see it until someone points it out.
Missing the little thing
The little things in their subtlety are quite significant in their import; too implicitly meant I was not only British but I had another which my almost too smart assailant missed in his determination to denigrate my person, it presented an opportunity for giving an education but I doubt he had the competence to assimilate the fundamentals.
Leaving the Netherlands has literally closed one chapter in my life and offered me the opportunity to open a new chapter. The return offers a new beginning and prospects are coming in just as I have seemingly gotten a new lease of life.
The little effects
The little thing is a just a SIM card, a number in the UK, a temporary address in the UK and the CV looks like freshly baked bread still warm hardly minutes out of the oven; a perspective realigned is an opportunity within grasp – who knows what might come of this?
Two days ago, it was a little pin connector on my laptop AC adaptor and that was the end of its useful life an urgent replacement was sought and by happenstance a call came in and my good friend of 26 years replaced it. The replacement died within 30 minutes and there wasn’t too much little talk at the shop for it to be replaced without quibbles.
A little touch
With that came the other little bit of knowledge about the smartcard travel-cards known as the Oyster card, I have been overcharged a few times because the system assumes I have not completed my journey which is crazy else I would have been marooned within the transport network rather than getting to my many destinations – each entry and exit point is gated and I have not taken a leap of fatality bounding over any gates.
No one will for now admit that some of the algorithmic logic encoded in the system is bilking us but it is a gathering storm. I dare say when the system fails there is not automatic reset mechanism to restore the overcharge, for all the technology at play we are back to filling forms – it is so much an inconvenience, no one bothers.
Many little ends
Yet, the little things are remarkably wonderful, a little detour and you bump into a friend, a little sideways glance and you see something that has always been there but you never noticed, a little spice and you break out in sweats, a little more and the scales are tipping that you cover your eyes in horror and why is it that I can read the littlest print without my glasses and cannot make out the features of a face hardly 2 metres away?
A little spot of bother for eyeing the bigger picture.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Thought Picnic: No Parable of the Prodigal Friend

The Prodigal Friend
I wondered why Jesus never told a parable of the prodigal friend, He did tell one of a prodigal son and the redeeming power of fatherly love despite the failings of that son who justifiably should have been consigned to the scrapheap.
The story of realisation and reconciliation is both profound and deep; it is however amazing how that could easily be seen in real life.
As I thought on this, I realised there was no need for a parable of the prodigal friend because friends have a particularly practical significance that is either of clear dedication or sad betrayal.
The involved friends
The practical example of this friendship was demonstrated at a meeting Jesus had in a house where he was teaching, the house was so crowded full of the Pharisees and scribes that no one else could have access.
A lame man had four of his friends help him to that venue, no doubt with the view to having the miraculous power of Jesus heal him. When they could not get into the house, they climbed on the roof, removed the roofing tiles and let their friend down into the midst of the crowd in the presence of Jesus.
As the story goes, Jesus saw their faith and with that he told the lame man his sins were forgiven and he should pick up his bed and walk, which he promptly did to the marvel all present to see the miracle and the consternation of those who debated the issue of forgiveness of sins.
What was clear was what the friends did to contribute to the lame man’s access to healing, most importantly, they wanted him fit and able as themselves than for him to be limited in his interaction with them – a prodigal friend of sorts.
The Prodigal Brother
Conversely, what is said of the brother of the prodigal son is interesting that I am inclined to call him the prodigal brother by reason of the fact that he had status, opportunity and privilege but failed to realise any of that until when he noticed the merciful and loving expression of his father to his brother.
What he always had with his father but never deigned to live in the fullness of, led to his nursing resentment, anger and offence at what was so avoidable if he had availed himself of the standing and the reality of who he was.
Friends can stick closer than a brother, a friend showed such great love that he laid down his life for his friends. It is a matter of character and personality to find friends who are ready to bear you down in your bed into the presence of the biggest miracle of your life – friends are experience and much more but we need discernment to determine true friends from fair-weather friends or just mere acquaintances.
For those who have felt betrayed by those they call friends, have mercy and keep the ones that do really care. For there comes a time when friends do matter, because then, we are totally helpless and needful of them.
Note: The first publication of this blog was full of errors, I probably should have left writing it until the morrow, but I was determined to get it out. In any case, my friend @zebbook on Twitter noticed the poor editing and discreetly informed me of the poor copy. I hope I have repaired the damage; else, I’ll have another look when the daze of my pills wears off. Thanks Bukola.

Loyalties - Bringing comfort back to travel

Using loyalties
I have always worked in the premise that there are rewards for loyalty especially when it come travel such that certain considerations go into what airlines I fly with and what hotels I stay in.
There is always a deal somewhere if you’ve done something long enough and been diligent to tot up the points, awards, miles, credits or whatever they might call them.
Hotel deals
For hotels, I frequented those of the Accor hotel chain or the Carlson hotel chain, the former offered very good deals in the UK and Germany, France just seemed to be overpriced compared to what one could get elsewhere, but after acquiring points over time having subscribed to a fee-paying loyalty scheme, the point could be exchanged for vouchers to defray costs.
The Carlson hotel chain offered a better value proposition that included free wireless internet access, discounts to services, late check-outs and points that could count towards hotel costs.
Airline deals
Living in the Netherlands, KLM was the airline of choice; though slightly more expensive accumulating miles of travels of a number of flights in a calendar year bumped you up to an elite status that allowed priority check-in, more baggage allowance, access to business lounges, possibly upgrades where available and much more.
I both acquired enough miles and flights to defray the cost of my trip to India last December that privileged status allowed me to check-in an extra piece of baggage on return.
Telling loss of status
On my last trip, my frequent flyer status had lapsed such that I had to be smarter about how to pack my bags. The weight limit is now set at 23kg because punier men than before handle baggage.
By the time my suitcase was weighed, it came to 25.6kg on the automatic baggage drop system, I then thought I might get it past a check-in attendant but I failed in that quest.
I was asked to move stuff from my suitcase into my hand luggage which was just a few kilogrammes short of the statutory 12kg. Now, I am only allowed one piece of hand luggage, however, if you do put your suits in a suit holder, you are allowed to two pieces of hand luggage just for the fact that one is not expected to pack suits in bag.
So, I moved two books and an external hard disk from the suitcase into my hand luggage and by sheer coincidence, luck or genius, the suitcase weighed exactly 23kg and the hand luggage exactly 12kg – we were good to go.
Other pleasures
I still have the mercy of one last loyalty card, the Privium Plus card which allows iris-scan customs control, access to their business lounge with a variety of drinks, food and snacks and now we are also given priority boarding.
In terms of loyalty, it is good to check what you frequently do and assess who has the scale and scope  - you do not want to use a hotel chain just limited to one country, likewise, it is best to join one of the major airline alliances like SkyTeam, Star Alliance or OneWorld they have more global coverage to exploit your loyalties and reap the benefits.

Friday 17 August 2012

To that Young Christian Family, blessings that overflow

A book for example
If men of renown should gather once again as they gathered many centuries ago to select canonically inspired texts to include in the Holy book, I will suggest it be called the Acts of the Disciples.
For what I have had revealed to me as real as when Moses stood and watched the burning bush is the magnanimity of humanity expressed in Christian care, love, compassion and support.
They gave and blessed
There be many who have our of their hearts, out of the minds and out of their hands poured blessings, gifts, encouragement, prayer and help into my life beyond that I can express.
Out of their little, I got much and out of their much I got some, in money, in lodgings, in food, in words and in deed. In the midst of nothing, I did not lack for anything; they did not let me fall.
However, for all the stars that shone in the night sky of Bethlehem of old, one showed the way to where the new born king was lain in swaddling clothes for the wise men to visit to pay homage.
A young Christian Indian family
Likewise, there in the midst of the many that gave of what they have was this family, a young Christian Indian family whose heart overflowed with such undeserved compassion, love, tenderness and mercy towards me that they invited me into their home to stay.
Their daughter with the sweetest smile you will ever see on anyone that walks this earth and so cutely fixed on a child gave up her room, happily, willingly and without reservation to joyfully have me stay with them.
We shared of everything and they constantly made me feel special, wanted and appreciated even though I was the one being supported.
Every consideration was given to make me comfortable, they refused to let my thoughts wander into the depths of despair as they fed me, watered me, gave me rest, gave me peace and gave me space.
Yet, they did not stop giving and helping from what they had, their example is one of Christian purpose with commensurate action, ever prayerful, ever humble and ever gracious.
A veritable lesson
For what they did, they brought discomfort to some who were not there to help but ready to criticise and one can understand. They had combined matchless Christian charity with incredible Indian hospitality that definitely made much of the Christian expression in our Western culture and values look wanting and lacking.
I cannot be thankful enough to this young Christian family, where they are from as they always told me was secondary to their Christian purpose in life – to help the needy, to minister to others and to give even when they did not have enough for themselves.
My prayer
In my heart of hearts, I pray that their rewards of joy, of prosperity, of health, of peace and everything that is wholesome, good and nice come upon from this time like the floods of Noah that they begin to enjoy the pleasures of Paradise from earth well into their old age and that is just the beginning of the prayers for them.
I am forever in gratitude to them for if the Acts of the Disciples were to be written today, they will deserve a chapter just to talk of their exploits – living out the Christian way.
Think about this as you conclude reading and bless them from your hearts as you do.
Thank you.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Thought Picnic: Take a deep breath

The full moons of time
The time has come to end a chapter and begin a new one, what started 147 months ago has come to an end without much fanfare.
A tale of suspense, sometimes with its twists and turns; a thriller of sorts; not entirely leaving him unscathed and unbowed. It started as an adventure, a change that was advised to rejuvenate one’s life with excitement – it was quite a ride.
Help and support came from a friend one met years ago in Paris, lodged until one could find feet and place, assisted in every way that allowed one to settle.
To live or not to die
A certainty of self-expression allowed one to excel in ways beyond one’s dreams, a home, developed relationships, travel and fun. It was almost a charmed existed.
When news came that one might expire that was when we did things that make many aspire, you had to live as the vibrantly living that die in the throes of the despairingly dying.
Then, the real threat came, an attack that shook to the foundations everything that made one stand; it could be over in weeks or we might be ushered into the mercy and grace of a new life after.
The blessing came in life, life after death, renewed in vigour the empires that once thrived and had fell to ruin were to be built again.
An empire in ruins
The glory of that empire never returned, that friend now a memory – a tombstone in a quiet place with a long history that has been summarised into just one name, the date of arrival and the date of departure. O, how they have come and they have gone but life goes on.
The things, the many things that brought pleasure now scattered to the four winds have wound up in the hands of strangers for a song but no sadness of loss should overwhelm the light of hope that comes with new expectation however slight.
As the morrow dawns, adieu it will be to people and places, an end that opens to a new beginning, to a place where the seed was first sown. It is time for a new ride; the thrill of the last one has long been forgotten but the memories remain for a story yet to be told in full.
Take a deep breath.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Opinion: The Cultural Ghettos of Parenting in Diaspora

I could have been a lawyer
If I had not taken that decision to switch from the liberal arts and social sciences to pure science and mathematics in the second term of the penultimate year of my secondary school education, I might well have become a lawyer with the career path towards becoming a judge.
Nothing excites me more than to read the conclusions of judges when delivering judgements on socially sensitive issues. The clarity of thought that is presented in the simplicity of expression leaves no one in doubt as to the persuasion that inspired their words.
I have worked with lawyers before and any legal drama in television especially Perry Mason has always caught my fascination.
Cultural parenting in Diaspora
Sadly, the cases I will refer to in this blog pertain to parenting issues of immigrant communities in the United Kingdom that need scrutiny and addressing. There have been too many instances of cruelty towards children meted out in brutalisation passing for discipline, honour killings to restore parental honour in their communities, Female Genital Mutilation, witchcraft stigmatisation, bizarre and macabre rituals, to mention just a few.
Parents who have come within the crosshairs of the law have usually claimed racial prejudice and a miscarriage of justice. They protest that they are innocent and though there is nothing on God’s good earth that can justify their actions, the rights their children may not have in their home countries in what we delusionally call 'our culture' are all too well protected in the West.
Children have rights
The first lesson any immigrant parent must learn by observation or through coercion is a child in the West has rights and the State where those rights are found to have been violated will prosecute the parents to the full extent of the law.
Whilst one can understand the fears of parents who have in their own upbringing have been given the big stick and very little carrot. I dare say, the emphasis is more on size of carrot and when it is offered in the West – it can be more than just effective, the relationship that stems from love rather than the duty of parental provision – most Western kids are not unruly, ill-disciplined, uncontrollable and disastrously beyond redemption.
You’re now in Rome
The narrative is the same in many immigrant communities, the parents come from a country with different cultures and practices to live in the West, they have their children born and bred in the West, the children might be aware of their parents' heritage but they are essentially Westerners in mind, outlook, expression and culture.
No amount of community activity apart from the core environment of the home country is going to turn those children into cultural carbon-copies of their parents. As they say, when in Rome, do as Romans do.
Integrate or lose out
Again, one can understand the comfort a sense of community provides people, but like I have written many times before, these communities have a tendency to ghettoise to the extent that they become time-capsules of practices from home countries that probably have been jettisoned decades ago.
Parents who fail to integrate properly in host countries are at risk of first running afoul of the law leaving them unprepared for seriously dire consequences – brutalisation and murder leading to long terms of imprisonment – all of which could have been completely avoidable.
The honest truth is those who fail to integrate end up not being able to cope with the cultural clashes they face and they take out their frustrations on their usually vulnerable children who are caught between the freer world beyond their doors and the hell at their homes – it need not be so.
What horror!
In the case of the Nigerian couple [1] jailed for brutalising their six children, it is a damning indictment of parenthood to have a 9-year old write. “My mum is the worst mum ever because she can’t cope with five of us, her broken hand and being pregnant. She always leaves me out so I always starve and I am forced to work. If I don’t get enough house work done, I am beaten without mercy with the wooden end of a broom. I have scars all over me to prove it. I can’t stay here. I would like a new mum.” Your heart just bleeds. I can honestly say, this is not Nigerian culture, it is just wickedness.
However, the one pertaining to Pakistani parents who murdered [2] their daughter for thwarting their desire to put her into a forced married in what is commonly known as an “honour killing” just shows what many children could face in the West.
Just beyond reason
The Sentencing Remarks [3 PDF] of Mr. Justice Roderick Evans in the case of R v Iftikar Ahmed and Farzana Ahmed should be classic text for the reading of any parent in an immigrant community – what reads as so particular here is as general as you can have an assessment of issues of parenting in Diaspora.
The first question he asks sets the tone for what follows. “What was it that brought you two – her parents, the people who had given her life – to the point of killing her?
Her father who apparently had lived in the United Kingdom from the age of 10 probably suffered what many multi-cultural kids suffer in being told that they are not this or that enough. Having first married a Danish lady, had issue and even lived in Denmark, there is no doubt that he had adopted Western customs and values until he returned to Pakistan to marry a village girl who appeared to roll back his years of Westernisation to the customs of rural Pakistan.
Pakistan in Warrington
The judge being almost too perceptive for words continues – “You chose to bring up your family in Warrington but, although you lived in Warrington, your social and cultural attitudes were those of rural Pakistan and it was those which you imposed upon your children.
Shafilea was a determined, able and ambitious girl who wanted to live a life which was normal in the country and in the town in which you had chosen to live and bring up your children. However, you could not tolerate the life that Shafilea wanted to live.
The judge clearly identifies with Shafilea here as what you would expect of a child; any child regardless of parental heritage born and bred in the UK. The life she wanted to life was normal for the town and country she lived in and that is where the conflicts with a distant, unknown, strange and alien rural Pakistan of her parents knew began.
You wanted your family to live in Pakistan in Warrington. Although she went to local schools, you objected to her socialising with girls from what has been referred to as “the white community”. You objected to her wearing western clothes and you objected to her having contact with boys.
The short paragraph above with what I have highlighted “Pakistan in Warrington” or “Nigeria in Peckham” is a kinder reference to the immigrant ghettos that foist strange and stringent adherence to alien community standards on the parents. The subtext here is that the United Kingdom is a white-majority country, you cannot bring your children up cocooned from that reality and culture.
Children need a reference point
She was being squeezed between two cultures, the culture and way of life that she saw around her and wanted to embrace and the culture and way of life you wanted to impose upon her.” The children sadly have no reference point for what the parents believe in.
Your problem was that, in what you referred to as your “community”, Shafilea’s conduct was bringing shame upon you and your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than your love of you (sic) child.
Therein is the real sad chapter of this heart-rending tale, the willingness of the parents to sacrifice their child on the altar of a belief system or way of life that meant more to them than the love for their child.
To have killed their daughter in the presence of her siblings and successfully used that terror to make them adhere and conform to what was literally an oath of silence for over 7 years is as evil as any parent can get.
In conclusion
For them, I really have no sympathy, there is much else the judge said that could be read in the judgement but the points I want to make are clear.
Parenthood comes with great responsibilities and along with that should be a good understanding of the environment in which your children are growing up. For them to be well-adjusted in their upbringing, it is important that the children recognise in their parents what they also see about them.
Most crucially, the children have rights, rights that will be defended to the utmost by the State; that is part of what civilisation is about, giving everyone born into this world a sense of dignity, pride and respect from the cradle to the grave.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Opinion: Miracle Cures and Against Religious Abuse of the Vilest Kind

Where I stand
There are some things are really get me seriously agitated and they pertain to rights and abuse. In the body of work I have produced over almost 9 years, I think these particularly stand out - human rights, injustice, child rights, women’s rights, sexuality rights, child sexual abuse, sexual violence, cultural and religious abuse.
There is no doubt that I also cover very controversial issues; it is just my nature to tackle those as passionately and objectively as I can.
Too vile for words
This morning I found myself on a Twitter soapbox dealing with religious abuse of the vilest kind. A church had concocted a cocktail of fruit juice and olive oil then marketed it as a cure for cancer or HIV; the prayer component of the product making up about 50% of the price.
People with chronic and terminal illnesses are desperately in need of succour and hope; they are vulnerable to the machinations of those who portend to offer palliation or cures for their ailments.
Hope like greed is easily exploited and nowhere is that best manipulated than in churches where the leaders with ethereal provenance and esoteric rituals that could border on the macabre but pass off as spiritual hold sway.
Your church as a ghetto
These churches serve as both communities and places of worship but the community aspect almost turns the congregants into members of a ghetto that project practices very different from the wider communities in which they exist. Like Nigerians in the United Kingdom doing only Nigerian things.
People need to feel comfortable wherever they go but to be exploited in this way is unforgivable.
There should be a number of inalienable facts that people should have when attending these churches which on closer scrutiny are more like sepulchres of despair engaged in commercial activity for the aggrandisement of the church leaders.
Rather than minister to their flock, their flock ministers to their every greedy need for ostentation and hedonism which they suggest are the fruits of service to God – they are not shepherds but wolves conducting assemblies with grandiloquent names that will be redolent of B-movie thrillers.
Miracles are free
Now, miracles do exist, but never for a fee, the best example of a miracle was when Jesus raised Lazarus who was 4-days dead petrifying and decomposing in a tomb for free. Neither did he charge for converting water into wine at the wedding feast where one would have expected at best a donation. It is implausible that those ministering in the name of Jesus will then demand some payment directly, by gimmickry or through the sale of potions to offer healing to those still alive but with terminal illnesses. Miracles are free, every time and always.
People should be very lucid about the function of the church and the function of medicine. They are not mutually exclusive. Using medicine is not a sign of the lack of faith; in fact faith and medicine can make the medicine more efficacious.
My testimony is that I had cancer and went on chemotherapy, according to the oncologist and nurses that came daily to dress the cancer lesions, it took up to six months for lesions as mine to dry up and disappear, but in my case, the lesions were all gone in 8 weeks. The doctors considered my response to medication and the result miraculous.
The church and healing
The church should not replace your hospital neither should your pastor replace your doctor. They have their roles. If your pastor does say to you, you are healed; you have the right to a second opinion, a medical opinion to confirm you are healed.
In all cases where Jesus healed lepers, He told them to go and show themselves to the priests, this, I believe was to fulfil all righteousness as they’ll say in religious parlance – or commonly, to ensure all boxes were ticked to allow their re-admittance into society.
Ultimately, if you are paying for any treatment and it is not to a professionally accredited medical practitioner, to a hospital or to a pharmacy for medicine, you have been swindled by a confidence trickster impostor masquerading as a pastor when they are in fact no better than bush witchdoctors.
Your pastor is not your doctor
Your pastor should have nothing against the use of doctors, hospitals or medicine, not everyone exercises feats of faith that at an instant will manifest as lightning bolt miraculous cures. Any assurance of healing should include the advice to have the medically competent confirm the change in physiology indicating healing – it is NOT a sin to do so.
As I have written many times before, never ever discontinue your medication without first consulting your doctor and only on the advice of the doctor and no other. If the pastor did not prescribe your medication the pastor does not have the authority or capacity tell you to discontinue your medicine – do not had your pills over to be destroyed as if you are attending a magician’s show – medications should be properly disposed of by pharmacies or given back to hospitals to be used by those less fortunate than yourself.
Just be wary of those who take advantage of you in the religious space, demanding always but never giving, selling goods and snake oil remedies not independently validated by the authorities and whose rituals defy explanation whilst not informing of other reasonable choices or options you should have in this amazing vibrant world we live in today.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Nigeria: Introducing the Nigerian Scores Exchange

The thriving market
There is a very vibrant market in Nigeria that seems to have an exclusive set of players whose stock is of traded value higher than what obtains in conventional stock markets even though people think there gains to be had in the latter.
They do not deal in shares but share the largesse of Nigeria’s great fortune brokering in eye-watering sums of currency that will suffocate the naïve.
What this market has in common with the stock market is insider knowledge but of a more malevolent kind, the secrets of cashing and market-making are based on timing with an amazing facility of self-moderation and self-regulation that defies the more regulated markets.
Values and virtues
Reputation and integrity have no context on the trading floor; rather it is information, vulgarity, cacophony, calumny, slander and revenge that work the best on this strangely floating bedrock of corruption and subterfuge – the stakes are really high.
The traders keep score and settle scores, by themselves or through proxies that could be attack dogs or organs of state that have lost their independence to the powers that be.
Things get done quite swiftly or through a slow injection of invective and vituperation that just beggars belief.
Amazing potential
There are no Chinese walls between the systems that operate in this market but the biggest trades are made through influence peddling by reason of a number of means starting from closeness to the those in power, to being able to command unaudited but humongous sums of cash or being able to gum of the litigation process with a troop of senior lawyers called Senior Advocates of Nigeria who intimidate judges into giving bizarre judgements.
Nigeria is awash with scores, bought, sold or held onto until times when their maturity brings the biggest dividend. Others can be co-opted into this market unawares to have a score kept which can be merged with an event to upturn the credibility of a process – it is not a game for tyros.
Workings of the market
Amongst the political classes, threats and exposés can be settled by doling out payments to those who appear to have a semblance of rectitude. They are usually successfully exploited that their entry-level is quite high on the score index. When traded the market simply suffers a shattering earthquake to contain the shock and then resets itself for the trade.
The case in point here is that of the corruption of Farouk Lawan who having gained a reputation for his handling of the Fuel Subsidy probe was found to have been implicated in a bribery scandal when Femi Otedola traded in his score to rubbish our confidence in the Fuel Subsidy report.
In other works of life, your score index is heightened by first courting controversy and then by secretly being ensnared in a scandal, like religious leaders dipping into the treasuries of their temples to live lives of debauchery or being caught pants down with persons they should not be in bed with. Blackmail probably has the highest traded value in this market.
The Nigerian Scores Market
We in fact have a scores glut in Nigeria that there is need to set forth a formal market with indices of traders, scores and parties implicated. The circuit-breakers for these markets are usually under the thumb of the Executive that can decide to cut out the effect of scores settled or keep score on those they want to toe the line.
However, I am now convinced that a bill needs to be sponsored in the Nigerian legislature establishing the Nigerian Scores Exchange for the business of handling, keeping and settling scores. It is hoped that there will be price controls, better transparency and a widened participatory market so that the masses can also trade in the scores market.
The fundamentals of this exchange will include the ability to buy time, sell souls or hold grudges, the more sophisticated will be able to do that in one tranche and decide market sentiment with betrayals and sell-outs, switching allegiances without compunction. They as the brood of vipers and the spawn of the Devil are at the top of their game.
The Nigerian flavour
Most importantly, with the establishment of the NSE, the murderous instinct that compels certain traders to take extreme measures to obliterate the scorecards others might hold will probably be contained as the secrecy instruments will be better shared amongst those with related interests, pursuits and ulterior motives.
The Nigeria Scores Market is really an amazing growth potential product whose value will radically change the face of doing business in Nigeria with astronomical returns.
We need to sensitise ourselves to this opportunity, building capacity to regularise the system so that the thermostat on the polity can be monitored to prevent opportunistic heating up along partisan, tribal or religious divides – subtlety is the purposeful key