Friday, July 29, 2005
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Listened to the War on Intelligence by The Fall and then Electronic Sonata for Souls loved by Nature (George Russell), while still half asleep before work this morning. This combined sonic assault opened up psychedelic recesses in my brain, for a host of sprites, dervishes and djinns to sprinkle themselves out into the world. A desire for the quixotic rushed into my bloodstream.
An hour later came the pay off. An idea for improving the value of one my projects immensely.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Something odd happened at the Ministry of Finance where I work early this week: all four lifts were working. Weirder still, all the fluorescent light panels had been replaced - so the building was ablaze with light. I am so used to waiting for 10 minutes for the one lift that usually works to idle its way back down to the Ground Floor, then to get into a cramped space stuffed full of civil servants going about their business (selling things to other civil servants) or carting small children around). I'm also used to people rushing into the lift before you have chance to get out when descending back down.
To my relief, this monumental show of efficiency and maintenance culture (not characteristics one associates with Nigeria) only lasted a couple of days. I'm glad to report that as of today, we are back to the one operational elevator..
Monday, July 18, 2005
Although the EFCC is doing a great job hoovering up former villains in Nigeria, there are still many holes in the net. Found out today that Euros are scarce forex in Abuja today. Why? Because a Governor bought 1,000,000 Euros last week on the black market. It wouldnt take an expert to find out which Governors were in town last week... I wonder how long it takes to close this loophole?
After the ceremony, a reception took place in another part of the Abiola compound. There was a gorgeous moment when scores of magnicently adorned women crossed the lawn on their way to the reception area..
Thursday, July 14, 2005
The latest update of Itunes finally includes a Podcasting app. There's several hundred if not more free podcasts already available via the Podcasting part of Music Store (music, news, spiritual, philosophy etc).
For those that are new to pc, its a bit like subscribing to an online radio station. The big advantage over conventional online (or offline) radio is that instead of waiting for specific content (ie you're fav weekly show) to be on air, the latest version of the slot is automatically updated to your podcasting app.
Apart from Itunes, there are many other apps out there, quite a few of which also include RSS-feed (Really Simple Syndication) type content (ie as well as automated audio content downloading, you can also receive automatic updates via RSS syndication feeds). Click here for the BBC's friendly guide.
In other words, podcasting is one more nail in the coffee of static scheduling, whether for radio or tv.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
We met a photographer last night who told the story of his recent trip on the Lagos to Kano railway line. The train is supposed to leave weekly from Lagos on Friday at midday. Not expecting the train to leave on time, Jide nevertheless turned up before 12 just in case.
The train finally left on Saturday. At 5pm.
On the journey, Jide met traders with many stories to tell. People were transporting Kola nuts, cloth and so on to the North. Even though the journey is long and unreliable, it is a safer option than using the roads. You can't get run over and there are no armed robbers. Apparently, there used to be armed hold-ups, but the train is so unreliable that the robbers gave up to move on to more reliable prey.
Lagos-Kano is perhaps 1500 miles. However, after 5 days and nights of travel, the train had only got as far as Minna, where Jide got off.
So - the railway as it is at the moment is an heroic experience. But with plans for major external investment in rail infrastructure in the next few years, Nigeria could be utterly transformed by a nation-wide network.
Monday, July 11, 2005
The president has been playing a shrewd game in the past few months which looks like it will lead to an excellent result for Nigeria. More important than 60% debt relief per se is the conditionality attached to it. For once, conditionality may prove to be a good thing. The newspapers here report that there are conditions for DR which include ensuring that no ex-dictators come to power in 2007. Although there has yet to be full disclosure of the conditions, this should lock Nigeria into further democratic developments. Among the small but dynamic group we have around us we are agreed on at least one thing: Nigeria is one of the most exciting places to be on the planet right now.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Was hooked on the news from London a few minutes after the powerouts on the Tube were announced this morning. This time round, most of the online newspapers and wire agencies website servers managed to cope with the demand deluge (altho all the BBC's online radio stations have been down all day). When September the 11th happened, I was with people who had friends and family in the Twin Towers. Today its even closer to home - with many friends in London, there is the worry that one or some of them have got caught up in what took place. One feels the outrage of such inhuman acts - which will surely involve muslims as well as 'infidels' among the dead. But at another level, I feel pure anger: towards Blair for following Bush into Iraq - the catalyst for what has happened today. But then again, the moderates within Islam and the Arab nations have a lot to answer for, for allowing extremist organisations to fester/flourish in their midst. The biggest question of all: how can Islamic culture regain the spirit of intellectual enquiry that made it dominate research over a millenia ago in the school of Baghdad and Cordoba?
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Wahalla = trouble. We still have no running water in the house. Meanwhile, the storms last night brought floods of water into the house. Bibi and I spent most of the night mopping up, trying to steer the water away from our inverter and an encounter with electricity. Its bloody annoying having too much water on the floor and no water through the tap. Living in Nigeria is a bit like camping - sometimes you get wet cos the structure that keeps the weather off your head is too damn flimsy.
I'm consoling myself by re-reading The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock:
"In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo."
Monday, July 04, 2005
In London we went to the Africa Garden in the forecourt of the British Museum. There is a wonderful piece by Sokari Douglas Camp called Asoebi - entirely in metal. Worth going to see if you're anywhere near (its free).
When up in Hull a couple of weeks ago I walked around the Marina area - a place where I used to wander to try and order my thoughts while studying my philosophy degree. I was thrilled to visit the toilets they have there. They are my number one favourite amenities in the UK (silver medal goes to the bogs at The October Gallery in London). Does anyone else have favourite toilets?
While in Barcelona recently I finally got hold of the Spanish photographer Ortiz Echague's work. I'd seen images a couple of years ago but forgotten his name. He started taking photos in about 1910, living up until the 1970's I think. His images are a stunning: the stuff that Goya or El Greco might have taken if ever they had got their hands on a Leica.
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Still no running water chez moi. We are faced with having to buy water from street sellers - who get the water from a small lake at the bottom of our street (I'm not sure whether the sewage from our area goes into this lake) - certainly it did yesterday during a bout of torrential rain). This morning I had the bright idea of getting water from the ministry where I work this morning (there's a tap in the car park). So for the moment, we're surviving on Federal Govt water.
Can't help feeling ambivalent about the decision yesterday to cancel Nigeria's US$34bn debt over the next 6 months. Not sure if the reform movement is strong enough to take advantage of the opportunity this provides (massively needed investment in infrastructure, health and education). I met a 22 year old student yesterday - she is 'studying' economics at the University of Abuja. She says 120 students have to cram into a small room with 60 chairs and only one ceiling fan (everyone sweats). This is however when the lecturers actually turn up - most of the time they dont receive any teaching at all. Even when they do turn up, the level of teaching is abysmal. One of her lecturers begged her for N500 to mend his shoes the other day. Often, the lecturers wear flip-flops. While this is the height of fashion this season in London, its somewhat looked down on here.
And here I am, more than willing to teach young Nigerian's how to think and offer courses in philosophy and writing - but have yet to work out how and to whom to offer these courses.
Meanwhile, the completely irrelevant Live8 is one more reason to feel pissed off with the day.