Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gobble Gobble Day

I promised to tell you all about my wonderful Thanksgiving, so here it is!

I asked for half the day off so that I could go to Thanksgiving dinner.  My boss said, "take the whole day; this is like the most important holiday in America."  I don't know about that, but I took the whole day.  Turns out that was a very good thing.

Pot-Luck, Luck Needed

The dinner was a pot-luck, turkey provided, everyone brings a side or dessert.  I wanted to contribute, despite my limited kitchen access and even more limited resources, so I decided to make deviled eggs.  I already had mayo, and I knew just where to buy a carton of eggs.  Plus, Dara and Feyi had been begging for egg salad again.  I figured I could use whatever eggs weren't devil-able for the egg salad.

It took the entire morning to make the deviled eggs.  I started at about 7:30 when I went to buy the eggs, and finished around 11.  For some reason, the yolk of African boiled eggs always goes to the fat end of the eggs.  This means you can't do deviled eggs the normal oblong way.  Instead, you have to slice off the top of the fat end and use the rest of the egg as the bowl part.  Result: one deviled egg per normal egg instead of two.  I used all the little sliced off pieces and  extra yolk for Dara and Feyi's egg salad, so it worked out well.

I didn't have any paprika, but luckily, his other girl going to the Thanksgiving had some in her purse.  She let me use it on the eggs.  And Mr. Embassy-Man had a deviled egg tray, so that helped a lot with the presentation.  (I had carried the eggs to his place in a cut-apart cereal box.)  They seemed to be ok; only 4 were left by the end of the dinner.

The Dinner

Mr. Embassy-Man is really thoughtful.  He asked the other Embassy people if the random Americans could join them for their Thanksgiving, and they said yes!  Hooray!  So two other random Americans and I met at Mr. Embassy-Man's house and headed over to the pot-luck with him and one of his neighbors.

Mr. Embassy-Man often thinks to include us in different events around Abuja, so we often go places in this big sort of group.  The Ambassador asked Mr. Embassy-Man if we were his posse, or something else, since he'd just gotten back from Turkey.  I thought that was really cute.

We are Thankful for This Food

The food was fantastic!  Stuffing, cheesey-potato bake, pasta salad, barley, rice, Turkish delight.  (Now I understand why that boy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sold out his siblings for that stuff.  It's good!)  There's was plenty of good food that I didn't eat, too.  Of course I didn't have the turkey, or the caviar that Mr. Embassy-Man brought.  I also missed out on the mashed-potatoes and the ice cream.  By the time they arrived, I was too full of other goodies.

I did not have any green bean caserole.  Nobody made any.  Mr. Embassy-Man thought about it but didn't, but that was probably a good thing.  I found out that Mr. Embassy-Man uses cream of chicken soup in his green bean casserole!  How can you ruin a perfectly good vegetarian side-dish like that?!  And not tell the vegetarians?  Oh well.

For Our Homes

The house where they held the dinner was gorgeous, and huge!  Plush carpeting, beautiful windows, soft and cushy furniture.  I mean, it was as if that security gate at the front had been a teleporter that moved us to the US.  I was scared I would break one of the nice dishes, or spill something on the rug.  I didn't, whew!

And for the People in Our Lives

The Embassy-crowd seems like a really good group.  They were very nice in allowing us to join them, and are always friendly when we chat with them.  They also seem to be forgiving.  Us random Americans, not really knowing proper protocol (or moving in circles like this) failed to stand up when the Ambassador came into the room.  We felt kinda bad about it as soon as realized we should have stood, which was right about when everyone else sat down, but nobody seemed upset by our faux pas.

The Ambassador's parents were visiting her from South Carolina, so I got to talk to them for a bit.  That was really cool.  They're very nice and were having a good trip.  Visiting Africa was a life-long dream.  To finally get come to Africa and get to see your daughter, the Ambassador, that's got to be amazing.

We (the random Americans) also got to visit with some other people whom we had met previously, either a Mr. Embassy-Man's birthday party, the Election Night, or some other random event to which he invited us.  They're all very nice, even if it can be a little intimidating talking to them sometimes.... more on that tomorrow.

After Dinner

Mr. Embassy-Man and his posse returned to his place after the Dinner, where we got to watch the last half of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!  That was wonderful; it really rounded out Thanksgiving.  It was on live, so evening time here.  I guess next year, I'll have to get up super early if I want to watch it.  Wendy's right, live tv on the West Coast sucks.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, too!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Just a Little Note

Hello Folks,
I had an absolutely wonderful Thanksgiving and can't wait to share all about it.  However, an hour at a Nigerian internet cafe was enough to nearly bring me to tears.  "Stop watching youtube!"  I wanted to yell at the guy next to me, "maybe then my email will send!"

Anyway, I'm home on Uncle's monitor for just quick enough to let you all know I'm here and fine.  Looks like we'll be packing a lot this weekend so I probably won't get to type a new post until Monday.  Have a great weekend everyone.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Part of Me's Missing

I used to tease Mr. Trizzle about attached he is to his computer.  The man hardly goes anywhere without his laptop.  He takes it to bed with him, to meals, to work where he already has a computer.  In fact, I have a photo of him sitting in a hotel room on one of our trips to Cali with his laptop on his lap that I titled "Man and his Best Friend."

But now that my laptop's broken, I'm bored and lonely.  No morning "good-nights" to my friends and family.  No late night chats with people on their lunch breaks.  No falling asleep to "The militia is going to Brighton and I do so want Papa to take us all there for the summer."

My whole routine is shot.  Usually, I down stairs after dinner and take care of my emails, see what's new in the bubbler-less world of So Cal, check out the newest rich white folk gossip, check to see if anyone else has updated (usually not), and then head over to Ip's What's Up to check the sidebar for all the latest IP news.  I spend the rest of the evening chatting, playing Freecell, and working on some sort of project - a blog past, a video, a collage, maybe some online Christmas shopping.

Anybody who's spent any time with me know I'm always creating something.  If I had a sewing machine, I'd probably miss my laptop less.  I have books, and I like reading, but reading someone else's stuff without being able to write my own just isn't as fun.  I have my journal, and that's good.  I can handwrite some of the projects I would have done on the computer - but, I can't use my journal to do the research necessary for a good Ip's post.

I just spotted an army man, a small Nigerian flag and a blue plastic circle.  That could keep me entertained for awhile.  Bye!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Forgot My Toothbrush

It struck me as incredibly ironic this morning, that I had just written this post about not leaving behind that one important item, and then this happened:

I spent a good portion of my Monday working on the personal statement for a Fellowship that I really, really want.  It's a long shot anyway, but I want to apply.  (It's not that I don't think I have a lot to offer, it's that I think there are a lot of people with a lot to offer who will apply.)  I planned to email the statement to a friend as soon as I got home, thus simultaneously backing it up in the cloud.  Fate had another plan.

When I opened my computer at home, the screen stayed black.  I'd been having problems with my computer screen (See Grey Is Better Than Blue post), so this wasn't entirely unexpected.  But two things upset me right away: 1) that application statement, and 2) loss of the ability to communicate with people back home.  I got over number two pretty quickly when my mom responded to my texts and Mr. Trizzle answered my phone call.  But that first one was a biggie.

Trying to Fix It

(Somehow, I have a feeling only Mr. Trizzle and MaryRuth are going to understand most of this section)

Mr. Embassy-man let me try his external monitor, but I could only get into my Linux system.  My machine's on a dual boot and when it starts up I get a black and white DOS-looking (but it's not DOS) screen with a list of choices for loading an operating system.  That screen wasn't visible.  Linux is the default.  Since I couldn't see the screen, I couldn't choose, and Linux booted.

At first, I was happy.  Linux can read my Windows drive (but not vice versa) so I thought I could just get my file, put it on my flash drive and be on my merry little way.  Not so fast. 

When my screen first showed up black, I did the general panic thing and tried restarting the computer, by holding down the power button until it turned off.  This meant Windows didn't shut down properly.  And that meant Linux couldn't access my Windows drive because it was 'in use.'  No file.  Dang it.

I tried guessing about how many times I needed to arrow down on that black and white screen to choose the Windows operating system.  It seemed to load once, but the monitor stayed black.

Linux told me I had two options.  If that other drive (my NTFS partition) was Windows, I should boot into windows and close it properly.  Yeah, ok, great, except I can't get into Windows.  Or two, if I didn't have windows, I could manually force Linux to read the drive (Linux calls it 'mount').  I had no idea how to do that.  'This is why a computer dilettante like myself should not be running Linux,' I thought.

So I headed home (after some yummy cheese and olives!) to wallow in my sorrow (and stupidity).

Mr. Trizzle is a bit of a computer geek trapped inside a lawyer's body.  I called him this morning to explain what had happened, and we spent over an hour discussing options.  He was very patient with me and tried to help, despite his obvious irritation at my not backing up this one important document before I left work.  (But I was going to back it up when I got home!  I was going to pack my toothbrush later...)

A String of Miracles

Today at work, I hooked up the desktop's monitor to my laptop and started trying things.  Eventually, I got into Windows and got it to show up on the monitor.  (A lot of trial and error, using the desktop system's windows as a guide, guessing about how many times to arrow down on that black and white screen and then hitting the right key combination to tell the laptop to use the external monitor.)

Miracle #1: There was power when I got to work.  Ok, not quite a miracle, but not a given either, and definitely a good thing.

Miracle #2: I got into Windows without being able to see anything.

Miracle #3: Windows showed up on the external monitor.

Miracle #4: The internet came on just long enough for my files to back-up in the cloud!

Why I Didn't Go Crazy

You may have noticed I was only concerned about one file.  How?  Why?  I need to thank Mr. Trizzle for putting me on to two amazing programs that literally saved my sanity.  If it weren't for these programs, I would have thought I lost everythingSyncToy and DropBox.  I mentioned both in my post about my work desktop

All my work documents are backed-up both on my flash drive and in the cloud.  SyncToy makes it incredibly easy to have matching files in many places.  I just set up my folder pairs and run the program anytime I'm going to close my computer.  My DropBox folder is one of the folders I sync.  Then DropBox automatically uploads my files to the cloud whenever there's an internet connection.  My semester paper, all my research notes, my numerous projects, even if I had lost my laptop completely, I'd still have all those.

I suggest everyone backup their data now (and everyday), and I recommend both these programs for doing that.  I believe SyncToy is a Microsoft application and thus Windows only.

I'm also very glad I had Linux on my machine (thanks again to Mr. Trizzle).  If Linux hadn't been on there, nothing would have shown up on the monitor at Mr. Embassy-Man's house and I wouldn't have kept trying to get into windows.  I would have thought the whole computer was kaput.  I do not, however, recommend putting Linux on your computer, especially not just so you can tell when only your screen is broken.

This Post

This post is my first trial at using my computer blindly.  You'll have to let me know how it works.  I can hook my laptop up to the monitor at work, but there's (usually) no internet.  At home, there is internet, but no extra monitor.  So I can type and work at work, but only upload or download at home.

I spent some time at work today trying to make my computer useable without a screen: taking notes on how many times to press what keys, adding sound effects for everything (my computer says "oof" a lot now), etc.  Hopefully, what happened was, I got home, opened my computer, logged into windows, got into my LiveWriter and posted this post without needing to see the screen.

I think it's time for me to go change some settings in my Thunderbird so I can do something similar with my email.  (Another thanks to Mr. Trizzle for putting me onto that program, too!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Don't Forget Your Toothbrush

It's like waiting for Jesus to come.  You know it's going to happen.  You know it could be any moment.  But you don't know when.  You know you should always be ready, but there's some things you just can't have ready until it's actually time to go, things you don't want to pack away yet because you want to use them as long as possible.

We're moving.  I mean, the family I'm staying with is moving.  I don't know if I'm going with them, but I'll still be moving out of the house, too.  We all know it's going to happen, but nobody seems to know when.  When I first met the family in August they told me they'd be moving sometime in September.  I thought, "Yeah, right.  This is Africa, things don't happen that fast."  As September rolled-on, they said, "We're moving in October."  October came and went.  "We're moving in November."  There's six days left in November.  Now, it's just "We're moving soon."

When I first moved in, I was hoping "September" wouldn't actually come until after I leave.  It's going to be close.  I have 3 weeks left exactly.  During the weeks, I tend to forget about the move.  For some reason I assume we can only move on a weekend.  It's only on the weekends I concern myself with being ready.  How many other people can say the same?

But I don't want to pack, or change things.  So, I find myself looking for hints.  "There's no boxes around, so we can't be moving yet."  Last weekend, Auntie asked the maid to put 6 bags of laundry detergent in the laundry room from the pantry.  "She wouldn't do that if we really were moving soon."  I noticed the air conditioners were still in the house and remembered that Uncle had said as soon as everything else was ready at the new house, he would move the unessential air conditioners.  "The air conditioners are still here; the new house can't be ready yet."  Then Uncle went to South Africa.  "We can't move if he's not here."  I told myself. 

Another week came and went.  Then Uncle returned from South Africa.  I woke up Saturday morning to find the maid and guard in the garage washing every single suitcase in the house.  "If it's taking them all day just to clean the suitcases, we can't be moving yet."  Auntie spent the weekend emptying the pantry and packing everything that was inside it.  "Well, it'll take more than a few days to pack the whole house, so we can't be moving yet."

This morning, Auntie was taking a gentleman around the house, labeling the air conditioners.  "Room 2" said the piece of tape that was stuck to the top of the kitchen air conditioner.  "They're just labeling them.  And the kitchen is one of the non-essential units.  I'll worry when it's gone."  I check the cupboards to see how many of the dishes are still in them.  I listen to hear what people are planning for the weekends.  I watch what's being packed.  What signs do you watch for?

Really, most of my stuff is packed.  I live out of my suitcases anyway and only have a little bit of furniture in the room.  But there's always those few items you want to leave out until the last minute.  "Don't forget your toothbrush," Jackie-O's mom said to Leslie.  Why?  Because the toothbrush is the easiest thing to forget.  You don't want to pack it until the day you leave.  You need it in the morning.  But it's so normal, such a regular part of everyday life, that out of habit you put it back on the counter and leave the room.  Or maybe you're running late and grab your bags to go, thinking you're all ready, not realizing you haven't packed it yet.

Luckily, toothbrushes are easily replaced, and fairly cheaply.  The same is not so true for other things that might be forgotten because they're left to be taken with at the last moment.  Some are irreplaceable.  What's your toothbrush?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

If You Don't Want Your Mommy to Find Out...

Don't put it on the internetThe CoConspirators

Well, it seems that while I was upstairs playing with Dara and   Feyi, Daddy Bunny helped Foo Foo guest post on my blog. Hmmm...  (It must have taken him a long time to type that with his little paws.)

Now, of course I was a bit upset to learn they had taken this little adventure.  What would I tell Munchkinhead if FooFoo got hit by a car!?  And what would I do without Daddy Bunny!?  I sternly told them that I would prefer if they asked me to take them somewhere rather than running around Africa by themselves; I worry about them and want them to stay safe.  However, I did not punish them.

Why?  Because I remember one time when I went off on an adventure with my sisters.  We went to buy Daddy a Father's Day present when Mommy and Daddy were gone.  Mommy and Daddy got home before us and were very very worried about what had happened to us.  They started walking all over the city trying to find us.  I still don't think we did anything that bad because we left them notes and cleaned up before we left.  How were we supposed to know they didn't take a key?  But, boy did we get in trouble!

To this day, when I'm out having fun on my own, I worry that I'm going to get in trouble for it later.  So I didn't yell at Daddy Bunny and Foo Foo; they're not in trouble.  If Munchkinhead wants to punish Foo Foo when he gets home next month, that will be up to her.

The Adventures of the Little Bunny, Foo Foo

Yesterday, when his mommy was at work, Daddy Bunny and I snuck out to explore.  I haven't been outside since we moved into this room, and I was longing for adventure, sunlight, maybe even a few carrots.  I think Daddy Bunny felt bad that he got to go on a trip the other week and I didn't, so he agreed to take me out sight seeing.

Daddy Bunny's mom locks the door when she leaves, but we still got out.  The windows have sliding screens that only cover half the window at the time.  Daddy Bunny is very strong and was able to push the screen to the other side.  We're both fluffy and squishy and small, so we had no problem squeezing through the widely spaced metal bars.  Plus, we're bunnies, so we can hop and jump really well.

The sun was really bright outside and it took a little while for my eyes to adjust to the light.  I wondered if it was easier or harder for Daddy Bunny to adjust, since he only has one eye.  The building that our room is in looks really big from outside.  There's lots of big open space around it, but no grass.  I was sad.  I had imagined hopping through lush green grass.  But instead, it was all hard stone and some prickly bushes.

Daddy Bunny and I were looking around, examining our surroundings when we had a sudden emergency.  This gigantic, mangy, hairy, grey and white beast was running towards us!  We quickly hopped, as fast as we could, towards a big hole in the wall across from our room.  We ducked under the barbed wire and made it safely to the other side.  The gigantic beast stopped at the hole.  He sort of stuck his nose through a bit, then pulled back and started barking ferociously.  (It was much scarier than when my brother, Barks, used to bark at me.)  We continued to flee.

We finally stopped after we darted around some other buildings.  This place was really different than where we'd just come from.  There was still no grass, but the ground wasn't covered in stones anymore either.  It was all dirt.  And very dusty dirt.  There were large piles of garbage all around us, and bicycles, cars and people, too.  We calmly collected ourselves and tried to hop off like normal little bunny rabbits.  

The city here is very different than my grandparents' place back home.  We have a nice big area of green grass out front, and another at the back.  The whole street has similar green patches up and down it.  There isn't a lot of traffic on the roads and not too many people around.

Here, there is very little grass, and what is there is brown and crunchy.  That's ok for chewing on, but not so yummy to actually eat.  And boy are there cars and people!  Several times Daddy Bunny and I had to hop very fast and dodge cars.  It was hard to scamper across the streets because the ground next to the road is often much higher than the road.  We had to leap onto and off of these big black and white stone things whenever we wanted to cross a street.  I'm really glad we didn't see any dead animals in the roads; that would have scared me even more! 

We did see some animals around though.  The birds here are very pretty and small and make beautiful music.  We had to run from a few more wild beasts and some scraggly and hungry looking cats, but we always got away.  (I'm afraid of cats, except for my brother Chuckie.  Although, my mom and aunties seem to be scared of him.  I don't know why.  I always liked his music.)

The strangest thing was when we went down this really busy road.  These very very large birds were walking around, pecking at the ground.  I asked Daddy Bunny why they weren't flying and what they were.  I'd never seen anything like that before.  Daddy Bunny said they're called 'chickens.'  He knows because his mommy had some in Zambia and because he saw some in England with her.   They didn't seem very smart.   One chicken walked right up to me, leaned down and peered at my face, his beak right in front of my nose.  His eyes were big and bulgy and he just cocked his head back and forth kinda jerkily.  I was scared.  I thought he was gonna try to eat me!  (Oh, Daddy Bunny just told me the chicken was a she.  He says she didn't have the beard that males have and that males are called 'roosters' and make really loud, painful, noises.)

The trees here are also very different than the ones at Grandma and Grandpa's house.  They go straight up really high, but their branches stay tucked against the trunk.  Daddy Bunny said they look like his mommy's fake Christmas tree when she took it out of the box.  At first I didn't like the strange trees.  Looking up at them made me very dizzy and I thought one would fall on me.  Then I saw Daddy Bunny.  He was near the bottom of the tree, munching on leaves.  Because the branches are folded down like that, the leaves nearly touch the ground.  Perfect height for little rabbits like us to get a snack!  Good thing too, all this hopping and dodging and running had made me very hungry.

There was one other odd thing I noticed.  Tombstones.  I know about tombstones because my mommy really likes vampires.  She has a lot of books with pictures inside or on the cover of cemeteries, graveyards and tombstones.  From these books, I learned that people back home put all their dead people in one place, so they can all sleep peacefully. 

Here, I kept seeing these little tombstones in very busy areas, between the road and the paths for people to walk.  I thought maybe they put the children where it's noisy because children like to play and have commotion around them.  Maybe the children wouldn't like a quiet cemetery.  I figured the tombstones are for children because they are so small. And what's really interesting, they only have initials on them.  Maybe there's not enough room for the full names.

I was standing and staring at one of these little tombstones right outside our gate when Daddy Bunny grabbed me and pulled me into the bushes.  I had been so busy wondering what this little child had looked like, liked to do, how she died, etc, that I didn't see Daddy Bunny's mommy coming up the street!  Luckily, Daddy Bunny recognized her humming.  His ears may not look so good, but they still work really well.  I was also surprised because I had expected to hear a car, not see her walking.

Daddy Bunny and I scampered along the edge of the gate and squeezed underneath it just as his mom was reaching the driveway.  Thank goodness the guards are so nice and always greet her when she comes in.  That distracted her enough for us to hop onto the big metal box sticking out of the wall under the window and back through the window.  Daddy Bunny pulled the screen shut again and we hopped onto the bed, trying to suppress our giggles about such a narrow escape.  Hopefully, his mom won't notice that we're both a bit dirtier than when she left for work.  We were so dirty to begin with, I don't think she'll realize the difference. 

It was a very fun day; I only wish my sister, Gibby, had been here to go on the adventure with us.  Of course, she'd only move in the trees, not hop with us.  Oh yeah, and there were no carrots.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Atty. D. Trizzle

(Or, as they would say in Nigeria: Barrister, Mr. Trizzle)

Meet one of the newest Deputy D.A.'s in Cali!

smile small cropped

See, he even looks like a lawyer.

[And you all thought I was gonna put up one of those pictures with the bling or grills or something, didn't you?]

Congratulations Mr. Trizzle!

I am very proud of you. :D

(statistics for the Cali Bar Exam can be found here.)

Grey is Better than Blue (Screen of Death)

I hope my computer makes it until it's time to go home.  It's starting to resemble Russell's!

For those of you who didn't go to Vandy any of the past 7 years, this is Russell: (that white strap on his head is swim goggles)

Russell and Shaina cropped

By the end of his last year of law school, Russell's computer was on it's last leg.  The front part, where you rest your hands to type, was covered in graffiti'd duct tape.  The power cord was held together with electrical tape, and the screen... well, the screen had to be propped up with a nice fat law book.  A few not-so-nice friends liked to walk past and grab the book occasionally.  Bam, the screen would slam to the table, the laptop completely open face, like a fancy sandwich.  Well, sometimes.  Usually, Russell caught it in time.  But his computer certainly was the source of great derision on Main Street (the main hallway where many of us sit to study and mingle.)

My computer's not quite as bad as Russell's, yet, but I'm starting to worry.  My power cord that had electrical tape to cover the broken casing got fried a month ago or so.  The other one's still holding up fine. 

My screen, however, is driving me crazy.  It keeps going grey so that it looks like it has some sort of cloudy film over it.  For awhile I could jiggle the computer and get the screen back to normal.  Then, I was able to push on the plastic below the screen and get it to snap the color back in place.  But now, now it only gives me the right color if I squeeze the plastic at the top of the screen tight.  When I let go, it goes back to grey.  At least I know what to do when I need to check the colors of something.

And then there's my speakers.  I have to jiggle the wires, pull them, push them, turn them.  I tried finding a good spot and taping the wires in that position, but I don't have tape and those "I Support VFW" stickers aren't very sticky.  I think the little speakers may go in the trash instead of home with me.  They've lasted a long time, still have beans inside of them from Zambia.  It's true!  I can hear the beans when I shake the speakers.

Oh well, even if my computer does end up like Russell's, at least I have better taste in formal footwear!

Barristers Ball 020

(Russell's on the right, Mr. Trizzle's on the left.)

The Shortest Distance From A to B is Not in a Cab

Awhile back I posted  about a crazy taxi driver that went way out of his way to get me from the Hilton to work.  Here's a map.  Sorry it's kinda crappy.  The map is a bit odd to begin with and then the photo is blurry.

crazy taxi driver route

The red circle is work: The Federal Secretariat.

The green square is the Hilton.

The light blue line is the path the cab driver could have taken.

The yellow line is the path he did take; I think, the small streets in Wuse II aren't well marked on this map.

And for those that are interested, the dark blue square outline is where I live.

Now Who Will Replace Newton?

"Vampire!!! Stephen Hawking is retiring!!!"  That what my friend's status message said.  Well, I edited it to be mommy-friendly.  His word was a bit shorter and had more rhyming potential.  I might use language that's a little less emphatic, but my sentiment's the same.

This was the first I'd heard of this, but a quick google search tells me the news is about a month old.  It's still sad though; he's been an important part of our dinner conversations for a long time. 

Here's to Stephen Hawking; Congratulations on a long, successful and impressive career!

Stephen Hawking's Universe

A Brief History of Time

A Brief History of Rhyme

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Abuja Carnival Day 1

I had heard rumors that there was to be a carnival in town this weekend, though I couldn't really find much information about it.  Well, today on the way to work, I saw evidence of the carnival.  Floats.  Lots of them.  Coming down the other side of the road.

These floats were a little different than the ones I'm used to seeing in our little parades, or even in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  (Awww... I'm gonna miss that next week.)  These floats were made out of full-sized semi-truck tractor trailer flat beds.  And instead of being covered in tissue paper, or flowers, they were covered in fabric.  I mean covered!  On several of them, I couldn't find the windshield.

The floats were crawling slowly down the right lane of traffic, guided by people walking along-side them and the occasional police vehicle.  There were four or five floats in a row, then some traffic mixed in, then some more floats, then more traffic, etc.  In the other lanes, traffic flowed as normal.

Each float represented a different State in the Federation.  The first float I saw was a giant crayfish, complete with wiggly antenna-things and big beady eyes.  'Appropriate,' I thought, since crayfish is the most common seasoning in Nigerian dishes.  Some other very elaborate floats included a huge peacock (the fabric on that one was beautiful), a lion, a village, a coal stock-pile, and a dog.  The one I really didn't understand was Mickey Mouse, but, whatever.

The floats were really intricate and quite well done.   Some of the less decorated ones had generators visible in their flat-beds.  I wonder what those are for.  Maybe the floats will light up at night or play music or something.  I have no idea where the floats were headed, if they're going to be part of a parade, if this was the parade, but, I'm glad I got to see them on my way to work.  And at work!

Here's some pictures taken from the window in my office.  These floats are a little less done-up than the ones I saw earlier.

Traffic at Abuja Fest Traffic at Abuja Fest (6) Traffic at Abuja Fest (7)

Later in the day I heard a lot of horns and shouting so I looked out the window again.  This is what I saw:

Traffic at Abuja Fest (8) Traffic at Abuja Fest (4) Traffic at Abuja Fest (3)

Normally, this is where the freeway off ramp merges with the freeway on ramp, i.e. all the traffic is going in the same direction.  As you can see here, it had become two-way traffic.  The police had apparently blocked the intersection ahead but not blocked the road back at the only place to detour before reaching that intersection.  Traffic was turning around to either go down that detour, or, in some cases, go back up the freeway entrance ramp further back!

Why You Little Stinker!

I was recently working on an art project using old family photos when I came across this picture of my aunt, uncle and daddy in London.

london guards and fam

First, look at the smirk on my aunt's face:

close up of aunt cindy's face  It's a little hard to see, but I tried to make the picture as big as I could without major distortion.



Now, take a close look at her hands:

london guards and aunt cindy's hands I've heard stories about how mischievous these kids were, but this seems to be starting awfully young.  Maybe it's just a coincidence, or an accident, or something.....   Maybe....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

He Won, Accept It

Ok, this just really pisses me off!  A former assistant state attorney has filed a law suit alleging that Obama is not qualified to become President because he is not a natural born citizen.  Alan Keyes filed a related suit in California.

Really, people?  The country overwhelming selects this guy to be our next President and you're so bitter about it that this is how you decide to try to fight it?  Apparently, the suit alleges that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii.  All the stuff I've seen says Hawaii, but then, I haven't seen any birth certificates.  I think it's extremely unfair that this is all coming up after Obama's grandmother passed away, especially since on of the "arguments" in the suit is that there aren't any witnesses alive to verify where he was born.

According to many news specials and Obama's books, Obama's parents met in Hawaii when his father was studying there.  I find it difficult to believe that a young American woman would choose to travel to Africa to have a baby, especially in the 1960s.  Additionally, all accounts I've heard say that Obama only saw his father for a few months when he was 10, nothing about him being around when Obama was born.  If Obama was born in Kenya, his father would have been around.  How about talking to his relatives in Kenya, and asking them if he was born there?

Most of the arguments outlined in the brief report about the suit seem very nit-picky.  They also seem to attack his international upbringing, which many see as one of his best attributes going into the Presidency.

I'm so angry about this, but I refuse to believe this can succeed.  Not after everything the country's been through.  God would not let all our hopes and dreams be taken away like that.  So that means in the grand scheme of things this suit must really have a different purpose.  Maybe it will cause Congress to amend the Constitution and open the door for Arnold to run someday. ;)  Hey, gotta stay positive.

It's Not Easy Being the Computer Guru

Funny thing is, I'm really not one.  But around here, whew, I don't know what they're going to do when I leave!

Things I've been asked, just in the past week:

  • What do I do to change the name of a file?
  • Why does the printer say no paper when there's paper? (the tray wasn't in properly)
  • How do I put numbers in this table? (in a word document)
  • How do I delete a column in this table?
  • How do I copy files to my flash drive?
  • I dragged my files from this window to my desktop; why aren't they in this window anymore?

At least no one's asked me how to turn on the computer.  That was me, asking them.  There's all these different boxes and stuff to protect against power surges and outages.  I couldn't tell if it mattered in what order they were turned on or not.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Preparing to Leave

I'm starting to pick up those last minute souvenirs and Christmas gifts that I know I want to take home with me, so, naturally, my mind has turned to luggage space.  I decided I could ship home some of the clothes I never wear and my collection of newspapers and pamphlets.  Not trusting the Nigerian Postal Service, I headed off to DHL.


In Zambia, I sent some fairly large boxes via DHL for about $150 each.  They all arrived home safely, unlike the boxes I sent via ZamPost, some of which never arrived.  I figured DHL was reliable and cost-efficient considering the airline fees for extra baggage.

When I made inquiries earlier in the week, DHL told me they open at 8am on weekdays.  Perfect, I start work at 9.  So at 8:15, I arrived at the DHL office at the Hilton.  Nobody.  8:20.  Nobody.  8:30.  Some employees from a nearby shop say "she will soon come."  8:40.  Nobody.  8:45.  One of the Hilton employees passes in the hallway and says she'll be there in about 5 minutes.  5 minutes later, she arrives and invites me into the office.

We unpacked my collection of clothes and papers, repacked them in a smaller box and put the box on the scale.  7.5kgs.  She then starts writing down numbers.  Line after line after line.  4 or 5 numbers in a column, and then she starts to add them.  $500!  What?!  That's ridiculous.  I could replace most of the stuff in that box for less than that.  Ok, not the newspapers, but the clothing at least.  So I asked about shipping just the papers.  Still about $200.  Nevermind....

I thanked the DHL lady for her time, took my box and headed to the front of the Hilton to catch a cab.  I had planned to walk to work from the Hilton, but now it was already quarter after nine, and I had a box.

The Cab

The cab driver seemed to have no idea where he was going and took the most backwards-vampire route possible.  Work is directly down the street from the Hilton, almost due south.  There's even a back exit that spits you out less than a mile from the Federal Secretariat.  Instead, the cab driver went around the hotel, to the front exit and then turned up a street that goes completely the opposite direction from the Secretariat.  To fix the problem, he turned down a crescent (Nigerian for big loopy street that'll get you lost real fast) and wound around until he had gone so far west as to pass the Secretariat.  He then, finally, turned South, and I thought we were going to be ok.  We were on the street that borders the Federal Secretariat on the west.  But no. he turned east and cut up a street that runs behind the Federal Secretariat so that he then had to go around part of the building!  At least I didn't have to cross the street this way.

I arrived at work half an hour late.  It didn't matter.  The clerk was the only person there, and he was cleaning the office.  Now, I just have to figure out what to do with this box, and I'll have to take a cab home, too. :(

Warning: Iron is Hot When On

Oops.  It's a cute burn though, really, as burns go.  On the side of my leg, just at the bottom of my knee.  A neat red tapered line, about 2" long.  It goes nicely with the blue veins just below that give my leg a sort of marbled look.  And it doesn't hurt, anymore.

I was warming up the iron so that I could iron un-wrinkled clothes just to avoid having some fly hatch in my skin.  I noticed something I needed to pick up from the floor.  I don't remember what it was.  But, I squeezed in between my bed and "desk" (two nightstands with a cardboard box bridged across them), and leaned into the iron on the bed in the process.

Oh well, that's still less scars than last time I came to Africa.  They're like my own little battle wounds, a story behind each one... this one's from fixing my shoe, falling of my bike, when my brick oven collapsed... etc.  They make me, me!  Character, that's it, character. ;)

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Desktop

Another techie post, sorry folks, no crazy-vampire Nigerian stories today.  Why?  Because I'm excited about my desktop and want to share my excitement!  :-P

There's some little shortcut goodies and fun gadgets buried in here, fyi. ;)

You know how Windows allows you to have up to 5 different user accounts on one computer?  Well, for me, that's just perfect.  I have my own, with the cute little yellow rubber duckie.  Then, I have an account for each of my four imaginary alligators, Jack, Sally, Lee and Bob.


I don't like having lots of icons on my desktop, or lots of little buttons in my system tray, but I do like having the things I need to use most easily accessible.  I noticed that the things I want accessible at work and the things I want accessible at home are (usually) different.  Since I don't want all the icons for both home and work all over my desktop, I decided to convert one of my alligators' accounts to a "work system." 

Introducing the Lee (Remi) account

Remi is my Yoruba name, so I thought it would be a good one to use for work.  I couldn't just take away Lee's account though; that wouldn't be very nice, so we're sharing.  I think I chose to share with Lee because I like the little rubber froggie second best, after the duckie.  I added a password, changed the account type to administrator and went to work designing my work account.  (The other accounts are not password protected and can thus be used by guests, if they ask the alligators nicely to share.)

You can see here what my desktop looks like with everything closed. 


System Tray

In the system tray, there's Media Monkey for my music, AVG, my kick-vampire free anti-virus, and my drop box is usually up there too, backing up all my hard work to the cloud (and Mr. Trizzle's computer, hee hee).


Then I have shortcuts on the desktop for only the things I use the most: Word, OneNote, SyncToy (one of the greatest inventions ever!), my Work Files folder, Chrome and one other folder of IP documents I might need often.  As you can see, unlike some people, I have no qualms about mixing proprietary software with open source, or using both Microsoft and Google applications.  I use what works best for me, and that's generally Microsoft on the computer and Google in the cloud.


I had chosen the blue mountain background because it was simple and not distracting, exactly what I need for work.  But one world's sexiest man for backgroundday I got bored with it and changed it.  Now, I have the same problem as munchkinhead, "I need to find a new background that I wont stare at for hours."  Oh well, at least I can't see it when I'm actually working... I'm just really tempted to hit Windows Logo Key+D a lot.

This is what my screen looks like when I'm working - everything right there in front of me, exactly where I need it:



If you look carefully, you'll notice that my Word program is split into 3 frames.  work background highlighting wordTwo of them are attached.  In the red circle, I have easy access to my styles.  This allows me to quickly format my text without  having to switch back to the Home Tab.  The green circle is my main document, and in the blue circle, my comments.  I use comments (Ctrl+Alt+M) to easily mark areas of my document that I want to edit later.  Having the reviewing pane open on the bottom instead of having the comments in balloons on the document allows me to easily find the areas I want to edit without wasting a lot of screen space.

One Note

work background highlighting one noteI had tried using One Note last semester for taking notes in class  and decided it sucks for that purpose - for me.  I'm better off with a pen and a notebook.  But I've discovered One Note is amazing for compiling research.  The program makes organization easy, and more important, makes it extremely simple to search for things.  In this screen shot, I was working on a paper for work.  Behind my Word document of the paper is my One Note research info.  I can flip through the notebook to find the information I need, and then continue to look at it while typing in my Word doc.

work background highlighting side note I also have a Side Note Window open (Ctrl+Shift+M).  It's like a sticky tab on my screen, and it's set to always stay on top.  It has my outline for my paper so that I can organize my paper well without cluttering up my Word Doc, and I can always see where I'm headed next in the paper.



My Music

Sometimes, I like to listen to music while working.  And being me, I want to mark my musicwork background highlighting media monkey Media Monkey has this nifty feature called Mini Player.  It puts a little translucent playlist on the screen.  The playlist shows me the past five songs and the upcoming six or so.  It also allows me to see all the information about the songs and gives me access to the volume, properties, and play controls.  Like the Side Note, it stays on top of the other windows.  Since it's translucent (like Wendy!), I can still see any important information that might be on the Word doc behind the media player.  I can adjust the size of the playlist box to whatever suits my fancy, too.


Usually I don't keep my taskbar on top, but in the picture it's on top because I hit the Windows Logo Key to take the screen shot. (Windows Logo Key+S).  However, I do have my windows arranged so that they only partly cover the task bar.  work background highlighting internetThat's so I can easily see if I have new messages in my email - when there's internet.  New mail is just a click or Alt+Tab away!  I know it's more productive to not check the email every time a new message comes, but I don't get that many, and they usually perk me up a bit.  I get excited.  In fact, I get so excited, I actually tired opening the window in the picture to check that one message!  And I know there's no internet on right now!

So that's my work desktop.  It's spiffy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thirty Days 'til I Arrive in the Promised Land of Milk and Cheese

The land where yogurt is a snack instead of a drink, milk is a liquid instead of a powder, and cheese doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  A place where I don't have to iron my socks and underwear, where ice cream doesn't come in a plastic bag, and I'm not automatically wrong just because I'm young, poor and only have one degree.  Snow, family, and holidays await.  No malaria, no squatting, and no constant trail of ants in the bathroom.

But there also won't be chickens running down the road, people dressed in bright colors everywhere I turn, or crowds of people pushing to get into church.  Nobody's going to accidentally buy cans of peas instead of bottles of sodas (though my mother may tell us to put them on the bushes), we won't weigh our chickens with the feathers still on, and my chances of actually meeting any of my favorite musicians are about nil.

Each place has its own things that make it special and wonderful.  And it's now, now that leaving Africa again seems so soon, and arriving home seems so far, now is the time that I can really appreciate what's wonderful about both places.  The things I'll miss about here and the things I can't wait for about there.  Now is when my heart begins to really feel torn in two.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Exploding Red Blood Cells

It's not unusual for me to blackout a bit, get a little dizzy, feel somewhat woozy.  Usually, it means I need food.  I sit down for a bit to rest, and I'm ok again.  So when it happened this Thursday, I wasn't really worried, just a bit puzzled.  I had eaten recently, I wasn't hungry.  I sat down for a bit and expected it to get better.  But it didn't.  I got dizzier.  My friend and I were done shopping.  I stood to leave the shop.  We started heading down the uneven dirt path.  I couldn't see.  "Kyura!"  I called out to her.  Some splotches of light shown through the blackness.  She helped me sit on a rock in front of a shop and ran to get me some water.

"White, you cannot sit in the sun."  A lady came over to me.  She helped me up and took me to a stool next to one of the cobblers, under an umbrella.  I sat and started to feel a little better.  At least I could see again.  Kyura returned with some juice and a bottle of water.  We drank and then resumed our shopping.  I still felt weak, but was able to sit in every shop we entered.  Kyura's brother came to get us and I went home to rest.

It wasn't until later that evening that we realized something was really wrong.  Some dizziness and such could be dehydration, could be a shortage of some nutrients, could be the change in weather.  A queasy stomach could be too much cooking oil, new foods, or different water.  But the dizziness, the headaches, the queasiness, and then feeling fine followed by feeling even worse and suddenly feeling extremely hot and then very cold.  That all points to one thing -- malaria.  Yes, Wendy, again.

Luckily, we'd all had it before and recognized it before I got super sick.  Kyura and her brothers took me to their local clinic.  The nurse did the usual, temperature, blood pressure, weight.  None of it meant anything to me, being half-out of it and the numbers in metrics.  We didn't tell the nurse what we suspected; she reached that conclusion on her own.  Here's some medicine to kill the parasites.  This one's a pain reliever.  These are multi-vitamins.  Two of these at first, then one.  Twice a day.  Three times a day.  One of these.  Two of these.  All these numbers, all these days, all these pills.  She wrote it all down.  I'll be fine again in no time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jos - the City White People Like

Well, I really hate living up to stereo-types, but I liked Jos a lot.  It reminded me of Mansa, in Zambia.  Everyone that has mentioned Jos to me has said, "you'll like it; all the white people like it because it's cold."  I didn't like it because it's cold.  In fact, it wasn't cold yet, just a nice cool breeze during the day and a bit chilly at night.  I liked it because it wasn't Abuja; it was Africa, finally.  Jos made me like Nigeria.

Jos is the capital of Plateau state, about 3 hours north of Abuja.  It's so different from the capital.  The roads are still good and full of traffic.  It's a bustling, busy place.  There's several universities, including the national film and television schools.  There's a zoo, one of the countries best museums, and lots of houses and shops.  But, the city doesn't have that fake, concrete feel of Abuja. 

Abuja: I can't figure out if it's Africa masquerading as Europe, or Europe masquerading as Africa.  Everything is so contrived.  Being the capital, the city is full of bureaucracy, politicians, protocol and money.  It's all about who you know and where you can afford to go.  The streets are lined with planted trees and carefully sculpted bushes (usually in the shape of letters).  Sure, even the busy streets have chickens running along the sidewalk, but somehow, it feels like even they were put there.

Welcome to Africa

Jos is different; it looks different, it feels different.  The market area is composed of long lines of tin-roofed buildings, with all the wares proudly displayed out front.  Across the sidewalk, which is really just cement planks over the sewer, cobblers sit working at their stands under umbrellas proclaiming that smoking causes early death but you should still buy Pall Mall cigarettes.  Colorful wrappers hang down from ropes under the roofs.  Bright woven plastic bags dangle in the sun along the walls.  Everywhere you turn, children and women carry bowls of bagged beverages, plates of nuts, and boxes with an assortment of household goodies, on their heads.  Standing under the overhang of one store, a large white cow.  Running through a display of dresses in an open lot, a brown goat.  Picking at the dirt outside a carpenter's shop, one lone rooster.

The roads are paved, but there's still that fine dirt in the air.  Unpaved shoulders, trees and plants that have sprung up randomly where only nature has planned.  Cabs pick up as many strangers as the car can hold, and we  get all the way into town for about thirty cents a person.  Green mini busses with a fat yellow stripe down the side carry crowds around the town.  Motorbikes zoom everywhere with passengers holding tight to the bike or the pieces of cut glass in their hands or the long wooden planks balanced on their heads.  In and out of traffic, around cars, cutting and dodging, it's as though the city has been over-run by a Shriners brigade!

The people are friendly and say hello as they pass, and then call out all sorts of enquiries in their local language, "white, what are you doing here?"  "yes, white have you found what you want?"  "ah, where did she find this white?"  My friend who accompanied me to the market was shocked. "Is this really how we act around white people?" she asked.  I just laughed, I'm so used to it.

Excuse Me, Can You Tell Me Where to Find a White Person?

My friend's family had asked her that same question: where did she find me.  Kyura is definitely one of my favorite people at the office, so when she offered to take me to Jos with her for a few days, I was super excited.   She phoned her parents and let them know I'd be coming home with her.  And her father asked her, "where did you find a white friend?"  Her sister came home from work very late at night (she works at a bank) and asked the same thing.  Her aunties, her brothers, every time she introduced me to someone, they asked her where she found me.  She just started laughing.  "Why did I have to find her?  Why couldn't she have found me?"  She began asking them back.

Family Time

The power was hardly on the entire time I was there.  Kyura was so worried it might bother me.  I hardly noticed.  I like candles.  The kerosene lamp smell was a bit much sometime, but those were only in the large parts of the house anyway.  And the best part of the power being out, we all sat in the parlor talking.  Kyura said that's something she's noticed; when the power's out, the family spends more time together just sitting in there and talking, and she likes that.  I think that's really neat, too.  Maybe we should have the power go out a bit more often at home, too.

Kyura's house is large and full of people.  Her parents, her grandmother, her father's eldest sister.  I met more aunties and cousins than I can count and have no idea how many of them live there and how many were visiting.  Her sister and two of her three brothers were also home.  Everyone was so nice, so welcoming, so relaxed and free.  None of the stuffiness and formalities of the people in Abuja.  Kyura mentioned that her family is different than most Nigerian families in this way.  The way they are so free and open with each other; her friends have described it as "acting like white people."  Well, I don't know about that, but she likes it, and it certainly made me feel more comfortable.


It was a wonderful trip, although far too short, and with a bit of a downside (upcoming post....).  The beautiful night sky with no light pollution.  The smell of burning grass.  The pleasant greetings of people just going on about their business.  The buzz of a lively market.  Strong sun and a cool breeze.  Tall cactus trees.  High grass waving in the wind.  Maize stalks, sugar cane.  Diesel fumes, car horns.  Dust.  Sweet smell of wildflowers.  Children laughing, babies crying.  Fluffy clouds, a bright blue sky.  A barbershop, an outdoor bar.  Flat topped trees in front of a glowing red sunset.  Large jutting rocks, long red roads.  Africa..... Africa....

heart in africa africa in heart

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fear of a Black (with) Hat?

In case you haven't been following along for the last couple of months, I live in Africa.  Everyday, everywhere I go, I am surrounded by black people.  This is not the first time I've lived in Africa, and I also spend plenty of time at home around black people.

Hold on.

I'm not going to go into one of those so-see-I'm-not-racist tirades that often come after someone explains that they have a black friend or two.  I am just trying to explain that I am used to walking down the street and seeing black people, and they don't scare me.  Not saying not racist, just saying not scared.  Got it?

Ok, still think I'm heading down some sort of racist/prejudiced path?  Maybe I am - and that's the problem.  That's why I'm writing this.

The other day I was walking to an American-styled (and priced!) internet cafe on the other side of town.  It's about an hour walk down some pretty busy streets.  I passed lots of people, people carrying things on their heads, people pushing wheel barrows of sugar cane, couples out walking, groups of friends, and the occasional chicken (actual poultry with feathers and stuff).  Some people I greeted, some people I just passed, but mostly, if their presence affected me, it was because a greeting had made me smile.  Even though it was dusk and these were all strangers, I wasn't scared.  I was just walking.

Then, something happened. As I headed up one of the last stocking capmain   streets, I saw a man wearing a stocking cap approaching my path.  Immediately, my heart started pounding.  My eyes darted around, looking for an escape route.  My legs wanted to freeze and run at the same time.  My body was automatically going into panic mode, adrenaline was flowing.

All these reactions happened before my mind had a chance to think.  Something had triggered my flight-or-fight mechanism.  Luckily for me (and probably for the guy, too), my mind quickly regained control, and I kept walking towards the cafe.

But as my heart started to calm down, my brain started going.  Why did seeing a black man in a stocking cap cause such immediate (and irrational) fear?  Would I have reacted the same way if he had been any other race?  Am I afraid of knit hats?  Maybe just headwear in general?

Clearly, I didn't react that way to anyone who looked similar but wasn't wearing a stocking cap.  I have to admit that I really doubt that just anyone wearing a stocking cap would make my heart race like that.  And I know that seeing people I know, of any color, in a stocking cap doesn't scare me.  It has to be something about the combination.  But why?  What has programmed my body to fear stranger+black+stocking cap so strongly?

Thinking back to an account by one of my friends, I can only comfort myself with the fact that I'm not the only person with irrational fears.  Great comfort. :-/

At least this made me laugh:

"Are the majority of black people messed up or is it just where I live?

I live in Oakland, California..."

(Well The Legend, that may explain why that Asian lady yelled at you...)

[*Fear of a Black Hat; Photo from]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

So Long, Mama Africa

miriam-makeba"I will sing until the last day of my life." 

And she did.

Sultry songstress, activist, wife of a revolutionary, the world lost a legend yesterday.

But her music will live on...


My favorite song.



Photo: Courtesy Heads Up International

Monday, November 10, 2008

Forget Cleveland, Dvorak Rocks!

If you've ever tried to type on my computer (or if I was on yours and forgot to change the settings, sorry Mommy and Mr. Trizzle), you know that my keyboard's not like yours.

Your keyboard probably looks like this:

qwerty keyboard

My keyboard's keys look like that, but it acts like this:

dvorak keyboard

It's called Dvorak, and I absolutely love it!

I switched two summers ago, and it took me about 2 or 3 months to really learn the new layout.  But it was soooo worth the downtime!

On QWERTY, my typing speed was about 35 wpm.  I thought that was pretty good.  Boy, was I silly.  On Dvorak, I'm somewhere in the mid-60s.  HUGE difference.  Even better than that, my hands don't hurt even though I spend all day typing.  That's because my fingers do less stretching.

Dvorak has this nifty set up where all the vowels are on the home row of my left hand and the most used consonants are on the home row of my right hand.  I just bounce back and forth between hands.  :) happy little me

So what would make someone throw out two decades of typing experience for something strange and different?  Well, I'll tell you.

I grew up with a computer.  I was so young when we got our Commodore 64 that I don't remember not having a computer.  (We still have it by the way, chhh chhh chhh chhh chhh "you walked into a wall stupid.")  So I taught myself to type.  Even though we had typing tutor games like Kids on Keys, I didn't learn the correct finger positions.  By the time we had typing class in middle school, I could type without looking but still poked at the keyboard.  (In some ways, that was almost more impressive than touch typing.)  But I couldn't touch type.

Years later, in law school, I tried to learn to touch type.  I discovered it was too late.  I also learned that I knew how to type words, not letters.  I didn't really know where the letters on the keyboard were, I knew where to put my fingers to type certain words.  That explained why I always had the same typos and spelling errors, even if I actually knew how to spell the word.

Then Mr. Trizzle started talking about this Dvorak thing.  He knows a lot about computers and tech stuff and is often trying out new things.  (And getting me to try them, too, and then deciding they're not that great after I've started using them...)  He was talking about how it's supposed to be so much easier to type and so much better for your hands.  So I read about it, found an online typing test and started learning.  And now I'm hooked.

Want to Try It?

You can try Dvorak, too.  Here's how.  (I use XP, so that's what my instructions are based on.)

I suggest first going into Accessories --> Accessibility and opening the on-screen keyboard.  This will help you know what keys to press and will let you know which keyboard is active.

Next, go to Control Panel --> Regional and Language Options.  (I know you might want to go to keyboard, but that's not right.  Normally, different keyboards are used in different parts of the world, so it's a regional or language thing.)

Select the Languages tab.  Click on the Details button.  Your drop down menu in the top of the window should say English (United States) - US.  If you try to drop down the list, there won't be anything else.

In the lower part of the window, click the Add... button.  Click the box next to Keyboard layout/IME:  Select United States-Dvorak from the drop down menu.  Click OK.  Unless you're ready to go crazy, leave US as your default (signified by bold font). 

Click the Key Settings... button.  This allows you to set up your system so you can toggle between keyboard layouts.   There should be a line that says "Switch between input languages".  Click on this so it's highlighted.  Then click on the Change Key Sequence... button.  Select the key sequence you want to use for changing keyboard layout.  I like to use Ctrl+Shift.  The only bad thing about this is that sometimes you might hit the two together accidentally and not know what happened and have to text your sister in Italy to try to fix it.  Click on OK and Apply buttons until you've closed out all your windows.  You should now be ready to type in Dvorak.

Open something that allows you to type, like Word or Wordpad or Typepad.  Check your on-screen keyboard to see what layout you're in.  Hit your switch keys (i.e. Ctrl+Shift) and check your onscreen keyboard to make sure it changed to Dvorak if it was in Qwerty.  Start typing!  And let me know how you like it!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yes, Sir; the Emperor's New Suit Looks Very Nice

There is one thing I certainly won't miss about Nigeria.  In fact, sometimes it makes me want to leave right now.  You cannot question your superiors.  And 'superior' doesn't just mean your boss at work.  It means anyone who is older than you, has more degrees than you, has more titles than you, or even just has more money than you.  (I think that last one is usually correlated to the first three.)  You must at all times show them absolute respect, and never ever even suggest to them that they are wrong.

Some Examples

Uncle said a few weeks ago that Obama wasn't born in the US.  Even if I didn't know where Obama was born, I at least know that you cannot be president unless you are born in United States territory.  But I know Obama was born in Hawaii.  I know Hawaii is part of the US, and it was when he was born.  But can I say this, or even go to the computer and pull up any of the millions of on-line sites that could verify this?  No.  Why?  Uncle is older; he's wealthy, and he has a master's degree.  He can't be wrong.

Same sort of stuff happens at work.  We have a new girl whose degree is in English Education.  The boss says that makes her the office expert in English, and we should all go to her for anything relating to English, proof-reading, etc.  Now, we all make mistakes when writing: typos, mind getting ahead of our fingers, spell-check fixing something to the wrong word, etc.  But, there's a difference between that and just plain old bad English.  This girl asked me to look over something that she had done.  The English was so bad, I could hardly understand what she was trying to say.  Tenses all over the place, wrong words, fragmented sentences, no organization of ideas.  It was a mess.  (And yes, I know my blogs often have run-ons and fragments.  This is usually done for a certain effect, a stylistic decision.  It's a blog, not a proposal for my supervisor.)

In both these cases, the stuff that was wrong was factual, something that could be checked with reference material, with dictionaries, encyclopedias or grammar books.  But that's not allowed.  You take the word of the 'expert'.  If it's this bad with things that are fact-based, imagine if you disagree with someone's opinion!

Respect my Authority

Now, I agree you should show your superiors respect.  I think you should show respect to every human being.  But if someone around you is wrong, or is going to do something that will reflect poorly on your organization, say something.  If the circumstances permit, do it discretely, make a suggestion, present your point of view with a few reasons or some sources to back up what you're saying.  But, I cannot understand how it is beneficial to insist that someone is right just because they're supposedly bigger and better than you.  It's obnoxious, and seems like a good way to produce a nation of idiots. 

In fact, the respect thing goes so far that not only do you have to show superiors respect, you can't show respect to people who aren't superior.  This really frustrates me.  I can't respect the maid because she's just a maid?  Yeah, that's what they say.  They tell me if I show her respect she won't know her place and will be out of control.  Now, I've had a lot of jobs in my life, at various positions on the ladder.  I may never have been on the top, but  from what I've seen, employees who feel respected by their boss give more, do better work, and generally are respectful in return.

Things weren't like this in Zambia, but then, I was living in a village, not in the center of a bureaucracy.  We respected  everyone.  If we were talking to or about an adult, we put the respect title "Ba" before their name.  If there was someone who was really high up in the village hierarchy, such as a chief or headman, we bowed a little lower when greeting them.  But, we did not stop showing others respect just to give the chief more respect.  That's ludicrous.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Is there a Heaven for Shoes?

I came here with four pairs of shoes and some flip-flops.  Yup, that's right.  I brought as many pairs for several months as I would normally pack for a week.  But, it looks like I may go home with just the flip-flops.

My black dress shoes for work, the ones that tore my feet up, broke.  Sort of.  The heel on the right shoe kind of collapsed.  There's a bulge and a crack on the inner-side and the shoe is lopsided.  I don't mind so much if these don't make it home.  I got them specifically for here.  At 1", they're hardly high enough to wear at home.  They're also big and clunky, taking up too much suitcase space.

My favorite pair of walking shoes though, I would like to take home.  I got them in DC in July of 2006.  I had gone there to celebrate the 4th with my friends from the Peace Corps.  As we were walking towards the DC Mall, the shoes I was wearing broke.  My favorite 5" white stilettos.  I needed replacements right away, and they not only had to match what I was wearing, they had to be high enough to keep my very long white skirt off the ground.  I found these beautiful peach strappy 5" wedges.  They were a little more expensive than I usually allow for shoes, even though they were on clearance, but they were perfect.  So comfortable and I love them.  I wear them for walking; I wear them for climbing trees; I wear them to the pool.

This weekend, the insole came off of the left shoe while I was walking to my friend's birthday party.  The padding was so worn down that it really isn't too much of a difference without the insole.  But, the straps have started separating from each other.  In some places, it is only the thread holding the shoes together.  I figure, if the thread breaks, I'll re-stitch the straps back together.

My brown dress shoes are also on their way out.  The lifts are worn down to the nails.  But since I only wear them to church and work occasionally, they might make it.  In their current state, I can easily get them fixed at home.  But if the heel itself gets worn down, it'll be the trash heap for them.

My black slides are doing ok, but that's because I never wear them.  I know, because this is my 3rd or 4th pair of these shoes, that if they need to become my work shoes and I wear them regularly, they won't last the 5 and a half weeks I have left.  But then, they were only $5.  I also know not to bother fixing them.  I had a beige pair that I tried to fix in Zambia.  Wound up needing to repair myself instead - stitches to close up the neat hole in my leg after I put my 2" swiss army knife straight into my thigh.  It's a cute scar now, really.

So, if I get off the plane in December in Wisconsin in flip-flops, don't pick on me.  They may be all I have.

(And please do not tell me to go shoe shopping here.  That's a can of worms I'd prefer not to open.  I'll make do.)

"We're Sorry, This Video is No Longer Available"


It's often seen, and it may be on it's way out!

I know this seems like the type of topic that should be on the IP blog, but I thought my readers here might be interested in it.

YouTube and MySpace are embarking on a new experiment that will approach pirated videos differently.  Instead of sending a DMCA Take-Down Notice that results in removal of the video, the rights holders involved in the experiment will allow the companies to put advertisements over the video, and the revenue from the ads will go to the proper rights owners.  Users win - still get to see videos.  Rights owners win - still get compensated for their work.

Detailed info available from Reuters.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Thank you Mr. Embassy-man for introducing me to the House Member who invited me to the meeting so I could meet D'banj!

Yup, that's right, I got to meet D'banj.  Got to talk to him.  He even shook my hand!!  And... look!

photo with D'banj

D'banj has several albums released now, but I only have the one that's available on  I'm still trying to find out where to buy non-pirated cds here.  According to the newspapers, D'banj contracted with the fast food chain Mr. Biggs to sell legitimate copies of his albums, but I haven't been to a Mr. Biggs yet.

He's really nice, and a bit shorter than he looks on tv.  (Everyone's always shorter than I expect.)  His breakthrough hit was Tongolo.  Although, personally, I prefer the remix.  It's good music!  If you like American hip hop, check it out.  In fact, check it out even if you don't like American hip hop. ;) 

That's the second celebrity I've met.  The first was Angela Nyirenda.  She's my absolute favorite Zambian singer, probably because she does some songs in Tonga and no one else does.  I had a picture with her, but it was either on a cd in the box that never arrived, or on the cd that got destroyed on the flight home.  She was also really nice.  That was one thing I really loved about Zambia.  The celebrities are so approachable.  The country's population is fairly small, and the cities where the artists tour are often small.  The most incredible Zambian concert line-up imaginable still had such a small crowd (by American standards) that we were able to sit close to stage.  Some audience members even could go dance on the stage.

So yeah, I'm super excited, and will probably be jumping around for a couple weeks! :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Life, Back to Normal?

I'm a bit nervous going to work today, a little afraid of how many people might drop by to say something.  I've decided to keep a running account throughout the day.  As there is currently no internet at work, I'll post them all together at the end of the day.

8:15am - I arrived at work and was greeted, as usual, by the guards at the parking lot gate.

Guard: My sister, good morning!

Me: Good morning.

Guard: Your brother, he is President of America.  He go do and watch for us?

I just smiled and went to work; I have no idea what that means, but the guard was obviously happy.

9:31am - My supervisor called to see if the office clerk was around to help her carry something.

Me: Nope, I'm the only one here.  Would you like me to come help you carry it?

Dr. Y: You're the only one there?!

Me: Yes.

Dr. Y: They must be out celebrating Obama.  I'll carry it myself.

12:21pm - The office secretary finally arrived at work and was asking me where I was yesterday; he wanted to celebrate.

Secretary: I was even wanting to celebrate with you but you were not here.

Me: I was sleeping.

Secretary (turning to another person in our office):  My brother has won!

At about 2pm, I went to a meeting at the National Assembly.  During the next several hours Obama came up many times.  But that's pretty much been the norm anyway.   So maybe things are back to normal, just a bit ;)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Morning After

The internet went off right after Obama's speech.  I have no idea why.  I wished they (the Obama ppl) would stop playing the Patriot music.  That just added to the tears.  But then, I suppose that's the point.

I'm sure some of the my tears yesterday and today were out of sheer joy, but some of them were out of sadness, too.  I'm not there, in America.  I had thought about flying to Oakland for the election night, and I would have loved to have been dancing in the streets with my friends there.  But, I decided not to go.  And while I did miss the dancing, I didn't miss the election.  I'm just experiencing it in a different way.  A different way that I can share with you.

The Nigerian Papers

I walked down to a newspaper stand this evening to get some of the day's papers.  They were all printed before the results were announced at 5am here, so the headlines just proclaimed that Obama had an early lead.  One paper had an article about lots of errors causing long lines.  I hadn't heard that, mostly just that the high turnout caused long lines.  No offense to The Punch, but I think CNN and BBC are more respectable sources.

There were also a lot of articles trying to make McCain look bad.  One paper's front page read "McCain breaks rule, campaigns on election day."  This pissed me off.  First, there is no rule like that.  Second, Obama was campaigning on election day, too.

One of my favorite articles was an "interview" with a judge on duty at a polling station. (I don't know what that means, but that's what it says.  Sounds like she might be a poll watcher.)  The Nigerian paper, The Vanguard, printed the entire exchange with this judge.  It's basically her just repeatedly telling them that she can't do interviews and they can't talk to the voters until after the voters have voted.  I don't think the "interview" is actually verbatim though because it has the American saying "I hope you would not disrupt the queue out there."  We don't say "queue;" we say "line."

Nigerian papers also comment on things that American papers wouldn't mention, either because they aren't important or aren't proper.  For example, that same Vanguard article: "Andrew Strike, a white, who is the Chief Press Officer, from the State Department said he was...."  Hello!  What he's saying matters because he's the Chief Press Officer.  The color of his skin is irrelevant.  These elections have provided plenty of opportunities for comments where the speakers skin color might be relevant; this is not one of them.  On top of that, 'a white'?!?

Oh, and apparently the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission says the "US has a lot to learn from Nigeria" about elections.  Right.....  I wonder how the guys at the Embassy would feel about that statement.  The The Chairman's reasoning for why we should learn from Nigeria shows a great ignorance about America.  First, he says we need a national voting registry.  Feel free to leave comments on why this is ridiculous.  Second, he says we need to learn how to have elections all in one day, with none of this silly early voting stuff.  So that then he can criticize our long lines?  I happen to think the early voting worked very well.  Anyone have another opinion?  (Article in the Daily Sun.)

We apparently also have one paper with a prophetic writer.  The Daily Independent on November 4th had an article "U.S. on the Verge of History."  The first sentence says "By 5 a.m. local time on Wednesday, history would have been made and the face of world politics and racial relations changed in magnitude more groundbreaking than the fall of the Berlin Wall."  CNN declared Obama the winner at 4:59 a.m. local time.  (The sentence sounds funny to us.  Nigerians use "would" where we use "will."  I have no idea why.

The Nigerian People

They're crying, too.  Dara and Feyi told me they all got up early this morning, about when the results came in, and watched the news.  Auntie and Uncle were crying tears of joy.  Feyi's been running around the house singing "Obama, Obama, Obama."  And Dara told Hammed, one of the family's gate-men, that Obama looks like him.  Hammed laughed, but his face lit up with this huge smile.  But that's part of the magic of all this, isn't it?  That a poor gate-man in Africa can look like the next President of the United States.

People were so excited about the election that massive crowds besieged the satellite dish companies to pay past-due bills.  The company buildings couldn't hold all the people.  There was nearly a riot.

Work sent me an email:

This is to congratulate you on the election of Barak [sic] Obama as the 44th US President of the United States. This gives a new lease of hope for the majority of the human race who are impacted by the events in the world's leading democracy. I commend your compatriots for again showing the dynamics of democracy at this defining moment of your country's history.

And they offered me a celebration on the Commission, which of course I would not accept.  The day off to sleep was all I needed.

Other workers asked for similar arrangements:

Oh! Barack Obama won sir - the black race has made history. Can i have the day
off to celebrate sir.

One comment that made me really happy came from the maid.  She had seen McCain's speech.  "He is a very good man," she said.  She talked about how she really liked his speech, how happy she was that he was now supporting Obama.  She kept telling Dara and Feyi how good McCain is.  She's very excited that Obama won.  She was clapping and dancing when telling me about it.  But, she also appreciates and respects McCain.  I like that, a lot.  I think it shows a lot for how perceptions of the US are changing, not just because of Obama, but because of McCain and many other Americans.