Thursday, December 29, 2005

War of the Megastores

Well, one megastore and two medium-sized stores anyway. Two weeks ago, saw the opening of Nigeria's much-anticipated, first 'Western-style' shopping mall, The Palms. Anyone who regularly drives on the Lekki-Epe Expressway would have seen the building in various stages of completion over the past months. For now, only a handful of stores have actually opened-up to the public - among them are Shoprite (a huge supermarket akin to Stop and Shop in the U.S, or Tesco in the U.K) and Game (reportedly, since I'm yet to go there, a we-stock-everything Walmart type of store). When finally completed, the mall will also house a cinema as well as a multitude of boutiques and apparently just one bookstore (The developers sized-up the shopping priorities of Nigerians tragically accurately).

The Palms Shopping MallWide view of The Palms Shopping Mall (Will try and get a better photo if I can)

Okay, great, so we have our first real mall. Yay for us! Now on to the interesting part. Around the same time The Palms opened, two hugely popular supermarkets on the island, Park 'n' Shop and Goodies both closed down. We all wondered why - until the rumour mill had it that the Customs authorities had shut-down both stores for smuggling in goods. Now, until the arrival of Shoprite, Park 'n' Shop and Goodies were two of the biggest supermarkets on Lagos island, and so if they had been involved in any illegal activity, it would not have been difficult to find this out. The fact that the timing of this 'discovery' has turned out to be so fortuitous for Shoprite, given that its major competitors were closed-down in the busiest shopping week of the year, has of-course led to many speculations that the tip-off came from Shoprite.

Close up of Mall with Shoprite in Foreview
Close-up of The Palms Shopping Mall with Shoprite in the Foreview

If this is true, I think it's a really sad commentary on the way business is done today. As a consumer I obviously welcome competition because it benefits me. I believe that companies should too, because competition forces them to provide goods and services more efficiently. I also believe that over time companies tend to find their niche market, be this dictated by locality; or by range, price and/or quality of goods and services provided. While I recognise that, for instance, retail behemoths can afford to slash their prices to a level that smaller, family-owned businesses might not be able to, these smaller businesses might more than compensate for this by the quality of personal attention they provide to their customers or specialised range of goods they offer. My point is that each type and size of business can find its own market without needing to stomp out all competitors. But then, maybe I'm just being naive about the hard, cold realities that companies, in this age of big business and globalisation, face.


Broadband at last!

I can exhale at last! I went to visit the Netcom office yesterday and decided to go with their service. For the first month, you start off with a bandwidth of 300Kbps so this is MUCH faster than anything I've been using in a long while. After the first month, you can downgrade to 100Kbps, stay with 300Kbps or upgrade. I will see how this goes, but so far, this is great. I'm really surfing the 'net and not just crawling along.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Essence Magazine Jan 2006 cover

Wanted (Dead or Alive): Essence Magazine

I'm in dire, desperate need of the January 2006 issue of Essence magazine. That's yet another thing that I miss about being in Boston: the fact that I got the latest, glossy and attractively laid-out issue of Essence delivered to my very doorstep. What could be better? It was usually sent-out in the third week of the month and I checked my mailbox everyday after work with anticipation. When I finally received it, I would greedily stare at the cover for ages, before gingerly flipping through its pages. I'd do this once, before skimming through the articles, after which I'd finally settle down to read the articles in-depth.

Since I got back home, I have been getting my copy from Nu Metro. They only ever seem to have one copy of the mag when I go and I'm always nervous about what will happen the month I go in and the one copy has been bought by another Essence fan. Maybe that's what happened this month. I went in last week dutifully to see whether they had the January issue in, but no luck. I asked the lady at the counter and she had no idea when they would get it and suggested that I keep checking. I have done that several times since and still, no dice.

I know it seems crazy - all this fuss for a magazine. How can I even begin to explain the frisson of excitement that runs through me when I see the new cover for the first time, much less when I actually get my hands on it? I don't think I can, so just take it from me: my love for Essence is great and inexplicable, especially given the fact that they are no longer 100% African-American owned (I was really proud of that, even though I am not African-American) and I can already start to see an ever-so-slight move towards broader appeal (read: to non-African-Americans and blacks). I am not racist, but after years of reading magazines that were so obviously targeted at Caucasian women (from the hair and skin advice, to the lack of ethnic diversity of models used), I was so happy to finally discover a publication created with ME in mind.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Apprentice and America’s Next Top Model News

I watched these two shows unfailingly when I was in Boston - this was the date I faithfully kept to each week. (So, so sad, I know. You don’t have to tell me so.)

I’m sad that I missed the latest seasons, but with the Internet, at least I can get the blow-by-blow and watch video clips (or I would be able to, was my Internet connection any faster). The most recent winner of The Apprentice, Randall Pinkett, is a long-time community technology activist. I’ve been lurking on digital divide boards and listservs for a long time and had never heard of him, but he has an impressive background. He has several degrees from top-ranked schools including MIT and Oxford. And more importantly, he has a long and varied history of enterpreneurial and technology activist work.

Less impressive is the latest winner of America’s Next Top Model (ANTM). Yes, I know that the most beautiful person does not necessarily make the best model and vice versa. But, the photos I’ve seen of Nicole are less than stellar to say the least. I’m thinking back to the 'glory days' of the past winners: Adrianne, Eva the Diva (my girl!!!!!!!), Naima and even (yes, even) Yoanna.

Edited to add: I may have to eat my words with regards to ANTM winner, Nicole. I took a look at her portfolio and she looks absolutely beautiful in her photos.

What is Feminism?

For a long while now, I have been looking for a really good definition and had come-up with my own based on many things I've read in the past. Here is what I think is a good one from the bell hooks book I'm reading at the moment, "Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center."
"Feminism is a struggle to end sexist oppression. Therefore, it is necessarily a struggle to eradicate the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels, as well as a commitment to reorganizing society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires."

Although it refers to Western culture, I think it can still be applied comfortably to Nigerian society.

Note also that this explanation does not say that feminism is a struggle to end "male oppression", because oppression is wrong, regardless of the sex of oppresor. The women's liberation movement (circa 1970s) targeted men as the enemy and, among other things, advocated for women-only societies in which men were not welcome. Even though ideas have evolved since then, a lot of people still associate these separationist ideas with present-day feminism. Maybe this is why many women who support popular ideas advocated by feminsim would draw short of describing themselves as supporters of feminism or as feminists, and would rather call themselves other things e.g. "womanist". bell hooks thinks this is largely due to the fact that many people are not really sure what feminism is all about.

Feminism is personal, but also political. This means that firstly, it is important for women to see and describe their own reality. However, we can't afford to get stuck in this stage of telling our woes without a broader context for examining them and ultimately doing something about them. We have to move on to examining the politics of our society.

In the U.S, this would necessitate looking at sexism, as well as race and class oppression. In Nigeria, race might not be so much of an issue, but class certainly is. As a woman born into an upper-middle class or financially-comfortable family, I will enjoy many comforts that a woman born into a lower class or less well-off family will not e.g. guaranteed education, the ability to choose what type of career I want and not have my choices determined by financial need. I could therefore have a life that is less subject to sexist and class-based oppression. However, individual women's achievements are worth very little in ending oppression, if all other women in society do not have access to this same (almost) freedom (Note: I say (almost) freedom, because ALL Nigerian women have to deal with sexist oppression at some time or the other). There needs to be a platform for all women to share their own reality.

This would be a long and interesting journey: firstly, because it seems to be that many women have accepted sexist oppression as a way of life and easier to accept than to change; and secondly, because class and economics is such a sharp divider in the Nigerian society that I wonder at the feasibility for all women to come together to share their stories.

Some people would say that women have always found a way to "work around" men to get what they want and so really wear the pants in our society. I would argue not. As long as we still have something to "work around", then women still face some level of sexism.

Ultimately though, it is important that men and women work and live together respectful of each other and the gifts that each brings to the table, without any attempts to constrain the other into fitting into a preconcieved 'box', which guides how they should think; how they should behave; what they should desire out of life; and how they should relate to each other. Overly optimistic? Highly unrealistic? Not-in-this-lifetime possible? I certainly hope not.

More Electricity Woes

Today was a wasted day! I don't even know where to start from. We had electricity when I got into work. It was gone about an hour later (about 8:45AM) and didn't come back until about 2:30PM. Why didn't we have the generator on? No diesel! Sorry, can't be bothered to go into it. It's the same, long, drawn-out and (by now) boring story.

I was trying to imagine an entire company in the States put out of business for a good part of the day, due to a lack of electricity. Better still, I tried to imagine my former place of work in Boston and how management would respond to this. They would be besides themselves with shock and horror. There would be hell to pay, that's for sure. And meetings scheduled immediately to discuss the problem and to put in place strategies to guard against future occurences. It would certainly never, ever happen again. Having to contend with no electricity in this day and age seems so .... - sorry for the use of this word but here it goes - primitive!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hair Tales

For someone who has been espousing the importance of wearing your own hair out, I have certainly had this fake hair in for a long time (6 weeks this Saturday, which is a long time for me). And it's starting to grate. I'm not used to so much hair around my face, especially in this Lagos heat.

My Mum asked me what I was doing with my hair for Christmas, to which I replied "Huh?" My best friend, Y, says that every woman does her "Christmas hair." We were at the salon at the time getting pedicures and she looked to the other women in there for confirmation. They all nodded in agreement. Christmas hair??? Okay, now I can tell that I have really been away for a long time.

I miss my own hair and can't wait to wear it out again in an afro or puff or something.....anything really - I just miss my own hair.

Pastor Bimbo Odukoya's Life of Passion

One of the victims of last week's Sosoliso Airlines crash was the very popular associate senior pastor of the Fountain of Life Church in Ikeja, Bimbo Odukoya. She ran the "Single & Married" Ministry, which counseled couples experiencing tough times in their marriage and also guided singles in finding good spouses. Marriage (finding a spouse and keeping him or her once you find them) is absolutely important in Nigeria. Consequently, her ministry became so popular that it eventually became a program broadcast on 14 stations within Nigeria, as well as in England, Ghana and Kenya.

Pastor Bimbo was passionate about living her life for Christ and spreading his message as far and wide as she could reach. In her Singles & Married Ministry, she absolutely believed in saving sex for marriage and in the man being the head of the family. My personal beliefs run more along the lines of a partnership between husband and wife with both respecting and (yes, even) submitting to each other. But, I feel strongly that submission should be a two-way street.

My personal opinions not-withstanding, I admired the courage with which Pastor Bimbo followed her calling and lived out her passion for God without holding back. She lived each day with a purpose and touched people in countless ways. Thinking about how she lived her life makes me think about the book I read a few weeks ago, "I Know I'm in There Somewhere: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner Voice and Living a Life of Authenticity." I think about my continued struggle to identify my calling.

Over the last few years, I have come to see that it is possible not to have one major, earth-shattering calling, but to discover a myriad of little things that make me happy and fulfilled and my life more meaningful. One of these things has always been volunteer work - particularly with women and girls. Even though, I was nowhere as geeky as many of the technology staff at the Boston NGO I worked at, I was still very fascinated by the endless opportunities technology provided, for instance, to make learning more interesting, help solve problems, or build virtual communities of people with shared interests or goals. It was intensely rewarding to see formerly hesitant people grow in their confidence and use of various technology tools.

I think writing might be another thing that I'm meant to do, although the jury is still out on that. I loved writing as a child and produced a prolific amount of stories and magazines. This is the first time in well over a decade and a half that I'm writing for pleasure and so I'm unsure about where it will lead, or if indeed it will lead anywhere. I'm enjoying writing in this blog and maybe that, in self, is enough.

Whatever my calling(s), I plan on having fun discovering and living them out. Sometimes, I'm just trying to get through the day and I lose sight of the bigger picture of my life, but occasionally certain events act as a sharp reminder of the path I set out on and that I need to get back on it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

"Concerned Mothers of Nigeria" Tear-gased

In reaction to the slow (and frankly half-assed) response by the government to the two recent plane crashes, a group of women calling themselves the Concerned Mothers of Nigeria, decided to stage a protest march yesterday (Friday). The march was to start around 9AM near the Ikeja Sheraton Hotel. My boss told me about it and planned on being there, but I could not go because Fridays are my CD days.

On getting back home, my mother told me that the march had not taken place, because the women had been tear-gased by the police. "Why?" was all I could ask. Why would anyone tear-gas a group of women? From all accounts, they were not being rowdy. I haven't seen any details online, but the main organisers were on TV this afternoon discussing the events of the morning.

If it turns out that the protesters had been tear-gased and made to disperse for no good reason, that would be a crying shame. Don't Nigerians have the right to air our concerns ? My boss complains all the time about how incredibly docile Nigerians can be. We complain about injustices constantly, but will ultimately do nothing to recify the situation.

Addition: It turned out that the march was peaceful afterwards. The group had applied for a permit, which was issued. However, the permit was cancelled about 2 days before the march and this was not communicated to the protesters. Anyway, long story short, the use of tear-gas was still unnecessary.


I realise that I haven't written very much about my service year so far with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Well, the simple response to that is there's been nothing to write about!

After the 3-week orientation camp, for the rest of the service year, corpers devote one day a week to community development (or CD as it's popularly referred to). I hear that corpers outside of Lagos embark on really ambitious CD projects, which have some impact on the community. In my local government, to say that we have been somewhat lacking in initiative and drive, would be putting it mildly. CD days, until the last couple of weeks, have involved a lot of sitting around, making new friends and jisting. The general consensus is that this is a big waste of our time, as well as the government resources (though frankly, most people could care less about the latter).

This general idleness must have been a source of concern to someone with influence, because for the last two weeks, the officials have been rounding-up the corpers and making us clean up the NYSC yard - I say "making us", because the implicit understanding is that if we don't work, we don't get our CD cards signed and then we might not be able to pass out of this damned service year. So in the end, NYSC gets its grass cut and compound swept for free. Well, lucky them! Who can I complain to about my raw end of the deal?

The good news in this rather dismal situation is that my CD group has really been trying to get it together and develop an action plan for the year. If we are successful in doing this, we can hopefully leave some kind of legacy for subsequent corpers. And really, there's no reason why we shouldn't be successful in doing this, as long as group members show-up for CD, do their assigned tasks and generally show some interest in the group's activities ....... oh hell, who am I fooling?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Freeing Our Hair

My favourite subject (see previous post)! I came across this article, published last November, urging women to make peace with our natural hair. When the author says "natural", I’m not sure whether she is referring to hair worn in its natural state (i.e. without relaxers or perms), or if she means wearing your own hair out (i.e. without wigs, braids, weaves, or other extensions).

Whatever her definition of natural is, she makes a number of points that I agree with – the biggest of which is that it is okay for us to leave the extensions at home and wear our own hair. I have noticed that in Nigeria it is a rare, rare day when you see a woman out without her beloved weaves, braids or wigs. Believe me, I have no problem with extensions and do wear braids from time-to-time (infact I have in kinky twists at the moment), but it would be great if more women choose to invest as much time in caring for their own hair, as they do in the extensions they choose to cover up their hair with.

The Wire: Season 2

I just finished watching the second season and I absolutely had to write about it (at 1 in the morning, although I have to be up at 6). I had heard that season 2 was the least compelling of all three seasons. I haven't seen season 3 yet and so can't comment on that. What I can say is that I LOVED season 2!

Season 1 was definitely a high-action and very fast-paced season and I am so glad that I have the series on DVD, so that I could stop and play-back scenes that went by too fast for me. Although season 2 might initially appear more sedate, a lot of things actually happen, setting the stage for the major drama that is to come in season 3. I particularly enjoyed seeing a different side of the drug trade.

Season 1 focused almost exclusively on the drug dealing activities going on within the Barksdale organisation, in the Towers and the Pit. Season 2 switches gears slightly. At the start of the season, we think that the major focus of the investigations will be primarily a smuggling ring at the docks. It turns out to be more than that and, through interwoven storylines, we start to learn about how the dealers get the drugs that they sell and how chinks in the distribution line can affect their entire organisation - in short, we get a bird's eye view of the entire production and have a context in which to place the daily nitty-gritty.

Now, I'm dying to see the third season. I know some of what happens - especially the BIG shock (Wire fans will know what I'm talking about). Alas, I will have to wait until the middle of next year when it comes out on DVD.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Blogging Tips

I've been thinking about 'rules' of blogging in the last few weeks. Now that I'm a blogger, I'm on the constant look-out for interesting things to write about. Through the day, I file away incidents I witness, things I hear people say and ideas I read as possible topics for new posts. On more than one occasion, I have been very tempted to write somewhat disparaging posts about people I know. A key question is how far can you go in a blog. I write under just my first name, so it's tempting to think that I can get away with a lot. However, it's a small world and Lagos is an even smaller place, so it would be fairly easy to put two and two together and figure out my real-life identity.

One blogger learnt the lessons of blogging in a very painful way. She talked trash about her colleagues at work and was fired when the proverbial s*** hit the fan. From this experience, she came up with some blogging tips. While these seem like pure common sense (the first two especially), I know how easy it is to get carried away by the opportunity to make your opinions heard in cyberspace, forgetting that RL (Real Life) and cyberspace are really not that far apart:
1. Blog anonymously if you feel like you should be able to say anything about anyone. Even then, there's no guarantee that the person you wrote that horrible thing about won't find your website, put two and two together, and your life, if just momentarily, will be made awful.
2. If you choose to blog under your own name never write anything about anyone in your life that you wouldn't say to them face to face. This is the best way to blog and still maintain good relationships with your family and friends.
3. You will receive hateful email if you publish an email address. After the first hateful email you will want to stop blogging. Everyone goes through this.
4. You don't have to be a fantastic writer to have a website that people will want to read. Just make sure that what you have to say is honest and has soul.

Please Take a Picture. It'll Last Longer!

What is it with people in Nigeria (or Lagos, at least) and staring? Didn't their mothers tell them that it's rude to stare?

In the States, when I happened to catch someone staring at me, they at least had the good grace to look away. Not so here! People will continue to stare, as if attempting to soak in every aspect of my being in one long power-stare. Women do this a lot more too (Women, what’s up with this?). I think it’s part of the lack of personal space that exists in the African culture. People feel that they can invade your privacy with their questions or stares.

I was at a fast-food place yesterday getting lunch. After paying, I went to sit down and wait for my order to be called. The young woman who was right before me walked up and sat down at my table. My first thought was "What the hell?????" There were so many free tables that she could sat at (though mine was admittedly the closest to the counter). After sitting down, she fixed her eyes on me in a laser-like stare. Though I was looking elsewhere at the time, I could feel her staring and eventually, feeling a little disconcerted, I turned to her and inquired "What’s up?". Thinking back on it, I should have asked her what the hell her problem was. But then, I’m nice that way- perhaps too nice. We did strike up a conversation, but about 5 minutes into it she wanted to know how old I was and if I was married. Not married? But why? What do I do? Where do I work? Where do I live? And the questions went on....

This lack of personal space is something that I forget about whenever I’m away, but am all too soon reminded about upon my return. I really don’t get why someone who just met you would feel that they have the right to ply you with an avalanche of personal questions, I really don’t. But I do know that I need to come-up with an effective strategy of warding off these intrusions of my privacy: Do I know you? Why do you want to know? Mind your own damn business! Do you see a bloody ring on my finger?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Another Plane Crash in Nigeria

This one (Guardian article, BBC article) happened in Port Harcourt with a plane flying from Abuja. Among the 103 people who died, 75 were school children on their way home for the Christmas holidays. This is such a tragedy, like the one that happened barely a month and a half ago. Bad weather was believed to be the cause of the crash. I only hope that we learn lessons from these unbelievably sad events, otherwise what's the point? I am yet to hear of any changes being made by Bellview Airlines as a result of October's crash, or indeed from the national aviation authorities.

Crawling on the Internet? NO MORE!!!!! I'm So Ready to Move On

I am so ready for a faster and easier way of accessing the Internet. I've suffered with slow connection speeds for long enough. I have to deal with it at work and the service we have at work is particularly bad, I must say. The connection fails at least once a day (and this is on a good day). More typically we lose connection several times a day. And as if that was not bad enough, the speeds can get excrutiatingly slow. We use a VSAT service with an uplink bandwidth of 64Kbps and supposedly (and this is indeed a HUGE supposition considering the evidence) 128Kbps on the downlink. The service does tend to get worse in the afternoons, which is typically the time with the heaviest Internet traffic, and so this might be something totally beyond the ISP's control (though at this point, I hate their service so much that I'm not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt).

At home, we also have a fairly slow service, but then we have an excuse: we use dial-up. Even in Boston, I had dial-up connection at home (thinking back on it now, I can only ask myself: "What the hell was I thinking?????????" Broadband was not only so much faster than what I had, but also fairly cheap too.) I think I didn't mind so much because the connection at work was lightening-fast and I could download as many multimedia files as I pleased and listen to online radio stations all day long if I chose to.

Now back here in Lagos, I don't have this luxury anymore and think that it's really time that I moved on up. I'm looking into several broadband and wireless services. I've heard a lot about Netcom, so I will start there. I've also heard that Globacom provides very extensive braodband coverage, so I will also look into that. I look forward to very soon being able to surf the web wirelessly from my computer and from the comfort of my bed. I have too many wasteful hours of listening to NPR and BBC radio online programs to catch-up on.

If anyone who's reading this post has experience with any broadband provider, I'd certainly be interested in hearing about them.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Weblog Usability

In my previous life as a web developer, I was very particular about building and maintaining highly-usable websites i.e. websites that are easy to navigate; sites where readers can easily find content relevant to their needs; where readers can tell at a glance what the site is all about and who it is for; and sites that are well-suited to people of all levels of internet browsing experience and varying connection speeds. A tall order, some might say, but it was serious business to me and especially to the projects I worked on. Being (United States) federally-funded projects, meant that our websites had to be accessible by the entire range of our target audience.

Now that I'm spending more time on blogs (at least for the time being), usability issues have admittedly not being foremost in my mind. I mean, I make sure that my posts are well-written, clear and straight-to-the-point. I try to avoid rambling, long posts, because I know that I would never read an exceedinly long post on other blog, particularly those written in a single paragraph and without the use of line breaks. I try to link appropriately where I can. Lately though, I have been giving some thought to how useable my blog really is.

According to this list of top ten design mistakes made in weblogs, I am apparently doing a lot less than I thought I was.

  • I do not have an author biography, aside from the two lines below my blog title summarising what my blog is about. I also have no author photo, which according to this list, means that my blog is less personable and reduces the credibility of anything I have to say.

  • Some of my great blog posts are buried and this is something I have been thinking about lately. I do want people to find the good stuff, if they don't have time to read through the entire blog (and very few people do).

  • I most definitely mix topics. In this blog, I share my experience moving back home, discuss technology and natural hair, and reflect on aspects of my growing in feminism. While these are the major themes, my posts could extend beyond these and I've thought about how this must make it more difficult to find a niche audience.

  • My domain name is owned by a blog service and will be for the foreseeable future. Blogger is free and easy to use, though I might consider moving to a more sophisticated service like Wordpress someday, so at least readers can search for posts by categories.

I think that, overall, this list of things not to do provide a good framework for creating an easily-navigable weblog. However I think that bloggers should nevertheless feel free to adapt them to the needs of their blog.

For me, I prefer to write under a cloak of relative anonymity hence the absence of an overly descriptive bio and a photo. I believe that people will get to know what they need to know about me from the brief intro line at the top and maybe from my interests and my taste in books and films, as highlighted in my profile. I like to blog about a variety of topics and I can't imagine doing otherwise.

While these guidelines are probably aimed more at the blogs of corporations and other formal organizations (non-profits, schools, religious institutions, etc), I have taken a few lessons from them. At the end of the day, I write for me and if other people read my posts and choose to comment on them, that's great - I love a good conversation. If not, I will keep on writing anyway.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Wire: Season 1

I just finished watching season 1 of The Wire last night. I had heard so many great things about this program and it definitely lived up to my every expectation. I caught one episode on MNET a few years ago, when I was home for Christmas, but could not follow the plot as hard as I tried (and this is coming from a veteran crime show viewer). When I got the DVD set and started watching my way through it, I quickly realised why. It is not your average cop show, in which the case is wrapped-up neatly by the end of the hour (it is apparently not even a cop show). This is one intricate story, which evolves from episode to episode. Like the show's creator/writer stated in the audio commentary (Yes, you read correctly - I watch the special features religiously. This is one nerdy girl.), The Wire is more like a novel transposed to television. You don't often get to see that on TV these days, since increasing competition between stations for ratings and viewers' shrinking attention spans, means that TV writers tend to keep things simple so that their viewers won't get all confused and (Heavens Forbid!!!) change the channel.

I am so glad that the writers of The Wire took that chance, because the end result is a highly-engaging drama with some of the most incredible and finely-nuanced acting I have seen on TV in a long time. I'm going to start season 2 tonight, so you know where you'll find me most evenings for the next week or so ......

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wikepedia: A Matter of Accuracy

A few weeks ago I edited content on Wikipedia for the first time and I was really excited by the thought of being able to contribute to and help build-up bodies of knowledge. After the initial excitement died-down, I started thinking about how accurate a lot of the content on the site was. I had done a lot of (ahem ... ) research on my topic and contributed the knowledge in good faith. However, how true is this of other contributors out there? I had re-checked my contributions later on, only to find out that they were still there. So, it could either be that my facts were checked and found to be correct or that they were never checked at all. This issue of verifying the accuracy of contributions made to Wikipedia is the subject of this recent New York Times article and AP news story.

Yesterday I wrote about how blogging was changing journalism as we know it. Blogging, and other technoology tools, are also changing how knowledge is created and disseminated. We need to think more about what standards are applied to this knowledge creation process.

Electricity Woes

Just when I think I am getting used to the sporadic electricity supply here, the power goes and I realise that I am far from accustomed to this. You might remember my post, several weeks back, about the lack of electricity at work and the ensuing 'discussions'. Since then, I have gotten used to coming in to the office many mornings to find that we have no power. According to new regulations made since the infamous generator diesel talks and security strike (see above-linked post), the generator can only be used between 8:00AM and 6:00PM. My company suffers the most from this rule because we work the longest hours (never mind that we are also the only company actually paying for diesel).

Today I got in and had an important email to send off, so I was praying hard that we would have electricity. WE DID! Amazing!!!! A colleague and I put together the document we needed to send and just as we were getting ready to shoot off an email, what should happen? You guessed it - the power went. JEEZ!!!!! I was so upset. Amazingly though, not as riled-up as I would have been just a few months ago, so I guess that I must be acclimatising.

Philadelphia- The Story of a Wireless City

The city of Philadelphia will the the next in a small series of US cities to go wireless i.e. the entire city will be one giant hotspot (I'm salivating just at the thought). An increasing number of websites are creating multimedia content, which really requires faster connection (broadband) speeds. This is typically more costly than dial-up (though competition among ISPs has driven down costs quite a bit in recent years) and so often unaccessible to people in lower income brackets. Philadelphia city officials now see internet access as an essential service, just like electricity and sanitation. I cannot imagine when Lagos will get to that stage, because of-course, we are very much struggling with the provision of the 'real' basic needs (food, shelter and transport- much less good roads, sanitation and electricity).

Another story on the BBC site shows how blogging is changing how journalists view and do their work. Since news blogs are becoming commonplace now, with many 'ordinary citizens' sharing their thoughts via their blog, journalists have to get used to engaging readers in discussion and deal with an increasing level of scrutiny of their ideas and perhaps accuracy of their facts.

A Nigerian Traditional Wedding

Went for my best friend Y’s traditional wedding this Saturday and it was a lot of fun. It was my first trad. wedding - believe it or not, and you probably don’t – so I was very excited to be there.

Nigerian readers will know the whole deal, but for those who don’t the traditional wedding (or the "engagement", as it is sometimes known) is considered to be the real wedding from the Nigerian perspective. It starts off with the groom’s family coming to pay their respects to the bride’s family and ask for her hand in marriage. In the Yoruba culture, the families would have met already in what it usually referred to as an "introduction" and worked out the details of the marriage, so the traditional wedding is more for ceremonial purposes than anything else. It represents the solemnisation of the joining of the two families as one. I cannot go into the step-by-step details, so I’ll have to link to an online resource that does (or better still, find one yourself).

I have to say that, even though there are many aspects of the Nigerian society that seem ostentatious and unnecessarily showy to me, we do have a beautiful culture and the importance of preserving it cannot be over-emphasised. For example, it is a wonderful thing to see a woman so desired by a man and his family that the groom will prostrate before her family countless times before she finally becomes his. It must also be an incredible feeling to know that both families are giving their full support to this union. The flip side of this is, of-course, is the coolness that said families could exhibit when faced with what they consider to be a less than suitable match for their son or daughter. The same force of love and support can very easily become a mountain of disapproval to be overcome. This is one of the double-edged swords of living in a society where family and community approval matters so much. One way to deal with this is not to let yourself care about what others think in the first place. Alas, this is much easier said than done and I definitely haven't figured out how to do this yet.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The New Class of Returnees

I have been thinking about this for a while, perhaps understandably, since I now fit into this group. The new class of returnees are people who studied abroad and have returned home to live and work. In my parents' generation, it was fairly commonplace to leave Nigeria to study abroad and return once you had completed your course. The 1980s and beyond, though, saw increasing numbers of people staying abroad once they finished school, getting jobs there and settling there (be it in the United States, England, Canada, or wherever they found themselves). This phenomenon grew worse in the 1990s, during the bad old days of Abacha. Now, however, as the country has settled into a democratically-elected government and the economy seems to be on the up and up, many of our 'studied-abroads' are now choosing to return home and capitalise on the fast-developing economy and consequent money-making opportunities to be had here.

I don't want to be glib and say that everything is honky-dory. It's not, because in order to take advantage of many of these opportunities, you do have to have a certain amount of personal connections. Money also helps, as does having that coveted foreign education, which all seems extremely unfair to me (although in many ways I will benefit from this - not yet though as I am still a lowly youth corper). I can only imagine how outraged I would feel having worked with an organization for several years and thinking that I was progressing the career ladder quite nicely thank-you, only to have some young pup hired as MY BOSS (!!!!!!!) just because they have that valuable degree from a foreign university, which I was unable to afford. Okay, I know I am over-simplifying things, after all there must be intellectual and leadership traits which companies look for in their would-be employees. Right?

One of the things I loved the most about my life in the States was that I was responsible for myself in everyway (and yes, this has its pluses and minuses). While I had to rely on myself for anything I wanted, I felt a strong sense of independence and pride in my ability to make things happen for myself, go out and buy what I wanted when I wanted, and make my own decisions without having to pay heed to what anyone thought I should be doing. As anyone who is familiar with the African culture, that independence pretty much goes out the window once you return home. At home, as a returnee, you definitely have access to the better jobs, probably a higher-flying lifestyle than you did in the West, as well as family support, but there are all the strings that come attached with these. There's still so much that I'm reflecting on and getting used to, and I wonder if I will ever be fully enveloped into the folds of the Nigerian society the way I once almost was (I've never thought of myself as fully integrated into any community that I have been part of anyway and maybe it's that outside status that makes me drawn to writing about what I observe).

The reason this subject of returnees is on my mind right now is because of an event I attended this weekend. It was an opening of a boutique/gift shop cum bazaar in a high-brow lounge in Ikoyi. Many of the people in attendance were obviously 'studied-abroads' and the air was thick with the sound of foreign accents (particularly British public school accents). There was the casual mention of flying to London for the Christmas and birthday celebrations, and vigorous assertions to how brilliant life was at home as long as you can get away every few months. I don't know …… I studied abroad too, but I’m not sure that I could relate to much of the discussion going on around me.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Strange Goings On at the Office

Two nights ago, my office was broken into - by who, we don’t know. But, whoever it was did a nice job of breaking down most of the doors. They came in though the back of the office. We are on the first floor (that’s second floor to you Americans), mind you, so whoever broke in had a tough job on balancing on a ladder while they bent the bars of the 'burglary proof' grid one-by-one. Writhing through the space created took them to a small balcony, from where they removed the louvres of the bathroom window in order to crawl in. From there, they broke down the bathroom door to get into the main office after which they broke down almost every other door in the office.

And what did they get for this incredible amount of hard work? =N= 14,000 (fourteen thousand Naira), or about USD 103. I couldn’t believe it!! All our computers, printers, photocopiers and anything else worth stealing were still there. Our documents were obviously also of very little interest to them, as the doors to the cabinets were wide open wit the contents largely left untouched. Why would anyone go into all that trouble? They were obviously looking for something specific (100 million Naira in cash perhaps- in which case, they really know nothing about my office) and I’m sure that they left extremely disappointed.

The most astounding part of it all (or perhaps not so astounding if you know even the teeniest thing about Nigeria) was that the security men heard and saw nothing. For the several hours it must have taken for the thieves to break their way into our office??? Unbelievable. Innocent until proven guilty I know, but I'm sure they were all looking forward to splitting the proceeds of their escapade (=N= 14,000 !!!!). LOL! On a more serious note, it does show how economic inequities persist for many Nigerians, when people would even consider going through so much trouble for the possibility of some indeterminate payoff at the end.

Happy December to Meeee!

It's the start of my favourite month of the year - December. This is my birthday month, the end of the year and another opportunity to reflect on what I've accomplished in the year and think about newer and more exciting goals for the next. I have a feeling that this will be a phenomenal month for me - I don't know why, but I do!

This will be a jam-packed weekend with my best friend, Y's, traditional wedding on Saturday. I'm also attending the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON)'s end of year party. I've never been, but my Dad said that it's usually quite fun. If my Dad says that, should I be worried?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Sad Life of an Internet Addict

It's amazing how much things change, but still stay the same. Here it is at 11.19pm and I promised myself that I would sleep early tonight. But, here I am still surfing the Internet. I keep saying "One more page, one more page...." This is so sad! I can remember doing exactly the same thing during my early, and particularly, hermetic life in Boston.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Wire

Just got seasons 1 and 2 of The Wire and so far I am loving it, as I knew I would. Thank God it's Friday! I'm looking to curling up in bed and watching back-to-back episodes all weekend long.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Who Loves Crime Shows?

I do! I do! But here is someone who loves them, apparently, more than me - they do have an entire website devoted to the show, Homicide: Life on the Street. When I was in England, this was one of my favourite shows. I watched it unfailingly every Tuesday night (at 11PM or some ridiculous time like that). Since then, I've become hooked on Prime Suspect, Law and Order, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (never really got into Criminal Intent though) and CSI - the one set in Las Vegas - (CSI:Miami is okay; feel blah about the NY offshoot). I also liked Hill Street Blues (re-runs), Cold Case and Without a Trace and recently started getting into The Shield . I am sure that I will soon become a huge fan of The Wire, once I get my hands on seasons 1 and 2.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Nigerian Blogs

Found two blogs that I especially like: Naijablog: Living and loving and laughing in Nigeria and Musings of a Naijaman: a Nigerian man living and blogging in the UK. The first is by a British man living and working in Nigeria, while the second is conversely by a Nigerian man living and working in the UK.

I discovered the first through a webring of Nigerian blogs and the author of the second left a comment in here. I'm debating joining a ring or not. I kind of like the relative peace around here, for now. We'll see.....

The Digital Divide

This morning I read a write-up about the persistent gender digital divide. The term 'digital divide' usually refers to the big gap in access to and the use of the Internet and some other Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) between the rich and poor countries, or the developed and developing countries. However, these differences can also exist between people of different socio-economic circumstances even within the developed world, and also between men and women the world over.

This article discusses how women still lag behind in the use of technology, development of policy and infrastructure. Even a lot of the content available on the 'Net (pornography is a big example) is targeted exclusively at men and degrades women.

This is, unfortunately, very much true. While I was in the States, I gave a lot of thought to how less women, compared to men, are engaged with technology. I also thought about how educational and socio-economic backgrounds also played a big part in the disenfranchisement of many groups. Now that I'm back home, I see that while all these are factors in the use of technology, it feels that money (or perhaps more widely, socio-economic status) is THE biggest determinant in how likely a person is to learn about and to use ICTs. This is because access to ICTs are determined by how much spending money you have (after taking care of the basic needs) to spend on getting connected. The predominant forms of access are cybercafes and work. For the first, when you have more pressing needs, getting onto the Internet will not even feature on your priority list; for the second, not everyone works in an office where Internet access is available.

Speed is another major obstacle in how effectively one can become engaged with ICTs (this is particularly applicable to the Internet). I am actutely aware of this after spending an extremely frustrating morning trying to check my email and update my blog. If logging onto simple, text-based websites is such a headache, how can I even think about accessing the wealth of multimedia content available on the Internet? (Sigh! I miss NPR and BBC online radio so much.) Obviously, if you have money you can afford to get broadband connections, so here we are back to the issue of money. It seems that what you need is plenty of money in order to get the fastest connections out there.

This makes me even more in awe of people who manage to make the most of meagre Internet infrastructure to create websites with great and highly-usable local content; share information via personal blogs; tap into the plethora of great online learning resources, etc. It's easy to be "hi-tech" when you have so many resources at your disposal. When you use the little you have in innovative ways, well that's truly cutting-edge.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Finding Myself This Weekend

I'm currently reading this book called "I Know I'm in There Somewhere: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner Voice and Living a Life of Authenticity" by Helene G. Brenner, Ph. D. which is about reconnecting with your authentic self, or as the author likes to refer to it, your inner self. The inner self is the real you, the person you were aware of as a child, before you became sensitive to outside opinions and developed the external self, or the facade we construct to show other people. I have always thought that the person you were as a child is the closest to the real you. All the things I enjoyed as a child are still often the things I enjoy now e.g. reading, writing, being creative and imaginative (as a child this was manifested through the imaginary friends I had and the stories I created for my many dolls, as an adult this comes out in the way I think and approach situations, and the way I dress or wear my hair).

My love of writing is something that I'm just re-discovering after many years of not writing for pleasure. For years, I was too self-conscious to show anyone what I wrote and slowly I stopped writing anything at all. I'm happy that writing in this blog has helped to gradually re-awaken that old desire. Now I can't wait to write entries and when things happen, I think about how I would write about them. Writing helps me think clearer - about my feelings on certain issues. As I write, I think and as I think, I like to write. Both actions feed-off each other in a symbiotic process. This is usually fueled by whatever I'm reading at that moment, which right now of-course, is "I Know I'm in There Somewhere".

Over the weekend, I was thinking about the feeling of not being good enough and the constant (in my case anyway) quest for self-improvement. One of the things that has bothered me the most is being introverted and for years I tried to work on it by putting myself in new and uncomfortable situations, so that I would be forced to be more at ease in these situations. And while I can now fake it pretty well (at least for short bursts of time), being extroverted is still not me and it never will. I think I've always known this (sort of-ish), but I REALLY realised it this weekend when I was out with my best friend Y and her husband and it wasn't really related to anything that was going on at the time. However, I remember very clearly the moment it dawned on me who I was. It was as they say, a moment of epiphany. And, surprisingly, I'm totally cool with that- strange as it might seem. I can make friends fairly easy for someone so reserved and I think that I'm quite fun to be around So, what's a little shyness between friends? I think I'm in pretty good company too. I was flipping through the latest issue of Ebony (as usual a very ho-hum issue, but I think they are trying to jazz-up the look and content) and came across the article "Hollywood's Sexiest New Leading Men." Articles like these usually send me flipping the pages as quickly as I can until I've moved onto something more substantial, but who should catch my eye but my latest (ahem) celebrity crush .... Idris Elba. (Honestly, there can hardly be anything as pointless on this earth as a crush.) The "heartwarming" fact about him is (and I quote him):
"I act for a living, so my personality is very different from the characters that I portray. I am introverted. It may come from being an only child, I will never be the life of the party.....I like to observe people."

Now, I ask you, can I be in better company than with this totally talented and interesting-sounding actor? Okay, I actually think it's dumb when people place other people on pedestals or identify with people they don't know- which, BTW, is not what I'm doing in this case. However, I have my group of inspiring female celebrities, none of who I know personally: Salma, Katherine Hepburn, Oprah, Chimamanda. When I hear what these women have to say in interviews, it resounds so loudly with me (well, maybe except for Oprah- sometimes she's so all-knowing that she annoys the hell out of me, but I think she has so many admirable qualities all the same) I that I almost cannot believe that I do not know these women personally and that these are not some of the isses that we have discussed over and over.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Feminism is All Around

It seems that when an idea is on your mind, you start to see similar ideas or the same idea recurring all around you. Like lately, I've been thinking about feminism (both in the Nigerian context and outside), and it seems that all of a sudden I'm reading articles about (Nigerian) women who identify themselves as such or maybe don't, but whose beliefs mirror what feminism is all about.

I read an interview of Salma Hayek in the September 2003 issue of O (Oprah's magazine). Salma comes across as a very self-possessed woman, who has VERY strong ideas about how much women are capable of and how we should learn to value ourselves. I wish I had the mag with me here, so that I could type out some quotes. But, I fell in love with her just reading that interview. She talks about how, all her life, there have been boundaries set on how she should be. In Mexico, she was a famous soap star and the public saw her as the character she played. When she moved to Hollywood and had her breakthrough with Desperados, she became "the bombshell." She talks about how she's really had to go out of her comfort zone in order to defy the expectations which had been put on her by a narrow-minded film system. She's now an accomplished actress-writer-director, when all that was expected of her initially was that she would look good and be the bomshell.

Another interesting person I read about recently is Marcia Ann Gillespie, a one-time editor-in-chief of Essence (from 1971 to 1980) and the editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine (as at the time the article was written, May 1999). She proudly identified herself as a feminist in the article, but talked about how she initially it seemed to her that feminists (who happened to be mostly white women) largely ignored the issue of race. It seemed that to the early feminists, men were the bad people, however to a black woman who has to deal with *both* sexism and racism, that argument is just a little too simplistic. I can see where Marcia was coming from. It is the same argument that bell hooks makes, and one that I had never had much cause to think about, being from a predominantly black country.

I was watching "Adam's Rib", a film starring Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn (another woman who would be on my list of inspiring women) earlier today (I'm still not done watching it). In the film, a woman who has suffered years of neglect and abuse by her husband finally snaps when she finds out that he's cheating on her. She follows him one day after work, tracks him to the arms of his mistress and shoots him. He doesn't die, but Spencer Tracey's character, an attorney, is appointed his legal counsel. His wife, played by KH, acts as the wife's lawyer.

The film observes the issue of gender equality (or lack of it) in the courtroom proceedings and also the dynamics between ST and KH's characters. The film, while it makes a lot of significant points, about society's double standards where the actions of men and women are concerned, also fails to show these problems of sexism as applying to black women. There's a scene (which I'm still watching) when KH presents a group of "American" women to show how, although they are "just" women in society's eyes, they are also highly accomplished in their own individual ways. There was no black woman in this group. Oh yes, there was an Asian lady, but I'm not sure if she was supposed to represent all the "other" races or ethnicities (BTW, we never heard her speak in that scene). But it made a poignant - if unintentional - point about how black women were largely ignored by white women (even by the feminists among them, who you would think would believe in solidarity among ALL women across ALL races).

Here in Nigeria, I think many people see feminism as alien to our culture where patriarchy is the order of the day. So again, black women are left out of the mix, only this time we are the ones failing to challenge the issues of gender inequalities which we face daily.

Marcia Gillespie defines feminism thus:
Feminism in its purest sense means you believe in a world where women truly matter. You believe in a world where we have equality that is social and economic and political. I'm talking about a world where there is real justice.

This is not limited, simplistically, to women being able to work, but one in which we can work AND have the full support and assistance of our partners (be this in looking after the children or the home). Women and men can define their roles in their own family unit and not simply take on roles assigned to them by cultural stereotypes. This is truly the kind of relationship and partnership that I'm looking for. I hope I get it.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Nigerian Feminism (or the Lack Thereof)

It feels like when I sit down to write at this blog, the ideas really come flooding out. Sometimes I worry about writing too much or just gushing, but hey, it's a blog, right? It's there to accept whatever I'm putting out there.

I'm reading an interview of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the now celebrated Nigerian writer, in an old issue of Genevieve. She's a young (27 year-old) woman whose first book, Purple Hibiscus, has been a runaway hit in Nigeria and abroad. I believe that she's almost single-handedly responsible for a gradual rekindling of public interest in literature. Nigerians being Nigerians, will gravitate towards fields that have suddenly become popular, or in which success would lead to a considerable measure of fame or financial reward. Anyway ...... moving on swiftly to what I really want to talk about.

Chimamanda talks about how she's proud to be a feminist. I am too, though it took me a long time to realise that I was one. The title "feminist" is one that many women (both here and even in the West) appear reluctant to wear and I wonder why? Feminism doesn't mean hating men or feeling that women are superior to men. It's about equal opportunities for both men AND women, while simultaneously acknowledging the ways in which we are different. That's the way I see it and it's not that radical a notion to accept if we think about it.

Chimamanda pretty much shares this sentiment:
"The men in my life - my father, brother, friends - are feminists because they believe men and women are equal. And for me that's simply what feminism is about. I have discovered that 'feminism' is a bad word to many people here [in Nigeria] - like something you are supposed to deny or justify. I think every thinking person should be a feminist, if we are fair and believe in justice."

It also doesn't mean that if you "wear" the label "feminist", then you are defined solely as that. Of course, you are a lot more than that.

Chimamanda also goes on to talk about the aspiration to marriage, which is the norm among women of "a certain age." She says:
".... it worries me: this idea of aspiring to marriage. I think marriage is wonderful and it should come when it would, but I don't think we should sit down and plot. That's what many people do and thereby make wrong decisions."

I know what she means, because even though I was always a woman who gave little more thought to marriage than "It will come when it's supposed to and with who it's supposed to.", I find myself, in this African culture where marriage is held-up as the ideal state for an adult to be in, chomping at the bit sometimes. I see what she says about rushing into the wrong marriages, because I frequently hear tales of the sad marriages that result from this. On the other hand, I do hear stories of people (usually women) who have decided to get married and set-about it with the planning and precision of an army general and had wonderful testimonies to share as a result. (Not too long ago, I heard about the Harvard-educated author of the book "How to Get Married After 35: A Game Plan for Love", which apparently was very successful in the States. The author also has a consulting company, which specialises in (you guessed it) getting women 35 and older married, as well as a website.) So, I think this is not a debate that will be resolved in a day.

Back to feminism in Nigeria though, I wish more women and men would see it for what it truly is. I hope to do some more reading about it myself, but I know that I feel so inspired by women who are achieving their dreams without letting someone else's idea of womanhood define them and what they are capable of doing. I was VERY inspired by Chimamanda's thoughts.

Anita Baker on Wikipedia

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my Anita Baker website. I love, love, love Anita Baker and years ago, out of frustration at not finding much information about her on the Internet, I promised to build a site devoted to her. Unfortunately, I couldn't build websites then. It wasn't until years later, when I took a web design class and had to build a website, that I finally got around to building this much dreamt about site, which I named the Anita Baker Pages.

It's a great site, one of the best ones out there about Miss Baker, if I do say so myself (and I do). Tommy Jensen, the webmaster of the other great site has since retired from the Anita Baker site biz and passed the baton on to ME!!!!! I redesigned my site well over a year ago and changed the URL and since then my site has fallen way down in search engine rankings, despite all my efforts to move it up. I'm not particularly worried, because cream always rises to the top and it took my old site about two years to rise to the #1 position in Google. However, I know I can do more in getting more links to my site. Seeing that my new favourite technology, Wikipedia, has a page about Anita Baker, I've decided to add a link to my site.

PS: Just found out that, although my site may not appear anywhere near the top in Google, it's #2 in Yahoo for a search on Anita Baker. YAY!!! The number 1 site is the badly-maintained official site, which I'm sure I could easily knock off.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wikipedia is Cool!!!

I first heard about Wikipedia last year at a web usability conference I attended in Cambridge, MA. It was apparently a web encyclopedia, which users can add to. I thought, "Sounds cool, but there must be more to it that that."

Idris Elba in The Gospel (2005)
Now, a whole year later I try it out. My latest celebrity interest is Idris Elba (before that it was Gary Dourdan of CSI fame) and I was reading up on him on the web. Let me tell you, there is not a whole lot written about this actor and what there is, I've seen by now. So, by the time I got to page 5 of my Google search (I know, I know..... who goes all the way to page 5 of their Google search?), I got linked to the Wikipedia site, where I found one pitiful paragraph on Mr. Elba. I saw an edit button and decided to try it out. Lo and behold, it works! My entry (the last line of para. 1, and the whole of para. 2 and 3) was up within seconds. This is so cool! I know I sound like someone's grandmother, who is discovering Discmans just as everyone else has moved on to iPods. Now, if only there was a way to leave my name on the entry, so that I can really go out and make my mark on the World Wide Web (insert maniacal laughter here). BTW, if you're interested:

HBO "The Wire" Website:
Idris Elba page on HBO “The Wire” site

Idris Elba Interviews:
ABC News, (March 2005)
Black, (March 2005)
Las Vegas Tribune, (March 2005)
New York Times, (December 2004)
AOL Black Voices (formerly, (December 2004)
Sacramento Observer, (December 2004)

Funny story by blogger who met Idris Elba
Blog post about a Feb. 2005 seminar on The Wire

PS: This is also my first time uploading pictures in Blogger. It was easier than I expected - I assumed that I'd have to upload the pics to my personal server and then point to them.
(Photo from Yahoo)

Thursday, November 17, 2005


The conference started yesterday and there has been so much controversy surrounding the choice of Tunisia as a venue for this “information summit”. (Read the APC blogs for more detailed write-ups from the event.)

Some of the discussion preceding the event has included whether the United States could be persuaded to give up ‘control’ of the Internet. Some countries, particularly China and Iran, are pushing for an international body oversee the management of the Internet. Until a decision is made, the day-to-day technical management rests solely in the hands of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a US organization. Read more about the ongoing debate on the BBC site. The Beeb site also has a nice slideshow of some of the younger attendees sharing their perceptions of the summit.

We also finally get to see a prototype of the famous MIT-produced $100 laptop that has been the subject of discussion for much of this year. With its (relatively) low cost, durability and low power consumption, the laptop is aimed at helping to narrow the technology gap.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Blogging All-together: Berkman Center's Thursday Night Group

I was browsing the net, as I do in-between tasks as work, and came across a link to the Berkman Center's Thursday Bloggers Meeting. The Berkman Center for Internet and Society is a research program based in Harvard Law School, whose mission is to explore cyberspace and the need for laws and regulations governing its use. The Thursday night meetings are for bloggers and explore all things bloggy. I did hear of them while I was still in Boston, but assumed they were for Harvard students only. It seems from the site that membership is a bit more open than that. I wish I had been a part of that. (Oh, wait! I wasn't a blogger then.) I also found about the Boston 501 Tech Club for people in the Boston area working in nonprofit technology. It always seem that you discover some things just a little too late. Well, I'm sure if I look hard enough, I will find something for and about Nigerian bloggers.

Meanwhile, here's a spotlight on Annalee Newitz, who is a writer and contributing editor of Wired magazine. She talks about how women have traditionally been marginalized in the tech. industry.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


A year ago, I came across an essay competition in ELLE Magazine, giving one lucky reader the chance to become an ELLE emissary to UNICEF. The winner would travel with UNICEF to a part of the developing world and report back to the magazine on her experiences out in the field. Since I hardly ever read fashion magazines (except for Essence, which is not a purely fashion magazine either) and even more rarely ever read ELLE, I took this as a very fortuitous sign that I was destined to enter and win the competition. (Oh yes! I dream BIG!)

Alas, I did not win- my instincts failed me!!!! But, I just checked the ELLE site and found the report by the winner, Diane Chan. Although I was upset at not winning, I have to agree that her essay was very moving and provocative. Her report on her trip with UNICEF to Zambia was equally captivating. Reading it makes me really want to devote my life to helping others in a deep and meaningful way.

Hair Addendum

I know what you're thinking- "What another post about hair??????" Well, get used to it. Hair is a big thing for most women, I'd venture to say. This blog is turning out to be mostly about hair, work and technology (in no particular order).

I got my hair done on Saturday at a salon called Downtown, which is in Victoria Island. My sister had her hair done there and I thought they did a pretty good job. At 10:30AM, the salon was already filled with women getting their hair done. Nigerian women do not mess around with their hair (or seemingly, what little of it they have). I can only imagine the shock most men would go into were they to enter a salon and see women without their beloved hairpieces and extensions. It's truly a sight to behold- even for me, a woman!

There was a lady who came in, all polished as you please, with her shoulder-length silky weave. By the time, the stylists removed the weave and she was left with just her hair...... well, there really wasn't much to look at. Her hair was so short and scanty. I've always wondered why women don't put as much effort into nurturing their own hair as they do in religiously fixing things in their hair. I think even a little effort would go a long way. And after all the fake hair comes out, all we're left with is our hair and it would be nice to have some decent amount of hair to play with, right? Or maybe who cares when you have endless options of bonded and sew-in weaves, extension braids and wigs to choose from. Maybe it's me who is missing the big picture- isn't one of the fun things about hair, all the interesting things you can do with it? I guess so, though I'd rather have my own hair.

So what did I do to my hair? I had kinky twists done, which I've had before, in Boston. These are much shorter and curly at the ends and feel a hell of a lot heavier too. I almost feel like I'm walking around with someone's rug on my head, but they *do* look very nice.

Edited to add:
New York Times article on hair as a form of identity among African-Americans, (November 2005)

Monday, November 14, 2005

WSIS, Tunisia

After a rather blah weekend and an equally unimpressive morning, I'm feeling a bit more revitalised now. The girls' retreat, which I mentioned a few weeks ago is definitely still on. Now it will be 2 retreats aimed at girls between the ages of 12-14 and 15-17, with the objective being to get them interested in careers in the oil and gas industry (preferably as engineers). I went to visit 2 possible venues today and it was great for me to get out and about and talk to people, instead of being cooped-up indoors.

Browsing the BBC site this afternoon, I saw this overview on the importance of getting the developing world access to the Internet.

I recently re-subscribed to the Digital Divide Network (DDN) listserv. I used to be a member while I was in Boston, but this is one active list and if you don't have the time to monitor it regularly, you WILL get swamped. Lately, I've been feeling a bit out of touch with the digital divide world and ongoing discussions, and needed to get back in there. On the list, I got a link to a site with several WSIS-related blogs. The latest leg of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) journey is in Tunisia for the next few days. I was initially quite unsure of what the objectives of WSIS were and how any outcomes from the meetings would be distilled into practical action steps in hundreds of countries all over the world, but the blogs make for interesting readings and you can maybe get a sense of how global objectives are being implemented on a local level.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Striking for Pay

As time goes on, I (re)learn more about working successfully in Nigeria.

Yesterday, in continuance of what has become the norm around here, we had no electricity for most of the day. The power supply went off around 11.30 and returned after closing hours. Now why were we still in the office after closing time, even though the lack of electricity meant that we couldn’t do any work, I hear you ask? Why, because the security guards went on a strike! They haven’t been paid in months (since January I heard) and had enough. They locked the gates and refused all staff exit from the compound. I initially laughed about it until it dawned on me how long we could be there.

Another question you might have: why hadn’t they been paid in months? Oh, the property managers were having financial difficulties and the onus fell on the tenant companies to cough up the money for the salaries (even though that is not their responsibility). It was talk of this payment that resulted in the hours-long back and forth. Watching my boss talk things over with the rest of the tenants reminded me of a quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher. “If you want things said, ask a man. If you want things done, ask a woman.” My boss was the only who appeared to be trying to resolve the situation. The rest of the tenants (MEN!!!!) seemed to be having a ball talking about it, making jokes about it and generally not helping the situation at all. Eventually some money was brought forward (by my boss) and the electricity miraculously came back on. It turned out that the electricity had come back around 3:00 PM, but to increase the effect of their strike, the security (MEN!!!) had decided not to switch it on. So after being held hostage for several hours we were free to go, after a full day of accomplishing almost nothing.

Now I can almost laugh about it, but it can very well happen again so I won’t laugh too hard.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Last Night

Last night I eagerly left work, because I had a building headache and was very tired. Despite that, I still planned on some exercise before crashing for the night or whatever else I was going to do.

On getting home I found at that we had no electricity (sigh). We have been spoilt by having a solar-powered generator, which we use during the day whenever the light goes. However, it’s not working at the moment, which I had totally forgotten. When there’s no electricity there’s really not much you can do. I sat in the front living room and tried to read in the fast-fading daylight. Eventually I gave that up and sat still for about 15 minutes just staring in front of me. The fact that I started to feel uncomfortable doing this showed me how unused to calm and stillness I am- and think this applies to many other people.
I have been writing a lot in my journal- at times sporadically, at others at least once a week, but always in some considerable volume whenever I do. So, I’ve almost run out of pages in my current journal and went to get a new one at the Nu Metro store at the Silverbird Galleria with my brother and sister. It felt strange being out on a work night. Even in Boston, I rarely went out after work, preferring to cuddle up on my loveseat at home to an evening on TV (am I really a 60 year old in an almost 30 year old body?). There were a surprisingly (at least to me) large amount of people out at the mall, walking through the media store and eating at the “see-and-be-seen” cafes. I was just happy to get my journal and can’t wait to start writing in it.

Doing Business in Nigeria

I almost added another addendum yesterday, but then I really couldn't be bothered. Besides, I am being paid to work, not update my blog. But, it was somewhat difficult to do much work yesterday and I'll tell you why.

Around 1:30PM the electricity supply went off. In Nigeria, this is a very common occurrence, an everyday occurrence in fact. So, it would have been a case of "same ole', same ole'", only that it wasn't. The office has two generators, one of which is switched on whenever the power goes. One is currently not working so we use the backup. However, having to use the generator on a daily basis means that we need a lot of diesel to fuel the generator. Apparently there was no diesel during yesterday's blackout and no money to buy diesel (this is another long story which I really can't be bothered to write about). The long and short of it is that for 3 hours, we had no electricity and so could not do any work. Ever wondered how much our lives and work are now centered around technology? Try doing without it! The electricity did eventually return about an hour before closing time, but somehow managed to have disappeared again by the time we came in this morning. So, again we sat around aimlessly until an hour and a half later when the power returned. Ho hum! This is the reality of being in business here I guess. While I was freaking out (albeit mildly) about wasted man-hours, the others just sighed and said “This is how it is here.”

Since then, work has been very busy for me and I am extremely tired and looking forward to going home. I’d like to do some pilates or yoga when I get home, but I can already picture myself falling asleep on my mat.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Yet Another Addendum

Wow! I have quite a lot to say today. I came across this article on the BBC site about the blogging habits of American teens. Young people in the States are using technology to break down the lines between traditional forms of media to create and share their own. It's quite fascinating, but then young people have historically led the way in adoption of new technology, so maybe then again, it's nothing new.

Blogging by Nigerian youth is also on the rise, or so I deduce from the number of blogs I see (see Links section for link to a web ring). I wonder how many older Nigerians blog in comparison to younger folks; and how many bloggers are in Nigeria, compared to those blogging from other countries.

Hair Addendum

I washed my hair yesterday morning and put it in tiny braids, so that it would dry faster. By the evening when I wanted to go out, my hair was still not dry and so I had to leave the braids in and go out like that. This morning it took me forever to get the tiny braids out and I was running late. I wore my hair in an afro puff and I think it looks nice, but I was wondering what "management" would think and if they would think that it was time to have a little talk to me about my hairstyle choices.

But then, who should walk into the office this morning but the lady of the company with freshly done braids. I think they were very cool, but the twist is that the braids are done in a variety of colors from black, brown, blond, through to red. And to think that I was worried about how my natural hair would fit into my new workplace.

Back to Work!

Today is my first day back at work after almost a week off. The Eid-el-Fitir holiday, or Sallah as it is popularly known, was great. My friend Y and I pampered ourselves on Wednesday with facials and pedicures. I also got my eyebrows shaped for like the third time in my life. I initially thought that the beautician left them too thin, but now I LOVE them. When they say that well-defined eyebrows are the one thing that define your face, they weren't joking. My face looks so different, more polished somehow.

On Thursday, my sister and I went to a bookstore called Bookworm to check out their Sallah sale. I got a book called "Some People, Some Other Place" by a writer called J. California Copper who I had heard of previously. I think I heard good things about her, but the book is great so far. There is no real synopsis of the story on the book cover (I really hate it when instead of learning what the book is all about, you find excerpts of various glowing reviews), but from what I've gathered so far it traces the history of several families from sometime around the time of the Depression. The main character is an African-American woman who has not yet been born (at least not in the part that I'm currently reading).

I have been thinking about things that I might do after my NYSC year. My options include staying with my present firm, moving on to another firm or starting something of my own, which is what I would really like to do. If only I knew what to do though. I'm looking around to see what people need. I'm also thinking about that I am good at. In Boston, I built websites on the side. That is very time-consuming, especially when your clients want the whole world on their website like yesterday. It might also be an over-saturated market, though I'm not sure. I would also like to learn how to really build interactive websites, which are database-driven. I think that's what most companies need and not static sites. I will see what else would be a value-added service. This would be great for me, as I could work from home and structure my time to suit the way I work best.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Short Work Week

Today is Tuesday, and incidentally, the last day of my work week. Tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday are public holidays, which mark Eid-el-Fitir or the end of Ramadan. Friday happens to be my community development (CD) day. So that's me off for the rest of the week. This is one of the reasons I love Nigeria. Since the country is about half muslim (or as I've seen it described in many books and articles, "a predominantly muslim country), we celebrate both the Christian and Islamic days of note.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my unexpected holiday, but I am certainly not planning to stay at home like I normally do. Y and I might go get facials tomorrow. I've never had one before and, since my skin is fairly sensitive, I really am not too sure how it will affect my skin.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


I found this site, the Harvard Global Voices, which people all around the world can contribute to with important news from their local communities. I need to somehow create a siderbar links section (if that's possible in Blogger) with all my favourite websites.

Anyhoo, here's the blurb and link to the Harvard Global Voices site:

Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?

I've been asked at work to organize an awareness workshop for secondary school girls on engineering careers. The main aim is to educate the students about the different types of engineering careers out there and give them the opportunity to talk to women engineers. The hope is that the girls will gain a greater sense of what engineering is and how diverse it is and be more encouraged to consider pursing an engineering career. I'm really looking forward to this. I'm going to start researching and working on a program (though I have a lot of ideas already).

The Nation Mourns

The nation's mourning goes on. It does seem like business as usual, but some of the radio stations replaced their regular programming on Monday with sad or melancholy music. The funeral of the first lady will be on Friday and already, Ogun state has declared that day work-free.

Meanwhile there has been a lot of criticism regarding the response to the plane crash. Apparently, 16 hours after contact was lost with the Bellview Airlines plane, aviation authorities still had no idea where the plane was. So, of-course, if there had been any survivors (which does look unlikely considering the impact of the crash) their chances of making it reduced with every passing hour. It does raise a lot of questions not only about strengthening the emergency response system, but also of airplane safety.
There is an interesting article on the BBC site about how difficuit it can be to get accurate information in Nigeria.

Yesterday was the orientation of my batch (Batch B) for the NYSC program. I still have little idea what my community development (CD) group- Anti-Corruption- is meant to be doing, but I'm sure I'll get more of an idea as time passes. Two group leaders will be selected and I hope things will start to come together after that, because spending several hours jisting at the local government secretariar really isn't what I thought community development would be. We will see.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bellview Airlines Plane Crash

Yesterday was a very sad day for Nigeria. First, there was news of a missing airplane (which was later confirmed to have crashed) and then we heard about the death of the first lady, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo.

The missing plane was a Bellview Airline going from Lagos to Abuja and lost contact with the control tower. There were speculations that up to 50 people had survived, but this was later found to be false. All 116 people on board died. This was my first time being at home during a time of such tragedy in a really long time. The TV stations covered it all day long with more news trickling in over the course of the day.

The first lady died from complications arising during surgery in a Spanish hospital. There are no official reports as yet as to the nature of the surgery, though I heard through the grapevine that she might have been having a facelift in time for her 60th birthday celebration next month.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


It looks like the Nigerian government is taking serious steps to combating Internet scam, also popularly known as "419." According to this BBC News story, the Nigerian government is joining forces with Microsoft in this fight. Microsoft will help out with the technology needed for this fight.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Nigerian Blogging

I got Internet access at work. Hurray! I now know for sure that I am a child of this new era. My computer at work was only recently kitted out with a wireless adapter, which allowed me to get onto the 'Net. Until then, I could only use the computer to type documents and, try as I might, it is very hard for me to see a computer but not be able to access the Internet with it. Something seemed so wrong. Anyway, I now happily "logged in", so to speak.

I found a great site for people interested in technology for development or "ICT4D" (Information and Communication Technology for Development), as it's also popularly referred to:

Gbenga Sesan's Blog
Gbenga is a former youth information technology ambassador for Nigeria. From his site, you can link to a few others.

There also appears to be quite a significant number of Nigerians with weblogs:

I especially like Molara Wood. A fellow blogspotter, she has her blog laid out really nice with a few photos- what I would do if I had more time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Started Work

I started work last week. I'm working at an oil and gas consultancy. The firm organizes training workshops for engineering firms, recruits on behalf of many oil and gas firms and also provides consultancy services. I wasn't too sure about the exact nature of my work (yes, I was really prepared). I thought I would be participating in the surveys and writing of reports, but found out that I will be managing the training part of the firm. This is a rather intimidating prospect, especially as I will be dealing with engineers, trying to get them interested in our workshops and I am not an engineer. I'm picking up a lot though.

As with many fairly small organizations, you get to wear many hats and so I will be assisting with some consultancy work. I have also been entrusted with getting the training lab workstations networked to each other and to the Internet. I will, of course, be researching, selecting and working with a service provider to do this and not doing it myself- much as I would like to put into practice some of what I learnt in my networking course. No seriously, I have forgotten a lot of what I learnt and feel guilty about such good knowledge going so badly to waste. From the first day when I had very little to do, things have certainly picked up fairly quickly. Nothing has yet to beat my last job, where I was charged with getting a content-rich suicide prevention website up within a month though.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Woman, Renew Yourself

I went for an event for women on Saturday entitled "Be Renewed", which was sponsored by True Love magazine, Montaigne Place (a spa) and some other companies which I forget. It was a forum for women to get together and enjoy an evening in each other's company and let their hair down. And we all know that for women, and particularly for African women, that can be a hard thing to do. I asked my best friend to come along, but because she had to work (on a Saturday!!!!!), which left little time for her to do all the other things she needed to get done, she was unable to come. Case in point!!!!!
I was just excited to have somewhere to dress up for.

My sister and I got there about an hour and a half late, but found out that with "African time" in full effect, we were right on time. The opening prayers had just been said as we walked in, after which women were asked to network with each other. However, since we had just arrived, we chose to get to know some of our table mates a bit better.

The theme for the evening was 70s, 80s and 90s, with guests asked to dress by one of the decades. I couldn't tell what decade many women had drawn their inspiration from, but there was obviously lots of mixing of decades, with many women donning afro wigs in addition to whatever else they chose to wear.

There were apparently some celebrities in the crowd, but me being a newcomer, I couldn't tell you who many of them were. The food was great, as was the comedian and the music. I met some pretty interesting people to boot! So, all in all, I would say that I had a fantastic time there.

Last night, I went to a restaurant called La Marimba, which is part of the Hacienda hotel. The food was great, but I was surprised that there was no one in the lounge. I know that Sunday night is traditionally not a party night, but I thought that since today is a public holiday (Independence Day), there would be a lot of people out. Apparently, I thought wrong. Afterwards, we crossed the road to Saipan, a Chinese restaurant and lounge and one of the newest night spots in Lagos. The decor is absolutely beautiful, but again it was almost empty. My best friend, Y, said that people in Lagos just do not go out on Sunday nights. Well, now I know.