Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jennifer Hudson's Win at the Oscars

Jennifer Hudson wins an OscarI wasn't able to watch the Academy Awards, but was very pleased to hear about this. I have been a big fan of Jennifer Hudson since she was on American Idol and am glad that she has made her debut in the entertainment world in such a huge way: an outstanding performance in a well-received film; a Golden Globe AND an Oscar for her first film performance! What an amazing experience this must be for Jennifer.

Which reminds me, I haven't even seen the film yet. I have to go and watch it before it stops showing at Silverbird.

Zooming Along the Cyberspace

What a pleasure to experience such fast Internet speeds. The connection speed at my hotel is 2435 Kbps (download) and 377 Kbps (upload). When I checked into this quaint little hotel, I didn't even bother asking whether they had wireless. It looked too ancient for the staff to even know what 'wireless' meant. But, what a pleasant surprise! And what a dream compared to my normal speeds at home of approx. 245 Kbps (download) and 75 Kbps (download). I don't exactly complain about these speeds though, because it's still pretty fast for most home options.

Monday, February 26, 2007

In Cambridge

I'm here for a work-related meeting. It's been a while since I visited England, but wasn't in the city of London. It's quite refreshing really. London feels like a second home - probably because I know it so well - but I don't feel a sense of excitement visiting London anymore.

I have visited Cambridge 'properly' once many years ago in my first year at university. I passed through again a year later on way to visiting a family friend in Saffron Walden.

Cambridge is a fairly small city and if you have seen films set in Cambridge, it will probably look a lot like it does on the screen. The college buildings are certainly very impressive and olde worlde. After today's meeting ended I spent the evening with my friend L who I met in India many years ago when we were both undergraduates and spending the summer teaching in Delhi secondary schools. Although we stayed and taught in different schools, L and I hit it off right away initially because we were the only two (among our contingent of mostly British students) who didn't drink and who loved clubbing. Over the summer we discovered many other shared interests and became firm friends. We hadn't seen each other in about 9 years, but kept in touch throughout our many moves. Now L is a doctoral student of Middle Eastern politics in Cambridge University and I was excited to see her again. I wondered if we would still have a lot in common or if it would an akward reunion. It wasn't. We are still able to talk and laugh so easily. We caught up on what we've been doing in these past 9 years.

We had dinner at Nando's near the city centre. I had stopped by yesterday to check out the menu. I wanted to see if it was different from what was served at the Lagos restaurants. Of course, it's mostly the same, though the heat gradings are radically different from Lagos. I had the Extra Hot (the hottest you can have your chicken and labelled as being for daredevils). Hmmm, not so much. The rice portion was unforgivably small. There would a riot if they served that small a helping in a Nigerian restaurant.

L took me around some of the colleges. It was incredibly cold, so we hurried through many of the colleges. Since it was also dark, I couldn't fully appreciate the majesty of the buildings. It must be wonderful to study in such a place steeped in so much tradition, though I can imagine that at times it must get incredibly stifling. It's probably slighter better as a graduate student, I would imagine. L said that she was glad that she had her under-grad degree at a more modern and liberal university, where she had a great social life and also enjoyed her degree. As a Ph.D student she works mostly on her own and isn't in so much 'direct competition' with other students. While this could be a good thing (can you imagine continually feeling like you have to prove yourself among a class of people who are, at the very best, as just as smart as you and who, at the very worst, make you feel totally incompetent and unqualified to be there?), I think it could also be isolating.

We went by Trinity, Kings and Jesus Colleges. Kings College has a quaint bridge that goes over a river (complete with weeping willow trees) that runs behind the college grounds. I kept thinking how cold the water looked and hoped that I wouldn't stumble and tumble into the river. L took me into her college, St. Catherines, and we went into the post-grad common room. It was warm and cosy and reminded me of London House, the residence hall I lived in during my masters program. That was a really old building from another time and place.

Hopefully tomorrow I will see some more of the city.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Harvard Names 1st Woman President

Harvard last week named it's 28th president and 1st female president, Drew G. Faust. Until her recent appointment, Faust served as dean of the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study.

She takes over from interim president Derek Bok who has served since July 2006, when the embattled former president of the college, Lawrence H. Summers. Summers created a huge furore when he suggested that the reason there were relatively few women occupying top positions in academia in the sciences and maths could be due to an instrinsic inaptitude - perhaps like a missing science and maths gene in women.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Paper of Choice

I generally find it extremely difficult to find time to read newspapers. I tried valiantly last year to buy and read newspapers everyday. What happened was that I often had no time and the papers piled up until the weekend. However, by then, my thinking was "Who wants to read old news anyway?"

My paper of choice then was This Day, mostly because it appeared to be so highly regarded. After trying it out for a few weeks, I realized how much I did not like that paper. So much of the news in This Day (and this is common to a lot of Nigerian newspapers) is focused almost exclusively on politics. Yes, politics affects virtually every sphere of our lives, but there is surely more to report than that. Not being very interested in politics myself, I had to admit to myself that This Day was not the paper for me. I recently tried The Guardian and while I enjoyed that, I remembered that I had read an issue of Business Day sometime last year on a flight to Abuja and actually read it cover to cover.

So, now I have switched to Business Day and I have to say that I am loving it. I have discovered that I enjoy reading economic and business reports far more than I do another article about an impeachment or non-impeachment. I also like that the stories are well written with background situations to events properly explained without assuming that the reader already knows what’s going on. At least, my undergrad degree in Economics appears to be of some use now.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Word Cloud

I did this many months back. I cannot even remember the website that generated this, but the tool analyses your blog for the most commonly used words. I guess the words in the bigger font sizes feature more prominently than the others. Since this was done many months ago, I'm sure I would get a different blog if I did it now.

Blog Cloud

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sleep: A Woman's Best Friend

I am determined to sleep early tonight. Every night I say the same damn thing and still fail to get a decent night's rest. It's become so boring and predictable. At night-time, the work-day seems so far away and I start to imagine that I will develop the super-human strength to keep on going with 5 hours sleep a night. Nope, it never works! Well, sometimes it does and I amaze myself by the amount of energy I possess during the day. However, it always catches-up with me in the end and I find myself struggling to stay awake at my desk. Bad, bad, bad.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We Need More Vacations

We really need to adopt a healthier attitude towards vacations and rest. I have noticed among my friends (with the exception of a very small group of people who either work for themselves or have phenomenally comfortable relationships with their bosses) that vacations are a rare, rare thing. While I realise that how easily you can get away depends on your industry and rank, it still appears to be such a Nigerian phenomenon to work all the hours the good Lord gives with little time for rest. It is incredibly hard to squeeze out a few days of rest for yourself.

In some companies, vacation time is allocated to you. Employees take their vacation in shifts with Miss A in January, Mr. D in July, Ms. F in September and Mr. Z in December. Hmmm, while I see how problems can occur if you have all your staff going off on holiday at the same time, I definitely don’t want to be forced to go on holiday when I don’t want to (though the thought of anyone having to force me to go on holiday is hilarious).

I sent an email to an American colleague today and received an Out of Office auto-response saying that he was taking a vacation day. This brought back sweet memories of being able to take vac days – not because I was going out of town, but just because I was entitled to them. I used them to run errands and get all sorts of personal business done. I also took vac days when I really needed to stay home and cook or clean. I used my sick days to recover from too many late nights up.

Sigh! I knew when I left my former cosy job that those conveniences would become a thing of the past. I didn’t bargain for how much to the other end of the spectrum I would be thrown, though.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lines at the Petrol Station

Was driving down Lekki Expressway this afternoon and saw growing lines at the petrol stations. Again????? I thought the fuel scarcity was abating. Is it resuming? I caught the tail end of a story on the fuel situation on the radio this morning but didn't get the full picture. Maybe it's just panic buying. I'm so tired of this.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

As Another V Day Approaches

I am really blown away by the Valentines Day machinery in action. It seemed that only a few weeks ago, Christmas and New Year was all we heard about on the radio, TV and in magazines and newspapers. So suddenly, that's been replaced by adverts for Valentines Day this, that and the other. There's a Red Ball, something happening for lovers at Ocean View with Chante Moore and Kenny Lattimore, 112, Donnell Jones and a host of other international and of course some of our own home-grown stars performing. I walked by the Bola 3 jewellery store at The Palms this evening and saw that its floor was strewn with red rose petals. Waoh!!!, as trashy Nigerian mags would exclaim.

As usual, I ask "Was it like this when I was growing up?" I guess so (sans the international artistes visiting our shores perhaps). I've always been somewhat derisive about the day, so maybe I just never paid much attention.

It seemed like only yesterday when I wrote about the last V-Day. That's one nice thing about keeping a blog - you can track many of the events in your life (or at least, since you started blogging). So many minutae of where I was, what I was thinking, doing or planning are recorded for me to read. Okay, it's really scary how the last year zoomed by so fast.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Doing Good? - II

Today I was driving home after meeting up with a friend and slowed down at a junction to let an okada driver pass by. Scowling fiercely, he angrily waved me to go by. It was as if he was upset that I had even attempted to do something nice and not instead hurtled across his path, as most drivers are wont to do. Maybe I denied him the pleasure of hurling foul-mouthed invectives at the retreating behind of my car or maybe he simply felt that it was his right as an okada driver to experience the thrill(?) of nearly colliding with a speeding car. I haven't got a clue, but promptly made-up my mind to plow down as many okadas as possible as a penance for my 'bad behaviour.'

PS: Just joking, oh! I won't be held accountable for any mysterious okada accidents in the next few days.....

Doing Good?

I've had a good weekend. I wanted it to be a quiet one and it was - fairly. I saw the film Blood Diamond yesterday and enjoyed that. The dynamics between Leonardo di Caprio and Jennifer Connelly's characters was quite amusing and gave food for thought.

LDC played Danny Archer, a South African smuggler of diamonds (for want of a better description). He has no family, no real ties to anywhere or anyone, but has money and abundant street smarts with an astounding capacity for survival. JC played Maddie Bowen, an American journalist; extremely idealistic and fiercely determined to get and tell her stories. She derided Danny for the way he unscrupulously sells diamonds he knows come from areas in conflict or 'blood diamonds' and for how he intends to use Djimon Honsou's character (Solomon Vandy) to get his hands on what would be his biggest prize yet - a huge egg-sized diamond. He in turn sneers at what he believes to be her naive idealism. How can she think she's changing the world by typing up her contrived stories from the relative comfort and security provided by her US citizenship in a war zone? And isn't she also exploiting the same people she's purporting to help by her sensationalist writing?

The arguments between who's right and who's wrong could go on forever and sometimes in real life, it feels like they do. So who's right? Who's justified in doing what they do? Is there a clear-cut line between right and wrong? Does it matter in the end?

Questions, questions..... As I think of a lot of social development work carried out by NGOs and other 'charitable' organisations, I recognise that many people wonder what the point of it all is anyway? Won't there always be problems in the world? Who do we think we are to think that our contributions will amount to anything in the long run anyway? And I admit that sometimes it can feel pretty hopeless and the problems insurmountable.

In the film, Maddie said something to the effect that there are good people in the world doing good things and their contributions are making a positive difference to some people. It was meant to be a defence of why she continues with her work in a world of such chaos, heartlessness, greed and indifference and it sounded so naively optimistic and filled with a desperation to believe. I could totally relate. Although my main job is no longer in the NGO field, some of what I do still involves getting people to believe that their possibilities exist beyond the boundaries that society has presented. It's a tough job, but truly, it has to be done! And there are countless of individuals and organisations toiling away for the upliftment of others. I wish I could talk to many of them to find out how they keep on going even when 'common sense' would indicate that it is foolish to.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ore's Podcasts

In a bid to make my blog more accessible, I created an account with Talkr. Talkr automatically creates podcasts from blog posts and allows you to include a link to these podcasts on your blog. My friend Gbenga has this on his blog and I always meant to try it out, but damn that ultimate thief of time - procrastination! Better late than never (one of my often-used phrases).

The tool isn't perfect (but what is?). The computer-generated voice speaks clearly, but often does not pause in the right places. And of course, the Nigerian words or slangs are hilariously pronounced. Instead of Ore, I have become Orr.