05 December 2008

Why blog about Africa?

Lova tagged me to produce a magnum opus on why I blog about Africa..... naah just kidding, he was hoping I'd go twitterific on him and use just 140 characters :)

1. I am African. Well... not officially... I spent 6 years in Zambia growing up... then left to study... then came back to help with the HIV situation... so I feel African even though I'm here as a guest of Mr Banda's government. The old saying applies here, "You can take the man out of the bush but you can never take the bush out of the man."

2. Before I met my amazing son and my incredible wife (yes, in that order,) my concept of "home" was tied to Lusaka. Of course, when in Lusaka, home magically changed to New Delhi. When in New Delhi, home changed to Kerala. Now it's a bit more complicated, I have to add, home is where the wife and son are.

3. Non-Africans still don't know that Africa is not a country. Seriously... it's a continent, with many countries, and it has the greatest amount of genetic diversity between people. Zambia, which has a land area about the same size as South Carolina in the USA, has about 80 tribes with as many languages. So there's this knowledge gap about Africa that bloggers such as myself try to fill.

4. I love the natural parks here where an existence without much human intervention is still possible. It's great to see things almost the way they were before people started enforcing their dominance. The Mosi-o-Tunya (the smoke that thunders, also known as Victoria Falls) is spectacular, with or without water. On the Zambian side you can see it almost as David Livingstone did back in the day. Now they've added some 'viewing areas' and such... but it's still fairly untouched. Zambia - the real Africa.

5. Now that I've gushed on about the beauty here, I'm going to do a shameless plug for my photo site where there are lots of photos from Zambia. (Reload this page to see different photos).

mosilager - View my 'Zambia' set on Flickriver

6. Ubuntu... not just my favourite computer operating system... you can see the spirit of ubuntu here - people believe "I am, because you are." No conversation starts off without enquiring about the other's health and well being and people are very polite. Incidents of mass violence are non-existent. The last time I remember something like this is back in 1991 or 1992 when there was no food in the provinces, people were literally starving, so they stood by the side of the road and threw stones at cars. There was a government change very quickly and things settled down. Even during the previous two elections, when one major leader was using an anti-foriegner platform to garner votes, there was no violence after the results were out. Congratulations, Zambia!

I'm not sure if this is a manifestation of ubuntu, but random people will come up and ask for sums of money for a particular purpose... "I need 2 pin for talk time," is a common one I've heard... of course the classic "how about my weekend" or "what about christmas" is ever popular. My policy is that if they've helped me I pay up but otherwise I say I'm broke (which I usually am... postdoc after all). I haven't yet tried to go up to somebody and ask them for money for something... maybe I should.

7. The region is reeling under the effect of HIV. Thanks to President Bush and the USA, there's a lot of money being pumped in to provide free antiretroviral therapy to anybody who needs it. Based on what I've seen here, the epidemic is spreading by going from husbands to wives and wives to children. Women's empowerment is the only way to stop the spread. They have to be able to say "no" to their husbands. Because that is going to take a long time, other options such as anti-HIV creams are being tested. Hopefully something will come in time.

What will happen if the USA decides to pull out the money it's spending on healthcare for Africans? As far as I know, the people who are on therapy now will stop getting medication and the whole system will fall apart. Governments here have to find some way of financing treatment and / or increase effective prevention mechanisms. So far I haven't seen any government initiative to address this important question. After all, especially with the financial troubles now, how long are US citizens going to let governments fund the health of people abroad in countries that they probably can't even place on a map?

Well... so if you feel like taking up the tag, consider yourself tagged... if you don't blog about Africa, then just answer the question, "Why blog about the place where you live?"

12 November 2008

How to be Punjabi... according to hindi films

Hindi film directors love portraying Punjabi families... probably for the same reasons as Malayalam film directors love having Tamilian characters. There's a top secret manual circulated only among hindi film directors as to how to turn your average hindi-speaking family into a Punjabi speaking one. I have found a copy of this and wanted to share it with the public at large.

1. Call anyone younger than you "puttar." (Note from Ramanand Sagar: To depict a Sanskrit speaking family, this can be changed to "Putra".)

2. Increase the volume when a turbaned, bearded uncle is speaking. Have said uncle raise his arms up as if to hug the whole world.

3. Have a kid yell "unkkal-jeee" as uncle is shouting to him.

4. Have an aunty make as if to grab the ears off the heroine and say something like "kinnee sohni kudi hai." The important thing is the word 'sohni'.

5. There must be an aunty who flirts with the hero. When he coos back to her she blushes and turns her head, saying something like "haaaai, mainu maar jaavaan..." or something of the sort.

6. One wideangle shot taking in a huge field of wheat... yellow everywhere with blue skies... lots of saturated colours.

7. All hindi has to be Punjabi accented. "Oye... tooney mainu kudi ko kahaan bhagaayaa?"

8. Adding "Oye" to the beginning of any sentence makes it Punjabi.

9. One shot of uncle waxing eloquent about the good old days in 'Pindi or Lahore.

10. To distract from heroes who are choreographically challenged, have them shout "Ho" and "Balle Balle."

11. Bonus: How come Salman Khan is always present in these kinds of movies?

Update from my wife:

Some Hindi movies play host to the following character too..
World hugging uncle who stiffly breaks out into song and dance routine to the shock of family members...
Old ,on-her-deathbed 'Maaa' who always has logical solutions to the most mundane problems.and of course the best 'achaar'recipes.
Pesky 'chutki' sister who insists on being lifted up at all inopportune moments..read when the hero is about to declare his undying love going down on scraped knee!

06 October 2008

Mosi and family at the garbas

My much better half, my sister and I decided to partake of the spirit of Navratri and went to the garbas over the weekend. For those who need an introduction, it's a Hindu festival. The basic point of it is to dance... going clockwise and then counter-clockwise in concentric circles (or as complete a circle as possible). That part is fun... but we were really there to see which girls showed up... wait... I'm married, I can't do that any more... at least not without losing a few limbs... so we were really there to dance the dandiya. This starts after the garba and involves grabbing a couple of sticks, getting together with a few people and hitting their sticks. Usually in Lusaka it's a 4-beat.. 1-&-2-&-3-&4. The dancers all line up and each person faces somebody. On 1 they hit the stick in the right hand with the opposite person's right hand stick. The off-beat gives them the opportunity to try something fancy like twirling the stick... and then on 2 it's the stick in the other hand that gets the beating... then step back... 3- hit your sticks together... 4 - hit your partner's stick - normally here I try to hit with both sticks. Then move to your left, skip a person... 1- hit the stick. When you get to the end of the line... the off-beat after the 4 involves a 360 degree turn and 1- hit stick.

So hopefully that was crystal clear. There's not much variation in the steps out here but the tempo keeps getting faster and faster... eventually people drop out. Since we were there for some time, I had the chance to observe the various people I partnered with. So here's a list of people you might run into during a dandiya...

1. Why am I here?
These people have an expression on their face that suggests they would rather watch paint dry. And yet... you see them on the dance floor for hours. What gives? Looks like the wires that connect emotions to the face got switched. The ones for boredom and having lots of fun, especially. I didn't know I could find research subjects at a cool religious dance.

2. Sorry... did I hit your stick?
These wonders give you a shy smile when they partner with you... and hit your sticks as if they shouldn't even touch. When they do touch these people give you an apologetic smile and move on to the next apology. Maybe these people all have a good idea of their strength... or they were hit a little too much by #7 - man on a mission.

3. Monkey
These descendents of Hanuman jump around all the time with a big smile on their face. You almost think they're about to steal the sticks from your hand... but it doesn't happen. At least they're better than the super-bored... and they could be handy if you ever need to build a land bridge to Sri Lanka.

4. Man on a mission
These people fix you with an unblinking stare. They mean business. They have bet their friends that their sticks will be the first to break and they smash them into yours like there is no tomorrow. The wife tells me the best way to avoid such is to never make contact with their sticks. After all, you're not winning any money if your stick breaks. The most that will happen is you'll get some sympathy when the splinters enter your hands or feet.

5. Last hurrah
The garbas only come once a year and these people are out there to make the most of it. Leaping back, twirling their sticks in the air, turning full 360s at every off-beat... and keeping it up till the band stops playing. They play like it's the last time they'll ever do it and keep the party going.

6. Who's that other person over there?
These people are always looking around to see who is there, what they're wearing, who they're with... they tend to forget that other people are swinging wooden sticks and their bodies (sometimes ample) around. It's a recipe for bloody fingers and / or noses. These people have amazing tolerance for pain... and continue to look everywhere else but at their partner. Wonder where they got their torture-survival training. Our troops could use some of that.

7. I got my drink and my two-step
OK... I cannot say this enough. It's a 4 step, not a 2 step. I don't care if you're rocking back and drinking, you better be there with your stick on the 4 to hit mine. If you don't know... and can't think on your feet... observe, watch, before you jump in. Do not drink and dandiya, otherwise someone will be tempted to hit you on the head.

8. Not these people... not these either... no not those...
Some people are so scared of commitment that they won't even commit to a dandiya group. They keep moving between groups... and sometimes take other people with them.

Well, we had a great time this year. Kudos to the organisers and Lalji and his musician colleagues. Wish they could play all the time... now... what's for diwali?

28 September 2008

The Phiri Deception

I can just imagine if some kinda hi-tech assasin / spy movie was to be shot in Zambia. It would go something like this:

The government have set up an agency of trained killers. The killers are supposed to get their info by mobile phone. Now, the agency wants to kill one of their former officers M Phiri. Phiri has been spotted by an agency operative who is cleverly disguised as a street kid. The operative pulls out his mobile phone and takes a photo of Phiri. Now he sends it via MMS to Tembo... or at least tries to. Telecel, Celtel, Zain, or whatever that phone company is called today pops up with a message saying that's not possible. So our intrepid street kid uploads the photo to flickr by going on the internet and SMS's Tembo the URL. This is the signal for Tembo to track down and kill Phiri. Tembo is on the MTN network. He tries to get to the URL. MTN says, "connection error." Tembo cancels, tries again. His phone asks him for permission to go on the internet. He allows it. MTN doesn't... internet busy. Tembo SMS's the street kid for a location. He'll get the photo on the go when MTN comes back up again.

Tembo gets the message. Phiri was spotted outside Manda Hill. He runs to his trusty Toyota Corolla and starts it up. The car doesn't start. No fuel. Since petrol prices had shot up to K9500 per litre (about 3 dollars) the department used up its quota in the first two weeks. Tembo curses and jumps out. He flags down a blue minibus. Sensing his desperation, the conductor charges him 15 pin to go the two kilometres to the Manda Hill stop. On the way the MTN finally works and Tembo gets to the flickr photo page. The photo starts loading. Tembo sees a bold head... and then the phone gets stuck. MTN disconnected. So Tembo starts his Opera mini again... this time he sees Phiri's photo.

The bus hits the normal congestion at the Zain intersection just before Manda Hill. A million people want to turn into that place and there's only one lane, so it takes about half an hour. The bus finally drops Tembo off at Manda Hill. He quickly turns his head and scans for Phiri. Phiri is nowhere to be seen. So Tembo calls the street kid. Trial one: All circuits are busy... please try your call later. Trial two: engaged. Trial three: the phone rings. Street kid says he saw Phiri go into Milky Lane. Tembo races across the street amidst the normal cacophony of horns blaring and brakes squealing.

...to be continued...

Pappu can't dance... who cares?

There's this song that's been bugging me for a while. It goes 'Pappu can't dance saala.' There are a few things that bug me about the song. One is that I can't get into it at all and everyone else seems to love it. The second thing is that the lyrics... well it's nonsense. Somebody who had nothing to write about came up with the song. Kinda like my blog posts of late... trying desperately to write something good and failing... so I recognise the type. The third thing is that basically if you add a gratuitous 'saala' to the end of your lyrics you'll get a popular song.

Now I've liked songs without lyrics... 'pump up the jam' is a notable one... so I don't know why this song bugs me particularly. Maybe because it's about Salman Khan. Something about Salman Khan has always bugged me. The chest-baring is a big part of it... "I can't act, but here's my chest." Actually it's a lot like the 'saala' thing... add some nonsense to a song or act so that everyone focuses on the nonsense and ignores everything else.

25 September 2008

Why not Halliburton?

Apparently president Bush wants to spend 700 billion dollars of US people's money to bail out a couple of companies that collapsed through poor financial management. The US people have already overpaid for random wars. I humbly suggest that the companies that profited from the wars buy off this debt.

20 September 2008

To the mujahideen from the government of India,

Dear mujahideen,

As you may be aware, the Government of India has declared the years from 1990-2020 "Visit India." During this time we will do all in our power to help you succeed in your aims to eat your 72 raisins post-mortem. We have a lovely, big, open country where you can hide out in peace. We also have lots of local fanboys and girls who will provide you with all asisstance necessary in achieving your objectives. Room to stay, great places to shop at etc. We also have people who will sell you any sort of weaponry that you deem necessary. No need to bring in Chinese maal from Pakistan or Bangladesh, you can find it direct from China here. There are a lot of advantages to buying it in India. You will help in keeping the local gun/explosives runners in business. The mujahideen who are to come after you will also find a local source in case something happens to their arms cache.

We can offer lots of crowded marketplaces and hospitals for you to set bombs at. Not to mention, everyone here is fairly religious so they go to temples, churches, mosques etc. Those might also be good areas to strike. If you are lucky the victims' families will start blaming the people from other religions and start mini-civil wars. We also hope for this because it gives our upcoming party members a chance to show how they can protect their communities from the others, gain votes, get into power, and steal taxpayers money.

Don't be frightened when we publicly announce that 'befitting reply' will be given. This doesn't mean that your homes will be bombed and your cities annihilated and your chiefs arrested or tortured. This just means that we will have lots of chai and samosas with your bosses. Then we'll announce some sort of bilateral antiterrorism drive. We'll share data and such so that you guys know exactly what we're going to do next. We'll also pick up some people here or encounter them so that our public is happy.

We forgot to mention that with your acts of terrorism you will be doing a huge public good. Our people have not yet realised that there are too many of them. Our population control messages haven't quite worked very well. So the occasional bombing helps ease some of the pressure. Everyone forgets about the dead after 2 days and we'll be back in business. I think our rating in the world will improve if our population goes down. Otherwise that Bush of America is always accusing us of stealing all his petrol, that's why he has to raise prices over there. We have heard that before the elections petrol prices go down mysteriously over there. But that's not the subject of this letter.

I forgot to mention one more thing, the only place that you are not allowed to attack is parliament. You see, we want to be able to sleep at work without listening to loud explosions and firecracker-like noises. It's not good for our blood pressure. So if you try to attack parliament directly we will send some of our armed forces your way. Everything else you are welcome to.

So... namaste, welcome to India.

Yours invitingly,

K Nath,
Head Chaprasi,
Ministry of Useless Letters,
Sansad Marg
New Delhi

maal - originally, loot but means goods in this case

encounter - when the police shoot criminals instead of arresting them. Usually because the criminals are shooting back, sometimes because they're as much a danger inside jails as outside.

11 September 2008

News and not news

Jose told me the other day that Zambia was hardly ever in the news compared to our more illustrious neighbours such as Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex Zaire). A quick look at the bbc africa page shows the words used in news articles on Africa most - least frequently (large font - small font):

(stats generated by wordle)

That's pretty interesting. Fighting and violence fairly prominent... dictators such as Mugabe being very popular. So bad, bad, bad bad...

Here's a similar analysis of the BBC Europe page:
(stats generated by wordle)

Again lots of fighting and wars and such. Nothing about the progress we're making with the large haldron collider coming alive and functioning like the scientists said. And the world NOT ending like the religious people said. Will this be the end of eschatology (aka religious ideas about the end of the world ?) - ever notice how similar eschatology is to scatology {study of #2 err crap err shit, or as GingaBoo would call it, poo (ok they would call it perfume)}?.

So then to get away from the mainstream media and their ideas that only bad things will sell, I went to Good News India, which reports positive stories. Unfortunately I couldn't find an RSS feed for their main articles. I found one for the project the webmaster is involved in currently, about going back to nature and such, so here's wordle's analysis of his articles in a happy white background :)
(stats generated by wordle)

Now that's more like it... farmers, solar, energy, power, windmill. More like the things I want to see in the news. (And you can't fault me for making this look happier than the other two - well, maybe you can - and then we can have a long fight about how marketing makes things more saleable).

So, mainstream media (Sorry I picked on the Beeb here), (and I know you're listening, the last couple of times I wrote about you here and here, there were hits from your domain,) pretty please, have 'positivity day' where a majority of the news is positive. The stuff that you don't consider news right now. For example, the President of Zambia died and there were no riots. Nobody got killed. No coup. Economy still going strong, growing about 5% per year. The funeral and mourning period went on well with minimum disruption to normal life. Lots of poor people can afford HIV treatment thanks to PEPFAR and CIDRZ. So... stuff like that, you know ? So that the rest of the world doesn't think that we live on trees and shoot each other. Thanks.

05 September 2008

Nostalgia

I miss the good old blogging days... when my 'blog crowd' was active. We had fun. I started blogging in October 2005... mainly because I wanted to practice my dusty and disused hindi and malayalam. Predictably, it was about my doggies Ginga and BooBoo. It was pretty amazing to have them around and I had to share the experience. Rohini of Mama says so found the blog quickly (I still don't know how she did it) and became my first blog buddy. She's a great writer and here's her first post that I commented on :)

Lova started up his own blog pretty soon after that. I always thought he did it because of inspiration from yours truly... but as it turned out it was due to other reasons entirely... ah well can't win everything. So here's his first post that I commented on. For all things Madagascar, his blog is the place to be. He's still going strong and has a great following on Global Voices Online as well. He was briefly podcasting for the BBC... although not sure what happened to that.

Meanwhile, over on the dog blog, the other Ginga/BooBoo lovers were frustrated with my writing and there were accusations that I was being partial to Ginga. It wasn't true. Ginga just photographs much better than the skinny one. I can take 5 photos of fatass and 4 of them will turn out good... BooBoo on the other hand... 1 in 20 maybe would work out. Anyway so the criticism washed off my back and I challenged them to do a better job... so Lova (January 2006)and Imei (May 2006) started contributing (and did a much better job than me... some of the time :D). As part of the complaints, I started my non-doggie blog. Apparently doggie-lovers didn't appreciate cricket and photographs on the dog blog :(.

Well, as the dog blog progressed, The visitor, Video and Amrita started following it. Visitor and Video have stopped blogging :(. Amri has effectively stopped blogging but at least she is to be found on flickr... and is thinking about getting an SLR, yay ! Fei and Eve, Shilpa, and Karen were all regular visitors. These three are still pretty active bloggers, although due to my slow (and sometimes non-existent) internet I haven't been able to keep up with them. Sorry, sorry... the Lusaka cable internet connection was expected in December, meaning by next year it will probably be ready. TIA, TIA, as we say - this is Africa :)

In March 2007, Daisuke joined the Dog blog writers crowd. He's Ginga's ex-daddy - he and Ginga's ex-mommy put G in my care before leaving the continent. It was great to find out from him how G-man was as a puppy... and there are some priceless photos of the little one.

In the meantime, the non-dog blog was gaining good ground, had some posts that got famous for science humour... and got on desipundit... It was great interacting with so many people because of the blog. I met Freespirit, Twisted DNA, Anali, TGFI, Crizzie Criz, Hulles, Inquisitive Akka, Melvin, Sheetal, Rajesh, Siddhu, Isha, and Sreekumar, and loved their comments and posts. Some have become friends in the offline realm as well. There were also dedicated commentors like Mansoora, Mayuri and Jose... and who can forget the legions of 'anonymouses' who dropped by. (I do have to say that I badgered the aforementioned M&M&J personally so that they would comment).

Then I started writing less as the thesis stress got to me.. the words would come but they would not flow. About the same time I managed to fulfill a lifelong dream and get a 'that's not a camera, this is a camera' camera (canon EOS 20D - thanks a lot to Ali and Mansoora - she deleted her blog unfortunately - for help and advice and suggestions on this). The writer's block on the blog continued but I think the photography improved since then.

So now as I look around the blog world, myself and many of my contacts have stopped blogging regularly... for various reasons. There's a new generation of writers who seem to kick arse... there's Pri, KrishAshok, Tamizh Pennu, Angry African etc. They're way better than I ever was... but one lives and learns so who knows... maybe the writing will come back (yeah, right!).

So here's to us oldies... and the newies... may the blogging tribe prosper... and may some of the people who started blogging with me publish prize winning books in the future. I'm already published, unfortunately about only about 2 people in the world will have any interest in reading that thesis.

"To those who attended my funeral, I say thank you"

-Dr Levy Mwanawasa, President of Zambia, in the public part of his will.

It's been an eventful week in Zambia. President Mwanawasa was buried in Lusaka following a nationwide tour after his death. Part of his will, a message to the nation, was made public yesterday. He explains that he has made enemies due to his strong stance against corruption and misuse of public funds.

It's the first time that Zambia is losing a head of state, the previous two Presidents are still alive and well, and I wish them a long healthy life. The Zambian armed forces handled the funeral arrangements professionally. Leaders of surrounding countries came, it was nice to see Mbeki (South Africa), Mugabe and Tsvangirai (Zimbabwe), Ravonamalala (Madagascar), Kagame (Rwanda), Kabila (DR Congo), Khame (Botswana), among others.

According to the constitution, Presidential elections have to take place within 90 days of the death of the sitting President. The candidates who are running for the Presidency are supposed to be announced today but haven't heard anything yet. Hope whoever comes in makes it easier to do business, and liberalises the telecom sector. Lower petrol prices would be nice too (it's about 3 USD / L right now aka >10 USD / gallon). A boost in science funding would be great so that the national labs can do some research without looking for resources from other countries.

The people have taken the news maturely and there has been no violence so far. It's business as usual. Celebrations are not really taking place, and they are quite toned down as a mark of respect. The official mourning period ends on Monday.

27 August 2008

All I needed to know I learnt from the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy...

10. Humans are not as important as we think we are.
The universe is staggeringly, mindblowingly huge. From the universe's perspective, we are a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot. Earth, and all of humanity could be destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass and nobody on any other planet would ever notice.

9. There's no point in living forever.
What would you do? All your friends would be dead or you would have fought with them. You would be so bored that all you could do was insult every single living thing in the universe, alphabetically by name. And watch that point in Love, actually where Keira Knightley first shows up as a bride for the 18 billionth time.

8. Being a God may not be much fun (unless other people find out).
Look at the rain God... it was always raining wherever he was. Then he got paid a lot to stay away from places. He's still lonely.

7. Digital watches are still a pretty neat idea.
The little things.... the wheel, the mirror... man those things are just works of genius.

6. It's sometimes a good thing to have a few drinks.
You never know when you're about to find out that the world is about to end and your best friend is an alien from somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.

5. Some things are pure evil, even if they write poetry.
The Vogons, for instance, wrote horrible poetry... not because deep down inside they're sentimental, but just because they liked to torture others with it. E V I L Full Stop.

4. Animals are probably more intelligent than humans.
Think about it... why would an intelligent being want to have all the problems of ruling the world? It's much better to influence those who rule by changing their perceptions of reality and making them do what you want. So that you can have time to hang around in the pool and get free food. Wait... grad students might actually be more intelligent than the general population.

3. The messiah ain't a-comin'.
And if she is, she's gonna reach right before the world ends. So be happy right now, the switch for happiness is in your brain, not in the PS3 or XBOX360 (those do help for a little while though).

2. The answer to the secret of life, the universe, and everything is 42.
The problem is, nobody knows the question. If they did, then the whole universe would fall apart and be replaced by something even more mind-boggling.

1. No robot can make good tea the way mamma (or the guy in the train - for those who've been on Indian railways) made it.
You can have the smartest computer in the world... but that thing cannot make tea properly, even if you sit all night explaining all about picking the best leaves out of Assam.

(I just realised that people might have no clue what I'm talking about. I just realised there might be people who've never read Douglas Adams' The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy series. D-oh. Please to read it, thaank you very much.) It's a great book, and this post probably only makes sense to H2G2 fans.

24 August 2008

Birthday 2008

There's a tradition on this blog that every year on my birthday I post a silly picture of myself to remind people that I'm only getting younger. (For those just catching up, here's Birthday 2006 and Birthday 2007).

This photo was taken by Imei - who blogs at BooBoo, Ginga and the world of dogs and at Imei lounge... and just about sums up what I try to do on this blog.


OK... since the public humiliation is out of the way, I remembered that I had a tag that I never got around to doing... from way back in Feb (thanks Freespirit).

Rules of the tag are:

Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts. The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given (family, friend, yourself, your love, anything you like). Tag 5 other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least 2 new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do) so that you get to know them each a little bit better.
I'm going to ignore the part about tagging other people. If this post moves you, then consider yourself tagged. Actually maybe I should start a tag that people should post a silly picture of themselves on their birthday.

Family:
I try to keep my human family off the blog for security reasons - naah just kidding - I'm too lazy (and too cheap) to call them up and ask for permission individually... but I assume that the doggie family is cool with that. They know more than I do, for sure. So here's a post of the first Dog Conference arranged in Lafayette. There's some sad news, Rudy's passed away due to heart failure and Sophie has passed away due to cancer (they are No. 7 and No. 8 on that blog post).

Friend:
Here I have a blog post about Lova aka Mr Lova Lova the Malagasy dwarf hippo. Don't worry, there's no weeping or crying when you read the post. It's just about a trip to Chicago to watch Russell Peters and how Lova got on TV.

Myself:
Well... you can access me through my writing and through my photos. I'm on everywhere as mosilager. Right now the photography side of my brain is more active than the 'fun' writing side of the brain so check out my best photo stuff at Lensaholic and that and everything else on mosilager@flickr.

Love:
Aaaah yes... love love love. I'll make a confession, I 've watched Love, actually about 50 times. It's a great movie. It doesn't make me any less of a man (at least that's what all the girls say to my face). Man... and I thought the public humiliation on my birthday theme ended with the silly photo. Here's my other ramblings on how to find the perfect woman, and the marriage profile that actually brought the perfect woman to me :)

Anything I like:
I do have some off-the-wall stuff that I like. I like this post about how different authors would have written Harry Potter. I also like this post about surviving the trip to meet family after getting a job for the first time. And here's what you have to know when living with two dogs. All hopes of one teaching the other good manners will fly out of the window.

Consider yourself tagged if you feel like going on a journey to discover your old posts... and have a long island iced tea on me.

22 August 2008

Lensaholic

I've been fairly delinquent on the blog. It's a combination of being busy, slow internet and writer's block. When I try to write it doesn't flow well and I hate posting complete trash. So I've been taking photos and posting them on flickr. Unfortunately flickr only keeps track of the last 200 photos that have been uploaded. In order to preserve the links to older photos than that, I've started a blog called Lensaholic. Do pay a visit. If anyone knows how to port flickr comments to blogger, please let me know.

Here's a little gallery of some of my most popular photos (as judged by flickr users).

mosilager - View my most interesting photos on Flickriver

Olympian biases

Melvin pointed me to an interesting post by Angry African on the differences between the USA and the rest of the world. Angry African pointed out that in the USA Olympic medal table, the USA is Number 1 while China is Number 1 everywhere else.

Now with my interest in media bias, I had to go check this out. Sure enough, both CNN and NBC are showing the USA as leading the Olympics of 2008. BBC / Indian news channels show China leading. The difference is that CNN and NBC are counting the total number of medals as being important while BBC and everyone else is counting the total number of golds.

I did a little bit more research on this to see if it either of the networks had changed the way they did this from prior years... and there's no change. I know, I know, would have been much more interesting if either of the networks had changed their reporting from 2004 to boost their nation's standings.



(Data from CNN 08, BBC 08, CNN 04, BBC 04)

Personally, I like Melvin's way of calculating who the best is. He uses an algorithm that includes most improved, and the length of moustaches and various other secret criteria.

18 May 2008

Sad...

I had a conversation with a mechanic while he was working on the car. We were unable to communicate in English, so I spoke through an interpreter. (I'm paraphrasing the conversation).


Mechanic: So what do you do when people are not running into your car?
Dr Mosi: Well, I'm a scientist, I do research into HIV.

Mechanic: So this HIV, will there ever be a cure?
Dr Mosi: Probably not. There's no cure for any illness caused by a virus, not even the common cold. You can't kill something that is not alive. Bacteria are alive, so antibiotics can kill them. But I'm hoping that there will be a vaccine soon. That's how smallpox was eradicated and polio is not a huge problem any more.

Mechanic: I think I have HIV
Dr Mosi: Did you go for a test? You know testing is free and anonymous. So is the counselling and treatment.

Mechanic: You know, people here are very poor. Women... they need to eat... so they ask for 20-pin [20,000 Kwacha, about US$5.00]. And you can't give them 20-pin for nothing isn't it?
Dr Mosi: But do you at least use protection?

Mech: No.. i'm paying 20-pin, there's no way.
Dr Mosi: But that is the same as taking a loaded gun, putting it to your forehead and shooting. Actually it's worse than that, it's like taking the gun, shooting the people who are closest to you, and then killing yourself. because your wife, your girlfriend, will get it... and if your kids don't get it they will be on the streets when you pass away. No home, no chance of education, employment. I don't agree with your approach there. And it's an entirely preventable disease.

Interpreter: But is there any advantage to getting treatment?
Dr Mosi: Yes... you can live for a long time... in that time you can ensure your kids get an education, maybe get better jobs. Also, if you're on medication the chances to transmit the virus are far less, so you're helping other people out too. And it's free - your cost is just transport to get to the clinics. That 20-pin is more than enough for that. I would tell everyone to get tested at the very least, then at least you know... and can protect yourself and the ones you love. Also... about 1 in 6 people in this country is HIV positive... and the rate of infections has not gone down. So you're doing your country a great favour by limiting the spread. You guys went to the Zambia-Swaziland game, right? I'm assuming that you were supporting Zambia. How about supporting your country by not killing your near and dear ones? It'll be a great act of patriotism.


It's really sad that even after so many years of HIV prevention messages it doesn't seem to have gotten to the target audience. Maybe that's why the rate of new infections is still high. For a disease that's entirely preventable... I don't know why it's not on everybody's lips. Maybe if you have to worry about what you're eating the next meal it's not so much on your mind, but the guy I spoke to had a regular job and didn't have to worry about that. He even had more than needed to spend on 'extra-curricular' entertainment - sports, drinks, and prostitution. So... maybe it's not poverty, it's just education.

[The photo is by me, entitled "Who knows the way out?", thought it was appropriate.]

11 April 2008

World citizen

Labmate: I remember when the taxis were on strike in this country because a taxi driver got killed... can't remember which country it was... it was a while ago.

Dr Mosi: hmmm

Labmate: I should remember... I think it was Estonia... all the taxis shutdown because of the murder... yes that's right, Estonia.

Dr. Mosi: I guess Estonia's a small country... maybe that's why you don't remember.

Labmate: I'm from Estonia

Dr. Mosi: Hahahahahaha (uncontrollable laughter)

09 April 2008

Holier than thou

The leader of country A wants to liberate the people of country B by sending in his militarily superior army. So he sends in the army, there's not much resistance and country B falls... or so it seems.

50 years later, the leader of country C wants to liberate country D by sending in his militarily superior army. So he sends in the army, there's not much resistance and country D falls... or so it seems.

A few years later, leader C wants to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics held in country A as country A is suppressing the rights of the people of country B.

...errr... sure... whatever...

02 February 2008

Not the usual fare

I got the opportunity to visit Kanyama Clinic in Lusaka. This is a government-run clinic that's at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Based on reports from my eyeball (aka an unauthoritative opinion), they are operating at about 8 times greater than capacity. Kanyama has been flooded with rainwater lately, because the rains in Zambia have been far greater than normal. The capacity to handle that much drainage is lacking. The clinic itself was OK when I visited, it hadn't rained badly for 2 days or so. Otherwise the clinic grounds would have been under about 12cm of water. The houses of the clinic staff on the clinic grounds were flooded, and the path leading from the houses to the hospital building is still flooded.

Path

Makeshift paths had been created by putting concrete, rock, or bricks into the water to provide stepping stones so that people could go about their business.

Not an easy road

Outside the clinic everything is under water. The tar on the roads gets washed away under these conditions and mud is the only thing left. The schools were shut down for a few days, now they are open again. Many children take off their shoes to walk through the water, otherwise the problem is that their feet will be wet all day.

Nature abhors a civililsation

The gardens inside the clinic are well tended. Of course, they have no water problems right now.

Impact of HIV/AIDS on Zambia

The vice-President had visited the area the other day. By-elections are to take place shortly in the area. Relief was promised and there was a truck with a pump on it trying to pump the water from the clinic staff's houses.

About 20% of the population of the country is HIV+. That's 1 in 5 people. A few years ago drugs were only available for the very rich. Now they are available free of cost for poor patients so there has been an increase in average lifespan. It's up to 40 now, according to the World Health Organisation, it was at 33 prior to the availability of antiretrovirals. I'm not sure if there are any studies that have directly determined that the increase in average life expectancy is due to the ARVs. But I'm sure that keeping people alive and healthy longer does have a huge impact.

20 January 2008

Survivor: India

After a few decades of avoiding the real world and shuttling from university to university, the dreaded combination of having graduated, having a job, and going to India with the parents unfolded recently in my life.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, the dread is that of having every single person you meet ask you when you are going to jump into the same well that they have been pushed into... i.e. that of wedded bliss. Protestations of "but I'm married to my dog, camera, job, sports, writing (not necessarily in that order)" are brushed aside as mere frivolities with a practiced slap. In this modern era, if you don't show any interest in any of the women that are mentioned, people start to arrange meetings with boys of a suitable nature. Anything is better than the state of half-civilisation that most single guys live in.

There may be some advantages to tying el knot... but none of the ones that are mentioned seem to make any sense... for example, one popular one was that once in the 40s, 50s or 70s no girls will present themselves. Therefore one must think ahead and marry now just in case the desire hits after retirement and cannot be fulfilled. Hmmm.... 30 years of being trained to be mature, responsible, well-dressed and civilised so that one desire that you may or may not have can be fulfilled. Yeah I'm totally convinced. Another popular reason was that once you get old you will be lonely. It is of course possible... but given the sudden interest of both genders to work and have a certain standard of living, even if it comes at the expense of the spouse, there's no guarantee that marriage will result in not being lonely at age 101. So procreation is about the only reason for marriage... and that's not too good a reason given my country's projected rate of growth (1.1 billion and counting).

So... as a wise person once said, the only good reason for marriage is when you can't not. But in the meantime I can run around trying to avoid for as long as possible. So here are some statements that may work in keeping any wannabe in-laws from ever considering you as potential:

1. Hand out copies of "The God Delusion" by Dawkins. Atheism is much worse than being a jobless alcoholic mysogynist.

2. Make it very clear that you have no intention of ever stopping studying. Most in-laws don't like it if their future son-in-law starts to say things like... postdoc... another masters... money? what do I need that for?

3. Repeat the national pledge multiple times in front of them - "India is my country, all Indians are my brothers and sisters." Then ask for rakhees from the daughters.

4. Ask them to read your blog, especially the entries that mention drinks, doggie relatives, and in my case, dangerous viruses... also this post.

5. Casually mention references to when you were in the hospital for "special care." Point out where the sides of your head were shaved... for the electrodes.

6. Mention that in the future you will be based in Iraq or Afghanistan or Somalia... taking viral samples from sick people to do research on or change job descriptions as required.

If the would-be in-law/matchmaker hasn't run further than 100m from you at this point, then that's a person you could be married to...

(for all the potential in-law's out there, this post is meant to be taken deadly seriously... for everyone else it's an example of attempted humour).