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


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.