I recently composed a list of 30 things to do before 30, you know the kind of bucket lists people make that are half goals, half dreams and a whole lot of resolutions we don’t really mean to keep. So I made that list, but I am not putting it up just yet, I have shared enough of my life’s details on this blog!
Anyway, solving the Rubik’s cube is one of them. I can now happily cross it off my list, it’s conquered. In fact, I have just solved one that I’m walking around with, right now, as I blog this.
I have always been fascinated by the cube but never really took the chance to learn to solve it, till recently when Google made a interactive doodle in honour of the inventor, Professor Rubik. I tried solving it, gave up, but still tweeted about it and someone offered to teach me, I quickly learned and I am now willing to share that knowledge!
So there are 3 ways (in my view) of solving the cube:
1. Take the cube apart. Arrange the pieces then reassemble them. Least challenging way, there’s no point then, in bothering to “solve” the puzzle!
2. Be a genius with visualization. Look long and hard at the cube, turn it around, solve it in your head, then just move the pieces into place. I don’t know how the guys who set records such as 5.5 seconds do it! It’s amazing watching their hands move faster than your brain can think! Of course they use high quality, low friction cubes to minimize efforts in movement, but still, the way they optimize their moves to solve the cube in the shortest time possible? It’s impressive. They are the speed cubers.
3. Learn the steps. Over the years, a number of people have experimented and written down a series of steps/movements (algorithms) that if you follow, you will end up with the solved cube. The algorithms are designed so that as you progressively solve the cube, you don’t spoil the faces you have already solved. So the movements end up being repetitive at some point, but if you muster them, then you can solve the cube in a very short time, such as under 1 minute, and you can pretend to be a genius! It’s a good feeling.
There are several algorithms out there, you can search them and try them out once you have a cube. However, I wrote down the simple one I learned from my teacher, so to speak.
Before you try out the algorithms, you must first learn the terminology: top face, front face, middle row etc.. but it should all make sense as the terms are descriptive. Here’s the link to the simple algorithm, so if you wish to learn, try it out and holla if you’re stuck!
I met Kinyanjui Kombani, the author of Den of Inequities, when BAKE (Bloggers Association of Kenya) had a Daystar training under the Creatives Academy invite, a few months ago. I bought the book and had it autographed, and then it lay around the house for weeks before disappearing into my mother’s handbag for a few more weeks. Finally, I found it and since it’s a small book, I read it in a day, it was a Sunday.
There are three main characters introduced in the book: Omosh, a poor construction worker living in the slums; Gosti, a local thug also living in the slums and Aileen, beautiful daughter of a rich dad. How do they coexist in the den of inequity that is the city of Nairobi?
The story of each of the characters is written simply and titillatingly, with the right suspense and description to capture the reader’s attention. I held my breath in some scenes, smiled at others, empathized with the characters, got afraid of some of the cops, sympathized with the thugs, the mungiki (I think it’s called The Chama in the book) and others who were at the mercy of these dirty cops..
The book gives an insight (albeit fictional) into behind the scenes of extra-judicial killings, the announcements you sometimes hear in the news of suspected criminals shot and killed by anonymous people. Take for instance the recent killings of everyone in Maina Njenga’s car; he is the former leader of mungiki. Type into Google Maina Njenga and all you get is dramatic, fatal events surrounding the man. How would you like a look into what’s really going on? Pick the book and it will all make sense!
For Omosh, things go wrong, and he needs a way to make things right; for Gosti he finds himself deeply involved with The Chama, when someone from his past comes calling. Aileen unfortunately tumbles into these events, and now how will it all end?
The one disappointment with this book was the lack of character depth. Maybe because the book was short so there wasn’t enough space to develop the characters. Omosh’s story is especially surprising because he does not seem to be the kind of man who does what the book say he does at the very end. In fact, after the first few pages, he all but disappears only to reappear at the very end. Gosti is the only one whose character is fully developed. I also thought the book would focus on the main characters as introduced by the book description, but they were kind of side stories to the main story: heind the scenes of extra judicial killings.
All in all, it was such an enjoyable book and I would recommend it to everyone I come across. Pick your copy from any bookshop today for only Kshs. 400 (thereabout). My only regret was that the book was too short.
I composed this blog post in my head while I sat in traffic, contemplating my life. The radio was tuned into 1FM, it’s the only radio station that has a clear reception, since I am still using the Japanese frequencies that came with the car radio. The music is local and urban hits: basically modern African hits – Mafikizolo, Davido, Sauti Sol, Elani, Diamond Platinumz, Ali Kiba (mapenzi yana run dunia comes to mind) etc. But my thoughts drift…
Of course, he’s always on mind, especially if I am idle. I think about how he will start crying for me from the moment I drive through the gate, rushing towards me so I can pick him up then he smiles and tries to remove my spectacles. He’s already widened them beyond belief and now they hang limp and loose on my face. This means I have to remove them and then there is the delicate balancing act of my son, spectacles, keys, handbag, laptop bag and any groceries I may have bought. Usually, I make sure I drop anything else except Jeremy.
When in traffic, I think about what kind of life I want to give my son. Will I bring him up to be a kind, responsible man? Will I help him achieve his dreams and ambitions? Will I be the kind of mother he would be proud of? Can I set a good example for him to follow? How will I afford his school feels? What kind of schools will I take him to? In fact, where in the world will I bring him up? (This will be relevant when you read later thoughts).
I’m grateful everyday for the support of my parents, I’m still living with them and in a way they are parenting both of us. Will I make it when I move out and start on my own? How tough is this single parenthood journey?
Then I relax and decide it will be a journey, one day at a time, and things will always work out, they always do for me, in the end.
Which leads to finances. I have been working in formal employment for almost 2 years now, but I have little to no savings. Start saving now, they say, while you are still young, no matter how much you earn. It is not easy, I must admit. I live a subsistence kind of life; my salary only sustains me as far as the next salary. I need a side hustle that brings in good money. Or a better job, which will of course mean I increase my expenses and we are back to subsistence. How can I make more money? I ask myself.
I am not the type of person who would depend on another for money & security, I always know I will make my own money. And when we speak with friends, we tell ourselves, can we really make enough in formal employment? Business is the way to go, we agree. Entrepreneurship. Some of my friends are already running their own businesses. Some are working, like me. Not many have the courage to be entrepreneurs, not many were meant to be entrepreneurs.
Which leads me to ask myself, do I like what I am doing? Is it leading me to the path of riches and accomplishments (vain thoughts?)
Do I want to continue working in Ernst & Young in IT audit and consultancy? Is there a future for me here, right now?
Then I remember the decision was already made for me. I have already tendered my resignation letter but will be here for the next 2 months, then have my last working day in early September. I am leaving EY to go back to school. See next train of thought.
Did the time I invested in learning at Strathmore, courtesy of the Safaricom Academy worth it? Definitely. I learned not only mobile programming in all platforms (USSD, Android etc), but also project management, business skills, entrepreneurship, leadership and management. I know I will apply them not only now but also in the future, especially when I set up my own business to make more money so I can better take care of my son (all thoughts center around the same issues, as you can see!)
Japan, October 2014
As you wonder why I am resigning from my job with an reputable, international, I will tell you to stop wondering.. here’s why.
I got a Japanese Ministry of Culture and Education (MEXT) scholarship to go and study in Japan, at a university of my choice. I decided to go because I have always wanted to travel, and I’m going to the East first, conquer the world one country at a time. So I am going to the School of Information Science at JAIST to major in Artificial Intelligence. Another MSc. For like 2 years. But I’m young enough, with 2 years of work experience.. and I like studying, and will probably end up in (industry) research. Every tech company worth its salt has invested in research.
So I’m leaving in early October, hopefully, fingers crossed. I’ll leave Jeremy and Bella in my mother’s loving arms, then when I’m settled, I’ll send for J. For the next 2.5 years that I will be in Japan, I couldn’t possibly leave my son behind that long! I will have to do everything possible to reunite us.
My friend Pitz tells me a woman is her most attractive at 26. He says there was research carried out, apparently. Or is it a survey? So as you see me today, I am at the height of my attractiveness hehe.. so where are those serious men? How will my ambitions to travel and see and work anywhere the world, to study etc.. how will these ambitions converge with another? Is there someone out there whose path will cross mine? Is it okay if I am not even contemplating marriage? Is it okay if I decide I don’t have to “settle down” and can live the rest of my life in single motherhood?
The thing about relationships is that it’s not your decision alone to make. So until someone else comes along whose decisions I want to be a part of, and vice versa, I shall reserve my stall my train of thought here….
By the time, traffic has started to move, but oh wait, it was just a teaser. The cop halts the flow of traffic after 2 or 3 cars. We sit and wait.. and I finally decide it’s time I solved the Rubik’s cube that I’ve been learning to these past few weeks, in between reading books (I am currently reading the Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and I am yet to write the review for Den of Inequities by Kinyanjui Kombani), blogging, meeting friends for coffee, and squeezing in some hours of work between commuting to work in the morning and commuting home in the evening..
The cube is just about solved when traffic finally moves and I zoom home to my family, hooting at bad drivers, cursing at those who cut me off in traffic, and nodding to Elani’s kookoo.. I’m going kookookoo so kookoo coz I…aiaiai love you…… turning up the volume of my Japanese radio.
Barbara and Stephanie Keating introduced us to unforgettable characters in the first book of the Langani trilogy, Blood Sisters. (Read the review here). Central to the tale are Sarah, Camilla and Hannah, the three friends who are now blood sisters through an oath they swore, to stay friends forever no matter what. Hannah’s parents own Langani Farm in central Kenya, which the sisters consider home.
The first book ends in tragedy, but I don’t want to give away the story in case you haven’t read it. The second book, a Durable Fire, picks up from there and spins yet another tale that brings alive the Langani farm and her intriguing cast of characters.
A Durable Fire
In A Durable Fire, the sisters have all but grown up. Shortly after their 21st birthday, after the tragedy in the first book, they must pick up pieces of their lives and find the strength to move on. Sarah immerses herself in elephant research in the dry and remote Samburu, finding solace in the unchanging habits of the elephants over the centuries. She works with a couple, Dan and Allie, that offer her the solace she needs to get over the tragedy. She has an eye for photography and soon, an Indian journalist arrives on the scene, and they have an idea for the book. While working together, an attraction builds between them, but can they overcome their racial, religious and cultural differences?
Camilla, the beautiful London model, has achieved worldwide success and fame. She still longs for Kenya, and for Anthony Chapman, a charismatic tour guide who is a friend to the sisters. They had good times, but she’s a sophisticated London model and socialite; he’s just a bush boy happy when he’s camping in the wild. Their worlds are separate, but clearly they are meant for each other. Their tale of star-crossed lovers is tragic. Camilla learns the secret of her parents’ cold marriages, who had initially been diplomats in Kenya before retiring to the UK. It’s a secret that keeps her estranged from her father.
Hannah who is married to Lars Olsen, has to take over the running of the farm together with her husband. They keep the farm running, but it doesn’t feel like the danger is over at all. It’s not just poachers or corrupt officials they have to deal with (the farm also includes a wildlife conservancy) but the danger from the past that comes haunting them again. Hannah decides to adopt a black boy at the center of it all, in order to end the cycle of tragedy and bitterness.
If this second book has you hooked, you will then have to read the final book to just know how it all ends.
In Borrowed Light
In Borrowed Light
The book is set 11 years after the second book; the sisters are not young anymore, they are older, mature women in their early 30′s but have they achieved what they they set out to do?
Sarah is married to Rabindrah, the Indian journalist. They have done a number of successful books together. They have been trying to start a family for years, but have been unsuccessful and this is putting a strain on their marriage. Their families aren’t helping either, pointing out their unsuitability in the first place. Sarah, who’s always been the happy, wise(r) one, is becoming sad and bitter. Will they resolve their crisis and save their marriage?
Camilla still cares for Anthony; but she still spends a considerable amount of time in London and New York. She is now a designer of high end clothes with African decorations, and only does select modelling announcements. Will Anthony overcome his stubborn pride and see that he has only unconditional love to gain?
Hannah Olsen’s kids are growing up fast, as kids always do. Her first born daughter, Suniva, is very close with the boy she adopted, James. They are inseparable as they grow up, even into adulthood. Are their parents ready for these relationship? James’ past is unknown to Suniva and to James himself, but terrible things have happened in the past that threaten to keep them apart.
The last book in this trilogy brings out the best and worst in the characters; the endurance and forgiveness and love that defines the very basis of a good story.
I read the first two books using the Amazon Kindle app, and the third I bought from Text Book Center.
First, what is bitcoin? Bitcoin is a crypto-currency that exists only in the digital sense – in your mobile phone, or computer (digital wallet). There is no bitcoin hard currency like notes or coins. It is secured using cryptography (public-key encryption) to make it hard for hackers to spend bitcoins from other people’s wallets. To understand bitcoin, I suggest you read this comprehensive article from Forbes. It’s not hard to understand digital currency if you can understand M-Pesa.
You want to buy goods/services, you can send someone money via M-Pesa (or via bitcoin exchange), you just get their number(identifier) and send it using your M-Pesa SIM Toolkit (bitcoin app) on your phone;
You can also receive money from someone through M-Pesa (bitcoins).
You can pay for stuff online as well, just like you do using VISA cards or M-Pesa or Paypal. The charges of using bitcoin for transactions are less than the traditional means.
At the end of the day, if you want cold, hard cash (some places don’t accept M-Pesa (bitcoins)), you can go to an M-Pesa agent (bitcoin exchange) and withdraw the cash in Kshs(dollar/euro/pound). There are a number of people making money from buying bitcoins at a lower rate and selling when the rates are higher (speculation).
What’s So Fascinating About Bitcoin?
1. Process of mining it
What I find interesting about bitcoin is the process of creating bitcoins. For traditional currencies such as the Kenyan Shilling, the Central Bank of Kenya is responsible for printing the cash (although De La Rue is the contracted printer) and regulating supply. For bitcoin, the digital sequences that determine the bitcoins are generated by an algorithm designed by Satoshi Nakamoto. The maximum number of bitcoins that can be generated is 21 million. The process of generating these coins is called mining. Currently, about 12.3 million bitcoins have been mined, or brought into circulation. You too, can mine you own bitcoins, with special hardware that you buy. (You need money to make money!). Here’s a techcrunch review of a bitcoin miner. However, for small scale miners coming in late in the game, it is going to take you ages to make any decent return on your investment. The reviewer ran a collection of three 1 GH/s ASICs (each costs about $12) and got about $1 a month. In this case, it will take you 3 years to break even. Who said mining was easy?
2. Mysterious founder of Bitcoin
Who is Satoshi Nakamoto, the original designer of the bitcoin algorithm? Is he one person, is it a group of people? Is he/they really Japanese?
We will never know. Nakamoto is believed to be in possession of roughly one million bitcoins. At one point in December 2013, this was the equivalent of US$1.1 billion.Have a look at the original paper by Satoshi Nakamoto and if you’re a profiler, please leave a comment on who you think he is. The fact that he doesn’t want to be found seems to make bitcoin even more popular.
3. Control is Peer to Peer
While traditional currencies are controlled by the equivalent Central Banks, bitcoin is unregulated. The bitcoin system has no central repository and no single administrator, rather transactions are recorded in a public ledger which every user in the network has access to. It is not recognized legally as a currency but it is gaining acceptance and popularity steadily.
4. Its popularity and volatility
A number of travel agents, and online service providers are accepting payments in form of bitcoins. Although it was launched in 2009, it didn’t gain popularity as much as it did last year. In the beginning of 2013, the exchange rate to the dollar was $13. It heat a peak of $1,200 in November 2013 and right now as I blog it is at $644.65. If you’re into gambling, purchase some coins from bitcoin wallet providers. There is actually a Kenyan wallet provider called bitX Kenya!
5. Coin Exchanges
To exchange bitcoins for traditional currencies, a number of coin exchanges (forex bureaus?) are available. Here is a complete list. Note: there are several other crypto-currencies following in bitcoin’s path.
The Kenya Association of Bloggers (BAKE) annual awards were held at the Intercontinental Hotel on 2nd May. To celebrate the winners and the organizers, the hotel invited us for a cocktail and showed us around. On an evening after work, I stepped into one of the conference halls to enjoy the hospitality.
The Intercon is, in my opinion, the only five star hotel in the city center which still retains the feeling of freshness and class. Others (that I shall not name) feel run down, threadbare carpeting and washrooms with a hint of smell. It’s location works in its favor. The management wanted us to know what’s on offer you know, just in case we feel inclined to blog about it. Because after all, they did invite the winners of the bloggers’ awards!
I’ve been here a number of times before and I like the poolside bar. It’s set up in the open with a view of the pool, and there is a large screen that’s been set up for watching the World Cup. The hotel has 380 rooms, 16 suites, 9 meeting rooms and 4 restaurants (they do open for Sunday brunch). If you are so inclined to spend a night, an average room will cost you about $250 a night (anywhere from Ksh 19,000). It’s not for your everyday Kenyan!
The management, who were our host, gave us a tour of the rooms, fed us on snacks and bitings, mingled with us and gave us a short presentation about the hotel. We tweeted throughout.
The drinks were in plenty
The food too, was amazing.
Overall, it was an evening well spent. All pictures above were obtained from their PR agency’s facebook page. Check out there rest of the pics on the link.
It’s not easy being a working mother. At the tender age of 3 months, you will leave your suckling infant in the care of another, and leave them there for the better part of the day. You will arrive at work disoriented but soon you will adjust to the reality that as a working mother, you will only see your child in the evenings when you’re tired after work and they are sleepy and ready for bed. So you make the most of the weekends. Weeks will turn into months and you get used to it but you ask yourself, given a choice, would you be a stay at home mother? Can job satisfaction from your career equal satisfaction from watching over your child(ren), especially when they are young? What exactly are you doing in your career, are you a replaceable foot soldier or are you the general making some change in the world?
In my experience, I would choose to work from home for the first three years of my child’s life, then as he starts school I go back to work. Many mothers have to juggle both work and family; and when they are forced to choose, who would choose career over family? It’s not a secret single women without children will rise faster in the employment. But can women with families rise too, and to the very apex? Can they compete on the same level as their single counterparts, and men? The situation might be almost ideal in the entry and middle levels of employment, but what about at the top?
Lean In is a book by Sheryl Sandberg, the CFO of Facebook. Hers is to encourage women to Lean In at the table, don’t hold yourself back. A better world is one in which women run half the work, and men run half of our homes. Often, it is the woman who sacrifices her career for the family, rarely the man. The book gives examples of research findings over the years, that show just how much women are always afraid to Lean In, always afraid to push ahead, always having to make the sacrifice of family over career. She thinks that with more women on top to show by example (she is married with 2 kids), more women will join the table.
Throughout the book she shares anecdotes of her own experiences and her journey to the top; her marriage to Dave Goldberg who is the Survey Monkey CEO, how they work together as partners both at home and offering support for each other’s career; her observations growing up etc etc.
I rarely read non-fiction, and when I do it is biographies. However, this was one book I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It brought to fore the story of working mothers all over the world, and it’s a story I am familiar with. We make the best of the situation, but we should never hold ourselves back from reaching for the very top.
P.S. I have the book in pdf somewhere in my laptop, holla if you want a copy.
For the longest time, about six months, the piece of paper below has been my (interim) driving license.
I was okay with it, because I was aware it was a temporary document while I waited for my driving license to arrive, hopefully by 30th of January 2014.
Turns out it must have been mailed to the wrong address, or got lost in the filing room which I hear is piled up with thousands driving licenses in no order, so finding a particular license there is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
So I waited for 3 months, the had the interim license renewed. If you scan the top left corner, you will see a green stamp with the extension date of 30th April, 2014.
I was sure by then, I would have my license. It was not to be. There was no avenue for inquiry, my dear friends. When I thought of going to queue at the Times Tower and the crowd of people that’s always there, I gave up. There is no online platform to track driving licenses and I did not have the heart to look for a phone number. So I sent someone to have the renew the interim license a second time. Somewhere up on that picture, there is another faded green stamp showing extension to 30th June, 2014.
But I could not live like this, the interim license was already torn and frayed and I wanted a real license. The only way to do this is to apply for a replacement license, thereby assuming you have lost the original one. I ‘accelerated’ this process and got it in 1 day.
Finally, I have a Kenyan driving license. It’s big, heavy, bulky, outdated, backward, analog in every single way, impossible to put in your back pocket or wallet, inside it’s ugly, handwritten (with a bad handwriting to boot), badly stamped to indicate which vehicles I can drive (including your average Mitsubishi Canter), and several other pages I assume are for renewal purposes. Not forgetting that your mugshot, is literally GLUED to the driving license. SMH. WTF? Are we in the 18th Century? Even the ID department has upgraded to digital-like IDs!
So anyway, take a look at a US Driving License.
All information needed is contained there: Photo, DL number, Class of vehicle, expiration date, restrictions, address (blacked out) etc.. on a neat, standard card size of about 85.60 × 53.98 mm (like most credit/debit cards and IDs).
Now take a look at our driving licenses:
What is so hard about issuing digital (or digital-sized) driving licenses? This is an embarrassment. Our driving licenses need a total overhaul, not unlike that of the proposed new smart ID cards.
Someone at KRA is sleeping on their job. John Njiraini is the Kenya Revenue Authority’s Commissioner General. I need to forward this post to him. Who has his email?
As much as I blogged about being careful when doing online shopping, it’s a convenience I cannot do without. I don’t have time to physically browse through shops for electronics, clothes or books. I’d rather shop online at my desk, take in the wide variety, compare options easily, then swoop in for the kill sale.. And not just shopping, online banking, investing, booking of tickets, checking in etc.
Some websites are fully integrated, you buy and pay for the goods using a credit/debit card. But some like OLX are like a market place, just bringing together the buyer and seller, and how you exchange payment is up to you. However, I recommend cash/M-Pesa.
Anyway, sometime ago, I was on the website browsing for laptops. My brother lost his and as a good big sister, I offered to buy him one. So the minimum specifications we were looking for are:
4GB of RAM
Core i3 Processor (FIFA 2013 can only play on Core i3 and 4GB RAM minimum)
250GB of memory (for movies and series)
Good battery Life (at least 5 hours)
Bluetooth, Webcam, and other basics
First, we tried sites such as jumia and others that sell electronics, but the price was a bit higher than our 35-40K budget (and you can’t bargain on these sites). So finally, we checked out OLX and most of the laptops we could find were not new, which affected the battery life and warranty.
We finally found a shop listed at CBD and called the owner and set a date to visit the shop. We got a Lenovo laptop that was virtually new with the minimum specifications (and more memory, it had a hard disk of 500GB) for 36K. (Say we’d get a similar one for 54K on jumia). We then decided to check out some computer shops in town to compare prices and the minimum we got was 45K. So we went back and took the Lenovo.
The reason why I trusted the guys is they ran a computer shop with a verifiable address. We met at the shop and it seemed legit. We tested the laptop, they installed Office and some other programs for us, and off we went.
So yeah, there are many success stories online, especially for buying. For selling, it’s been hard to find a platform but at least OLX seems to have enough buyers to ensure your item sells so try them out.