What is your deepest fear?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Blog Moved!

I have now moved my blogging ways to a new location.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I will never find another lover...

I just had a very funny experience. Ok just in case I got your hopes up, it was not THAT funny! I was making a call to DHL to ask about a package that was supposed to be delivered to my house. (Seems like lately I am having a lot of incidents around packages delivered to my house) Well, anyway she was very pleasant and asked me for my details. Eventually she says to me that it can be delivered again at the house ONLY between 09h00 and 17h00. I was a little bit puzzled because the notice that I had received about an attempted delivery said the deliver man/lady had tried to deliver it at 18h45... suspicious. I pointed this out to her and she brushed it off, "Yeeesss, thats true but we only deliver between 9 and 5." Now for those of you reading this because of the title must be wondering where the lover issue comes in... hehehe

Anyway after some discussion she suggests delivering it to the office. I agreed and gave her the address and she put me on hold to confirm the details... thats when I heard it. She played for me a song that started... "I will never find another lover, sweeter than you, sweeter than you..." that's right KCi and Jojo... and if you dont recognise that starting line you have NO business reading this blog entry. I was so amused I started to laugh out loud. I was thinking "damn she is direct... and we haven't even seen each other face to face." Hehehe... it was some nice amusement for the afternoon.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Les Feuilles Mortes

Apparently this is the number one hit on my personal charts these days. It is only today that I thought of actually looking at all the lyrics for the song. Quite depressing I must say....


Oh! je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes,
Des jours heureux où nous étions amis,
En ce temps-là, la vie était plus belle,
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui.
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié.
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi.
Et le vent du Nord les emporte,
Dans la nuit froide de l'oubli.
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié
La chanson que tu me chantais...

(Oh! I really hope you remember
Those happy days when we were friends.
In those times life was more beautiful
And the sun brighter than today's.
The dead leaves gather on the rake.
You see, I have not forgotten...
The dead leaves gather on the rake,
As do the memories and the regrets,
And the north wind carries them
Into the oblivion of the cold night.
You see, I have not forgetten
The song that you used to sing to me.)

C'est une chanson qui nous ressemble,
Toi qui m'aimais, moi qui t'aimais.
Nous vivions tous les deux ensemble,
Toi qui m'aimais, moi qui t'aimais.
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s'aiment,
Tout doucement sans faire de bruit.
Et la mer efface sur le sable,
Les pas des amants désunis.

(It's a song that resembles us.
You, you loved me and I loved you
And we lived together,
You who loved me, I who loved you.
But life separates those who love,
Gently, without making a sound,
And the sea erases from the sand-
The footsteps of separated lovers.)

Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Mais mon amour silencieux et fidèle
Sourit toujours et remercie la vie.
Je t'aimais tant, tu étais si jolie.
Comment veux-tu que je t'oublie ?
En ce temps-là, la vie était plus belle
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui.
Tu étais ma plus douce amie
Mais je n'ai que faire des regrets
Et la chanson que tu chantais,
Toujours, toujours je l'entendrai !

(The dead leaves gather on the rake
As do the memories and the regrets
But my love, quiet and loyal,
Always smiles and is grateful for life.
I loved you so much, you were so beautiful.
How can you expect me to forget you?
In those times, life was more beautiful
And the sun brighter than today's.
You were my kindest friend
But I only created regrets
And the song that you used to sing,
I hear it always, always...)


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Bij de Buren!!!!!

Did you understand what the title of this post is? Neither did I (at least not very well) till this afternoon. I received a package that was at the post office since it was too big to fit in my mailbox. The postman tried to deliver it and since there was nobody home, (s)he (??) left a little note to inform me of this yesterday. Today (s)he left another one which I did not bother to read because; 1. it was too much strain to understand the dutch and 2. i figured since it looked exactly the same as the first one it must be bringing the same message. Normally the post closes at 18h00. So when I got home at 17h45 I figured I better ride quickly to the post and pick it up. Just before I left, I looked at the second note and the place where my house number was supposed to be said '16' instead of '24'... "strange....? Did I get the neighbour's note?", I was thinking to myself. "Anyway to hell with it! I have a very short time left and if I don't rush I shall find the post closed." So off I went at full speed burning what little calories I had left at the end of the day.

At the post office the lady asks for the second note and points to it saying over and over again "bij de buren... bij de buren". And this was one of those "aaaaahhhhh" moments for me only this time in a bad way... as in "aaahhhhh 'buren' means 'neighbour'.." the bloody package was at the neighbours house!!! I had ridden all the way for nothing except to add an extra word to my dutch vocabulary.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The system.... thoughts of a heretic

Recently I got a fever for reading books again and I started with "Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior" by Phil Jackson. Of course it helps that I am a basketball fanatic and so I found this to be a hugely consuming book because I could actually visualise some of the things he talked about. Anyway one of the things he raves about was the book by Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values". I remembered trying to read this book while still in my first year of university and never got past the first ten pages. I wonder whether I just did not concentrate enough or I was not ready for the kind of content it presented. In any case I bought it recently and started to read it again. It is making me think I am really an activist. I read this one phrase that immediately made me think of the mindset of most Ugandans.... at least my view on that mindset. I leave it to your own interpretation... "... the true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

TU Delft takes on Africa

The theme for this year's lustrum anniversary celebrations at TU Delft is 'Sustainability and Africa'. Based on this theme the university plans to take certain actions throughout the year to find out how it can contribute to sustainable development in Africa. "But does sustainable development really mean 'Western' sustainable development, and isn't educating many more African students really the best way to help Africa?"

Sustainability is one of the recent buzzwords encountered in many technology discussions today. The term is used perhaps without a clear understanding of what it actually means. I always had a vague idea that the definition has something to do with 'the ability for something to go on'. One TU lecturer, during a course at the TPM Faculty, suggested that the vagueness of the term is intentionally maintained so that businesses engaged in the manufacturing of certain 'harmful' products have some wiggle room. But according to Wikipedia, sustainability is "an attempt to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural environments both now and into the indefinite future".

This year TU Delft celebrates its 165th lustrum anniversary and the theme for the year's celebrations is 'Sustainability and Africa'. Throughout the year, a number of activities have been scheduled to explore the possible contributions that a university like TU Delft can make towards achieving this goal of sustainable development, with a particular focus on African countries.

But why the focus on Africa? The committee organizing the lustrum program mentioned a number of problems: energy, climate change, water supply and health, which affect countries worldwide. During the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, it was stated that the three overarching objectives of sustainable development were: eradicating poverty, protecting natural resources and changing unsustainable production and consumption patterns.

The focus on African countries therefore can be seen from the point of view that they could act as a valuable testing ground for sustainable solutions to these problems. During a debate with international students recently, TU Delft Rector Magnificus Jacob Fokkema mentioned that "in the next 50 years, we shall need six earths to sustain us if we are still living the same lifestyle as today".

But the implication is that the 'developed Western lifestyle' cannot be supported by the earth for much longer. TU Delft has taken on the challenge to search in Africa for new solutions (to the critical problems) that minimize the damage done to the earth.

So what actions are TU Delft taking this year to contribute to sustainable development? A number of students and staff have already been sent to developing countries to visit projects in these countries and evaluate the impact of these projects. From their travels, the students and staff shall build a journal that shall act as a basis for debates on how the TU can contribute to sustainable solutions.

In addition to this, TU Delft intends to establish a 'Delft Center for Sustainable Solutions' that shall bring together various projects related to sustainability issues. Finally, the university intends to fund a number of scholarships for African students this year.

It shall be interesting to observe the outcomes of the journeys made by the TU's students and staff. These journeys are being made primarily by engineers who are seeking ideas to solve problems. Their journals, however, are supposed to include some aspect of social issues that are affecting the areas in question. Considering that engineers normally operate in a problem-solution environment, I imagine that it shall be challenging to adjust their style of operation to accommodate a more social approach. Moreover the cultural differences between Africans and Europeans can only add to this challenge.


While all these activities are going on, however, one should think about what contributions TU Delft can eventually make. I shall consider two that I feel can make considerable impact: technological solutions and education.

The university, being a center where solutions are developed, is in a position to provide appropriate technological solutions. I'm reminded of a student I met in Delft shortly after I arrived, who was investigating how very small-scale financial institutions in Africa can be aided in monitoring their clients.

One of his recommendations was to have an employee of the financial institution visit clients with a mobile phone equipped with a camera. This employee would then take a picture, write a short text and upload this content to the Internet via Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS).

Considering that the employee was having problems connecting to the Internet at their office, it was an appropriate and more efficient solution given the circumstances. The focus of such solutions, therefore, should be that they improve the circumstances of those using them, while still fitting into the context of the user's lifestyles.

The second contribution that the TU Delft can make is in fact its core business: education. As mentioned earlier, there are plans to offer scholarships to African students. I believe this should be coupled with encouraging such students to eventually seek out a graduation project that is relevant to their home countries while still fitting the academic requirements of TU Delft.

Such an idea, however, faces challenges that the professors might not have experienced with issues in developing countries, as well as having a misconception that a project in a developing country might not pose a sufficient academic challenge for the student.

Future plans aside, the current situation is a bit disheartening. At the moment, the enrollment of African students in TUD is very low. When I joined the university, I was the only African student studying in my MSc program. Moreover, the enrollment of international students in my program was eight students out of a total of approximately sixty for that year.

Based on this, one may assume that the situation is similar in other TU degree programs. I strongly believe that TU Delft cannot contribute very much to Africa's development, sustainable or otherwise, without increasing the number of African students the university actually educates. After all, teaching a man to fish is far more effective than simply giving him fish.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dutch newspaper headlines.

Reading the dutch newspaper headlines reminds me of the newspapers at home... what are the stories... corruption, road accidents and political disagreements. More interestingly, the corruption stories involve a couple of policemen! It was really funny to read but at the same time I started to think that maybe all this talk about African countries being very corrupt is a sham. On a general level, I would say all societies are the same. People would love to get away with not following rules and regulations. Everybody would like to overspeed, make more money than they deserve and work less. The difference is that in some places, there are stronger law and order enforcement bodies. Maybe these are better facilitated... Who knows. In any case, I have been reading the dutch news everyday and the stories are no different!