Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Short Love Story: Expendable Tears

Today I was talking to a friend I have known for years. Serious Stone stone lives in New York and we were talking about friendships, relationships and stuff. As we talk and mull over old stuff and new acquaintances, he says to me: "I hate the way you are someone's friend only when they are in shit, and going through drama" I pause and I wonder whether Sam lost his mind but I remember that Sam always did have a way of looking at things; in a way all his own.

He thought it was cool to put himself through hell for a girl he really liked but when it didn't work, he still thought it was cool. He said some mumbo Jambo about being a stronger man. Anyway, I talk to Sam once a week. We talk about everything that's happening in Kampala to New York. He represents his world so graphically that conversations with him have a whole different feel to them. He makes the mundane sound sublime. We get to talking about life and friendships. He asks how my friend Mr. Spartakuss and Mrs. Spartakuss are doing. I tell him she went to hell to collect her soul. 

He chuckles and says "Well, at least she had one!" I proceed to tell him about how she had, despite his remonstrations, gone ahead to hell. 

Now don't get me wrong. I don't think it is right to hate a woman's exes. I think actually its cool to rub her in his face most times. But you shoulda known this nigga. This was the ex from purgatory. He was BAD!!! He did things that made Spartakuss shudder. 

When Spartakuss had first hooked up with the Mrs. he had told her that man "had to go". It was either him or the dude. I knew Spartakuss did not have a lot of standards but that guy just ticked you the wrong way; I always wondered whether it was because of the incoherent way he introduced himself as "LOBAT" instead of "Robert" or, when he said he could go not to Christian Cell Fellowship because he was a "CASOLIK". 

This had always been amusing to Spartakuss, but he also found it verbally lazy on his part not to improve his speech pattern or make an effort to lessen the mother tongue influence and inflections in his speech. Despite all these though, this man had money. Lots of it. He was childless and married so he spent most of his disposable cash on young, impressionable nubiles in and around the city. Imagine this chap's horror when Spartakuss swept in one fine day and made off literally with his nubile. He swore, threatened to shoot him in a parking lot (by the way, whenever you can, avoid having any sort of confrontation outside Steak Out – that parking lot is blood thirsty), intimidated him, belittled him, attempted to bribe him, the list is endless. Well you know Spartakuss, the more it goes on and the more you pine for something, the more he knows it's something of value, so he goes ahead and takes it. He shouldn't have.

He tells the Mrs. "Look here, you can have as many pals and companions and patrons and stalkers as you like, just keep that guy out of this circle. I don't have to give permission but I should know if you are going to meet with someone who might antagonize this here what we got going. I might be furious, I might be mad but at least I'll know. It is mutual respect", I don't know why he said this but I think it was because somewhere deep inside he sensed that a man doesn't let go of his 6 year nubile to a younger, more virile male just like that. There would be a fight, but first there would be a silence before the reprisal.
Spartakuss is my friend so I asked the Mrs. whether she was really over the "Lob". She confirms she was. 

…Fast forward to the present.

The Mrs. ain't doing anything for the Spartakuss. He is working long hours, slaving, slogging, hogging and dogging to earn his piece of bread. Unfortunately, and this is very true in a lot of our communities today; when anyone is starting out, the curve is so steep that there is often no time to do anything (or anyone) else. Literally. So Spartakuss hogged and dogged but the Mrs. didn't think he was slaving it out for her, so she accused him of neglect and abandon. She said he emotionally abused her and that he was a user. The problem with this position, was that Spartakuss actually had not abused the Mrs. He'd just been caught up in the mayhem that was his work life and literally lost touch with a lot of things; with her among them. He'd wanted to grow quickly at his job so he too could splash a few shillings around her; make her feel like she belonged, pick her up, take her out, stop taking bodas or cabs everywhere. He knew what she’d had before, and she was not ashamed to say her expectations of a man.

But his late nights at the office and long weekend absences had taken their toll on the Mrs. In a moment and flash of anger she rationalized that Spartakuss was no different from Lob and to prove it she would have coffee with the "Lob". It turned out they were different; Spartakuss was worse, even though he had never hurt, abused, beaten, lied to, cheated on the Mrs., she came back from that “coffee” with this belief. One day in a moment of anger she lashed out at Spartakuss. She said these thoughts out loud; dealing a definitive blow. Spartakuss had known. He wasn't sure how, but he had known and it had niggled him to no end how he knew. Now as he stood reading that text message "I went to see my ex today and we had coffee," smack right in the middle of an unrelated argument. He knew it was calculated to hurt. And it had.

It struck deep. So deep. The initial numbing shock, and then the ensuing seeping in of pain. The pain of betrayal. The memories of tapped phone calls (he was a powerful man), the humiliation of that Mercedes passing by as Spartakuss walked to his favourite restaurant, the fear of the threat of being shot. All these emotions rose and welled up. How could she do this to him? They had both fought so hard to come this far! In the middle of that torrent of thoughts and feelings, a maxim he'd once held true and dear came to him "Never get attached to anything that you can't walk away from; Everyone is dispensable." The momentary battle that ensued with his feelings was soon decided; maxim over feelings. Calm was restored. The decision was swift and decisive. She had to go. 

As the ebb and flow of time are often wont to do, it showed Spartakuss his error in a hurried dismissal, because the absence of a planned withdrawal from the Mrs. meant they both continued to meet in the same places, kept the same friends, and hang out at the same clubs. He did, with the flow of time, relapse into the company of the Mrs.; her gentle goading, her stubborn insistence, her irreverent but yet delightful banter. Things looked like the past might just be painted over by a new mural; bigger, better, brighter, complete introspective lessons. But alas fate would not have it.

I don't think fate is evil, it is just fate: neutral and impersonal. But in this new blow fate would deal him a hand too hot for even his seasoned and calloused hands to handle. One night as he lay down from a long day and night's work the Mrs. drew up close and said: "I have something to say to you."

"What is it?"

"Well its, one of those things that will make you mad"




"I recently reconnected with my ex and we've been meeting…"


"… He wanted to come over tonight but I refused him. I told him I was expecting company and that he shouldn't come"

"…", my eyes were still closed.

"He insisted and told me he wanted to talk, and he was having a bad day. He said we really needed to talk but when I refused the conversation devolved into an abusive phone call. And just before you came in, he called and said that he'd seen you outside the gate"
"Explain this to me slowly. You have been seeing him again? Are you friends? He knows where you live? Has he been here?!"
"Yeah, two nights ago. Butwedidn'tdoanything. I promise"
"Why was he in the house?" at this point Spartakuss was beginning to bristle.
"He just came by to sit down and he remained in the living room. I swear I didn't do anything"
"You need to believe me; I was just showing him my house, where I live. He asked me and there was no reason to refuse after all we've been on such good terms lately." The bile rose in Spartakuss' mouth, slowly from the pit of his gut. She had reminded him not too long ago that when she first met him, he had nothing more than a little fat as she now rubbed his filled out form and gut to match. The bile rose from deep within. It came from a place where revulsion and darkness abide; the place where you hide the instincts to eat your own faecal matter out of hunger, or curiosity; a place inside a man's soul where no one dare ever look. And it rose. And it boiled. And it rose.

"So what do I do now? It's after the fact, I can't change anything now. I can't help the fact that you've had him at the house. What was wrong with a little decency or a common courtesy that said "I'll give him a heads up"" he said as he thought about all those times he had thought of surprising her and just showing up at her place. He imagined the shame, the humiliation, the horror, but also the pain, the hurt, the emotions he would have gone through if he had shown up and found the Lob at the house. Maybe he would have lobbed a grenade or something. 

Still the bile rose.

He imagined if he had walked in on them, as it happens in the movies. What would he have done? What would he do now? The confusion was debilitating and the path ahead was hazy. Spartakuss grabbed at his chest as a palpitation struck again. He was never meant to be this. This was not him. He would not take it anymore than anyone else had to. 

The riot inside his head raged on. Emotions, feelings, hopes, disappointment, blood, fears, his depravities mixing with his insecurities to render his formal constructs of reason and logic impotent. Flashes of every other incident where he had looked down the mouth of a gun and survived whizzed past him, the recent amorous killings that had flooded the nations' newspapers just crept up behind him like a tome, landing heavily and solidly on his mangled mind to create a sense of mental asphyxiation. Chocking, pain, the sensation that his mind would mutiny and be overwhelmed as it has once before, was dangerously imminent. He drew closer to the edge; he felt his feet dance on that precipice…

"I think we should end this until you can sort out this brokenness", was what he said as he put on his shirt, and grabbed his socks. As he stood at the door, he did not look back. He did not say goodbye, he did not wince. The decision had been swift and decisive. Maxim wins again. Checkmate.

I was sure as I related this story to Sam he would find a way of trivializing it but somehow somewhere I could not get over how Spartakuss has escaped death, or committing it, once again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

How Much Smarter? IBM’s Strategy for a Smarter Planet?

“What is the sound of the planet talking? A century ago, the answer was simple: people conversing in person or over wired networks. Today, it’s not just everyone, but also everything talking to every other thing, in constant motion.”

Last year, at the Digital Africa Summit, I sat down with the Chief Technical Officer at IBM Sub-Sahara, Clifford Forster and in what would be an eye-opening conversation; he explained what IBM was thinking.

A smarter planet; something he called “the internet of things.” The idea behind what was thought to be the next stage in innovation and technological advancement. The idea that all the main areas of our lives were connected and that at no time in history than today were we able to allow all these things to “talk”. Energy, infrastructure, traffic, food, banking, telecommunications, intelligence, cities, etc; all these functions and elements today are connected and monitored and IBM is looking at ways of making a smart planet: enabling sustainable businesses and systems for a sustainable planet.

This year in his presentation, Walter Mhlongo, took this conversation to the next level with “Smarter Telecommunications”. Africa has only about 1% of its information online and so has to download about 99% of its information from the rest of the world. Challenged by language barriers despite inter-connectivity and facing similar problems, he explained that IBM’s commitment to a smarter planet had led it to develop “spokenweb” (IBM’s leading automated translation technologies) in areas like health care, trade and travel bringing to life real-time automated translation solutions all available on the internet.

It is estimated 2 billion people will be on the Web by 2011 – and they’ll be doing more than talking. Video on demand, IP television and internet TV will account for nearly 90% of consumer IP traffic by 2012. When people talk, it will be to many more people – via social networking sites, whose memberships will top 500 million in the next three years. Figures that are not only indicative of the future, but also of the countless opportunities that will arise for companies to innovate, collaborate and to feed into and re-define their world in order to continue delivering top notch services to their clients.

As I wandered across the conference corridors, I ran into Walter’s colleague, Dr. Shiyghan Narti, IBM’s Strategy and Marketing Executive. He reaffirmed IBM’s commitment to the continent, indicating that the company was investing over $100 million in expanding its presence in Sub-Saharan Africa. With this investment, IBM is better placed to enable its’ clients to take advantage of the opportunities presented by gaining new insights in ways previously not possible.

“Over the next few years, you will see IBM playing a critical role as an innovator, providing inspired solutions to local issues and creating high valued products that matter to the communities and clients it serves”, he confidently states. “We will continue to leverage industry leading forums like the Digital Africa Summit to engage in meaningful conversation with our clients and partners across Africa.”

In just three years, IP traffic is expected to total more than half a Zettabyte (a Zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes or – 1 followed by 21 zeros). The need for this information to reach the last half of Africa, triggering access to massive amounts of information and thus allowing informed decision making, better sustainable practices and an interconnected system of performance to deliver our planet to the next level has never been greater.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Digital Convergence & Innovation Driving Positive Change

In the digital era, access to information and the sharing of knowledge have created a new global currency that is transforming the fundamental economic, educational and social constructs of society, creating unprecedented opportunities for positive change.

Africa’s ICT sector is the fastest growing globally with mobile and broadband penetration rates set to continue to rise with lower cost high speed broadband now a reality companies must prepare and build solid foundations allowing them to take advantage of the opportunities, that this exciting industry and continent has to offer.

The region’s need to capitalize on convergent services and innovations is evident with IPTV, Triple Play and VoIP offerings growing, lower cost of access has created an increasing demand from the customer base. Service providers are locked in a battle to increase ARPU and boost customer loyalty, while maintaining lean and efficient operations. The demand on their networks and ability to deliver value to their customers is constantly growing.

Thus, the challenges to win in this new and dynamic environment are enormous making focus, speed, cooperation and ongoing innovation imperative to its many members.

The Digital Africa Summit aims to assist African operators by providing information that will aid them in developing a focused, practical strategy moving forward. This will be achieved by orchestrating a debate between:

  • Leading regulatory authorities from Africa and the World
  • Operators from Africa and the World
  • Governments from Africa
  • Industry Associations
  • Financial Institutions and Investors
  • Solution providers
  • System integrators

We expect participating executives to leave this debate with greater clarity and understanding about the challenges they will face in developing their networks increasing connectivity efficiency and driving positive social and economical growth.

Find the Summit website at: Digital Africa Summit

The summit blog is at:

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Monday, March 1, 2010


Sunrise 1, originally uploaded by jnape.
I woke up this morning to a cloudy shadow cast over my city. Its been rainy the past few days. this after weeks of disastrous blood-caking sunshine. I swear you could feel the blood congealing in your capillaries the moment you hit the sun.

As a result people used more fuel on air conditioning in their cars and Uganda despite being one of the few countries that western countries are using to settle their carbon debts through Carbon trading quickly lost all the points we had made. That in itself is not entirely a bad thing, but one has to think of what is lost. the failure to ponder on the consequences of our actions is the highest cause of stupid, human-defining actions and moments. The one thing (action or moment) that interminably alters the nature, development, course and ideas of human history; like Hiroshima, Sharpville, 1968, Obama, 9/11, the very first Easter, Katrina, Declaration of Independence, July 14th 1789, the word 'Cunt', or even the birth of Sarah Palin.

Each of these actions diametrically changed human history as it will be told for centuries to come. they are curved in stone for us to pass on: for we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

Some readers here will argue that Sarah Palin doesn't deserve to be on the list given that she is a monumental cunt but I put it to you that surely those of you that have never wanted a cunt (to own one or be grateful for one) should cast the first stone. I propound that without the really shitty writers (read Robert Kalumba), the luminaries like Tumwi, Baz, Liz, Streetsider are just writers. Its only when you see how much power is given to this inept and mediocre stock that you are able to compare how good you've got it.

And so I celebrate the rain and the sun, the guns and the roses, the bitch who broke my heart and the one who is the shinning new star in my firmament. It is the sunrise that gives us hope to take away the grieving of the night.

Have a nice week