Friday, 25 October 2013

The Force of Gravity


Been a while since I did one of these but this time it's worth it. Every once in a while I watch a movie that makes me want to blog a review and this is one of them. I hadn't got much plot details about it but knowing the main stars I decided to give it a try. Was expecting some science fiction movie but was surprised to find that it was almost real life- there have been some scientific inconsistencies brought up but I won't dwell on those.

I think the most striking thing about this movie is the use of 3D technology, the visuals are stunning especially the opening sequence and other bits and pieces like where a nut flies almost to you face. I really wonder how they made it.

Technical bits aside the acting was pretty good too and I found it interesting how some shots were from the protagonist's point of view and you could almost feel what the were feeling. The scenario was reminiscent of Tom Hanks in Castaway but this time in space and Sandra Bullock and George Clooney did a good job of it. Found the suspense to be another good feature of the film and all the things going wrong adding to it.

Without adding too many plot details I tell you to check it out- preferably in 3D to get the full experience. Happy watching and tell me what you think!

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Barcamp is back!



When: Saturday, August 24
Time: 8a.m to 8 p.m (of course, this goes later, and I would stick around for any evening fun and conversation...)
Where: iHub, Nailab and mlab, Bishop Magua Centre, Ngong Road

Barcamp Nairobi 2013 is an unconference made up of of technical professionals, Internet enthusiasts, bloggers, designers and other clever people in the Nairobi area who wish to share and learn in an open environment.

Attendees don't just watch a set list of speakers. They give their own talks. Podcasting. Web standards. Microformats. Gum stick computers. Physical security. Robotics. Evolutionary algorithms. It can be anything. This event is not just for stuffy developer types - one of the best barcamp presentations ever given was about sandwiches. Barcamp is what you make of it.

The theme for Barcamp Nairobi 2013 is “The Next 50“. We aim to get the conversation going on where tech in Kenya will be in the next 50 years. As Kenya celebrates 50 years of independence this year, we have the unique and enviable opportunity to dream and contemplate what the next 50 years should look like and what role technology will play. As thinkers, technologists in various sectors, and citizens of this country we can begin the process of visualizing the future and shaping it. Challenges such as access to healthcare, quality and equitable education, food security have their answers in technology and the possibilities are endless. There will come a time in the next 50 years when these issues will be non-issues so to speak. What will that future look like? What technologies will be pervasive? How will people interact and how will lives be affected and improved?

Come to Barcamp Nairobi 2013. Let us begin the conservation.

To sign up go here. Everybody including volunteers needs to sign up.
Also check out the wiki here for more information and to see what topics people will be talking about!
If you're wondering what this whole concept is about check out the Wikipedia entry 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

A Conversation on Tribe




Over the holiday season I had an interesting conversation. I had gone to my ancestral home in Meru for a funeral and ran into an unlikely acquaintance so we sat next to each other and got talking. On that day a lot was happening on the Kenyan political scene as that was when Musalia Mudavadi was dumped by the Jubilee coalition and so the conversation as is common in this season drifted towards politics.

He said something interesting along the lines that there should be some basic requirements to register as a voter. Not necessarily educational ones but that a basic grasp of issues is a prerequisite, perhaps a couple of questions to find out. For instance he gave an example of how he asked people in his home area which is Vihiga who they will vote for. An answer he got was “Mudavadi mtu wetu na kama si yeye Raila kwa sababu anatoka hapa karibu” (Mudavadi because he's our man and if not him Raila because he's from nearby”) That is the kind of answer that got him thinking of such drastic requirements for registration. I am pretty certain that is the same kind of answer you would get if you asked in other home areas of presidential candidates. He went on to say that we in Nairobi are exposed and can think of other political questions which are being asked by the so called progressive candidates but the rank and file Kenyan is still in the tribal mode of thinking. So we can sing as many songs about Peter Kenneth or Martha Karua but the reality on the ground is people don't even know who he is.

As we continued talking we went deeper into the tribal question. He is of mixed parentage – Luhya and Giriama so he was exposed to ethnic diversity at a young age. He is also married to a woman from Meru adding more to the mix. However others are not as opened up. He talked of the kind of conversations people have in the rural areas which are ethnically homogeneous. Some people for instance in Western would say “Kikuyus are like this and that” and when you ask whether they know any they say they don't. Then the question would be where they got such and idea then the answer would be “ I heard my father say it. “ So a person grows up having a certain idea in their head about people from another area based not on interaction but prejudice handed down from their parents. The same can be said the other way around about a Kikuyu in Central being asked about Luhyas. These ideas come to the fore a lot during the common inter-ethnic marriages of our day and of course in politics. I've mentioned these closed conversations before in this post. It's sad that we are programming our children with prejudice like that. For some of us who grew up in the city interaction with other communities from a young age was the order of the day and we never really made a distinction.

However somewhere along the way we start looking down on others we grew up with for example on the practice of circumcision for boys after completing primary school. We start thinking we are men and the others are boys and that kind of thing but it's just a cultural practice. Kenya is a diverse country within itself and instead of using that as a strength in the even more diverse global marketplace we are concentrating on petty differences which looking at it critically really don't amount to much. For me the real matters of concern in the coming election is not where somebody was born or where their parents were but how the government will be better in providing services first and in creating an environment for empowerment of every citizen. As we go along there will be differences but we can look beyond amorphous concepts like tribe and look into others that really determine our welfare. We did not choose where to be born and can not change that fact but it needn't be an impediment to free thinking and self determination and freedom of choice.

There is this habit of the media to lump Kenyans into groups and talk of Luhya vote, Kalenjin vote, Kikuyu vote etc. I call that out as load of tripe ( pun intended) as I doubt there is no individual called Luhya or Kikuyu. We have millions of people with millions of individual votes and this grouping and labeling is an insult to the intelligence and uniqueness of each of us. In the end the one with the most individual votes cast will win. I know it will take a while for our country to evolve socially but really the idea of my people should be replaced with the idea of me and what matters to me!

In other news... Happy new year everybody!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Is the end near?


I write this on 19th December 2012 a mere 2 days before before 21st December 2012 a date that has been flying around for a while now as the end of the world according to the Mayans. Some believe the end of the Mayan calendar on that day signals the end of the world, I Personally do not subscribe to the. However a friend online once told me he couldn't trust the Mayans- a civilization that died due to lack of food! For more details on the Mayan apocalypse theory a good place to start is the Wikipedia article here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_phenomenon .

I remember being asked in 1999 to write a composition on whether 1999 signaled the end of the world. Back then it was a strong candidate being at the turn of the millennium as well as the infamous Y2K millennium bug that had got people all scared about planes falling from the sky among other calamities which thankfully never happened. There went another candidate for the end of the world and I know that on the morning of 23rd December there will be another collective yawn as there was last year after Harold Camping's predictions came to naught.

This whole "End of the World" story has been a popular topic over the centuries among people not only religious but non religious too with the religions all having their own versions of the ultimate destiny of planet Earth. The study of this topic has been put under the topic which Theologians like to call Eschatology which has been a very popular one particularly in the Christian church. It is very common when you turn on your TV or radio to find somebody on the myriad Christian stations talking about "the end times." The bookstores also have lots of books on that subject. However it is interesting to note that the interpretations and opinions regarding what the bible has to say about the second coming of Christ and the end of the world are as numerous as the books. This may come as a surprise to many who think that what they hear from their pastor is all that there is to be said about it. I was once in this category until about 10 years ago when I started reading the bible for myself and started to see things differently. So for now I'll branch into specifically looking at Christian Eschatology based on the bible.

Like I said this is a hot topic in Christian circles so much so that it has become cliche to say " we are living in the end times". The chief reason given being the amount of wickedness in the world today and supposed prophecies being fulfilled today. What is interesting is that the bible which we Christians believe to be the word of God has a lot of information to do with this in writing but a lot of it has  been obscured by ideas which people have come up with over the centuries. For instance a phrase like "the end of time" appears nowhere in the bible but the actual words are "the time of the end" which the prophet Daniel spoke of in Daniel 12:4. There are other assumptions made too and teachings have been popularized in fictional books such as the Left Behind series and movies too. Eventually many of us are led to believe the popular teachings of the day as opposed to checking out what was actually written in the bible about what Christ said about his coming and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Here I note that my studies may not be exhaustive but I've pretty much gone through the basics and come to the personal conclusion that popular as the common interpretations are there are off the mark in many ways and in future posts I'll share some of my findings.

What's the big deal? you may ask and what difference does it make anyway? Well the whole idea of a world becoming worse and worse is pessimistic and the belief that Jesus Christ is coming to make people disappear is escapist in my opinion. Also there is so much work to be done to better the lives of people on planet earth and to change peoples hearts that just waiting for an event to take us all out of it distracts us from the tasks at hand. Also each one of us has a purpose on this planet and people are the ones who effect change more so those who have had their lives changed by the teachings of Christ. So my purpose is not to take away hope but to point to the Christ within who enables us to do the good work in this world as it continues. Also another thing is that Christ was not out to scare people but to remind them of the victory of good and evil. Another thing is as much as this is a fringe topic to many it has given me a renewed appreciation of the bible and has enabled me to study it with more gusto willing to learn more.

So let me start from where I began. Was used to the usual story. I knew we were living in the end times of the physical world and one day Jesus Christ would return in the clouds and Christians worldwide would disappear "in the twinkle of an eye" and the unsaved would be "left behind" to endure "the tribulation" under "the Antichrist" or "The beast" who would force all to take a 666 mark and then after  three and a half or is it seven years Jesus would come again with his saints and angels to fight the devil and his armies at the "battle of Armageddon". After that Christ will rule for 1000 years on the earth then a final judgement of all at the end of it then a new heaven a new earth. That was what I was taught in a nutshell and I believed to be the absolute truth. That whole teaching package being a mix of passages from the Old and new testaments particularly Daniel and Relation as well as some passages from the gospels and Paul's letters. Little did I know that this was one of the many interpretations which I came to learn was commonly referred to as dispensational premillennialism by theologians. Now I do not want to bore you with long theological names just yet, will cover that later but I thought a good starting point would be an introduction to the most prevalent ideas which are defended vehemently by American Fundamentalist Christians who are the most common on our TV screen or radio.

Now the next task will be to analyse what you've most likely been taught above with the words recorded in the Gospels coming from Jesus. A famous passage is detailed in the book of Matthew Chapter 24 which is part of other teachings in the surrounding chapters 23 and 25. It would be a good starting point to see what Jesus himself had to say about it, after all he was the one to come. Those passages are commonly referred to as the Olivet discourse having been delivered on the Mount of Olives. I'd encourage any Christian to look at those words keeping in mind who was being spoken to at the time and about what. I will go into detail about it in later posts.

Going into detail right here will take a lot of space and I will save it for now. However I should say here that the world will continue as usual on 22nd December and a long while after and unlike what I believed before no mass disappearance of people followed by the events will happen. I will discuss why I think so in due time. Meanwhile the business of life and making the world a better place continues...

After whetting your appetite I'll share here a nice introduction to these matters posted by a friend of mine on Facebook. That should get my Christian friends started. As always I remind you of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 search the scriptures to find out if it's true. Enjoy and see you soon!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Lest we Forget


As I write this the next general elections in Kenya are less than 4 months away. Naturally our print and electronic media are awash with political  news particularly about who's forming alliances with whom. The alliance in essence being just alignment of tribes.

We're getting into the election mood to determine who will be in charge of the national and the new county governments. Slowly by slowly as the day approaches the stakes are being raised. Something that worries me is the violence we are seeing, could it be that the fuse is short? for instance a man got gunned down in Ngong by police men and 6 hours of riots broke out. Similar story in Mombasa when a Sheikh was killed, Kisumu too. Not a good sign in my book

Our last election was disastrous to say the least and immediately after the country descended into chaos before temperatures cooled down. However even before the elections tensions were high and suspicion of manipulation was rife. The stage was set so to speak because how did people organise so fast. Right now there are people who are accused of organising the chaos and in the opinion of the ICC bear the greatest responsibility. Two of them want to run for the presidency and this has become a hot topic of discussion- should they be allowed to run? One of them William Ruto has gone so far as to suggest that he can administer the country from the Hague which to me is a lot of misplaced bravado.

In the midst of all the political noise we could forget what exactly the crimes were and the affected displaced persons who are still living in camps to this very day. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and so I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Photographer Boniface Mwangi of the "Vulture Revolution" chronicled the violence through his Camera lens and came up with a photo book- "The price of Tribal Politics". As you look at it contrast all the mayhem with the final photo of the people in whose names all that stuff was done.

here's a link to the PDF copy of the book http://newsroom.pichamtaani.org/free-e-book-the-price-of-tribal-politics/   . WARNING : the pictures are very disturbing

May it not happen again!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A Tale of Two Prayers



Luke 18:9-14 the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else,Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fasttwice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The Pharisee’s prayer is full of self commendation and aggrandisement. He sees himself to be perfect, doing the right thing, an exemplary person all based on his works. He even goes so far as to assert the inferiority of the tax collector who is right there next to him. He prays with many words and probably very loudly so that everybody can hear exactly how good he is. He has got it together and this is not really a prayer but a boast before God with him presenting a list of his achievements.

The tax collector is brief and to the point and with just a few words acknowledges his true state- he is a sinner in need of mercy. No doubt he was a man in conflict with himself collecting money from hardworking people to support a tyrannical government and in other places in the gospel the tax collectors were seen as the worst kind of people. When accusing Jesus Christ he was referred to as a friend of tax collectors and sinners Luke 7:34. They were the poster boys for sin and enemies of God. However something is different about him as he comes to God with a broken and contrite spirit- that which God can not despise Psalm 51:17

During the sermon on the mount the first beatitude is “ blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God” Matt 5:3. Poor in spirit not poor in material things. One who is poor lacks and is very aware of that lack and does what is necessary to make ends meet and stay alive. In the spirit it means that one also realises that they lack something and need to reach out to God. If you think you are okay spiritually you will be oblivious of a need for God and will continue as normal. This is very much what the Pharisee was doing, he thought that since he was doing and saying all the right stuff he was okay but nothing could be further from the truth and Jesus brings that out in the parable in verse 14 that the tax collector is the one who went home justified. He went on to add that who ever exalts himself shall be abased but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.

What can we learn from this? First when coming before God it is not a show to tell how great we are. It may look like that the Pharisee was being outrageous but we do it in our own ways. We imagine that if we tell God how good we are and focus on the good works we've done he’ll hear us. It may look all nice and holy but it is actually about us not Him. Even worse when we compare ourselves to “sinners” who are so wicked and we are so much better than yet nobody can do anything to forgive their own sin but it is  by the grace of God. I also have fallen into that trap sometimes and looking at it critically it is just an exercise in making myself feel good. As much as we don’t have tax collectors as the “bad people” nowadays we have similar groups of moral punching bags. I think if this parable was written today the “sinner” would probably be the homosexuals that we have become so good at bashing. We've seen how not to do it from the Pharisee so what about the other side?

The tax collector was simple, stood afar off and knew his state well and what he needed. He was honest with himself and knew that it is not about what he did but God’s great mercy that he was even able to stand before God. He asked and he received unlike the other who did not bother to ask and went away with nothing. It reminds me of what the church in was told in Revelation 3: 17 you think you are rich but you are poor wretched blind and naked. If there is anything that we should learn from the tax collector is to be humble, like I mentioned earlier it is not about our works but God’s grace.

So are you here and like the Pharisee you have been going around thumping our chest and looking down on others who you deem better than yourself? It is time to humble yourself and come back to the realisation that the righteousness comes from God’s grace. Are you like the tax collector and have realised your need for forgiveness? God is always willing and gracious to forgive.

Friday, 9 November 2012

A moment with Peter Kenneth

He most definitely the man of the moment in the Kenyan political scene. After his snazzy presidential bid launch at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre this Sunday there has been a lot of attention going his way on social and mainstream media. Sometimes more of that attention is focused not on him but on his offspring particularly his son who was a hit with the ladies on social media leading to all kinds of jokes and puns. Inevitably memes started appearing too as the hype continued. He presents a fresh face to the race, young, internet savvy, good looking and apparently squeaky clean. a different kind of politician is the image he is trying to portray with some going as far as likening him to Barrack Obama. So behind all the 'eye candy' and the hype machine, what is the substance of his candidacy and his plan for Kenya?

This past Wednesday morning I got an opportunity to visit his office with a group of young Kenyans who'd organised a meeting with him to discuss his candidature and ask the tough questions. So we congregated then checked in to The Treasury at 11 o'clock for the meeting which ended up being delayed to about half past 12. After his apologies for the delay due to an interview he was having with the BBC the session go underway.

After brief introductions he took a few minutes to outline his proprieties for the next 5 years as they are on his site first off was food security, we need to invest in irrigation to ensure this. along with that Unemployment has to be addressed with the rate officially at 40% percent it could even be higher in practice. He noted that if the poor are hungry and jobless they could end up being treated as rich. Infrastructure was another point , he noted that most settlements are dotted along the major roads, more infrastructure needed into the interior and every county needs an allocation. Tourism was noted as an important driver for growth and to get that up security and infrastructure are key. Healthcare was also a major part of the plan and he decried the increasing problem of lifestyle diseases like Cancer and Diabetes which could be controlled if detected early. He mentioned that he buries way too many in his constituency who could have survived with proper care. Tackling impunity is also another area he touched on and discipline is needed in government and that will only work if there is swift punishment to deter culprits as opposed to the case now whereby the process takes very long.

After his introduction we went into specific questions some of which I'll highlight here from what I can remember

What drives him? what is his passion?
He said he has his children in mind and wants to ensure a brighter future for them and also other young people.

Why did you choose the presidency why not Governor?
He said that he chose Kenya first as opposed to the much easier job of becoming governor of his home county  which he could have won easily as Murang'a he has a wider vision for the country.


What are his plans on healthcare?
He has a 3 year plan. He said 1 billion will be invested in each county in the first year to build referral and the next year the next year will be about getting the much needed equipment. The medical fraternity are not only agitating for improved terms but for better equipment to serve the people. With required equipment he believes even Kenyan medics in the diaspora can be convinced to come back home. The third year was not clear. As for where he would get the funds he mentioned attacking the budget system so that the allocations go where they are needed most. Having been in the planning ministry he knows a lot about it. He even went so far as to say he could save 180 billion shillings in recurrent expenditure.

What about the slogan Tunawesmake?
He said that his team had brainstormed about it for over 6 months and finally came up with it as it incorporates English and Kiswahili and is easily understood. He noted that it has got people talking. He admits he got hammered about it but it is a clarion call that it can be done.

Why should he be trusted?
His track record in Gatanga constituency and elsewhere in public life.

What will be done about security?
In his plans for security he mentioned implementing a Sheriff system to get others into the police system especially the youth.

Where do you get your Money?
From friends and well wishers. Donations go to as small as 50 shillings. He also added that he is ready to declare his wealth.

What do you do in your free time? what are you currently reading?
He says he's a lot of a home person and is currently reading Greg Mills on African Leadership

What is his priority in the first 100 days?
He said that the first person he wants to meet is the Chief justice so as to streamline the judicial process for swift and firm justice which will go a long way in dealing with corruption and other crimes that hold us back.

What is he doing at the grass roots? as currently he is more on social media and the urban youth.
He detailed how he has engaged first with people form marginalized areas and places where there is no presidential candidate. Has held forums with the local people to hear their needs particularly with the youth and so has done a lot of ground work.

Do you have anything to hide?
I have nothing to hide.

What about the ICC?
He voted for the local process when that question was in parliament. He also went on to note that there are still the IDPs and other affected persons who need to be addressed as well. He doesn't mind the ICC suspects running and will engage with them on issues.

Are you seeking alliances?
He is ready to work with those who share his values and has met other presidential candidates in the past.

What about Sally Kosgei?
He says that they were in a firm together and if the only story they have about him is one woman then he must be a very good guy.

What about allegation that your Insurance company is linked to Harun Mwau?
He did say he has an interest in a company that insures 20% of Nakumatt but ht e Majority is insured by Kenindia.

What about his tenure at KFF?
He insisted that his record there was clean

Are you married?
He said he is but I did not see a ring though.

That's pretty much what I can remember from the meeting and more can be found from my Twitter stream here.

Now I will give a brief summary. Peter Kenneth presents something fresh and new to the race for Kenya's presidency. He does not dwell a lot on tribe and alliances but instead takes time to articulate his vision for the country backed by facts and figures. He also has a good track record as Member of parliament for Gatanga constituency since 2003 and has been acknowledged as the best at accounting for Constituency development fund. He is also known to have done good work in uplifting the condition of his constituents  He also has a relatively clean image. However the big question remains as to how well he can engage with the larger population of the country in the rural areas who are out of the scope of his social media campaign. The challenge is to get the numbers behind him and to have an image that resonates with the people. it would be good to have a leader of integrity but he seems to be a lone ranger. Where is the team to implement his grand plan?

His team has got the buzz right now but they have to sustain and strengthen the momentum and get the message out to the wider population. It is a breath of fresh air and all the best to him.