Monday, September 29, 2008

Made In China

This is one sign that parents do not want to see at this time following the deaths of four babies and hospitalization of thousands more with kidney complications after consuming contaminated formula milk from China. Following the reports, The Kenyan government, and indeed many governments around the world swung into action and immediately banned milk imports from China. A leading food company in Japan even recalled buns on suspicion that they had been made with contaminated milk imported from China. The culprit has since been found to be Melamine.

But what on earth was Melamine doing in baby formula? According to WiseGeek, Melamine is an organic compound that is often combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a synthetic polymer which is fire resistant and heat tolerant. Melamine resin is a very versatile material with a highly stable structure. Uses for melamine include whiteboards, floor tiles, kitchenware, fire retardant fabrics, and commercial filters. Melamine can be easily molded while warm, but will set into a fixed form. This property makes it ideally suited to certain industrial applications’.

Melamine is therefore the last thing you’d expect to find in baby formula really. But unethical manufacturers apparently add it to milk to boost protein content. Or rather to cheat the testing systems into getting a higher protein reading in the tests. Last year there was a similar scandal after pet food made in China killed and sickened thousands of pets in the U.S. That too contained melamine. So in the end it’s all about business and money. Profits before health.

Still last year, U.S safety officials recalled 4.2 million Chinese-made Aqua Dots bead toys that contain a chemical that caused some children to vomit and become comatose after swallowing them. (CNN). Scientists found that the beads contained a chemical that turned into the ‘date rape’ drug upon metabolism in the body.

Not too long ago China was in the news again after Slim 10 slimming pills caused liver complications and even death. That was back in 2002. What next? What other dangerous stuff might we be unknowingly consuming?

See Also: Microwave Ovens – Are We Putting Our Health In Danger Every Day?

Dagoretti Houses Of Filth

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Power Bills Up Again!!

Like most other Kenyans, I was shocked by last month’s power bill. It was Kshs.3,400/- up from 1,920/- the previous month. I did not imagine things would get any worse but this month I got another shocker bill of Kshs.4,200/- By some bad coincidence, at around the time I got my bill, we had blackouts for two days in a row. I was beginning to think the bad old days of Power Rationing are back but thankfully things are now back to normal.

Earlier on, Rafiki Kenya and Bankelele did articles on the spiraling bills, with Rafiki giving tips on how we can cut them by half. Check them out and see if you can find some helpful ones. I was thinking we pack up our bags and go back to the village but he reminded me that that would mean using firewood and charcoal for cooking – a sure way to finishing off our already disappearing forests.

There is word that these charges will come down although I don’t see that happening. At least not down to the amounts we once knew. But if Kenya Power insists on charging such figures, then at least let them perfect their services so consumers don’t feel like they’re being short changed.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wacky Business Names

Want to start a business? Have you picked a name yet? It is said that the name you choose for your business has a lot to do with it’s success or failure. As such there are lessons out there – long complicated notes and near scientific formulas on how to come up with a business name that will ensure success.

But for some it’s as easy as one, two three. A common criteria for choosing business names this part of the world is to pick and combine the first few letters of your name and that of your spouse, your children, your cat, your canine friend……. the choices are limitless.

But despite the fact that this way we shall never run out of unique names, it’s not always a safe route because it can produce some really wacky names for your business. Clients may avoid doing business with you just so they don’t have to sweat it out writing your name on a cheque. They may avoid calling you so they don’t keep pronouncing it when they book calls to you. If it’s a kindergarten, don’t come up with a mouthful of a name that your little clients cannot pronounce.

You’ll always know businesses that pick their names like that.

  • Domungwa Enterprises and General Merchant
  • Stekaka Kindergarten
  • Juwangi General Merchants
  • Sajomku Distributors
  • Nawalu Cleaning services

Ok, these businesses do not actually exist. They’re just examples of name concoctions and have no relation to any businesses that may go by similar names.

You may want to save yourself the trouble and just use your name. In which case if your name is Boring then your business becomes Boring Business Systems. Simple. Boring Business Systems, boring name notwithstanding, has been in operation in Florida US since 1924. That’s 80 years of operation – a huge success if you ask me. So maybe business names don’t matter after all.

Picture Courtesy

Now now now, Stiff Nipples Air Conditioning Service. I could not ascertain whether this business actually exists or whether this was an internet prank. But just supposing it exists? Whatever does the telephone operator say when she picks incoming calls? How do clients write the cheques to them when they purchase stuff from their shop?

From The Past: May I Take Your Order?

Friday, September 19, 2008

How To Be A Complete Piss-Off In The Office

  • Go to work during odd hours when nobody else is there and snoop through your workmates’ computer files.

  • Engage the phone for hours on end.

  • Talk really loudly all the time.

  • Hide the office newspaper in the morning until such a time when you have time to read.

  • When reading it, dissect it and mix all the pages so that those reading after you cannot make head or tail. Make cuttings of articles you like.

  • At the water dispenser, return the used glass among the clean ones.

  • Keep calling wrong extensions. When the person on the other end picks up just hang up without a word and call the extension you wanted in the first place.

  • Come in late for group projects and make your colleagues go through what they’ve already discussed in your absence.

  • Borrow colleagues’ books and magazines and draw doodles inside.

  • Borrow colleagues’ newspapers and fill in all the cross words and code words without consulting them first.

  • Have a shrill ringtone or some loud weird war songs on your mobile phone.

  • In an open plan office, keep peeping at what your neighbour is doing at his/her desk.

  • Demand that when you arrive in the morning, the cleaner should drop whatever he/she is doing and clean your office first.

  • Keep calling your workmates darling, sweetheart, honeypot, sugarpie. And give them the customary three kisses – left, right and left again.

  • Forward sordid E-mails using the company address. Don’t delete the chain of addresses that comes with it.

  • Play loud music on your speaker phone or from your computer.

  • Need I say snoop through people’s drawers looking for God knows what?

Unfortunately life is too short to be pissed off and being pissed off never made anyone feel better. It’s better not to waste your time being angry with such behaviours.

See Also: International Slap Your Workmate Day

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Telkom Kenya Mobile Services

At last some stiff competition is coming in the telecommunications sector with the unveiling of Telkom Mobile Services this week. Things can only get better for the end user since hopefully prices will come down and existing telecommunication companies will introduce more services and improve on existing ones.

Telkom for most people has been a complete nightmare with their landline service in the past. Their name reminds one of the bad days when it was synonymous with corruption and bad service. With their new management, re-branding and rolling out of new services, I’m optimistic that things will change.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Kijabe Misson Town

Following the debate that has been here for the last few days about teenage Sex, I dug in my archives and found an article that I’d posted in May this year. Maybe we can borrow some ideas from this town to help keep our youngsters in check. Here it is:

The story of Kijabe Mission Station as reported in the Standard this week reads like a Utopian dream. The town has very high moral standards dating back to colonial times when severe punishments were meted on anyone indulging in vices. There's no loud music either from shops or matatus like is common in most other towns. Commotion and disorder are unheard of.

Shops in this place are not allowed to stock cigarettes and alcohol and any new investor has to sign a code of conduct prohibiting him from selling the same and any other immoral products. Any shop keeper found breaching these rules could earn himself an expulsion from the town but if he's remorseful and apologizes, then he may be allowed to continue operating. This was easier to implement in the past than it is now because most shops were owned by church leaders anyway. The church now employs guards who go round and conduct inspections in shops in an attempt to uphold this rule. But generally these standards are getting more and more difficult to maintain especially with modern life, and employment of professionals from other areas.

Cohabiting, unwanted pregnancies and children born out of wed-lock are unacceptable. Of course they're unacceptable everywhere but in Kijabe Mission Station it actually works. Men are not expected to laze around with young women – in fact unmarried women are not allowed to be in the company of men after 7.00 pm.

Life in Kijabe Mission Station is not easy for the youth although it works out well for them in the long run. Many are known to take a sabbatical from their constraining hometown to go to other areas and indulge. Others go to colleges in other urban areas and have their big break but when they go back home they have to follow the rules again. Others sneak into the forest to indulge in a puff here and there. Or maybe some other sins.

Now if only all urban centers could be like this place.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Let's Talk About Teenage Sex

For any parent, the idea of their teenage kids having sex is simply revolting. But if a recent report in the Sunday Nation is anything to go by, the problem is getting bigger with time and parents and the society as a whole have to confront this uncomfortable thought head on. Kids are having sex from as young as 13 years of age. The morning after pill (Emergency contraception) is the fastest moving over the counter drug in pharmacies especially over the weekends and on Mondays. That means they’re having unprotected sex. And they don’t need prescriptions to get these drugs. There’s the even more chilling allegation that there are fake pills in the market. That would in turn give rise to illegal backstreet abortions.

So teenagers have no business having sex but they’re having it anyway and then resorting to harmful and dangerous methods to prevent pregnancy. Why they’re starting to have sex so early is material for a whole different post. What is clear is that the abstinence before marriage gospel is mostly ineffective. It has been ineffective all these years for teenagers and older people alike. Obviously the gravest danger of unprotected sex is HIV. But it seems the kids are not looking at it that way.

There’s a bold concept among some parents out there. They know their youngsters are hormonal and are sexually active but other than adopting a hard stance which does not seem to work at all, they have embraced their daughters’ sexuality and are guiding them through birth control and condom use. Those who trust that their daughters are in a monogamous relationship have put them on the pill although condoms are most encouraged. Are the comfortable with that? No. Are they accepting the reality? Yes. The argument here is that they’d rather their kids had safe sex with their blessings and advice than unsafe sex under dangerous misinformed notions from fellow teenagers.

Judy (Not her real name) is such one parent. She had her first daughter at the tender age of 16 and she says she’d comfortably put her daughter through birth control at the same age. Not as permission to go out and have sex but as a safety measure so that the girl does not go through what she went through. She says that as a parent, she’ll feel more at ease knowing that her child is practicing safe sex under her guidance.

As another parent puts it, ‘I would not be comfortable with it because sex is not a decision that should be taken lightly. For the most part (and there are exceptions to everything), teenage boys and girls are impulsive and easily persuaded. There are too many young people getting pregnant and STD's. If teens were more responsible, there wouldn't be such a high rate of pregnancy and STD. So, I would not be comfortable with my teenage daughter having sex’.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Your Employer And Your Mobile Phone. What's the Mix?

Recently a friend of mine was castigated by her employer for not being available on mobile phone when she was on leave. The employer was seeking to cancel her leave because the colleague who was sitting in for her fell suddenly ill. But she had switched off her phone and gone upcountry and the company could not reach her. The company did not collapse either. In fact nothing stopped. It turned out that there were other ways available to ensure that work continued even in the absence of her and her sick colleague.

But when she reported back to work there was a case awaiting her. The employer quoted a part of her employment letter that read thus: The normal working hours of the company are from 8.00 am to 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm from Monday to Friday, but as a senior member of staff it may be necessary from time to time for you to extend these hours or even work over the weekends. That is the bit the company used against her. But nowhere in the letter is being on mobile alert or cancellation of leave mentioned. Apparently that fell under ‘extend these hours’. But she does not consider herself senior anyway.

The question is, how much does your employer have to do with your private mobile phone? Should an employer call you any time they feel like it? According to, your boss should only be calling you during normal operating hours and not after hours. If your boss or other co-workers are calling you after hours or on weekends, you must bring this up to a higher supervisor. In order to maintain smooth relationships with co-workers you should work within the "normal" operating hours of the office.

Some people are under the mistaken impression that because you work at home, you are available whenever they feel that it is convenient. To avoid problems from the beginning of a telecommuting arrangement, have it specified in your Agreement exactly when you can be called.

Freelancers should also set limits on when they can be reached and what the methods of contact are.

My friend’s case ended with just a verbal reminder that she can be required to avail herself at work on short notice but this just shows the complications that come about with the whole mobile phone thing.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Intersexual Held In Kamiti Prison - To Release Or Not To Release?

One Nairobi lawyer John Chigiti has a unique case in his hands. His client Richard Mwanzia Muasya is a confirmed hermaphrodite. He is also a convicted criminal incarcerated at Kamiti Maximum Prison for robbery with violence. Muasya, through his lawyer is asking to be set free because the law is discriminatory against him. According to him, being locked up in an exclusively male prison whereas biologically he’s not totally a man amounts to human and constitutional rights abuse. He’s suffering degrading exposure to male convicts and prison warders. On November 6 last year Justice Roselyn Wendo ordered that he be accorded separate accommodation in Kamiti Prison but that has not been done so far. He is asking to be set free unconditionally.

But isolating an intersexual in our correctional facilities or anywhere else for that matter is just the beginning. In prisons there is the issue of other shared amenities like washrooms, dining area, recreational facilities and indeed the whole compound as a whole. If isolation will work in Muasya’s case at all, it would mean making physical changes to the buildings or putting up a separate prison all together. Quite a long shot considering that hermaphrodites are few and how many of them end up in prisons?

Cases like Muasya’s are rare but not entirely unheard of. In 2004 for example, intersexual Jonothon Featherstone managed to avoid a prison sentence in Jamaica because the Jamaican penal code had no provisions for those bearing both male and female genitalia. That was even after he admitted trying to smuggle drugs out of Jamaica.

One cannot ignore the tribulations Muasya has probably been through. For one the whole intersexual thing must be heavy on his psyche. I imagine he grew up grappling with excruciating social stigma and psychological effects of his mixed gender – all in an unforgiving culture. Secondly sexual abuse in our penal institutions is no secret. If he has not already been put through some of that, it’s just a question of when and not if and he must be spending all his waking hours fretting about it.

Surprisingly, hermaphrodites are not as rare as one may think. There are quite a number around the world and in some countries there are support groups just for them. In other countries, some incidences are surgically corrected when the child is still young. But this medical intervention on hermaphrodite infants is meeting with more and more resistance as people with the condition come forth with claims that these surgeries immerse subjects into worse psychological, medical, and sexual damage. They’re encouraging parents to let their children develop into themselves and enjoy the gift of being unique.

So should Muasya be set free?
Should he be jailed in isolation?

Picture of Naivasha Vampire - Godfrey Matheri

Godfrey Matheri alias Fongo as he appeared in court charged with murder. Read more.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Tuk Tuk Invasion

There’s a lot of good that can be said about the Tuk Tuk, the little three wheeled car that has been threatening the livelihoods of taxi drivers. In most areas the concept of Tuk Tuks has been embraced wholeheartedly. In Mombasa for example where the punishing heat and high humidity can make it quite a task to walk a few blocks, the tuk tuk is quite welcome for short rides. Their advantages cannot be underestimated. They have created thousands of jobs and enabled people to go to hard to reach places with their door to door services. With some models covering upto 35 Kilometers for just a liter of petrol, they can afford to charge very low fares.

But like every good thing, Tuk Tuks have their downside. The hitherto quiet and serene atmosphere of most streets and other parts of town has been shattered by the characteristic and oh so relentless tok tok tok tok of tuk tuks as they make their rounds. Hardly a minute passes by without one of these noisily zooming past and for those in ground floor offices right along the road, concentrating has become almost impossible.

That is just a problem people may have to evolve around because it seems the little motorbike/taxi hybrids are here to stay. What can and needs to be addressed ASAP is their road etiquette. Some drivers just hit the road with no inkling whatsoever about traffic rules, weaving and meandering through traffic with complete disregard of lane change rules. As long as one can ride a motorbike, he learns the rest on the job and sometimes it’s obvious the errant drivers are just not aware when they’re on the wrong. They’re nowhere near as mad or rude as matatu drivers, in fact majority of them are usually very apologetic when they mess on the road. But obstruction is obstruction. Dangerous lane change is dangerous lane change regardless of what size of vehicle is doing it.

The police don’t seem to pay as much attention to them as they do to Matatus but maybe it’s time they did.

From The Past: Of Holy Noise and Kenyan Churches.

From The Web: Photos of Spain Tomatina Festival.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Saum Maqbul

To all our Muslim Brothers and Sisters who started the holy month of Ramadhan yesterday, SAUM MAQBUL.

‘Fasting enhances through creation of artificial non-availability, the value of the bounties of God which man often takes for granted. This inculcates in man a spirit of gratitude and consequent devotion to God. Nothing else can bring home to a man the worth of God’s bounties than a glass of water and a square meal after a day long fast. This also reminds man that the real joy in enjoying God’s bounties lies in moderation and restraint and not in over indulging’ - Marhum Ahmed Sheriff Dewji

More about fasting and the Holy month of Ramadhan.