Waiting to Exhale

letters from nairobi

Westgate

Six months ago, Kenya was prepared for violence.

All across the country, from the savannas of the Rift Valley to the sea-drenched sands of the coast, people were bracing themselves for the possibility of bloodshed following a tense and highly disputed presidential election. Four and a half years earlier, post-election violence left more than a thousand corpses in its wake and hundreds of thousands of families homeless, many of whom still reside in ‘temporary’ resettlement tents that dot the countryside.

In the days leading up to the election, cupboards were stocked, barrels of drinking water tucked away, and emergency supplies inventoried. Countless foreigners and expatriates fled to neighboring countries as a cautionary measure at the same time that international journalists and election observers flooded in. There was a palpable collective inhale of breath as votes were counted, re-counted, and re-counted again. For days, the capital city came to a standstill…

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Graffiti: the stories we tell

Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

Bortusk 1I found a new Bortusk poster in Amsterdam today. A slightly torn and weathered neon monster staring out at me from the side of a skip as i cycled past. I think that brings to about fifteen the number i’ve found around the city this year. Sometimes i go back to visit them, watching as the paper gets more torn, dirtier, overlaid with graffiti and stickers, or simply weathered away by the Dutch climate.

Bortusk is enigmatic: his colourful monsters placed seemingly for no other reason than to brighten up your day, a task they fulfil perfectly for me as they smile, wave and dance into sight on a rainy morning as you cycle past. For some, they are probably just graffiti: rubbish cluttering the street. For others, something to make you smile.

For me, they tell a story: a story about creativity, about sharing, about meaning…

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Manifesto For The Uncensored

Mindless Productivity

It was after 1984 when I read the novel of the same name, hiding under the covers, reading by the dying light of a 50-cent flashlight as Winston and Julia performed more unspeakable acts under their own sheets; Winston apprehensive of Big Brother’s all-seeing eyes, me fearful of mother coming in to ask why I was reading something so vulgar at such a young age. When asked what I thought of the book, it didn’t take a bucket of rats to make me cast Winston aside…instinct alone inspired me to decry the book as “all right, but the sex was pointless and unnecessary.” And life continued as normal, the irony of my betrayal reduced to nothing more than an uncomfortable rattle at the back of my mind that has never left me to this day.

But forbidden fruit and verboten vegetables leave an aftertaste in the back of the throat…

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It’s Not Your Mother’s Oldsmobile…Or Is It?

I Tried Being Tasteful...

Recently I wrote about my brother-in-law receiving a “sign” from his wife on the day she passed away, letting him know she was safe and that he could move on with his life.

I’m a big believer in things like this, even though I’m not what you’d call a religious person.  See my post “The Orthodox Agnostic” for the particulars.  Even so, I do believe we are connected to the spirit world.

I used to do Tarot card readings by email years ago and had close to one hundred of them under my belt before I took down my shingle, not because I wasn’t helping people but because too many folks had become dependent on me for advice.

The cards weren’t “powerful” or “magic.”  My view of them is they’re similar to a search engine.  You ask your questions and the answers pop into your head while you look at the…

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Blogging and “The Accident of Touching”

Deborah J. Brasket

The_Creation_Michelangelo“The accident of touching / is so rare! Sometimes / I pause my hand on purpose / and hope to find yours there.”

These are the last lines of a poem I wrote long ago.

But I realize now that’s what this blog is all about, a way of “pausing my hand on purpose,” and hoping to find you there.

It’s all about touching, isn’t it? Touching others with our lives, our insights and understanding, our memories and dreams, our poetry and art. Blogging meets this basic human need—to touch others and be touched in return.

Peter_Paul_Rubens_105_1We’ve all heard how physical touching is essential to human health and happiness. They say people can shrivel up and die for want of being touched or having someone to touch. A simple pat on the shoulder, a hug, a hand squeeze can make all the difference. Merely having a pet, they say, saves lives.

But there’s a basic…

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Skeuomorphic. Skewed Logic?

Neon Animal Stash

Nostalgia, sentimentality, kitsch. All words pointed at skeuomorphic design with a tangibly derogatory edge.

Just to clarify, skeuomorphs are objects or designs that maintain previously essential features as ornamentation. Wikipedia has a fantastically detailed page, give it a look over.

My favourite examples are intimately tied to our deepest assumptions of these modern-day products despite the redundancy of many of their features. For example, the rivets in your 21st Century stitched jeans, the woodgrain on plastic laminate flooring and the faux pagination of digital calendars that Clive Thompson excellently rips apart over at Wired.

Commentators on the Tech and Design industries are becoming increasingly wary, even exhausted by the proliferation of this philosophy. But what if – all this stuff (there really is no better word), is actually good?

The movement to full touchscreen devices, especially tablets and smartphones, has put interface designers in new territory – one that is…

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Talking to your kids about your balls.

Sans Deferens

As I recover from my vasectomy, an interesting dilemma has unzipped and presented itself. The kids want to know why Daddy can’t wrastle. The kids want to know why they can’t sit on Daddy’s lap. The kids want to know why Daddy is walking so funny.

Ministry_of_Silly_Walks_by_chaplin007Anti-Baby Steps

My daughter is six and my son is nine. The younger one has been easy. As soon as I said the word, ‘testicles’ she started giggling and quickly moved on. Although, now she feels she has license to say, ‘testicles’ whenever she wants. So, she does. And then giggles.

“You want a hug, Daddy? Don’t worry, I won’t hurt your testicles.”
“Be nice to Daddy. He’s got sore testicles.”
“Good morning, Daddy. How are the testicles?”
“Hey, Daddy. Testicles. I just said, ‘testicles.'”

The nine year old boy is a little different. You see, he has testicles. And questions.

“Was there something…

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