[WaffleG] The East African Edition (No.19)

Editorial
I seem to be struggling to remain in South Africa, oh humble wafflings. It’s not like I was trying to travel all over the place, it just seemed to happen. Such is the nature of being the Mighty Waffle Master. Cower before my syrupy magnificence!

Kenya is the destination for this issue. Next month the moon, and then after that – Mars.


New Members
None this time. But the following still applies, I suppose.New members: If you’re confused about this, visit the Official Waffle
Group Web page

It’s unlikely to clear up your confusion. Email me for clarity.

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The Destination
I found Mars to be just as red, barren and dusty as it always appears to be in the movies (and in photos). I found the thin atmosphere to be somewhat suffocating, and it was a real pain to always put on a pressure suit whenever I wanted to go out for a walk.
There were no tourist attractions to speak of and the locals were very strange and alien.
I don’t recommend you go there unless you really like the colour red.


Stop Being Silly Now
Ok. I’ll try. No promises.Firstly I’ll express my disappointment that I saw neither Tigers nor Lions in Kenya. Weebl – you are a trickster and a cad!
But, perhaps I should not be so harsh on Weebl. There are no lions and tigers in Nairobi. I didn’t manage to venture out of the confines of the city, so perhaps he speaks truth. I can confirm that there is a tall mountain with snow on the top. I saw it as we flew 1500 feet above it on the way to Kenyatta International. The disembodied voice that spoke to the passengers on the plane called the mountain Kilimanjaro. You need to ask yourself whether disembodied voices are trustworthy.
How can you be certain that anyone is actually flying the aeroplane? As a passenger I’ve never seen the pilot sitting at the controls. Is a disembodied voice flying the plane?
I propose that a small camera is fitted in the cockpit so that when the pilot has something to say, passengers can actually see him/her/it speaking on the TV screens. This is so obvious that the only reason it’s never been implemented is because no-one is flying the plane. And the air stewards are probably all robots.


The Point of the Visit
I went to Kenya because the UN headquarters for Africa are in Nairobi. Just down the road from the UN is the US embassy. The same US embassy that was bombed back in 1998. Exciting stuff! I was surprised that no-one tried to kidnap me, being as important as I am in the sphere of waffles.We met at the UN for the 1st African Symposium and Workshop on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) from 29 August to 2 September. “We” being people from 11 African countries, and few people from other regions to assist in facilitating proceedings. My expectations for the event were not entirely met. Most of the attendees had heard of LCA, but didn’t know much about it. I was actually one of the more knowledgeable people there. As a result, I didn’t learn many new things about LCA (as I had hoped). At the same time, this is encouraging since it indicates that I probably know more than I thought I did, ergo I haven’t been totally misleading myself while studying LCA.
The best thing about these sort of gatherings is meeting new people who are interested in your field of study. Ultimately, when the studying is done, you can try to sucker some of them into giving you a job (or at least referring you to someone else who might give you one). Those guys who worked for CSIR looked particularly promising.
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The UN venue. I felt important sitting there

There was also a fascinating bureaucracy about the event. We held several open forum discussions, and various people voiced their opinions on extremely diverse issues. Most had very little to do with LCA, and the capabilities of LCA.
In one case we discussed potential impact categories that would be relevant to Africa, before anyone properly explained how impacts are modelled. Impact categories are usually things that can be determined using scientific principles and models. The impact category Climate Change is determined using some measurable variable, like CO2 and CH4 emissions (believe it or not, I am making an effort not to bore you into a catatonic state as I explain this). Data plugs into the model and voilà you have an impact score.
Sometimes you can define impact categories that don’t operate on a scientific principle, but you still need some sort of reliable statistical data. I hope you can see why I shook my head woefully when the impact category Corruption was proposed.
I suppose this kind of thing was partly a symptom of the delegates’ ignorance, and not their entirely their fault. Yet, I got the feeling that many people liked to propose motions that would be completely impractical or simply impossible to carry out. Everyone just smiled and nodded and made little notes in their little notebooks.
Sometimes certain people would challenge an opinion and there would be much debate and nodding and smiling and so on. Timeless discussions with no apparent end.
I started to see the merits of dictatorship. Benevolent dictatorship kicks democracy any day.
As Kevin (who also attended) said to me, “If this is how a bunch of academics discuss things, I’d hate to spend the day with a bunch of politicians.” Touché


The Most Chaotic Traffic Flow of Nairobi
There seems so be only one traffic rule in Nairobi: Keep left unless that’s inconvenient.
The rest are just guidelines.

At any intersection, the vehicle travelling at the greatest velocity has right of way:
Unless a stationary vehicle already blocks the road, in which case this vehicle has right of way until the vehicle blocking its path clears a space.
Give pedestrians a chance (I actually saw a road-sign stating this) since there are no pedestrian-crossings and very few traffic lights.
Keep a following distance of at least 1000 Angstroms. This also applies to vehicles to your left and right.
Hoot at cyclists
Get your mind checked if you are a cyclist

Because of the special guidelines traffic had a kind of organic quality to it. It seemed alive. Where the road was clearly designed for 2 lanes, there were three. At one stage our bus was driving on the wrong side of the road because an extra lane had spontaneously grown out of the left side of the road, consuming a lane on the right side. I recommend visiting just to see the traffic. I also recommend you get someone else to drive for you.


Festive Hotel Locations
Kevin and I (and most of the delegates) stayed at 680 Hotel. I think the website makes it look better than it is, but at least it was clean.
Kevin and I undoubtedly had the best rooms in the place. We were on the top floor and we looked down at Simmers, a wonderful bar/club/whorehouse that had a live band every night, seven days a week. Oh how we rejoiced as the pumping jams wafted tranquily up to our room, drowning out the insistent cackle of the television until the early hours of the morning. Oh, how well we slept each night with these soothing rhythms stroking our eardrums in gentle lulling softness. Oh how we were started awake each night at 3a.m. to the sudden silence at Simmers closed for the evening.
Indeed, as their pay-off line stated, Simmers was truly “The answer on a plate!”
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But does it look like the answer, on a plate or otherwise?


Simmers – A Closer Look
What to do in the evenings? Well, Simmers had been aggressively advertising using an audio medium, so Kevin and I figured we’d join Chris there for a drink.
It was festive and pleasing and we spoke of many things. Chris and I met up first and waited for Kevin to arrive. It took him quite a while. Apparently he’d been delayed by a waiter who had insisted that there were no other white people in the place, and he was to sit here at this table, and nowhere else because there were no other white people here. Fortunately, Kevin was strong-willed enough to break free and seek Chris and me out.Time passed. Beer bottles were emptied. There was talk and merriment. Then there was an overly friendly woman. She figured she could probably charge the gullible white men more for services rendered. She first sneakily positioned herself at the table next to ours. Then she drank some alcohol, presumably to build up some courage. Then she started talking to us. Then she started touching Kevin (since he was closest). Then we realised that we were actually surrounded since the woman seated at table on the other side reached out and gave my back a friendly stroking.
Then we paid for our drinks.
Then we left.

Later in the week Kevin and I were held up in the hotel lift by someone who claimed to work at the massage parlour on the second floor of the hotel.
“That’s nice. We’d like to go to our room now.”
She didn’t like that idea and continued with her marketing, preventing our escape by standing in the elevator doorway.
“That’s nice. We’d like to go to our room now.”
But she promised that the massage would be very nice, right over here on the 2nd floor. We could come any time we liked, and all the women who worked there were very beautiful, and look! here were a few of them right now. Aren’t they lovely?
“They’re nice. We’d like to go to our room now.”
Then the other ones started marketing a little. It didn’t look like our tactic of complete disinterest was working very well. Kevin attempted another approach.
“Maybe some other time. We’d like to go to our room now.”
It didn’t have much of an effect either.
But, the new characters didn’t seem to be as drunk as the one barring the door, and they quickly saw that we weren’t going to be giving them any money, so they dragged our new friend away and we returned to our room and the Simmers party.


The Carnivore
A whole bunch of delegates went to eat meat at the Carnivore. If you don’t like meat, you shouldn’t go there because you won’t like it. If you do like meat, you should go there. They will give you as much meat as you can eat. You will get meat from a cow, a chicken, a pig, an ostrich, a lamb, and a crocodile. Apparently they used to serve other game, but stopped doing that. Something about protecting endangered species. What are endangered species good for if you can’t eat them?
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Hell for Meaty BeastsThey will bring you the meat skewered on massive sword-like things, and slice it off using pangas. It’s really quite vicious, but most yummy.
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Dead beast is served

The day before going to the carnivore, some of us atoned in advance for our actions by eating at the vegetarian restaurant, which really made the most incredible meals, and for hardly any money at all.


Meeting the Family
After the conference I stayed the weekend. This gave me opportunity to finally meet my oldest uncle and his family who have been hiding out in Kenya all my life (and longer, but I’m still not convinced that anything existed before I did, so these claims may not be true).
I’d met all my other aunts and uncles before, so it was excellent to finally close the loop. It’s sort of creepy how is similar to my dad in many ways.
He drove out all the way from Kitale just to see me and I was really flattered by how important he and Freda considered our meeting. Initially I’d just thought it would be nice to meet them, but it really was a whole lot more significant than that.
I wanted to stay longer, but the taxi came to take me back to the hotel. I plan to go back for a holiday. Perhaps I’ll see the tigers then.


Thanks go to…
I arrived home to my darling wife to discovered that she’d gone a bit odd in my absence. She had a bit of a freak out while I was away, and it would appear that I actually keep her sane just by being around. Perhaps insane people emit sanity waves, which is why two insane people like us have to live together in order to keep stable. This hypothesis doesn’t explain why I didn’t go nuts, but then I did have Kevin around a lot while in Kenya, and there’s clearly something wrong with him.
In future, I will just have to take her with me wherever I go.
The good news is that the positive effects of my presence are starting to influence her once again, and I predict her recovery will be swift.
A bunch of people helped Angie through the weak (ah look! play on words!) and I’d like to thank them impersonally via email and the Internet. Yes, electronic media is eroding our humanity. Cope.Megs, Jaco, Louise (and I suppose Rob, you helped too, although you are in a way an extension of Louise). Thanks so much for looking after Angie (and Bean where applicable) when she needed you most.


That’s all. Any comments, suggestions, complaints, insults. Send them to me.Checkout the official Waffle Group Webpage at http://thewafflegroup.blogspot.com
Unless, of course, you are already there. Good on you!

If you don’t want to receive this newsletter from me, send me an email with the phrase “SOD OFF” in the subject.

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7 thoughts on “[WaffleG] The East African Edition (No.19)”

  1. Now that’s some good blogging! Can’t wait to read more. I’ll be back for another dose.

    I have a ink refills site. My site covers ink refills related stuff. It’s a pretty cool site with a bunch of ink refills examples.
    I hope you enjoy!

  2. Insanity is an entirely underrated concept. I find that going insane once or twice a week keeps people here from annoying me by giving me work to do, and you’d be amazed how well thrashing around dementedly relieves stress.

    Neil – were any of the Climate Modelling group from UCT at this conference doohickey? I know some of them quite well 🙂

    -q-

  3. Sounds like the conference was interesting in more than one way…. as Weird Al so eloquently put it – “heeeeyyyy Gonorrea”

    Apart from that, you seem to be getting more traveller miles than me 🙂

  4. Kittychunk:
    Not quite as detailed modelling. as the Climate group are doing. Not trying to predict the climate changes, just trying to estimate the potential that emissions have to cause a change.

  5. Ah, I see.

    Re: Simmers. I imagine that the architect washed a handful of laxatives down with a few tins of primary-coloured PVA, and a scale model of Simmers was the inevitable result.

    I’m amazed you went in. My DodgySense(tm) would have been ringing alarm bells all over the show.

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