Monthly Archives: July 2011

Neurotic Groceries

It’s just about everyday that I hear somebody say “I’m so OCD!” because they’re tidy or they like things organized. In addition to the tiny detailed fact that you can’t be a disorder, that’s also not all that OCD is. But that’s not the point I’m making. The point I’m making is that I’m OCD I get a little neurotic about pretty much one thing only: groceries.

The few times Kim and I both go to the store, she ends up abiding by my routine or observing as I correct her. My shopping cart will perpetually be divided between frozen, refrigerated, and room temperature. And room temperature will be divided between will-go-in-pantry and will-go-in-fridge, will-go-to-pets, and will-go-elsewhere (toiletries, for example). As we shop, if things slide or get misplaced, I’ll frequently stop and rearrange them. When it’s check out time, I put all of the frozen things on the conveyor belt first. They are followed by refrigerated goods, room temperature foods going in the fridge, room-temperature foods going in the pantry, pet-related things, and then the toiletries and miscellany.

Unpacking groceries tends to be just as fun, but Kim often at least unpacks things and leaves them on the counter, which lets me sort things in some sort of order that I can deal with. Kim manages to play the role of accommodating significant other very well, actually.

So anyways, this is my major thing. Do you have any quirks?

Why Norway is Great

Today, Norway suffered a terrible attack. An explosion tore through central Oslo, killing seven and hospitalizing almost a hundred more, and a shooting rocked a Labor Party youth camp in Utoya where over 80 young activists lost their lives. I have always thought that Norway was a great country, and it pains me to see this happen anywhere – but especially Norway. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said that Norway’s answer to the attack would be “more democracy, more openness” and said to terrorists, “you will not destroy us.” Championing democracy instead of war in the face of terror is one way to win my heart.

In addition, Mark Goldberg added to why we love Norway so much:

I have never been to Norway, but I still love the place — and I am not alone. Norway is among the most beloved nations in the international community and for good reason.

Norway has a population about the size of the state of Kentucky. It is the 47th largest economy in the world, putting it between Chile and Romania.Yet, for a country as small as Norway, it is arguably the most generous country in the world.  It allocates a full 1.1% of its Gross National Incometo international development activities. This puts Norway on top of all developed world countries in its relative contributions to global poverty reduction. (By comparison, the United States contributes about 0.2% of its GNI to official development assistance–roughly the same percentage as Greece.)

Beyond its official development assistance, Norway is among the most generous countries in the world when it comes to responding to natural and man-made disasters. When tragedy strikes somewhere in the world, the Norwegian government steps up. Last year, it gave $832,585,693 for crises like Haiti, Burma, and Sudan.  Earlier this month, when UN agencies began to warn of a hunger crisis in Somalia, Norway stepped up with a big relief package.

My thoughts are with Norway, like a lot of people tonight.

Not Cool, Netflix.

People are pretty grumpy with Netflix’s recent price change, and – as consumers – it’s in their economic interests to gripe. But Netflix is doing more than just charging you a little extra. They’re enacting the brilliant plan of having prices low enough to keep you, but still make enough to keep competition at bay.

By this, I mean that Netflix was amazing when it started. I joined Netflix pretty early on, and it’s always been a pretty awesome company as far as low prices and magically speedy shipping. The annoying thing isn’t that Netflix is raising prices (although that does bother my wallet a bit), but that Netflix kept its prices low for years while driving Blockbuster and Hollywood Video into the ground, and now that they’re barely alive Netflix is beginning to screw over its customers. There have been a few tiny price hikes recently, with the most recent division of streaming and sending being the biggest.

On top of that, the objective of splitting digital subscriptions and mail subscriptions is built pretty much to encourage you to drop the mail and go digital-only. This will, of course, give Netflix the ability to fire a lot of the people who do the super-fast work or sorting through all the discs you mail in, and Netflix will improve their profit margin even more.

Business at it’s finest, I guess.

A Mad Men Budget

For your infographic pleasure, a comparison of the budget in 1966 with contemporary costs, via Center for American Progress. I still have a gripe to pick with “Tik Tok” – alcohol just isn’t good oral hygiene.

In Which I Reminisce About Magic

Last night I went the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II - my first midnight screening – to bid au revoir to the Harry Potter film franchise. That said, I echo many people’s feelings that the world of Harry Potter came to a close four years ago with the release of the last book, but the films have been a pleasant and entertaining afterword. Like a lot of people my age, I grew up with Harry Potter. I aged right alongside the protagonists and followed their adventures and battles.

Magic is something particularly fantastic to imagine, and even though I’ve been in a non-fiction, academic streak the call of this type of fiction is still fun. Truth be told, I’ve always wished I could write something creative – and I’ve tinkered with it before. Maybe one day I’ll write something worth reading. In the mean time, I’ll be on the lookout for another book replete with magic, swords, elves, and the lot. ‘Til then:

Mischief managed.

A Year After Kampala

Today is the one year anniversary of the World Cup Bombings in Kampala which claimed over 70 lives. I wanted to put together some sort of post to mark the occasion, even if only to remember the incidents and the lives taken. Last year, I put up a blog post about it at the time, but was pretty bewildered.

For those who don’t recall, one year ago two sites in Kampala were bombed by Somali insurgent group al Shabaab. The attacks hit the Ethiopian Village, a restaurant frequented by Westerners and a place I planned on visiting. I drove by the restaurant a few weeks later and the compound was boarded up – haven’t heard if it ever opened. The attacks also hit the Kyadongo Rugby Club, a field that had been filled with seats and screens to house a viewing party. The attack was in response to Uganda’s involvement in the African Union’s military presence (AMISOM) in fighting for the transitional government in Somalia against al Shabaab.

So, how much have things changed since? In May, some groups reported worries that al Shabaab attacks loomed, but it led to some debate over whether the government had reliable evidence of attacks or if it was exploiting the attacks to dampen contemporary protests over fuel prices. Al Shabaab is still fighting against AMISOM, but there is some speculation that they’ve expanded outside of Somalia. The East African had a report on prospects of expansion due to several conflicts along the Somali-Kenyan border. It seems that al Shabaab is definitely pushing its weight around even though it’s still in the middle of fighting against the transitional government, but the question remains: are another series of bombings on the scale of the World Cup Bombings possible?

On the Subject of Blogging…

Lately, my day-to-day routine has been pretty simple. We’re working on the house a bit here and there, and I’m still on the job-hunt. But in my free time I’ve finally decided to entertain an idea I’ve had for some time, so if you’ll humor me for a moment I’ll introduce you to my more scholarly blog.

Those of you who know me (and if you don’t, you should!) know that I love history and politics and Africa. I’m following that muse with a new blog concentrating on those topics. I’m using it as a tiny platform to do some writing, but also hone my mediocre research and writing skills. So, if you’ll do me the honor, go have a look at Historically Speaking. As of right now it’s a pretty measley weblog with sparse posts on the Vietnam War, Thai politics, and air conditioning. Plus side, it’s replete with tags. Enjoy!

Caine Blog: “The Mistress’s Dog” by David Medalie

Here is the fifth and final, albeit late, entry on the Caine Prize for African Literature. Today I’m reviewing “The Mistress’s Dog” by David Medalie, which can be downloaded here. Next week the winner of the prize will be announced, so it will be interesting to see where the prize goes. To see all of the co-blogging phenomena scroll on down for a list.

A quick glance at the co-blogging list shows that Medalie’s story, a concise story about a woman named Nola and the dog which she cares for, is a clear favorite. A number of reviewers have named it their choice for the prize, and I won’t begrudge them. But I’m not sure where I’m at. Perhaps I’m lacking the literary mind that my colleagues have. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the story was good. But it’s not a clear favorite for me so much as it is on par with Keegan (although they are very different).

The important parts of the story have all happened before it begins. The story itself takes place over only two days, chronicling the life of Nola through her eyes. She has outlived both her husband and his mistress, left with the mistress’s dying dog. No one has a name in her eyes, the dog’s former owner falters between her profession (the secretary) and her romance (the mistress) throughout, and Nola’s own husband is only referred to as “the powerful man.” That is all he is and ever was to Nola, it seems.

Nola’s background is one of subtle revenge. She describes the simple victories she had in belittling the mistress, from referring to her by calling her names to arranging dinner parties so that she sticks out like a sore thumb. She seems to have reveled in her small victories, but her best victory – the chance to leave the dog in Johannesburg – was turned down. She decides to keep the dog and in the end the dog becomes her only companion. It really tells the story of how Nola is trapped by her life’s past – haunted by a dog she never wanted, left over from a life with a powerful husband and his affair.

I thought the story was quite good, but I’m not quite sure which story is my favorite. I definitely came at this blog-a-thon with a foreign eye, never really being quite the literary critic. This story’s point was concise and the solitary main character was rounded by her view of others. I’m looking forward to seeing who wins the Caine Prize next week.

For the co-blogging:

Method to the Madness

Zungu Zungu

The Mumpsimus

The Oncoming Hope

The Reading Life