Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Malawian analysts agree that DPP wipers did an excellent job cleansing parliament of its opposition majority. They go on to explain that stifled as it was by UDF hands, the MCP black rooster couldn’t swallow the DPP corn. Starved to near death, it wasn’t difficult to pluck it off its perch as the biggest party in Malawi’s parliament.

How can they say that? How could they!

The unflavoured truth is that Loveness Gondwe and her NARC party won the election hands down. After all, I know for a fact that I wisely voted for her. So did millions of other Malawians who heeded the omnipresent advice voiced by Malawian papers, NGOs and clergy to vote wisely.

So when it became clear that she was being robbed of victory, Malawians assured her en masse —in person, via phone calls, text messages, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook and so on— that contrary to official results, all three million of us had voted for her. She isn’t normally a gullible woman, Loveness. However, this time she knew we were telling the truth.

Seeing our disappointment, she had no choice but to go on Zodiak radio to reveal DPP’s rigging modus operandi. And were we shocked at its evil genius.You see, almost all ballots given to potential Loveness Gondwe voters were pre-ticked in temporarily invisible ink. What is more, they had to vote using pens with ink that biodegraded into nothingness within one hour. As the millions of ticks for Loveness disappeared from these ballots, the previously invisible ones for Bingu would emerge.

How could her supporters be singled out, you're itching to know. No problem at all. There was no need to single them out because almost every Malawian voter had planned to vote for Loveness Gondwe! Only MCP’s John Tembo came close in terms of support.

Poor JZU. Poor Baba Tembo.

But then John Tembo should’ve known that even gods were against him when the wind blew already cast presidential ballots all over Mitundu. As if that weren’t ominous enough, Olympic records tumbled at Lilongwe City Centre polling station as high-heeled women and suited men darted to safety when a swarm of bees descended on them.

As every well meaning Malawians except DPP supporters know, those bees weren’t attracted by the perfumes worn by the voters. No way! They were genetically engineered in the labs in Mulanje with the sole purpose of chasing away people who had planned to vote for Baba Tembo.

Who doesn’t know that the ballots that blew away at Mitundu added to those that weren’t cast by scurrying voters at City Centre were enough for Baba Tembo to come a very close second to Loveness Gondwe? Unless, of course, you’re  a Zodiak radio presenter. These guys stumbled when announcing a number of district summaries. In Blantyre City South, for example, they said 8,081 people had cast their vote for JZU but a few minutes later went on to give 2,540 as the interim as his total for the whole of Blantyre!

One would’ve thought that even in Malawi Microsoft Excel is a well known tool even to radio presenters.

I know Baba Tembo’s knows that his retirement date has been postponed by at least five years. I’m also sure he would be the first to admit that other wounds were self-inflicted. For instance, he should never have let a Makiyolobasi anywhere near an MCP ticket. It isn’t as if he was unaware of the existence of the opposition bashing Makiyolabasi parody on the government controlled airwaves. Letting Makiyolobasi run had near fatal results. Justice Anastasia Msosa, the chairperson of the electoral body, almost died of laughter when she tried to read the number of votes that Makiyolabasi had garnered in his constituency. Thankfully, she recovered. But do you think she took any of your votes seriously after that?

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. After I had voted wisely, I visited a number of polling centres within Lilongwe just to get a feel of the voting numbers. The tour went well except at Chilinde Primary School. There I fell afoul of the security staff who didn’t quite like the fact that I was taking photos of a friend who was on a queue. Breach of electoral laws, I was told. They insisted that I delete all the photos I had taken. I also insisted that if that was the case they should arrest me instead. Mind you, I had seen no signs telling people not to take photos.

You would think that in this age of mobile phone cameras, it’s impossible to prevent people from taking photos at polling centres. Or airports, for that matter. As you know, at some airports taking pictures is a big NO NO. But when you get on a plane, you’ve a perfect view of the airport from your window seat.

Click! Click! I’ve taken a few such photos, if you must know. And airport security personnel have been none the wiser.

Anyway, I’ve to go now. I need to buy a better dictionary than the one I’ve now. As you may’ve heard, Nicholas Dausi is the newly minted MP for Mwanza Central. Obviously, I need to prepare to understand him when he makes his maiden speech in parliament.       

 
 

If we’re to compare newspapers, The Daily Times and The Nation newspapers would be to Malawi what the Washing Post and New York Times are to the US. They’re very independent and well respected.

But unlike their American counterparts, the two Malawian papers both have Achilles’ heels. Whereas American papers endorse candidates on their front pages, Malawian ones don’t. Instead, their columnists advise voters to go and vote wisely.

On the face of it, it sounds like pretty good advice, doesn’t it? But if you think it over for a minute, you’ll realise, it’s pretty useless advice.

Let me ask you, how does a voter know which choice is a wise vote? It isn’t as if the path to a wise vote is marked with closely spaced road signs displaying big and bold direction arrows. Besides, isn’t it a given that a choice that may be deemed wise by one voter may be anathema to another?

The voters need to be nudged, pushed even, towards the said wise vote.  Now who better than the media to light the paths to hidden wise choices? Otherwise, how are voters on their own expected to sift through all the candidates’ rhetoric, outright lies, stand-up comedy routines, vitriolic slander and other garbage that pass for campaign speeches just to find a wise choice?

Perhaps, I shouldn’t be too quick to condemn. After all, I know they’re afraid. Very afraid. And for a good reason. You see, they’ve seen many businesses collapse a year or so after supporting the wrong horses. In Malawi, businesses that align themselves with a candidate that happens to be on the wrong side of winning risks missing out on government contracts. Malawian politicians are very vindictive, you know.

You don’t need me to explain that in an economy like ours, any entity starved of government business finds the going very tough. Thus, until Malawi has media houses that are prepared to tough it out, we’ll continue being advised to vote wisely.

I, on the other hand, I’m not running any business so I’ve no fear whatsoever in endorsing…er… Mmm… I’ve thought better of it. My endorsement would be misinterpreted as campaigning when the campaigning period is already over. That aside, there are other factors besides business that would be at stake here.

So instead , I’ll just urge all Malawians currently resident in Malawi to go and cast their votes tomorrow. But in keeping with the culture of doling out useless voting advice, I would like to advise you to go and vote wisely!

Whatever that means.

 
 

Watching soccer in and at the various virtue stadiums that also serve as drinking joints, one is amused to find that the most vocal group of viewers is the so called aganyu. They chant and taunt to egg on opponents of their rival team, never mind that the noise generated doesn’t reach the players.

So it was when Manchester United played Tottenham Hotspurs the other weekend. Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool supporters were aganyu in the hope that the title holders would stumble. You can imagine the noise levels when Tottenham went up 2-nil. But as they say, a loser is an orphan. Immediately Man U edged ahead, aganyu went quiet and employed their mouths in more useful endeavours---drinking! What else could they do having realised that akwera yakuphwa? A bus with deflated tyres can’t take you anywhere, can it?

Anyway, things have moved on since then. By the time the Reds line up against Westbrom on Sunday, the Red Devils will have been crowned winners of the English Premier League, a fact some of us have known since January.

Of course, I won’t be celebrating . I don’t worship devils, red or otherwise. Furthermore, as a Liverpool supporter why should I celebrate when my bragging rights will have been punctured?  It used to sound nice to trumpet the fact that the Reds were the most successful team in the English league having won the title on eighteen occasions. By the way, wouldn’t it have been nice for the Reds to have a 19/19, nineteen titles after nineteen years?

Anyway, there’s always the next season. I know we’ve been saying that for the past eighteen years. But didn’t a quarter century go by before Man U won another title?

Incidentally, there’s a new species of wa ganyu in Malawi. If you’re barred from running for president, why not render your support to the candidate running against your political enemy? Sure it’s demeaning to see the way flags have been mounted on campaign vehicles. Yes, it pains to see that not only is your party’s flag mounted below but it’s also just a tiny fraction of the Tambala Wakuda. But what can you do?

Even though I know, I’m telling how this ganyu will pan out. But I’m sure Muluzi is praying that John Tembo is a roadworthy vehicle with properly inflated tyres. Otherwise, he’ll be left stranded.

Well, let’s wait and see. May 19th is only a few days away, after all. But I can’t help wondering what will happen to the MCP/UDF coalition should Tembo lose.

 
 

Jeez, why do things have to turn out this way?

You see, young men have no problems visiting all the popular drinking joints in town, then whistle-stopping at all their girlfriends and leaving behind beautiful smiles of satisfaction before finally proceeding home to physically remind their wives why marriage can be such bliss. Mind you, they fume whenever their attempts at playing husband result into instant headaches. Boy, they hate headaches that once in a while plague matrimonial chambers.  

On the other hand if you’re a man of a certain age, the years of insatiable virility are just dim memories. Now your wife struggles to coax you to let her play with the crown jewels. More often than not such attempts are met by protest. After all, you firmly remind her, wasn’t it just five days ago that she was moaning your name in ecstacy? Doesn’t she realise that short of hiring a crane to raise the flag even to half mast, a man needs a lengthy recuperation period? It isn’t as if you’re starving her on purpose in order to revenge all the fake headaches that used to attack her at inconvenient moments. Sheesh, where is a woman’s headache when a man needs one.

Like it or not, the biological clock ticks from the day you’re born.  One day you wake up and, to your horror, you discover that your vision is blurry. But after a visit to an optician you get even more shocked because now you can see you’ve been ambushed by strands of grey hair, and the mop on you head has considerably thinned. You now can see that nature has sculpted some wrinkles onto your face.

Sigh…you realise that the memory loss that frequently ambushes you is giving you not so subtle hints that senility will soon be banging at your front door. It dawns on you that you’ve developed an inexplicable intolerance for loud music even as your hearing has waned. You realise that every little thing is enough to set you off moaning, whining, grumbling and ranting. And as your wife has learnt, getting certain body parts to function has become a chore that you don’t really look forward to. Certainly not on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. The deterioration will march on, unrelenting, till the day you breath for the last time. Hence, my surprise at the endurance being shown by the two front-runners in Malawi’s presidential race.  Given their age, I don’t know how they manage to wake up every day at first light, assuming they sleep at all, and take to the road for campaign stops until dusk forces them home.

How do they do it?

Mind you, the majority of our roads aren’t tarred. They are dusty bumpy affairs. And even those that are tarred are so potholed they bother and exhaust even athletes in their prime, let alone octogenarians that are currently masquerading as our best candidates for president.

Is this punishing Malawi’s Next Leader road show really necessary? I’m not so sure. One thing I do know, however, is that it won’t influence who my friends will vote for.  Their minds are already made up, who to vote for already etched in stone, and nothing will shift them from their entrenched positions. Malawians tend to have very fixed opinions. Remember the man in Ntchisi, appreciating the fact that the incumbent president had given the district its first tarmac road remarked, “Koma Bingu’yu ndi wa bwino kwambiri…kutipatasa mseu wa tala. Ndiye nanji akatenga boma a Baba Tembo.”

So rather than futilely try to change my friends’ minds, I just listen as they extol the virtues of their preferred candidates and trumpet the evils of the rivals.

Yes, my friends agree on lots of things. I suppose that’s why they became friends in the first place. But when it comes to who to vote for, they are in no agreement at all. They are split into two camps with two thirds of them preferring one grumpy old man and the rest the other. In their sphere, the other candidates might as well not be on the ballot. My preferences also lie with one of the two grumpies. However, unlike my friends, I’m literally planning to vote for a candidate who doesn’t have a water droplet’s chance in hell of winning.

I can understand your shock but I can assure you I haven’t lost my marbles. At least I’m not yet certified. You see, it so happens that in the three presidential elections that I’ve participated in (as a voter, of course), the candidate that I’ve cast my precious vote for has, fairly or not, ended up not getting the keys to statehouse. And don’t they say we should learn from our past experience?

I’m by no means a superstitious person. In fact, I don’t even believe in witchcraft and my presence in amen corners is very rare since it’s only occasioned by a wedding or a death of someone close.  Yet, I can’t shake this nagging feeling that my vote is a poisoned chalice. I can’t help but feel that whoever I vote for will have the gates of statehouse firmly closed to him. It’s the last chance salon for these two, after all.

Having said this, you think I’ll vote for my old man’s rival, right? After all, I would be helping my candidate by jinxing his rival. However, while I see the logic in that line of thinking, I’ve other what ifs playing on my mind. What if this time round I managed to be on the winning side? How would I live with myself knowing I had voted into office someone I didn’t much like? I don’t want to tempt fate. That’s why I’ve conceived the ingenious solution of casting my vote for someone whose likelihood of losing is a hundred percent.  I’ll thus have no post election guilt should my preferred old man, God forbid, end up being floored by his rival.

So I’ll vote for either Stanley Masauli or Loveness Gondwe. And being a liberal soul who firmly believes in the equality of races, tribes and genders, I’ve no qualms whose presidential fantasies I help to shatter. But who between them? OK, in the interest of fairness let me just toss a coin. If it’s heads, my vote will go to Stanley. Otherwise, Loveness, I’m yours.

So here goes.

Oops! I’m really sorry, Loveness. It turned out tails so I’ll have to tick the box against your name. I was as fair as I could. In any case, if I were you, I would realise that I’ve been done a big big favour. Now that you know I’ll vote for you, you can immediately stop wasting any more of your resources and time on fruitless campaign schedules and just wait for the inevitable announcement that you didn’t win.

Wait, wait... I’ve just had a brainwave.  My vote for Loveness will also serve as a barometer of fairness in this year’s election. If my voting centre doesn’t report any vote for Loveness, not even one, the election wouldn’t have been free and fair, would it? Where would my vote have gone?

By the way, in a poll involving the majority of my friends, Bingu is ahead with 66 percent of the vote. No, there is no margin of error in this poll. And no, I’ve no intention of extrapolating these results onto the national stage. The sample size is too small. I’m discerning in the choice of my friends, you know.

But that doesn't mean I don't know who's going to win. I'm just not telling.

 
 

Walk along Victoria Avenue in Blantyre and you’re bound to be accosted by children who one minute maybe playfully chasing each other and the next stretching their hands  to prospective benefactors.

Meanwhile, a 4x4 screeches to a halt and splashes some rain water on the kids who scamper to safety. A well-fed human rights activist alights and slowly walks into a supermarket. Almost an hour later, he emerges from the shop with his arms straining under the weight of the heavy shopping bags. Mind you, that’s what passes for exercise in his life.

He expertly sidesteps the outstretched begging arms and scowls at their owners. The kids wisely withdraw to try their luck on more sympathetic people.  

Only a few hours earlier this activist may have been on the pulpit provided by CNN, BBC and such like, tossing flaming condemnation at Madonna’s intended adoption of a Malawian girl. He would rather this girl grew first into prowling the streets begging for alms before graduating into selling her mother’s milk thereby exposing herself to HIV-AIDS.

What hypocrites. So too are organizations like Save the Children (UK) who in December 2004 pulled out of Malawi which is ranked very high on the poverty scale.  Since they still operate in 40 countries, one assumes they pulled out of Malawi because it’s better off than those countries. Right?

What’s sadder still is that claims are made that many Malawians are against adoption. Which Malawians when the majority of them would mind having their own children adopted.

If only there were more Madonnas.

 
 

The generic spell checker in Word 2007 marks the word “Bakili” as misspelled and helpfully offers a suggestion that I find to be quite a revelation.

Go on, try it for yourself. By the way, those who don’t have Word 2007, I’m sure other earlier versions yield the same result.  

Now that you’ve tried it, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Come on, how difficult can it be to connect ‘Bakili’ and ‘Bacilli’?

Alright, I’ll try to tell you then.

Let’s imagine Bakili is a bacterium called bakili. That shouldn’t be too tasking an exercise given that during his two terms, all government piggy banks were infected into near-emptiness by his kleptocratic fingers.

Anyway, never mind that. What we should do instead is exercise our minds further and imagine that bakili is in the group of beneficial presidentus domocrati bacteria that are used to vaccinate Malawi against endemic dictatorship.  And let’s say this vaccine turns pathogenic whenever any dose over and above the recommended one is taken.  

In our case, Dr Constitution prescribes a maximum of two consecutive five year doses of any strain of presidentus. Of course, in some cases just the first five years may be more than enough. But like some experiment gone awry, bakili simply refuses to go away whatever Malawi tries to do. Not even a prescription of the widely acclaimed antibiotic Section 83 (3) seems to be working.

But why? No matter how much I try, I can’t for the life of me figure out why one Bakili Muluzi deludes himself into believing that Malawi needs him for another five year term, at the very least. I can’t believe he thinks we’re so masochistic we would like encores of being beaten by Young Democrats even when we seek refuge in police stations. I don’t understand how he thinks we’re ready to have our government coffers  fleeced once again. I just can’t comprehend why he’s convinced we want more of the ghost schools that were built all over the country. I thought even someone as delusional as him would by now have grasped the fact that we didn’t enjoy our retrogression on virtually every human development index. How could he fail to see that we were ashamed of having a president who was more comfortable spouting shallow jokes on the decade long campaign trail than being behind his desk doing what we elected him for?

By the way, let’s not forget that should he be allowed to run and happens to win, we wouldn’t have him for just five years. No way! He would cling to the seat for another ten years at the very least. After all, I would be far from surprised were he to once again try to fiddle with Malawi’s constitution to increase or worse still remove the term limits. Wasn’t he the consummate tinkler during his second term! A Constitution Engineer, if you follow my drift.

Remember Chavez of Venezuela has succeeded in having term limits removed after having failed to do so at his first attempt.

****

What? You still don’t get it! OK, let’s consult the non-existent but voluminous Daniso’s Dictionary of Concocted Definitions where we find:

Bacilli: n. pl \ba*cil*li\  Rod shaped, spore forming, aerobic bacteria of the genus Bacillus.

Bakili: n. s. \ba*ki*li\  A strain of the presidentus democrati bacteria that first to self-destruct after 10 years and instead turned pathogenic. It is highly resistant to anti-biotics

 
 

At long last, the Americans can decide who they want as their 44th president. Of course, I've no idea who between Obama and McCain will be forced to toss away his victory speech, wear a plastic smile for the world's cameras, and state that he feels "honored to congratulate my worthy opponent who run a great campaign."

Or something along those lines.

In any case, there's never been an American presidential race that's generated so much interest around the world. Certainly, not since I started following these things.

All because of one Barak Obama.

Those of you who have been following opinion polls know they've Obama winning this race, in some cases, by a landslide. But how accurate are they? It isn't an exact science, is it? Just look at the variance in the margin of victory from as little as 2% to as much as 13%. Then factor in the margin of error. No wonder pollsters sometimes end up with crimson faces (pollsters are predominantly white) because they predicted wrong. 

This year, there may be another factor that makes the election crystal balls a little more hazy. One of the candidates isn't white, you see.

You think that can't affect the polls? Don't you think it's possible that some people who get polled may say they'll cast their vote for Obama l of being perceived racists by the pollsters? In the privacy of a voting both, on the other hand, they' would be free to, as many blacks fear, express their genuine will by voting for McCain.

I don't know how many closet racists (voting booth racists may be more apt in this case) there are, but it could be a significant enough number to swing elections McCain's way in some of the so called swing states.

By the way, it isn't only Malawi that has a new Moses. Apparently Obama is one, too. At least that's what Bishop C. Garnett Henning has declared.

 
 

One could see see the intrinsic  beauty in the woman. A little scrabbing with some soap is all it would require to bring it out. Were she to be dubbed in a little lotion, dusted with some powder here and there, and her lips glossed with lipstick, she couldn’t be too much out of place on a Milan catwalk.

But there she was standing outside People’s along Victoria Avenue, a suckling baby strapped to her bosom. Two young children, obviously hers, were hovering nearby, alternating between chasing each other and stretching out their arms to prospective benefactors.

When I got accosted by the two apprentice beggars, I saw red.

Come on! Of course, I wasn’t angry at the two. After all, they were just victims of circumstance. Neither was I annoyed at the mother although for the life of me I can’t begin to understand why she’s been willingly procreating children into a life of perpetual begging.

The people who make me angry are the NGO loudmouths who were so quick to proclaim their condemnation when Madonna decided to take David Banda into her material world. Our local media were awash with well fed spokespersons expressing their ire at the intended adoption. But can these self-serving NGO honchos honestly claim David is worse off in the Material Girl’s household than the streets that some kids are forced to prowl?

If they really care, why can’t they do something about these destitute children and their mothers? I’m sure they’re waiting for another high profile adoption before their well fed bodies can be bothered to alight from their expensive 4x4s to utter their condemnation to our media.

They really make my blood boil these NGO big whigs. After all they don't speak when they should. For instance, they say nought about the goings on in our parliament. By keeping quiet, they are implicitly abetting the shoving of insults and other unsavoury language into the impressionable brains of our children by forcing them to listen to live broadcasts from our parliament. Eh? It isn’t for nothing that movies, games, and even music come with ratings. Ratings are supposed to help responsible parents make informed decisions regarding what their children can watch and listen to.

In my book, our parliamentary sessions should be X-rated. Unless of course, as it now appears, we're intent on nurturing future MPs who'll be even better skilled at uncouth language.

But since parliament can't be X-rated, these NGOs should support the next best thing. They should all rally behind the ban of live broadcasts of the insane goings on that masquerade as debate in our so-called august house.

By the way, it seems to me that the sole raison d'être for many of these NGOs appears to be nothing else besides spouting condemnation at one thing or the other. In fact, that doesn’t sound very accurate. I take that back, if you please. You see, I forgot that some of these NGOs were created primarily as bread bins for the founders.

You want to start an NGO? Easy. Just aim a few well publicised salvos at the president for his dictatorial bent, a couple at the Kay uranium mine, and one or two at the conduct of the registration exercise. Don’t forget to coin a phrase or two about gender equality and or HIV/AIDS. Within days a gullible donor or two will come running with an open cheque book, demanding that you urgently submit a proposal for funding. And when you submit one, ensure that your budget lines include the latest full house 4x4, an impressive looking PC and at least five well allowanced workshops per year. 

Never mind the poor street children. They can continue being denied their right to education. After all, if they go to school, who’ll be helping their parents walk the city streets for alms? When would they hone their begging skills? You wouldn’t have the time, anyway. Don’t you’ve to run that workshop where attendees are given teas and lunch and go to their homes at the end of each day but still receive fat allowances?

 
 

I’m standing still, very still, all my focus beamed on the mirror in front of me.

No, no...come now...eh, you! How could I be evaluating my chances of winning the Mr Universe contest?  I’m well aware of my deficiencies in the looks department. I don't have the looks that elicit second glances from womenfolk, let alone set their hearts aflutter with love at first sight. But then don't they say a man is ugly only if he has no money?

Now why did I say that? If that's true, then to the majority of the women I must be ugly for an overwhelming majority of each month! You see, women seem to be able to smell each time the entire population of my emaciated pay packet and I have agreed to disagree and gone our separate ways. Hence, the critical lack of smouldering come-on glances thrown my way way just days after pay day.

But I'm digressing here. I know you're itching to know what I'm doing standing still in front of a mirror. Eh...it's nothing, really. All I’m doing is hunt for sightings of black hairs in the lush mop on my head. I’m talking about genuinely black hair, if you get my drift.

Of course, I’ve still got lots of black hair in areas of my body that don’t see the sun...areas that can’t be mentioned in polite society (and NO! Under threat of you-know-what sanctions, my wife isn’t answering any questions regarding those areas). But when it comes to my head, there’s almost no black hair in sight. Hold it! Hold it! I think I’ve just found one! Phew! Boy, wasn’t I worried!

Yet time was when every single strand of hair on any area of my body, prime real estate or otherwise, was black. This must be around about the time when the whole of Malawi had only two computers, both in Blantyre, one at Railways and the other at the Data Processing Department.

Inexplicably, the progress in technology has kept pace with the number of gray hairs on my head. I'm sure somewhere in there there’s a mathematical equation relating the two. How else do I explain the phenomenon of my gray hair becoming less and less uncountable with each major technological stride? You see, my hair hasn't really been the same since 1981 when IBM introduced the Personal Computer and one Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to help spread them around the world by publishing the so called Disk Operating System that drove them. DOS anyone?

The manual typewriter, which by the way, wouldn’t be out of place in a modern day gym was slowly electrocuted out of existence by its younger sibling, the electric typewriter. What was that speck I could see within my thick Afro mop? A strand of gray hair? Not sure, but it was nothing to worry about.

Then electric typewriters gave way to dedicated word processors that in turn emigrated to attics, museums and scrap heaps around the world. Entering keyboard left were PC based word processors.

By this time my lone strand of gray hair had somehow managed to find a spouse and produce a couple of children. But I could still manage to make my hair look black. With clenched teeth and a wince or two, I could pluck those offending hairs every time they dared show their snouts.

Then number crunching became easier for bean counters who bothered to learn spreadsheet programs like Lotus 1-2-3. By then my family of gray hairs had spawned a whole village of grays. No, make that a whole nation. Of course, it follows that the number and frequency of uprooting grew dramatically. So did the winces that accompanied the grooming. Yes, I know the pain women go through every time they have to remove hairs on their legs.

But today with gray hairs outnumbering the black ones, plucking them into extinction is no longer a practical option. Seen my tin of black polish, anyone? It ain’t easy putting on this façade of youth, you know.

Neither is it easy keeping up with the technology changes that are taking place in our world today, not even for a professional. From the 5¼ inch floppy disks to the less fragile 3½ inch ones...to the hard disks to the CDs...to the DVDs...to the flash disks...to Blu-ray. From the monochrome green or amber CRT monitors to today’s LCD and plasma HDTVs (high definition televisions) with millions of colors that are as happy to serve as monitors or as TVs. From grainy PacMan to today’s £D games that require high spec graphics and sound cards. From arcade game machines to personal game consoles like the Playstation 3 , Nintendo Wii or Xbox 360. From the tape recorder to today’s THX certified home theater systems that have 5.1 speaker systems as the bare minimum. From analogue fixed phones to mobile phones that can also take notes, shoot photos and videos, download or record and play music, take notes, do spreadsheets, browse the Internet, access your e-mail and even have give you the coordinates of where you’re.  From a time when we could do with just one anti-virus software update per year, if at all, to the present when it’s no longer enough to update your anti-virus software once a day (you also have to update your anti-spyware, firewall, anti-spam measures and whatever else it takes to keep your computers and even yourselves safe. From the marvel of telex to fax...to the deluge of unsolicited e-mails…to instant messaging...to broadband Internet…to VOIP and media streaming.

Yes, long ago, my hair was completely black and I wasn’t being force fed Microsoft every which way. I could choose to have WordPerfect, Word Star, Word or Multimate as my word processing program, while Lotus 1-2-3, SuperCalc and Quattro Pro were some of the offerings on the spreadsheet menu. In those days we swore not by the moon, the inconsistent moon, but by WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 because they ruled  their respective electronic roosts. Granted there was a dearth of alternative s in other areas. For example, the choices in the other fields were a little thinner with Harvard Graphics dominating the presentation software and dBase III lording it over others in database management.

But it’s my black hair I remember and miss the most because while black and white looks great on a piano keyboard or even a chess board, I don’t like them cohabiting on my head. I also miss Lotus 1-2-3 although it wasn’t fun outputting spreadsheets onto paper via Epson dot-matrix printers or the then high end and expensive HP LaserJet IIIs. Not at all. No, not even when the catchphrase WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) became a pick-up line. With a little more business sense, I could still be comfortably living off tips I used to get helping people print their spreadsheets.

It’s not like these days, is it? These days some printers let you print more than one page per sheet of paper and on both sides. Others, like Microsoft Word, will even  print multiple pages on just one sheet of paper using almost any respectable laser printer. Remember this facility used to be a PowerPoint domain.

By the way, Word will let you print as many as sixteen pages on a single sheet. I know that’s not as many as the white sprouts that now cover my scalp—you don’t have to rub it in, you know—but enough to enable you save on paper (without damaging your eyes in the process. What’s more, the environmentalists would love you for it.

So how do you do it?

Simple really, if you use Microsoft Word. Start by selecting “Print” (either via the File menu or by simultaneously pressing Ctrl and P and then quickly releasing them). At the bottom right corner of the Print dialogue box that follows, the Zoom corner if you wish, select the number of pages you want per sheet by clicking the arrow at the end of the Pages per sheet box. Then click OK.

Easy, right? If only it were as easy to keep my hair black. Now, where’s that bloody tin of black polish?

 
 

In one of our electronic forums, a hot debate ensued. Bytes flew as people argued, for and against, the notion that if your, …er…private parts have been seen by more than one person, then you’ve renounced your right to calling them private. In other words, they morph into public parts.

I stood on the fence on this one even though I didn’t quite agree with what seemed to be the majority view. You see, I’ve been to private clubs, private parties, private schools, private hospitals and so on. I’m pretty certain I’ve never been on my own at any of these places.

Come to think of it, by virtue of walking out of your house and being seen by hundreds of eyes, do you become a public person? And, by extension, should my significant other cease to consider me as her private property simply because several other people see me every day?

I’ll let lawyers argue over that one. Or the women concerned.

However, while I may not be sure about the private or public nature of one’s body parts, I firmly believe that what you and your partner do with those parts is not public business. If you decide to digitise memories of shenanigans starring your parts, that’s your business. It certainly shouldn’t be the business of computer techies who’ve gained access to your storage media to publish those memories to the general public. They can gasp, drool, ogle or whatever but they should leave such data on the media they find it on without. They shouldn't be making copies and publishing such data as recently happened in Malawi.

Computer techies should be like doctors. You go to a doctor with damaged parts safe in the knowledge that it won't become public knowledge. How would you feel if the fact that you’ve been prescribed 16cc jabs on account of your crown jewels having one blemish or other became the subject of a viral e-mail? How would you feel knowing that your being unwell down there was a favourite topic not only at bridal showers but also watering holes around the country? How would you feel knowing that your doctor let on that your unprotected parts hadn’t emerged unscathed from your recent stint in the battle trenches of a Red Light district like Devil Street? How would you feel were your doctor  to publicise the fact that you’re contributing to global warming with your environmentally unfriendly practices of scything down every blade of hair in your nether regions?

I think it’s time information and telecommunication practitioners came up with an oath modeled on the Hippocratic Oath. Why re-invent the wheel? It might go something like this: “Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, on the hard disks or other digital media of users or clients, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge let alone publish in cyberspace, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret.”

Because this is about Information and Telecommunication Technology, or ICT in short, we shall call it the  Ictoractic Oath.

By the way, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in recent weeks is that Malawians, men and women alike, love porn and will use any flimsy excuse to glue their eyes on it. In this particular case, they hide behind the veil of the newsworthiness of the whole saga, to view and discuss the sordid details of porn, down to the number and colour of beads, in public.

Malawians, you've just been outed as porn addicts.

Oh, I forgot. I’ve also acquired a new pick up line: “Tiye tikajambulane.”


 

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    Children, too, can have profound thoughts
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    The Three Little Hills (Phiris)