Things are not as they seem

I was inspired by Joy of Lamusicjunkie to do a post today. Thanks for that Joy,  Well in. Funny how writers block is murdered so easily and effortlessly. Ive always been a curious one and nothing puts me in a binder more than being so sure of myself then being proven so wrong. It is always a hook that I always bite. I am definitely not alone in this as that kind of story telling seems to be the plot for just about all the movies and series I end up enjoying. Somebody cue Shutter Island,

Film poster for The Usual Suspects
Film poster for The Usual Suspects (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Usual Suspects .  . The attraction to these flicks is simply because I couldn’t predict the end, or rather that my predictions were so far from the truth. Mind F***s are also welcome as was seen on the (tiger on boat thing) So its evident am definitely a story kinda guy. A well told story is the best thing you could gift me.

And then last week happened. I was amongst the folk that was caught with their jaws on the floor as Donald Trump became the 45th President elect of the land of the free, home of the brave. I totally didn’t see it coming and I thought those who were afraid of his win were rather panicky. As he marched from one ridiculous statement to the next even being recorded talking about how he groped women, I didn’t think he stood a chance. but here we are.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...
speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I suppose we deserved it. Those that believed Hillary would win live in a bubble. A bubble that sees the way the world works to be ideal. A bubble that doesn’t exactly struggle to make ends meet. One where the tax increases that hurt are on beer and cigarettes, and only for a little while. This bubble is across the world. I see it in Nairobi all the time. I remember when buying a beer was 120/- and that was considered costly. This is barely 4 years ago. A regular beer now in a regular bar is upwards of 200/-. Ofcourse this can be attributed to the government layering on the sin tax on alcohol. Which is actually fine. What is interesting is that the rate of consumption doesn’t reduce at all with increase in price. Everything else is getting cheaper in terms of capital required to start a business or enterprise but the cost of living keeps increasing.

Its easy to get lost in the bubble and the echo chamber that is social media. You post what we think our friends will like, proceed to get 400 likes and believe this is a true reflection of what its like out there. I think our Presidential Social Media team has fallen for this. And its probably dangerous for all of us. To live in a bubble that thinks next years elections will be won by the incumbent just because they control the state, parliament and Twitter.

Geopolitics is amazing and in another life i will take it up as a study topic as I find it fascinating. Its especially very satisfying to spot a trend and predict outcomes correctly. It is also very educative to be proven so wrong so hard. I will not forget the Trump lesson and its implications locally.

Another prediction that I have had for ages is that the era of global wars is over what with mutually assured destruction being what it is. But when a guy like Putin starts talking like this and guys like Trump win elections. . . well what can I say. I hope I don’t get to eat my own words.

Airtel Kenya

I don’t understand some companies.

I imagine that the primary motivation for a commercial company is profit. For a mass market company that profit lies with the consumers. Keeping our consumers happy is thus a reasonable way of getting more money = happy shareholders. Keeping them infuriated is not a good plan.

Back when they were still Celtel or Zain, I got myself a postpaid line since I ad an online gig that needed near constant internet. Back then accessing net was either at a cyber(expensive and movement restricting) or getting a mobile connection(still expensive and slow but doable)

I used to pay what I pay now for my Zuku connection so I expected proper services. It was fine technically for the most part considering the times and the options available.  At some point they decided to ‘revamp’ the postpaid offering. The resulting interaction led to my breaking of he contract.

The deal we had was this. I pay 4,000/- a month and get unlimited internet and 1000/- for voice /SMS usage. Pretty ok and I had no desire to leave this arrangement. The new plan was more or less the same but voice was cheaper so of course I signed on. Once the new postpaid plan was launched they decided that I no longer needed unlimited internet and started billing per MB. All without as much as sending an SMS or email about it. Come the end of the month I am presented with a bill for 45,000/- bob. The ensuing correspondence between us was basically threats about me signing a contract and needing to pay and nonsense about my phone being off when they tried to reach me.

 I just threw away the line and let them keep the deposit.

Recently I came upon Airtel airtime vouchers that was unused for a past project. The vouchers had since expired and thus unusable.

I have had similar predicaments with both Orange and Safaricom and the matter was dealt with swiftly usually by extending the expiry of the cards and rendering them active again. As explained by @tommakau here it is not a prudent policy for telcos to extend the lifespan of  their consumable products but simply refusing to enable consumers to use legitimately purchased resources is just ridiculous.

Calls to the customer care were unfruitful, Twitter responses were the standard ‘ give us your no. and we get back to you’ (They haven’t.), visits to the Customer centers result in a blank look and my cards being slid across the table back to me. Basically the message is ‘ You shouldn’t have let them expire in the first place.’ For the most part they have no idea what to do with them. Replacing or sorting you out is seemingly not amongst their options.

I now have 3,000/- bob worth of Airtel airtime and the best I can do with it is use them as table wedges or kindling for fire.




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My Top Android Apps

Having been an android user for several years now, I can comfortable list the apps I must have installed on my phone to feel comfortable and use my gadget optimally.

So here is my definitive list and is not necessarily conclusive seeing as time has not stopped and I have less than normal loyalty to any software/platform/device.


  • Official Twitter App


Twitter is my no.1 source of news, gossip, humor and a personal realtime information source that I ave relied upon many times in the past.  This has always been my default and only twitter client. Several versions ago, the functionality was rather bogus and other clients such as Uber twitter, seesmic etc but the constant advertisements and requests to buy pro versions put me off and I stuck to the regular app. They have since greatly improved even adding Instagram like filters for its photo functionality.

  • Google Maps


Google Maps

If there is a favorite and must have app on any smartphone anywhere it is the maps app and by far Google has the best product. Their strategy of crowd sourcing their mapping to all and sundry has yielded the most comprehensive privately funded mapping product that is freely available to the general public. I have helped map some parts of the country that I have had the fortune of having intimate information about and thus I could say I have made my mark too.

Before any trip I make it is the first app I consult to know the estimated distance I would be driving and the general route that would get me there. Granted it is not as comprehensive as in the ‘developed’ countries with turn by turn directions and traffic info but it is good enough as it is.

SoundHound Shazam


Ever heard an awesome track or song in a matatu or the over the radio and would almost kill to know the name or the artiste so that you find it later on youtube or buy it or something? Then you can appreciate how convenient having an app in your phone that can do that is. I remember seeing this capability first in Sony Ericsson handsets and it was called TrackID back then.

Sometimes Sound hound doesn’t find the track and I switch to Shazam and vice versa. I prefer Shazam though due to its easy integration with social media and the faster loading. Must have apps if you are an audiophile or really into music porn.


  • Google Reader


Google reader


I read lotsa blogs and keeping track of  new posts is impossible. Enter google reader that neatly arranges all new posts up for you to read, laugh,gawk, sneer and get inspired by. It helps sustain my reading habit(or at-least whats left of it) because otherwise I and my bookmarks bar on my browser would be overwhelmed. This I also use everyday and is possibly the first app I download whenever I get a new android phone.

  • Opera Mini

Opera mini


This has been a constant on the cellie since the dumb phone era of Nokias with 32mb internal storage. Used to be (and still is) the first essential apps I download after getting a data connection on a new cell phone. Incidentally the few manufacturers that bundle it with the phone software manage to lock it in an ancient version impossible to upgrade(Am looking at you Samsung) and am forced to install another alongside that remains up-to-date.

Opera mini is seamless, reliable, data saving and generally awesome.


  • Ma3Route


This is the only Kenyan made app that I use regularly. Its directions functionality when using public transport (read chaotic Matatus) is legendary and has saved my skin several times. The traffic update thing needs some more polishing but is usable as it is. I also like that it tells you how much the fare will costs thus avoiding getting swindled by touts.


  • Foursquare




I have waited with baited breath for a local recommendation app for local spots eg restaurants, hotels, clubs, fuel stations and that sort of thing based on location but I suppose this is a problematic business model. Populating the database is costly and if  crowd-sourcing is the intended method of getting the data then the motivation for using the app or service needs to be appealing.

Google latitude tried this out but Google barely marketed it and it is a ghost town todate. Foursquare has stepped in nicely and with the growing user base, maturing platform and improving aesthetics, it has garnered some semblance of reliability in terms of local recommendations. Most recommendations however are mostly middle class joints with most people checking in to posh venues and avoid tagging when they are in river road.

Thats my list, would be interested to know what others deem their must have apps.

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