Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Kilimanjaro hung suspended like a rose-coloured bubble above the abyss beyond the world." - White #QotD

2015.09.27-DSC03214Here are a few more quotes on Kilimanjaro from authors who visited at about the same time, Winston Churchill and Stewart White.
Our oryx led us a mile or more over rocky slopes, always promising and never giving a good chance for a shot, until at last he drew us round the shoulder of a hill — and there, abruptly, was the rhinoceros. The impression was extraordinary. A wide plain of white, withered grass stretched away to low hills broken with rocks. The rhinoceros stood in the middle of this plain, about five hundred yards away, in jet-black silhouette; not a twentieth-century animal at all, but an odd, grim straggler from the Stone Age. He was grazing placidly, and above him the vast snow dome of Kilimanjaro towered up in the clear air of morning to a scene unaltered since the dawn of the world.
My African Journey (1909) by Winston Churchill, pp. 14-15
* * * * * 
We dined just at sunset under a small tree at the very top of the peak. Long bars of light
shot through the western clouds; the plain turned from solid earth to a mysterious sea of shifting twilights ; the buttes stood up, wrapped in veils of soft desert colours ; Kilimanjaro hung
suspended like a rose-coloured bubble above the abyss beyond the world.
African Camp Fires (1914) by Stewart E. White,  p. 183

Some quotes Kilimanjaro, or "Ngaje Ngai," or house of God, by James Thomson #QotD

2015.09.28-DSC03328"Joseph Thomson (14 February 1858 – 2 August 1895) was a Scottish geologist and explorer who played an important part in the Scramble for Africa. Thomson's Gazelle is named for him. Excelling as an explorer rather than an exact scientist, he avoided confrontations among his porters or with indigenous peoples, neither killing any native nor losing any of his men to violence. His motto is often quoted to be "He who goes gently, goes safely; he who goes safely, goes far." The Thomson's gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii) was named after him." (Wikipedia: Joseph Thompson)
  • Through Masai land: a journey of exploration among the snowclad volcanic mountains and strange tribes of eastern equatorial Africa. Being the narrative of the Royal Geographical Society's Expedition to mount Kenia and lake Victoria Nyanza, 1883-1884 (1885) by Joseph Thompson
On Kilimanjaro:

2015.09.27-DSC03228As we emerge from the shady grove we stand entranced by a lovely sight which unexpectedly breaks on our view. For many days we have been at the base of Kilimanjaro, and yet not a glimpse has rewarded our frequent attempts to view its cloud-piercing heights. We have begun almost to ask ourselves if we are, after-all, to be doomed to the mere "mental recognition" ascribed to Rebmann. Happily such is not to be our fate. The "Mount Olympus" of these parts stands forth revealed in all its glory fitly framed by the neighbouring trees. There is the grand dome or crater of Kibo, with its snow cap glancing and scintillating like burnished silver in the rays of the afternoon sun, and there, on its eastern flank, as a striking contrast, rise the jagged outlines of the craggy peak of Kimawenzi. What words can adequately describe this glimpse of majestic grandeur and godlike repose? We can only stand speechless with feelings of awe. But our opportunity is brief. The veil has merely been temporarily lifted, and now huge, fleecy-white cumulus clouds roll and tumble along the sides of the great mountain till only the black pinnacle and the glittering dome are seen projected against the pure azure, and hanging apparently in mid-heaven more impressive than ever. At last a veil of stratus mysteriously spreads itself out. In a few seconds the whole scene has vanished, "like the baseless fabric of a vision," and we find ourselves blankly staring at a monotonous expanse of grey.  (pp. 64-65)

Let us now turn our attention to the " Mount Olympus of those parts." But at the very outset let me confess that I shrink from the task of attempting to convey any idea of this colossal mountain. I feel that the subject is beyond the power of my puny pen, and that here, sifter all, I am very much on a level with the untutored Masai savage, who simply stands awe-struck before the sublime spectacle, and tells you it is the "Ngaje Ngai," or house of God. '''

* * * * * 

2015.09.28-DSC03318 The term Kilima-Njaro has generally been understood to mean the Mountain (Kilima) of Greatness (Njaro). This probably is as good a derivation as any other, though not improbably it may really mean the "White" mountain, as I believe the term "Njaro" has in former times been used to denote whiteness, and though this application of the word is now obsolete on the coast, it is still heard among some of the interior tribes. Either translation is equally applicable, and we need raise no dispute on such a trivial question. By the "Wa-chaga the mountain is not known under one name, the two masses which form it being respectively named Kibo and Kimawenzi. By the Masai, whose proper names are almost always descriptive of some essential feature, it is known as Donyo (mountain) Ebor (white), from the eternal snow which forms such a striking phenomenon on the dome or crater of Kibo. (p. 115-116)

* * * * * 
2015.09.27-DSC03225Beside these, there extend considerable tracts covered with a pure white crust of natron and saltpetre, formed by the efflorescence of the salts left by the dried-up marshes of the wet season. These areas appear to the eye as sheets of pure white snow or lakes of charmingly clear water. At other times, struck by the rays of the sun, they shine Avith the dazzling splendour of burnished silver. A weird haze envelopes the land with an influence shadowy and ghostly, while the mirage adds to the strange effects, till indeed everything seems unreal and deceptive. The exceptional nature of the sight is emphasized by the stupendous mass of Kilimanjaro, the pyramidal form of Meru, the double peak of Ndapduk, and the dark height of Donyo Erok, which are all faintly traceable through the dull grey sheen. In spite of the desolate and barren aspect of the country, game is to be seen in marvellous abundance. The giraffe, fit denizen of such a region, appears against the horizon like some unearthly monster, or browses among the trees and bushes. The wildebeest, imp-like and fierce in appearance, frisks with uncouth movements, or speeds with stiff, ungainly gallops across the natron plain. Zebras in long lines pace leisurely along from some distant pasture-ground. Hyenas slink home from their meal of carrion. Lions satisfied with the night's venture express their sense of repletion with reverberating roars. The inquiry that naturally rises to one's mind is. How can such enormous numbers of large game live in this extraordinary desert? (p. 158)

Friday, September 25, 2015

A few quotes on Nairobi from Happy Valley: The Story of the English in Kenya (1979) by Nicholas Best

IMG_20150923_164001846_HDRA few quotes from:

2015.09.23-IMG_5071 Today the stepping stones form part of Museum Bridge at the head of the Uhuru Highway, Nairobi City’s most prestigious tree-lined boulevard.

* * *

There was no thought of making Nairobi anything more than just a halt on the line. It was far too unhealthy, for one thing. The swamp extended from the present Boulevard Hotel to Racecourse Road and was a strong breeding ground for malaria.

* * *

Ainsworth chose a site now occupied by the National Museum on the hill above the tribal stepping stones. With his American wife Ina he took up residence on the spot filled since the 1970s by a full-sized fibreglass model of Ahmed, Kenya’s most famous elephant.


It has been ... the fashion to speak of Nairobi as an ugly little town ... It is not true now. - S.E. White #QotD

It has been, as I have said, the fashion to speak of Nairobi as an ugly little town. This was probably true when the first corrugated iron houses huddled unrelieved near the railway station. It is not true now. The lower part of town is well planted, and is always picturesque as long as its people are astir. The white population have built in the wooded hills some charming bungalows surrounded by bright flowers or lost amid the trunks of great trees. From the heights on which is Government House one can, with a glass, watch the game herds feeding on the plains. Two clubs, with the usual games of golf, polo, tennis — especially tennis — football and cricket; a weekly hunt, with jackals instead of foxes ; a bungalow town club on the slope of a hill ; an electric light system; a race track; a rifle range; frilly parasols and the latest fluffiest summer toilettes from London and Paris — I mention a few of the refinements of civilization that offer to the traveller some of the most piquant of contrasts. (pp. 133-34) From: African Camp Fires (1914) by Stewart E. White


Generally I and Nairobi were in very good understanding ... and thought: There is no world without Nairobi’s streets. #QotD

IMG_20150924_174859993Generally I and Nairobi were in very good understanding, and at one time I drove through the town and thought: There is no world without Nairobi’s streets.

Out of Africa & Shadows on the Grass (1937, 1960) by Issak Dinesen

"Nairobi has burst out of itself ... Around us are matatus, those brash, garish public transport vehicles" @BinyavangaW #QotD

From around Museum Hill, Nairobi, Kenya
From: One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir (2011) by Binyavanga Wainaina 
I am nervous. Nairobi has burst out of itself, like a rotting fruit, and I don’t think I like it. The taxi drives from the airport into the city center. Around us are matatus, those brash, garish public transport vehicles. Manambas conduct the movement of the matatu, hanging out of the open doors, performing all kinds of gymnastics as they call their routes, announce openings in the traffic, and communicate with the driver through a series of bangs on the roof that manage to be heard above the music.

The town of Nairobi, the capital of the East Africa Protectorate, stands on the base of wooded hills at the three hundred and twenty-seventh mile of the railroad. #QotD

IMG_20150923_111633502_HDRMy African journey by Winston Churchill (1909)
The town of Nairobi, the capital of the East Africa Protectorate, stands on the base of wooded hills at the three hundred and twenty-seventh mile of the railroad. Originally chosen as a convenient place for assembling the extensive depots and shops necessary to the construction and maintenance of the railway, it enjoys no advantages as a residential site. The ground on which the town is built is low and swampy. The supply of water is indifferent, and the situation generally unhealthy. A mile farther on, however, upon the rising ground a finer position could have been found, and this quarter is already being occupied sparsely by Government buildings, hospitals, and barracks. It is now too late to change, and thus lack of foresight and of a comprehensive view leaves its permanent imprint upon the countenance of a new country. (p. 19)

Live from the USA! @FabLadyB at the @BiodivLibrary #BHLAfrica workshop

Good morning from the breakfast room at the Nairobi Panafric

Thursday, September 24, 2015

NAIROBI is situated at the far edge of the great Athi Plains and just below a range of hills. It might about as well have been anywhere else, and perhaps better a few miles back in the higher country. #QotD

From: African camp fires by Stewart Edward White (1914)

IMG_20150924_173659NAIROBI is situated at the far edge of the great Athi Plains and just below a range of hills. It might about as well have been anywhere else, and perhaps better a few miles back in the higher country. Whether the funny little narrow-gauge railroad exists for Nairobi, or Nairobi for the railroad, it would be difficult to say. (p. 127)

* * * * *

IMG_20150924_174219Between the station and the hotel at Nairobi is a long straight wide well-made street, nearly a mile long, and bordered by a double row of young eucalyptus. These latter have changed the main street of Nairobi from the sunbaked array of galvanized houses described by travellers of a half dozen years back to a thoroughfare of great charm. The iron houses and stores are now in a shaded background; and the attention is freed to concentrate on the vivid colouring, the incessant movement, the great interest of the people moving to and fro. When I left Nairobi the authorities were considering the removal of these trees, because one row of them had been planted slightly within the legal limits of the street. What they could interfere with in a practically horseless town I cannot imagine, but I trust this stupidity gave way to second thought. (pp 181-82)

Going to try how to NOT write about "Africa" with some guidance from @BinyavangaW

Nairobi National Museum, Kenya
So, it is hard to write about "Africa", hard not to fall into the cliches that Binyavanga Wainaina  has laid out for us in his witty (and biting) essay, "How to Write About Africa" (Granta 92, 19 Jan 2006: The View from Africa).
Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.
This is a hard one, but just for "sky". Some places just have great skies. New Mexico and the rest of the American West has it, so did South Africa and Ghana. So did Kenya!

And likewise: 
Readers will be put off if you don’t mention the light in Africa. And sunsets, the African sunset is a must. It is always big and red. There is always a big sky. Wide empty spaces and game are critical—Africa is the Land of Wide Empty Spaces.
And last, "Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care."

Not sure how I did overall during my trip to Ghana and South Africa, but I'll try not to do that with these posts during my time in Kenya, specifically the environs of Nairobi and Kajiado County in the Great Rift Valley (Amboseli National Park to be exact).

Another interesting take on a classic cocktail while in Africa ... A sorta martini

... But couldn't really say what was in it...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Nzuri asubuhi Nairobi ... From my balcony

The plot twist continues, eBooks sales aren't really slipping, but traditional publishers might be

2013.07.25-IMG_4847The New York Times (22 September 2015) once again ran an article loaded with dubious data and anecdotes about the relative market share of print and electronic books. As you know, I'm a fan of BOOKS, eBooks or pBooks, not just the sacrosanct CODEX format that so many equate as the ONLY form for books. The article in question, "The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead" by Alexandra Alter relies heavily on a January 2015 Nielsen report (see here) that purported to show a dramatic decrease in the ebook market. This report has been analyzed in a number of places and found to have dubious methodology (see, for instance "Did Nielsen Report US eBook Sales Were Down in 2014, or Volume?"  and "Reports of a Shrinking US eBook Market Have Been Greatly Exaggerated (Nielsen Pubtrack)"). These analyses (from June 2015) as well as an earlier article in The Guardian ("The ebook is dead. Long live the ebook" from February 2015) seem to have escaped the reportorial eye of The Times writer. One might also wonder why the Nielsen report (nearly 9 months old) is news for The Times Media desk.

The Times article also calls into question such new services as Kindle Unlimited (an all you can read subscription model which is both more successful than Alter implies and, as author Hugh Howey has shown, is a financial boon to authors). See for instance Howey's "Kindle Unlimited Scores a Knockout" (15 August 2015). A sneaking suspicion is that the disdain show for "all you can eat books" comes from the genres most heavily represented, Romance and Scifi. Too many pundits don't consider them "literature" or their consumers "readers" and can then righteously ignore the market impact they have on the overall "book" industry and focus on the Big 5 with their trendy Manhattan offices and stylish editorial staff.

Alter, in The Times article, also notes the rise of Indie bookstores and here she's correct, Indies are on the rise (a good thing for both authors and readers), but they will always remain niche business; when Borders went out of business and Barnes and Noble shut large number of stores, the total sales from those big stores was not made up for in the growth of Indies. See "Why Indie Bookstores Are on the Rise Again" in Slate  (September 2014) for a good analysis of this phenomenon. The article also makes pains to describe new warehouses the Big 5 are building to get books faster to Indies (and other outlets). It's about time, Amazon has been doing that for year (taking grief from publishers when start to whine when previously privileged access to those warehouses (as well as prime real estate on the Amazon website) are used as an Amazon negotiation tool, ahem, Hachette; see here for some interesting information).

Lastly, Alter drags out the old "ereader sales are declining" saw. In some fancy, confusing footwork, she notes that ereaders sales are crashing, while at the same time noting more reading is occurring on phones and tablets. Yes, dedicated e-ink ereader sales are slowing. In addition to fact that you can read on any device, we can thrown in that ereaders, such as the Kindle, are pretty robust devices. They don't screencrack like iPhones and are so basic, you don't need to upgrade with every new model. For hardcore readers, the e-ink screen is to ebooks what the fine leather binding is to print books. Single use devices are a luxury that are just that, a luxury. Here's an analogy in story form:
"Digital photography is dead!" says the Newspaper of Record. "People are obviously not taking digital pictures anymore. Look at the sales of digital cameras. The market is collapsing, there are fewer models on the market and for entry level models, the cost is a race to zero. A spokesman from Kodak crowed, 'People are tired of the convenience and value of digital photographs and appreciate the feel and beauty of 35mm analog cameras and photographic prints.'"
Indeed, digital camera sales have plummeted, but the number of digital photographs have exploded, probably beyond measure. That's because there's a camera in almost everybody's pocket -- it's called a "phone". There's a market for single purpose digital cameras, but it's a niche market. When everyone has an ereader in their pocket (it's called a "phone") the single purpose ereader is a niche product and annual sales will show a downward trend.
In short, what is occurring, in my humble analysis, is that ebook sales are down for the Big 5 (and their kindred) since they can set the prices for both print and ebooks on Amazon (the Agency Model). Readers who want ebooks can find a wealth of material (much unsurprisingly good). Those who want Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch (an example used in a couple of places) will have to pay whatever the publisher decides is the price. Publishers are (temporarily) in an enviable position of being able to make high margins on in-demand content. There's no incentive to increase the NUMBER of sales when you can control your profit by artificially keeping prices high. As Alter opines: "Higher e-book prices may also be driving readers back to paper."

Publishers get a double win here (low cost for ebook storage and delivery and a higher unit cost) and sometimes firesale prices on print books (storage and delivery often the courtesy of Amazon). Authors still get a fixed percentage of list price, but publishers, by limiting the discounts, keep a higher percentage of each unit sale; more unit sales are always better (though for print that are those pesky warehouse costs as well as bookstore returns, etc). At a certain point, profit as a percentage of sales decreases. At the extreme level (as mastered by the for-profit scholarly publishing industry) it's more profit effective to distribute ("sell") fewer copies of a publication at a higher price than to sell many copies cheap.

What we're hearing is not the death rattle of ebooks or print books, but the nagging, gnawing, rattling cough that foretells a painful restructuring of the publishing industry that will, in the long run, benefit both authors and readers. There will be winners and losers and I believe books (pBooks and eBooks) will be the winners.

Suggested reading (with more sources and data):

Along the Nairobi River

Getting ready for the BHL Africa workshop with @biodivlibrary team

Asubuhi njema Nairobi, a little cloudy out

Sunday, September 20, 2015

2015 Arlington County Fair competitive photography entries

IMG_20150809_192205A the Arlington County Fair this year, I had a very successful set of entries in the photography competitive exhibits. This year was the first where there was not an analog category which was interesting.

I, for the first time, won reserve ribbons (2 in fact!).

2015_PrideParade_ACFair"Allies" (2015)
2015 Pride Day Parade, San Francisco
Reserve (Purple Ribbon) & First Premium (Blue Ribbon)
Arlington County Fair Photography Entries

This was a series of shots at the 2015 Pride Day Parade in San Francisco. I was there for the ALA conference and everyone took a break to watch the parade. I liked the way that this stern looking cop suddenly started high-fiving marchers in the parade.

"Makola Market, Accra, Ghana" (2015)
Reserve Chamption (Pink Ribbon) & First Premium (Blue Ribbon)
Arlington County Fair Photography Entries

While on a visit to Accra, Ghana in May, I went to the famed Makola Market. An amazing place of sights, smells, and sounds. This picture, on one of the main streets of the market area provided some interesting juxtaposition of people and vehicles, the matching blues and purples caught my eye.

"Cutting Coconuts, Ghana" (2015)
Second Premium (Red Ribbon)
Arlington County Fair Photography Entries

On my trip to Ghana in May, I went to the Cape Coast area. After a visit to the Kakum National Park, my guide and I stopped for fresh coconuts. This young man did some nifty machete work before handing over the coconut.

2015.03.28-DSC00422_ACFair"Red" (2015)
Honorable Mention (Green Ribbon)
Arlington County Fair Photography Entries

The lobby of the Art Gallery Hotel in Amsterdam provided a nice backdrop for Grace after a long day of tramping around a dreary and rainy Amsterdam.