I finished The Girl on the Porch by Richard Chizmar. I picked it up in the first place because Stephen King wrote the book Gwendy’s Button Box with this author so I expected good things. It was okay but not terribly interesting.
I’m looking forward to reading The Navigator’s Children (Tad Williams) later this year but it doesn’t come out until November.
I think I might take a shot at reading the Shannara series again since it’s been 30+ years and so much has been added since then.
This year, as every year, I resolve to create more than I consume.
(edit) WARNING: this was a shower thought and seemed very profound at the time. In editing afterwards, perhaps not so much. Your mileage may vary.
Of course this can be translated in a number of different ways, and I mean them all. But while I hope to create more in quantity than I consume, I realize that’s not always practical.
Consider, for example, if you consume a cheeseburger. In theory, that consumed the time and resources of at least five different businesses. There’s the bread, the beef, the cheese, packaging, and the company that sold it to you.
But in reality, you probably only consumed a few seconds of each of their time, if that. Likewise, if I try to create things that are a benefit to more than just myself, I can have a similar distributed influence.
So what I tend to mean, by my resolution, is that I intend to spend more time creating than consuming, and thereby do my part contributing to the whole.
This is a really hard thing to do in practice, because life is tedious, stressful, and exhausting. And at the end of the day, I really only want to sit and drink in the pablum of television.
So, anyway, here’s to New Year’s resolutions, and meaning them honestly.
On the morning of Saturday, November 19, 2022, the Droidcon speakers were to meet at the Shell station on Waiyaki Way, which was just a short walk from my hotel. We were told we were going to leave promptly at 10:00, which was met with some laughter.
So at 9:30, I was dutifully waiting, all alone, at the Shell station.
By 10, there were a handful of people there, and other started arriving. By 11, there were enough people there to start talking about how transportation was going to work, and a little after 11, we started walking over to where we were going to meet our matatus for the trip. Which happened to be back over in front of the Jacaranda hotel.
We loaded into the matatu, where there was very, very loud music playing, and music videos on numerous TVs.
After another 20 minutes or so, another matatu arrived, and we redistributed between the two, and finally, just before noon, we pulled out, music thumping, towards the mystery outing.
We went through Langata, and Rongai, and out into Maasai land, and around 2:30, arrived at Olepolos Country Club, in Kiserian, for nyama choma.
I’m really glad I went. It was certainly not something that I would have chosen on my own, with the super-loud music and the hours of driving. But the time with new friends, and an amazing view once we got there, and good conversations there, were just a wonderful experience.
While there, Frank and I walked around, and he showed me the Maasai boma that was there on the property. (I did not take any pictures of that, since the people living there were not eager to be photographed.
I was fascinated to learn that, even now in 2022, the Maasai people live as they always have. Frank told me some about their traditions, and how they live. One man will have many wives, each of whom has their own hut for themselves and their kids. Each evening, the man will decide which wife he wants to stay with, and will plant his spear at the door of her hut. All the other residents of that hut will have to find other lodgings for the evening.
When he wants another wife, he is not obliged to inform her. Rather, he negotiates a bride price with her father, and the other wives fetch her, and help her build her new hut in the boma.
I also learned that daughters do not look at their father, as it is disrespectful. They would certainly not look him in the face, but must avert their eyes when he is near.
After dinner, the matatus had already left, and so I was put in a rather small car with 7 people, and we drove back to Nairobi, arriving quite late.
The final day of Droidcon was also excellent. Lots more great presentations, and great conversations.
At one point in the day, a crew from KBC came to interview various of the speakers, and we were featured on the news that evening, including a brief clip of my interview.
In the closing, we were told that there would be a speaker outing the next day, to an undisclosed location, and that we should be ready to leave promptly at 10 am from the meeting point. One speaker asked if this was 10 am Africa time, and everyone laughed.
I attended a talk on Friday by Kennedy Kahiri about the relationship – often adversarial – between software developers and designers. Developers, he said, are interested in building the right thing, while designers tend to be focused on building the thing right. These different priorities can lead to conflict. He outlined seven things you can focus on to avoid these conflicts:
Be collaborators, not competitors
Process should be inclusive, not siloed
Work by compromise, not ultimatums
Build for the customer, not for your own ego
Be flexible. Adapt to realities. Don’t be stubborn/rigid about decisions
Before designing or coding, understand WHY you are doing this, and what problem you are solving
Build something that solves a problem, and has a positive impact on business
As an Amazonian, of course, it all comes back to #4 – the focus on the customer first in all decisions leads to the best solutions.
On Friday at Droidcon, one of the sessions I attended was titled “Mastering Colour”, presented by Pamela Chemutai. She spent a lot of time talking about color theory, and about what colors go together in color schemes, but also why they go together, from a color theory perspective.
I don’t have a lot of notes from this session, but three things stand out.
She talked about color associations. For example, red is associated with danger, green with safety. I wonder if this is learned, or universal? Is it cultural? Does it change over time? Do we see colors with the same associations as ancient Greeks, for example? I am sure someone has written about this.
On the topic of color blindness, she recommended the website WhoCanUse, where you can experiment with different color schemes, and determine what people with different visual acuity will see.
Finally, on a completely unrelated topic, Pamela mentioned that she is a student at Dedan Kimathi University. Dedan Kimathi was a leader during the Mau Mau revolution. What’s fascinating to me about him is that when I was a kid, it was just known that Kimathi was a terrorist, a murderer, a generally terrible person. But today he is revered as one of the fathers of the Kenyan nation. There’s a statue of him downtown Nairobi. And several roads named after him.
(To be clear, I am not suggesting that he *was* a terrible person. I’m saying that how you learn a story depends almost entirely on who is telling it.)
I have long been fascinated by the question of who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter. It usually depends on who wins. George Washington, for example, was a terrorist and a rebel. But then he won, and he was a hero and a statesman.
Robert Mugabe is even more interesting, because first he was a terrorist (or a revolutionary). Then he was a hero, and the president, and the founder of the nation. And then he was a despot the destroyer of the economy.
So, yeah, huge tangent there, but I made a note that I need to read more about Kimathi, and about Mau Mau in general. And if you’re looking for recommendations, I encourage you to read Let’s Not Go To The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, for a view of the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe revolution, from the perspective of an ex-pat living there at the time.
On Friday morning at Droidcon, the keynote was given by John Kimani, developer ecosystem manager at Google. He talked about the state of the Android ecosystem, and also about what’s coming next in Android.
There were a lot of fascinating statistics in the talk. Two that stood out:
There were 1 Billion Android devices activated in 2022.
There are currently 3 Billion Android devices active in the world. This includes not just phones, but also watches and cars, among other things.
Another interesting thing that he talked about was memory requirements – specifically, that in Android 11 and earlier, there was a specific focus on keeping the OS small, so that it could run on older devices. This is particularly important in the African market, where there are lots of older devices in rural areas. The focus on low memory footprint meant that Android apps were typically also low footprint, and available to those customers.
But in the latest Android versions, that is no longer required, and as of 11, devices with less than 1Gb are no longer supported. This means that 60% of Kenyan customers can not run the latest version of Android.
American and European software companies do tend to ignore the rest of the world, in the rush for the latest and fanciest. Another talk I attended emphasized the importance of visiting your customer *before* you start developing, so that you can ensure that you’re designing for them, rather than for your own ego. (Link goes here, once I’ve written that one up.)