Category Archives: Best Of M


Due to some misunderstanding over instructions to do with apples, under the influence of a snake, man and woman have been consigned to a lifetime of toil. This has changed from hard days of ploughing through soil at the field to hard days of ploughing through the in tray.

Whichever Good Book you follow, be it The Bible, The Quran, The Talmud or The Hobbit, all of them have some reference to man being compelled to work hard if he expected to eat.

In this regard, a powerful ally exists in the form of the good lady whose official job position and KPIs have some references to her making tea for the consumption of the general office populace. In Nairobi, any tea lady worth her salt will diversify her portfolio and in no time will have a thriving business supplying captains of industry and go-getters with biscuits, ground nuts, samosas, bread, cake and other assorted snacks.

But despite her best efforts, after 11 o’clock the effect of her wares begins to wear out, and the working nation becomes listless and distracted, feeling an acute sense of something missing amidships. This hollow feeling intensifies and at 12:30 the weakest in the herd mumble something about stepping out for a quiet smoke or stretch of the legs and this begins the stampede for afternoon sustenance, better known as lunch.

When it comes to lunch, the primary deciding factor is the fiscal resources that can be commanded. Most of us are surprised and horrified that after what seems like ten minutes since the salary appeared at the bank, extra month has been tacked on to the salary.

As a matter of fact, as a general rule, by the middle of the second week proprietors of eating establishments with brick walls and running water nervously lick their lips in apprehension as lunch hour approaches.

After zealously reducing one’s salary to manageable levels (too much unfortunately) the eating establishment of choice is rather off the beaten path, literally and otherwise. Invariably this is a building constructed with corrugated iron sheets smelling powerfully of smoke. From inside come the happy shouts of comrades exchanging stories and grunts of effort from others with no time for anything but their meal. From outside carbon credits are consumed ferociously using roaring firewood and charcoal fires.

At the door there will be an ingenious arrangement consisting of a steel drum or barrel full of water suspended from a nail in the wall with a tap in the bottom. This novel arrangement serves as the plumbing for washing one’s hands.

The range of dishes lacks the variety to necessitate customer menus. The menu is therefore invariably written on a blackboard with the prices alongside. At a glance, the gourmet having effected an entry can adjust his tastes to his budget.

Among the choices are beef, chicken, liver and fish. The staple food, ugali, is the principal accompaniment. Generally, you can have your beef, chicken, liver or fish with anything, as long as it is ugali. I’m reminded of the time I asked a waitress for rice and she gave a gasp of surprise and retreated to consult with colleagues and ultimately with management.

Once you have reconciled the prices with the contents of your wallet, you shout your order to Maggie, the breathlessly enthusiastic waitress and take a free seat. You will find these places impossibly crowded, but there’s always a free seat somewhere. Generally, these establishments lack the office of the matire’d

Maggie will eventually appear with your meal, languidly arranging you vegetables with her bare hand as she approaches, hailing you with a happy shout. In a stroke of genius, to avoid the hassle of breakages, all the crockery and cutlery is stainless steel. She will deposit your meal on the table, sweep the leftovers from said table with bare hand onto a tray and move your plate in front of you, her thumb dipping into the stew in the process.

Those partial to fish will watch through the window as Omosh, the beefy man tasked with frying fish, goes about his work with gusto directly outside the establishment. Clad in vest, shorts and tyre sandals, the happy whistle of a man enjoying his work whooshing from his pursed lips, Omosh will twirl the fish slice like an orchestra conductor, sweat dripping off his face and arms and onto the soil and fish.

Omosh will then perform the task that he has been doing for eons and toss the ready fish through the window to be caught deftly by waiting waitresses on a steel plate. She will then grab a handful of vegetables from a large bowl, deftly deposit it next to the fish and then grab a dish of ugali and proceeded to a customer. Once in a while gravity may interfere with the system and a fish will come to earth. It’s best not to know where this fish ends up, but one is advised to keep both eyes open from order to delivery.

“Maggie”, I said to her one day. “There’s a fly in my soup”. Maggie laughed happily, clapped me heavily in the back leaving a large, oily and fishy hand print and departed, shaking her head and wagging her finger at me.

Needless to say the food is delicious. Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver would have a rough time trying to appease us connoisseurs. You will lick your fingers, lick your lips and finally lick the bowl. Compliments to the chef are expressed by hailing Omosh loudly from his cooking station with thumbs up. Omosh will wipe his brow with the back of his hand and smile and as a bead of sweat drips from the tip of his nose into the sizzling oil, he will smile happily.

Interviews Volume I

Doing a straw poll with some of my peers in the industry, I discovered to my surprise that most of them approach the task of recruitment and interviews with horror. One of my colleagues actually grabbed the top of his head and gnashed his teeth as the word ‘interviews’ slipped from my lips.

I can’t entirely say that I blame them. Interviews in this day and age are a highly traumatic exercise for both interviewer and interviewee, as well as support personnel such as receptionists. It takes strong men and women of iron will and dispensation to carry out the interview process quarter after quarter and come away unscathed.

All of us have gone through the interview process.

It all begins with the hallowed document called the Curriculum Vitae. Like flies to week old beef, every office invariably finds itself flooded with these documents. Most are unsolicited. Secretaries watch the approaching mail room personnel with trepidation when they see several A4 envelopes in their possession.

They start off innocently enough. There is usually a cover letter introducing the author of the CV, and alerting the organization that due to some unfortunate oversight, they have yet to identify their acute need for the skills of the individual whose qualifications are attached. The letter reassuringly proceeds to let the reader know that it is not too late and the unfortunate state of affairs will shortly be corrected if the attached CV was perused and the author interviewed and recruited.

At this point the CV is detached and read.

This too starts off innocently, giving the name, contact details and some elementary qualifications and abilities, such as ‘reading, riting and rithmetic’. Just to make sure no assumptions are made, candidates also volunteer surprising details like binocular vision and opposable thumbs.

Next to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the assorted works of Enid Blyton, the qualifications and skill section make the CV one of the greatest pieces of fiction ever written. I keep a selection in a drawer for slow days when I need a light entertainment read. People can, and without shame, do say anything on their CVs. Modesty and reality somehow are relegated to the back burner after typing the phrase ‘Curriculum Vitae’.

I am reminded of one in which the author unblushingly mentioned being present at our independence celebrations in 1964. This fact however was incompatible with his stated date of birth on the attached copy of his ID card. If it was to be believed, he must have attended the celebrations as a vague idea in his prospective father’s head.

Authors generally give their actual qualifications and abilities a friendly nudge to stand out better in the spotlight. I have lost count of the number of self processed database administrators who subsequently displayed a spectacular ignorance of databases upon further prodding, or those proud of their 70 words per minute subsequently inquiring where the letter ‘x’ was on the keyboard.
Some authors are not shy to invent technologies and techniques as they breathlessly prepare their CVs. I like to think of myself as keeping current in the industry, but more often than not a prospective candidate modestly professes advanced skill in techniques and technologies that vendors have yet to invent and produce, let alone market.

I recall with wonder telephoning one lady on the strength of her CV that informed me she was proficient in the use of Microsoft Windows 3000, an operating system I feel sure Microsoft themselves had not heard of. No, she assured me, there was no typing error. She has been using Windows 3000 for several years.

I have since learnt that whenever CVs are solicited in connection with a job opening, they are generally helpfully altered to make them more compatible with the requirements. I made this surprising revelation after I had advertised an opening on my team, and made a small typo in the advertisement. Out of the 14 or so CVs I received by lunch time, 5 of them had the same typo in the section for skills.

After the qualification and skills is a section where candidates articulate additional value that they will add to the organization.

The CV will invariably reassure the reader that the author is a team player, and works well under pressure. I have made a personal commitment to hire the candidate who states in black and white they are neither of the above.

Job applicants also have no doubt that they have good communication and interpersonal skills, and I am yet to come across any who feels otherwise.
And finally referees are put down. These are generally
• Principal of the last college they were in
• Lecturer at said college
• An uncle or aunt, preferably with a different surname from the applicant’s

After digesting this, there comes the process of short listing and interviewing, which we will discuss another day.

Cabinet Tales V

Kibaki: “Hizo mawezere wezere wezere wezere ….”
Karua: I beg your pardon?!
Kibaki: Bloody bure! I was just singing to myself
Mwakwere: Are you from Coast?
Marende: Order! Order! Any member can sing if he is feeling sufficiently philanthropic!
Kalonzo: It’s like I was telling my constituents the other day. A country is like an eighteen wheeled lorry painted green with “Rough Riders: Ride Or Die” painted on the rear windscreen with a colobus monkey, a banana and a rabbi in the front seat  …
Charity: And?
Kalonzo: I forget at this point the point I was trying to make. But it was very important!
Mutula: Not as important as my proposal. I propose all roads be expanded as follows: One lane for the president, one for the prime minister, one for cabinet members, one for the police and fire brigade, one for left handed people, one for right handed people, one for people under 6 feet, one for people over six feet, one for people who watch Tyra and one for people who watch Oprah. I also propose that all roundabouts be expanded with smaller roundabouts being put inside the larger roundabouts.
Nyongo: (Sarcastically) Indeed.
Kimunya: If I may speak…
Ntimama: Quick! Someone please check that the chambers have not been sold to the Libyans!
Mwakwere: Are Libyans from Coast?
Bifwoli: Are we been served tea in this meeting?
Ruto: You and food!
Bifwoli: (Indignantly) Me? ME?! Look at you! You are covered by a very thin film of a powdery substance ….
Ruto: It is NOT maize flour! Besides, is it a crime to wallow, roll and swim in maize?
Bifwoli: Well ….
Kiraitu: Pff! Krrkmmzz. Grrggnnn
Bishop: Glowreh! Someone please help that Son of God from choking. Glowreh!
Karua: He’s not choking. He’s laughing
Nkaiserry: Is it just me or does someone here smell powerfully of diesel?
Kiraitu: Can you ngo srow on this matter. I don’t have anything to do with the fuel shortage
Sambili: Can we focus my friends. We have a crisis in Kenyan football.
Raila: You know, football is like a game of football.
Magara: Hear hear!
Poghisho: Focus everyone. Can we discuss the Hague?
Mwakwere: Bless you
Poghisho: But I’ve not sneezed
Mwakwere: Sorry. Go on
Pohgnisho: Should we support the Hague…
Mwakwere: Bless you! Is there a flu epidemic in the house?
(Ngilu whispers in his ear)
Mwakwere: Oh! The Hague! I get you, I get you. Is it in Coast?
Mungatana: Let us discuss critical issues affecting the country. Did you know that GTV folded last week and I had paid for 3 months in advance!
Raila: Who is Mungatana???
Ngilu: Can Saitoti have a written statement delivered to our offices by tomorrow on this matter?
Saitoti: There come a time! There come a time!
Nyongo: Tell it to the birds
Saitoti: Garment takes it very seriously…
Bishop: Government you mean
Saitoti:That’s what I said. Garment.
Mwiria: Can the Minister for Tourism explain why it cost the treasury 20 million for the President to go to the Mara? Outrageous!
Balala: The Honourable member is speaking from a position of disinformation. The president did not actually go to the Mara. We flew all the Rhinoceroses (or Rhinoceri if you prefer), Hippos (or hippi), Lions (or Lioni), buffalos (or buffali), Elephants (or Elephanti), impala (or impali), camels (cameli) and assorted birds TO the president. Mohammed and the mountain of you get me.  Flights cost money, especially since some of us are storing fuel in a manner likely to suggest resale at a future date for an exaggerated markup. The flights are catered and you know how camels drink!
Ruto: Exactly. In fact maize was served on that flight!
Balala: (Modestly) My ministry was also able to move a river and a small lake
Mwakwere: If I may ask a question…
Nyongo: (Irritably) Are you going to ask if Balala is from coast?
Mwakwere: No
Nyongo: Good
Mwakwere: Are hippos from coast?
Kiunjuri: If we might turn our attentions to the tisha strike.
Beth: The what?
Kiunjuri: The tisha strike.
Beth: What is that?
Kiunjuri: My esteemed colleague seems to be wallowing in a fetid morass or ignorance if she is unaware that those of the noble profession entrusted with imparting knowledge to our youngsters have downed their tools in a sustained campaign for improved remuneration. There is a tisha strike.
Wetangula: You people missed history being made! When i was in America ….
Bifwoli: Uuuuuuwi! Uuuuuuwi! Wetangula is a tiktater! Wetangula is a titkater!
Marende: Order! Order! If Wetangula is feeling sufficiently philanthropic to go to America
Mwiria: And watch the inauguration from the top of a tree ….
Wetangula: That is neither here nor there. The fact is I watched it live.
Magara:We need to investigate if the Obama inauguration was in fact live!
Namwamba: Lucy Kibaki is the director of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And Enron. And BCCI. In fact it’s no coincidence if you take the fourth letter of Hitler and add U, C and Y. Try it! Shocking stuff! A scandal!
Kibaki: Bloody bure! I’m making some changes. From now on you call me either Mr President or The Emilio. In two weeks one of you will be fired.
Bifwoli: Where’s our usual cup of tea?
Ruto: I have made arrangements with … er … a catering company that will be providing us with maize porridge until the next election.
Uhuru: My colleagues, the economic crunch is getting biting. Nowadays I am forced to share the same car as my driver! Outrageous!
Kalonzo: Given that Button Moon is about to come on in the next half hour I beg of us to close this meeting and our allowances to be paid.

Sales Talk

During the course of a honest day’s work, I inevitably have to read several business and technical proposals, heavy with an increasingly common dialect of English called sales talk. With each 30 page proposal, I am stunned with the ability of sales people to talk at length without actually saying anything and yet sounding impressive. You will recognize sales talk the instant you see it. And in case you don’t let me try and visualize the modern salesman writing his diary.

Keen on actualizing the latest cutting edge paradigm shift, I turned off the Information Superhighway, parked and leveraged myself out of my carbon compound powered motor vehicle and onto the robust, post Y2k tarmac. My Web 2.0 centric, citizen media focused analysis of Blanco’s appeared to be accurate: from the outside the establishment had a powerful aura of customer centric, people focused service delivery, with an emphasis on its core competencies of inward and forward looking customer focus.


As a professional on the cutting edge of technology, with a focus on database driven tools and technologies, I feel myself uniquely placed, with my appreciation of modern technology to appreciate things from a database centric and system focus. From what I could see through the Windowsâ„¢, the customers tables were neatly clustered, optimized for random seeks.


Rapidly responding to the looming hostile atmosphere of rain, and  in a real-time, time sensitive fashion I made the business case to not be in the parking lot by the time the rain descended. In a horizontal shift of the time-space continuum, like the Oracleâ„¢ at Delphiâ„¢, I effected an entry into Blanco’s, through its Gatewayâ„¢ nodding to the maitre’ d and accepting the complimentary Appleâ„¢. As I drunk in the subtle decor, ambient lighting and piped music, I said to myself a silent Yahoo!â„¢


There she was, uniquely positioned at the corner table for maximum leverage of effect. As I visually took in her impressive metrics, I felt the throughput of my blood circulation system increase by 75.57%, with a bandwidth increment of blood flow of a comparable figure. Reacting in a pro-active fashion, I mopped the sweat from my brow and made a strategically tactical approach to her, reducing my exposed attack surface to a minimum by approaching at an angle.


She rose to greet me, and my lips touched hers in seamless, cross platform interoperability. Immediately during the interface, the bandwidth of my blood system had a gross, pre-tax increment of 124.45%, stabilizing at well over double its previous throughput. Finally, as we disengaged, I surreptitiously took the opportunity to evaluate her form, drinking in her agile, thin client architecture.


I decided to maximize my return on investment by beginning collaborative, one on one dialog with her, with a view to extracting her user requirements and creating a solid, sustainable business case for our involvement. My aim was to paint a rich tapestry of the mutually symbiotic relationship that could ensue from our collaboration. I left her in no doubt that on her part, I was sold. Her interface was pleasing to the eye, her underlying architecture looked agile yet robust. Her vocal outputs were of high quality and fidelity. Her bottom line, needless to say, was superb.



Nuff Sed (Sorry Roberta, you’re a non starter!)

 Seal – Kiss From A Rose

Roberta And The Garage Part I

[Special Shout Out to Salome]

Unlike most of my brethren, my interest in cars begins and ends in their exterior. We can debate whether the VW Touareg indeed looks better than the BMW X5, or whether the S Class looks better than the 5 Series.

Once you pop the bonnet you are pretty much dead to me. I know the general principle  of how a petrol engine works vis a vis a diesel engine, but after that I don’t give a flying rat’s ass precisely which bits do what. I cannot tell you a V8 from a V 12 from a VW. I cannot tell you the difference between mineral water and battery water. I don’t know a piston from a pistol.

Petrol station attendants across Nairobi can attest to some wild haired, wild eyed feller in a RVR who after filling his tank waves absently in the general direction of the front of his car, pops the bonnet and cheerfully gives vague instructions to “Have a look see.”


This fly by the pants approach invariably is doomed to failure and this Monday Roberta began to automatically switch herself off whenever I shifted to a lower gear. As you can imagine it is a very merry drive coasting down the highway with a car that is off.

As Kenyans, the definition of a split second is something we can claim as our own.It is the period between something going wrong with your car and the jackass behind you letting loose with his horn.

Kenyan motorists did not disappoint.Very sure that I have a death wish and that I am switching my car off deliberately at inopportune moments, like negotiating a roundabout, they let loose with their horns and flashing lights.

Being a man committed to fellowship with his fellow man, I did not want them to feel as if I was ignoring them. I did my best to respond to each irate hoot. FIDA, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake and Maendeleo Ya Wanaume will be glad to know I did not discriminate. My right arm worked overtime. If you hooted I saluted.

But I am but a human being and cannot attend to all of you at once.

So if you were hooting at a stalled green RVR on Monday morning and somehow did not receive acknowledgement, my apologies. Here it is:

In case you missed it

After much gymnastics and coaching, and close to 7,000 one fingered salutes, I limped Roberta into the garage closest to the office.

Friendly Lady: What seems to be the problem
M: (Alighting from Roberta and massaging sore right arm) Keeps going off. I think I need more battery acid.
Friendly Lady: You mean an engine tune up?
M: Right. What did I say?
Friendly Lady: Err …
M: While you’re at it, have a look at the Mzima, GWs, amniotic fluid …
Friendly Lady: What?!
M: What did I say? I mean springs, bushes, battery fluid,  and all that jazz.
Friendly Lady: Aha. No problem

Still massaging my sore arm (sticking it out the windows repeatedly in salute is harder than it looks) I strolled to the office and an hour later I was summoned to receive the report of things wrong with the car.

Listening to the friendly lady talking took me back to days of yore, standing in the hot sun listening to the headmaster going on and on and on and on like 3 energizer bunnies. Reading from a sheaf of papers stapled together, she listed at length all the things wrong with Roberta. Finally, after several breathless minutes, she was done, and then she and the 3 mechanics looked at me expectably.

“Oho,” I told them finally. “Well,” I continued philosophically, “Let me look on the bright side. Did you find anything wrong with the radio?”

“The radio?” Friendly lady said. “No. The radio’s fine.”

“And the body? Do I need a new body?”

“No, no!”

“Excellent. At least there’s something in that doesn’t need to be replaced.”

I then pointed to a bump and some scratches on Roberta’s flank, the results of a disagreement she had with a wall. I take full responsibility, and i admit i was responsible for goading Roberta into trying to park in a very narrow inclined parking between two solid walls, with the solid experience of a single driving lesson. Needless to say, Roberta lost the argument to the wall.

At this point the boss, a gentleman who can trace his ancestry to the Indian subcontinent stepped forwards and after much holding of the chin and murmuring to himself wrote me a quote.

Panel beating: 7,500
Front plastic mounting: 8,500
Front door painting: 8,500
Rear door painting: 8,000
VAT: 5,200
Net total: 32,500

Santa Claus could have taken lessons from me on how to laugh heartily. The mechanics and their bosses watched in disbelief as a son of his father laughed until tears rolled down his cheeks. Finally I wiped the tears and addressed my new friend.

Cannabis sativa
Cannabis in full bloom

“My son, cannabis sativa is not your friend. Really. It is bad for you. First of all, why does it cost more to paint the rear door than it does the front door? And secondly,The only time I’ll pay 35k for panel beating is if you are panel beating my personal Aircraft Carrier. Until then I suggest you take that quote, sprinkle it with chili, a bit of cheese and some tomato, roll it up tightly, season it delicately with pepper and aromat, turn that bad boy sideways and shove is straight up [THUNDER STRUCK AT THIS POINT], m’kay?”

“So,” friendly lady said, “About the repairs…”

“Ah yes, about that. You want me to get two rear shocks, each at 12,500?”

“Er … yes, those are the best.”

“Indeed. And apart from making my car feel like a Roman chariot, do these shocks do anything else? Play piped music? Solve Sudoku riddles? Transform into Autobots? Do the crossword? Sing ballads?”

Kwik Fit’s Magic Shocks

“No,” she said grudgingly.

“Then let us revise that preposterous figure.”

After much discussion I left them to work. They had promised to be done by close of Monday but i told them “take your time, my friends. Take your time. I will collect Roberta tomorrow.”

And the following day I did collect Roberta, who was even freshly washed.

And less than an hour later I was parked on the side of Mombasa road, turning the air blue for miles and startling birds away from their roosts as I expressed myself firmly at considerable length to the Friendly Lady.

Because the garage had completely wrecked Roberta’s engine … CONT’D

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