So… today is the 57th anniversary of Ghana’s independence, and as a Ghanaian citizen, it is a day I always approach with very mixed feelings. I’ve been thinking about how to write some version of this piece for a while. I’ve always found some excuse not to write it though, so while it is late this year, here it is.
I’m going to start with the video of Kwame Nkrumah’s speech at midnight on independence day in 1957. Growing up, I saw this on TV and heard it on the radio so many times I can probably quote it by heart. Today is a good day to discuss the wider context of what Nkrumah meant when he spoke about the new African who would show the world that the black man could manage his own affairs. Quite simply, we were not supposed to make it.
The argument against giving African countries their freedom, outside of the blatantly economic ones, started and ended with the idea that we couldn’t run our own countries. We weren’t smart enough. We lacked the strength of character. We would steal from each other. We would descend into some kind of tribal free-for all and massacre each other over the the littlest things. We obviously couldn’t do things like vote peacefully, organize governments, open and run universities, live peacefully with each other and show kindness to our neighbours. We were capable of little more than the worst excesses you would expect from a people who were not quite human. Basically, the entire continent is supposed to be Mad Max meets the worst excesses of all the civil wars on it combined. That’s not quite how things have happened.
I’m not saying that things are perfect. Ghana has gone through waves of spectacular mismanagement and outright thievery, but we’ve also gone from being scared to speak out against our leaders to doing so openly. We still don’t treat each other with the dignity we should more often than not, but there are lots of people who show extraordinary grace and selflessness to each other on a daily basis. Children die who should be alive, but a lot fewer than used to. Adults die who should be alive, but again, a lot fewer than used to. We don’t educate enough of our kids, and too many are stuck in substandard schools, but we do have more schools and we have our own universities. We train our own doctors, even if we then underfund them. We train our own scientists, our own writers, our own lawyers, our own engineers, our own artists. Not enough of them, but more than we would have had otherwise. We are far below our potential, but it is a much greater potential than anyone expected of us. If we judged ourselves by the standards of what was expected of us, we’d already be a success. We don’t though, because under all the self-deprecation and self-loathing, we know we are capable of more.
We aren’t supposed to be here, I’m not supposed to be here. And sometimes it helps to take a step away from all that feels wrong and terrible to appreciate all that is right. The mess will still be there tomorrow.
Happy Birthday Ghana.
I’ve been having a really hard time writing about this. Because, well, what could I possibly say that would to the man justice?
What do you say when a giant of that stature dies? How can you possibly describe the man he was in a way that doesn’t fall short of who he really was and what he really did? Not saying there aren’t people who can do it, but I know better than to imagine I am one of them.
I will say this. While being a man, and therefore flawed, he was a better person under more trying circumstances than we has the right to demand of any human being. And I’d like to think that in being so he made the rest of us slightly better people too.
For that I thank him. And I hope we will someday be worthy of his example.
So… yeah, I’ve been a little absent for the last… *checks date on last post* 4 years it seems! Sorry about that. I’d claim the PhD as an excuse, but I could probably have found a way to keep writing regardless. I guess I just got tired of it and needed a break for a while. That said, I’m back for real this time people. I considered moving on from this place, but we kinda have history. And I’m stubborn.
So… what have I been up to since I last blogged? Well, I’m finally done with the PhD!
I graduated in July of this year with a doctorate in Physics from King’s College London and most of my family were around for what was a great moment in my life. The picture above is of me and the parents, who I owe immeasurable amounts to, even if I do a bad job of showing it from time to time.
Besides that, I did actually do other things. I didn’t read as much as I would have liked because of work, but I’m back to devouring books again, and it feels good, so expect more book reviews from me. I also kept up with judo. I would probably already have my black belt except for the fact that I’ve spent the vast majority of the last 2 years being massively inconsistent in my training. I did train quite a bit before that though, and compete too. The picture below is of my crowning achievement to date, a bronze medal in the kyu grade division (all grades below black belt) of the British University Games.
I’m not done with the sport by a long shot though, so I still want more on that front.
Otherwise, I spent a lot of time in labs, analysing data, drawing graphs, giving presentations, writing papers, writing a thesis, defending it and looking for a job. There may have been some beer in there too. And I got a DSLR for christmas a year ago, so there may have been some terrible attempts at amateur photography too.
As for what I’m doing now, I somehow managed to convince a professor in one of the most prestigious research universities in the world that I know my stuff enough to work for him doing cool science(TM) so, barring British immigration deciding they don’t really like me, I’ll be working as a postdoc for the next 4 years. That means playing with microscopes, lasers, optical equipment, fast computers and squishy bits of biology. It should be all sorts of great.
As for what I’ll be talking about here… as usual it’ll be a mix of whatever comes to mind. I have some book reviews on tap, there’s a movie or two I want to talk about, there will be a lot more science (and an embarrassing amount of Neil Degrasse Tyson love) science fiction, technology, race, politics, sports…. Whatever makes me happy.
If you are still reading this after 4 years of silence, then thank you by the way. That was substantially more attention than I deserve. I’ll try to make it worth your while this time.
I started this post when I was talking about The Wire, I figured I’d put out a list of what else has been keeping my attention TV wise these days. Its late, but I already wrote most of it so I figured why not. I’m not really a huge TV person, never have been. I tend to time-shift my shows and then watch them when I’m not doing anything else, which usually ends up being late at night.
- Battlestar Galactica: This has been one of my favourite television shows of the last few years and is now heading towards an ending. If you haven’t seen any of it, you should have. Its really, really good. Basically its a rimagining of on old science fiction show in which the human race is wiped out my a race of machines we’ve created and the survivors are forced to run for their lives while being hunted by the same machines. Along the way thugh it becomes a great meditation on the nature of humanity, morality, religion etc. Its science fiction at its upper end. I recommend highly.
- Big Bang Theory: This I was determined not to like. Its a sitcom about a pair of socially awkward physicists and their friends. I pretty much expected that the writers would settle for the dumbest possible nerd stereotypes, add no real depth and screw the story up. Instead, they kept the stereotypes but managed to add enough depth and authenticity to make them real people. Interestingly enough, there are quire a few scientists I know who are followers of the show because of how well its written and the inside jokes it throws our way. Also recommended
- The Unit: Dennis Haysbert shooting people and looking cool in the process. Need I say more? Its a bit on heavy handed in its stance at times,but its great pulp action and good acting. All things I’m partial to.
Other stuff I’m watching but not so keen on writing a short paragraph about, Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and the new season of Hajime No Ippo (yes, I like anime. It doesn’t say geek up there because I couldn’t come up with another name)
I was also watching Dr. Who and Torchwood until both seasons ended. I’m really, really waiting for them to start back up again, even though they shall no longer be servicing my Freema Agyeman crush. Again, if you are a science fiction fan and not watching these, your loss. Majorly.
A very belated happy new year to you people. Apologies for the long absences. Again. At this point I’m pretty sure I’m down to just the people who forgot to remove me from their feed readers.
Quick Updates on what I’ve been up to:
I was officially awarded my Masters by Research in Physics. My parents and big sister were in town for my graduation and that will easily pass for my best day this year. Since then I’ve gotten accepted into a physics PhD program with the same advisor at the same university. 3 more years of this and I get to walk across a stage again in a gown with a hood on it and put ‘Doctor’ on my business cards.
On the Physical side. I persist with my judo and have now logged hundreds of hours of being thrown around, pinned, choked and armlocked. On good days I get to do the same to other people. In a little under 2 weeks I get to compete in the BUCS(British Universities and Colleges Sport) kyu grade competition. Hopefully all that work will end up in me getting a few good throws. Either way there will be pictures and maybe even video. At some point before I get the PhD I want to get my first dan(black belt)
Otherwise, I live in London, I study, I train, I hang out with friends, I still read too much, I watch the odd movie and life continues.
There’s a bit of a backlog of topics I was planning to write about but never got around to. Some will make it out in the coming weeks, some won’t. Either way, keep me in your readers people. If nothing else I need the touch typing practice
Yes, I stayed up all night to watch the results come in. I’m still not entirely sure it happened though.
We are officially living in interesting times people. Lets see how it goes
Great race. And hopefully a good omen.
One of the advantages of this past year has been a commute from the south of London to the center of the city daily that meant I had between 1 1/2 and 2 hours sitting or standing while waiting to get where I was going. Sometimes that went to reading academic papers for my masters, but a lot of the time it went to recreational reading. Add that to the fact that I got a library card as soon as I could(making this the sixth city on the third continent where I have paid library fines) and I was able to get through quite a few books. Well, considering that I was in school at the time.
The highlight list includes:
- Neil Gaiman’s American Gods
- Nicholas Hornsby’s High Fidelity
- Steven Barnes’ Great Sky Woman
- Mark Law’s The Pyjama Game: A journey Into Judo
That’s not a fully complete list, but those are most of the books I remember. Well, there’s also a bunch of classic science fiction books, but I’ll talk about those later
So I am (semi) officially done with my Masters. Research is done, my thesis has been turned in and I have defended it. While my results still have to be ratified by the college(pretty much a formality) I can say that I have a Masters by Research in Bio, Nano and X-Ray Photonics from the Physics department of King’s College London. Bit of a mouthful, I know.
And so with that done it is time to move on to the next phase of my life. As soon as I know what that is, so will anyone actually still reading this blog(I’d assume there is maybe one of you at this point)
Until later people
Just working on getting this thesis done as well as I possibly can for my Masters. After its done expect a bunch of rants about the evils of Visual Studio, my love of Python, Numpy, iPython, Matplotlib, Mayavi2 and .
Oh, and musings about my slow but steady infatuation with judo.
In the meantime Wish me luck, weeks until I’m done.