Thursday, March 31, 2005

Interesting day

Well, the saga of Kwasi and his neverending quest to find a good woman, or at least break in his mattress, continues.

Today's story is about one of the women in my earlier posting. The one who's about to become a doctor. For the purposes of this story I will refer to her as Doc. I'm sure the sheer originality of my name choice comes as a shock to you all.

Doc and I have had a wierd relationship since my freshman year of college. She was a Junior at the time. A lettered NCAA sprinter and one of the stars of the chemistry department. Beautiful, athletic, extremely talented. I, on the other hand, was a shy kid still growing out of all the insecurity I'd carried with me through high school. Since I was the only African in her dorm, she kind of checked up on me every once in a while During my first winter, when I was extremely homesick and depressed, she would cook for me and we'd hang out and watch old movies. I, of course, had a massive crush on her. At the same time I knew she was way out of my league so I never expected us to be anything but friends. Big mistake. She, for reasons I still can't fully grasp, liked me. Unfortunately, I was nowhere near secure enough in myself to understand why a woman who seemed perfect in my eyes would find me interesting. So instead of diving in head first, I punked out. Probably the biggest mistake of my college career, though it taught me a valuable lesson about going for what you want. Plus I learned how to salsa because of her. We ended up flirting back and forth but never really doing anything about it.

Anyway. Two years pass, she graduates and goes to med school. I don't see or hear from her for almost five years. Then another college friend of mine moved to Boston, ran into her and passed on her number. We started talking again. For about the last month or so we've spoken pretty much every week plus we've been flirting over email. She just got into her top choice residency program in New York so she'll be moving up this way. Plus she's still single, a fact that leads me to theorize a widespread outbreak of glaucoma in the Boston metro area. Either that or some form of brain eating bacteria. Not that I'm complaining, of course. Their loss may turn out to be my gain.

When we spoke last weekend she mentioned that her sister was in New Jersey so she might pass by. Plus she'd have to come look for apartments in the city anyway. I told her to give me a call if she made it into the area. Tuesday night, all of a sudden, I got a phone call from her saying that she was less than half an hour away visiting her sister and she'd leaving on thursday morning. This led to my scrapping my standard wednesday study schedule to spend the morning with her. We spent a couple of hours getting caught up withe each other's lives, discussing past relationships, what we want out of life, spiritual faith and our mutual love of walking around naked in our homes. It was a great conversation. Then we went out for lunch, I went home and immediately headed off to school. It was probaly the best day I've had in a long time. we're supposed to hang out again the next time she comes to look for an apartment. We'll probably go salsa dancing. Worst case, this will become a good friendship. Best case, I'll get another shot at something meaningful. I can't really lose either way.

Random thoughts:
1. She looks good. Apparently the result of three days a week in Tae Kwan Do class for the last couple of years. I now have the perfect motivation to train every day.

2. She's actually insecure about her looks. I fail to understand how that happens and yet I constantly see it. I know several incredibly attractive women who are have achieved great things and yet are still unsure of themselves. Its wierd for me because I use their drive an achievements as motivation and yet they don't seem to be aware of how special they are. Women like that should never need to be reassured that they're beautiful or desirable. There should me an army of men knocking down their doors every second of the day and yet they're alone and unsure of themselves. Some things I'll never understand.

Monday, March 28, 2005


Work wise, this was a slow weekend. I did a little bit of work, mostly for my graduate linear algebra class. In terms of material its probably my favourite class this semester.

A decent chunk of my weekend was spent getting upgrading my linux box and upgrading to KDE 3.4. The results can be seen above. Since I'm now running gentoo, waiting for everything to compile left me with ample time to study. Finally I have native composite support, even if it is a little buggy. by the way, the program playing my music is called Amarok. Its at least as good a media player as Itunes and has built in album cover downloads and Audioscrobbler support. I have a linux equivalent for just about every program I use in windows now. Honestly, the only reason I leave windows on is so I can play computer games.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Clouds on The Horizon

Looks like my drought might be over sooner than I thought. Funny how the moment you stop worrying about things they tend to fix themselves. In other news, I will be sanitizing my room and the bathroom this weekend. Just in case.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Girls, Girls, Girls

Here's the thing, I've been studying and training pretty much constantly for a couple of weeks now, with the exception of my time in Baltimore. The only thing I worked on there was my alcohol tolerance which, I am glad to report, is still holding up pretty well. Unfortunately, massive mental exertion and massive physical exertion have the same effect on me. I start thinking about women. Well, specifically, certain activities which, for me, usually require the presence of an enthusiastic woman. So, anyway, this blog has been getting just a little too introspective. Plus I've been studying all day and feel like talking about sex.

You may have noticed from one of my earlier posts that it has been a while since I last 'had relations' with a woman. The reason for that is simply that I've been focusing on getting other areas of my life back on track and so I've either been working, training or keeping in touch with friends and family. End result, I'm more stable, healthier and doing better in school. I've repaired almost all of the relationships I screwed up as well. Now all I need is an attractive, intelligent woman who wants to strip me naked and molest me. I promise not to put up any resistance, unless she wants me to of course.

Thankfully for me, things are starting to look up though. One of my old flames from college just graduated medical school and is moving to NYC to start her residency. Another old flame from high school is about to graduate from Harvard and is taking a job in Princeton. Add in the Neuroscience grad student from D.C. who I mentioned earlier and life could be getting really interesting very soon. Did I mention I like really intelligent women? Keeps me on my toes. Luckily for me, I somehow manage to remain on good terms with almost all of the women in my life so women I flirted with years ago still flirt with me today and women who I slept with years ago still occasionally come around for old times sake. Its sort of like being Chris Rock's proverbial dick in a glass jar, except the jar is fragile and cracked and could give away under its own weight at any second.

Personally, I look forward to this drought being over. Not that you guys will ever get any real details, I'm a gentleman about some things. Only my closest friends are entitled to all the sordid details

Friday, March 18, 2005

Old Friends

The other thing I did this week was finally get back in touch with an old friend from college who I haven't spoken to in a couple of months. She was a casualty of the instability I went through after my mother came down with cancer and my grandmother died. I feel really bad about the fact that I cut her off because at the time she was going through some serious marital issues and I should have been there for her.

Swan and I became friends sometime in my sophomore year of college, her junior year. We just got along. We had similar tastes in music and movies and similar views of the world. Where we disagreed, we were both willing to argue things out in a civilized manner and respect each other's positions. She changed my mind about some things and I changed her mind about some things. We definitely learned a lot from each other. There was never really a romantic connection there, though at a certain point half the campus was convinced we were sleeping together. I think at the time neither of us was looking for anything and by the time we were both looking again the friendship had progressed beyond that point. I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if we'd met under different circumstances.

We've been there for each other through several relationships and all sorts of family issues. Right after college, she fell in love, got married and had a beautiful daughter who is, by all accounts, as smart and stubborn as her mother. The marriage kind of fell apart after she gave birth and one of her closest friends died. I tried to be there for her for a while, but then family issues got in the way and I dropped a lot of stuff I should have cared more about, including her. I feel like shit for doing that. She's pretty much family to me at this point and I'm supposed to be the kind of person who will give anything for those I consider family. She deserved a lot better from me. Thankfully her marriage seems to have weathered the storm, and so has our friendship. I just hope I never screw up like that again. Life is too short.

Spring Break recap

The popular image of spring break seems to be one where college students run off to some warm part of the world to engage in unspeakable debauchery for a week. I never really had one of those kinds of spring break experiences. At least not the 'flying off to warm places' part.

I did have a really great week though. Friday night I went out with my brother and a friend of ours to another friends birthday party, which was being held at a club in New York. It was fun. I got pleasantly buzzed and danced with a couple of women. Pretty much my definition of a good night out. I don't really go to clubs to pick up women. It sometimes happens that I meet an interesting woman by chance. For the most part, however, I find that the club atmosphere is not the best place to get to know someone. Personally, I prefer bookstores and record stores.

Anyway, back to my week. On Saturday, I threw a bunch of clothes in the back of my car and drove almost 200 miles to Baltimore where one of my closest friends works as a researcher at Johns Hopkins. I love hanging out with Joel. He's one of those people who is totally honest and comfortable with all sides of his personality. I'm still working on being that comfortable with myself but around him I can let it all hang out. There are maybe two other people in the world that this holds true for. I got to his place on Saturday night and we made plans to go clubbing again, this time with a cousin of mine who lives in D.C. and a few of her friends. One of her friends got us in since her date worked at the club. Joel and I then spent the rest of the night alternating between dancing with strange women and protecting the women we came with from persistent, drunk men. (sidenote: this is another of the reasons I don't try to talk to women at clubs. There is an absolute lack of common coutesy on the part of most men that makes a lot of the women hyper defensive)

Interestingly enough, I did meet a woman this time. One of my cousin's friends was there with her roomate, who happens to be a neuroscience grad student. Now, it just so happens that intelligent, attractive black women who like to dance are a great weakness of mine. Plus, there actually seemed to be some chemistry there. I did, however, fail to get her number. Not that she wouldn't have given it to me if I'd asked, I just never got around to it. That was stupid, I know. I'm hoping my cousin will go against character and get it for me. I plan to keep pestering her until she does. I fail to understand something though. My cousin knows plenty of really attractive, really intelligent women and she know's I'm single. Yet, I only meet them by accident. Strange, isn't it?

Sunday was a little slow. We cleaned up his apartment because his fiance was going to be visiting for a month and the apartment looked like a small hurricane had blown through it. By the way, I really like his fiance. Most of the time, I have a really low opinion of the women my friends choose to be with. This one is a genuinely nice human being who loves him. Plus she's absolutely beautiful and has a great sense of humor. I'm really happy for him. After we straightened out the place we just lazed around and caught up on each other's lives. Then we picked up two med student friends of his (he's also going to med school in the fall) and went bar hopping. That was a lot of fun. All of his friends tend to be really honest, open people. Add in alcohol and we had a blast. Plus a 45 year old woman tried to pick us up at the third bar we went to. She basically cycled through all of us before giving up and going home.

On Monday, I went to lab with him and met the Ghanaian doctor who runs his lab as well as his lab partners, including this absolutely stunning Laotian girl who apparently can't get a date. Wierd. Anyway, they worked, I studied quantum physics (yes people, I took my books with me on my weekend off. I am a geek after all) and then we went out for happy hour with the med students and sat around for a couple of hours drinking beer and talking about science, love, sex and everything else. It was a really good night.

I left on Tuesday just before his fiance showed up. I figured they'd want the apartment to themselves plus I had work to do. Also, considering that I'm in a four month old drought, the idea of listening to other people have sex wasn't that appealing to me. Hopefully, things will work out with the neuroscience girl. The rest of the week has been dedicated, for the most part, to homework and studywith short breaks to do stuff like watch The Incredibles on DVD. That movie is easily one of the best super hero movies I have ever seen.

So that was my week, how was yours?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Interview Answers

Since part of the point of this blog is for me to get used to expressing myself publicly instead of holding stuff in all the time, I figured it might be a good idea to try the "interview game". Plus, it seems like a good way to find out more about all the people whose lives I am reading about. My questions come courtesy of Mushtaq Ali and his always interesting blog The Traceless Warrior. Honestly, it took some thought to come up with good answers. If anyone would like to be interviewed, let me know.

1. What makes you proudest about your country?

Probably how well we manage to get along. Most people seem to have this perception of Africa as a homogeneous place. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We are home to at least half a dozen major ethnic groups, each with a distinct language and culture. by the time you factor in the sub-groups there are somewhere on the order of 40-50 distinct nations, each of which used to have its own government and political structure and all of which probably predate the USA by at least a few centuries Consider the fact that some of these groups were more favoured by the British than others when we were a colony.

Now add in the fact that our population includes practitioners of several sects of Islam, christianity and traditional religions. To make things more interesting, consider political affiliations, which may or may not follow ethnic lines and factor in a history that includes three military coups. Now, we also have quite a few refugees from Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast as well as returning Black Americans, the Chinese, Koreans and Lebanese.

With all that going against us, not only have we managed to not kill each other, we've managed to actually get along and put together a stable country that is rapidly improving. I'm very proud of my people for the society we are trying to create. Its definitely not perfect, we have a long way to go. It is, however, built on an extremely impressive foundation.

2. What are people going to be saying about you twenty years from now?

Hopefully that I was willing to sacrifice everything for those I called family. Of all the things about myself I'm determined to get right, my dedication to my family, both real and adopted, is probably at the top pf that list. I owe a lot of who I've become to sacrifices made by my parents, my brother and sister and my extended family. If I want to be anything, its to be the kind of person who is also capable of making those sacrifices. I guess I'm very traditional in that sense.

Also, I'd like to be known as a person who was open to new ideas. My circle of friends has always been extremely diverse in terms of race, ideology and background. I prefer it that way. It enables me to learn more about the world always have my ideas of the world challenged. Ideally, I won't stop learning new things until the day I die.

3. You are down to your last ten dollars, but you have enough food to last until pay day, what do you spend it on?

Well, spring break is coming up which means I have a week of minimal work ahead of me. Since I already have a library card and a list of books to pick up, thats covered. I'd probably spend the money on a six-pack of spaten optimator. Not the most impressive choice, I know. However, one of those, a good book and probably some Coltrane in the background is an instant cure for study stress.

4. What is the strangest thing you have seen in America?

Now THAT is a hard one, especially considering the fact that I came straight from Ghana, which is a fairly conservative country, to Oberlin, one of the most liberal college campuses in the country. I would probably have to go with Safer Sex Night.

Its a historic party that Oberlin throws every year with sex as the theme. People cross dress or show up as close to naked as possible, usually while under the influence of one or more illegal substances. Contraceptives and sex toys are given away or raffled off and there is a huge amount of blatant sexual activity that takes place. I saw men making out with men, women making out with women, both sexes giving and receiving head, etc.

According to a friend of mine, the school's sexual information hotline gets more calls that night than they do any other night of the year. Now keep in mind that I was new to this country and came from a pretty conservative background. The things I saw there were, at the time, absolutely the strangest and most shocking things I had ever seen in my life. By my senior year, though, it was just another school tradition.

5. Who was your hero growing up?

Probably my father. In that sense I guess I'm like most boys. I never really spent that much time with him, none of us did. Compared to my brother and sister though, I probably spent the most time with him. In my eyes, he was wise, funny,well travelled(scholarship to grad school in Belgium, saw most of Europe and spent time in Israel) and incredibly well read. He always seemed to know something about everything. In retrospect I guess its not hard to see why I became so much like him.

Well, those are my answers

Here's how you can play the interview game:
1. Leave me a comment saying "interview me." The first five commenters will be the participants.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions.
3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. (Write your own questions or borrow some.)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Happy Birthday Ghana

48 years ago today, the British flag went down and was permanently replaced by the red, yellow and green flag as ghana became the first country in 'sub-saharan' Africa to gain its independence. The picture above is from a historic telecast when Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister of Ghana, announced to the country that we were free.

That's another picture of Nkrumah. He was a very interesting person. A british trained teacher who became the head of the independence effort in Ghana. He di some great things in his time. Turning the country into a single party state was not one of them. His larger crime, however, was keeping Ghana unaligned in the cold war and accepting help from the Americans, the Russians and the Chinese. His politics were not very popular with the west so, while he was on his way to Vietnam to hopefully mediate, a CIA sponsored coup was organized to remove him from power. He went into exile and the country went through three more tries at becoming a democratic republic.
This time it seems to be working though, if last year's election was any indication. I have faith in my country and the continent in general. We're a relatively new country made up from dozens of differing ethnic groups with diffent languages, social and political traditions. Not to mention old rivalries that were inflamed during the years of colonization. As far as I'm concerned, the fact that we made it this far means that there is hope. We have a stable economy, our educational system is getting better and there is increasing opportunity for people who are willing to work hard, which is pretty much the entire country. I have hope for the future. I guess we'll find out whether or not I'm right sooner or later.

Back by popular demand, Profiles of Black Physicists

I figured this time I'd post about someone who is actually alive. I think there's a tendency to focus on the dead and ignore the living. The man pictured above is Dr Sylvester James Gates, Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland. He has a BS in physics and mathematics from MIT as well as a phd in physics, also from MIT. I first found out who he was while watching a three part NOVA special on string theory (yes, ladies and gentlemen, in case the title of the blog didn't give it away, I am a geek)
Apparently, he's one of the foremost experts in the field of string theory. He's also considered one of the best there is at explaining the concepts behind string theory to the general public.
Now, for those of you who are less technically inclined, string theory is an attempt to explain all structure and interaction in the universe in terms of vibrating 'strings'. Its an extremely mathematically intensive field and as close as you can get to cutting edge science in theoretical physics these days. The people involved in it spend most of their time dealing with concepts that can be fully understood by maybe 20 people on the planet.
He's actually pretty high up on the list of people I want to meet. The next time I'm in Maryland, I'll probably swing by the college and sit in on one of his classes.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Nightime fears/ My Parents

I mentioned before that some nights I can't sleep because I have stuff on my mind that keeps me up. According to my mother, my father is the exact same way.

Its interesting how much my father and I have in common. More so because I spent way more time with my mother than I ever did with him. My mother gave up her career working for one of the best restaurants in the country when she had my brother. I guess she felt that raising her children was more important. Anyway, she opened up a small bakery in our house where she sold bread, pastries and cakes and catered small parties. One side effect of this was that I had a steady supply of freshed baked bread and pastries as a kid and a great cake every birthday. The other side effect was all three of us kids being able to read on our own by the time we were four years old. My mother would literally pull us away from whatever we were doing and read along with us. She also made sure we did all our schoolwork and got good grades. We had no choice, she was on a first name basis with every teacher I had until I graduated secondary school (high school for you guys) and the consequences of acting up were unpleasant to say the least.
Once I entered JSS (the equivalent of junior high) she reentered the workforce as a junior manager in charge of the canteens for a local factory. By the time I graduated high school she'd worked her way up to a senior manager in charge of all the canteens the company ran in the country. She also opened up a bar/cafe/larger bakery which was remarkably succesful. When the company privatized their canteens, she retired and took them over as a private consultant. In addition to all of this, she supplies bread to my old high school canteen and supplies raw materials to the factory she started out feeding. Pretty impressive huh? At this point, she probably makes more money than my father does. Add on to this the fact that she's probably one of the most compassionate people I know. She's my primary role model when it comes to determination/drive.

Now, lets talk about my father. He's an interesting character. On one level, I feel like know very little about him. However, at the same time, I'm the closest to him in temprament and behavior so I guess I know him better than I think.For most of my childhood I barely saw him. He was working. He's a civil engineer and a partner in one of the oldest consultancy firms in Ghana. He and a couple of his friends spent most of my childhood trying to get it up and running. HE also spent a couple of years in Nigeria as part of an exodus of Ghanaian professionals that occured in the early 80's. Now the company is fairly succesful but that is because of the work he put in when I was growing up. He was gone in the mornings before I woke up and back at about the time I went to bed. On weekends he usually was at work. Once in a while he came to church with us, probably to make my mother happy. I remember that I used to be excited on tuesdays because he would come home early to change before heading out to his rotary club meetings. For three years when I was in JSS, he would drive me to school every morning. Because of him, whenever I get into a car, I automatically reach for a seatbelt. I inherited his quietness, wierd sense of humor, love of movies, music, science fiction and good beer, his quiet activism and his open mindedness to the world.

So what has all of this gor to do with my nightime fears? Simple. My greatest fear is *drumroll*
Failing them:
They are both very extraordianry people who think highly of me. I don't ever want to let them down and yet sometimes I feel like I don't meet their standards.
Now you're probably asking why someone in grad school can feel like a failure. Its simple. I should have done better. I had a 1450 on my SAT's and was accepted into two of the five leading Engineering colleges in this country as an undergraduate. I ended up in a first tier liberal arts college whose physics department routinely sends people to some of the best graduate programs in the country. I, on the other hand, am in a second tier public research university. Worse, I'm not here because its the best I can do, I'm here because I failed to work at my full potential I'm smarter than this. I know it and my parents know it, though they'll never say it to my face. Right now, I'm starting to fix the parts of me that keep me working below my capabilities but I'm scared I'll fail and continue to slip. Close to mid terms, stuff like this keeps me up at night.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Oscar observations

First off. Bravo to Morgan Freeman. The academy has owed that man an oscar for a looong time now. I'm glad to finally see him get it. I haven't seen 'Million Dollar Baby' yet, It just opened at the local cinema about a week ago. I'll try to catch a matinee this weekend.
Don Cheadle, on the other hand, is still waiting for his. My brother suspects that he'll become the next Morgan Freeman. A man with an absolutely impressive body of work but little recognition.
Jamie Foxx, The next $20 million black actor. A much as I would have preferred for Don to take the oscar, Jamie was remarkable in Ray. He deserved it.
Clint Eastwood is someone who I've followed since the beginning of his career. I still remember the first time I saw 'A Fistful of Dollars'. I actually have the Man With No Name trilogy on DVD. It was one of my first purchases when I got a DVD drive for my computer. He's one of those people whose growth and evolution makes you realize that aging is something to be embraced, not feared.
Finally, Martin Scorsese. The number of times the academy has managed to avoid giving him an oscar he might as well be black. At this point, they just need to hand him a statue on his next project regardless of how good it is. He could direct the ugly stepchild of 'Battlefield Earth' and 'Gigli' and they would still owe him an oscar.

Apparently some black people were upset about Chris Rock's Magic Johnson Theater skit because they felt it painted the average black moviegoer in a bad light. All I have to say is this. Considering the fact that someone in hollywood greenlighted 'Soul Plane' how much worse can it possibly get?

Sidenote: I need to look for a good indie theater. I lived within walking distance of one and a short drive of another when I was in Cleveland. $10 on a monday night would buy me a ticket, popcorn and a heineken. Good times.

Wierd TV observations: 24

Since I didn't have class, I was at home in time to catch fox's 24 today. While watching it something interesting occured to me. 24's treatment of its female characters is more than a little disturbing.

Lets look at a few examples.
The current head of CTU is painted as this cold, conniving bitch who also happens to have a mentally disturbed daughter who just commited suicide.
Aisha Tyler's character was a mole for the terrorists until they killed her.
Bauer's daughter was constantly running from one improbably idiotic situation to another. His mistress was also a mole who tried to kill him. His current girlfriend, much like his daughter, is constantly running headlong into dangerous situations.
Pres. Palmer's daughter was raped, his wife was working for his enemies.
Behrooz's girlfriend was invited over and killed basically because she was stalking him.
Bauer's contact at CTU is framed and tortured before getting out and blackmailing her boss for a better position.

Now, I don't watch this show regularly, I usually catch less than half of a given season so I could be wrong here. On the other hand, it is more than a little improbable that I just happen to catch the eps where the women are treated badly. Its also possible that this is just part of a larger trend involving both male and female characters. Doesn't seem that way to me though.

Snow Day!

For those of you not living on the east coast, we are currently being hit by another in a string of snowstorms that have been appearing lately. This one is supposed to keep going until some time Wednesday. One consequence of all this snow was the closing of school this afternoon, meaning that my 6:00 class didn't happen. I'll probably have to go in on friday to make up for it. School may also be closed down tomorrow if snow is still falling and the roads haven't been properly cleared.

That I don't understand. Winter happens every year here. Therefore every year there is snowfall. The means to clear snow aren't exactly rocket science (believe me, I know) so the fact that every year the state ends up struggling to figure out how to get rid of the snow makes no sense to me. Well, either way I have food and a crapload of work I need to do. I'll be fine