In my experience, the beds in Morocco are generally hard. Bounce a coin on one and you’ll lose a fucking eye. They are also cool and pleasant to sleep on. It was still dark when I first heard it: a single voice assuring observant Muslims that prayer is better than sleep. Other men soon joined the call to the first prayers of the day. I felt a smile fall on my face as I strained to make out individual voices. In under a minute, so many mu’azzin had joined the call that what once could be made out became a melodic din.
It was not a message meant for me. I drifted back into the black as the undulating prompt to pray continued.
After being awake for close to 24 hours the day before, we slept in until 10am, our internal clocks synced, through misadventure, with Moroccan time. As we stumbled downstairs, our host made us breakfast. The features of the meal were ones that we’d come to know well over the next three weeks: A single scrambled egg, served with fresh-squeezed orange juice, an an assortment local breads and a pastry. Using my questionable Canadian French, our host Basal’s Belgian-accented French, and a smattering of assistance from Google Translate, we hash out some pleasant conversation about the surrounding area. When asked where we could find a local SIM card and where the nearest bank could be had, Basal threw on his shoes and offered to show us the way himself. Read the rest
This past September, I discovered that I had a heart condition that could have dropped me dead at any time. An 80% blockage of some fairly important plumbing and, as an added bonus, heart disease caused by shitty genetics and aggravated by the anxiety and frequent panic attacks I get down with thanks to my PTSD. My cardiologists told me that I was lucky: normally, this was the sort of thing that folks typically don’t find out about until after they’ve suffered a heart attack. My medical team got invasive. They plopped a stent in me.
Finally, a piece of metal in my body that I actually want there.
I was awake and hopped up on fentanyl during the procedure. During the course of the angioplasty, the surgeon bumped up against the inside of my heart: it caused the first angina pain that I had ever experienced. I was filled with fear of not having more time with my partner; that I hadn’t finished my novel; I had not traveled far enough to understand the world in a satisfactory manner. I had always wanted to step foot in the Sahara. Angina pain removed from the equation, I found my heart absolutely aching for it. After they got me settled into the hospital’s CCU for the night and leaned on my groin for 30 minutes to stop an arterial bleed that was definitely trying to kill me, I told my wife that I wanted to go to Morocco.
“Why?” She asked.
“The desert. Read the rest
Russia's state nuclear company Rosatom announced on Twitter today they have signed a deal with The Republic of Rwanda to build a center for nuclear science and technology. Read the rest
“The cameras are already transforming modern day policing in Uganda, with facial recognition and artificial intelligence as part of policing and security.” — Ugandan Police.
Four years ago, there were 15 known black rhinos left in Tanzania -- "ground zero of the poaching crisis" -- and today there 167 of them; elephant populations (which dropped 60% between 2009-2014) are rebounding too, up to over 60,000 from a low of 43,330.
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In central Kenya, biologists and wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas captured footage of a fantastically rare melanistic leopard, sometimes known as an African "black panther." There are only two known prior photos of an African black leopard, from 1909 and 2007. From National Geographic:
"Almost everyone has a story about seeing one, it's such a mythical thing," says Pilfold, of San Diego Zoo Global's Institute for Conservation Research.
"Even when you talk to the older guys that were guides in Kenya many years ago, back when hunting was legal [in the 1950s and ‘60s], there was a known thing that you didn't hunt black leopards. If you saw them, you didn't take it..."
Pilfold adds it’s curious that the fictional country of Wakanda, home of the superhero Black Panther, is located in East Africa, fairly close to Kenya.
"It's a unique coincidence," says Pilfold. "The only place where we have black leopards is where this place in the Marvel Universe appears to exist."
"Black leopard spotted in Africa for first time in 100 years" (National Geographic)
Black Leopard: My quest to photograph the most elusive cat in Africa (Camtraptions)
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Teff is one of the oldest grains to have been cultivated, a staple for so long that its original cultivation date is lost to history and can only be estimated at between 1000 and 4000 BCE; it is best known as the main ingredient in injera, the soft pancakes that are served with Ethiopian meals.
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Malawi's "barefoot engineers" are a group of eight local women who received solar engineering training in the Barefoot College in Rajasthan, India and returned home to install solar systems for poor and/or rural women.
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CIT computer scientist Milan Cvitkovic conducted 46 in-depth interviews with "scientists, engineers, and CEOs" and collated their machine learning research needs into an aptly named paper entitled "Some Requests for Machine Learning Research from the East African Tech Scene," which presents an illuminating look into the gaps in the current practice of machine learning, itself an example of how rich-world priorities shape our ability to understand, compute and predict the world.
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The Committee to Protect Journalists says authorities in Tanzania have forcibly detained Angela Quintal, Africa program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Muthoki Mumo, CPJ's sub-Saharan Africa representative. Their passports were seized. Read the rest
The Nairobi neighborhood of Kibera is Africa's largest slum, and it's home to an unlikely, Silicon-Valley-style tech park operated by Samasource (motto: "Artificial intelligence meets human dignity"), who serves clients from Google to Microsoft to Salesforce, using clickworkers who get paid $9/day, compared to the going wage of $2/day in the region's "informal economy" (the company believes that paying wages on par with rich-world clickworkers would "distort the local economy").
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OG riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre has launched a new t-shirt line with all the money going to Peace Sisters, a non-profit that helps pay school tuition for underprivileged young girls in the West African nation of Togo. The shirts feature the likes of Kim Gordon, Jill Soloway, Chuck D (all seen below), Patton Oswalt, W. Kamau Bell, and Carrie Brownstein. The money from each $40 t-shirt sends a girl to school for a year. Buy 'em at Tees 4 Togo.
From Rolling Stone:
Hanna devised the concept after meeting Peace Sisters founder Tina Kampor. A former teacher in Togo, Kampor immigrated to Pasadena 15 years ago, where she would become a full-time registered nurse. Still, she could not forget her students back home: “[Tina] grew up there and she just saw all these girls who weren’t able to go to school,” explains Hanna. “A lot of them are orphans, or very poor. Past the fifth grade in Togo, you have to pay for [education]. She saw all these girls dropping out in the sixth grade. So when she came to California she started sending money home, then opened it up for other people to help. She’s put 130 girls through school herself and supported members of her family at the same time. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and [said], ‘I want to be a part of this!'”
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Weezer pushes the "Africa" cover gimmick ever onward with a new music video for the Toto classic. The clip stars Weird Al Yankovic as Rivers Cuomo in a parody of Weezer's own "Sweater Song" music video.
Background here. Read the rest
At Weezer's show at The Forum in Los Angeles Wednesday, Weird Al got onstage mid-song to join the band in a cover of Toto's 1982 hit "Africa." You may remember that a 14-year-old recently convinced Weezer to cover "Africa."
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"We're gonna take you on a distant voyage," promised singer Rivers Cuomo, who was sporting a classic sleeveless Nirvana T-shirt and rocking a flying V guitar. "To the continent of your choosing... where do you kids want to go tonight?" The question was rhetorical, of course, as "Africa" has become the highlight of the band's sets on their current co-headlining tour with The Pixies. Just moments after the crowd shouted "AFRICA!!!," the band kicked into the song's familiar heat mirage intro and Cuomo awkwardly played some air drums and then, just after the third verse, it happened.
"Weird Al" wandered out on stage in his signature Hawaiian shirt, his accordion at the ready to rip off a wicked solo. Al joined in on the chorus and finished it off with an accordion/guitar riff-off with Cuomo. And then, officially, summer was over.
Senegalese musician Salliou made his own kashaka, a type of twin ball rattle on a string. Listen to him show how many sounds his ingenious creation can make. Read the rest
After all the noise made over Weezer covering Toto's Africa, it was only a matter of time before Joseph Williams and the rest of the lads decided what's good for the goose is good for the gander: at a concert in Vancouver, Canada earlier this week Toto unleashed their cover of Hash Pipe upon an undeserving world. Read the rest