My speaker is listening

Smart speakers are all over the place now. I feel the benefits in terms of good sound and convenience outweighs any potential downsides or privacy concerns of a speaker listening to me in my house.

This sort of thing would have been science fiction a few years ago. Now it is common place.

I am slightly concerned that my children will soon be old enough to understand their speaker is listening, and be able to ask Google or Alexa for something directly. I need to organise some security measures.

SA v Kenya: Ease of doing business and GDP

Kenya has a positive story to tell potential investors: In the past 5 years Kenya has risen 80 places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, from 136th to 56th. 80 places??!!! That is a large chunk of the table right there. I would liken it to Usain Bolt taking the baton in the final leg of the school relay, blitzing the field from last place.

This is a clear demonstration of the Kenyan government’s commitment to attract and retain local and foreign investments in the country. It is also just a statistic which is a simplification of a far more complex reality.

Regular visits to the country in this period have shown me what this change means in real life – populations have boomed, infrastructure projects are going up all over the place, demographics are changing (Chinese takeaway anyone?) and general busy-ness (as opposed to business) and traffic in hubs such as Nairobi and Mombasa have become anything from manic to unbearable.

Contrast this to South Africa’s fortunes on the index – slipping from 43rd to 84th in the last five years. These years have been blighted by massive corruption scandals, theft, crime, strong and irrational unions, and macro economic factors conspiring against the growth in SA. Labelling as junk status was inevitable. Check the below charts for GDP per capita growth over the years in the 2 countries:

SA GDP / Capita

And here is Kenya’s:

You can see from the charts that South Africa is still a far richer place. In practice this means that life here is closer to a western standard of living. It is far less chaotic and ‘Jua Kali’ as it is in Kenya. Roads are smooth, phones and power lines are (largely) unbroken. Shops have everything you could desire. You could argue strongly that life is easier here.

Probably the biggest factor working against ease of doing business here in SA is government policy and the legacy of apartheid. It still looms so heavily over every government decision. Contrast this to Kenya where independence and colonial legacy is becoming less and less of an issue. Power lies with the local elites. Tribal politics trumps racial issues.

Last minute

With the looming shutdown happening tonight, we did as much as possible outdoors today and organised odd jobs like shopping for dog food because we thought the dog food shop would have to close.

Discoveries from today included

  • An owl in the tree in the park
  • the dog shop will be open during the shut down, but no dog walking allowed. Highs and lows for pooches
  • my children can shout….I mean really shout incredibly loud

Do it offline

As a kind of corollary to my post yesterday, it seems that if you want to have any quality time with immediate family and people you truly care about…you need to try your best to do it offline.

Do it online

If you have an idea to build a community and make a change, do it online.

Apparently an online presence should be welcoming, specific and consistent to serve the people you seek to serve.

That’s really what this blog is about for me – trying to figure out through writing the change I want to make.

Do it online


If you poke an ant’s nest and pierce the shell, all of the soldier ants come pouring out to see what is happening and protect the nest, while the worker ants stream to the problem area to fix the breach.

Are you the one poking the nest? Or the soldier? Or the worker?

Inputs and outputs

I set up my third (I know!) Amplifier today in the man cave. It is the only Grade A amp I own and it is now doing the LP player duties. This means my streaming amp has been relegated to an “Input AUX” on the class A amp. Audio talk, but it got me thinking about priorities.

If you have many responsibilities in your life, and you are struggling to handle all the input signals and get all the outputs you want – then maybe you need to focus on the quality / important inputs and relegate the other stuff. Sort out the important things first and only then look to do anything else.

At the moment, my life is a list of important things and little time for recreation. Being conscientious and organised about priorities is perhaps one of the hardest things for me, but when I do it, it reaps instant rewards.

In the audio analogy, I sorted out the wheat from the chaff, the high res from the low bitrate, the analogue from the digital, the good from the crap – and this means I am now experiencing the best audio source (LP’s) through the best amplifier, and the others are taking a back seat for another day.

It’s not much of an analogy, but the bigger point is that life is about options and sacrifice. You have to choose your sacrifice. Choose it wisely and complete the plan. Then reassess.

That’s the plan.

Happy Thursday chimps.

New Years purge

We are purging our cupboards on the first day of the year. Although it wasn’t planned for this exact day, the timing feels extremely cathartic and right.

We will send our old clothes to one of the multitude of needy causes nearby. Africa does not struggle when it comes to charities and needy folk, unfortunately.

The purge is also spreading to my man cave/office which is chock full of my stuff….this includes all the coolest stuff (posters, guitars, Hifi amps and speakers) and all the junk I have collected over the years (old battery chargers anyone?)

If you are looking for something to do to start the new year right, I’d highly recommend a purge.

Happy New Years chimps!

Research tips and tricks

In this age of Google and unlimited information at our fingertips, there is still great value (perhaps greater than ever) in aggregating, curating and gleaning insight out of information. The internet is a firehose and we need some way of focusing in on something useful. Research reports of interest. Look at the archive of as an example of what I love.

With that in mind, and with my brief career as a research analyst as a background, I am searching for hacks, tips and tricks to bend information to my will! I have always appreciated great research but I feel under-skilled to come up with a good piece of research myself. Perhaps it is a matter of brain power and IQ not being up to scratch, But I think it is just as likely a matter of methodology and understanding the process.

So, if any of you have any expert tips on using google to your advantage, or on how to compile a research report then please let me know. I am open to all learning on this topic, even if it seems obvious and basic. I need to know how to approach data, how to approach sources and how to make interesting links of interest. It is something that I wasn’t taught at school….or maybe I just didn’t listen.

Thats what is running through my head.

Happy Monday Chimps.


The Weekend Jungle

Weekends turn our house into a jungle. For some reason as a family we fall into chaos – dishes build up in the sink, toys scatter around the house. The garden is no better.

This weekend was particularly bad. At one stage the house and garden resembled the Amazon, and there were two doors that wouldn’t lock, leaving our house vulnerable to…..well to anyone who may have wanted to walk in.

The jungle also compounds. As things get more chaotic, the effort required to bring it back feels greater and greater, and so you just put it off which leads to more jungle creeping in.

But slowly, once the children were asleep, we managed to clean up. I managed to lock up the doors and we escaped the jungle just before bed time. It was a close call though.

Happy Monday chimps.