Thursday, April 26, 2012

Time passes

It is a cool evening in Kigali. The sky is a dark blue/gray and I hear students talking over in the science building, crickets and crows chirp, and the evening call to prayer just finished echoing through the neighborhood to the south.

It has been a slow day -- one of those days where relatively minor inconveniences annoy me more than they should. The book creeps closer to completion. The first proofs were submitted on Monday. I am now working on the index and will do one final proofread. I get the proofs back from the publisher in a week and a half. Then I enter final changes and it's over. I don't know how extensive the final changes will be. Any changes will be about formatting or spacing. The copy-editing phase is done.

Classes went ok this week. Things move along. Next week will be light in terms of teaching. Tuesday, when I normally teach my mathematical physics class, is a holiday so class will not meet. We will make up the class in a few weeks. The following week I will give midterms in both of my classes.

A week from Monday I think I need to have my regular and supplemental exams written for both of my classes. The tests aren't administered until mid-June, but the exams need to go to an external reviewer for approval. So I need to write the exam with about half of the class not having been taught yet. I don't like this system at all. It means that I write the exam guessing at what I will cover. I much prefer for a class to unfold organically, especially the first time I teach it. But that's not the way it is here. So I'll guess at what I'm going to get through. It is hard to avoid "teaching to the test" with this system. But it is what it is.

The next two weeks or so will be busy with exam writing and book work. I think I may spend the weekend away from Kigali. A change of scenery might be rejuvenating and energizing. And I'll need a lot of energy to push through the next few weeks.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Moving Along

I continue to work on my book. It is nearing completion. I spent much of Friday and Saturday re-sizing the axis labels on the majority of the figures. The text has a total of 333 figures, so this was not a small task. I now need to proofread a few additional sections, work on some spacing issues, and lighten some of the photos. Then it goes back to the publisher for a quality check. While this is underway, I will make the index. Then I clean up anything the publisher finds in the quality check, and it is done. There is still a lot of work to do, but I am moving along.

There is little else to report. Classes yesterday and today went ok. It is the rainy season, so there are occasional heavy rains. But it does not rain all the time. So far rainy season has been very pleasant.

(Doreen took the above picture when we were exploring the pyramids in Cairo in March.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not much new

There is not much new to report. I have been working entering lots of final edits and making many small changes to figures in my book. I am in the home stretch. This weekend I will make the index. I've been working just about non-stop on it all week. It will be great when it is done. Just a few more days.

This morning there was steady rain. It was dark and cool, for Kigali at least. I had breakfast on my balcony, but I needed an extra layer so stay comfortable. But as the day progressed it cleared. This afternoon from my office the view was spectacular. I felt as if I could see 1000 hills from my window alone. It is now a perfect evening. The sun has set and there are some purple clouds in the sky. It is comfortable out, although I suspect tonight will be a little bit chilly. I will probably wear a light jacket when I head out into the night for my usual Friday-night tofu.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


This week marks the 18th anniversary of the start of the genocide. On April 6, 1994, the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down while landing at the Kigali airport. This was followed by 100 days of unthinkable violence and murder. Estimates vary, but most put the number at around 800,000 killed.

The 6th was a Friday. At the exact moment that the plane brought down eighteen years ago, I was having a plate of spicy tofu at my favorite Chinese restaurant. I was just a few miles from the airport.

This week is a memorial week. There are no classes, and many businesses and offices are open only for a half day. The city is quieter than usual, but not as much as I had expected. I went for a run today at dusk and the streets were no more or less busy than is typical.

Most of the time, I feel the genocide is everywhere and nowhere. Rwanda has made amazing progress since 1994. Kigali is clean, pleasant, and safe. There has been very little violence the last decade and poverty rates are declining. At the same time, I feel that the shadow of the genocide is subtly everywhere. Eighteen years is not that long ago.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


There is a nice heron that hangs out on campus. Sometimes I see it hunting around the guesthouse. Last week I finally got a few decent pictures of it.

I am almost certain it is a Black-headed Heron (Andea melanocephala). According to my bird guide, black-headed herons like to hang out in grasslands and drier areas in addition to wetlands. The heron I see prowls around in dry drainage ditches. I assume it is looking for insects.

Monday, April 2, 2012


When I was in Cairo I bought some soap at a nice store that sells a bunch of natural products. The soap is basil scented. It smelled nice, and the soap looked to be high quality. They had many other scents, but basil seemed new and interesting, so I got a little bundle of four bars of basil soap.

The soap is nice, but the basil scent is a little odd. It's very pleasant, but when I shower I sort of feel like I'm showering with pesto or something. It's not a bad smell at all; it's just unusual for soap.

In other olfactory news, the entire KIST lawn on this side of campus has been cut by one guy with a weed whacker over the course of Friday and Monday. I don't know why. Usually it is done by hand by a team of workers with scythes. The total area is perhaps an acre. Maybe two. The weed whacker guy was working around the guesthouse this morning, which was somewhat annoying. But he finished, and now there is a nice summery cut-grass smell. I like it.

Finally, this weekend the guesthouse lost power for around 36 hours. This isn't typical. Usually power outages are 10-15 minutes. It wasn't that inconvenient, since I was working in my office, which had power and internet. And I have a headlamp and candles and a little rechargeable LED desklamp. So light was no problem.

The problem was the refrigerator. Suffice it to say that the fridge doesn't smell very good right now. I threw out my things that had spoiled, but there is some food that I don't think belongs to anyone, so nobody has thrown it out. Tomorrow I may lose patience and just purge anything that looks suspect.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Saturday rhythm

Today began with rain. Pounding rain in the middle of the night, cacophonous on the metal roof. There then followed alternating periods of drizzle and downpour. It persisted through midday. I got out of bed around ten. Shortly thereafter the guesthouse lost power. Usually power outages are only 15 minutes or so. This one has lasted all day.

It was quite cool in the morning. I had to put on another layer as I had my coffee on the balcony. The wind and the rain was hypnotic. The cool weather was a nice change. After a slow morning I headed to my office, where there was power and internet. I spent the day working, entering book edits and purging forbidden contractions. In the evening I went downtown and had a satisfying veggie burger. I then did some grocery shopping and returned for more work.

I am now on the balcony typing by candle light. Earlier it was bright. There was a lopsided half-moon and many stars. But the city is now shrouded by mist. It is damp, and neither warm nor cool.