Interesting things I have been reading lately

The conundrum of digital humanitarianism: when the crowd does harm

To some of you this may look like heartbreaking (and it is in fact) and you may think that it is very nice for people to share this story so that maybe someone will help this family. The problem that I have with this is that whoever re-posted this did not knew that he was basically saying to whoever has bad intention: “Hey, here there is a young woman with two little kids, and two wounded people with her. Here is her location, and she is scared and alone, with no means to get for help”. This is more or less like to tweet that you have a million dollars in your house and that you are gonna go out for a drink and leave the door open.

Miss Universe 2013 National Costumes

Costumes run he gait from hilarious to ironic to absolutely gorgeous. Check out the costume for Miss USA, and decide for yourself (I fall on the side of awesome + ironic, but I also think that the Kardishans are brilliant performance artists, so YMMV).

The Night of the Doctor

Stream of consciousness update

I’m enjoying the hell out of my maternity leave, but my toddler means that I’m not able to get nearly as much done while the baby is sleeping as I could the first time around.

So much for my great blogging, scrapbooking, novel writing, cooking, and relaxing intentions.

For example, I just yelled at Jasmine to get her goddamned TOE out of the baby’s goddamned MOUTH. I mean, Bertrand and I are pretty casual about germs, but bare feet? That’s pretty gross. Not as gross as the fact that Jasmine was chewing on the feet of her tights yesterday at my brother’s wedding (like how I casually dropped that bomb in here?), but still, pretty gross.

To all of my childless friends who KEEP ASKING whether having kids was worth it. Yes. YES. A MILLION TIMES YES. I just have to keep reminding myself that the moments of frustration will make absolutely riotous stories at family gatherings when my girls are adults.

Speaking of great stories, yesterday, I got to hang out with family that I hadn’t seen in over a decade. And it was amazing. And not seeing everyone grow up and have kids and being able to meet their spouses is one of the saddest things about spending my life abroad. And now that I also have kids, I am sad that they won’t be able to grow up playing with their cousins (and cousins once and twice removed). I can’t wait to spend ten months reacclimating to the States when we come back for Arabic training, and I’m even more excited about the opportunity to reconnect with my family.

tl;dr: too tired to be coherent, kids are awesome, family is awesome, and my brother is MARRIED (!!!!!).


I am grateful that, although my toddler still puts EVERYTHING in her mouth, I can yell, “WAIT! Don’t eat that! It’s trash!” and she happily stops and throws it away. WHEW. Things she has tried to eat this morning: a silica gel packet, a dried black bean, an empty Larabar wrapper, rose petals, a black crayon.

Back for the moment. I’ve been busy globetrotting, struggling through a difficult (but SO AWESOME) bridge assignment, and having a baby.

Me and said baby. Welcome, Grace Sika!

Me and said baby. Welcome, Grace Sika!

Computer melt-down = Theresa melt-down

Last Sunday, my computer bit the dust. I didn't realize HOW much it had bitten the dust until Friday evening, when I tried some basic computer repair (take out RAM and put it back in, check all hard drive power and motherboard connections, etc), and nothing worked. NOTHING.

Dear God.

18 months of photos, down the drain.

I was able to kluge a working computer together out of an older computer we'd dragged along with us from Cotonou, get Windows 7 installed, and use an external SATA case to connect the hard drives and save my data.

It was exactly as much of a hassle as it sounds, particularly since our Internet connection is dial-up speed. I'm still downloading software, and still getting used to the fact that I'm using WIndows (!!) on my personal machine for the first time in almost a decade. Sorry, Ubuntu, with no Internet connection to download drivers, I wasn't about to try a fresh install on a kluged together computer, particularly since your wifi and printer support is so damn mediocre these days.

Back when Bertrand and I were running People Online, we kept a thumb drive filled with applications, so we could frequently reformat his virus ridden laptop. It wasn't ideal, but it allowed us to get a Windows machine up and running again in a few hours. I also kept a thumb drive of PortableApps, including a plug-and-play Linux distro around, just in case. I used them ALL THE TIME.

Now that we're no longer running an IT business, we've given up those best practices.


After this weekend, I won't make that mistake again. We've got all of our photos backed up. We've got all the free programs we use regularly on an external drive. And I'm still pulling my hair out trying to get all of the Windows ecosystem versions of my favorite programs downloaded.

The bad news is that after 48 hours of this, I am grumpy and irritable. The good news is that I was able to restore (almost) all of our data, and while I was mucking around, I went ahead and installed our printers on the network. Now we can print from all of our computers (including iPhones and iPads) from anywhere in the house.

I figured out some workable Internet solutions as well, so hopefully (bwa ha ha) you'll see a bit more of me over the next few weeks.

Lots of lessons learned this weekend. ARGH.

Ain’t that the truth

It’s official. I’m pregnant.

No, “we” are not pregnant. Bless my husband’s heart, he’s wonderful and supportive and putting up with my oddball cravings (thank goodness for a MEDEVAC to London where I was able to eat all of the strawberries and cheese and peppermint tea I wanted).

But he’s not 13 weeks in and already showing (and already up a cup size! ARGH!). He doesn’t have pregnancy acne (yeah, all of you women whose skin clears up? I HATE YOU RIGHT NOW). And he certainly isn’t getting up to pee eight gazillion times a night (it’s hormones, not the baby pressing on my bladder … yet).

And Jasmine’s going to be a big sister, which is going to be awesome and funny and horrifying all at the same time. I hope she treats the baby with more respect than the cat, although watching Baby J Toddler J chase a crawling baby around the house is going to be be riotous.


We are terribly excited. As wonderful as it was to raise Jasmine in Freetown, I think it’ll be that much easier to raise the new rugrat in DC. We’ll move back to the States for training when Jasmine’s just over 2. The newborn will be 3-4 months old, depending on the exact time of my departure from Freetown.

Changes are a-foot. And it is awesome.

On being disconnected.

Oh, Internet. We canceled our Internet subscription, but haven’t yet been cut off. Bertrand and I could live with the piss-poor quality as long as the Internet provider actually picked up the phone when we called to complain. When they started ignoring our calls, we decided to pull the plug.

We can both think of a lot of things we can do with $240/ month that don’t involve throwing money down a whole for a service we really don’t use. We can access Facebook and Amazon on our iDevices, and the bandwidth was too restricted to access YouTube anyway.

I’m back to operating like I did in Benin … writing long emails out ahead of time, then sending them when I have a brief connection to the Internet. I blog in gedit (Ubuntu’s notepad.exe), then copy-paste when I can get online. And I don’t upload pictures anymore at all. It makes me sad, but as I get older, I’m discovering that my desire to put Every Little Thing online is lessening.

It’s strange to think that once our ISP finally gets around to cutting us off, I’ll actually have the same Internet access I had in Benin as a PCV. It’s even stranger to think that I’m kind of looking forward to being disconnected for a while.

Plus ca change …

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack (I hope)!

I haven’t been writing because life has been completely overwhelming lately. Well, not just life. Life in the Foreign Service, which ties so closely to work as to make it impossible to write about life without also writing about work. I didn’t realize until I logged in today that I hadn’t actually published a post since November. Whoops.

There’s a great deal of discussion in the FS blogging community about “free speech” and what can and can’t be posted, and what officers say to their EFMs who write blog psots that may poke at sensitive spots in the FS community. There’s a bit less discussion about officers themselves who write. Self-censorship has made writing about what I do here in Freetown harder than I expected.

In any case, I miss writing. For a short while, scrapbooking largely filled my relentless need to record and describe what was going on around me. I’ve found that while I value that creative endeavor for and of itself, it’s no substitute for blogging. I’ve managed to get my work schedule back under control, and I no longer need to be at the office at 6:45 every morning to make sure that the wheels won’t fly off the track every day. I’m still an early riser, so I hope to use this extra time in the mornings to write, write, and write some more.

On bidding as an ELO

Mmmmm … bidding. The ELO Winter Generalist bidlist is out, and it’s just about all Latin America (with a bit of China thrown in for good measure). Bertrand and I hashed out my bidding strategy in advance, which has made putting the list together much simpler than I expected. Sweet love.

It’s really been fun to imagine our small family living all over the world. It’s really shaken up my ideas about my career, and our ideas of where we’d like our family to go. We could go anywhere! What a liberating experience. Bidding as an ELO is awesome!*

Everyone in Freetown is super excited for me and thrilled to share their knowledge. Thanks to eveyone who’s answered my weirdly detailed questions about EFM employment. ;)

* I reserve the right to change my mind if my CDO sends me to Siberia, which isn’t even on the list, so I don’t know what I’m worrying.

On election night parties.

Election night indeed. When informed that the Ambassador would be throwing an election night party at his house from 10:30 at night to 3:00 in the morning, I cheerfully told the CLO exactly what I thought of that idea.

Boy was I wrong.

My “job” during the party was to explain the electoral college. I had a blast explaining to Sierra Leoneans, Brits, Kiwis, and yes, even Americans, exactly how the votes for president were counted.

All this to say, the party was a lot of fun, and exactly what I needed to keep my spirits up while my husband was traveling. The Hatch act forbids government employees partisan activities while on duty, which meant that no matter how I felt about the outcome (and you all know I felt strongly), I had to stay netural at the party.

I had a great time schmoozing, chatting about the candidates, and explaining that yes, it’s a ridiculous confusing system that occasionaly results in counterintuitive results. But it’s our ridiculous confusing system.

And somehow, it works.

On elections

Bertrand lost his mother a few weeks ago. She could have been saved had she had access to Western health care. Benin is a perfect example of a market driven health care system. Not enough patients have the money to pay for expensive treatments, so expensive treatments don’t exist.

The more time I spend in the developing world, the more I’m convinced of three things:

  1. Citizens and business should pay taxes.
  2. Governments exist to correct market failures.
  3. Governments accomplish #2 through #1.

Elections, indeed.