April 2010 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

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Visit Tanzania?

If you are planning to visit Tanzania, and come to Arusha, please feel free to contact us. We can tell you about hotels, facilities, prices of basics, etc. Arusha is a great base for trips to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Kilimanjaro, and of course our own pet volcano, Mount Meru. We now also have bed and breakfast rooms available, and a special introductory offer - see Adia's Place.
The BEV Retrospective - 1942/2002.

There was life before britseyeview.com. Find out what it was like in the second half of the 20th century viewed through the Brits Eye. Read the BEV E-book, currently featuring the year 1970. This is really getting rather stale - it's been stuck there for ages now, but being retired is so busy. I am theoretically working on 1971.

Experimental sofa parts.
29/4/2010 - Further R&D.

I'm still waiting for version 2 of the chair skeleton - there have been quite extensive power cuts over the last couple of days, and this slows everybody down.

Making the optimistic assumption that the chair project is successful, my next challenge is to learn how to make sofas and/or easy chairs. I've been doodling on paper over this for several days, and I reached the point where I had to make something to see if my assumptions about how it could be done were any good.

I want to use wood for this - a pine or light hardwood frame, padded with polyurethane foam, and covered with heavy canvas. If I get half decent at making them, I'll convert to leather, but that is far too expensive for an experiment. But as it happens, there's a canvas mill here in Tanzania at Morogoro, and their stuff seems to me to be good, and quite reasonably priced.

To put it bluntly, I have no idea how this is supposed to be done, so I'm winging it. My idea initially is to make the frame have a fairly close approximation to the shape of the finished thing so that I can largely use a uniform thickness of padding.
This may be the wrong approach. Maybe the frame should be very basic, and the end shape determined by layers of padding. I will probably find out in time.

I have made most of one end, and half of the other. The second end is just copycat stuff, mirror image. After that I have to find out what wood is used here for making bows or pick-axe handles. I want to use laths of some tough and springy wood to make the seat support, and in the central part of the back, so that the thing has some life as opposed to being just a foam pad over a rigid support.

In doing what I've done so far I am reasonably within my depth, though it is a completely different style of woodworking. It does not have to look good or be well finished, just the right general shape, and strong enough to do the job. In the case of my prototype is also has to be as cheap and as fast as possible - I don't want to spend too much or too long going down a dead-end track.

Once I've made the frame I am in completely uncharted waters - DIY upholstery!

It rained quite heavily again last night, and though Innocent was due to start work on the foundation of my workshop, I did not expect anything to get done. But he and his brother turned up in the pouring rain, marked the trenches out and started digging. The day dried things up some, and the trench was finished before they packed up for the day.

28/4/2010 - Up For The Chop.

I have never really warmed to our gardener/gatekeeper Danny. He has always seemed to me to be somewhat surly/two faced, and certainly not a self starter. Of late, I believe he has got worse.

We think he is fucking the woman who lives (more accurately I think squats) in the house opposite to our compound, and there are signs that he is syphoning off food and other odds and ends to give to her. Also I suspect he has been hitting on Zai. He and she used to co-exist quite well, taking turns to cook their meals. Now he won't cooperate at all, I'd say because she doesn't want to know.

The primary factor for me is that he has become more and more lazy. He has to be asked or told three or four times to do maintenance jobs on the vegetable garden, but he's not slow to eat the produce. If I, as the source of his wages, lived the life of Riley, maybe I could understand the resentment, but I work harder than he does, and quite obviously so.

Those were my opinions, which don't put him at much jeopardy. But lately Adia has a similar attitude, and that means his days are numbered. It will only take a straw now to break the camels back.

I realize that to most of my readers, the whole concept of having domestic servants is alien - it was, or maybe still is to me too. Here though it is a fact of life. If it were not so, three quarters of the population would be unemployed instead of half (my number are illustrative). However the system does involve some sort of unwritten contract. Right or wrong, I pay someone and feed them - in return I expect some work.

27/4/2010 - More Furniture Stuff.

One of the things I have made for each guest room is a plant stand to support some potted plant or other. Today I finished off one for the Old Cottage.

As you'll know by now, the wood theme there is Jacaranda. What I had left when I started it was some two by two (that's inches), and a short board with almost as much bark as wood. I worked on the board a bit - cut it in half, and made a couple of decent edges, then glued it to itself edgewise. Of late, I've been using steel pins to do this, but I should really be using dowels. So since there was little to lose in this case, I tried that, and it worked out quite well. I may now switch techniques.

Among the odd bits of wood I had left, there were also the offcuts from the Old Cottage table legs. These were chunky enough that I could attach some angled legs to a piece with screws and glue and make a pretty strong set of joints. In the past, I have usually added some cross bracing at the bottom of such things, but in this case it struck me as unnecessary. Even without the glue, the thing felt quite robust, and it looked good.

My only reservation was that the legs looked a bit chunky and clumsy. So I unscrewed them and planed them to a taper at the bottom end. Then I just went ahead and glued them.

I cut the jointed board into a circle, and plonked that on top, and I'm quite pleased with the result. It is about as simple as you could make it, and I think has a certain elegance.

Today we also went into town on a leather hunt. The hunt was not that successful. I had hoped to find a wholesale place where I could buy whole tanned hides at a reasonable price, but that didn't happen. But I did get a small hide that I hope will make two chairs for the Old Cottage.

Yesterday we had done a tour of local steel workers with the prototype chair, and found someone who was reasonably priced. So tomorrow my task will probably be the merging of steel, wood, and leather.

A flower developing on the passion fruit football vine.

The work of a true mortar artist.
26/4/2010 - Remarkable Things.

Adia noticed this morning that the giant passion fruit vine that we bought in November or December is developing flowers. They do look just like passion fruit flowers, but they are huge - the size of your fist. We saw one of the fruits on a vine at the nursery where we bought them, and it was about the size and shape of a rugby ball. So maybe we'll have a couple of them soon. They probably taste like sawdust - size is often not a good indication of quality.

The other picture shows the rendering on the beam over the gate that Innocent did today. The man is a true artist with mortar.

The way he does it (which is the way it is generally done here) is by throwing small quantities of the mortar at the target surface with a medium size trowel from about 30-40cm away. This applies to all the surfaces of the beam including the bottom one. When I try this, the result is one of three options - the mortar falls off the trowel when I'm trying to throw it, I miss the target, or I hit the target, then most times the mortar immediately falls off. Whatever the route, 90% of the mortar ends up on the floor.

When Innocent does it, 90% of it sticks to the surface. Then when he has thrown enough to form a fairly uniform layer, he rubs it to a flat surface with a piece of rectangular steel tube. Remarkably it still doesn't fall off. It's bloody amazing.

To cap it all, he then makes tidy corners using his trowel and a small tool made out of a bit of angle iron. All of this is done while he's balancing on a narrow plank supported by a precarious system of plastic drums and makeshift scaffolding and props.

The gate has been opened and closed several times today without any sign of movement that my eye can detect, so maybe we've cracked it this time - fingers crossed.

The road to Njiro somewhat restored.
25/4/2010 - Pluses and Minuses.

Innocent came in first thing this morning and proceeded to open the gate, well before the mortar had chance to reach a decent proportion of its full strength. Needless to say, the top hinge-pin moved, and the left gate leaf was back to resting against the right one. I was somewhat annoyed, but on the other hand thought that it was an indication that what we had done was not strong enough anyway.

We discussed it for a while and concluded that probably the best approach was to weld the hinge pin bracket to the rebars within the gate post. This approach appers to have held for the right leaf. So he went off and produced a welder with tackle from somewhere or other, and we stitched the gate up yet again. As of now, it has been opened several times and does not appear to have moved - fingers crossed.

The vehicle owning inhabitants of our village finally got together this weekend, and we all contributed to doing something about the road to Njiro. The ditch that has been carved out by the rains was filled in with soil dug from a new ditch further from the road, and from elsewhere, and a quantity of rough road moram (volcanic detritus) was dumped on top of the soil and generally spread about to cover the moved soil and generally level the road somewhat.
It's still far from perfect. Another four trips of moram and a working over with a vibrating road roller would be ideal, but it is a considerable improvement.

The trick now will be to maintain the drainage ditch. The side furthest from the road is next to a steep bank in parts, and further rain will tend to cause the bank to collapse or slide into the ditch. Then of course when the ditch is blocked, the water flows around the obstruction on the downhill side, carving into the road. So if the ditch gets blocked, it needs to be cleared promptly.

Yet another attempt to stabilize the gate.

The fig tree outgrowing its cage.
23/4/2010 - Local Changes.

Innocent and his helper have been working on the gate yesterday and today. He has completely hacked out the cracked section of the wall, and hacked out enough of the gate post concrete around the hinge pins to be able to adjust them.

Once the thing was stripped down, he propped up the gate in its required position, then mortared the hinges back in - thoroughly I hope, since he is quite a mortar artist. He built appropriate shuttering and added steel reinforcement, then poured concrete to replace the hacked out section of wall and to attach the steel rebars at the top of the wall to the gate post.

That was yesterday. Today he has been setting up shuttering, and at the end of the day pouring more concrete to make a lintel across the top of the gate that should stabilize the position of both gate posts.

Tomorrow he will apply a coat of cement rendering to what he has done so far. After that, I'm not sure yet.

Yesterday, I finally managed to explain to Danny that he should tie the branches of our little fig tree so that the grew in a more vertical direction. We can let it spread sideways once it has reached a height where most of the leaves are above casual nibbling by the dogs. I say the dogs, but I believe that Gretel is the primary culprit, and that Sigi has simply learned to do it from his mother.

Gretel is possibly the most jealous and possessive female I have ever come across. She will not tolerate anything that gets more attention from me than she does. At the same time she is also very protective. I can guarantee that if she was around, anyone who intended me harm would have to kill her first. She's always attacking her brother for either not doing as I tell him, or because I gave him more attention than she liked. And it is savage, although he is bigger than her, and no slouch, she really goes for him sometimes.

Unfortunately she noticed early on that I was quite keen on the fig tree. So the tree is now fair game. Despite her depredations, it is actually growing quite well. I think in another six months it will have grown tall enough so it can do without the leaves at dog-chewable level, but I may have to get it a bigger cage made before then.

I got the TV stand for the Old Cottage finished today, and made a start on a bedside table. I think I can make that out of the wood I have. If not it will have to go on hold, since currently our car is trapped in the compound by the gate work. I can get Kiki out though so we have some transport, albeit limited.
22/4/2010 - Time For a Change.

I should not really be commenting on the UK election, since I have not lived there or paid taxes there to speak of since 1990.

But it does seem to me that it is time for some political reform. The current system always leaves a good chunk of the population without real representation. Also, the left/right distinction has narrowed over the years to the point where it really doesn't matter that much in practical rather than idealogical terms.

There's also a question in my mind as to whether political experience is of any value in the effective running of the country. I'm pretty sure that in his first few days, any incoming prime minister gets briefed by various senior civil servants who point out to him that the path he must tread to avoid disaster is only about six inches wide.

It seems to me that the primary qualifications for a prime minister are the highest possible IQ, and an ability to communicate, in particular the ability to speak clearly and effectively. A PM must depend on others for detailed analysis and advice, but must be bright enough to cut through even sophisticated bullshit. When he's separated the bullshit from the important stuff he must be able to explain the important stuff to the people.

The aversion to hung parliaments seems to me to be largely a matter of tradition. They probably have some advantage, in that they make it more difficult to pass stupid laws, since legislation is likely to be judged more on its merit that on its political impact.

So I'd be voting for Clegg - he seems like a bright level headed young man. Brown can't communicate, and Cameron's main focus is on achieving a Tory government again after all these years - then what? Clegg for president - yes Brits, you can!

21/4/2010 - The Prototype Chair.

In my capacity as Director of R&D, I picked up the welded steel chair skeleton this morning, and adjusted it to fit some wooden test components I had knocked together as a proof of concept. There was a problem with the centering of the spine in the prototype steelwork, and in the course of constructing it I placed the chair back somewhat too close to the seat. I live and learn.

However, it is definitely a chair, and given that the seat is hard boards, and there's nothing in the back to lean against, it's not too bad to sit on. Also, the steel skeleton gives is the flexibility and spring you get with one of those plastic pub chairs that is quite attractive, without giving any impression that one of the legs might imminently break off. It is very stable, and difficult to overbalance in any direction, and you can shake about on it quite violently without any impression that you are over-stressing it (what does he mean?).

Apart from centering of the spine, there are a couple of changes I want to make to the skeleton, but nothing radical. Apart from that, the next task is to define some flesh for the skeleton that looks good and is comfortable.

When I have got it to that point I'll move it to my computer desk to give it a more extensive testing. We also have to haggle about the price we'd pay if I ordered ten skeletons. It really shouldn't be that much. I will give the maker bending templates, and a welding jig, and there's really not that much steel in it. Weight-wise it compares quite favourably with a sturdy hardwood chair.

My current favourite wood, and its shavings.

Stitch up on a 33KV power line.
20/4/2010 - More Insidious Problems.

Since I was waiting for various people to do things, I started my day early in my temporary workshop. We'd both woken early, so I had fed myself and was working by about eight. As part of the refurbishment of the Old Cottage, I need to make - among other things - a bedroom TV stand, and a bedside table. These reflect the usage of the house by its current tenant.

The furniture in the Old Cottage is on a Jacaranda theme. The bed in there has Jacaranda sides, and you have seen the new dining table. When I made the latter, there was some wood left, and having taken some measurements I found that it was enough to make a TV stand. I had glued a couple of pieces together yesterday, so first thing, I uncramped them, and joined another two so I would have a top, and a lower shelf.

But I needed more wood - yes I am an addict, is there a wood buyers anonymous - for the legs of the two target objects, so I went down to Nane Nane to buy it. The first hurdle in doing this was to get the gate opened to get the car out. When our wonderful first builder Adam put in the gate, he neglected to connect one of the gate posts to the reinforcing bars along the top of the wall. Consequently, over time, the post has moved slightly, and there is a corresponding crack in the wall.

Now the night before last - Sunday night - we got an enormous amount of rain. It was heavy enough so that you wondered if the roof would stand it, and excepting brief and sudden breaks, it went on most of the night. In the morning it hardly needs saying that everything was extremely soggy. The implications of that didn't become obvious until the day after or later.

On Monday, Zai and Danny started to have difficulty opening and closing the left leaf of the gate. It soon became clear that this was because the crack in the wall next to the dodgy gate post had widened. The foundation for the gate post was now standing on mud.

Today as I drove Kiki to Nane Nane, up the Njiro road there was a 33KV power line post hanging on its cables at a crazy angle, also with its feet in liquid soil. TANESCO got to it by early afternoon, and it is now stitched up, albeit on a temporary basis. It was the line that among other places serves our village. Fortunately for us it also serves an army base to the west of the city, so it got attention pretty quickly.
I was monitoring progress on this in the late afternoon, when Adia called me to say I should go to see the steel worker about my prototype chair project, since he was having difficulties with my drawings. I took off there on the faithful Kiki to find that he was not exaggerating. Fortunately the whole thing at that point was only tack welded, so I removed the bits that were wrong and showed him what I meant. The information was all there on the drawing, but the steel workers are not used to drawings. Usually they just copy something.

When we'd got it sorted and tack welded again I told him to go ahead and weld it properly, and grind off the bumps and warts. I'll show you the result later.

Study in green, yellow, and mud.

The narrowed section of the road to Njiro.
16/4/2010 - Food for Mud Program.

The agricultural community here think there will be no food shortage this year since we have had, and are still getting lots of rain. It's a trade off - two to three months of mud, destroyed roads, and cold weather (by African standards) for food in your belly later. It's easy to choose if you depend on a smallholding for most of your food.

The worst aspect for us is the destruction of the dirt roads. The road to Njiro is now at the point where it becomes impassable even after just a modest shower. You might get down the hill, but your descent might well be uncontrolled and dump you against the steel fence at the side of the little bridge at the bottom.

The ditches at the sides of the narrow section are deeper and steeper than they appear in the photograph. There's also a mini ditch in the middle of the road, so you have to pass this section by positioning your wheels along the top of two steep-sides ridges that are slippery with mud. If you fishtail at all, or otherwise get it wrong, you're in one of the ditches, and you'll need a gang of the village lads to get you out - every cloud has a silver lining, it's some income for them!

Also the narrow bit is getting narrower because the drainage ditch on the left going down has taken a wiggle toward the centre of the road and is now busy gouging the road away. It's also taking a beating from the traffic that goes that way whenever it dries out. It's so narrow that all the vehicles have now more or less got a wheel very close to the ditch on each side, thus eroding the remaining ridges away.

Most of the time now if it has rained at all, we have to go via Njiro 'A' Block, and that road is taking a beating too. The timing of the rains this year is the conventional 'long rains' which theoretically runs from March to May, so we've potentially got a month and a half more of it to go.

A farmhouse style table for the old cottage.

My new drill.
14/4/2010 - Less Silliness Today.

My current project is a table for the living room of the Old Cottage. The latter was woefully under-furnished when we let it almost a year ago. The policy now is to make these independent units more like hotel suites - everything you need to move in and live.

I didn't quite make this with the South House, since the potential residents were breathing down my neck, but eventually I'll get there with all of them

One of the main challenges is chairs. These are not just my problem - they have been a challenge throughout history. You don't see many chairs except for museum pieces that are more than 100 years old. People destroy them by subjecting them to all sorts of unreasonable stresses.

So I'm working on this idea of designing a kind of modular chair that will last for a long time, even if significant refurbishment is necessary on the way.

I don't want to use any radical, high-tech materials, just stuff that's available anywhere in the world. The skeleton has to be steel, but minimal so that significant customization can be added over the basic framework then all chairs don't have to look the same.

My versions, on top of the skeleton, will initially be traditional materials - wood and leather. I'm going to try and get our steel worker to make a prototype skeleton later this week.

It became clear yesterday that my broken electric drill unequivocally needs a new armature. This would have been quite expensive, so I have taken a risk and bought an honestly Chinese replacement. The company I bought it from has a good reputation for not selling rubbish, and they say they can supply replacement parts should that be necessary. The drill is quite heavily constructed - you could say clunky - but it runs very smoothly and has approximately the same power motor as its predecessor. It was significantly cheaper than a new Makita or Bosch drill, and you can never be sure about their origins anyway. So we will see.
13/4/2010 - Program Times May Vary.

I think that what started me on this was that I wanted to go out and get chicken and chips, but Adia said there was one of those programs on the TV that she wanted to watch - I think it's called "So you think you can dance." That got me started on a speculation about a program called "So you think you can fuck", which in real terms can't be that many years in the future given the popularity of Springer and such.

I want the judges from American Idol (a later version of the show could be 'American Motherfucker' - everybody uses the expression, now this is the real thing.) Randy could be the front man as usual, he can shut the crowd up. "Now listen man, listen, listen up, yo - well that was just OK for me. You were a bit limp to start with, and she didn't seem that interested. But it got better as you went along, though it would have been better if at least one of you had come. I don't know ..."

Ellen might have problems - "Well, as you realize, this hetero thing isn't really my bag, but given that, I think is was quite tastefully done, though I'd like to have seen the woman on top more of the time - I think you should both still be around next week."

Kara - "You know I love both of you - now don't take that too literally. He has a great big dick, but you have to concentrate on the angles. The voters want to see the dick in the pussy or the ass most of the time. But I love both of you, especially the dick."

Simon - "I'm sorry but for me that was just the boring sort of rubbish you see every day on You Porn. If you are serious about the contest you have to do things in a way that people haven't seen before. This ass to mouth thing is getting so stereotyped and boring. The audience would believe it if you came in her vagina, and at the same time they could see that the reactions of both of you were genuine ..."

Oh, BTW, the chicken and chips were great!

Our basic salad.
12/4/2010 - Essentials?

Since we've had the vegetable garden, almost every evening meal includes a side-salad. These days, the ingredients usually contain something from the garden. Last month it was the tomatoes, the month before, tomatoes and broccoli, and now it is cucumbers.

The basic ingredients are tomato, cucumber, and avocado. Sometimes there are additions such as carrots, lettuce, garlic, onions, and broccoli. To dress it, we just use virgin olive oil and lemon juice. In time I'd like to get to a state where we grow most of the ingredients

The most difficult ingredient is the avocado. You can't just plant seeds and have the fruit three months later. You have to grow trees, and you have to have different varieties that fruit at different times of the year. This may not even be something in my lifetime! We should have lemons in a couple of years.

Other things are ruled out by your soil. The soil we have is no good for carrots or for garlic. But if we are diligent, we should be able to get to the point where tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, and lemons and avocados are available most of the time.

In addition to those I want to get beetroot and cabbage on a regular basis so we can have a pretty constant supply of pickles. It's not a doddle being retired!

9/4/2010 - Developing Skills.

Since I got my woodworking cramps, I've been working on the technique of joining wooden boards together edgewise to make larger areas of more-or-less solid wood for things like panels and table tops.

The traditional ways of doing this involve cutting slots along the edge of both pieces, and using a slip of wood that tightly fits the grooves - a loose-tongue - to provide the joint reinforcement. Alternatively, you can bore holes into each edge, and use dowels - circular section wooden pegs.

I had watched several local fundis doing this job, and the favourite technique here seems to be to use steel pins rather than dowels. So I've been working on this, and it seems to be a very practical technique.

For any of the methods, the first job in joining two pieces edgewise is to plane them so you can stand one piece on top of the other, edgewise, and then when you look at them from the end, they are in the same plane, and from the side, you can not see any daylight between them. This is not too difficult to achieve if you have a sharp jack plane and a square. It may take a while, but you can get there. So much for skill.
Once I've done that, I clamp the two pieces together, with the eventual flat surface sides opposite, and use a marking gauge to draw a line down the middle of each. Then at maybe 20cm intervals, I'll draw a line across the two of them with the square. This gives me the points X where the steel pins need to be positioned. Then I make and place the pins. These are basically two inch nails for most of the stuff I make. You bite the head off the nail - if you haven't had your Popeye spinach yet you can cheat and cut the head off with a pair of pliers and due violence. I've been doing this regularly for a few weeks now, so god help you if I get my fingers round your neck ...

After tidying up the cut end with a file, you hammer it into the X-marks-the-spot on one of the boards, taking care that it is nice and vertical, or using the hammer to make it so. Once you've got the row of pins in one board, you drive a similar nail into the X-marks-the-spot places along the other, pulling the nail out after it's made its hole.

If you've done the job correctly, you can then take the board with the holes, turn it round so it faces the right way relative to the other one, and line up its holes with the pins on the other. If the boards have a bit of curve, you might have to use clamps and some bits of scrap wood to make them align - or you can just tell her you love her. Then once your pins are pointing at your holes - lots of sexual overtones here - you can belt the top board down on the other - oooh, darling, I'm coming, I can't hold on - and your boards should be locked together as neatly as two dogs on the street!

If at that point you discover that you forgot to apply glue to the two edges, then you were concentrating too much on the sexual overtones. Oh shit! Done it again.

To finish the job you then put on the cramps and squeeze the buggers together hard enough so the sperm - sorry I mean glue - squirts out the side of the join. I'm quite exhausted after all that - will have to go and get another beer!

Pancakes for breakfast.

The chair actually turned out quite well.
7/4/2010 - A Breakfast Treat.

Zawadi made pancakes today before I got up, so breakfast was a no-brainer, and delicious. I always eat pancakes with honey and lemon juice, and I have no plans to change this habit of many years. My mother Connie takes the praise or blame for this.

The chair turned out remarkably well, despite it being a test piece and me feeling crappy. I'm not through yet though, there is still the hurdle of adding some padding to the seat and back. I'm thinking leather over a bit of polyurethane foam, another thing to try from scratch. Even without padding, with a bit of board across the seat, it is quite comfortable. The chair is the right size for a bedroom, but I'd need to scale it up a bit if I decided to make dining chairs.

Today was my second day of giving Hansel his injections. Practice may make perfect, but doing something twice doesn't hack it. One of the doses took me three tries - i.e. three stabs for Hansel - because I lack the experience, and he was wriggling about. The vet will come again tomorrow, so he can have the job back. The other buttock I got right first time.

Adia had to go out this afternoon to buy tomatoes. This comes as something of a shock when for several weeks it was possible to simply get them from the garden. Fortunately, the next batch are not too far away - they are already flowering. While she was there she got me some cough syrup, which might make me easier to sleep with. The cucumbers are now arriving in full flood. They are one of the vegetables that taste really good when they are fresh picked.

The British Pound seems to have survived the election announcement relatively unscathed. I guess it was already factored in. It is hovering around $1.52 at the moment, which I can live with. I preferred the days when it was $2.00, but I don't see those coming back anytime soon.

Wonky wood.
5/4/2010 Mixed Bag.

I haven't got a lot to say. I have some sort of respiratory tract infection that is making me feel moderately crappy. In consequence I did not feel inclined to do any work that was important. So I thought I would try something experimental that would cost very little. I have never made a chair, so I decided I would try that. Chairs usually have some curvature or bend in the back section, and I wanted a curve in the design I was thinking of. So I deliberately bought a really bent piece of wood that I'd seen already at one of the wood yards, and that I figured I could get for next to nothing. So far, the chair has gone OK, but I'm flying by the seat of my pants on this.

Our chief guard dog Hansel is also off colour. He has an infection of his anal glands (I knew you'd be keen to know about that). Smells are so important to dogs that it's a must for them to have designer shit. Consequently they have these glands up their arse to impart their own particular special odor. Just like a human though, he wasn't anxious to be inspected, and we had to muzzle him when the vet came since he was threatening to bite anyone who went in that area. You could feel his embarrassment. He has to have two shots a day for the next two days, in addition to the two he had today, and I was instructed by the vet - Roger, our latest candidate, who is a Tanzanian - on their administration. If it's a bacterial infection, that should fix it, if it's viral, the prognosis could be more serious.

Another couple of days of serious rain should just about destroy our primary access from Njiro. There are two stream crossings. One a small bridge, and the other a badly constructed culvert. The culvert is currently blocked by water borne debris, so the stream is now running across the road, and will soon gouge a channel that will make the road impassable. On the slope down to the bridge over the other stream, the water flowing down the gulleys at each side of the road has narrowed the road to a point where another good storm will probably make it too narrow to negotiate. Once either of these things happens we'll have to take a longer way around until the municipality or the residents association gets round to doing something about it.

The furniture for the large guest room.
2/4/2010 - An Obsession?

Adia says I have become obsessed with woodwork, and there may be some truth in this. But there are worse obsessions. I am hopefully producing things that are useful, getting some exercise, and keeping myself out of mischief. She also says I am getting more muscular and look in pretty decent shape, so I think her argument can't win.

When I started doing a significant amount of physical work here, a couple of years ago, I started to suffer from arthritis, particularly in the big joints of my second fingers. It was not pleasant, but I made a conscious decision that I was going to ignore it as far as possible, take the pain, and get on with things. It was painful at times, but the policy seems to have paid off. Those fingers are now fully articulated again, but I suspect that if they were not getting the daily workout from the woodworking, they might regress.

The furniture for the large guest room is finished, as you can see. So what next? Well, when our German guests moved to the South House, they took the nightstand and the plant stand from the room where they had been staying, so I have been replacing those.
After that I want to make more furniture for the Old Cottage - it really was a bit Spartan when we let it. My idea is to do the items there in Jacaranda - a white hardwood. I think that will go well with the things that are already in there. After that, I expect to be good enough to start on the furniture for our bedroom, which I will do in Mninga. That's an expensive wood, so I'd better be sure I'm on top of what I'm doing before I start. I also have to teach myself to do easy chairs and sofas, and I might try to get Adia interested in upholstery - I can't see me doing that.

Zawadi came back from Dar yesterday, on her way back to Bukoba by stages. I don't know how long she will stay - going back to Bukoba is a considerable climb-down for her. If it were me, I'd hand around at our place for some time. Pleasant spot, free food, and free beer - works for me.

Where I used to live in Harrogate.
1/4/2010 - UK OS On Line.

I noticed in the BBC news today that the UK Ordnance survey has made a big chunk of data freely available on line, so I tried it out.

The presentation is not ideal. Too much screen space devoted to help topics that should be separate, and not enough to the map. Also I'm not sure how it compares in terms of currency with what you can get on Google or Yahoo maps. Certainly you can't switch to a satellite picture view. But the data is free and open, which has to be good.

The bit of map you see is (roughly) centered on where I last lived in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, in the UK. I mention this stuff because I am an Ordnance Survey fan. I was addicted to their maps when I was in my teens. The existence of this data in the public domain means I really should revisit the BEV retrospective pages and use the OS data instead of the snips I lifted from Google.

The compound maturing.
1/4/2010 - April.

I can't come up with anything April foolish off the top of my head. I'd considered announcing that Mt Meru was erupting and I could see lava flows advancing toward the city, but I thought that might be tempting providence.

Actually I can't see Meru this morning, there's some mist in the way, and it is raining again. It's doing that pretty reliably at the moment.

Our compound is starting to look less like a building site, and more like a place you'd want to live. The border at the side of the lawn is quite established now, though it could do with a few more flowers to add a spot of colour. This month we need to do some more landscaping in the area around the South House.

The GBP has perked up a little over the last couple of days, which makes me happy. Today though is a shelling out day. We have to pay the staff, the satellite TV company, the security company, and for the Internet connection. After that I'll be in a better, though possibly less optimistic position to judge what we can get done this month. I really want to make a start on my new workshop if possible.

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What is BEV?

Brits Eye View is an Englishman's seven-year personal blog about life in Arusha, Tanzania, and previously in Bangalore, Manhattan, and the Bronx. It deals with life in general, building a house, food and drink, computer programming, opinion on current affairs, 20th century history, and so on. It may give you some insight into what life is like in 'the third world', or encourage you to visit Tanzania.

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The British pound is currently trading at
bid $ - ask $  .

The most popular BEV archive page (Jan 2003 - Apr 2010) is now hovering between June 2003 and Jan 2005. (And I still wish someone would explain to me why!)

We have rooms available at Adia's Place (the Brits Eye View micro hotel). So if you plan to visit Arusha, and don't mind being a guinea pig, give us a shout. You can stay in a rather nice room close to both the city, and to rural Africa, at a very competitive price.

A GDC-newbie web page

I have made a new page for beginner users of the GDC (Gnu Compiler Collection D Compiler) here. Since I am a newbie to it myself, I thought I should share my experiences of getting the thing up and running and beyond.

Currently on the Software page:

GDC, MinGW, and Code::Blocks
- Taking a different tack on the D programming language.

Javascript Exceptions
- A design flaw?

Minimally Intrusive Javascript
- Writing scripts for use by others.

BEV Tiny Feedback Component
- Simplified installation (I hope).

Javascript Little Known Facts #1
- Array Slicing and Function Call.

Javascript Little Known Facts #2
- Nested Functions and Closures.

Javascript Little Known Facts #3
- Labels.