OK, so I have to admit that I spent most of today watching William and Kate's wedding, and also that I enjoyed it. I am just an old sentimentalist at heart, as well as a partially serial monogamist, a cynic, an atheist, and a man who can see the end of his lifespan approaching too quickly for comfort.
This raises many questions. Am I patriotic? What are my feelings about Britain's past and its significantly important colonial phase, and the associated 'Pomp and Circumstance?' What is my relationship with 2011 Britain? What do I feel about Church of England Christianity, or about any religion for that matter?
I need to answer all these questions before I die, and britseyeview.com drifts off into being a page that is 404. Ideally, I should do this fairly soon. All of it is supposed to be in my retrospective - 1942 - 1974, but that is only half baked, and may not reflect the correct views in the correct years, and may never be completed.
My initial context was that I was borne in the middle of WW2. Subsequently I was regaled by my mother with the story of how the British air force repelled Hitler's attempts to conquer Britain against enormous odds, and then how - with the help of the Americans - we had prevailed against the Third Reich. As soon as I learned to read, I was assailed by literature that told me how Britain had become the leading world power, and prevailed against the Hun in two world wars. Not only that, but now the war was won, still controlled half of the planet. This was of course, an illusion. Britain was bankrupt, and empire evaporated very quickly. But as the Jesuits say, give me a child until it is seven, and I will have it for the rest of its life.
So I was saddled with the remnants of empire, and the notion of 'Pomp and Circumstance.' Elgar's marches of that name are still among my favourite pieces of music, along with music from Parry, Vaughan Williams, and Walton. So a royal wedding like today can powerfully press my buttons - music is the key. The appearance of the Lancaster bomber, the Hurricane, and the Spitfire in their ceremonial fly-past - once again, more sound than appearance - had a similar effect.
What is my relationship with Britain? Well, I am an overt expat. I worked there for many years, so I have pension, and on that I still pay taxes. But I have not lived there for 20 years, so I really have no idea what makes a contemporary young Brit tick. I know that my middle daughter was brimming over with sentiment about the wedding, while my eldest son is an anti-monarchist. I don't know where my youngest daughter stands. I am out of touch!
As for religion, I was brought up in a Christian family and went to Sunday school and chapel in my formative years. Now, I do not believe in god, but at the same time the sound of choirboys singing in an English cathedral can make me cry. This is a distillation of childhood memory, guilt, nostalgia, and familiarity - you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
Adia loved the whole thing too. It was impressive - pomp and circumstance revisited. We both wish William and Kate all the best. Richard, you can come out from your hole now.
Traditional horseshoe magnet.
28/4/2011 - Still Magic.
Yesterday there was an article on the BBC news playing down a leak from one of the CERN Large Hadron Collider teams that had said evidence for the existence of Higgs Boson had been observed. This started me reading about particle physics to see if I could find out where this postulated mysterious particle fits into the picture of things.
Apparently if it exists, it is the particle that will impart the attribute of mass to the other fundamental particles. Bosons are strange beasts. It is generally their job to transmit the various forces that hold the universe together and force it apart. When I'd finished my initial reading, I knew which bosons were supposed to do what, but still had essentially zero understanding of how they work.
I decided I would look further at what I thought was the simplest case - the photon - the unit particle of light, which was around even when I was at school. Wikipedia says: "In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force."
The photon is a boson, and one that the world of particle physics sounds very sure and confident about. So I thought in that case that by now - the second decade of the 21st century - there might be a plausible explanation of a piece of magic that was first observed more than 2000 years ago.
If you put two magnets, or a magnet and a piece of iron on a table, and then move one of them toward the other, at some point the one you are not moving will suddenly move to come in contact with the other.
It is appears to be accepted that this behaviour is caused by the electromagnetic force, which force is implemented by photons. But that is where the journey seems to end. Yesterday I could find no description on the web of the nature, energy, or source of such photons, or how their emission and interactions might accomplish this movement of a chunk of iron. It seems that most bosons that actually transmit the basic forces (electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, and possibly gravity) do so in the guise of 'virtual particles', so it seems likely that the trick is done by 'virtual photons'. Virtual means (roughly) 'that which is not real but may display the behaviour or properties of the real'.
So after 2000 years it is still magic. I shall be driven to read further to attempt to unravel this mystery. Someone out there must know how it works! If I find out I'll let you know.
24/4/2011 - Neo-Colonialism, Oil Greed, or Common Sense.
All the talk about the NATO involvement in Libya being neo-colonialism, or lust for oil just pisses me off.
Several of the European nations have done colonialism - not least the UK. They know very well that at the end of the day it is a dead end. To put it bluntly, and put the many humanitarian arguments aside, it does not make business sense. It was easy back in 1750 or whenever. You could go in with small forces, defeat the local major leader, and then plunder whatever wealth the country had, and pick off the low-hanging fruit in it's economy. Later in the process you could persuade colonist farmers to go there and exploit near-slave labour to provide cheap food imports for the home country, and you could mine out the easily accessible mineral resources.
Later, as the indigenous people came to recognize the stuff that the colonial power had, you could use the people as a captive market for your manufactured products, creating wealth for the few back home.
All these conditions that were conducive to colonialism are passed and gone. The indigenous people learned how to acquire and use the colonial power's weapons, and how to manipulate the colonial government politically. By the old measures it would now cost much more to keep a country in subjugation than you could get out of it. The old colonizer countries don't manufacture stuff that sells there in a big way these days, and any remaining resources are those that cost big bucks and lots of technical expertise to exploit - not in the scope of peacetime elected governments.
That brings me to oil. Why anyone (apart from Donald Trump) thinks that you can take over a country and 'take it's oil', is a mystery to me. For a start, we already had perfectly good access to Libya's oil before the revolution, so if we were intervening on the basis of oil, we would have supported the status quo. But more basically, the oil in countries that have it is not just in a big pot that you can load into tankers and take away. It is deep in the ground (or deep in the ground under the sea), and there's a lot of financial investment and technical expertise involved in getting it out.
This work is undertaken by oil companies, and it doesn't matter whether the company is Libyan, British, American, Russian, or Chinese - oil companies tend to transcend national boundaries anyway. So if Britain invaded Libya to 'take it's oil', they could put in BP to extract it. What price would BP then charge British consumers for that oil? Well, the same price they'd charge anybody else. Oil is a world market commodity. It doesn't matter much where it comes from or who digs it out, the price is determined on the markets by supply, demand, greed, and fear.
So balls to all that! The NATO nations are spending more on this than they can afford, given the perilous state of their economies, and the fact that in the trusted hope of peace in Europe they have whittled down their armed forces to the minimum. If this is not because of neo-imperialism or lust for oil, then I have to interpret it as being an effort to see the Libyan people prevail against a vicious and probably insane despot, and, quite reasonably in historical terms, to see stable and just societies on their southern flank (US excepted - their's is the largest and most humanitarian contribution, since they have least to gain, similar to WW1 and WW2.)
Also I insist that NATO is not bombing the country Libya. It is bombing targets in Libya that are sources of power for the insane despot, with the support of much of the population. There is little evidence of significant civilian casualties. None would be ideal, but the use of military force is never ideal. However in this case I believe it is a lot better than leaving Gadaffi with a free hand.
23/4/2011 - A Libya Tipping Point?
There have been a number of interesting developments in Libya. The armed drones have seen their first action - zapped a multiple rocket launcher near Misrata. The US Secretary of Defense previously stated "President Obama has said that where we have some unique capabilities, he is willing to use those." This would seem to cover also use of the A10 close ground support aircraft. At this crucial stage in events, Britain and France should be pressing the US to do as much as possible, or a little more, within the stated policy.
John McCain in Benghazi had remarked (incredulously) of the NATO attack forces "Do you know they are flying around at 25,000 feet?" No wonder they have difficulty hitting targets in populated areas. This is almost the height often used by civil airlines, and you know how much detail on the ground you can see from them! So the NATO planes are simply being used as FEDEX for missiles that are then launched against coordinates determined from spy-plane or satellite imagery. Off duty in Italy, the pilots stay in a four star hotel - now that's war for you!
Reuters news agency reported renewed threats by Gadaffi to arm citizens so they can confront any possible land attack by NATO forces. This should probably be seen as a good thing, since it would likely mean more weapons available for the final uprising in Tripoli against him whenever that happens. Most probably it is just fluff.
The freedom fighters have continued to have a string of small successes, while Gadaffi has suffered further defections. Then today, his forces apparently retreated in some disorder from Misrata, accompanied by noise from his government about turning the job over to local loyal tribesmen. There apparently aren't many of those in the vicinity, and in any case, Gadaffi spent years making sure there were no organizations in the country that had any military power except those under his close control. The FF have more or less dismissed this talk as bullshit, and claim that Gadaffi's forces around Misrata retreated because they were losing. Information from prisoners captured by the FF tends to indicate that morale on the Gadaffi side is low.
Of course running away to cause your opponents to drop their guard, and then launching a major counter-attack is one of the oldest tricks in the military tactics book. So the FF need to be vigilant, and should not extend their perimeter beyond what they can sensibly defend. The perimeter should get work. Those of the population who can't fight should dig. At the same time vigorous patrolling of a more extended area will help to find out exactly where Gadaffi's forces are, for NATO, and keep them at their new distance, looking over their shoulders.
This would also be a good point at which to bring in some new recruits from Benghazi. Not enough to seriously dilute the relatively experienced fighters in Misrata, but to make up losses and more, and to give the new recruits some training. This would increase the pressure on Gadaffi. As I have said before, if a powerful 'bridgehead' can be built up in the west at Misrata, it will serve as an increasing thorn in Gadaffi's side, and an eventual springboard for a union with an uprising in Tripoli. If he chooses to attack Misrata again, NATO in particular must make sure that the city will be the anvil on which Gadaffi is destroyed. The A10s are important, and the FF must get more and better weapons - how that is to be done is a matter of political ingenuity.
In short, everything possible must now be done by the FF - in Misrata and the east, and by NATO, to keep Gadaffi's forces in a state of imbalance, and maintain the string of small to medium successes. If these can be kept up I believe that it will not be long before the trickle of defections from the Gadaffi camp becomes a flow, and then a flood.
TNC and NATO, please give us a hint that this level of planning and execution is going on. War, apart from demanding courage, demands the highest levels of intellectual effort - really it is 'he who thinks best, then dares, wins.'
Milan anti-tank missile launcher practise.
22/4/2011 - Libyan Freedom Fighters New Toy.
Quatar has provided the TNC in Libya with some French made wire-guided anti-tank missiles. This short video that I picked up from the Google Libya real-time stream of consciousness stuff this morning shows them practising. The guys just about wet themselves when the missile hits.
Unfortunately you have to have line of site on the target, so in a city such as Misrata, these missiles may be of limited use. If you got close enough to see the tank there, then an ordinary RPG launcher would probably do the trick quicker - less setup. But with either there's then a strong possibility of getting shot. Rooftop launching may be an option.
Out in the open though, Gadaffi's armoured vehicles are going to have to be very careful.
In the news this morning it was also announced that the US has made Predator drones available to NATO. These might be pretty effective within the city - time will tell. President Obama is reported to have stated that
"where we have some unique capabilities, he is willing to use those". I wonder if that means the A10 ground-attack aircraft will be available also? The statement would appear to cover them.
21/4/2011 - Yahoo Music Player.
(Note that there is a previous post for today about homely goings on in the BEV/AP compound.)
Volunteers required please. I need to find out if I have correctly understood how to use this MP3 player gadget. I have tested on Firefox, and to some extent on IE8, but more concentration on IE8 with a sensibly fast Internet connection would be welcome. Also of course any other browsers.
The music links should have a little play button next to them. When you click the link or the button, the YMP gadget should slide out and play the item. You can slide it back in again if you like. The player should stop after your selection.
I quite like it, and it seems to deal with sluggish rendering of pages with many music links and individual players. It's also a lot easier to put music selections together - just a simple list or table of links. I am suitably impressed by the design.
While I was doodling, the British Pound reached $1.66 at some point today - maybe a two year high. I can't see it staying there, but from my personal point of view, I wish it would.
In Libya, there are more reports of small FF successes, and more of defections from Gadaffi. It is not the quickest way of getting there, but if this persisted, it would gradually strangle him.
A new Ceiling
A verdant morning.
21/4/2011 - Life At Home.
Today is the last day of our financial month. The pattern is fairly stereotyped. At the beginning of the month money gets spent quickly on the current development project for our compound, and on regular standing items like the staff wages, the security company, the Internet service, water, electricity and so on.
The current project is the replacement of the ceilings in the Old Cottage. That ate quite a bit of money at the beginning of the last cycle, since what had initially seemed to be a relatively simple project escalated because of faults in the original construction that were only noticeable once the original ceiling boards had been removed. They had been put on upside down, with the rough surface up instead of down, so that any surface finish you put on it to cover the joins etc. fell off almost immediately. It turned out that the frame they were mounted on - here called the drafting because its pattern is reminiscent of a chequers board - was not properly constructed, and therefore subject to flexure as wind caused fluctuations in the roof-space air pressure, which exacerbated the problems with finish falling off. The fault was non-trivial, so that had to be ripped out and rebuilt using the existing wood plus new wood as required.
There was further cost escalation because the roofer Spemba, though technically very good, is crap at making estimates, and tends to leave out big chunks of the work, which he adds on later. Adia also contributed by having him use the old ceiling boards to line the eaves of the newer South House.
It all got done by about two weeks ago, but with that and various unexpected bits of medical expenditure, we were then left counting pennies for the rest of the month. But we've got by - my broken rib has helped, since I have been somewhat immobilized. Boring, but it saves money!
The next part of the project is redecoration of the new ceilings, and the rest of the Old Cottage rooms so that they are of the same standard as the rest of the compound. Our favourite decorator is coming today to start on that. Beyond the decoration, I shall resist further work this next month to attempt to build up some reserve. I have a feeling though that the the SUV Potter will demand his allocation of funds at some time during the month.
After months of procrastination we finally changed our security company this month. The lot we were with - KK Security - had become increasingly expensive, and they suffered from the disadvantage of being a Kenyan company. This meant that because
of some typical quirk of Tanzanian law, their operatives were not allowed to carry firearms. We have gone with a newer Tanzanian startup which as far as I can tell consists largely of defectors from KK - the guy who installed their new transmitter was the one who installed the previous KK one. The new lot have one of the men armed with a pump-action shotgun on each of their patrol vehicles, and they are significantly cheaper. We need to conduct a test of their response time sometime during the next week.
The rains have picked up again, so our corn and beans will probably survive. The new tortoise - Mo - had his first trip to the vet. He had a wound on his neck when we got him that did not seem to be healing very well, so He got an antibiotic shot. He was not impressed, and went into hiding for some time when we got home.
I have been trying to get year 1975 finished over the last couple of days. In the course of this I've been experimenting with the Yahoo Media Player as a replacement for the rather clunky presentation of music links I have used before. I quite like it, and it will probably make its way to the main page in May.
UK PM Cameron.
US President Obama.
French President Sarkozy.
17/4/2011 - Now or Never.
The most interesting article I read today about the situation in Libya compared Misrata to Stalingrad - you should read it. The article included an interesting comment - "The importance the regime attaches to capturing Misrata is reflected in the extent of the damage it is prepared to inflict. Western warplanes repeatedly hit [Gadaffi's] heavy guns, but replacements keep coming. Losses in manpower appear to be more difficult to replenish for Col Gaddafi's army. Those killed and captured by rebel fighters are getting younger." To me, this means that the old fox Gadaffi has a better understanding of warfare than do the coalition leaders, or indeed the NATO commanders if we are to believe their public statements.
I wish that President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron, and to a lesser extent French President Sarkozy would either piss, or get off the pot. Their current bleatings about "Gadaffi must go" serve no purpose with this man. He knows damn well that he has only three alternatives, win, die, or face humiliation. He won't fancy either of the latter two. So if his protagonists have done all they can, then they may as well shut up, and let it go - they have failed. That way they may look less foolish afterwards - "we had no support". If they mean what they say about removing Gadaffi, then they should make every attempt to have him and his children killed, and to destroy his forces either as a precondition, or as necessary. That sort of behaviour is called WAR - it is brutal, it has no reliable rule book, it is not fair, it is not pretty, and it is not of predetermined length with some tidy exit strategy.
So why not? When it comes down to basics, the UN is irrelevant except as a talking shop - has been so for years, so many people have died unnecessarily on its watch. Just as an example, did Russia go to the UNSC to get a resolution allowing it to clobber Georgia - of course not. The Russians have a profound understanding of the nature of war - their country fought the greatest series of shit or bust battles in history! If the three leaders have conviction in saying that Gadaffi must go, then they must act on that conviction. If they lose their next election as a result, it is not that important. Their countries have democratic institutions that can survive events like that perfectly well.
The comparison with Stalingrad may be appropriate. On the ground in Libya it seems clear to me that if Misrata falls, Gadaffi will prevail. If it holds, Gadaffi will be beaten. Individual countries, or a 'coalition of the willing' must help with boots on the ground. The UN resolution did not in any case prohibit this, it said "no occupation force". I'm sure this was not accidental, and to me the implication is perfectly clear.
I'm sure I am repeating myself, but if Misrata falls, then Gadaffi can turn all his forces against the weak (in terms of performance) freedom fighters in the east. The best of the FF - those who can hold their ground under fire - are in Misrata. When push comes to shove, those in Benghazi will learn the hard disciplines of war, but by then it will probably be too late for the outcome to be changed. Do the trio want to watch this spectacle, and the aftermath that will be a 'cleansing' of Libya of those who had anything to do with the revolution?
I can't answer - who can? There is a quality called leadership that is given to only a few. If countries get themselves into difficult positions in the absence of someone who has this capability, then they are in the shit, and those who call themselves leaders are in trouble.
16/4/2011 - Awful News.
(Note that there are two previous posts for todayabout an earthquake here,and the tortuous aftermath of my tumble from Kiki.)
There was awful news from Kagera yesterday. Our house girl Kemi's 11 year old brother had been missing for some days, after which his body was found. As if this were not bad enough, the body had been mutilated. His arms and genitals had been cut off, and his tongue cut out. At eleven, the possibility of a vengeance killing seems remote, so the suspicion has to be down to witchcraft, which is still alive and well in Africa.
People here seem to be somewhat vague and unconcerned with the concept of cause of death, so I have not been able to determine whether death occurred before, or as a result of the mutilation. One shudders to think - this continent can be a brutal place.
Another example of this lack of attention to cause happened with our friend Harry's aunt this week. She had been paralysed for years, and living with her son's family in bad conditions in a room reeking of urine, even though Harry had been anxious to take responsibility. She died at the weekend, and they had her in the ground within two days without any kind of autopsy. This when a hospital doctor had said quite recently that she was basically fit, but suffering from malnutrition.
Kemi is alternating between tears, and stoically getting on with her work. Adia's told her to take a break, but she says work keeps her from thinking about it, and I can go along with that.
Earthquake probablility map.
16/4/2011 - The Earth Moved.
Yesterday, while sitting in the first of several medical establishments at 11:49am (08:49 UTC), I experienced my first earthquake. It was a 4.8 magnitude quake centred 9km under Babati, a town about 142 km (88 miles) SW of Arusha. We were sitting on a sofa, and it moved backwards and forwards quite noticeably for maybe half a minute, while the door behind us rattled in its frame.
4.8 is described as "Noticeable shaking of indoor items, rattling noises. Significant damage unlikely" - spot on.
Africa is generally a benign region as regards earthquakes. The rift valley is the geographical feature that is most prone. We live on, or close to one of the modest hotspots, the southernmost light brown blob of the two in East Africa.
This was a very gentle introduction to the sensation, but enough to make you think about how terrifying a quake twice as big on a logarithmic scale must be!
16/4/2011 - Further Wear and Tear.
I feel somewhat foolish, but I must come clean about the 'knock-on' effects of my tumble from Kiki the other day.
As I said at the time, I woke the next morning with a somewhat stiff leg, but I could walk OK. I took it easy most of the day, but later in the afternoon I was bored at home, so I went out on Kiki again to get some bacon and bread.
As I returned I had to drive down the steep dip into the valley just before our house. Since the rains have not been what they should be, this section of the road is a mess again - lots of dust, and fine gravel from road moram that was put down to counter the mud a couple of weeks ago. As I descended, Kiki's back wheel slipped. Nothing unusual, or that should have been serious, since I had my feet down ready for such an eventuality. But the leg I had to use was the stiff one, and when I put load on it, it wasn't having any, and buckled under me. So I came of again. This was at almost zero speed, but it was on a steep downhill. I banged my right side once more, this time below the shoulder.
Anyway, I got up, picked up Kiki again, and went home, thinking "punch in the back - I'll have a nice bruise there in a day or two". I slept OK that night on both sides, and was OK during the next day. There was some pain where I'd clobbered myself, but nothing that distressing. However it did finally dawn on me that Kiki should be out of the picture until my leg was reliable again.
But then the second night, I did something while I was taking my socks off that caused a good deal of pain - like an electric shock in my chest, with cramping muscles, and not in the area where I felt bruising, but lower down. From that point on, just about everything I did caused a burst of the same pain. I took what I had in the way of medication - two Ibuprofen tablets, and a big Paracetamol - and managed with some difficulty to get into bed. It was pretty excruciating. But I found a position where I managed to get to sleep.
Next morning it was not a lot better. I did succeed in getting out of bed, and by the time I'd got dressed and had some breakfast I had learned how to avoid and/or control the pain spasms a bit. It was determined, between Adia and her gynaecologist - doubling temporarily as orthopaedic - that I should go to hospital and get an X-Ray. I was not all that enthusiastic, since I know there's nothing much you can do about ribs anyway. But the gyno said that since the onset of the pain had been delayed, there was a possibility it could be kidney damage, so I went.
It took all day to find a place with X-Ray facilities, power to run them, and someone who could read an X-Ray picture. Finally it was determined that I had fractured my right 8th rib, quite a bit further down than the bruising area. This process involved a lot of driving around over roads of very variable quality, so by bedtime I was pretty stressed out and generally knackered. But I did manage to make it into bed with assistance from Adia, and finally got some sleep.
I believe the rib was cracked during the impact, but suffered further cracking or eventual break during the sock-removal incident. The electric-shock-like spasms probably happen either when the ends rub together, or when the residual connection - if any - is flexed. I shall probably be considerably restricted in my activities for some time. On the brighter side, my leg is fine again now.
14/4/2011 - Bust the Libyan Stalemate?
I wonder how large a NATO force it would take to conduct a landing in or close to the port if Misrata, and to eject Gadaffi's forces from the region around the city, taking with them a bunch of volunteer freedom fighters from Benghazi armed with the anti-tank missiles kindly provided by Quatar and with radios to coordinate air strikes.
The NATO force could then pull out immediately (that's the tricky bit of course), leaving it to the freedom fighters and the low precision air forces deployed by NATO to keep Gadaffi's forces at a distance.
This would appear to fit within 'all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas' and 'excluding a foreign occupation force of any form'.
Of course, this would have to be done by the Brits and the French. Going by the events in Ivory Coast, the French have the balls to do it. Do the Brits?
If Misrata was secured, the freedom fighters could move forces by sea with NATO assistance through Misrata toward Tripoli thus bypassing the troublesome area of Sirte. This would make things uncomfortable for Gadaffi, and might provoke the required uprising in Tripoli.
There's a motto somewhere to the effect that "he who dares wins."
12/4/2011 - Taking a Tumble.
(Note that there is a previous post for today about the AU peace proposal for Libya.)
As reported, last Wednesday I lost my phone. The following day was a holiday, so we had been through the tedious business of getting a new one on Friday. I say tedious because a) I really didn't need to spend that money this month, and b) getting a new SIMM just is pretty tedious. When I first came here in 2007 you could just walk into any phone shop and buy one. Now they want photo ID, proof of residence, your grandmother's bra size - the whole nine yards. I'd just about got my primary contacts restored and learned to use it by yesterday.
So then I had driven down to Nane Nane on Kiki to get some mosquito wire mesh for a window. I'd bought the stuff, and was driving away, not fast, because the driving surface by that hardware shop is bad. They get a load of big trucks coming in there to deliver cement and keep bolstering the surface by applying layers of rough road moram. That creates a surface which is difficult for the motor scooter's small wheels.
Anyway, I was driving away across this crap. There's plenty of room - the area in front of the shops is wider than the main road. A cyclist was riding in the opposite direction to my right - the correct position since we drive on the left here. At the last moment he suddenly turned to his right, crossing in front of me. I turned right instinctively to avoid him, but Kiki wasn't having it. The back wheel skidded in the gravel and dust, and I lost it, kind of in slow motion, coming off to the right.
Even at five or ten miles an hour, you come down hard. In this case on my right shoulder and hip, and smacking my head hard against the ground. Fortunately I'm a habitual helmet wearer, and it's a decent helmet, but even with that on I could tell it would have been a pretty hard knock.
I got up, specks intact, picked up the scooter, and checked it over - still running, and just some superficial scratches. The guy on the bike mumbled profuse apologies, and I cussed him out in English, which probably did not have much effect. Then I got back on the scooter, and drove off.
As soon as I'd got onto the main road, I felt my pocket, and realized my new phone was gone. I turned back immediately, and returned to the scene, but there was no sign of it, and I was pretty sure I did bring it with me. The security guards, and some of the cement bag handlers from the shop, who had witnessed the scene came to help, but none of them could see it either. A small crowd gathered, and after a few minutes somebody managed to communicate to me that it had been located. There's a guy who runs a fruit stall in front of one of the shops nearby, and he now returned on his bike, saying it was OK, and I should "subiri kidogo" - wait a little. Having done so, another guy arrived on foot, and handed me my phone, in one piece, and working. Thinking him a good citizen, I gave him the small change out of my wallet, and then departed.
Later that day, Adia went to interrogate the fruit guy about what had happened, and it transpired that the guy who brought back the phone was in fact the original cyclist who brought me down - I just hadn't recognized him. He'd picked up the phone and ridden off with it. But the fruit guy saw him, and knew where he could be found. So I'd given money to the villain, and must now go today and reward the hero.
Today my right leg is somewhat stiff, but otherwise, no ill effects apart from some gravel scratches on my shoulder. Adia is not happy about me riding the scooter. But I'm a stubborn old bugger, and rather attached to Kiki, and she does prefer to drive around in the car. So I shall continue to take my chances. If you start treating yourself like an old man, then you become one!
While I am somewhat immobilized I am catching up with the music links for March and April - they are now in place.
12/4/2011 - AU Peace Proposal.
There are vaguely derogatory comments flying around now implying that the Libyan freedom fighters have turned down an opportunity for peace. Bollocks! How anyone in the world thought that the vague set of suggestions put forward for Libya by the African Union might have a result beats me. Let's look at the points:
An immediate ceasefire
The unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid
Protection of foreign nationals
A dialogue between the government and rebels on a political settlement
The suspension of NATO air strikes
Basically this is a fairy-with-magic-wand wish list, not a practical proposal.
Number one - what does 'immediate' mean in this proposal? Does it mean that as soon as a party accepts the proposal, that party should cease fire? Does it mean that as soon as both parties had accepted the proposal, both would immediately cease fire (in which case, what does immediately mean - how would the acceptance by both parties at the same time be communicated?)? Also, what does ceasefire mean? Does it mean a literal cease fire, with both parties maintaining their positions at the time of cease fire? Alternatively, are both parties free to move their forces during the ceasefire? In the latter case, the government forces would be free to move their forces into Benghazi, and the freedom fighters could move into Tripoli, both unhindered. Also, whose responsibility would it be to determine that each side was abiding by the ceasefire, and under what circumstances would it be deemed to have expired?
Number two - what does unhindered mean? Ships from anywhere should be allowed to dock at any Libyan port, hire a transport contractor, and move the contents of the ship to any destination of choice? I think not - much detail would be involved, and possibly most significantly, somebody would have to provide the diesel/petrol for transport without concurrently supplying it to either of the warring factions. Also, what constitutes 'humanitarian aid'? Does it include wire-guided anti tank missiles so the civilians in Misrata can take out Gadaffi tanks, and night-glasses and sub-machine guns so they can go and get his snipers?
Number three - protection of foreign nationals by who, and against what? A whole chapter.
Number four - a dialogue between who? Presumably between Gadaffi and his henchmen, and the NTC. Anyone who thinks that a meaningful result can be achieved by having a dialogue with Gadaffi at this point in time should probably get some therapy! On a more mundane point, where could this be done. Nowhere in Libya would be suitable - one side would just arrest or kill the other. Foreign venues are suspect since Gadaffi might get arrested by any responsible foreign government. An African venue would likely place pressure on the NTC, or arrest them.
Number five - so both sides would be free to deploy additional hardware in anticipation of a resumption of hostilities. This particularly favours Gadaffi's lot, since they have more of such stuff to deploy.
What the proposal doesn't say is probably as bad as what it does. It does not require the lifting of the state of medieval starvation siege on Misrata and Zintan, or indeed of food supplies to the country in general that depend primarily on imports. There's no mention of a political process, e.g. elections, a referendum, or whatever. There's no mention of compensation of innocent civilians. There's no mention of a route to the lifting of sanctions imposed by the UN. There's no mention of a cessation of the import of mercenaries into Libya ...
The NTC would have to have been mad to accept it. Clearly that was the intention of the AU dictators club, who's real intention can only have been to give Gadaffi a propaganda boost, or even better, if the NTC were mad, a chance to regroup and reinforce, and to build up his gang of hired foreign thugs.
Fortunately the NTC has a prime directive - Gadaffi must go!
9/4/2011 - Why No Comment on Ivory Coast?
Basically I guess, because I am a cynic. Libya gets my attention because it goes to some degree against my pessimistic assumptions. Ivory coast merely reinforces them.
Ivory Coast has suffered civil war, interspersed with broken political agreements and wrangling, since 2002. This followed 30 some years of rule by that rarest of creatures, a moderately benevolent dictator president. So what is going on there may be topical news, but it is really nothing new.
The two contenders, Gbagbo and Ouattara have been rivals throughout this period, as have their followers, the predominantly Christian 'true Ivorean' citizens of the south east, and the predominantly Muslim citizens of the north, who include many relatively recent immigrants from West African countries further north - Mali and Burkina Faso. There are many scores to settle between the two sides.
There are lots of examples that suggest that bitter hatreds like this take several generations before the people finally turn around and ask "why are we fighting like this?" Currently it has been going on for about nine years, so I'd expect the situation to persist for some time yet.
It's also possible that the well known justification of African dictators for hanging on to power beyond any reasonable term "my presence is neccessary to preserve the stability of the nation" may just be something that is true in Africa because of the profound religious and tribal divides that prevail here.
Consideration of the similar history of man's inhumanity to man that existed in Europe after the advent of protestantism from about 1600 until 1945 does not provide much consolation or hope for a rapid transition to a peaceful and democratic Africa.
Why no comment on the election in Nigeria? Same difference - same old, same old.
Back briefly on the subject of Libya, it is looking increasingly likely that Gadaffi's forces will be on the road to Benghazi again shortly. If this happens the whole coalition effort will be rendered a pointless and very expensive exercise in fence sitting. Boots on the ground will be required if the west really means to get rid of Gadaffi.
Enforced new phone.
8/4/2011 - Unwanted Change.
On Wednesday afternoon I lost my 2006 Nokia phone. I have a pair of track pants that I use for working in, which have very shallow pockets. I've been aware of this ever since I started wearing them, so it was an accident waiting to happen. Finally it did. I checked the time on the phone at Nane Nane, went and bought something from one of the shops there, then went home, riding Kiki. When I got home over the bumpy roads, no phone.
Now after getting on for five years, with a phone that was on its last legs anyway, you'd be right in thinking that this was not that big a deal. But you get attached to a mobile, and I lost sleep over it.
It's replacement is a Samsung. I wanted to stay with a flip-phone. That's what I'm used to - all my mobile phones have been flips. At the shop in town I had a choice of a couple of Sony-Ericsson's, a Nokia, and the Samsung.
The first two looked dated, so I plumped for the latter, though I now have to pay the price by learning a completely different instruction set. It seems to do everything though. Different SIMM, same number.
It might have been tempting to get one of the new Android all-singing-all-dancing devices, but the Internet connection is still too expensive here, and I'd be really pissed of if one of those fell out of my pocket. In any case, even the Samsung was not in the month's budget, which will now have to be squeezed.
An Entrenching Tool.
5/4/2011 - Digging In.
It seems that one very fundamental item of equipment is missing from the armament of the Libyan freedom fighters.
In almost all conflicts involving infantry, motorized or otherwise, in the last 150 years or so, and even in Roman times, experienced troops have developed an almost instinctive behaviour. As soon as you get to a new position, you dig a hole, as quickly as you can, and as deep as time and practicality allows.
Time is limited. It will not be long before the enemy discovers where you are. Once they do, artillery shells, or mortar bombs, or rockets will be fired at your position. If you are out in the open, your choices are then limited. You can run away, or die.
Training the fighters in the use of their weapons is one thing, but I would think they also need to be trained to use a spade.
Mo in motion.
4/4/2011 - Random Reactions.
I've been watching the Libya live twittering/reporting again, which gave rise to the following - my comment in braces. The picture is unrelated.
Boeing flies its US passengers around in 737s with cracked roofs, but I bet its bombers in Libya are shiny and new.
[So is Boeing now an airline? Also, what bombers in Libya - as far as I know, bombers only flew on day one, and I believe they were made by Northrop Grumman.]
Farrakhan defends Kadahfy and blast on Pres. Obama on Libya ...
[The USA supports free speech - like the content or not.]
There's a lot of Toyotas being used by rebels in Libya. I laughed when I saw one with a snorkel...
[Toyota provide a rather standard pickup truck for the African market. Countries where you might have to drive in deep water outnumber those where you don't.]
In Libya, to tell someone where you live, all you can do is use a complicated system of Mosques, shops and landmarks to guide them.
[This makes it sound like Libya has some sort of unique problem - it's the same here where I live in Tanzania. If you want to get mail you have a post office box. I'm sure this is quite common in Africa. Many people consider it a feature that preserves their privacy.]
Libya. So, when do we call God to bring on apocalypse and end it with one shot?
[Call any time you like - it's never been known to have any effect.]
Jihadist who is former Gitmo detainee is training rebels ...
[Having been imprisoned at GITMO does not make you guilty of anything.]
Just realized that last week's stock profits (my first ever!) were probably due to the conflict in Libya. What's worse, I don't feel bad.
Why doesn't the coalition jam State tv in Libya? Surely they can do that?
[Probably they could. We should all do that to everyone else, the world would be a better place without other peoples TV news.]
Former CIA officer blows lid off Libya fraud live on CNN...
[Emphasis presumably on 'Former'.]
Just filled up my car. How much longer until there's another puppet government in Libya and oil prices stabilize?
[I suspect you should learn about real-world petrol prices.]
Suppose they took a poll in Libya. How many (of those still alive) in Misrata would vote for partition? I would guess 0 of the 570000.
I told you the Coalition/U.S aide to libyan rebels was a setup for their slaughter.
[And of course you are omniscient!]
First they say they don't need you, then they rejoice at your involvement, then they complain you're not killing more for 'em.
Is Regime Change in Libya the Only Option?
[So you'd like to live with a vengeful Gadaffi back in control after what we've done to him?]
A New Fruit.
3/4/2011 - Expanding Menagerie.
Our latest addition is a Stigmochelys Pardalis - Mo for short. He or she (yet to be determined), is an African Leopard Tortoise about 32cm (13") along the shell, and as such, still a juvenile.
A couple of the village lads found it wandering in the road, so knowing that mzungus are interested in animals of all kinds, they brought it to us and exchanged it for some beer money. So we now have the three dogs, Cali the cat, the tortoise Mo, the toad, and a small nesting colony of yellow birds - species unknown.
The picture is a bit vague, but I'm trying to give Mo some time to relax and settle in. A better picture will follow when he/she decides to emerge from the undergrowth. The only accommodation that I have to make, as far as I can tell, is to provide some sort of shallow pool or vessel for Mo to drink out of. The size of the compound, and the variety of plants available, should not feel like a prison. First though, get used to the dogs, and dogs get used to the tortoise. When they first met, Mo did not seem that bothered, which probably means he/she is accustomed to interactions with street dogs.
Further excitement today was the discovery of a set fruit on the football-sized passion fruit vine. We had one before, but it was so well hidden that nobody saw it until after it had fallen off and rotted. At the same time, by being tardy, we lost another fig to the birds. Sooner or later we'll learn - at the FIRST SIGN of ripening, the fig must be bagged.
The furniture for the last bedroom is now finished except for a curtain rod - something that I always forget. I have now started on the associated bathroom, and put in the towel rail and the rail for the shower curtain today.
1/4/2011 - All Fools Day.
No April fool stunts that I noticed. I don't think it is a Tanzanian thing.
The rains are well and truly in full flow now. The little road down to the village main street from our house is a muddy mess. Basically it is sound, there is stone underneath, but the rains wash mud down the road from our compound and further up the road, and dump it on the level stretch in the picture.
Mud makes it difficult to ride the scooter Kiki - she doesn't have the right kind of tyres, so getting out to the pub tonight could have been been quite exciting. As it turned out, it was not too bad as long as you had your wellies on to deal with the muddy lane.
We had two figs ready at the same time yesterday, so for the first time Adia and I got to eat a whole one each. However the rest of them don't show any sign of ripening. I believe they need sunshine to trigger the process, and it has been pretty cloudy for the last few days
Libya now seems to have descended into stalemate, with NATO unwilling to take sides, and the rebels lacking the weaponry, organization, and training to achieve anything much. I would love to be proved wrong. In Ivory Coast it looks like Gbagbo is finally going to get his arse kicked - I would love to be proved right. Syria seems to be going through all the usual processes, with the president promising investigations and reforms, but basically attempting to tough it out. I should probably try having April as a politics free month.
Usual caveats for the first day of the month - music links not yet adjusted (not done for March yet, for that matter - Steve!), other errors likely.
britseyeview.com version 3.0
Squash This List
Check out the BEV retrospective currently covering 1942 - 1974.
1975 is WIP (work-in-progress).
What is BEV?
Brits Eye View is the personal blog of a 68 year old Englishman - Steve Teale, started in January 2003. It's currently 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.
I started playing with it in January 2003, when I was living in Manhattan. At the time I felt I was going nowhere, and exposing the details of my life could be no worse than not. Almost immediately I changed partners, and quickly recognized that while I might be prepared to live in a goldfish bowl, other's weren't.
The same year I lost my job - recession, exhausted my NY State unemployment benefits, and got a job in India. Consequently a large proportion of BEV was written in Bangalore. India was OK, but I could not see what I was going to do there when I retired.
This uncertainty was resolved when I met my current partner Adia in 2006. She was a Tanzanian, studying law in India, so I came Tanzania in 2007. Here we have built a house, and made new friends. The rest, you can read on BEV.
At about the same time I had the ridiculous idea of extending BEV backwards to cover the years 1942 to 2002. So far I have got to 1974. For the years 2003 - 2010, choose a year/month from the tool bar. For 1942 - 1974, choose a year.
If you have done all the usual tourist destinations, then make a leap and discover Africa! Come and visit Arusha, Tanzania.
You might be able to stay at - a great centre for safaris to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Kilimanjaro, and of course our own pet volcano, Mount Meru.
Please feel free to contact us. We can tell you about hotels, facilities, prices of basics, etc.
We now have very pleasant bed and breakfast rooms available at $20 per night. The Old Cottage and the South House are also available for longer term visitors.
This Month's Posts
If there's something particular you'd like to go back to, just click it here
29/4/2011 - The Wedding.
28/4/2011 - Still Magic.
24/4/2011 - Neo-Colonialism, Oil Greed, or Common Sense.
There are a couple of new items described on the current software blog post. The first is a site mapping script in PHP - this is what provides the new 'Site map' item on the BEV main menu.
There's also a rather convenient page that provides for translation of 'difficult' characters in computer code so that the result can be safely used in a web page.
Moods of Meru.
Random BEV Poem.
60 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
US Billboard #1
- Mario Lanza: Be My Love
- Les Paul & Mary Ford: How High The Moon
50 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
US Billboard #1
- Elvis Presley: Surrender
- The Marcels: Blue Moon
- Del Shannon: Runaway
UK Chart number 1
- Floyd Cramer: On The Rebound
Link not found
40 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
US Billboard #1
- Janis Joplin: Me and Bobby McGee
- The Temptations: Just My Imagination
- Three Dog Night: Joy To The World
Brown Sugar - The Rolling Stones
UK Chart number 1
- Dawn: Knock Three Times
30 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
US Billboard #1
- Blondie: Rapture
- Hall & Oates: Kiss On My List
UK Chart number 1
- Bucks Fizz: Making Your Mind Up
20 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
US Billboard #1
- Gloria Estefan: Coming out of the Dark
Link not found
- Londonbeat: I've Been Thinking About You
- Wilson Phillips: You're in Love
- Amy Grant: Baby Baby
UK Chart number 1
- Cher: The Shoop Shoop Song
10 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
US Billboard #1
- Angel - Shaggy featuring Rayvon
- Janet Jackson: All For You
UK Chart number 1
- Emma Bunton: What Took You So Long
- Destiny's Child: Survivor
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