January 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 working on 1971.




Adia found cheap plant pots.


Avenue des Plantes.

We went to Nick's tonight, since Zawadi is leaving tomorrow, and had chicken and fish and chips - extravagant. The food was on top form. Zawadi and I had beer too, before we went and while we were there, so there's a slight buzzzz in the house! I see I'm up quite late by my standards too.
29/1/2010 - Things That Please An Old Man.

BEV is I guess a narrative about what it is like to descend or proceed into old age. I imagine that the things that please you are characteristic of your age, and an indication to there of what it feels like to be there, so here goes:
  • I'm still standing,
  • I'm walking in sunshine,
  • I still get pretty horny pretty often,
  • I have a young wife looks after me pretty well,
  • My children and grandchildren are all in good health and as happy as can be expected,
  • I had good parents,
  • I had a pretty good education which I am still extending,
  • I live in a place where my small pension goes a long way,
  • I am not overly afraid of death,
  • My house is a really pleasant place, better than I ever expected in retirement,
  • The beer here is good and relatively cheap,
  • I have three beautiful dogs who love me unconditionally,
  • I have escaped from the bondage of religion,
  • I lived in the 1970s when I was in my 30s - cool,
  • I no longer posses any flared trousers ;=),
  • I still have what passes for a full set of teeth,
  • I can still saw in a reasonably straight line,
  • I can still program pretty well in many of the worlds most popular languages,
  • I can go out to eat close to home and get good food at a reasonable price,
  • I have fresh vegetables in my garden,
  • I am surrounded by people who are, for the most part, friendly and cheerful,
  • Where I live there are lots of pretty girls to look at,
  • I have an Internet connection that works most of the time,
  • I get on well with the 'relatives' I have here,
  • I can get up as early as I like, or lie in bed all day,
  • I pay for what I need as I go,
  • I don't have to answer to anybody,
  • I can see two beautiful mountains from my garden,
  • I can eat with my fingers and be socially acceptable,
  • People from all over the world read my web page (not all that many),
  • We have mains water and electricity for a fair proportion of the time,
  • I no longer need to watch TV,
  • I can still afford to run a car,
  • I gave up smoking many years ago,
  • I'm on speaking terms with at least two of my ex wives,
  • I'm not excessively overweight,
  • I can walk up a steep hill without getting too out of breath,
  • My house is full of potted plants,
  • I have a little fig tree that is growing very well,
  • I discovered 'The Lord of the Rings' early in life so I have been able to read it many times,
  • Harry Potter is my favourite hero.




The women of the house.
28/1/2010 - Adia Recovered.

Adia has finished her quite long course of pills, and now seems to be completely recovered. This leaves Zawadi free to go back to Dar to sort out the remains of her affairs there. I think she is going on Saturday. Adia is going to miss her - they chatter all the time. I don't know what they find to talk about, but then being the silent type, I wouldn't.

The avocado tree that we planted in the lawn to replace the non-growing orange tree has adopted the same habits. I think it must be because there is a layer under there where a lot of concrete got mixed at one time, and that is probably too alkaline.

I'm going to get Daniel to dig a big hole, taking the avocado out in the process. Then we can remove the layer, and put in new soil and some manure, followed by the baby tree again. I really want a small tree there, it will look good.

The power went off this evening at about 18:30, and of course I did not have petrol for the generator. I had to trail up to the main road to get some, negotiating all the evening pedestrians. Of course, by the time I got back it was back on again.

The African Cup of Nations is on at the moment, and there's a match on tonight. So we'll probably be watching that.

27/1/2010 - Dear Diary.

Nothing special today. I spent some time comparing the DMD Phobos regular expressions implementation with another well-rated one. Wrote a piece on the GDC-newbie page as a result. I have settled down with Ubuntu now, and I'm thinking of putting it on my laptop after doing a suitably comprehensive backup. The main tool I lack to do that is a felt pen to write on the CDs, but I never remember to get one when I'm out.

In the afternoon, Adia twisted my arm and made me go and get my hair and beard cut. It was good to get out of the house.

When I got back I measured up for the pipe to run from the water tower to the South House - about 70m, which will cost around $85. I also spent some time looking at the compound from different angles to see if I could get any inspiration about where to put a temporary shelter as my workshop. But no real joy. I know where it will have to go, but I don't like it, and Adia likes it even less.

Innocent seems to be doing well with the plastering. He is patiently moving my things about to work around them. I would not have his tolerance!

26/1/2010 - Hell's Fury.

I had not appreciated the extent to which Adia was pissed off with Spemba. That, I think, was amplified by a talk she had with the carpenter who came to make the doors. He essentially confirmed the worst about SS. In his opinion he is a complete con-man, and he owes money all over the place.

Anyway, Adia and Zawadi went off with Adia's policeman buddy Zakayo yesterday and tracked SS down. They actually found him at his home, which is apparently quite an unusual place for him to be - too dangerous probably, the first place people would look. Zakayo had prior experience with SS, and was apparently also pissed off, since he took him straight to the Magistrates Court, where he was remanded in custody until mid February. Adia was unrepentant - that'll teach him.

The replacement carpenter seems to be very good. The doors he made were above reproach except for the fact that they were made from the slightly below par Mninga wood that Spemba had come up with. Today he hung them in the South House, and he did a better job of that than the man we were using before typically did.

Innocent is back, this time in the role of plasterer/decorator. He seems to be able to do everything and make a good job. I wish we had appreciated his full virtues earlier.

I'm still programming. I have never liked the Date/Time package that comes with D, so I'm writing my own replacement. It's quite a bit of work, but I have it working quite nicely now, with unit test code and some documentation. Next I need to find someone who will try it out and give me some feedback.



Some better doors materializing.
22/1/2010 - Back On Course.

We haven't seen anything of Spemba since the crap doors episode. The man he sent seems to be a competent carpenter, and the doors are getting assembled now. They should look nice when they get a coat of varnish.

The carpenter was away for a while today getting grooves, mortises, tenons and bevels cut on the various parts of the doors, so I attempted briefly to make some progress on the bed sides and ends. Unfortunately the wood is still too damp to work properly. I left it out in the sun, and will probably have to do so again for maybe another two days.

Hussein from the aluminium window frame shop came yesterday and measured the windows. We got a quote today that was slightly better than we accepted. Tomorrow one of us will have to go into town and pay a deposit. Once we've done that I should think they'll be done quite quickly as they are very standard. Once they are in the place will start to look quite civilized.

The new page I was working on is getting quite a number of hits. Yesterday was, I think, a record day for BEV, though in absolute terms that's not saying much. But every little helps. Maybe I can convert some nerds into BEV readers. Of course that will be something else that needs regular work - retirement its called.

Adia is still feeling very droopy. The medication she's taking is apparently quite aggressive, and makes you feel worse before you get better.

Harry turned up yesterday evening with another crate of Eagle. He's incorrigible - won't take anything for it. Zawadi is now focused on the challenge of drinking it all. They were sitting out on the patio last night drinking that or Johnnie Walker Black Label, well not Adia of course.

21/1/2010 - Compromise.

We compromised with Slippery Spemba, and agreed to keep the door frames. They were not too bad. So today, Innocent and his brother have been fitting the frames into the two interior doors. I really like Innocent's work - he's so tidy and thorough, and he has a very constant pleasant disposition. So the frames are in and looking good.

S-Spemba and Adia went to get the proper wood yesterday, and today he sent a colleague to make the proper doors. He seems to be doing a reasonable job too. I suspect that the first two doors were just a try-on. He borrowed them from somewhere cheap, and if we had accepted them, he would have paid them and tripled his profit. Remind me not to use this man again!

I could not get in my workshop today to finish the bed sides, since the colleague was in there using my bench and tools. That is not particularly good, because I have to finish the bed before I move my workshop stuff out, before the decorators can get in and finish off the plastering, before the tiler can get in, and so on. I'm on the critical path.

So I have been working today on a new page for GDC newbies. Technical stuff, but if you are a nerd, or close, and you'd like to try out the rather cool D programming language, give it a whirl.



Dieing tomato plants.


One of Spemba's crappy doors.
20/1/2010 - Still Alive.

Yes, I'm still around, but I got bogged down in some computer stuff. As I said before, I have switched to Linux, specifically to Ubuntu. However, the version I had on CD was not the current one, but one behind. So I did the upgrade - very tedious - first a long download, and then the install.

Then, horror of horrors, when the machine restarted, I was dumped to a command prompt. No graphical interface, and X-Windows would not start. I had to revert to XP on my laptop to google for suggestions as to what to do. One guy said he'd fixed it by removing X-Windows, then reinstalling, so I tried that from the command line, and mercifully, it worked.

Then when I restarted again it told me there were a host of updates to apply - just since October last year, the date of the last release. So that was another long download and install. But after that, it was good.

Then I got involved with some programming stuff, installing the Gnu version of the D programming language, and trying to compile some of my stuff with it - I won't bore you.

In the meantime, not that much has happened. We were waiting for Spemba the roofer/carpenter to turn up with the doors he was making for the small house. Innocent has finished with the block laying and rendering jobs. Spemba turned up today with some doors. He'd been asked to make doors like the ones we already have, and had seen those, and even commented that thy were a bit old fashioned. But he was told in no uncertain terms that those were what we wanted. The doors he brought were completely different, and not even made out of the right wood. I don't believe he made them, I think he had other work, so he just got them made at some carpentry shop, and told them nothing but the sizes. I have told him he can stuff them, so now we'll have to get some proper ones made.

The veggie garden seems to be having a hard time. Tomato plants are dieing with some wasting disease where they just turn brown and die. Then also one night, Daniel left the gate open and the puppies got in, destroying the largest of the eggplant plants, and trampling the cabbages. I think the cabbages will survive. I also had Daniel remove the zucchini, since they were developing some sort of mildew and I did not want it to spread.

Last, but not least, Adia, who had been feeling pretty crappy, went to the hospital and discovered that she's got Typhoid - aka Salmonella. She's taking a whole bunch of pills now that should fix it, but it's just as well that she went to check.



More veggies.
13/1/2010 - Back To Work.

Physical work, that is. Yesterday, as promised I made a start on the bed for the South House, a queen size. I had bought some reject planks for it some time ago, and had them planed flat on one side. So the work for the day was converting them into useful pieces for the main structure of the bed - the bit the mattress actualy lies on.

There are several steps in this process. First I cut the raw wood into lengths corresponding to the width of the bed with a hand saw, rejecting those parts of the 'reject' wood that are truly rejects. In most cases, the resulting pieces don't have either one or both edges straight or parallel, so the next step is to cut them along one or both edges with the electric circular saw to make them into parallel sided planks. These will eventually be nailed and glued to two lengths of 4x2 that form the dual spines of the bed. To facilitate that process, the next step is to smooth the portions of the underside of the planks where they will be glued, using a jack plane.

I did that for the bed for the South House, and for another 4' bed that we need for something else. By the time I'd finished I was knackered. Three weeks of sitting in front of a computer will do that do you - your stamina is the first thing to do.
Today I cut the bed spines, and nailed and glued the planks for the queen size bed. Then in the afternoon Adia and I went into town to do some other things, and looked for hardwood for the bed sides and ends. This turned out to be largely a waste of time, though I did locate some half decent Mruka wood planks toward the end of the day. When I got back, I just had the time and the energy to cut pieces for the bed legs.

Late last year we had a German physician as a guest - he's working on a scholarship project and doing volunteer work. For the last couple of months he's been off in Dar. Today, he came back with his partner - she's also a physician - so my last task of the day was to pick them up from the bus while Adia cooked supper. That all went well.

Supper was Tilapia fish with gravy, ugali, and mixed vegetables consisting of - guess - beetroot, zucchini, and carrots. The ugali was another home-grown component, made with the maize we grew last year, which we're still eating. We have been converted my the Masai into eating the wholemeal variety. Very basic: you get the corn kernels off the dried cob by beating the cobs in a sack with a big stick, then you take them to the local miller and get them ground to flour, husks and all, then you boil the flour, adding more as you go to make a stiff paste.



Beetroots thriving.
12/1/2010 - More Salad.

I pulled and cooked the first two beetroots the other day. Boiled them whole, sliced them up and put them in vinegar like my mum used to do. Adia wasn't keen, but I thought they were great - long time.

Yesterday and the day before, Spemba and a lad put up the gypsum boards and cornices in the South House. It's starting to look quite civilized now. Spemba has also given us a very competitive price quote for the interior doors, so he'll be starting on those next.

Today the mortar specialist Innocent is coming to fit the security grills into the window holes and make a doorstep.

I am somewhat stuck for things to do there, but now Spemba is finished I maybe able to make the bed for the house. Then I have to move my workshop stuff out of there. Where to, I don't know.

I'm getting on quite well with Ubuntu, and can do most of the things I want to. I like the Evolution mail client better than Thunderbird, and the gedit text editor is pretty good, though there are a couple of features from EditPlus that I miss. I am less impressed with Gimp for messing with my images, and will be looking for an alternative to that.
11/1/2010 - What Can You Say?



Another more topical song. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check here.



Train at a tiny station.


Nokia mobile phones.
11/1/2010 - Oh Mr Voda.

Here's the chorus from an old song, written in 1893 that reminds us of one of the great infrastructures of the past - the railways in the age of steam:

Oh! Mr Porter, what shall I do?
I want to go to Birmingham
And they're taking me on to Crewe.
Send me back to London
As quickly as you can
Oh! Mr Porter, what a silly girl I am.

If you had to pick a subject for a similar comedy song now, maybe it could be about the difficulties and pitfalls of the use of the ubiquitous mobile phone.

I can't find suitable statistics, but it would be fascinating to know what was spent (in todays money values) on railways, trains, rolling stock, and stations in the world up to say 1910, and what has been spent on mobile phone company central sites, cell sites, mobile handsets, SIM cards, etc now at the beginning of 2010. My guess is that the latter would dwarf the former.

Back in the old days, certainly in the UK and to the same or lesser degrees in other European countries, the US, and elsewhere, there was an enormous network of rail tracks. In some cases almost every small town had a railway station. There were large and powerful companies that had highly complex systems for funding and operating the railways, and other large companies that manufactured the rails, steam engines and rolling stock. Almost everyone knew how to use the system. You went to a railway station, bought a ticket, got on the right train (unlike the girl in the song), and got off at your destination.

The infrastructure of today has a similar enormous network, now of cell sites. Little fenced compounds with a small nondescript building and a tower with radio antennae. These are connected together, and to the central processing facilities of large and powerful companies with highly complex systems for funding and shunting (the word comes from the railway technology) around of our phone calls, SMS messages, and Internet connections. Other large and powerful companies vie for our custom in the manufacture of mobile handsets, accessories, and content. Everyone knows how to use the system. You buy a SIM card, stick it in a new or second-hand phone, feed the phone a voucher, and dial.

Oh! Mr Voda, what shall I do?
I want to reach my boyfriend
but my call just won't go through.
Get the system sorted
as quickly as you can,
Oh! Mr Voda, please - I'm in a jam.




Very heavy rain.
10/1/2010 - A Deluge.

I'm trying to switch over my routine computer use from Windows XP to Ubuntu. Why, you might ask? Well, I guess really just because it's there. Also, sooner or later Microsoft are bound to pull the plug on XP - there are far too many unlicensed copies of that around, quite possibly including mine, which was on the machine when I got it. My last post, earlier today was a Linux effort.

Anyway, I'd been struggling with Ubuntu and the Internet connection all day, and at about five in the afternoon I decided I'd take a walk round to the pub for a break. But at that point, the heavens opened. I have never seen rain like it before here. It just turned on like a tap, and stayed turned on for over an hour. It was like living in the tropics ;=)

The little river of brown water you can see in the picture is the water that flows off the roof on the outer side of the house's 'L' shape. It has by now gouged quite a deep channel arouind the back and down the side of the house. I really must put some guttering up.

Fortunately everything was still standing afterwards, though the broccoli plants had taken a bit of a beating. No roof leaks though, which is good.



Real life.


Poster advert.
10/1/2010 - Bandwidth Greed.

A few days ago, in a moment of greed and envy, I bought a Huawei EC226 CDMA data modem from TTCL, the Tanzania national telecommunications company. The reasoning - if any - behind this was as follows:
  • TTCL has a connection to the Seacom undersea fiber optic cable,
  • TTCL has a network of microwave towers that bridges the gap between the end of Seacom in Dar, and Arusha,
  • TTCL uses CDMA and supports EVDO.
It seemed to me, that this should make TTCL mobile data faster than the other phone companies, and my local Internet provider BOL, who are all still tied to satellites. So I took myself off to the TTCL office, and got a demo. Sure enough, the modem they are selling is roughly seven times faster than my current Internet connection. Actually in their office it was almost ten times faster, but one suspects that their local service may be souped up.

So now I have this cute little dongle thing thing that plugs into a USB port on either my laptop or one of my desktop machines, and positively flies along. I can listen to streaming audio, and even watch You*** videos ;=) I have got it working on both my Windows and Ubuntu. For details of how to do Ubuntu, see the Software page.

However having got there, it found that the thing eats money. You need to feed TTCL vouchers into it as you watch. They charge 160TS (about 12 cents) a megabyte. I have to confess that when I bought it, I did the sum in my head to see how many GB I would get for the money I'm paying BOL now, and got an answer around 4.5GB, which would have been fine, but alas I got my mental calculation wrong by a factor of ten, and In fact I will only get 450MB - whoops.
When I realized this I thought 'wow, ripoff!', but thinking about it calmly, I really can't complain. The dongle thingie is really just a mobile phone, and the best airtime rates you can get here are on the order of 1TS/sec. So if I have the modem plugged in to a computer and switched on full time, I presume I'm tying up a cell channel, and at the cheap phone call rate, that would cost me 60 x 60 x 24 x 30 = 108,000TS a month - a lot more than I'm paying BOL. Really I'm just paying for air time, and the Internet content is free! Also I should note that Vodacom - the largest of the mobile companies here - charges 300TS/megabyte.

This makes sense if you look at TTCL's DSL offering, which gives you 256kbs (I assume it is k bits) for 49,000TS a month ($37). If you use that flat out, it works out at 0.6TS a megabyte. My current satellite connection works out at about 4.5TS on the same basis.

The woman who looked after me at TTCL told me I should be patient and wait until the fiber optic cable along Njiro Road was finished. I presume then, once you've paid the connection charge, that the broadband rate will be similar, and once the fiber connection from Dar to Arusha is completed, the standard bandwidth will probably go up from 256k to 512k. At that point I could be back close to where I was in Bangalore.

The dongle's performance is also an interesting test of truth in advertising, as you'll see from the two pictures. The one at the top is of my screen downloading a file close to 2MB. The one at the bottom is a section of a very large poster on Njiro Road. There's just a modest factor of ten speed difference. The modem (which is shown on the poster, but not in my picture) actually connects to the network with a theoretical top speed of 3.1Mbps (mega bits per second), which is equivalent to 0.39MB/sec, so the 1MB/sec transfer speed shown in the ad is pure fiction.

So for now, the little while elephant - sorry dongle - will be used only for those software downloads that are about 20MB ($2.50), which are often difficult to get started and get through to completion with the existing satellite connection. The temptation to listen to music and watch videos will have to be resisted.



Our pristine lawn.
9/1/2010 - Yet another helper.

A new helper, Daniel, who Harry found for us, arrived on Wednesday. I believe Mohammed is on Adia's list to be shipped back to Bukoba.

I am sure his fate is now sealed. Yesterday, Daniel set about the lawn, which had not been touched since I went over it with Harry's lawnmower on Christmas Eve and got bitten in the ankle by the spider or whatever. He had been told that looking after the garden was part of his job, so he got on with it - a self starter, I like that, and Adia is impressed.

Also yesterday, the grills for the small house were delivered. Along with these was a new larger tree cage for the fig tree. The latter was in danger of growing into a vertical cylindrical shape, since Gretel and Sigi were in the habit of snipping off any leaf or shoot that had the temerity to protrude beyond the wire mesh.

The new cage should hold the fig tree for a while, particularly if I can coax it to grow mostly in a vertical direction for a while. It does however appear to be
very keen on branching, so I may find I have to build another cage sooner than I think.

The gypsum boards, cornices, and associated trumpet-head screws for the ceilings in the South House have just turned up, and Spemba is expected after lunch to start putting them up.

8/1/2010 - No Time Wasted.

Things went faster than I expected. Zawadi was on the first bus to Bukoba this morning. She says she will come back and stay with us longer when she has got past her reconciliation with mama and Mussa.



The two sisters.
7/1/2010 - A Reconciliation.

Once Adia had squared things with her mother Amina, Zawadi did not take much persuading. She caught a bus at six the next morning, and arrived here late afternoon yesterday. The two sisters talked for about six hours non stop. I don't know how they do it. I'm hard pressed to talk to anyone for ten minutes.

It seems that it is now agreed in principle that Zawadi will go back to Bukoba, and make it up with her mother and her stepfather Mussa. I would think there might have to be further diplomacy at that end before she goes to ensure in advance that it is a done deal. In any case I think she should stay her for a while to get her head back in gear. Probably it will be enough if she stays until she gets bored. Apparently life in Dar was pretty grim.

My ankle feels half decent today, so when I've finished this, I'm going to do the remainder of the above-ceiling electrical work in the South House. Then Spemba the roofer will come and put gypsum boards on the ceilings.

Another fundi is making grills for the windows, and we need to get the carpenter to come and measure up for the interior doors and door frames.

6/1/2010 - Topical or What?


There's a volcano observatory in Goma, quite close to the volcano that is erupting in DR Congo. Above is a snip from their web page. You would think that under the circumstances, a body funded to observe these volcanoes might have something to say!

5/1/2010 - Broken Links.

I need to apologize to readers of the BEV Retrospective pages because most or all of the audio links in them are broken.

It is difficult to find a reliable source of streamed versions of recordings from the 60s and 70s. You find one, then before you know it, the authorities close it down. I am working on a possibility to restore the broken links, but since BEV is a non-profit web site, it will inevitably be difficult to maintain reliable links to music tracks.

5/1/2010 - Bodies and Families Dropping to Pieces.

I hadn't mentioned before - some things you don't - but I've had a problem with my right ankle over the last few days. At first I thought it was gout, my consumption of the bottle of wine on Christmas day could have triggered that. If it had been gout I would not have mentioned it. Gout is something I get from time to time. I take some indomethacin, and after a painful couple of days it goes away. But this was not in the usual place, which is in the base joint of my right toe. Instead it was on the outside of my right ankle. This is another potential gout site, but much less common.

So I started the indomethacin, and at the end of the first serious day it seemed to have calmed down. But then when I got up next morning it was back to square one, so I thought I'd better get a second opinion. It was Monday morning after the long weekend, and all the hospitals/clinics were packed. Eventually I had the idea of going to the Marie Stopes clinic, which is primarily a mother & baby care place, but will deal with anything that comes through the door. It was quiet there, and I got to the doctor in no time.

He looked at my ankle and prodded it and disagreed - said it didn't feel right for gout, and was more likely to be the result of an insect bite. Adia and I had considered that possibility, but discounted it since we could not see even the tiniest sign of a bite wound. However, the doctor was clear that sometimes you can't. He wrote me a prescription for an injection of something or other, an antibiotic, and some painkiller/anti-inflammatory ointment.

The receptionist, doubling as nurse, administered the injection. "Pole" (an expression of sympathy)) she said. I said "thanks, can't be helped - injection where?" She grinned, and said "in the buttock". Fortunately the needle was sharp, and she knew how to use it, so I felt no pain. Two hours later I was almost walking properly again.

As Adia tells me, quoting my own saying, I'm dropping to pieces. Something similar is happening in Adia's family. Her sister Zawadi, who we have encountered before in these pages, is in a bad way, and so are her children. Some time ago, Zawadi and her husband Ibra had a bust up. Somehow this grew to involve other members of the family so that she became alienated from her mother and at considerable odds with her stepfather - Adia's father. She's an impulsive and independent minded woman, and as a result of all this she sold the contents of their house and took herself off to Dar to start a new life, with the kids at boarding school.

Unfortunately the new life didn't work out, and she is now living in a slum in Dar with no visible means of support. The kids are deeply unhappy, since every time they come home from school they are getting the traditional wicked stepmother treatment from Ibra's other wife.

I've prescribed that Adia send her a bus ticket so she can come to Arusha and stay in one of our rooms until she gets her head sorted out. This could be a first step in getting her back to Bukoba, where she still has the house. If she comes here, at least she will have the opportunity for some calm, without worrying about where the next meal is coming from, and how to keep a roof over her head, which might be a step in the right direction. First though, Adia will have to square it with her mother, who is not happy with the way Zawadi went off leaving the kids behind.

Such is life in complicated extended families!




Salad vegetables.



Volcanoes in east DR Congo.


Computer generated image of both volcanoes.

3/1/2010 - Volcanic Activity in East Africa.

On the news this morning I saw a bit about the volcano that is erupting in DR Congo. In world terms this is quite close to us, about 300km west of Adia's home town Bukoba, and maybe 1000km from us here. However, even if it spewed a lot of ash into the atmosphere, I don't think we'd see any effect, since the prevailing winds here blow east to west. If the ash got really high (greater than 40,000 feet), there's a jet stream that could bring it this way. This possibility is probaby science fiction. The volcanoes in that erea tend to spew lava rather than pyroclastic stuff.

The volcano in question is Mount Nyamuragira, the one at the top left of the group of volcanoes. It is Africa's most active volcano. The centre of the picture is at 1.47887S, 29.244232E, and maybe 12 miles north of the city of Goma.

There are worries that its neighbour, Mount Nyiragongo - the bigger one in the group to the south east - might also erupt. That one is much closer to the city, which is on the lake shore you can see in the computer generated picture, about ten miles away. The city was inundated with lava from this volcano as recently as 2002.

Back in May this year, vulcanologists said that both volcanoes were ready to blow at any time. However there is no mention or inference of a link between the activities of the two. Nonetheless, after the 2002 experience, the close to half a million people of Goma must be feeling jumpy.

The lake, city, and volcanoes are situated in the western branch of the East African Rift Valley. There, the African tectonic plate is splitting into two separate plates, generating volcanic activity in the process. If we were to live here for long enough - a few million years - there would probably be a sea to the west between us and the rest of Africa. I'll let you know in a later post.
2/1/2010 - DNA And All That.


As part of the infinitely long weekend constituted by Christmas, the New Year, and my cold, I have spent another day mostly staring at the web. In the course of that I discovered two really interesting reads.

They're not necessarily that easy - you'll need to have done a reasonable amount of organic chemistry at school, but I found them fascinating. My pass through was arse backwards, but I'll quote them in the more logical order.

The first you should read is Nucleic Acids. This will tell you as much as you need to know about how the systems that remember and implement our genetical features and inheritance were discovered and investigated, and how they work. The illustration above is one of many from this page.

The second one describes how the information coded in our DNA is discovered - DNA Sequencing - a shorter article, but also fascinating. These techniques made it possible to investigate the complete information contained in our genes. Interestingly that information would just about fit on a single computer CD - alas poor Jorik, I knew him well, I think this is his disk, you can make a new one if you like.

1/1/2010 - The New Years Eve Saga.

I never finished on this topic. As it turned out we stuck to the decision to stay at home, but went for a Chinese first. Getting there and getting the meal was quick and easy. Nobody was out at that time, and we were the only customers at the restaurant. The food was as good as it usually is, and we ate and enjoyed it. I was watching the Wind Talkers movie on the TV as I ate.

However, as soon as Adia had finished her meal she was overcome by a compelling nausea. No messing, she took herself off to a remote corner of the car park to puke. I can't convince myself it was the food. I ate exactly the same stuff from the same dishes with no effect other than enjoyment and the satisfaction of my hunger. We have no idea what happened. There was no repeat, and no other gastro-intestinal symptoms.

So I drove us home. Adia hung around for a while, but then went to bed early. I worked on BEV for a while, then followed her at maybe eleven thirty. We completely missed the blue moon eclipse event, which must have been clearly visible from here - the moon was very bright earlier. There was a party of some sort going on further along the village main street, with quite loud music. I was tempted to stick a few bottles of beer into a plastic bag, and go visit, but I thought with Adia having been ill, if she was ill again and I was nowhere to be seen, it wouldn't go down very well.

Come midnight I was still awake. There were fireworks of the banger variety, and people shooting guns in the air, and a great deal of 'hootin and hollerin' from the village. I was tempted again, but then at about 12:30, my son Richard called and we talked for a while, waking Adia again in the process. I went back to bed, then almost immediately KK Security turned up on patrol. Patrol under those circumstances meant they wanted their New Years gift of some small amount of money. By the time I'd found a wallet, I'd woken Adia again, so I stayed put, though sounds from outside sounded like there was considerable partying or something similar going on. Eventually it quietened down and I got to sleep.

I told her this morning that I'd been tempted to go out and join in, and damn me, she said "you should have gone". Such is life!


The regions between Cancer and Capricorn.
1/1/2010 - A New Decade.

So, it's 2010. Another opportunity to argue about when decades and centuries begin. I subscribe to the view that centuries begin on a year such as 101, or 2001, since we count them in relation to the days of the common era - anno domini. Since when that convention was adopted in Julius Caesar's time - the Julian Calendar, Roman math had no concept of zero, the first 'year of our lord' was 1. A century would therefore have passed after 100 years, i.e. at the end of year 100. Adoption of the Gregorian calendar didn't have any particular effect on this argument.

However for decades, I go the other way. A decade is an arbitrary period of 10 years - you can say in the decade from 1982 to 1991, or in the 70s, or more generally within the next decade - within the next ten years. The second use is prevalent - when I say 'in the 70s' I mean the years from 1970 to 1979. So we're now in the teens.
While I was looking at that stuff, I came up with another interesting fact. In England, the Gregorian calendar was not adopted until 1750, and prior to that adoption, the year was reckoned to begin on March 25th (Lady Day), around about the vernal equinox - the traditional date of Christ's conception. It is I guess based on this fact that we enumerate the seasons of the year in English as Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. If that were really the case, then with the new year date at 1st January, Spring would be roughly the months January, February, and March. Of course these months are the ones when we actually get most of the winter weather, so for about two and half centuries we've been getting this wrong. The seasons of the year are Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn - sounds strange.

While I'm at it, I should possibly comment on the differences between traditional northern hemisphere views of the seasons, and those in the tropics. If you live to the north of the Tropic of Cancer (23.4° North), or to the south of the tropic of Capricorn (23.4° South), then the sun is never directly overhead at noon. If you live on one of the tropics, then the sun is directly overhead at noon around the date of the northern summer solstice or northern winter solstice respectively. If you live between the tropics, the the sun is directly overhead at noon on two days in the year.

It follows that within the tropics there is no correspondence of the seasons to Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn. Instead, we have two midsummer days. If you live on the equator (We're quite close) these midsummer days correspond to the spring and autumn equinoxes - six months apart. If you live closer to Cancer or Capricorn, your two midsummer days will be closer together. Here in Arusha, our two midsummer days in 2010 fall on 12th March and 30th of September. The result is that within the tropics, the seasonal weather pattern may be double humped - as in two summers, and two winters. However, since the day length and thus sun exposure is fairly constant, this often manifests itself as wet and dry seasons. Here in Tanzania, we theoretically get the Short Rains - November and December, and the Long Rains - March, April, May, and June.

We had a new year visitor this morning. Paulo, the Masai who just disappeared, and left his brother to do the job appeared with a friend, and looking for his job back. Frankly, compared to what we've had since, Paulo was good most of the time, and you know what they say about all of the time. I'd have him back, but it's Adia's call.

I know nobody will get this far, since you've all got hangovers, and who wants to read all that boring stuff. Once again - Happy New Year.
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What is BEV?

Brits Eye View is an Englishman's six-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 most popular BEV archive page (Jan 2003 - Nov 2009) is still June 2003. (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.

Sex chemistry 'lasts two years'

A biochemical explanation for one of the lessons of life - check it out on the BBC World web site.

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.

I joined some silly pyramid scheme to increase web traffic. Help BEV by clicking this link - you don't need to read it.