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May 2011 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

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The Wayside Bar.

31/7/2011 - An Excursion.

I'm sneaking this into May, even though it is now June 1, because that's where it belongs. I just didn't have the energy to do it last night.

On Sunday morning we set off for Dar Es Salaam, to deliver Adia's application for a visa so we can visit England. The whole visa thing is a horrendous ordeal, so the trip to Dar fits in well.

We actually got off to a good start. The bus departed on time at 08:30. But we'd hardly got out of Arusha when we were flagged down by the traffic police. Apparently some woman on the bus had phoned them to say that the driver was speeding. The driver and the woman were taken into the police station wherever we were, and most of the other passengers got off to protest. Why anyone on board would object to the driver speeding is beyond me. It's a 600km journey, with vicious speed bumps maybe every 1km or less in some places. So the driver has to go as fast as possible to get there before the passengers die!

So anyway, that was half an hour's delay. Then when we got to Moshi we hung around for another three quarters of an hour - no explanation was offered. The pattern of tedious small delays was repeated throughout the trip, and consequently it took us 12 hours to get to Dar - more than enough time to fly across the Atlantic.

Our friend Harry had organized a reliable taxi driver and somewhere to stay through one of his contacts in Dar, and mercifully the driver was there waiting when we arrived. The hotel was crap - fortunately for them, I can't remember the name. There was no mosquito net, and the room was generally tacky. But by then it was nine in the evening, so we dumped our stuff and went looking for something to eat, eventually we found some tough chicken, limp chips, and tasteless pili-pili. I stuffed a few beers down my neck to anaesthetize myself in preparation for the mosquitos, and we retired to bed.

In the morning there was intermittent water to the bathroom, and breakfast consisted of an anaemic looking omelette, dry bread, and a cup of weak coffee. Fortunately the taxi driver was once again reliable and arrived promptly. We were also joined by Adia's friend Mabel, who tagged along for the ride with the intention of shopping with Adia later in the day.

We got to the British High Commission in good time, and handed our documentation package in to a woman called Gloria who I'd had some email correspondence with earlier. For an embassy employee she was agreeably friendly and pleasant. Thank you Gloria.

By the time we'd finished there, it was too late to get a bus back to Arusha the same day, and Adia wanted to shop in the big city anyway. So we went to a pair of hotels that Mabel and the taxi driver suggested, selecting the second of the two because the first - brand new and squeaky clean - once again did not have bed nets. This is inexplicable to me in a climate like that of Dar. Hot and humid, it's a mosquito paradise.

Then we had to go back to the bus station to get tickets for the next day, and then it was shopping time. I lack the stamina and the temperament to go clothes shopping with Adia in Dar, let alone with her and Mabel. So I was left to my own devices, which since I had nothing else to do, consisted of sitting is some pub - the one in the picture - for some considerable time, and drinking about 5 bottles of Serengetti. After that, the girls decided to move to another area of town for further shopping. I was dumped back at the hotel where I napped for a couple of hours. On awakening I found another rather pleasant bar close by, and sat there for a couple of hours until the girls were shopped out. Adia had eaten something, and I got quite a decent meal of mashed potatoes, red snapper, and veg at the hotel.

In the morning there was no hot water, and the breakfast that was supposed to be served from 06:30 was not to be available until 07:30. We attempted to complain to the manager, but she avoided us by simply not appearing. There's a large hotel called the Blue Pearl close by the bus station, and we got there quickly enough to have breakfast there - a rather pleasant breakfast in fact.

The bus was delayed for three quarters of an hour because of technical reasons - it wasn't full and I guess they were hoping for more passengers.

After that, the trip back to Arusha was pretty good - a mere 10 hours. When we pulled in to the bus stand, Harry, bless him, was waiting for us to give us a ride home. And so endeth ...

Apache helicopter.

27/7/2011 - No News?

Nothing on the BBC today about Libya, but some distinct developments.

First, it seems that Russia's president Medvedev may be acting independently at the G8 meeting. He and his foreign minister appear to have switched positions on Libya so that Gadaffi is now persona-non-grata for them too.

I hope he does not get his bottie smacked by that nice Mr Putin when he gets home. Medvedev and his FM have apparently promised to persuade G to stand down/leave.

Second, it seems that the Gadaffi high command, including himself, is now thoroughly rattled. It's said that his senior commanders dare not use their phones any more, and that he is hiding nightly in or close to different hospitals. That process, or at least the journey between hospitals could soon become much more dangerous.

Third, it seems that British/French ground-support helicopters have now been deployed - these are cruel beasts. Not only that, but it's possible that they are being used in close cooperation with the FF in the east of Libya to take out the body of Gadaffi's forces who have been trapped in Brega, west of Adjdabya, for some time.

If that force is taken out, or forced to surrender, then Sirte will be under threat, and that could well provoke further desertions from the Gadaffi cause.

Sooner or later, one straw or another will break the camel's back. Have you noticed that if you put Gadaffi's head on a camel, it would not look out of place?

The mentioned PUP.

26/5/2011 - Rant.

So the Gadaffi lot are asking for a cease fire again.

To me, that sounds like a good point for the FF to do maximum effort, and France and the UK to send in the close ground support helicopters and step up the bombing of his military, and of his C&C facilities. What would be the point of all the lives lost by the FF, and the civilian casualties in Misrata and in the western mountains, and the collateral civilian casualties in Tripoli and elsewhere, and all the money spent by NATO, to allow himself to wriggle out of his present situation. If he's making offers, that must be pretty dire.

To act as a figurehead? It's a bit like having a realistic effigy of a poxed-up prick strapped to the front of your yacht.

I'm sorry, but I am of the old fashioned school. If you get into a war, your aim should be to win, and now seems like a good point to go for it. If the TNC agree to a cease fire you'll hear nothing more about Libya on BEV.

Well, sorry about that. I have my little outbursts from time to time.

Back at the ranch we are ramping up for Adia's visit to the UK High Commission in Dar to deliver the supporting information for her visa application, and presumably to get her fingerprints taken, and her signature witnessed. We got the invite and supporting documentation from my daughter in London, and the stuff from my son in Harrogate is now on it's way from Dar to Arusha via DHL.

Asking the kids for this support was a disturbing thing for me - not to mention for Adia. They don't ask anything of me, and have not done so for years. So telling them I need them to reveal the sort of personal information that most people consider to be very private was a difficult thing for me to do! And that's not to mention the substantial cost of sending stuff to Tanzania via courier.

On the same tack, the FCO asking me to justify taking Adia to the UK for maybe two weeks is intrusive and close to insulting. They're basically saying that I am a fool taken in by some African girl whose principal aim is to enter the UK illegally. I pay taxes in the UK, and in return for that my state pension is frozen at it's retirement age level because I live overseas. This to me is wanting to have it both ways! Either give me the pension without tax - what am I paying for anyway? Or alternatively treat me as you would a citizen in the UK. That would include asking Adia to come and visit me.

A business card.

The result.

25/5/2011 - Another Day, Another Dollar.

One of our guests brought a visitor today to see where he was staying. The visitor had already paid for a few days where he is currently staying. When that has expired, he says he will come to stay with us. He asked Adia for a business card.

We didn't have any - shame on us, so I attempted to rectify this error with some sort of temporary fill-in.

Now back in the early 90s, I wrote a Windows application - Publicity - for creating labels, business cards, and so on, that was definitely state-of-the-art at that time, and for some time after. Out of plain old pride, I have been reluctant to use anything else since. At the same time however, our household and business has progressively switched operating system to Unbuntu, so today I decided to see what I could do on my day-to-day machine.

It turns out that there's a Linux - presumably Gnome - application called gLabels.

This is pretty good. It doesn't have the feature set that Publicity did, but it will get the job done. I can now let my blast from the past RIP.

The second problem was printing the cards. In the first instance I'd just intended to print them out on plain paper and cut them up so at least we'd have something. The HP ink jet printer we have won't handle the relatively heavy sheets of pre-perforated cards that you can buy. The printer setup dialog in Ubuntu does however allow you to add crop marks for labels to the printout (my, how things have changed since my day), so chopping the things up yourself is a viable option.

Then Adia reminded me that we had A4 paper for printing out photographs, and when we dug that out I realized that it was a good deal heavier than plain paper, and might do a decent job.

So having done a test run on plain paper, I printed the actual cards out on the photo sheets, and then sliced them up with a box cutter along the crop mark lines, and lo and behold, we had quite decent looking cards. The glossy photo paper finish looks rather good. How long they'll last of course is another matter, but I'd guess it will be long enough for their purpose. Step two in this process is to get Adia to translate the card into decent vernacular Swahili.

My task for tomorrow as Adia's Place CTO is to create a web page for on-line room reservations. Using the Yahoo calendar widget, a MySQL database table, and a bit of cunning Javascript, it should be fairly straightforward. But that's what we programmers always say ;=)

23/5/2011 - The State of BEV.

I am constantly amazed and pleased by the diversity of the BEV readership. The numbers are tiny, but the geographical distribution is enormous!

The table below shows a sample biased toward the earlier part of our 24 hour day. Later there'll be more visits from the UK, the US, and Canada. I have yet to gather a reader in South America.

AtlantaGA, United StatesPoems:happyhour
MonseyNY, United StatesBEV
IlkleyYork, United Kingdomebook:1974
IlkleyYork, United KingdomBEV
New YorkNY, United StatesBEV
Mountain ViewCA, United Statesebook:1970
VictoriaBC, CanadaBEV
Dar Es SalaamTanzaniaBEV
Riyadh Ar RiyaSaudi ArabiaBEV
Mountain ViewCA, United Statesap
GuangzhouGuangdong, ChinaBEV
Mountain ViewCA, United Statesebook:1943
Mountain ViewCA, United StatesBEV
BangaloreKarnataka, IndiaBEV
SydneyNew South Wales, Australiarecipes:rustmin
San DiegoCA, United StatesBEV
MadrasTamil Nadu, IndiaPoems:endorphin
Mountain ViewCA, United StatesPoems:endorphin
CorkCork, IrelandBEV

The Mountain View visitor may be an automaton, since it corresponds to a Google IP address, and appears quite regularly examining rather random pages.

I started BEV for reasons that are now ancient history. It will be 9 years old at the end of 2011. However few readers there may be, I now see it as a responsibility to continue with it for as long as I am able. For a one-man effort it has now grown quite big. My file system tells me it is now '3,557 items, totalling 142.4 MB'. This is minute in terms of current data sources, which now tend to be driven in size by video files, but it's quite a lot of files to look after.

Anyway, I have done some major surgery on the site since I last posted, but nothing that you should notice. The archive pages - the months before the current month - used to be stored in folders immediately under the web page main folder. Now this has changed.

It was OK when there were just a few years, but by now it had got to the point where if I wanted to do anything to the files for the current month, I had to scroll down half a mile past all the the previous months folders to get to them.

So I have pushed them down into a folder called 'archive'. This in itself didn't take that long. Using FTP, you can rename a folder like apr2004 -> archive/apr2004 to do the restructuring. But that's only the beginning. The pages have lots of cross links, and something that was pointing at '/jan2003/jan2003.html' now has to point at '/archive/jan2003/jan2003.html'. So there was lots of work to do mending broken links.

Web page buffs might notice that I am using redundant names for the monthly HTML files. I made this choice way back because when you are using a text editor with multiple tabs, and someone interrupts you, it's difficult to remember exactly what you were doing when the file in each tab is called 'index.html'.

If you see anything that doesn't appear to be working, please let me know.

A cool view of Meru.

21/5/2011 - Bits and Pieces Again.

I don't have any very clear idea of what to say today - there is a previous post ;=)

At home, all is calm, and we have guests - we're about half full in fact. There is a prospect that the word about Adia's Place is progressing. If it does, the trickle we have had could quickly turn into more than we can handle. But we'll try to live with that if it happens. Clearly, achieving constant 100% occupancy is a dream - but it would be nice!

Adia is now officially registered with the tax authorities, and it seems that this is not going to be too financially damaging. I'm working on improvements to her web page, and thinking about other promotional things we might be able to do.

We've reached the end of another financial month with some significant development work done, and a little money left over at the end. That always pleases me, since it was one of those things I could never quite seem to achieve when I was younger.

My rib is coming along very well. I can more or less cough and sneeze now without becoming a trauma case. Before you know it, I'll be back on the motor scooter.

The corn on our unused plot is looking very healthy. This year, instead of just planting whatever seeds we had left over from last time - the traditional way - we bought some

new hybrid seed corn. This is now significantly more developed than other plots around us that were planted at around the same time. We will see if the crop bears out this tendency.

On my other self-appointed subject, Libya, my feeling is that the western mountains are Tripoli's southern flank, the Tunisian border is it's western flank, and Misrata is it's eastern flank. Gadaffi's forces are fighting without much success along these fronts.

There is a gap between The Misrata enclave and the mountains. I hope that NATO is watching that area carefully.

All the media say this is a stalemate, but these simple facts seem to me to imply a last ditch stand by Gadaffi. His capital is close to surrounded. It can be cut off from the sea at any point, and he has upset the Tunisians by moving troops and firing shells across the border.

It would be a sad thing under these circumstances if the FF elements in Tripoli chose to sit tight and wait to be liberated by the external FF. It really is time that they decided to take the same risks that the FF in Misrata did.

If they fight, they may lose, but by fighting they will vastly increase the effectiveness of the external FF forces. Gadaffi's forces would then be even more surrounded, and armies are very intolerant of that, and more likely to collapse.

It's not over yet by a long chalk I think, but I also think I know who is winning.

The end?

21/5/2011 - Apocalypse Now.

Some US bible thumper says that today the world will end unpleasantly, except for the chosen few - Rapture.

Heigh Ho! Perhaps I'll have an extra beer to celebrate.

Fancy a trip to Libya?

18/5/2011 - Journalism About Journalism.

A glance at the Google Realtime coverage of Libya will show you that currently maybe 90% of the postings are about journalists who have been held, are being held, or have apparently been released.

It is my impression that journalists have free will, and go to war zones voluntarily. When they go there, I'm sure that they are perfectly aware of the possibility of getting killed, or injured, or of languishing in some unpleasant jail for the duration of the conflict or longer. They go because they feel that the situation at their destination needs to be described, quite possibly at their own personal cost. I'm also sure that in some cases, elements of fame and fortune contribute to their choice.

But it seems that their decision is then ignored. As things stand when I write, details and pleas concerning their fate are actually obscuring the real issues of what is going on in the zone, because salient facts are being lost in the flood of postings about the plight of the journalists.

Of course, it also makes it easier for the media to have something to say on a light news day, and they are well qualified to insert material into the stream.

Am I just a brutal, hard-hearted bastard, or is there an element of truth in what I'm saying?

It is, to be sure (pun intended), a light news day. I suspect that the FF now know that they are in the ascendancy. Previously they had reason to draw attention to their plight. Now though, I believe they have good communications with NATO, and have learned enough of the art of war to match Gadaffi's demoralized lot. In that position, you don't publicize your operations, you just get on with them. Only comment when you have won.

There's another group that I'd accuse of pollution of the information stream in an even worse way. Those are the gang of tweeters who merely use the keywords #Libya, #Gaddafi, etc, to get their personal political views promoted in a place that a lot of people visit. They deserve nothing but contempt.

Weapons and ammunition.

15/5/2011 - A Libya Exit Strategy?

It seems to me that there is now a mechanism that can bring the struggle in Libya to an end - an 'exit strategy' if you like.

By all accounts, the size and morale of Gafaffi's forces is on the decline - evidenced by defections, and by the need for conscription. At the same time NATO is hammering away at their command, communications, logistics, and supplies. With each small defeat on the ground, they lose experienced men, equipment, and importantly, belief that they can win. They can conscript recruits to replace numerical losses, but such recruits are increasingly likely to desert to the freedom fighters with their weapon, or to simply go through the motions of fighting, and readily retreat.

On the other hand, the morale, determination, and expertise of the active freedom fighters has definitely improved. In addition to that, with each small success, their numbers increase. Because they capture weapons and ammunition, some of the many willing young men waiting for an opportunity to join in the fight are able to do so under the command/supervision of fighters with greater experience.

This is a scenario for an 'avalanche effect' (snowball effect, or chain reaction), where Gadaffi's forces decline at an increasing rate, and in lock step, the FF expand at an increasing rate. Such an interaction, if it gets firmly established can cause complementary exponential decay and growth. Once this is established, change can happen very quickly, limited in this case by the rate at which the FF forces can assimilate new recruits, and get ammunition.

The situation in Libya may be close to this point. The model requires that the FF do the actual fighting. Just killing the enemy from the air is not enough - his weapons must be captured rather than destroyed or dissipated. But NATO should go flat out now to ensure that Gadaffi's forces get the minimum in the way of supplies, replacements, and orders.

The current attacks on command and control centres are a part of this. However, the A10 aircraft that the USA has available in the region could contribute significantly by interdicting delivery of supplies. Their use before would have mitigated against the development of the FF as a fighting force - they had to learn to do things the hard way. But now used against Gadaffi's logistics, they could tip the balance.

As has been the case for some time, the FF at Misrata and in the western mountains hold the key. It is their resistance and eventual expansion that will force Gadaffi's forces back on Tripoli. There they can potentially be attacked by the FF from without, and by Tripoli's incipient FF force from within. Benghazi's role must be to supply the FF forces where they can. NATO could of course also help in this if it really wants to bring the thing to an end.

In my view, the noises being made within NATO about bombing infrastructure are absurd. Supplying the FF would be more effective and would minimize civilian casualties.

A fried main switch.

13/5/2011 - Real Work.

I apologize for my lack of communication. Have been doing some actual work for the first time in several weeks over the last couple of days.

As I've said before, we have replaced the ceilings in the Old Cottage, and during my convalescence the decorator came in afterwards and redid the place so that it conformed to our general standard, i.e. brilliant white walls and ceiling.

Of course, during this process, we lost the ceiling lighting. So I have been installing new units. This went reasonably well until it became apparent that the electricity supply in the building was intermittent. The culprit is shown in the picture.

I'm 99% sure that this damage was caused by welders plugging bare wires into sockets in the house, and then accidentally shorting the other end of their cable, or simply overloading the system with their welding machine. I had simply not been aware how flakey the supply was in the house.

When I originally did the wiring there, I bought a consumer unit (main switch and circuit breakers) that was way outdated. I had not done an electrical wiring job for years, and it looked quite familiar to me from that perspective.

But when I attempted to find a replacement for the damaged switch, my error was clear. The response at most shops was, "No, not for years now!"

Eventually I found a little shop that had one of the consumer units in new condition. I was afraid I would have to buy the whole thing to gut out the switch - removing the existing unit set into the wall would have been a big deal. But the shop owner apparently realized that this item was a Dodo, and he'd probably do better to sell it in bits rather than keep it on the shelf forever. His wife took out the bit I wanted. He took some cash, and I was delighted.

Once I'd replaced the main switch, the electrical system in the Old Cottage was essentially back to as-new.

To install the new light fittings I had to go up in the roof space (one of my favourite places ;=( .) Spemba, the ceiling guy had moved the access hole into the bathroom, at my request. But it was a pigs ear. Every one we have has been the same. They just cut a hole in the gypsum board, and dump a slightly larger piece of board above it. The decorator then proceeds to paint it all white. Doesn't look bad to start with, but as soon as you use the hole to get into the roof space the edges of the board inevitably get damaged by either you, or the ladder, and the pigs ear becomes very apparent.

So once I had got the lights working and the switch box refurbished, I had to make a proper frame for the hole so that next time I put a ladder up there the ceiling will survive without damage. I'll also have something to show to the next ceiling contractor - as in "like this."

Both tortoises, Mo, and Mini were out at the same time today, and there was an actual head to head confrontation - apparently amicable. I was in the roof space at the time, so unfortunately, no picture.

As a last remark I see that Gadaffi released an audio message today to the effect that he was now in a place where "you cannot reach me." I've seen various speculations as to where that might be, but not the one that immediately struck me. Was this a deathbed message?

A rather exotic flower.

10/5/2011 - General Situation Report.

So, what's up in Britseye land? Well, my son is getting married in July, and Adia and I would love to go, but from what I'm reading, the visa application process for her is not likely to be concluded in the required time-scale (if at all). She and me are a case that does not appear to be described in the online rules. This could leave her in the position of being just an independent visitor from sub-saharan Africa who has to prove she will leave when her visit is over - a somewhat forlorn hope. The inbuilt view of British consular officials is that people from Africa who get into the UK are reluctant to return. We will try.

Adia meanwhile has a sore heel. We went and got it X-rayed, and it seems she has a spur on her heel bone. These are not uncommon, and are often accompanied by inflammation of the tendon that ties your heel to the base of your toes. Which is chicken, and which is egg, is apparently not well understood. We saw a recommended doctor with the X-Ray, and he gave Adia a prescription. It turned out to be for tablets that were little more than placebos - one an electrolyte supplement (sodium chloride, a little potassium chloride, sodium citrate, and glucose), and the other a vitamin B supplement.

I was not impressed, so she's going for an alternative opinion in the morning.

My rib is much improved. I can almost cough and sneeze now, and riding over a bumpy road in the car is much better. I'll continue to avoid the motor scooter for another couple of weeks though. I don't think I would benefit from another fall just yet, and Sod's Law (Murphy's) would indicate such a happening.

Since we acquired the second tortoise I have never yet seen both of them out of hiding at the same time. Perhaps they don't get on. They are both well, and have been spotted separately.

The rains seem to have kicked in again to some extent, so at this point, the corn and beans are still thriving.

I'm still following Libya quite intently, but it is difficult to discern what's happening. There's a barrage of propaganda and/or downright lies from both sides that make it difficult to pick out real events. There are however an increasing number of reports of freedom fighter activity in the capital, Tripoli.

Crop duster aircraft.

7/5/2011 - Stop Messing About.

Keeping the allied air forces in Italy, all those expensive flights to Libya, all those expensive guided bombs: Sooner or later, NATO will run out of stocks, steam, and money. And what has been achieved? Well to be fair, the initial attack probably prevented Gadaffi from regaining control of the country immediately, but since then it has only degraded his offensive capability at a relatively slow rate. One can't be sure that rate is faster than Gadaffi can replace it by buying equipment, ammunition, and mercenaries on the black market - he apparently has lots of cash stashed away. One can't be sure that NATO can go on spending money longer than Gadaffi can.

Cameron and Sarkozy have said they will go on for as long as it takes, but it would not take much for their electorates to turn them around on that line. People in England and France do not regard the Libya issue as a matter of life and death like WW2 or something. It has to compete with economic and internal political pressures.

While NATO has a case of pussyfoot, Gadaffi is becoming more audacious. The use of light aircraft to bomb fuel storage tanks at the port of Misrata shows a touch of military

flair on someone's part. They would be in, bombed, and out, before the surveillance radars spotted them, and before the NFZ fighters (now accustomed to boredom) could turn around from their scheduled flight paths. Similar events will happen again.

So, as I have said several times before in various ways, some sort of action is required. Two principal forms suggest themselves.

  • Pack it in and let the Libyans fight it out among themselves with the resources they have now - Gadaffi probably wins.
  • Do a quick ground invasion to deal a mortal blow to Gadaffi's forces, then arm the FF and provide them with the confiscated Libyan funds - Gadaffi gets a Mussolini job.
This would undoubtedly contravene the UNSC resolution, but who would object, and how? China does not seem to care, Putin is likely just taunting NATO because he sees that they are indecisive, and the Arab countries have enough on their plates as it is. India, Brazil, and South Africa are busy becoming world powers.

Soothing picture 1.

5/5/2011 - Let Me Out!

One of the things that didn't work with Ubuntu 11.04 - 'Natty Narwhal' - was the Bluetooth connection to my mobile. I don't use the camera on the phone all that often, but when I do, it would be nice to be able to transfer the pictures to the computer.

Under 11.04, it kind of half worked. The phone could see the computer, and the computer could see the phone, and you could pair them. At that point, you'd think "OK, it works", but no. Any subsequent attempt to connect would fail.

I wasted the day working along the line that it was me that was the dummy - if that much worked it was me that was doing something stupid. I searched on Google a million times, tried everything suggested, and got nowhere. At some point, I covered my back, and phoned Adia, who was in town, to ask if she would buy a new USB Bluetooth adapter. Then I went on banging my head against the same brick wall for some time.

Adia came back later with a cheap new Chinese adapter. I plugged it in, re-booted the machine, and then Bluetooth worked perfectly. Apparently 11.04 did not like the old adapter that had worked perfectly well with the previous version. (If you're interested, the old one was a D-Link DBT-122. I have posted a note on this in the Ubuntu forums.)

I think I am starting to get cabin fever while resting and waiting for my rib to heal. I need to get out, and to do physical work, and to have some small degree of excitement. I console myself with walks around the village to let the flowers and the pretty birds have a calming effect. It works for a few minutes.

As my daughter has pointed out, I have not yet done my birthday 'the nude body at age NN' picture. I have been waiting for inspiration. I think I know what it will be now - maybe tomorrow ;=)

As an afterthought, there is an interesting article, and some interesting links, at Slate. It's theme is that rather than requiring an exit strategy, what the USA and NATO need is an entry strategy.

Yeah, sure, anything you say.

3/5/2011 - Probably Out Of Step.

Over the last few days I went through the pain of installing the latest version of Ubuntu (11.04), and I am having some difficulty convincing myself that the pain was worthwhile.

There's a new option on the installation menu in 11.04 that supposedly allows you to upgrade from 10.10. This did not do anything like what I expected. The first time, in fact, it produced a situation where the system was virtually useless, since there was no mouse cursor visible. So I tried again to find that my option was then to upgrade 11.04 to 11.04. I chose that, for want of anything better, and after some considerable time, much of which was ostensibly spent 're-installing original packages' I did end up with a system that was usable.

But many of the things I had installed and configured before were missing. I had no Filezilla, and no Apache2 web server, no PHP, and no MySQL server. There are probably other things that I have not yet tried to use that are missing.

For this effort I get a new UI that is a different colour. A mouse cursor that disappears over certain unpredictable items, and weird scroll bars that sometimes you can't find at all. Also I have discovered today that the Bluetooth connection to my phone no longer works.

I am sorry to say it Ubuntu, but I feel that 11.04 is not of release standard.

To increase my frustration, our Internet connection the last couple of days, while I've been trying to sort things out, has been as slow as molasses in January, there's been no power half the time, and the petrol in the generator ran out yesterday while Adia was out and I was stranded.

Also there seems to have been a worldwide outbreak of 'we'll believe anything'. The alleged deaths of Gadaffi's son and three of his grandchildren, and that of Osama Bin Laden being the primary examples that spring to my mind.

Bin Laden.

2/5/2011 - Bin Laden Killed?

Buried at sea within 24 hours? I am at a loss for words. If he was killed, how will we ever know now? How will the relatives of his victims get any closure?

My original draft of this post was much more severe - best in the trash, but ...

Death and destruction.

Peace and calm.

1/5/2011 - May.

Disturbing news this morning. I would like to hear confirmation from NATO that the building attacked yesterday was a regular source of communications - radio traffic other than cellular phones - as well as being a fortified compound.

If that was the case, then holding a family gathering there under present circumstances was an extremely stupid thing for Gadaffi to do. I don't think he actually is that stupid, so I tend to be suspicious about the claimed deaths. Even if it is true, we should balance our bad feelings about the deaths of his grandchildren with our knowledge of the children killed in Mistrata, where they and their parents had nowhere else to go.

I am not alone in being sceptical about this news, and later news suggested that the death of granchildren could be a myth. An interesting tweet this morning said "The same way the drunkard in 'The Little Prince' drinks to forget that he's drinking, Gaddafi lies to forget that he's lying!"

Here at home things are a profound contrast - peace and calm. My rib is slowly healing with occasional setbacks when I cough or instinctively stretch as I wake up. But I think it will be at least a couple of weeks at this rate before it feels reasonably normal, and that only if I continue to rest it

The fig tree in our compound is growing at a crazy rate, and badly needs to be pruned. It's about 12 feet high now, but it is still producing new figs like crazy at the top of the growing branches. So I don't know what to do with it. In the Mediterranean climate, it would take a growth break in the winter, but here I think it is confused. I shall have to chop it soon, otherwise it will be impossible to protect the figs from the birds.

We have two tortoises now - Mo and Mini. I would take a picture of them, but they are hiding, and they are pretty good at that. They must be able to project themselves into another dimension.

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Check out the BEV retrospective
currently covering 1942 - 1975.

1976 is yet to be started.

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.

Visiting Tanzania?

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.

Studying in Arusha?

Some of the major study centres in Arusha are at Njiro. There, you'll find the Arusha Institute of Accountancy, ESAMI, and TRAPCA.

If you are not happy with the accommodation there, you are only a 5 minute drive from - a secure haven of tranquillity with African food like your mother cooked for you. Price is competitive with the on-campus accommodation.

Just call Adia - 0762 442888 - and she'll come and get you and show you her place. You won't regret it!

This Month's Posts

If there's something particular you'd like to go back to, just click it here

Top 20 BEV Pages.

Exchange Rates.

BEV Software Blog.

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.

Mt Meru

Blue.

Random BEV Poem.

60 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.

50 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.

40 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.

10 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.

Contact BEV.

If you want to get in touch outside the built-in comment system, email Steve Teale.