Manhattan seen across the Hudson river from New Jersey.New York panorama image

May 2012 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

Composition in Plants: Shadia planted maize in a section of the garden..

Composition in Plants.

31/5/2012 - Parting Shot.

I'd better get another post in before May slips away - time flies when you're enjoying yourself ;=)

There's nothing radical to report from Arusha. The weather continues dismal as we approach our midwinter; but weather is relative. As you can see in the picture, the geraniums are still thriving. They seem to like life in our compound, growing to a large size and blooming continuously. Shadia, with a village girl's instinct, planted maize in an underused section of our garden. Now it is mature, it makes a pretty picture with the lavender plants, the geraniums, and the other red plant whose name I don't know.

This morning I had one of my site engineer jobs to do - a blocked toilet. Fortunately it was an easy one. Filling the bowl with water and then plunging it with a toilet brush did the trick. Looking in one of the inspection chambers outside revealed a small piece of cloth - possibly a handkerchief, and the remains of half an orange.

The low flush volume toilets that I fit won't deal well with that sort of combination. The debris was easily removed using a bit of wood with a bent nail in its end, in contrast so some other drain unblocking tasks I've had in the past. I thought I'd spare you a picture of the inside of the inspection chamber.

I've been making quite good progress with my new comments system for BEV. Any day now I shall switch it in as a replacement for the existing one. You can log on to it via Facebook, or by signing in with a conventional user ID and password. It's straightforward to use, being somewhat similar to the Facebook news-feed presentation. I've also included the capability to add posts, with optional picture, via email. This is initially for my benefit. It means that if I'm sitting in the pub and see something interesting I can snap it and post something immediately from my dumb mobile, which at least has a camera and can send an email. Please check this system out. I need to know if it is functional, as an increasing proportion of BEV will tend to appear there. Sign-up information won't be used for anything else.

On the down side we discovered yesterday that Potter's turbocharger is in a bad way. If you rev the engine, and take your foot off, then apart from the falling whine of the turbo spinning down, there's another noise that sounds like a bearing problem. Adia has gone off to see her favourite auto Craftsman or technician in Swahilifundi today to see what can be done about it. Whatever it is, it's likely to be expensive.

The guilty application: You can see this better at the link.

The guilty application.

24/5/2012 - Programming Addiction.

Oh dear! It has been far too long since I posted anything, but I do have some things in a small mitigation.

I have had the software bug again, and the item in the picture is what I have come up with. The motivation is that I have been constantly disappointed with my attempts at getting any feedback from BEV users. But I should not really be surprised. Expecting people to use alien and unfamiliar interfaces - first a bulletin board, and then a half baked home-made affair - is likely to be doomed to failure.

So I am trying again. I have made, or I should say am making, something that resembles an interface that many many computer users are familiar with, to wit, the Facebook news feed. This new system also delegates its user authentication system to Facebook. To be explicit, the link to it is http://britseyeview.com/feed/.

I say am making, because:
  • I have lots of ideas for other cool things the page might do.
  • It needs to be tested against a variety of web browsers.
  • If it is not properly baked, it can simply disappear into the heap of unsuccessful software projects that I have been associated with.
In my dreams, if people like it, I will make it the primary vehicle for the BEV blog. My posts will appear in the news feed, interspersed by posts from readers who may create their own essays on my topics, or post completely new topics of their own. The same dreams also feature a community of BEV readers who communicate with each other from the page or in Facebook. What are we without our dreams?

So please, some volunteers - particularly those of you associated with the software industry. I need it to be run in a range of browsers, and I need to know what is missing, and what is ugly. The page should serve as the channel of communication for such opinions, although the content might get deleted periodically until I get the database structure right. I will attempt to save anything important.

The other small mitigation is that I had to learn about the Facebook Connect system to some extent. This resulted in another of my occasional 'getting started with' articles that you can find here.

Familiar sight? In the UK, fungi growing in grass like this would likely be mushrooms.

Familiar sight?

17/5/2012 - Dismal Weather and Such.

It usually doesn't happen until June, but over the last few days here it has been chilly to the point where even I - a creature of the north - have felt quite cold and complained abut it. There's been lots of rain too.

This weather seems to suit a fungus. Our lawn has quite a crop. In England if I'd encountered them, I'd probably have picked them and fried them for breakfast, but here I've no idea what they might do to you.

I've been quiet for longer than I should. As is often the case, this has been computer-related. I've been playing with open source social networking software, and attempting to install a couple of them on my local server. I tried Elgg - strange name - but found that attempting to customize that to look similar to my existing pages was a somewhat convoluted process. Now I'm playing with Oxwall, which seems much more tractable. Maybe in a few days I'll put something up on BEV as a demo to see if it does any better than the current comments system.

I've also spent quite a bit of time reading about the Eurozone situation. That is pretty convoluted too, and I don't get the impression that anyone has a clear idea of what is likely to happen, and even less, what to do about it. There's a good web site - greekcrisis.net - that collects articles that talk about Greece and the Eurozone situation as a whole, if you are into that sort of thing. I just hope that the people who look after my pension have a grip on things!

Adia has a full house, and has to spend most of her time cooking. We have a bunch of guests who are here to prepare for examinations at ESAMI at the weekend. They have friends on the same course who come here to join the study group and want to eat here at lunchtime and in the evening. It's all quite hectic.

The replaced parts: Some things surprise you by being readily available.

The replaced parts.

10/5/2012 - Failed Generators.

As I noted in the last post, both generators let us down last night. With the larger one this was not entirely a surprise. It had been having carburettor float valve problems for a while now. As for the smaller one - Piglet - it just stopped generating volts, and I had no idea what was wrong.

We took them to the generator fundi Kelvin today, and he had the problems pinpointed within ten minutes. The carburettor was condemned - it was not going to get better. The electrical fault was determined to be a failed capacitor.

I wondered where we would get a replacement carb, and asked anxiously if they were obtainable. Yes, he said, you can get them at the shop here, and the capacitor also.

The generator and motor cycle fundis just work more or less in the gutter on a certain street. Once they got established there, someone opened a shop at the spot to sell parts - symbiosis.

The carb was the equivalent of $22.50, and the capacitor $6.45. Kelvin and his 'apprentice' charged us another $6.45 - sigh of relief.

Adia teases me from time to time about buying a Chinese generator. But if I had bought a Honda, then a) I could never be certain if it really was, and b) it would have cost me pushing $1000 rather than the $322 we paid. You can visit Kelvin a few times for the difference.

Dreaded job 5: The new toilet, secured and sealed. Tests indicate that it is an effective flusher. The securing blocks are still to be shaped and painted.

Dreaded job 6: The replacement wash basin on its little mninga bracket. When the guest is gone I'll extend that to be a pedestal to hide the unsightly drain pipe, and varnish the wooden bits.

10/5/2012 - Further Action in the Bathroom.

Getting the modified drain pipe in place was one thing. Securing the new toilet to the floor was another. The holes in the base were not large enough for the kind of lag bolts I'd used on some other toilets. What's more, the section that the holes went through has an angled surface so it was not possible to use a flat washer with a rubber pad underneath.

I fabricated some wooden blocks with the required profile carved on the bottom. The idea is that these will eventually be finished to a tidy rounded shape, and painted white to match the toilet. These seemed likely to work.

The next battle was with the screws. I had some long screws and plugs that looked like they could do the job if I shortened the plugs to allow for the considerable thickness of the toilet base and wooden blocks combined. That too seemed fine until it came to actually tightening the screws. There was no room to get a sensible size screwdriver in there, and with a little stubby one I was having great difficulty.

Eventually it dawned on me that the screws and plugs were designed to make strong connections into low density concrete block walls. These have a habit of breaking up some as you put a masonry drill into them, and the plugs were designed so that they would open up quite considerably as the long screw went in, thus getting some purchase on the soft block. For that they work very well.

In this case though, my 8mm holes were drilled into very solid concrete that left the plugs with nowhere to expand. After successively enlarging the holes to take 10mm and then 12 mm plugs I finally got the screws to screw down with just the normal degree of violence, and the toilet was secured.

Then there was the wash basin, which was in a state where you could wiggle it up and down on its mounting bolts. I took it off to discover that a piece of the porcelain had broken away, and that I needed to replace it. Fortunately I got another one from one of the Nane Nane hardware shops at a decent price. It is a little wider than the original and suits the room better.

This time, as well as the bolts to hold the thing to the wall, I made a strong mninga wood bracket to provide positive support from underneath. It looks pretty decent, and the sink feels very solid.

I got everything secure, watertight, and sealed about five minutes before the occupant of the room for that evening arrived. I was suitable knackered at that point. Both TANESCO and our two generators must have known this, since the power went out just as our guests were sitting down to dinner. The main generator started and then almost immediately stopped - the sticky carburettor float valve probably. The small one - Piglet - was running, but then suddenly ceased to generate any voltage. We ate by candlelight, after which TANESCO relented and the power came back on.
Dreaded job 1: The old toilet removed, along with the required amount of tiled floor, and the drain pipe exposed. The old bend conveniently broke at the PVC cement join.

Dreaded job 2: Wiggly pipe section consisting of original bend and two 45° bends to get the correct position and angle, plus the toilet, assembled without the PVC cement.

Dreaded job 3: The pipe sections cemented together and put in place. Foam plugs to keep debris out of the drains. I hope I measured this correctly!

Dreaded job 4: The excavation made good, a layer of concrete applied, and that covered with left-over tiles.

5/5/2012 - May

Richard having departed back to the UK, I set about a job I had been rather dreading.

We had a WC in a small bathroom associated with one of the guest rooms that was an embarrassingly poor flusher. Some time ago, after a lot of searching, I had bought a replacement toilet that was a size suitable for the room and of more modern design. Unfortunately the position of the original vertical drain pipe was too far from the wall for the new toilet, and also at the wrong angle.

To get the new one in would involve butchering a section of the tiled floor, excavating the drain pipe below, and modifying it to be quite close - actually partly into - the wall and terminated at the required angle. This is a sequence that provides plenty of things that could go wrong.

I was lucky in various respects. I succeeded in hacking out a tile and a half and the underlying concrete without damaging other tiles or the pipe. In the course of the hacking, the right-angle joint in the pipe below the floor fractured by failure of the PVC cement. This allowed me to tidily remove the section to be modified without having to butcher any more of the pipe. The two 45° bends that were required to get the required pipe position and angle fitted comfortably into the space available, and without creating a pipe section that would be a significant flow restriction. Mouse over the pictures for commentary.

After I'd packed around the pipe with sand and gravel, then topped up the hole with clean rubble, Ali, our tiler, came today, applied a layer of concrete, then cut and fixed some leftover tiles of a similar colour - most of the area will be covered by the toilet anyway. It just needs a touch of white spray lacquer to cover the dark cement joins.

The unusual outlet angle of the new toilet will make it easy to fit. The angle makes the joint very accessible, and the thing would probably work OK without the joint even being sealed since it is pointing downhill - it is just an odour seal. Depending on how the new toilet fixing holes align with the floor tiles I can probably fit it tomorrow.

Tonight there's the Chelsea/Liverpool Cup Final at 19:30, so that's another Boogaloo visit, to be followed by another at 15:15 tomorrow for the Man City/Newcastle match. There's never a dull moment ;=)

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Squash This List

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 70 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 1975. For the years 2003 - 2011, choose a year/month from the tool bar. For 1942 - 1975, choose a year.

Visiting Tanzania?

Adia's Place now has On-Line Booking. Please feel free to check it out. It may not be 100% yet, but if you get a confirmation email then it's a safe bet that we got your booking.

In the short term we will re-confirm.

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.

Just posted a quick article about using Facebook Connect as a login mechanism. I found the existing documentation and examples somewhat confusing. Hope it helps.

Moods of Meru.

Mt Meru

Evening.

Random BEV Poem.

COMPO.

If you are a Linux user, you might want to try this piece of graphical design software I worked on last year. You can use it to design business cards, labels, logos for your web site, and things of that sort.

You can download it from the BEV COMPO page, where you'll also find the documentation.

BEV Partners.

Please check out our partners page.

BEV extends thanks to:
    Hostelworld

If you would like to advertise on BEV, or to contribute toward its running costs, please check out the sponsorship page.

Contact BEV.

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