November 2009 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 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 promise that one day...
28/11/2009 - Iran's Intentions Part 2

OK, so 10 new uranium enrichment plants. Well, it's understandable. Some of the fishing boats are going to get picked up by customs vessels, and some of the pickup trucks will get stopped routinely by the highway patrol, and there have to be some nuclear power plants to sustain the procrastination. So you need to be able to make lots of the stuff.

If they are telling the truth about peaceful purposes (think tooth fairy here), presumably they should be building an equivalent number of nuclear waste processing plants and radioactive waste storage-forever facilities to deal with the crap produced by 20,000MW of generating capacity. There's no mention of those. Possibly since the Quran doesn't say anything about the disposal of nuclear waste, it's quite ethical to just ship it out into international waters next to a satanic state, and dump it!
29/11/2009 - Boys Toys

Two boys pass along the village street.
Each has a bogey of small wheels,
pushing it remotely on a stick.

I wonder why, but then I think.
My toys were little wooden men,
made from firewood sticks and wire.

The stages of our life are much the same.
We copy others to evolve our personal thing,
unique perhaps, and better than the rest?

Can I do better now I ask myself?
Make things that hold appeal for me,
and aren't just clones of other's work.

I doubt it - maybe I did better then.
My friends did not have wooden men,
but possibly they thought me strange.

Some day those boys may own a car.
One they can drive with similar pride,
my wooden army unexplained.

28/11/2009 - Iran's Intentions?

Iran declared years ago that the western nations were, and by extension, still are, satanic. The worst-case policy assumption for a state controlled by religious extremists that makes such a declaration, is that such nations should be forced to mend their ways or be destroyed as a moral duty, since they are presumably an offence to god. We also know these days that you don't need ballistic missiles or nuclear submarines to deliver the implements of retribution. A fishing boat and a pickup truck would probably get one into New York or San Francisco, or a host of other US coastal cities - suicide bombers, like infantry, can get anywhere.

We now see Iran moving in a technological direction that can clearly result quite soon in their possession of nuclear weapons - one of the few weapons that could realistically be used to coerce or destroy such wicked nations. They say no, we want enriched uranium only for peaceful purposes. But at the same time they can't bring themselves to treat the stuff as purely commercial material - something that can be converted to fuel rods for a power generating reactor, and for free to boot. One can also wonder how a country with serious economic problems can contemplate the enormous expenditure of a Manhattan Project.

So how long can the west allow such procrastination to continue, given that the ayatollahs and their puppets in Iran are as much masters of the art as the North Koreans. Perhaps here I'm answering my own question about Israel - "what's the US national interest in that country?" The answer could be very simple. The US shot it's bolt when it invaded Iraq. It is unlikely that Congress or the people would allow preemptive military action again in this generation, even if Iran conducted a nuclear test. After all, North Korea has done it. But it is widely believed that Israel can be relied on to nuke Iran before that nation gets to the point of being able to nuke them. If that happened, the western nations could throw up their hands in horror - what a barbaric act - while at the same time breathing a sigh of relief.

Unsolicited visitor.

First attempt at a dutch hoe.
26/11/2009 - Top Gear.

We had a very busy day today. Adia's project was to remove the mess of the old vegetable patch with the aid of a helper she'd hired for the day. I had three. First to finish moving things to the new workshop, second to get the remaining wood for the bed - I'd forgotten a piece yesterday, and third to get James to make the business end of a Dutch Hoe. I then intended to make a start on the bed.

We did pretty well. Adia's project was close to being completed, I moved stuff, made my hoe prototype, and got the wood, but I did not make a start on the bed.

Adia and I went out together to get bits and pieces, with various sidetracks. We had asked James for a quote for steelwork for the door and windows for small house 2, so first we went to see someone who we thought might give us some insight into assessing a metalwork price. That was a little inconclusive, but helpful. Then we had to get some new chicken wire to surround the small part of the existing vegetable patch that would be preserved. Then we went to see James, who stitched together the hoe prototype as we talked, and gave us his conclusions on the steelwork price. We were reasonably happy with what he had to say, and gave him an advance to start on the door.

When we got back, the day was already quite advanced. I made a handle for the hoe out of some Eucalyptus wood that I had used to make curtain poles - lots of planing involved to get a square section to roughly round. The hoe worked reasonably well, but with hindsight I see that the blade is too wide (or deep, as you prefer). There is too much area to pick up mud if the soil is wet. Also I could do for it to have a cutting edge on the back of the blade too, so the reverse stroke isn't wasted. I'll get there. Perfection aside, it did a reasonable job of slaughtering the small weeds that had germinated in the new vegatable garden.

The rest of the day was absorbed by assisting with the building of the reduced fence around the vegetables we wanted to preserve. There are a bunch of Swiss Chard plants that produce a pretty good approximation to spinach, but are much more hardy - you can pick leaves off them forever, and also some sweet potato plants of a variety that are grown for their leaves - also spinach-like.

By five thirty I was knackered, and I suspect I will be in bed early tonight.
25/11/2009 - Israel Confirms Its View That Palestinians Are Stupid.

I just listened to a translation of Netanyahu's announcement about suspension of Israeli settlement building on Palestinian land.

He obviously believes that the Palestinians are either below consideration, or have shit for brains. OK, he says, we'll suspend settlement permits in the West Bank for ten months, but not in East Jerusalem. That does not even say he'll do anything about those activists who go on building in the West Bank anyway.

So now the Palestinians should feel they have been thrown a crumb, and return to negotiations. Then Israel won't be standing in the way, so the pressure will be off them. They can continue with the usual policy of procrastination, and after ten months they'll be able to return to business as usual.

Would you do business with someone like that? It really is time the US pulled the plug on Israel. Nobody in the current generation was responsible for the holocaust. The current US policy is just driven by NY/Florida politics, lobbyists, and money - where's the US national interest?

Cheerful morning companions.
25/11/2009 - A More Positive Day.

We went back to the tile shops this morning, and finally found a tile combination for the last bedroom floor/bathroom floor, and bathroom walls, that seemed to work, and was in stock. The tiles are now in one of our rooms, and Ali, the tiler, will come and start work on them next Monday.

In the afternoon, I removed most of my workshop stuff from the room in question, and I now have a functional workshop in small house 2. Actually it is rather a spiffy workshop area, and I may be difficult to remove. Tomorrow I'll start on the bed that I bought the wood for.

My little blue friends are planted along the edge of the patio area. They are at their best first thing in the morning, particularly if it has rained in the night. Once the sun comes out, they close up and become quite unobtrusive. But when they are fully open they are so bright and cheerful - a real inspiration.

A sky characteristic of the season.
24/11/2009 - A Dead End.

Having saved up for a while, we thought we were in a position to finish off the last, larger, bedroom. So this morning we took ourselves off into town to buy the tiles that are the next job that must be done before any other progress can be made. We knew what we wanted, and at the shop, we actually found another combination we would have been prepared to use. But no, neither of the combinations were in stock. There are other places we could look, but they charge ridiculous prices. So that's it. We can't make any progress in that direction until they get some, and there's no telling when that will be. I suppose I could get the carpenter to make the doors.

To console myself I bought some wood to make a bed. That cost more than usual. For the base under the mattress, I usually use reject timber. The width is not important, and the edges don't need to be brilliant. As long as the boards are planed to the same thickness they will do. But the reject stuff that I saw today, in fact recently, was really crap, so I had to buy regular one inch boards. That will put the materials cost of the bed up from about $30 to maybe $55.

I also got a length of angle iron and made posts and three levels of galvanized wires to support the cucumbers when they get to that size. One of the cucumber plants is looking sick, but I'll have more than enough of them even if it dies. Most of the other plants are doing well.

Formalities at the village chairman's function.

The Large Hadron Confuser at the BEV compound in Arusha.
23/11/2009 - Village Affairs.

I spent the morning reading the ECMAScript spec, and trying to work my way through understanding how prototype based inheritance is supposed to work in Javascript. You can see the result on the Software page.

The village chairman, who is an elected politician, lives just along the road from our farmer neighbour Mica. The two of them are, I believe, sworn enemies. There is some sort of bad blood between the families, they each belong to the opposite political party, and the village chairman held his seat against Mica as an opponent in a recent election. We don't take sides. It's appropriate for us to be on good terms with both.

Having given Mica a lift to see his mum in hospital on Saturday, yesterday Adia had volunteered to chauffeur two of the VC's daughters to church for their confirmation or some similar event (I'm a bit sketchy on these things.) This turned into an all day affair, as when Adia had taken them home, there was a big party there - probably 200 people - with food laid on, and it would have been bad form for Adia to go before eating some of the food. I was roped in too, possibly because she thought I shouldn't have all the fun sitting at home programming.

The party formalities were very long, and very loud. with an MC, and a public address system. There were speeches, and presentations of gifts - many, many gifts presented mostly by snaking lines of women moving in a rhythmic shuffle. We were giftless, so we had to put some money in the decorated box provided for that purpose. Of course the battery in the camera gave out just before it started, and my phone had no charge on it

You could not fault the hospitality, except from my point of view for the fact that there was no beer. Everyone was most anxious about our wellbeing, there were a lot of girls to look at, and when we eventually got to it the food was OK. Afterwards, having thought about beer for some time, I repaired to the Silver Springs pub and drank their last two bottles of Eagle.

This morning, I was messing with software again, but more recently I've been out in the garden. There I have been working on Arusha's answer to CERN, the Large Hadron Confuser in our yard. The idea behind the machine is that if a large hadron accidentally gets into the containment vessel, it will become dizzy because of the red swirly shapes, and will have a good chance of colliding with the baby fig tree. At that point it will almost certainly become confused, a) because hadrons are not supposed to be large, and b) because it will be in the wrong experiment. Such events will give me some insight into the fundamental nature of the Universe.

A form of advertising.
21/11/2009 - Advertising.

Adia has been feeling a bit off colour for the last couple of days, so this morning we decided to go into town and get her a malaria test, etc. Since we were going in, I thought we could try a new form of advertising for our rooms.

In the US, it's common to see ads for things that people have to sell, or services they offer, in the form of a simple broadsheet pinned to a telephone or power pole. On the left there's a description of what's for sale, and on the right a repeating list of the vendor's contact information. You attack the right side with a pair of scissors to make separate strips of each repeat of the contact information so that that people who are vaguely interested can tear one off.

I have never seen this used in Arusha, or in the UK or India for that matter, so I thought it was worth a try. Certainly visitors from the US or Canada will know what they are. After Adia had had her cocktail of blood tests, which all turned out to be negative, we pinned 20 of them to various posts and trees in the areas likely to be frequented by visitors. We'll see if we start a craze.

Back to vegetables, all the transplanted seedlings appear to have survived, and It's raining again now to make sure they don't get dried up. I hope it stops soon, since we intend to go out for a meal tonight, and our venue of choice is outdoors.

The East African Community.
20/11/2009 - East African Community Milestone.

Enough about vegetables!

Today was potentially historic for East Africa. The Common Markets Protocol for the EAC was signed today by the five heads of state of 126 million people in Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda (clockwise starting from the north).

This has been work-in-progress for some time, starting I think in 1999, with various degrees of failure on the way. For the first local assessment in English, see the KBC report.

The agreement is supposed to herald the free movement of goods, services, and people across the national boundaries of the member states. I say 'supposed', because I know damn well that old habits die hard, in Africa as elsewhere. The thought of all those border bureaucrats and police suddenly waving people through the border crossings without checking the contents of their vehicles is more than my head can cope with. That's just not the way things are done here.

However, I have to say that watching the presidents speak from the football stadium in Arusha made a positive impression. The body language was good, so maybe there'll be pressure from the top to make things happen. Also, times have changed. Kenya was once so dominant in the region that the other countries were leery about the idea. But after the election in Kenya, both its commercial and political standing have been degraded, so that it needs a political success. At the same time, Kikwete of Tanzania (current chairman of the organization) has kept his nose clean, and courted the politicians of the west, possibly enhancing Tanzania's political standing. Uganda has managed to contain its internal problems, even though it has not eliminated them. Burundi and Rwanda are small and isolated, and need to be part of something bigger with access to the coast.

Our city - Arusha - could come off well out of this. Close to the geographic centre of the region (which would lie about half way between Arusha and Mwanza in the middle of the Serengeti), it is slated to be the administrative capital of the organization - a Brussels for the EAU. More visitors - perhaps more guests for Adia's Place!

Our sweet potatoes.
20/11/2009 - Modest Successes.

The last of our sweet potatoes got planted yesterday, and it obligingly rained this afternoon to get them kick started. The way you grow sweet potatoes is just by propagation from some existing shoots. They root very easily. The ones that were planted first, having at one point looked completely dead are now starting to show signs of recovery.

This morning we checked at the post office to see if my new UK debit card had arrived yet. It had, and the activation process went smoothly. That's two cards in as many months that have got delivered on time and activated with no problem. I am suitably impressed. Also there's one of them that now seems to work for online transactions - something I haven't been able to do for ages.

While we were in town I got a watering can for the tiny plants, and a plastic tray like a large egg box for planting seedlings in. Most of the seedlings except for the lettuce and the eggplants are now in it. The big cucumber seedlings got individual plastic cups. The transfer went well. I'm expecting a high survival rate. They are all out in the fenced area now, getting used to the elements. i.e. alternating heavy rain and scorching sun.
To round off the days activities Adia finally got me to install a radio door bell that she bought ages ago, on the gate. I'm not expecting it to have a very long life. I reckon somebody will either vandalize it or take it away as a useless toy. But I hope to be proved wrong. It has a ridiculously long list of ring tones. Currently we have it set to one that sounds like a mad cuckoo.

19/11/2009 - In the Mood?

Am I a dried up old stick,
no emotions, nothing left to say?
Not long ago I tried to find
things that were interesting and true.
To find some insight, or a joke,
to make life less mundane.

Thoughts would pop into my head,
and take some shape as I drove or rode.
Then I'd spend an hour or two
going over the words to make them fit.
Words are unmanageable things,
changing their ways behind your back.

Did lack of confidence mute me?
I can't think why, I feel secure.
Maybe such verses grow from doubts
that make you think about your life.
Now I'm content and do not question.
But no, that's bull, it's something else.

In verse you are your inner self,
there's probably some insight there.
I tried life in a goldfish bowl,
but partners like to paint the glass.
I should resist, there's not that long
to dwell on truth or lies before they're gone.

Perhaps to try is the important thing.
Practice makes perfect, as they say.
But then perfection's not my aim.
Wait for that and you'll wait forever.
I should do it for the fun of it,
and say my piece when I'm in the mood.

Zucchini, the first of the seedlings planted out.
19/11/2009 - More Busy Days.

Yesterday the electricity meter reached zero as planned, so I was able to do the modifications to the supply to get electricity to small house 2. When Adia got back from town with the magic number, I put another $16 on the meter, and the electricity supply in the big house was restored without any flashes or bangs. Most electricity meters here now are pre-paid ones. You go to the service centre with your card or your last coupon, pay your money, and the woman prints you out a new coupon with a 20 digit number that will work only with your meter's built-in number. Seems a bit paranoid to me, the vouchers you get for your phone are only maybe 16 digits, and you can put them into any phone with a SIM from your provider.

Anyway, I digress. I wasn't able to verify that the supply in the small house was functional since both my multimeters seem to have died, and I could not flind the electrical screwdriver that lights up on a live wire. Something was amiss though, since the test button on the earth leakage breaker (RCD) wasn't causing it to trip. There was nothing dangerous though, so I postponed investigation until today.
I found the screwdriver, and the power was there as expected, and you could turn it on and off manually with the breaker, but still no joy with the test button. I disconnected the thing and took it back to the shop where they tested it, and of course it worked, as it did when I took it home and reinstalled it. Works fine now, so I'll have to put that down to gremlins. So then I put in a couple of sockets and a strip light for my temporary workshop, and they're all functional now.

All the seeds have eventually sprouted, the recalcitrant eggplants having decided to join in. By that time the Zucchini plants were getting ready to burst out of their plastic cups. Adia and I planted them out just now on little mounds with manure underneath, and a few trowels of potting compost at the top. The roots were already all over the pots.

Most of the plants that I stuck in the ground hastily two days ago look like they will survive, and the cucumbers will probably get planted out tomorrow.

The Short Rains.
18/11/2009 - Tanzania's Climate Revisited.

Generalizing wildly, the way it's supposed to be is that there are two rainy seasons. The Long Rains from March to May, and the Short Rains from November to January. The rest of the time it should be dry and sunny. Normal agricultural practices here are based on the assumption that these things will happen more or less on time.

Unfortunately, this system appears to be getting messed up, either by El NiƱo effects, or by global warming. For example this year, the Long Rains didn't really get started until May, were not as heavy as is usual, and lasted into July. Rain started again in October. The rain we had last night was pretty heavy and persistent, and today it does not look like it feels inclined to go away in a hurry.

My gut feel is that in our region, we'll end up getting a reasonable amount of rain for the year. The problem is that it has not come when expected. This is a big problem for food production. Farmers really have no choice but to bet on the regular rain pattern. So this year many crops were lost that were planted in March in anticipation of rain. It looked for a while recently that the problem could be repeated the other way around with the short rains starting and possibly ending early, before the seasonal crops were in the ground.
We have probably lucked out. Our neighbour Mica planted sweet potatoes on our other plot last week. The rain we're getting now should get these off to a good start. But for a couple of weeks it had looked like the rains had gone away again.

You don't think about this stuff when you go to the supermarket to do the food shopping. The fruit and vegetables are just there 365 days a year, even if the price may fluctuate. But you should remember when you're there that there are plenty of families in the world who regularly suffer major tragedies because of irregularities of weather patterns, or even worse, drought. They don't have the money to go to a supermarket or a more traditional market, and the alternative is stark.

I do realize that I have no room to talk. I live here like a lord in his mansion, eating what I please. People talk about 'natural justice' - what do they mean?

A Tudor king in ermine and sable.
17/11/2009 - Enclosed.

OK, so the veg garden is now enclosed, and hopefully dog proof - yesterday actually. It's even got some plants in it now, since one of our neighbours showed us a place today where we could buy seedlings. They had some bits and pieces that appealed, so tonight early in the evening I hastily planted some basil, orenago, dill, arugula, and beetroot plants. They were not very carefully removed from the ground, so I am somewhat dubious about their prospects - we'll see.

Today I was up in the roof space, preparing for the changes to the incoming electricity supply that will enable me to connect small house 2. It's hell up there, must have been 40 centigrade today. I really need to get my hand down and install a fan to pull air through it. Those temperatures can't be doing any good to the cabling.

When we last ran out of electricity on th pre-paid meter, we just put a small amount on it. Tomorrow, or the day after, it should run out again. Then I'll be able to finish off the new connection while it is safe.

An hour working up there at that temperature seems to have about the same effect as three hours working out in the sun. So I didn't do that much else today, and I think I may sleep reasonably well tonight.

Oh, I should mention, the Masai Wilson is now history. Adia gave him his marching orders yesterday. We had discovered a bit more about his past, and the lies he was telling us were getting more and more ingenious but less and less believable. Antidius will move into the barbican and be gate keeper.
17/11/2009 - Back to the Last Mile Problem?

Over the last few days, a lot of men have been digging a quite deep trench along the north side of Njiro Road. Today, I saw a man who looked like a supervisor, so I stopped the car and asked him what was going on.

For some reason I half knew the answer. We are to have a fiber-optic cable from the TTCL HQ in town, out to our cross road. That will in turn eventually be connected by another cable from Dar to Arusha, which will be connected to one or more of the undersea cables that are WIP. That's very encouraging. It holds the potential for us to get a proper Internet connection. But then there's the traditional barrier - the last mile - actually in our case I'd say closer to the last kilometre. How will that be connected, and how much will the connection cost, and even though the bandwidth is there, will the politicians continue to charge us at a satellite price?

Everything sprouted except for the eggplants.
17/11/2009 - Startling Acquittal.

The buzz in Arusha this morning is over a rather dramatic incident that happened at an appeal hearing at the UN ICTR.

Apparently some guy - I don't know who - had previously been convicted there for genocide. The appeal panel through out the whole thing saying that the trial process had been conducted incompetently.

Our Canadian guest who is doing research there was in the small public gallery and she says that was packed with lawyers who were audibly gasping at the judgement. It throws something of a cloud over the whole of the activities of the court if a case can go as wrong as that.

The result of my fencing activities.

Tree protectors.
14/11/2009 - Nearly There.

I got the long side of the fencing around the new veg garden finished by about lunchtime. It was fairly slow work because of the damage it had sustained in the past, and the requisite reconstruction, but eventually it did not look too bad. I was stuck then, because I need another five or six metres to finish off the narrow end. Adia had gone off to get a suspension squeak in Potter fixed. She had looked along the way but failed to find even fencing of the same size, let alone someone who was prepared to sell it by the metre. I can see I may have to learn to make chain-link fence from the wire.

If I got a piece of 4x2 of the right length, and hammered nails into it in the required staggered pattern, I could bend the wire around those. Then it should be possible to hook the zig-zag lengths together somehow, back to back, then join the ends together. Unfortunately according to my rough calculation, you'd have to make about 1800 of the damn things, and I think my patience would expire before I'd got there.

One of the shopkeepers down at Nane Nane said he needed some too, and that if we got a roll, he'd split it with us. But unfortunately, it's Sunday tomorrow, so we wont be able to get it finished this weekend.

When I'd finished with the fencing I started to fork in the newly spread manure, but by then the sun was just about straight overhead, and it was humid, so I didn't last long doing that. Instead, I got a shower, then went down to Nane Nane and organized James into making some small tree protectors.

Both the avocado and the fig trees need to be put in their proper places soon, and the orange tree on the lawn is protected by an unsightly structure of 3x2 and chicken wire. Some protection is necessary, as otherwise the dogs will either run straight over them and break them off, or if they like the flavour or smell of the leaves, eat them. There's another one to make yet. Tomorrow I'll give them a coat of red oxide primer, and the same for the fence posts. Then they should look a bit more presentable than the 3x2.

13/11/2009 - More Progress Today.

The rain held off to a reasonable extent, so we were able to get a number of things done.

In the morning, Adia organized a bunch of lads to bring more manure from Mica's place, and we got a reasonable quantity for a reasonable price. When they'd finished digging the manure out of Mica's cattle pen - actually I think technically that is still his father's - and dragging it here through the mud in a hand-cart, they finished the leveling of the veg garden with some of the remaining topsoil, and added some of the manure to that.

I was able to continue work on the chain-link fencing. The stuff I'm using has previously been used for a puppy pen, and to keep the dogs out of the veranda, so it's a bit battered. Much of my time was spent re-weaving bits of it that had been damaged. I have enough for all but the top end of the area next to the lawn - about 5m. I hoping I don't have to buy a whole new roll. But I think it's likely that there will be some shop that sells it my the metre.

Adia's organizing continued into the afternoon, when she brought our usual welder, James, to cut down the gate that used to be on the generator cage, and graft it into the fence. So now the gate and most of the fence is in place, which is just as well, since some of the seeds I planted just a couple of days ago are already sprouting. If I can get them planted out before the current rainy spell expires they should grow like crazy.

Dinner at the Impala.
13/11/2009 - Adia's Birthday.

Yesterday was Adia's birthday. To celebrate, she sent of a job application to be a junior magistrate. In Tanzania, to practice law you must have been on a suitable internship, or more recently have taken the national course and an examination. Adia has not been on the course, since that would mean going to Dar for six months, which would a) put a stop to our building projects unless I learned a lot more Swahili very quickly, and b) subject yours truly - who does not have the best of track records - to undue temptation.

However, all they want for you to be a Magistrate, is the law qualification, so Adia is giving it a go. I'll be in the lockup before I know it!

Then in the afternoon she went to track down what the hell the Masai Wilson is doing during the day. He's supposed to be on an official thug course, but we had begun to have our doubts, since it seemed to be dragging on forever. It turned out that he was there as advertised, and that the course is now almost finished, so soon we'll have a fully trained thug. Then Wilson will want us to have some burglars to practice on.
I made a start at putting the chain-link fencing around the new veg garden, but before I'd finished even the first section, there was a deluge of rain that stopped play. Maybe I'll get some more done today if the sun gets out and dries things up a bit.

In the evening we went to one of the big hotels - the Impala - for Adia's birthday meal, with Harry, who is now pretty much a member of the family. The food was pretty decent, though the ambience of the restaurant could do with some work. Removing much of the lighting would work wonders. It was a pleasant evening.

I just noticed that it is Friday the 13th. Must remember not to go near any deep holes or sharp objects.
11/11/2009 - Soggy Day.

It rained quite heavily all night, so working outdoors is not really on the cards until it dries up some.

To occupy myself I have extended the BEV Tiny Feedback System a little so it can keep separate records for separate pages. I have added it to the Software page, and there is also documentation. What I could do with now is for somebody to test the documentation by trying to install it.

Green Mantis.
10/11/2009 - Easy Bits Done.

Well, I've done the easy bits. Screwed in the hooks, and applied the second coat of varnish. Then I sieved some of the latest lorry load of topsoil, and some of our compost, and mixed then to make a potting soil.

I'd got some plastic cups, so some of the potting soil got used to plant seeds that will hopefully be ready to plant out by the time I get the new garden area fenced. The little green fellow appeared as from nowhere on the back of my hand as I was arranging the seed pots on a makeshift shelf. I figured if I just put them on the floor in the veranda, Cali the cat would find some way of sleeping on them.

Now I have to bite the bullet and get out there and do some real work in the sun. The last load of soil needs spreading. I could do with the exercise. I've spent too much time at the computer of late, and the beer belly is creeping back.

Seeds planted for the new veg garden.

My granddaughters.
10/11/2009 - Absentee Grandad.

I am a lousy grandfather. I live half a world away, forget their birthdays, and never phone. I have no excuses. But they are a beautiful pair, aren't they. Before I know it they'll be grown up, and won't even recognize me.

I had been hoping to take Adia to the UK maybe in the spring, but I had a financial disappointment. The company I used to work for in the US had an ESOP. Back in 2003 or so, when they sent me some share certificates, they valued the shares at about $200 each, which would have made my certificates worth something. But I guess the downturn that lost me my job in 2003, and the current one, must have taken their tolls, because now I'm retired and they have become real shares, they're worth next to nothing. So no trip to the UK for me or Adia.

Ah well! The veg garden is now more or less topped up with soil - it's a big plant pot. Also yesterday we had a Kenyan couple to look at the available room, and they seemed quite keen. So I can't complain.

Today I must make a start on the fencing round the plant pot to keep the monsters out. I also have to put another coat of varnish on the edging strips around the kitchen work tops, and put some more hooks in the kitchen to hang things on. Exciting eh?

Partially forked.

Lavender seems to thrive here.
7/11/2009 - Potter Restored.

Last night we went by taxi to Nick's Pub at Nane Nane with our Canadian guest Helen. Nick's is really more of an eating place than a pub. It works on the KISS principle, and has a very simple menu. You can get chicken, fish, and chips. The chicken and fish are barbecued, the chicken very traditionally, and the fish sealed in aluminium foil with some vegetables (onions, carrots, and cabbage). If you get there at a time in the evening when the first batch is just ready (about seven thirty is usually good), you can get an almost instant meal. Last night both fish and chicken were really excellent, and the chips were piping hot. A chicken, a fish, and two plates of chips is enough for three people to stuff themselves. When we'd put that away we walked along to the cinema complex about half a kilometre along the road and had ice cream. A most enjoyable evening!

On the Potter theme, it turns out that you can use the starter motor from the Isuxu 4JX1 engine on the 4JG2. So yesterday Adia went on our faithful scooter Kiki to the workshops of the brothers who sold us Potter, where his old engine currently resides. It is waiting for a buyer, or to be sold as parts.

When she got there, she found the engine, safe and sound, but the alternator and starter motor were missing. Someone seemed to recall that the boss had required them to be removed and put in a safe place because they are easy to take off, and would be a source of temptation. The problem was that nobody knew where the safe place was.

Adia sat there most of the day waiting, or followed people around, as a search was conducted. Finally the missing parts were found bagged and labelled at the back of some locked container filled with similar goodies. This allowed us to repair Potter quite cheaply.

This morning some new fundi's, again conjured up by Harry, fitted the replacement starter, then after a bit of fiddling with wires and pipes, Potter was started, and seems to be back to his former self.

Chasing this process along took up a fair chunk of the day, but I also managed to get a part of the area now covered with the new topsoil and a layer of manure forked over with my newly acquired garden fork. It was very hot again today though, so I soon wilted doing that.

I need more topsoil, which I believe Adia has now ordered. Our neighbour Bob has a mound of it that he said we could take, but Adia and I have decided we'll take that a wheelbarrow at a time as we need it. It would be difficult to get to with a hand cart, so getting it moved would probably cost more than getting a lorry load delivered. Now we also have to organize the mining of some more rotted manure from the floor of Mica's cattle pen. Then I need to get or make a sieve so I can prepare a fine mix of topsoil/compost, to put on top of seed beds or in plastic cups to plant vegetable seeds in.

A completely knackered starter motor.
5/11/2009 - Potter Back In The Wars.

We were in town today, largely because it was too hot to do anything else. As we were about to leave, when I was outside a shop with the gearbox in park, and the engine running, the car started making a strange noise - I'd have called it a hissing noise.

I had not noticed it. I could here something, but assumed it was going on in a nearby shop, but Adia associated it with the car when she got back. At the same moment, I put the car in drive, and the noise stopped, so we drove toward home. At Nane Nane on the way back, I wanted to stop at a place that grows various vegetable plants from seed to see what he had. As I turned into the entry space, I noticed that the indicator lights were not working, and when I put Potter into park, the noise came back.

We got out and looked under the hood. The noise was obvious, but not easy to locate - somewhere on the left side of the vehicle. As we looked, there was a 'clunk' noise, and then the noise grew less. We continued to look around until some smoke appeared rising from the back left of the engine, then we hastily turned the engine off.
At that point, the indicators, and other thinks seemed to be back to normal, so just to check, I tried to start the engine again. Nothing, absolutely zilch, not even a click like you get when your battery is dead. We phoned our friend Harry, who knows a lot about vehicles, and has contacts. He came himself, and sent an auto-electrician, who proceeded to remove the starter motor. Once it was out, we took it back to his workshop, and opened it. You can see the result. Everything was broken except the bendix gear - rotor, stator, bearings and brushes - a comprehensive wreck.

We had a quick look around town for a replacement, without success, then we went back and parked Potter in a paint shop that Harry uses which happens to be close to where he broke down. We'll continue with the search for a replacement in the morning.
4/11/2009 - Five Young Brits Too Many.

My heart goes out to the families of the five British soldiers killed yesterday, and to the families of all the other soldiers killed and maimed in Afghanistan.

I think that by now we should see that enough is enough. The British army has been to Afghanistan before. They did not fare well then, and they are not faring well now.

The argument is that if the western troops are pulled out, the Taliban will be back in power in no time, and then al-Qaeda will follow into the safe haven so created to train people for attacks against the west. This is undoubtedly true. The Afghan government can't even run a straight election, let alone defend themselves against the Taliban.

But it misses the point of inevitability. The Taliban is not so much an organization as an idea. Hey guys, if a few of us don't mind getting killed (with the implication of martyrdom - straight to paradise), we can own a country, keep women in their place, and live the life of Riley. The fact that they are fighting now, when there is substantial opposition, is an indication that there is no problem selling this idea to young men whose only education was reading the Quran, and who have no prospects. They would actually do better to pretend to be beaten, then the western troops would go away, and they'd be able to take over the country. Unfortunately they have to continue to provide the opportunities for martyrdom.

Even if the western troops stayed on for a generation, the idea would still be there, and would be implemented in a heartbeat when they left. Don't fool yourself that an Afghan army would be able to defeat them - the army is probably staffed by the same guys, or at best grossly infiltrated with people like the policeman who killed the Brits yesterday. And there is nobody for them to be loyal to - just consider the recent election.

Taking the troops away would not be a defeat, rather a victory for common sense. The western nations have to learn to fight their battles against al-Qaeda more directly, and that should include attacking them in Afghanistan in whatever ways are effective. We have by now proved that sending in ground troops does not fall in this category.

I could rant on about drug policies making heroin expensive, and thus providing the Taliban with a steady and large source of income, but I won't. What do you think?

Kilimanjaro unusually clear.

Still a lot to move.
4/11/2009 - Get Physical.

Today I need to get my finger out and spread out the heap of soil that was delivered onto the veggie garden. I'm hoping Antidius will muck in as well (pun intended). Actually, it isn't just spreading it out, the rotted manure and the compost from our original compost heap have to be mixed in too.

(Some time later) Phew! It's hot today, and I forgot a task. The now-defunct diesel generator (Pig) used to live on a concrete pad in what is now to be the veggie garden, so the concrete pad had to be broken up before the topsoil was spread..

The pad was put down by Adam - our original building contractor. Now whatever I may have had to say about him as a builder, he put a strong pad under the generator. It took me about two hours to break it with a sledge hammer, spade, and pickaxe. After that it was very hot, and I only succeeded in moving about a fifth of the soil before my energy ran out.

Terra cotta pots galore.

3/11/2009 - Bus-Bars and Plant Pots.

Since I now have a much better idea of which of my web pages is being read, and when, and how many times, I have some things to muse about, and possibly some questions to answer. Aside from the BEV main page, which is the most regularly visited, the next most popular pages are January 2005, and June 2003 respectively.

I don't understand why January 2005 would be attractive, but I can understand June 2003. There is a lot of stuff there - narrative, pictures, poems, and recipes. It was written when I was living in a city that many would like to try, and it is punchy, not to mention a little vulgar, and so on. So the question I have to answer is "why aren't I writing stuff like that now?"

Well, I guess the answer is that then I was living with Terry. I don't know that she visited the page all that often, and she was drunk a fair proportion of the time anyway, so I could get away with murder. Now I am living with Adia, who puts a high premium on privacy, and checks out the page pretty regularly. So my tone is different, and things don't get said now that would have been said then - simple really, if in a way somewhat sad.

This afternoon we visited our neighbour to negotiate the delivery of some reasonably well rotted cow dung for the new vegetable garden. While we were there we also reached an agreement that he would do some work on our adjoining empty plot. The plan is that next year we will do the corn and beans thing again. Between now and then, he reckons that we should be able to grow a crop of sweet potatoes that will be saleable at a profit.

Later, in town, I had one minor success. I have been tying to determine, given the components that are available here, how to connect two 10mm2 and two 6mm2 cables together in a way that will be durable and safe. I have not found a single electrician (fundi umeme) who could answer this question. But this afternoon I found a shop that had lengths of bus-bar - a rectangular section metal bar with holes and clamping screws that will take the larger of the two cables. It's like the thingie you connect the neutral and earth cables to inside a consumer unit. I can cut it to length and find some way to secure it inside a waterproof plastic box - then bingo!

On the way home, we passed by the plant nurseries again. There's one place that has a great selection of terra cotta pots, of all shapes and sizes. Today we wanted some small ones. While I was there I bought a honeysuckle plant that I hope will grow up the trunk of the rubber tree. If there is enough light for it to flower, it should give the room a pleasant ambience when it does so.
3/11/2009 - Feedback.

OK, so I have ditched the broken newsgroup and replaced it with my own feedback system - BEV TFC (Tiny Feedback Component).

Now - hopefully - if you click 'Feedback' in the menu bar at the top of the page (or here), you will be able to give feedback on the contents of BEV. We will see how long that lasts!
2/11/2009 - Apalling Driving.

At about 17:30 this evening, a truck arrived bringing topsoil to help bring the new vegetable garden up to its target level. I wanted it to be tipped into the garden area, and that meant that the truck driver had to manoeuvre his vehicle into a space between two fence poles that were about 40cm wider than the truck.

You have never seen such a performance. Talk about remedial reversing! After about ten attempts, some very close to knocking one of the posts down, he eventually got into position, and the load was tipped - mostly into the required area.

But then , as he attempted to pull the truck out, for some inexplicable reason he chose to turn sharp left. The tailgate was sticking out at this point - it could not be lifted because it was wedged against the heap of soil. So as he turned, it swung with the turn, and it's lock catch caught on one of the posts and bent it at a crazy angle.

I was furious, so rather than make enemies I left with my empties that I was clutching in a plastic bag at that time of day to go and get some beer.

Fortunately, the post was bent, but not buckled, and I think it will be possible to bend it back to vertical. But... I am getting to be a grumpy old man!
2/11/2009 - Software.

I have now modified the feedback component somewhat to deal with topics in a more organized way, and to make it compact and easy to insert in any BEV page. Also, I have made it so that it shows two months of 'feedback' otherwise it looked like it wasn't working when you opened it in November.

Sometime this week I intend to up the status of the BEV Software page to make that into a blog too. I'm sure most of my existing readers don't need details of how these bits of software are implemented.

*** - that is done now.

Tuma's work on the vegetable garden complete.
1/11/2009 - November.

Time flies! Tuma has now completed his work on the enclosure for the new vegetable garden. I have a bit to add to that - it needs a drain at the bottom end to stop it getting too waterlogged when there is heavy rain. The we need to get the level up to the retaining wall by adding more topsoil and manure before the fencing goes on.

I think we will concentrate on this now it has got so far. The old vegetable plot is an eyesore now, and needs to be cleared away.

We have yet another new helper from Kagera - Antidius (they seem to go for Greek and Latin names there). He seems like a pleasant hardworking lad, so our impression is very positive so far. He also gets along well with the Masai Wilson. I'll get you a picture later today.

Since I've been up to my neck in software projects, that's about all I have for now.
Top of Page
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.

Welcome: the BEV server thinks you are browsing from (source unknown)

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

Aargh! Broken again, exchange rate data changed - back to the drawing board!

Currently on the Software page:

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.

Hanlon's/Napoleon's Razor:
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

"I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy (cannon fodder?). The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!"

For more see this.

We do now have the second room of Adia's Place (the Brits Eye View Micro Hotel) available for occupancy. 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 ridiculous introductory price!