Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Suddenly they are so weak and in poor health...

So they finally "found" Ratko Mladic, also known as "the butcher of Srebenica", after 16 years. It pleases me to see that the world increasingly offers less and less safe hideouts to warcriminals, terrorists and fallen dictators!

One thing that fascinates me when these persons are either brought to court, questioned or in house arrest or whatever is - they all suddenly are very ill, frail persons who can not possibly face justice.. Mladic being one example. Egypt's former president Mubarak suddenly develops heartproblems as does his wife(!) when questioned over illegally begotten money and other crimes. Yeah, right...

Should they happen to be too obviously young and healthy to try that route the alternative seems to be a sudden "born again" faith, be it Christian, Islam or what. "I put my faith and trust in God, he will prove my innocence" bla bla bla. Yeah, right...

In Southafrica a certain Schabir Shaik did both - first it was the allmighty Allah that would prove his innocence. When said Allah did not and he was sent to jail it was instead down the "heart problems and poor health" route. And for sure he was given medical parole.. and was spotted on golfcourses etc, heartproblems seemingly gone as indicated in this article. The latest is that his reason for breaking his parole conditions a number of times would be "mental illness" according to this article. Yeah, right...

What can we learn from this? Well, that unless you want to become extremely religious, terribly sick or mentally ill - do not commit serious crimes or opt for dictatorship in your life!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Zimbabwe among the top 5 countries on Earth

Yes - actually. And not in any "bad" way either (like when we broke the world record for inflation...) but, at least as I see it, in a positive way.

According to Pingdom, a web monitoring company, who got their figures from StatCounter (as you may understand is a "hit counter system" for internet) Zimbabwe is the 4th largest linux desktop user country!? I will admit that I am more than a little surprised as the ongoing discussions in the "open source community" in Zimbabwe rather give the feeling that we are not getting through with our message of a legally free system for computers and computer systems.

You will find this information by clicking here.

The flipside of the coin is that Zimbabwe is also rated as one of the worst offenders in software piracy, according to some sites we are number 5... according to others not among the top ten but definitely "up there". I find the "number 5" difficult to accept as that would mean over 90% of software would be pirate copies. And that is not the reality I see on the ground.

Either way - nice to be among the good guys and interesting. I/we think increased linux usage here would mean huge cost cuts for eg schools, hospitals, government and so on. But to get the message through is another story and there is an attitude towards software of "it can not possibly cost that much let me find it cheaper or for free" - meaning piracy.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Hippo Slalom Canoe trip and our marriage

Over 10 years ago I did a 4 day, 3 nights canoe trip down Zambesi river that I still remember as awesome. Last month an old friend from Sweden, Peter, and his son Victor arrived and I had again booked for this experience.

They arrived Sunday 17 April and did not really have much time to settle in as next morning we were off to Makuti turnoff up in Kariba to meet up with Natureways.

I can not say that it started too well... for some reason I could not start the 4*4 so instead chose our trusty Corolla, picked up the guys and off we went. Some time later start noticing that the engine temperature is climbing... oh no! Stopped and added water to cooling system (it NEVER needs this and I had checked it 2 days earlier). That only helps a short while.

What to do? Called Mia and asked her to work on the 4*4, call Natureways and alert them we will be late and return home to change cars. Have no idea why Isuzu did not start in morning but now works fine. Leave Mia with all problems and off we go again!

That was however our last glitch, once we were on our way again all went well. Arrived in Makuti only to find we are the only going for this canoe trip, happy that noone had to wait for us. Off to Chirundu bridge (border Zimbabwe/Zambia), quick lunch, pack canoes and off we paddle.

As we were late we had to catch up some lost "distance" and due to this actually pitched our tents using torches this first day. The last hour or so felt a bit like going slalom between hippos who to varying degrees let us know they were not amused. They are quite territorial and pose by far the biggest risk and challenge on these trips.

After dinner we admired the starry sky, shared stories and relaxed. That is when the distinct sound of blaring music comes travelling from the Zambia side of the river.. what the?? Turns out that on their side there is a large banana plantation and what we heard was the bar serving the workers. "But it is Monday", I argued. To which the guide replied that in Zambia bars never close, they just change staff now and then. Oh oh... around 1 am they finally stopped and I could sleep peacefully.

Then followed some peaceful days with good weather, gameviewing, some very close encounters with hippos, elephants, waterbuck and so on. We arrived at Nyamepi Camp in Mana Pools on the morning of the 4th day, had a well deserved shower (you do not swim/bath in Zambesi due to crocodiles and hippos) and a relaxed breakfast. Then the nearly 80 km "tse-tse fly drive" out of the park. There are few insects more irritating and stubborn than tse-tse and they give you wonderfully itchy bites!

Apart from ending up behind a brick-carrying truck doing around 20 km/h the last kilometres on our return to Harare the return was otherwise uneventful.
Here some photos, more will come:

Next day was Good Friday and I took the guys and our sons to Ngoma Kurira where I managed to twist a knee so bad I got stuck on the sofa at home.. and how much fun is that on a Friday when you have visiting friends? Hellen and sisters had to show Peter and Victor nightlife Harare.

The rest of Easter Saturday and Sunday I spent mostly preparing the last details for our marriage. After 8 years "living in sin" we decided it felt like a good thing to do the deed and get married. This took place on Easter Monday 25 April in our garden at home and I have put up some photos on the link below. Again, more might come.

After that it has been HIFA ( and we saw some good performances and had fun though this year did not really feel like any artist/show was a "must see". Our friends left on 1 May and are already planning the next visit!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

African airlines experiences

I have a feeling that if I go over my various emails and notes from the last 10 years I will find that I have spent altogether between 1 and 2 unplanned and unwanted weeks at airports or hotels due to the sometimes glaring incompetence of various African airlines.

I mean like arriving at the airport to be told the plane has already left "we rescheduled but called everyone". No you obviously did not.

Or arriving at the airport to be told that the flight has been cancelled. I like a recent one that did not happen to me: "that flight was removed from the schedule months ago". So why in the name of any God have they then issued tickets less than 2 weeks ago to the flight? And to a number of passengers, not just 1 or 2?

And of course the most common one: the flight is delayed. And here is when the chaos normally really kicks in. For whatever reason noone present at the airport never seems to know why. SHOULD someone know why or for how long this is almost never announced over the sometimes working speaker system. Why this is so - I have never understood.

It feels like "don't give out information in case it is wrong better just pretend all is normal". The problem is that after a couple of hours or so it is obvious to everyone that it is NOT "business as expected" any longer.

A point in case is my own experience from a few weeks ago: Arrive at the airport for a flight that has already been rescheduled/delayed. Checked in and all seems "normal". Except there is no plane in sight. Or information. Or staff from the airline.

I finally find a "business lounge" where a terrified young lady has ran out of snacks and drinks to keep the crowd calm, some of which I found out had been trying to get home since the day before... she knew nothing (can not blame HER for that) and noone else did. After hours of waiting the plane finally arrived and we did actually get on our way.

I can understand and tolerate delays, I can understand problems. Believe me we were very patient with Air Zimbabwe during the "gonomics" hyperinflation era -but that was because we knew what was going on (meaning the challenges they were dealing with, not what was happening at the airport - they are masters in the "non-information game").

What I do not understand is the total lack of professionalism in dealing with the situation. If it regularly happens to your company - try and figure out and correct why. If you can not for "reasons beyond your control" then at least make sure that staff is on site that can inform the passengers and deal with problems like connecting flights etc.

A more comical attitude to the passengers is displayed by at least 2 national airlines: demand that the passengers are checking in well before you open for check-in. In other words ask them to be at the airport in the morning some 30 minutes or so before you arrive and open for check-in yourself.

I suspect the main causes for this sad state of affairs are a mixture of overregulated airspace and "national" government-controlled airlines. Not giving the buyer/passenger much of a choice is of course a safe way to be able to treat them as described above.

Finally let me mention 2 exceptions: South African Airways and Ethiopian Airways.

And last of all thank all the staff I met over the years who actually try to do their best - there are more of you than this description might make you think!

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

New computer, fresh headaches

As you who read this reasonably often will know already I work with computers, computer systems and information systems.

From my point of view Linux is the best choice of operating system and laptop is what I must use. Laptop because I travel a lot, a "netbook" does not quite cut the mustard, ever so smart phones do not either as the infrastructure in the countries I work does not really offer enough connectivity and I want to use quite a few applications not (yet) available via phone systems.

The currently popular tablet computers with touchscreens leave me rather uninterested, I need more screenspace and more power than what an ever so slick tablet computer offers.

So after I once more found myself as consultant I decided to buy a new laptop. My "old" Dell is used at home by Mia, the even older Dell by the kids and the one I was using belonged to the former employer. I was allowed to keep using it but did not feel all comfortable with that arrangement.

As a friend/colleague/partner was arriving from Sweden I asked him to buy and bring a computer for me. Did some research and ended up with a HP Pavilion dm4.

In my experience Dell, HP and IBM/Lenovo are the best brands (ok maybe Sony Vaio but you pay through the nose then) in terms of reliability, service and so on. They also normally work well with Linux instead of Windows. I was a bit unhappy with some minor issues with the Dell I had at work last so decided to try this HP instead.

It is just to admit it: I did not do enough homework. Only after it arrived did I discover it has this new "switching" graphics with 2 systems, one for when you are on power and the other for when you are on battery.

"Only" problem is that this is poorly supported in Linux so far. So boy have I struggled to get that sorted. Some computers have a function where you can via setup (bios) switch off one or the other. Not this one, to be honest it is the most useless bios system I have ever seen. Not to mention that an upgrade of it (bios) actually made wireless internet stop working, both in Windows and Linux... NOT what I am used to from HP.

OK have that sort of under control now. But things like screen "dimming the lights" when power goes does not work (I have to do it manually) and I can not switch off the stupid fingerprintreader I don't see myself using. And and and.

And just like the last Dell it gets uncomfortably hot for having in/on your lap. The new processors seem to give off considerably more heat than the one I have in my "trusty old Vostro" that Mia is using. The difference is not small, from around 35 C to 55-60 C. NOT too nice with sweaty lap when sitting on the sofa (like now).

And I HATE the new touch/clickpad that does not have separate click buttons. Both in Windows and Linux it is a nuisance and I can only pray that better drivers will make it work better "next version".

Of course it is faster, better screen, more memory, larger disk, has webcam (that I never use..), is lighter and so on. But somewhere along the line of development certain things that I really like from the old Vostro are sadly missed.

Going back is not an alternative though (Mia keeps suggesting we swap if I am not happy) as all that I crammed on the disk now will simply not fit on the older computer...

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Noticias from Mozambique

Mozambique as country fascinates me. It is in many ways a very challenging place and the farther you get from the capital Maputo the more challenging.

OK I have not been to Pemba or Isla Mozambique, truth to be told, but otherwise that is my experience.

Mozambiquans can be very friendly, jovial and helpful when not in uniform or holding any official position. When in uniform or holding some sort of official position they are at best lazy and uninterested, at worst rude, troublesome and intent on making whatever you want as difficult as possible. Kafka could have been the inspiration of some of the stories I have heard from residents. My own experience at the Mandimba border post some time ago is a personal classic. It took 3 attempts to finally make it cross the border.

Some habits that seem to be countrywide has fascinated me since my first visit. The easygoing café- and barlife is nice, the habit of drinking straight whiskey or gin tonic for lunch is .. strange.

This morning I witnessed a man having double scotch while waiting for the plane. At 9 am. That is not unusual, and he looks ever the part of a smart businessman. Same guy, I think, had another one during transit wait in Nampula. Hope he did not have an afternoon meeting.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

A Barbershop in Lilongwe

In Lilongwe, a short walk from the Lilongwe Hotel (now Sunbird Lilongwe) along the road down towards Old Town lies a small barbershop with 3 chairs. Inside it you always find 3 men plying their trade, 2 indians and a black. They separate the clients accordingly, the indians take care of indian and white, the black of blacks. I assume this has to do with the very different texture of hair. Officially they are open from 8 am to 8 pm but I have often passed by later than that to find them still busy cutting, trimming or shaving and customers still waiting. I am yet to find the place closed on any day of the week.

A couple of years ago when I happened to be in Lilongwe I was not happy with my hair and decided to let them have a go at it. My reasoning was basically that no matter how bad it turned out it would grow again and my regular hairsaloon would sort it out then.

To my slight surprise I was not at all unhappy with the outcome and Mia deemed it "not bad". Given that it cost me around 4 USD I then made it a habit to visit them when in Lilongwe.

When I was later persuaded to grow a beard (or at least something resembling it) I on my next visit asked for a trim and a shave, having watched them doing this on other clients while waiting for my turn. That turned out to be an experience that has made my regular visits become something of a ritual.

Trimming is one thing, it is not complicated with the correct equipment. But the shave around the beard is something else completely.

There is something slightly exciting yet very relaxing in getting the full shaving "mafia style" treatment. You lean back on the headrest, you get thoroughly "creamed" twice with the oldfashioned brush and cream. Then that nastily sharp razor knife is brought out and you really get scraped clean. No matter how well shaven you might think you are you hear and feel how "the shade" disappears. Then creaming once more, shaving again but now in the opposite direction. Following that the part where the tricky-to-get-to parts are shaved (below the nostrils etc) and then wiping the face clean.

Finally you get lotioned with some sort of paste and, the grand finale, some sort of indian face massage. Aaahh.

All this at the total cost of around 8 USD. I have no idea towards what goal in life these young men quietly (they certainly don't say many words) work so hard but I admire them and do not miss out on my visit when I am in Lilongwe. Even when that means waiting in line for up to 1 hour while watching bad indian tv-shows. Let me tell you that "Strictly Come Dancing" indian style is very, very different from other versions I have had to endure.

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