Scott Hanselman

Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 11 - Transportation

December 12, '06 Comments [1] Posted in Africa
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Getting around town is a little tricky as while the main road is tarred (asphalt) many of the offshoot roads are not just dirt, but truly rocky and bumpy. It asks a lot of any car, especially the suspension.

We're driving a '93 Mitsubishi Pajero, which is a basic SUV. Petrol (Gas) is about 1200Tsh (Tanzanian Shillings) per liter. In the US, gas is about $2 a gallon. So, doing a little math converting liters to gallons and Tsh to USD...

1 liter = 0.264172051 US gallons so 1 US gallon is 3.7 liters. Coincidentally, then we end up paying about US$3.7 per gallon for gas here if my math is correct. If you consider the average income for car owners, it's easy to see that gas is a significant portion of one's monthly expenses, sometimes out-pacing all other expenses short of rent. We'll be spending about US$300 for gas in two cars to and from Ngorongoro Crater next week.

Sometimes it seems that there are "rules of the road" that apply everywhere but the States. After driving in Europe a few weeks ago, specifically Spain and France, and now driving in Tanzania, I've noticed that folks really use their turn signals to communicate a lot more than Americans typically do. I've been to Africa a number of times, but only driven a bit in RSA (South Africa)

Here's some examples that make sense when you think about them, but aren't obvious to Americans who haven't noticed or asked:

  • When it's dark and a car is coming towards you, you turn on your inner turn signal (the one nearest the middle of the road) to let them know where the edge of your car is as they pass.
  • When someone wants to pass you, you can turn on your inner turn signal to let them know you don't want them to pass.
  • When someone wants to pass you, you can turn on your outer turn signal (the one nearest the curb) to let them know that it's safe for them to pass.

I have yet to see a traffic light or stop sign of any kind. These things are apparently just understood, although there are a number of roundabouts. The traffic situation is very fluid, much like in Asia...there's no lines in Arusha (there are in Dar es Salaam) so folks just push their way around with some deference to pedestrians.

Interesting aside: The main roundabout in the middle of the Arusha town is the "wedding roundabout" and every weekend there's parades of cars going around and around. They'll park (inappropriately) in the middle of the roundabout and run to the middle to take pictures next to the large fountain. I'll try to take photos next weekend.

Also, it took a few hours, but I've managed to get a few photos up at http://www.flickr.com/photos/computerzen, but they aren't correctly tagged or in the right set. The feed for photos is here.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 10 - Malaria

December 11, '06 Comments [10] Posted in Africa | Musings
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Malaria is an interesting bug. Lots of locals blow it off. "Sure, I've had malaria a number of times, sometimes every few months, but then I kick it in a month or two." However, it does kill 2 million a year, and if you do survive it's no fun to have. My mother-in-law just got it after only 3 months in Tanzania after moving from Zimbabwe. There's a lot less incidence of Malaria in Zim than in TZ.

Malaria kills more than 2 million people in Africa each year.  Between 300 and 500 million people suffer from malaria, the majority of which are young children; one out of 20 children in Africa dies of malaria before the age of 5.  Families are often forced to spend approximately 20% of their income on malaria treatments, and public health institutions spend up to 40% of their budgets on outpatient malaria treatment.  All told, in addition to the human loss and suffering, the disease results in an economic loss of $3 billion to African economies each year, slowing economic growth by approximately 1.3% annually. [SDP.org]

Here's what we're doing to prevent malaria while we're here. It's a fairly aggressive and multi-pronged series of techniques. Some may call it overkill, I call it thorough. We're fortunate enough to have enough money to be this thorough, although using any one of these techniques is better than doing nothing and taking your chances.

  • Physical
    • Mosquito Nets
      • Treated Mosquito Nets with Permethrin - You can use a standard Mosquito net, but I recommend taking it to the next level and treating the nets with a repellent. There are some concerns about Permethrin as it's technically a carcinogen, but for a short time, I'm willing to take the risk. We soaked our Mosquito nets in backs with Permethrin for a half-day before we came.
    • Treated Clothing
      • You can also treat clothing with Permethrin. We treated our jeans and shirts. It's a simple treatment. You pour the liquid into a bag, with 2 parts water to 1 parts Permethrin, shake, then wait for a few hours, then dry. You can buy pre-treated clothes, but that's a lot of money for something that will only last for 6 weeks or 6 washings.
    • Citronella Candles
      • Citronella smells pleasant enough, but apparently bugs don't like it. You can buy candles and smoking coils that will keep bugs out of your room.
    • Bounce Fabric Softener
      • You can just wipe these on a baby's clothes, and the rumor is that bugs will stay away. No proof yet.
  • Medical - Oral
    • Malarone anti-malarial
      • This is one of the more expensive and newer anti-malarials, but the cheaper ones like Mefloquine and Cloroquine are working less and less as the mosquitos are getting resistance. If you get malaria while you're on one of these anti-malarials it'll be a lot more difficult to treat. Malorone has fewer side effects than most any anti-malarial out there. When I was taking Mefloquine I had some horrible night-terrors - a common side effect. None of us, including Z, who had a specially compounded baby-dose of Malarone, have had any side effects. You'll need a prescription, and it won't be cheap.
      • UPDATE: There have been reports of VERY bad side effects from Mefloquine (Lariam) so do be aware of that.
    • Artemisinin - homeopathic anti-insect
      • This concentrated dose of "sweet wormwood" is supposed to make you less tasty to the mosquito. It's used to treat Malaria, but folks are starting to use it for a prevention. It's been used in China and outside the US, and is starting to get some attention in the US. You shouldn't use it for a long period of time as it can eventually bother the liver, but I've spoken to folks who've traveled in sub-Saharan Africa who swear by it. You don't need a prescription, but it may be hard to find, or behind the counter.
    • 100mg of Vitamin B
      • Loading up on Vitamin B can hurt the liver if you take it too long, but it also makes you less attractive to bugs.
  • Medical - Topical
    • Deet creams
      • We got a combination cream that is 20% deet and includes an SPF 20 Sunblock in one cream for convenience. If you're in Africa, get something with at least 20% deet, or more if possible. It's not something you should put on baby's face though, or anywhere that she might touch with her hand then put it in her mouth.
    • Citronella creams
      • Citronella creams are safer than Deet for children, and if you're not into Deet or if you're anti-chemical, a citronella-based cream is a reasonable alternative, although arguably less effective.

We haven't been bitten yet.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 9 - Bandwidth

December 11, '06 Comments [3] Posted in Africa | Tools
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If you're traveling reasonably far off the beaten path and you want to stay connected, there's a number of things I've found to be useful.

We're staying with my sister-in-law who works for the UN ICTR (International War Crimes Tribunal on Rwanda) in Arusha. We're actually living outside Arusha in a town/village called Njiro. The power is only on from about 9pm to 9am, and is usually off in the daytime. The water supply also turns on and off, so there is a 5000 liter tank on top of the house. When the water turns on, assuming the electricity is also on, a pump takes water up to the tank, and because it's on the roof we get water pressure.

As for the computer and internet, they're using a Dell Inspiron 7500 that I gave them a few years back. It's running Windows Server 2000 and was SP2 along with Office XP. I wanted to update them to SP4, but the download is 129megs.

The connection to the internet is a CDMA cell phone connection that starts at 9600bps and tops out (bursts) to 163kbps which is about 16K a second, although the effective bandwidth is about 7K a second. The biggest problem is timeouts and lag. We're using a Huawei modem which looks exactly like a regular desk phone, except it has an antenna. It's connected via a USB to Serial cable, with USB on the computer side and 9pin serial on the phone side. The phone also has an internal battery.

It's actually very common to see ladies on the side of the road (when you're outside of town) with these phones on a small table. They charge passersby to use the phone like a  pay phone. It looks and feels like a regular phone, it's just a cell phone.

Tracing route to hanselman.com [66.129.71.242]
over a maximum of 30 hops:

  1     *        *        *     Request timed out.
  2   311 ms   340 ms   381 ms  msd-hq.ttcldata.net [192.168.3.2]
  3   621 ms   331 ms   501 ms  196.46.106.97
  4   341 ms   320 ms   361 ms  196.46.107.1
  5   981 ms  2284 ms   941 ms  t3a1-fa2-0-0.uk-goo.eu.bt.net [166.49.213.45]
  6  1402 ms   951 ms   971 ms  t2c2-p3-2.uk-lon2.eu.bt.net [166.49.163.73]
  7   891 ms   841 ms     *     t2c2-p4-2.uk-ilf.eu.bt.net [166.49.195.125]
  8  1072 ms  1282 ms  2003 ms  t2c2-p4-0.us-nyb.eu.bt.net [166.49.164.50]
  9  2123 ms   961 ms  1632 ms  jfk-brdr-01.inet.qwest.net [205.171.1.41]
 10     *      921 ms     *     jfk-core-02.inet.qwest.net [205.171.30.17]
 11     *        *        *     Request timed out.
 12  1272 ms  1152 ms  1482 ms  atl-edge-07.inet.qwest.net [205.171.21.94]
 13  1402 ms   982 ms   971 ms  65.124.11.46
 14  1052 ms  1201 ms  1082 ms  v11.cd2.peak-10.net [66.129.64.9]
 15   982 ms  1071 ms  1202 ms  66.129.112.188
 16  1532 ms  1031 ms  1042 ms  infoquestgujarat.com (hanselman.com) [66.129.71.242]

 Timeouts and long lags are common so here's what we do:

  • Firefox is FAR more forgiving on lousy connections than IE.
  • Turn off images in Firefox's Content options.
    • You can include a list of domains or subdomains that you want images automatically loaded.
  • I use GetRight for large downloads. This is a fantastic program no matter what connection you have. It took two and a half days and 400 retries, but we finally got the 129meg Windows 2000 SP4 downloaded. I tried the Express download, which would have been about 30M, but it includes its own downloader and it wasn't very forgiving.
  • Include common sites' IP address and hostnames in your hosts file, and save a multi-byte DNS lookup. Sounds silly, but it makes a difference in reality.
    • Alternatively, run your own local DNS server (easy because we are running Windows Server, although there are open source options) and make sure it caches aggressively.
  • Use a remote image compressing HTTP proxy. I wasn't able to prepare for this as I didn't anticipate the bandwidth being this poor, but next time, and possibly just as a favor to them, I'll write one in C#.
    • If you REALLY compress JPEGs and such (I mean like 10% quality) you'll be able to get the jist of the page, and then add something like ?compress=false at the end of the request to get the uncompressed version if you need to.
    • You can also install SquidProxy on a machine in your home country, and open the appropriate ports. When you get to your remote location, Squid can (possibly?) gzip HTTP content and cache aggressively.
    • Another lighter-weight alternative is ziproxy that will compress all content, but not cache it. It appears to be actively developed. I'm interested in trying this one as well, it may be more useful for my needs. 
      • I may go to an Internet Cafe and remote into my home machine in the US and do this. Unless one of you, dear readers, wants to hook me up? ;)
  • If you're using a modem, make sure that hardware compression and error correction is turned on.
  • Know your bandwidth, and know what time of the day it's fastest. Around here, when the power is out, the Internet gets faster as most folks' computers shut off. Also, for whatever reason, it's fast (ish) from 1pm to 3pm, and slow at all other times.

Anyway, have a nice day. We're going for a walk now. I'll post more on Malaria and my recent strange sickness later.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 7

December 9, '06 Comments [4] Posted in Africa
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Z's got a fever, so that's not good. He's running around in a diaper, trying to keep cool, while we're plying him with the occasional Baby Tylenol and lots of water. It's never good when baby's sick, less so when you're as far from home as physically possible. But, we're also in a house full of women who have collectively raised 11 children, so we've got support.

We went to the Arusha "Cultural Heritage Center" today. The parents loved it, and it was very kind of my sister-in-law to take us there, but I personally found it profoundly sad. I expected a museum, but instead found a giant mall of carvings and local art, literally jammed to the rafters, and run by a group of local Indians. They are Ethnic Indian Tanzanians who've been there for a few generations, but they've turned this Cultural Center into a artist clearing house and consignment center. The artists leave their art at the center and when it's sold they are paid a percentage, usually around 30%. For a painting that would ordinarily be less than 30,000 tsh (Tanzanian Shillings, about USD$25) this center wanted USD$120, and happily asked for it in U.S. Dollars. I'm sure I could have negotiated them down to $50 or so, but it's the principle of the thing that bugs me.

The first words out of their mouths after a greeting was "we offer DHL shipping." Why would I come all this way, only to point at a piece of art and have it shipped home? This appears, to me, to largely be the case with African Art. It's been completely commoditized and globalized. The artist is forced to create for the lowest bidder and his art is shoved in a glorified storage area with every other local artist. I appreciate the Indians' ingenuity and business savvy, but the general presentation and hyper-commercialization left a bad taste in my mouth.

One other thing, we were at a bus depot today, picking up my niece who was coming back from boarding school in Nairobi, and there was a German guy with a camera taking pictures of a particularly attractive local woman whose hair had been freshly braided. I found it very rude of him, as he was furtively sneaking photos of her. Everyone but she knew he was doing it, and it started to be creepy. He should have just asked, and perhaps offered her a sitting fee. In this case, he was a creepy white guy far from home making everyone uncomfortable and giving foreigners a bad name. Maybe I'm hyper-sensitive, but that's how I saw it.

Oh, one other thing. My Video iPod so freaking rocks. I'm loving this thing. I loaded it up with TV shows and Movies from iTunes before we left, and we've been enjoying it, hooked up to the TV here. The iPod supports NTSC and PAL (the non-US TV standard) and works great here. It's like a portable Tivo, and everyone's getting it a kick out of the photo slideshows of the baby growing up. I brought my PSP also, but even though the screen is great, the iPod is getting more use. I'll post a detailed comparison later of the PSP and Video iPod now that I've used both all over the world.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 6

December 8, '06 Comments [1] Posted in Africa | Musings
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It's Friday afternoon, around 1:45pm here in Arusha. Got a lot of random stuff on my mind.

UPDATE: Here's a photo of my family:

HanselmanArusha2006-1

When it thunders here, it's like the whole continent is moving. This thunder is *not* screwing around. It's December, of course, in the heat of summer with temperature in the 100's ;) and the humidity about the same.

I don't know how I've done all this international travel in the past without this Continuous Glucose Meter. Truly. It's a new sixth sense, and when it's gone or off, I'm truly blind and very uncomfortable. The meter has made this trip SO much more enjoyable for me there are no words. It's tricky (i.e. dangerous) being a diabetic here, so planning ahead and information keeps me alive. I've got glucose tablets, granola bars, and this meter. So far, so good. It's a little complex trying to keep the insulin cold, because the power/electricity is off in the daytime. It usually shuts off around 9am and turns on around 7-8pm, so we need to avoid opening the refridgerator.

Yesterday, we went to a Maasai cultural museum and 'snake park' about 30km outside of town. There are supposed to be a half-million Maasai here, but of course, they move around a lot and aren't easy to count. They speak Maa, very different from kiSwahili. You can spot them around town as they tend to dress in bright colors, often red.

We had to take two cars, so our host (my brother-in-law) got a friend to bring his car. Traffic is chaotic - a constant test of wills. On the way back, the car that the friend was driving stopped while going over a speed bump (there's speed bumps everywhere around here). My dad and I jumped out and pushed it off to the corner (which is apparently quite a sight here). The car was out of gas (petrol.) The other car went off in search of petrol, the baby was sleeping at this point. They got back, we put a liter in, and continued on. Then it stopped again. This time we were out of water and oil. We added water, but had no oil. We ended up having to leave that car and get a passing cab. What was going to be a lunchtime outing turned into a whole day event, but a fine time was had by all.

We had a great time though. I'm still working on getting photos up, but when/if they do make it up, they will be on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/computerzen. There's a feed up there if you like as well.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.