Scott Hanselman

Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 15 - The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

December 17, '06 Comments [1] Posted in Africa
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CIMG6488My sister-in-law manages the internship program at the UN ICTR here in Arusha, Tanzania. ICTR stands for International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Tanzania borders Rwanda, and the UN put the court here in 1995 after the 1994 genocide.

Interns at ICTR are lawyers or law students from all over the world who work here for three months or so doing the grunt work and a lot of writing. I won't try to rehash the genocide in this blog post, as many people smarter than I have already written about it much more eloquently than I could, suffice to say, it's incredibly moving, scary, overwhelming and difficult to deal with. If you think about it long enough, it can consume you - mostly because it's a horrible example of what humans are capable of. It's even more shocking that we (the world) are making similar mistakes in Darfur. Anyway, I'm not qualified to analyze such things, so I'll talk about what I do know, first-hand as we visited.

CIMG6495The internship sounds like a very interesting job, and made me wish for a moment that I was a lawyer. My sister-in-law has a number of great stories, including one about a 70-year-old retired lawyer who wanted to do the internship. There's no age limit, so I think it's great that all kinds of folks from all over are considered for the program. They do have a rule to limit the number of candidates from the same school at once, so they won't end up with, say, five students all from Princeton. This helps to keep the interns integrated and avoids the "clumping" and groupthink that comes with traveling to another country with a large group of people from your home country.

Security, as you would expect, is very tight, and we had to leave our passports at the front office and went through metal detectors. This is required of everyone, even if you just want to visit the restaurant on campus and have lunch. Folks were very kind, but prices in the restaurant were, shall we say, "international" in scope. ;) The food was great, and my sister-in-law took us on a complete tour to see not only her office, but also the large conference rooms where the Burundi peace talks happen and where the East African presidents walk when they come for negotiations and meetings.

The offices are actually inside of the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) in Arusha (map). There's three buildings, Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Kilimanjaro, and the UN has leased all of Serengeti and half of Kilimanjaro, and local offices take up the other spaces.

We did get a chance to visit the ICTR Library. It's a specialized legal library that holds all public documents and transcripts (in English, French and Kinyarwanda) of the ITCR's affairs as well as references on other international criminal courts. (Apparently one of the most difficult things about the ICTR's work is the constant translations and employment of so many translators during the trials.) On the day we visited the library was full of folks doing research and very active when we were there. Apparently it's a fairly well thought-of library.

All in all, say what you will about the UN and their role globally, but this local office sure works very hard and it shows in the way they conduct their affairs. I saw a notice as we left that you can order the complete work product on searchable DVD.

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 14 - Travelling as a Diabetic

December 16, '06 Comments [5] Posted in Africa | Diabetes
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I post a lot, of course, about Diabetes, most specifically the technology behind the solutions that I use in my own personal struggle. Diabetes is tough enough in the "Western" world with (nearly) all the technology in the world available, but it's wicked hard, darn near impossible, in underdeveloped nations.

When I travel, as a diabetic, there's a number of things that cause me trouble:

  • Time Zones: When you're 11 hours away from home (it's 4:30pm in Arusha right now, but it's 3:30am at home) the body tends to take at least one day per one hour time change to adjust. I'm just literally about now getting my self on local time. I don't mean this in a jet-lag per specific, but from a blood-sugar point of view.
    Diabetics have different sugar/carb sensitivities at different times of days. An apple at noon affects me differently than an apple at 9pm. This becomes tricky when you have to calculate "what time it is in your body " versus local time, versus home time.
    Diabetics have a marked sugar rise called the "Dawn Phenomenom." Regular folks have this to, it's the body's internal alarm clock as it releases sugar to prepare to you start the day. Some people get it at 3am, others at 9am, but it happens in nearly everyone. What this means for a diabetic is a sudden rise in blood sugar in the morning. Many diabetics set their alarms for very early in the morning just to take a shot, only to go right back to sleep. It's a hassle. Less so with a pump, but still irritating. When you travel across timezones you have to keep track of when the body thinks this is supposed to happen. It'll start moving, as I said, at about an hour a day as you adjust to local time.
    This can also cause a problem for diabetics who use long acting insulin that lasts for 24 hours or 12 hours at a time, because shots can overlap and severe insulin reactions can happen if timing is paid attention to.
  • Equipment: Every diabetic has their favorite or preferred manufacturer. The farther you are from home, sometimes the harder it is to get the stuff you're used to. South Africa has international manufacturers in-country and fairly decent prices, but when you get farther and farther "out of town" you'll be paying a premium for diabetic supplies. I use a specific brand of supply for my insulin pump and I always bring three times (or more) as many supplies as I could possible need. For example, I change my pump every 4-6 days, but I bring enough supplies to change the infusion set every other day. I brought enough insulin for 6 months. You can always have someone at home DHL you stuff, but it's a LONG 24 to 36 hour wait while you suffer.
    Most pump manufacturers have a loaner program where you can bring an extra pump along with you for a simple (and large) refundable deposit. I also packed replacement batteries for everything, including those hard to find watch batteries for my meter.
  • Heat: Newsflash - it's hot in Africa. We're 4 degrees from the equator and it's hot as hell. A lovely hell, but hell nonetheless. Insulin is supposed to be refrigerated and lasts about 20-28 days at room temperature. You'll know right away if your insulin goes back because suddenly it just stops working. I always bring many ice-packs and insulated flexible containers to store my stuff in. For example, the power and water were out all day yesterday, but my insulin (I think) stayed cool, even as the refrigerator was without power.
  • Sugar: Nothing sucks more than having a low blood sugar reaction and being 100km from anywhere and have no sugar. It's not just stupid, it's damned dangerous. I brought 50 granola bars from the states and packed tubes of glucose tablets in each bag so there's always glucose nearby.

For those that live here with Diabetes, fortunately there's many organizations promoting diabetes care in Africa like the IDF and there was just a Next World Diabetes Congress meeting last week in South Africa. Access to insulin and glucose strips is the first step along with education. I'm very blessed to have the financial means (mostly insurance) to have a pump and sufficient test strips to manage my blood sugar tightly.

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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Hanselminutes Podcast 44 - Basics of Professional Audio

December 14, '06 Comments [12] Posted in Podcast
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Greetings again, from Arusha, Tanzania! My forty-forth Podcast is up. This will likely be the last one until the new year, where we will emerge from the Holiday Season energized with new listener-supplied topics (both listeners have offered topics! ;) ) and a re-commitment to avoid wasting your time, dear listener.

This final show of the year is a little different, as we turn the microphone around a bit and focus on something that Carl knows piles about, so this is a "Carlminutes" to round out our 44th show at the end of 2006. Carl educates me on professional audio and talks about some of the equipment that goes on behind the scenes to make a (we think) good-sounding show like Hanselminutes possible. I hope you enjoy it.

CALL TO ACTION: We're going to hit 50 shows soon, and let's hope for another 50 after that. What I need from you are topics. I've got about 15 topics queued up, mostly programming topics, which is good. We'll start the year with these topics, as well as any that you send me NOW! So, dear listener, what do you want to talk about?

We're listed in the iTunes Podcast Directory, so I encourage you to subscribe with a single click (two in Firefox) with the button below. For those of you on slower connections there are lo-fi and torrent-based versions as well.

Subscribe: Feed-icon-16x16 Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Links from the show are also always on the show site, although this show had no links to speak of. Do also remember the archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Our sponsors are CodeSmith Tools, /nsoftware and the .NET Dev Journal.

There's a $100 off CodeSmith coupon for Hanselminutes listeners - it's coupon code HM100. Spread the word, now's the time to buy. This coupon is good for the CodeSmith Professional With 1 Year Premier Support option.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

  • The basic MP3 feed is here, and the iPod friendly one is here. There's a number of other ways you can get it (streaming, straight download, etc) that are all up on the site just below the fold. I use iTunes, myself, to listen to most podcasts, but I also use FeedDemon and it's built in support.
  • Note that for now, because of bandwidth constraints, the feeds always have just the current show. If you want to get an old show (and because many Podcasting Clients aren't smart enough to not download the file more than once) you can always find them at http://www.hanselminutes.com.
  • I have, and will, also include the enclosures to this feed you're reading, so if you're already subscribed to ComputerZen and you're not interested in cluttering your life with another feed, you have the choice to get the 'cast as well.
  • If there's a topic you'd like to hear, perhaps one that is better spoken than presented on a blog, or a great tool you can't live without, contact me and I'll get it in the queue!

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

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 12 - Maids

December 13, '06 Comments [8] Posted in Africa
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CIMG6375It's weird to have a maid. For me as a middle-class American at least. My sister-in-law is also comfortably middle-class, by Tanzanian standards. She works as an Administrative Assistant for the UN...more on that in another post. It's a great job, she does great work, and they rent a lovely stone house where we are blessed to be staying.

With "middleclassedness" in Africa, often comes help around the house. My wife's other sister (Mo is 4th of 7 kids) and her husband were teachers in Zimbabwe and they had a maid. Even folks in the "lower-middle class" in Africa always seem to be able to find a maid. Sometimes the maid is someone who comes by for a few hours in the middle of the day, and might be the maid for two or three families, but just as often the maid is a live-in. Many times the maid is someone from just a bit further out of town than you live, and by hiring them as help you're getting them that much closer to town. The maid in this house sleeps and eats here six days a week, and takes Sunday off for church and family. She's very kind, and very quiet, but as is with the maids I've personally met in Africa, submissive isn't the word, rather deferential in all cases to the other members of the house. A maid might work with you for years, but they are an employee first, and possibly a family member second.

In the states, if you wanted a full-time live-in maid, you'd be paying around USD$25,000 to USD$40,000 to start, not to mention benefits. For nearly everyone this is not only beyond our means, but just an insane amount of money. You can hire a "merry maid" to come by once a week and do the floors and bathrooms and dust, but that'll be at least $50, usually $100 a month, and they don't do dishes or windows. Every country's economy is different, but a maid in Africa might make as little as US$20 a month, or as much as US$100 or more. Still, a far cry from the middle class.

The maids on this continent are really home-managers. Everything is handled, from meals to laundry to cleaning. There's also often a gardener or general handy-man who comes by in the daytime and is "the man when the man isn't around" and handles repairs and landscaping of the 25foot by 25foot patch of grass.

As an aside, not only does the power go out each day, but the water, as I'd mentioned before, comes from a large tank above the house. Turns out there's actually two tanks. One under the ground - a giant cistern - and the tank above. The city water comes in only once every 4 days - sometimes there's gaps as long as two weeks - and is buffered (my word) into this giant cistern. There's a large sturdy plastic balloon on the end of a thick wire - a ballast, just like in an American toilet, that floats up when the tank is full, indicating to the system to stop taking in the city water. Then the handy-man turns on a pump and sends the water up to the tank on top of the house. In the morning around 6am, the maid turns on a temporary water heater - everyone is very focused on conservation, naturally, and saves water and power religiously - and stores very hot water in a 30 liter or so container that stores wicked-hot water for the whole house.

Since we are numbering 11 in the house, we're stacked to the rafters, and I had a lovely cold shower this morning. Cold trickle, rather, but it, and I, was wet, so I consider it a dramatic success. I woke up at 7:30am, a little late, and because I didn't jump at the first shower, I lost. My wife had a stunning (she reported) hot shower. Of course, this house happily and comfortably supports a family of 4, but we're straining it a bit.

Back to the maid. We (the white folks, meaning, mostly my parents) are having a little trouble with it. I'm personally used it having traveled a smidge, but my parents, having traveled as much as a typical West Coast-born individual (from Vancouver, BC to Tijuana, Mexico, so, exactly, nowhere. ;) ) aren't used to the "distance" and caste-like system that is so pointed outside the states. There may be some liberal "White Guilt" involved, but I doubt it in this case as the castes (my word in this case) exist very often without color. I've never personally visited or lived in a White African's house who has Black help working for them (although there's many of course), while I've personally visited dozens of Black Africans' homes with other Black African folks working for them. This is fundamentally about the separation between the knowledge worker and the laborer, it seems. I suspect in the States, that many people (more than just the very rich) would hire maids to work and live with them if it were possible to pay them a non-U.S.-minimum wage and if the market and society watchful eye would bear it. In this case, as we visit, we have mostly "middle class" guilt. We're all very lucky, and if you're reading this blog, by definition and example, you are fortunate as well. 

CIMG6450My dad was a firefigher for thirty years and had odd jobs on the side. My mom was a zookeeper amongst other things. My mom puts it best: "Your father spend the last 30 years responding. He has to help. He doesn't know how not to." So, here in Tanzania, Dad's running all over the house fixing stuff. Not that things are breaking more than anywhere else, but you know how it is. A knob here, a clogged faucet there, standard house stuff. He's fantastic at this stuff. I think that the maid and handyman are reveling in the enthusiasm of this upbeat, very compentent, old(er) White guy. I'm enjoying the whole spectacle, myself. I one day hope to be as handy and as much a people-person as my Dad.

From the maid's perspective, it's possible overstepping our bounds as house guests, Mo and I included, by doing chores as we think is appropriate. We've done the laundry (by hand out back), led by Mo's Mom. We sweep and mop and do the dishes, all the while with an askance look from the (again, very kind she is) maid. I guess it's a combination of our very American "we do it ourselves" style, along with my wife's very African "I need to be a contributing member of the household" style. Technically I assume the maid is supposed to do all these things, but we figure since the household has swollen in membership due to our arrival, it's only fair that we step up in some way. It seems to be working so far.

Our host, my sister-in-law, has been fantastic to open her home to us, and even though we've inadvertently sequestered a few family members to the couch and living room floor by our presense, the house and household are holding up nicely.

I remember once in Zimbabwe I was kicked, rather forcefully, out of the kitchen of a Uncle of ours, for stopping in and offering to do the dishes. As the guest, and recent addition as son-in-law, my attempt to help was perceived as a bit odd and I narrowly avoided international incident. Not to mention when I sat on the ground rather than on the couch...I find the floor to be rather comfortable. Again, not cool when you're the visitor, it seems.

I'd love to have a maid in the States, but I think that due to my overdeveloped sense of economic justice combined with a bit of, I fear, a socialist streak, it'll have to be a Robot Maid from the makers of the Roomba.

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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CardSpace InformationCard Extension for FireFox

December 13, '06 Comments [2] Posted in ASP.NET | Programming | Tools | Web Services | XML
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It's happened! Kevin Miller has released his FireFox Extension for CardSpace as reported by Garrett Serack. It's got full JavaScript support and Garrett has posted some JavaScript code that you can use to detect support for CardSpace within any browser, including FireFox.

There's been work by Chuck Mortimore to implement the complete stack without .NET 3.0:

Chuck Mortimore, with great diligence, has begun work on the first true, cross-platform extension for FireFox to enable interoperatability with CardSpace, and the Identity Metasystem. He's made some fantastic progress in getting FireFox up to par with that. The only down side is, that Managed Cards may take some serious, significant effort to implement. And, what if one actually wanted to use the Windows CardSpace identity selector, but from FireFox?

This extension, however, enables the Windows CardSpace identity selector. As we talked about in a recent podcast, the CardSpace system at a protocol level doesn't require Windows or .NET 3.0. There will likely emerge complete stacks, server and client, that include identity selectors for Linux and Mac, and of course, Windows. Here's a Java-based Relying Party and sample Identity Selector from Chuck.

Kevin's extension also supports extension (ha) as well, as a generic identity selector, so when other selectors come out, they can be hooked into his FireFox XPI-based extension. Be sure to watch his site in the coming weeks as he'll be releasing more code and samples. Also, be sure to read these (PDF) Slides on the Mono Infocard Project.

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.