Scott Hanselman

Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 21 - The Arusha Fire Brigade

December 21, '06 Comments [4] Posted in Africa
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CIMG6679My father was a firefighter in Portland for 30 years. He's retired now, but there's a bond between firefolks, he believes, and he loves to meet other firefighters and chat. I took dad with me to New Orleans in 2003(?) for TechEd and he immediately wanted to talk to the local Fire Department and compare equipment and such. Since this was the first trip out of the US for Dad, I thought it'd be cool to stop by the Arusha Fire Brigade and see what was up. That's my dad on the left, and my brother-in-law (our translator) on the far right.

A few days after we arrived, there was a large fire a few streets over and we saw the tanker truck (with about 900 liters) loping towards the fire. Just yesterday a man in a car was crushed and killed and two pedestrians lost their legs as a large truck's brakes failed and it smashed out of control into a wall just at the corner down the street from where we are staying. In the first case the Fire Brigade could respond, but there doesn't appear to be any emergency medical specialization. My dad was an EMT specialist and trainer for a number of years towards the end of his career, and my brother, also a Portland Firefighter, is a capable EMT-type, IMHO. The police responded to the multiple-death accident, but it is out of the scope of the Fire Brigade here, it seems.

Dad was just hoping to chat, see their setup and swap stories, but was pretty sad about the state of things. They just don't have the equipment to do their jobs correctly. Their helmets were donated from France and Denmark and appear to be pretty old. Their truck was donated from Demark, but the tires are bald and it is in a state of some disrepair. Their hoses are similar in type and size to those my dad is used to, with their primary host being 2.5" thick, but they are frayed and could break under enough pressure. My dad was the most distressed that they have no gloves or heavy jackets. Some fight fires in sandals because they have no good work shoes. Running a hose is hard enough, but running one without gloves is challenging to say the list.

It's clear, despite the language barrier, that these guys are serious about doing their job, and only wish they had the equipment. Of course, you can't help everyone in the world and there's lots of good causes, but...now that we've got a personal contact now with this Fire Brigade and relatives on the ground locally, if you're a firefighter (or know some, forward this post) and think your department might want to donate some gloves, boots, helmets, hoses, foam, or whatever etc, email me and cc: my dad (he's dave at this domain). Apparently the Tanzanian government will pay the shipping and handle duties and make sure the donated things get where they need to smoothly.

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 20 - Waiting for death's sweet release

December 21, '06 Comments [5] Posted in Africa
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I spent the better part of yesterday sitting on the toilet waiting to die. I never though I'd start a blog post with that sentence, but you just never know, eh? Seems that I'd caught my first case of TD - Traveller's Diarrhea, Dear Reader. I feel I know you well enough to share my lower tract distress, we've been together so long. Four continents and never a problem, but there's a first time for everything. I've always been "prepared" for it to happen, but one becomes a little complacent when one has had no problems for so long.

When visiting another country, no matter how developed, there's always a chance you'll pick up a stomach bug that you're not familiar with. I believe I saw some statistics that said that 30-40% of folks who visit Africa will have at least a small bout with TD. 7-10% of folks who visit the US or Canada from another country will as well. It's just one of those things.

Here's some things you can do to prevent and treat TD. They've worked for me for years, until yesterday.

  • Ask for your drinks with no ice. Very often, especially in the states, ice is more contaminated than water.
  • Avoid unwashed fruits, or fruits and veggies without skin that can be peeled off. We've been eating a lot of bananas, but I've avoided mangoes because the skin's a hassle.
  • Check the seal on your bottled water, and don't be afraid to ask a local what the preferred local bottled water is. Apparently here in Tanzania, Kilimanjaro bottled water is well thought of.
  • Get a prescription ahead of time for Cipro. Cipro is the "Hammer of Thor" when it comes to TD. Just one day later and I feel 90% better. I don't like using antibiotics because I'd like to avoid creating a super-bug, but Cipro seriously works on just about anything TD related. I happened to have six 500mg Cipros with me on this trip and needed 3 to feel better.
  • Ask for your meat cooked medium or well-done, and avoid fish if you're extra paranoid. My mom and dad (=paranoid) are also brushing their teeth using bottle water, although Mo and I aren't worried that much. Maybe I should have worried more. :)

When you've got this urgent little problem, especially if it's a short trip like a week or two, it can be very distressing and mess up the whole itinerary, so it pays to be prepared. In this case, it only cost me a day, so that's not too bad.

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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ARCast.net - Interviewed by Ron Jacobs at TechEd 2006

December 21, '06 Comments [3] Posted in ASP.NET | Podcast | PowerShell | Programming | Speaking | TechEd | Web Services | XML
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While in Spain this Autumn at TechEd:Developers Europe, I had the good fortune to do an ARCast with Ron Jacobs (mirror). The episode is up now on Channel9; hopefully it's not complete poo and I provide some value. I tried to come up with a topic, but Ron said, well, just start talking, so we did, and this is the result. We had a fine time, even though I've known Ron for over 10 years and he still misspelled my name. :P

What do you give to the architect that has everything? How about a grab bag of really good advice an interesting discussion with a very smart architect and fellow podcaster Scott Hansleman [sic]? This episode defies a single description because we covered so much ground but if you have ever listened to Hanselminutes you will know what I mean when I say that Scott is a very interesting guy to listen to. Scott and I led a pre-conference seminar at Tech-Ed 2006 in Barcelona called "Introduction to Software Architecture" and we caught up for a quick chat while in Spain.

Links

Thanks to Brian Windheim, a fellow architect at Corillian, who came up with the tagline "All non-software artifacts should approach zero" that I've been talking about lately.

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 17 - Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park

December 19, '06 Comments [5] Posted in Africa
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Ngorongoro Hanselman Panorama SmallI'm not a "colonial safari" type by any means. I'm not interested in dressing all in khaki and running after a rhino on a Jeep. We did however want to check out some animals in their (mostly) natural habitat so we hired a local guide and packed the whole family into two trucks for a day of amateur photography. My mom was a the night zoo-keeper at the Washington Park Zoo and worked for the zoo for years and years. She prides herself on her handling of the Asian elephants, although she's never worked with African elephants, so it was a goal to see an elephant or three. Yesterday we headed out from Njiro (outside Arusha where we are staying) to the Ngorongoro Caldera at the Ngorongoro Crater Conservancy/National Park.

CIMG6586 modifiedAccording to Wikipedia, the park is about the size of Crete - about 8300km². Oy. It's interesting as a national park because it also allows human habitation. There were many Maasai in the park herding and we passed some large Maasai bomas. A Boma is a family village, usually fenced in like a smallish compound. The traditional way of life is changing and they don't move around as much as they used to. Inside the park at the second gate to enter the crater itself there are usually a dozen or so kids with an elder hanging back who will literally rush your cars if you stop when you drive in. They are selling necklaces and bracelets and what not, usually asking for TSH5000. You can easily talk them down to TSH2500 or even less per item, but I don't usually haggle when I think that I'm already getting a decent exchange rate and when the money will (presumably) help someone. We picked up some trinkets but we sincerely had to be agressive to keep these gentleman out of our personal space. After having 10 guys push stuff literally in my face, I ended up insisting that they all sit down, (with respect) shut up, and I'd look at their stuff one at a time. We all bought something small, but it was a little "high-pressure" sales environment. :) Fun, nonetheless.

CIMG6657The Caldera is 2000 feet deep and 14 miles across (620m and  22.5km respectively). An estimated 75,000 animals live in the crater itself. The floor is incredibly level and there's a lake inside. It's basically a big, perfect pasture of green in the middle of an extinct volcano. The view from the top is truly amazing. There isn't a wide-angle lens that can really capture what you see. Make sure you bring high-powered binoculars...not the standard 7x35 kind, but a really nice pair. Borrow if you don't want to buy.

I'm not a big digital photography guy...well, that's not true. Let's put it this way, I have enough hobbies now, and I know if I got a nice Nikon Digital SLR like Greg Hughes or Omar Shahine then I'd begin the long descent into expensive photography gear, so I've consciously stayed a "snapshot" photographer, knowing full well that photography - the quest for really good photography - would ultimately consume my life. So, my photos suck and it's ok. I even tried sticking the digital camera into the lens of the binoculars and frankly, it didn't turn out too bad if I do say so myself.

CIMG6638Halfway through we stopped at the very ostentatious Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. If you are looking to spend between US$400 and $US750 a night for a big colonial experience with a private butler, this is the spot. We were not, so we checked out the view and moved on. If you're looking to make two days of it, there are a number of passable inns and hotels in Karatu, a dusty town just 20km outside the park. Suggestion: bring your own treated mosquito nets anyway. It's not worth counting on theirs. The Elbam Annex Inn is a nice and reasonably priced spot. Many of the hotels will overcharge foreigners. Don't be afraid to shop around, but make sure you've left time to do so. We saved money buy packing a lunch ahead of time in Arusha at Shoprite, the Arusha equivalent of Costco. A smidge spendy, but worth it as they have everything you'd want to eat.

CIMG6622

We went with a local Black-owned guide company. They have three cars, and we rented one, a Toyota Land Cruiser, along with a guide. We also brought my sister-in-law's Mitsubishi Pajero. We made sure both SUVs were serviced the day before. Ordinarily you pay the guide a large fee, usually in US dollars, but we negotiated a deal in TSH (Tanzanian Shillings) along with petrol. Basically we filled up both tanks of his giant truck and gave him a flat fee. It worked out OK, but in the future I'd probably check to make sure the guide's car was in a little better shape. We had a flat tire before we even got to the park, plus he didn't have a jack or a lug wrench, so that didn't inspire a great deal of confidence. In the end, though, it was clear the guide knew what he was talking about and it went very smoothly, although we did lose a fuel injector on one of the cars due to dirty petrol, which ultimately reduced the trucks power and made going up hills a problem.

CIMG6595The road from Arusha is tarred, but lousy at best with many potholes. Once you get outside of town about 50km you hang a right and the road suddenly becomes perfectly flat and freshly tarred all the way up to the park entrance. The fees to enter are US$50 for Foreigners and 1500 TSH (about US$1.25) for locals. However, the way it consistently works out (we saw this to be the case in Zimbabwe as well) is that it's 50 bucks for Whites and Indians and local prices for Blacks. Even though we were two trucks with 12 people, 5 Americans (3 white, one black, and the baby), 3 Tanzanians and 4 Zimbabweans, we ended up playing US$ for the whites and everyone else paid local. Apparently this is a known "loophole" and African-Americans on safari can get great prices at local parks and museums if you keep your mouth shut and possibly say a few greetings in kiSwa. Some suspicion was arose on the part of the security guards when the teenage girls started jabbering in English as girls do, and it faded away when we hushed them in Ndebele and told them to switch to kiSwahili. What was going to be a very expensive entrance turned into US$150 and ~30,000TSH including the vehicle fee so that was a pleasant surprise - one my wife, as a Shilling-payer on this expedition, was thrilled with considering her recent Americanization.

Inside the park the roads are all dirt. There are barely roads, actually, but are constantly under construction. They're very very rough and the older people had some back and butt trouble with the six hours of severe jostling. Bring a pillow if you have a sensitive tuckus. The roads are being worked on, often by hand using a shovel, and the rains return and undo the work. These roads shall not be moved. I wouldn't recommend driving yourself, better to go with someone who knows what they are doing. The best time to go into the park is first thing in the morning. We headed out of Arusha at 7am and should have left even earlier, like 4 or 5am, but it's a challenge to get a dozen folks and a baby out on time. :) We saw giraffe, cranes, wildebeast, elands, Thompson gazelle, kudu, baboons, colobus monkeys, zebras, water buck, cape buffalo, and five African elephants. Not bad for a day's wanderings.

CIMG6653On the way out we bought some local art from local artists. Typically the smaller the shop, the better chance you're dealing with the artist, or at least one of his/her relatives. If the place takes credit cards, it's likely a "clearing house" or middle man. We went to a shop run by the uncle of a friend of a friend, so even though we were likely "led" there, we were able to use the local connection to get a bulk rate on five nice original paintings. It's a good idea to have both US dollars and TSH on you, as the question will come up how you're going to pay. Pay in the currency that they prefer and you might get a small break on the total price. Also, do try to speak some Swahili in a respectful way, and hopefully make it all the way through a greeting exchange. Depending on who you're working with, I do distinctly get the impression that they appreciate the effort.

If you stop your car in any towns that are near the lodge (towns that are not near Arusha) you'll need to be very assertive to make your purchases as crowds tend to form if there is a caravan. We bought some bananas (be sure to ask for "sweet bananas" - the little ones - they are great for cereal or a snack, and much better than the crap Chiquita bananas we have in the US) and also some roasted corn of the side of the road. Highly recommended, both.

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