On travel, of which I do a lot
Gunfire is pretty common here, perhaps even more common than in Oakland though usually for the same reasons: celebrating holidays, sports victories, weddings, that sort of stuff. It is kind of fun to listen to and watch tracers and stuff, but usually the villa is also celebrating in an obvious way; when you hear gunfire you also hear cheers, at least at night.
This evening the house was quiet, but the gunfire sure wasn’t. The guys tell me it was a tribal feud in the neighborhood, quite close from the sound of it. This is a low-fi recording from my phone.
Plugging things in here is always an adventure. Most of the outlets are the horrible giant British style so they have interlocked grounds, but most appliances are European style, so plugging things in means either using something to jam open the ground interlock, breaking the interlock tabs with force, or dispensing with the plug entirely and just stuffing bare wires in the holes.
When using the latter method, it turns out the British plugs are actually kind of useful because toggling the ground tab with a screwdriver uses the interlocks to bind the wires in place. You just hope the ground pin is wired to ground, not hot. Usually it just isn’t wired to anything.
Most appliances and power strips here come from China and are the sort of manufacture China was famous in the US for about 30 years ago: taking something out of the package usually breaks it. The wires inside are so thin it is amazing they survive and grounds are never, ever actually connected. I have cables that on the inside have a ground insulator but no ground conductor inside the insulator. Awesome!
But we just rewired the new villa and even though the ground isn’t wired (of course), the outlets are new and seem like they’re decent quality. And we even got British style plugs to dispense with the highly problematic and very melt-prone plug adapters. All seemed good until….
Uh oh. Maybe it just needed to create a little vent….
Nope. Melt down. Good thing these have a built-in fuse… (which is still fine, though encrusted in melted plastic).
A few years back, when I was in 3rd or 4th Grade, my brother and I went to visit David and Jesse Lenat at their Cactus Farm. While we were exploring the green houses, their dad, Richard, gave us each a cactus to take home.
Mine lived in a small pot near the window through the rest of grade school and high school and then my mom cared for it through college. It grew into a little cluster of pencil thin green, spiky pads over the years.
After I graduated, moved to California, and got an apartment in SF; I was home for Christmas one year and took one of the pads wrapped in tissue to California. It grew well there and now produces big, bright yellow flowers every year.
This Christmas, I stuffed two tiny buds into glass bottles and brought them to Iraq and planted in the yard with one of the cat’s help (paw in the background).
A day spent out reviewing alternate sites where unexpected underground obstructions impact construction means a chance to make new friends.
These days the attention we attract is welcome and fun.
I’m not sure who decides what apps are blocked on a country by country basis, but an awful lot of apps are blocked in Iraq and it seems like more and more.
OTT apps like Whatsapp and Viber sort of make sense. These apps are at war with the carriers, who claim the app is making money somehow on the backs of the carriers*, and they seem to be largely blocked from install in Iraq. One would imagine that was Asiacell’s doing, but I changed SIMs and that didn’t help.
But then I noticed that weird apps like Angry Birds are not allowed in Iraq—apps that makes no sense for a carrier to block. The advertising model actually works and ad-supported apps show (some) relevant, regional ads, as they should, in theory generating at least some revenue for the developers. Part of the problem may be that there’s no way for in-app payments to be processed out of Iraq and therefore developers of even “freemium” apps may choose to block their apps in the country reasoning that if they can’t make money, why let people use the app?
If so, it seems short sighted: ultimately payment processing will be worked out and even if it isn’t, Iraqis are allowed to travel to countries where in-app payments do work. Establishing a beachhead in the market, even without revenue seems prudent. Blocking users who represent neither revenue nor cost seems arbitrarily punitive.
* The carrier’s business should be to transport bits agnostically. They have no business caring what we do with our bits; no bit costs more than any other bit to carry. If they can’t figure out how to make money carrying bits, they have no business being in the bit carrying business. When they whine about a business like WhatsApp or Viber or Free Conference Call or Skype or Google hurting their profits what they really mean is that these new businesses have obviated a parasitic business that was profitable due to a de facto monopoly over what people could do with their bit carrying business.
I got through immigration in record time, no complications at all. Only a few questions about the power supply in my luggage at customs.
I thought I would get a cup of coffee from the stand an acquaintance operates at the airport, but I arrived as they were having breakfast. As this is Iraq, that meant I had to join them for a jovial breakfast of eggs, fresh tomato, cucumber, potatoes, and meat pastries while they told me funny stories about each other in a mixture of Arabic, English, and Spanish. They would not let me pay anything, a really pleasant and friendly welcome into the country.
But I couldn’t stay long, I had to take a taxi out to meet my friends at the arrivals lot, where the in car is a B6 Land Cruiser.
The desert just north of Basra is beautifully empty.
Dubai is an interesting contrast to Iraq. The first time I went through DXB from BSR it was more than a little culture shock. Getting out of the airport only amplifies the experience.
Jared and I had dinner at the Mall of Dubai and before eating had a little walk around the fountains – the largest dancing fountains in the world at the foot of the tallest man-made structure in the world.
Dubai is an good place to spot cars. Obviously the gold accented rolls is more pose-worthy than the $450k GTO. Then again they were probably posing with the license plate number which I think was 1, and therefore cost as much as 20 Ferrari GTOs.