On places and other literal geography
I was feeling a little left out, reading posts by people digging out of snow storms and here I am in Basra where it gets down to 10C at night sometimes and usually hits the mid 20’s during the day. Rough. But the weather here came through with our own sort of snow storm.
Starting to look like a brown-out!
Obligatory shot of the yard furniture getting covered.
Kitty’s head is starting to show some accumulation.
With all this blowing through you can barely see a few hundred meters!
It’s really starting to accumulate. Where’s the snow blower?
It takes some special cleaning after playing out in it.
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.
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.
Google drove past our little village in Italy and caught themselves in the turning mirror just about perfectly.
The coverage they have is getting pretty impressive.