Archive for June, 2006

So, can I get a way to speak English normally?


I’ve noticed a couple of nefarious Americanisms taking hold in everyday speech amongst Brits at the moment.
One is the urge to begin each sentence or paragraph with ‘so’ – as in, ‘so I was talking to such and such today’, or ‘so we were driving down the road’.
The other, which I really don’t like, is to use ‘can I get’ instead of ‘may I have’ or ‘I would like’. ‘Can I get a hamburger with fries?’. No you can’t, until you ask politely.
I have nothing against Americans using these forms of speech – they are, after all, American. It just sounds odd hearing Brits use them. I expect British pensioners feel the same way when I use words like ‘guy’ or ‘kids’. Such is language.
Considering the amount of American English the average Brit watches, I suppose it’s surprising we don’t already sound a lot more similar to eachother.

UN runabout


Here’s a standard runabout for the UN in Addis.

I suppose it’s cheaper to have a fleet of vehicles that can go anywhere, rather than maintain a more diverse fleet, but it seemed to me that a lot of money gets spent on vehicles that drive around town a lot of the time.
Why don’t Land Rover appear to feature at all? I suspect that the Defender’s simply too uncomfortable for most people’s taste. The Discovery and the Range Rover are obviously not suitable as heavy-duty working vehicles, so the Toyota Land Cruiser’s mix of comfort and offroad capability are the perfect choice. All of which begs the question – why don’t Land Rover apparently build something that customers like the UN want? How can Land Rover, with the history, knowledge, experience and captive market they possessed, apparently lose it all so thoroughly througout Africa and the rest of the world?
The average age of the Land Rovers I saw on my recent trip to East Africa was about 35 years, still going strong, but anything newer than that was Japanese.

Africa mini-van culture


Mini vans, usually made by Toyota or Nissan, keep Africa moving. I think some are privately run, others are actually state provided public transport.
As I always enjoy seeing the decorations you see on taxis around the world, I took an interest on my last trip in the weird stickers the drivers put on their vehicles, often on the back windows, obscuring the view.
Unfortunately these pictures don’t have some of the wilder stickers I saw, but they give an idea of what you can see.
This one, which I think is a public bus service in Nairobi, has ‘Blunt’ stuck on the back windscreen.

I don’t think this one was an official school bus…

Old Trafford, just next to an ad for the English premiere league.

The only Land Rovers I saw in Nairobi were ancient models still being used as breakdown trucks.

In Kigali. I’m fine, thanks.

In Addis Ababa they take a normal pick up truck and add a seating area on top.

There was no danger of getting caught short in this Ethiopian taxi.

Mixed mobile pics


I finally got around to transferring some of the photos from my mobile to laptop and up to the blog…
People driving badly on my route home. Rather than wait in lane, apparently it makes more sense to drive down the hard shoulder, cut into the on ramp on the right and cause a jam futher up – if you don’t smash into someone whilst you lurch to the right first, that is.

This cat was strolling through immigration during a recent trip. He didn’t appear to need a visa to wander in and none of the security staff paid any attention to him.

Ethiopian time can run in 12 hour chunks, from morning till night and night till morning. So this, restaurant is opening at 1.30, or an hour and a half after dusk.

Having a Jeep can be useful when trying to find a parking space in Dubai.

New menu terror


Every time a waiter hands me a newly printed menu in Dubai, my heart sinks – prices will have gone up.
At a local Indian restaurant in Satwa, well known for being great value, the new menu informed me that drinks had gone up 25%. It’s still good value, but there’s less incentive to go there now.

Sorry habibi, someone’s sitting there


Really annoying incident last night whilst watching football at a local pub.
I can understand reserving a couple of seats for your friends before a game starts, but is it really ok for two people to hold six of the pub’s best seats for friends who arrive over forty minutes after a match has started? I don’t think it is.
We sat in the empty seats and didn’t move when said latecomers bothered to turn up, my point being that we were at a pub, not a theatre. If these guys had turned up at the beginning of the match, fair enough, but time had moved on. Cue lots of waving of bottles in my face, screaming about this being Dubai and not England, that their father had worked here for many years and other odd justifications. There were invitations to settle the incident using alternative means, outside, which I declined. I suggested we let the bouncer adjuticate, which didn’t go down well with our seat reservers.
The bouncer was fetched – and he ruled against me. I was surprised at this, but agreed to move. Cue lots of blowing of smoke in our faces, more waving bottles in my face, etc.

If people spoke the same way in real life as they do on CSI…


I love the explanatory style of dialogue used in CSI. Imagine if people spoke like that in real life?
Doctor performing autopsy: Hmm, this corpse has a high blood alcohol level.
Mortuary attendant: Very interesting. In general usage, alcohol (from Arabic al-kuḥūl: الكحول) refers almost always to ethanol, also known as grain alcohol, a colorless, volatile liquid with a strong smell formed by the fermentation of sugars. It also often refers to any beverage that contains ethanol. This sense underlies the term alcoholism (addiction to alcohol). As a drug, ethanol is known to have a depressing effect that decreases the responses of the central nervous system. Other forms of alcohol are usually described with a clarifying adjective, as in isopropyl alcohol or by the suffix -ol, as in isopropanol.
Doctor: Erm, yes, I’m well aware of what alcohol is – I’d hardly be a doctor if I didn’t, would I? Now, let’s examine the lungs.
Mortuary Attendant: I presume you mean the essential organ of respiration in air-breathing vertebrates. Its principal function is to transport oxygen from the atmosphere into the bloodstream, and to excrete carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the atmosphere. This it accomplishes with the mosaic of specialized cells that form millions of tiny, exceptionally thin-walled air sacs where gas exchange takes place. Lungs also have nonrespiratory functions.
Doctor: Attendant, you’re beginning to get on my nerves. Let’s examine this male corpse’s reproductive organ, the vulgar slang name for which is commonly employed when describing annoying colleagues…

Linux install irritations ended


My mission to rebuild my laptop without destroying the existing Windows paritions failed when Ubuntu corrupted the partition table during another attempt to get it installed with Grub working.
Never mind – I took the opportunity to start from scratch. I now have a nicely repartitioned drive with Windows XP, a shared fat drive, Ubuntu Dapper Drake and Solaris 10. Lovely.
The install steps I took were as follows –
* Restore Windows XP from my Toshiba restore CD.
* Boot Ubuntu Desktop CD and repartition drives, resizing the Windows C drive and D drives, creating an extended partition with Linux root and Linux swap and leaving some space left for Solaris to install itself in.
* Install Ubuntu, check things are happily multi-booting.
* Install Solaris 10. This install set Solaris’ Grub up as the bootloader and I couldn’t work out how to boot Ubuntu properly.
* Booted from the Ubuntu install cd into the ‘live cd’ state and used update-grub to reinstall Grub with Ubuntu’s settings. Added a line to Ubuntu’s Grub menu.lst for Solaris (I’ll post this here later).
* When I boot now I get a Grub menu. I can choose to boot straight into Ubuntu or Windows XP. If I choose Solaris I go to Solaris’ Grub menu and then boot into Solaris from there.
VMware Workstation 5.5 is needed to work with Linux 2.6 kernels. Fortunately it’s a free upgrade if you have a 5.0 licence, so I’m now happily up and running and testing some stuff that Sun Ray fans will be pleased to hear about.

Linux install irritations


Am getting fed up whilst rebuilding my laptop.
Previously I had Windows XP, JDS 3 beta and an old version of Solaris Express. I decided to get a newer Linux on there and go with the current version of Solaris 10.
Fedora Core 5’s networking didn’t work properly, plus Sun seem to be working closely with Ubuntu currently, so Fedora was dumped and Ubuntu installed. Ubuntu requires the ‘alternate cd’ if you want to install it on an extended partition, which I did. Lilo is then installed as the bootloader however, with no option to use Grub. I don’t have any preference over one or the other, but Lilo gives a strange error when I try to edit it to allow my Solaris partition to boot.
This is annoying – I want to be able to boot Windows, Linux or Solaris via a nice menu at boot time. Instead I’m stuck with something I can’t seem to change. On the bright side, Ubuntu looks great, wireless worked perfectly out of the box and VMware is happily installed.
Ironic that Solaris installed perfectly first time and that after installing frkit I was happily up and running. Linux has taken a lot more fiddling with.

Powergen quit Indian call centre


I read today that UK company Powergen have left their Indian call centre. I wonder if they read my post on the subject from last year?