Archive for November, 2004


After a very long night followed by an even longer day, I am completely without sleep. The latest edition of Nouakchott Notes is done. Unfortunately, sometimes the holy grail of Peace Corps privacy information, site assignments, are mentioned therein, and so I can’t put them on the web.

I did excerpt and HTMLize a bit of it though to give you a sample: the horoscopes. We’ve got serious stuff too. I think I could do the Tunisia travel article without giving terrorists any clues as to how to find and kill volunteers. That would be doubly good, since I’m trying to get my mom to go there with me in May.

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Polio Campaign

I was occupied with classes and didn’t take part in Unicef‘s recent polio campaign. mattbritton though did and his account I found quite entertaining.

He is also responsible for posting the most horrible thing I can imagine seeing. This isn’t my usual hyperbole. He is a health volunteer and works in a third world health clinic. So, only look if you feel like getting your stomach turned. I’m trying to imagine if my life was about dealing with death instead of fixing computers. I’d certainly leave this country changed in a different way.

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This is just a random note if any of those of you who read this are geeky types. Really geeky types…

The issue is if you are the sort who would ever download and run software off the internet. Now, I am certainly not, I just pop off to my local EB and buy whatever I need. It is a four hour long plane flight, but it gives me the solace of knowing all my software is legal.

I have this friend though and much as I have tried to correct his wayward ways he continues to use those evil P2P filesharing programs. He has been having trouble with stuff he downloaded though and I decided to help him even though it would taint my soul.

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Bad Days

I generally am a cheerful person. Well, perhaps not cheerful, content at least. I generally like my life and the things I do with it. I’ve heard of “bad days” where you are in a funk and just generally feel unhappy. I’m having something like one of those. Rather than feeling unhappy though I am just getting really irritated at the stupidity of everyone around me. Granted, this is a special sense of “stupidity,” meaning “not thinking like I think they should,” but that’s pretty much the same thing.

I think me having left work at almost midnight and not having gotten to sleep until 1:30 only to be woken up at 8am to have French crammed in my head didn’t help put my in an especially accommodating mood.

There’s just so much going on right now. So many people have projects going on and want my help. There is a shortage of tech people here and definitely a shortage of people willing to work. So I always seem to be behind on work for someone. I think I can hold out for another week or so and try and get some stuff wrapped up, then I’m sneaking off for a break. Classes are started though and that’s good.

I’ve also probably been infected by Something Positive which I discovered and read about a year’s worth of yesterday while waiting on the ghosting process. Entertaining it is; chipper it is not.


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Well, I had my first real night of teaching tonight.

French freakin’ sucks.

Any of you who have ever spoken to me might have noticed I have a certain tendency toward distraction. Some people have minds like bookshelves. There ideas are sorted in convenient little boxes that they can take down, open and work with. I’ve got bookshelves except they’ve been turned over, all the books dumped on the floor and then gone over with a roto-tiller. The process for me is more so collecting a handful of pages off the floor and trying to compose coherent thought.

Normally I manage to keep things reasonably contained when I’m teaching. I wander on tangents a bit, but I try to keep them really close to the subject matter and only bring in things that will help concrete the subject matter to the existing experience of the students.

It turns out that I only have sufficient brain power to either control my wandering of to speak French, but not both simultaneously. So long as I don’t think about the French I am fine and I can teach. Every so often though I would run up against a word I didn’t know and my framework of ideas would completely crumble.

The worst was as I was explaining the conversion between decimal and binary. French numbers are wretched creatures born out of some masochists demented mind. Four is “quatre.” Forty is “quarante.” Five is “cinq.” Fifty is “cinquante.” What do you think eighty is? Eight is “huit.” Think it might be “huitante?” You would if you were not whatever inebriated Frenchman came up with their numbers, because it is “quatre-vingts” (“four twenties”). Real fun is stuff like ninety-nine (which happens to have been in one of the examples I had to do) “quatre-vingts-dix-neuf” (“four twenties ten nine”).

In this one Moussa had to come in and just take over since I was spending so much time mangling the numbers it was completely obscuring the idea I was trying to impart.

All in all I think teaching with Moussa will work out reasonably well. He knows his stuff well enough. He lacks a certain forcefulness that one must have in order to teach though. I went out of the room for a bit to print something off and when I came back it looked sort of like he was teaching except no one was looking at him. Everyone was turned around looking at their monitors. His volume and tone were about what one would use in conversation.

I listened to him for a bit and let him finish. All he had really done was tell them to read their materials. So, I went in and covered the same stuff but made them run programs and whatnot. Moussa seemed cool going around and explaining things, just not being the leader. I talked to him later and he seemed fine with how everything went down. Granted I still am a little rusty on the cultural customs and he could be plotting my death, but I think he is genuinely more comfortable assisting than leading.

This is a good combo since I generally like leading and running a class. The only problem is that I’ve got to freakin’ do it in French which renders me a step up from gibbering moron. Eh, ?a va. It’s going to be an interesting semester.


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If you are using a good browser you can look at my project du jour. It doesn’t look like much, but look at the hundreds of lines of code. I need a hobby or a woman who doesn’t live 12 hours away.

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I spent the night in my new bed last night. It was quite nice. It doesn’t have springs or anything, it is more like a futon mattress. It is a decided step up from the pieces of foam rubber I’ve been sleeping on for the last year.

Yesterday one of the British volunteers came by and dropped some clothes off that my roommate said he could have washed. He started but didn’t finish and left saying that he was told the guardian would finish the work. I went out last night and didn’t get around to talking to the guardian, so it wasn’t until this morning that I discovered that he and I share an unfortunate characteristic: neither one of us can speak French.

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After an enjoyable evening of drunken birthday pool I was not especially quick to haul my butt out of bad this morning. I finally managed to make it conscious around noon and put in a couple hours trying to configure a mail relay at ISET where I did a domain controller earlier in the week. After all this strenuous intellectual work I switched gears to some manual and moved most of my stuff into the house where I’m staying for a while. The place is really nice. It has a stove and a refrigerator and a hot water heater and a tv. This is a big step up for me since before I had only a mostly broken water heater.

The girl who owns the house is off to Dakar already. I had barely enough time to see her and get the keys before she was out the door. So the place is mine for a while. Well, mine and her cats’…

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Bon Aniversaire

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me. Happy birthday dear me, happy birthday to me.

26 years… Damn that’s a lot of years…

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