Today's YouTube Search: "tahrir Jazeera"


Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Hanukkah! (Afghanistan Edition)

Gee, I hope I spelled that right. Yesterday, I attended my first Hanukkah service, which was led by a very nice man, Jeff. There were two Mormons, a single Jew conducting the service, an agnostic (uh, that would be me), a Catholic, and an Air Force guy. We're tight.
We met in the "library" where I work in Afghanistan, and Jeff told us the story of the last Jew in the country. No kidding. There were two, and they didn't get along, so one left. Apparently a well-received play was written about it.
Then he told us the old story about "three jews, two synagogues", and relayed the description his children provided about Jewish Holidays. They wearily explain that on Jewish Holidays, "we gather to recall one of the times when we were almost wiped out, but then somehow, we weren't. Let's eat."
He read verses in Hebrew and in English, explaining bits of Hebrew along the way, and adding bits of information about Judaism and traditions old and new. Jeff also provided dredels for our, uh, education. We didn't have any candy there, and soon the thing degenerated into various competitions in spinning the things. We learned the meanings of the words represented by the Hebrew letters on the side, and the difference between what one might call in-country dredels and dredels abroad.
We stayed for some time to observe the burning of the candles, and learned how each candle has a chance to be the first lit. We debated whether spinning dredels pink-slip-wise ("Nun! You lose, hand over the dredel.") constituted gambling, and decided that at any rate, we should behave ourselves.
Finally, somebody blew out the candles which Jeff, of course, did not see, and we agreed that we should all do this again next year. Then it was pointed out that if we were all still together by this time next year, then we would really have been ill-treated, and would probably be at each other's throats. Of course, it just so happens that Jeff would be lighting candles again the very next day--I worked late and missed out not only on the second night of Hanukkah, but on my beloved Quiz-Waffles, about which I shall write sometime soon. I don't know if anybody went this evening, but I'll stop by tomorrow and enjoy some very good company.

From Afghanistan,
Happy Hanukkah!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Morning in Afghanistan

December seventh, two thousand eight. The year draws to a close, and winter makes its approach. Somehow, I have reduced this stunning crisp morning to an overblue picture of some well-focused gravel. The mountains here remind me of my hometown. I am settling into my new surroundings.

I am writing this on my laptop, which is connected through my cell phone to AWCC (Afghan Wireless), the cell service provider of choice for people who need to get online here in Northern Afghanistan. I brought my HP 2133 (the tiny one) out here nearly two months ago, and this is the first chance I have had to really sit down and type out a nice post.

I hope you don't mind if I ramble a bit about things which are getting better. It's the manifest purpose of this blog anyway, but today, technology has my attention. I have figured out how to get my recently-purchased Nokia N72 (Nokia's page)online, and how to connect my laptop and took this picture with it. I love this phone. I'm going to get a more expensive version, perhaps and take it back to Japan when I go home. I'll show you the miserable phone I picked up in Kabul another time. Even with the IMEI, I cannot figure out what it is. "Feton Fuji T710", anyone? This piece of junk was supposed to be my on-ramp tothe internet, but turned out to be a cul-de-sac. With an ambush in it. Still, if you do figure it out, please leave a comment. I'd hate to think I wasted two hundred smartphone dollars for a twelve dollar dumbphone with the wrong firmware or a busted USB receptacle.

More N95 8GB goodness.I'm new to the club, and I am just blown away by Nokia, Symbian and S60, which is the OS shell running on this Nokia phone. Google has an impressive spread of web services just for little mobile devices such as mine, and the software is (so far) flawless on this my phone. Would you believe that I can watch youtube videos, explore Google Maps, check all of my e-mail accounts and post the picture above to this blog--all from a phone?

I have been trying to get back online since Windows Vista absolutely collapsed on the very day I left the U.S to come to Afghanistan. That's right--I was blasted off the web by the Menace from Redmond. On the way out here, we don't go through places where you can shop, and we don't stay anywhere long enough to order anything. It's my second Vista collapse, and my last. I confess that I am using an earlier version of windows right now, because I had to wipe out my Ubuntu (after DSL wouldn't quite stand up on this non-standard machine) in order to weed out the last remnants of Vista corrupting my hard disk.

If I knew more about what I was doing, I would probably not have to do things like that, but I'm working with limited knowledge, limited resources, limited connectivity, and limited time. I'm a project manager out here, and no matter what, the Vista collapse does not get to dictate resources. It's mighty difficult to get different distributions of Linux to drive the hardware on an oddball laptop when you have no way to update the packages. So it has been some tough sledding.

Sure enough, a fellow leaving this place had heard that I needed a phone which would support both a connection to AWCC and a connection to my laptop. You can see where this is going. One hundred seventy five dollars later, I was the proud but broke owner of his, er, my N72. The money truck will be here sometime in the future, so being out of pocket cash doesn't bother me. At any rate, I have money to spend online, now that I can get online. Color me happy, not blue like the picture above.

But it was an awesome sunrise.