Friday, November 30, 2007

Buddhas of Bamiyan

Buddhas of Bamiyan
Originally uploaded by gaikokujinkyofusho

I was in the Bamiyan province again recently and stayed overnight in Bamiyan city so I went to see the buddhas again. This picture is just a distance panoramic showing the mountain they are (were?) carved into and both of the statue remains (far left and far right).

Panoramic of Kabul

Panoramic of Kabul
Originally uploaded by gaikokujinkyofusho

This is hands down the largest panoramic photo I have ever taken, it consists of over 60 separate photos stitched together (ok, so I have seen gigapixel panos but for me this is big) and the original .psb file was over 600megs, my little laptop just about choked on it. To get under the flickr 10meg requirement I shrank the photo to about 1/3rd of its original size (the original is a bit over 50,000 pixels wide), converted it to jpeg, and used a quality setting of ~70… whew. But hey, I got just about exactly what I wanted, the mountains with the homes built on them. In Kabul what I think of the most is these homes that are built on the sides of the mountains, apparently where Kabul’s poorer citizens live. I had tried to take a photo to capture what I see before but it just didn’t turn out the way I wanted so I had some Afghan’s in my organization ask the construction crew working on a 5 story tall building not far from my office and they said sure so I went armed with my dinky little SD700 IS cannon camera a tripod and spent like 10 minutes taking pictures for this panoramic.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Car hits person...

I was on my way to the hospital to try and get some meds for a bad cough I have and not 5 minutes after we pulled out of the driveway we hit a person.


I am still getting over this incident, I wasn’t driving (between the insane drivers and the insane pedestrians you couldn’t pay me to drive in this town) but I still remember it in slow motion starting with the driver slamming on the brakes and honking. A young guy was crossing the road and was standing in the middle waiting for a chance to go across I guess but all I remember was hearing the brakes and seeing us careening towards him, he smacking our windshield, and then his being thrown down onto the pavement. This is a first for me, and in truth I don’t feel as bothered by it as I think I should be (certain dehumanizing aspect of humanitarian work are troubling at best).


I have to admit though that the heartening part was how our driver ran out of the car, scooped the guy up, a witness jumped into the car with us and we raced to the hospital but the irony was that the person who could have easily drove off (my driver) was the one with a lot to loose (another person with my organization was jailed for hitting a pedestrian just recently) was the one who risked quite a bit, we raced to the hospital and the doctors actually made the guy wait and made my driver go get a ticket then they spent all of 5 minutes looking over him and then said he was “hoobas” (fine/good) no x-rays, not checking for internal bleeding etc just hoobas; I was miffed and ready to shell out the money if anyone asked “who will pay” (or more likely to pay a bribe to expedite the process)  but honestly everyone seemed satisfied with the diagnosis including the victim.


The victim wasn’t mad, yelling or anything (though he could very well have at least been partially at fault but in Afghanistan that is a moot point, the driver is always at fault and the victims can quite often make quite a bit off the drivers in bribes). We then went by a pharmacy and my driver dropped me off and then took the guy home…


It’s still rather surreal.




Monday, November 26, 2007

The eeepc as a portable server?

I have been trying to follow uber cheap laptops for awhile  mainly because I want a server and I am abroad alot, I’ve been following a bunch of them but it has pretty much come down to the EEEPC and the OLPC


My needs for a server are kinda minimal, I guess because assuming it has enough USB ports I can plug in most of the extra functionality I need.


My criteria are as follows:


  1. Extra Small (can pack up and be take to the next place without needing to rent a shipping container)
  2. WiFi enabled (preferably Wireless N)
  3. Minimum of two USB ports, four would be better (of course this could be remedied with a USB dongle but I hate those things)
  4. Low power usage / Long battery life
  5. Cheap
  6. Doesn’t have too much funky hardware (i.e. can install Linux on it ok)
  7. And a few other things I can’t think of now


It seems like the EEEPC would probably be the best choice in this situation while the OLPC would be better for individual users/schools as a primary laptop. I would be interested in seeing if the EEEPC could be saddled with a larger/cheaper non-solid-state hard drive but that is not critical.


The things I would use my server for are:


  1. Printing from other gizmos
  2. Scanning (I hate connecting/disconnecting stuff from my primary notebook when I want to carry it around so the less stuff the better)
  3. Super customizable firewall
  4. Always on VoIP &/or Asterisk/PBX
  5. Network handling (that is, give my primary computer & VoIP priority over everything else, QoS/balancing)
  6. Running long processes (like panoramic stitching, video rendering etc [yes, on the EEEPC I would be *really* slow but I don’t care so long as my primary device isn’t slowed down])
  7. P2P downloading (so I can have emule and bittorrent running on it instead of my primary computer)
  8. File server (not sure about this one, I’ve been drooling over the thought of getting the D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay NAS and loading it up with two terabyte drives)
  9. DVR (I haven’t investigated this too much yet but I am positive there is some USB gizmo that would allow me to connect to a satellite or cable box)


Yeah, that’s about it for now. I am betting some people would say “just get an old desktop” and indeed I know rich expats who toss most of their stuff



Thursday, November 01, 2007

Medical Care and Knowledge in Afghanistan

It is amazing how far a little education can go. I work for an NGO in Afghanistan and most of our staff is Afghan with varying degrees of education (mostly just high school graduates, which in Afghanistan is better than average). Our janitor Sayed is fairly typical, very nice to me and most of the staff, hates cats (drowns them), and doesn’t let his daughter go to school… and almost no education. For some reason, in my whole organization, there is no first aid kits so my personal kits has been used for everyone except me (ok, not true, for 2 staff and one day worker). One day Sayed was limping around and I asked why (he speaks no english and I barely speak Dari) and he pointed to a festering cut on his foot that he had wrapped up with a dirty rag. I sighed, fetched my first aid kit cleaned the wound, gave him some antibacterial ointment and some sterile gauze and got our translator to help. Turns out the doctor had said putting a rag on it and washing it (with water) would suffice, it hadn’t.


Well a few weeks later he came with his son whose sibling had apparently taken a large swath of skin off his heel (with a stone or something) so I busted out my med kits again and went through the paces (this time it hadn’t been long enough to get infected). I actually had run out of some things and sent my translator to go to a pharmacy to get supplies (I had used up all the antibacterial ointment on the father, guard, and a guy installing a generator). Amazingly enough, the pharmacy didn’t have any hydrogen peroxide and no medical tape, but what they did have was some of the hardest/scratchiest bandages I have ever seen/felt so I made do with those. I also had to tell the father to use boiled hot water (not straight from the well) with soap, then wash the wound, then put bandages on it and I had to re-stress that no dirt can get on the wound… and he took it all in saying it sounded like good advice (advice he hadn’t heard before).