Weekly Wrap 258: Many thoughts, reminiscences, questions

En route from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma: click to embiggen, and for the back storyMy week of Monday 11 to Sunday 17 May 2015 was a strange beast. It followed a most unproductive week, and on the surface it looks equally unproductive. But it wasn’t. It seemed to herald a change. Or something.

I didn’t squeeze any articles out of the word-nozzle, but I did produce a solid podcast, and I did a big, big chunk of work on the SEKRIT project. This pleases me, because the work is both enjoyable and well-paid. I’ll have to find out whether I can tell you anything about it.

In between all that, I’ve been both stressed and in pain. The stress was just the confluence of the many things that need to be changed, from work to accommodation to financial matters to health to some personal issues. The pain was my old neck and shoulder injury flaring up. All these things are being dealt with slowly.

During this time, I’ve been ignoring Twitter. That’s simply part of a “strategy” to reduce the extraneous noise, and giving myself some thinking space. I shall resume Twitter activity on Monday, at the time of the New Moon, 1413 AEST. You have been warned.


  • “The 9pm Inadequate Sense of Occasion”, being The 9pm Edict episode 42. Posted on Wednesday, it contains trains, bombs, terrorism, conspiracies, more bombs, and more trains. Plus Attorney-General the Honourable Senator George “Soapy the Ankle” Brandis QC. It runs for more than an hour.
  • “The 9pm Supplementary Sense of Occasion”, being The 9pm Edict episode 43. Posted on Thursday, it runs for just a little more than three minutes, because it’s mostly just a fix for production errors in the episode proper.




There were actually five editions of 5at5 this week, the proper amount, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. To save me having to tell you this, you could just subscribe.

Media Appearances


Corporate Largesse

  • On Tuesday, I went to a media briefing on research by Telsyte, which was sponsored by Epicor. It was held at Gowings Bar and Grill at the QT Sydney Hotel, and the food and wine was lovely — although I didn’t photograph it this time. Epicor gave us each a rather nice leather compendium, which I’ve passed on to someone with a greater need.

The Week Ahead

On Monday, I’ll be sorting out my writing and media production plan for the next three weeks. It’s also a day of shopping and pain killers.

On Tuesday, it’s a morning of writing, and then the journey to Sydney for some errands, and then a radio spot with Dom Knight on ABC 702 Sydney at 2045 AEST. I’ll probably stay in Sydney overnight because…

On Wednesday, I’ve got meetings at Circular Quay at 1000 and 1130, and then at 1230 it’s a media lunch with Doron Kempel, founder and global CEO of SimpliVity, at a nearby restaurant. He’ll be giving us his worldview on the evolution of this technology stuff. And then I head back to Wentworth Falls.

Thursday is a day of writing, with a break at lunchtime for RSA’s webcast, “Endpoint Malware: Finding the Evil in the Haystack”. Cute title. Friday is a day of writing too. I’m thinking of coming into Sydney on Friday evening to see what goes down at Cryptoparty Sydney. That could be an interesting thing to observe for the next episode of The 9pm Edict, but this will all depend on my levels of pain, fatigue and give-a-fuck.

The weekend will be spent well away from you people.

Further Ahead

There’s a few busy weeks ahead. The first will start off with podcast production. On Tuesday night 26 May I’ll be in Sydney again for a SANS Institute gathering, at which I should be learning about how those evil hacker people exfiltrate data out of the target organisations. And on Wednesday it’s Optus Vision 2015, an event that I always get plenty of value from. The rest of the week will be full of writing.

The following week, on Tuesday 2 June, I’ll be in Sydney yet again for Check Point’s Cyber Security Symposium 2015, and then flying to the Gold Coast for the AusCERT 2015 Information Security Conference, which runs through to Friday 5 June. Then it’s the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, and I haven’t quite decided what happens with that. Whew!

Update 18 May 2015: Edited to reflect changing plans regarding a potential overnight stay in Sydney on Tuesday.

[Photo: En route from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma , photographed at the side of Tanzania’s central highway on 30 June 2009. Click through for the back story.]

Unreliable Tanzania 2: Nets

Photograph of a room at the Zanzibar Beach Resort, showing mosquito nets on the four-poster bed

Everywhere you go in Tanzania, there are nets. Mosquito nets. And not just here at the comfortable Zanzibar Beach Resort, where we stayed one night, but every little accommodation place we saw throughout the country. They’re serious about nets.

To be honest, at first I thought it was a just a bit of Africana for the tourists — hey, a four-poster bed certainly makes you feel like you’re somewhere different, right? But not so.

One morning in Dodoma, the ActionAid Australia campaigner travelling with me, Lena Aahlby, asked whether I’d bothered using the mosquito net. “No,” I said. “It’s dry, there weren’t any mosquitoes around, so I didn’t bother.”

Despite the scary warnings in my little travel medicine book, I hadn’t bothered with insect repellent either.

But our Tanzanian colleague Albert Jimwaga leapt in. “Oh, you’ve got to use the mosquito nets,” he said, a genuinely worried tone in his voice. “It doesn’t matter if you can’t see any mosquitoes, because they only come out late at night. You have to use the nets!”

It turns out this wasn’t just polite concern for his overseas visitors.

In Tanzania and other African nations, the threat from malaria is real.

As Abdul Kajumulo points out, malaria kills more than 100,000 infants annually, and attacks between 16 and 18 million people countrywide each year. That’s around 45% of the population. And that’s despite Tanzania having a decent anti-malaria strategy, apparently.

For my brief stay in country, spending AUD 30 for a month on gut-churning Doxycycline is a viable prevention strategy. But poor rural peasants only earn AUD 120 a year, so many malaria cases go untreated — with an obvious toll on individuals, families and the economy.

And then there’s dengue fever, for which there’s no vaccination and no cure.

I now have real respect for the humble mosquito net. I can see why, when there’s flooding or other cause for human displacement, a truckload of mosquito nets is high on the agenda.

[Disclaimer: Stilgherrian was in Tanzania as a guest of ActionAid Australia. His opinions do not necessarily represent the views of that organisation or its international affiliates.]

Breakfast over Mogadishu: fear at (almost) 36,000 feet

Photograph of a page from Stilgherrian's notebook

Saturday 27 June 2009. This isn’t exactly the world’s newest Boeing 767-300ER, and there’s slightly too much pubic hair in the toilets. Breakfast is being served, and my stupidly-expensive Moleskine notebook is filling up with notes about the Parable of the Quartered Donkey.

That’s quartered as in hanged, drawn and quartered.

I’m the donkey.

The smiling Kenya Airways staff go about their business of bread rolls and bitter coffee en route from Bangkok to Nairobi, where I’ll change for my flight to Dar es Salaam. I wake from a brief period of something vaguely approximating sleep to the realisation that Project TOTO has one significant flaw: multiple goals, with conflicting requirements.

Something deep in my gut says this is going to be a problem.

Flash forward to today. It’s only two weeks since I arrived in Tanzania and a week since I left again, but the world is eager to analyse the project’s “success” or “failure”. We already have Laurel Papworth’s Stilgherrian: Wherefor art thou, bloggers? (which has triggered some excellent discussion) and Fi Bendall’s Sharing the knowledge: How NGOs can benefit from online consumer awareness.

Both articles are well worth reading. Both highlight what I think is a serious problem: short-term thinking.

Continue reading “Breakfast over Mogadishu: fear at (almost) 36,000 feet”

Unreliable Tanzania 1: Fatigue

Passengers walking past a light aircraft to a ZanAir Cessna 404 Titan

I’m back in Sydney. I’m almost caught up on sleep. Almost. It’s time to start writing about my Project TOTO journey to Tanzania for ActionAid Australia.

I’ll split my posts into two streams:

  1. Brief essays like my old Unreliable Bangkok series, which I’ll call Unreliable Tanzania. They’ll be personal reflections about my experiences in Tanzania, observing not just ActionAid’s work but also the people, society and country generally — as well as recording my own state of mind. They’ll be presented in rough chronological order, but will weave together thoughts from throughout the journey — much as I did in The Poverty Web.
  2. There’ll also be posts reflecting on Project TOTO itself. What worked? What didn’t? And, given that ActionAid is already looking for the next outreach blogger, how can we improve things for the next participant and generate more value for ActionAid?

In between, I’ll post my photos on the Project TOTO (ActionAid) Flickr group — but don’t rush there just yet, because currently there’s only photos from the farewell party, and that gives totally the wrong impression.

Now, having explained that framework, this very first Unreliable Tanzania will break the pattern by giving you a quick rundown of my itinerary — because things changed somewhat from the initial plan.

Continue reading “Unreliable Tanzania 1: Fatigue”

Links for 21 June 2009 through 11 July 2009

Stilgherrian’s links for 21 June 2009 through 11 July 2009, posted as an act of desperation:

ActionAid Tanzania blogs online!

Late yesterday afternoon Dar es Salaam time, we finally posted the first posts at the ActionAid Tanzania blog.

It’s been a long journey. On Monday we started with that most basic of questions: “What is a blog?” Then, when we spoke about people adding comments and the comment-moderation process, that inevitably led to further discussions about how the organisation should handle the inevitable problems of abusive commenters, or people who posted material which put the organisation at risk.

We were on the road Tuesday through Friday — and I’ll have plenty to tell you about that in due course — but when we returned to the task on Saturday there were further discussions before the first posts could appear.

How did the fact that two staff members were blogging reconcile with a communications policy that says only the Country Director can speak for the organisation? A disclaimer! What would our first bloggers write about? Introduce themselves! Should we have a formal welcome from the Country Director, given that Tanzania is a more formal country than Australia? Yes!

And there were many questions which regular users of online forums in the West would take for granted. What are “tags”? What’s the difference between “tag” used to describe a folksonomy and a “tag” in HTML? What is HTML anyway? Should I even mention the word “avatar”?

We never did get time to set up RSS readers. I’ll handle that via email. Small steps, and focus on what’s needed immediately.

Explaining social media from the very beginning to intelligent and well-educated people who had not yet encountered it was a brilliant learning experience for me too. I will have more to say.

Meanwhile, please enjoy the introductions from Country Director Rose Mushi, Abdul Kajumulo and Albert Jimwaga. I know they’d appreciate your comments and questions.