Tuesday, April 30, 2013

tuesdays in turkmenistan: VPN

And I'm back and in Turkmenistan brought to you courtesy of the magic of VPN. However, I'm still at a total loss for writing topics. Fortunately, my good friend went on a bit of a horse riding adventure and took quite a tumble two days ago. Unsurprisingly, no one here has heard about the spontaneous dismount from the noble steed.

The censorship here is a peculiar thing. They block entire domains at a time, but not necessarily the mobile app versions of those same services. For instance, while Blogger on the web is normally blocked, the Blogger app works. Same goes for Twitter where the app works (but will not load pictures), but the website is blocked. There are some apps that are blocked, though only ones that can be used for chatting or have a heavy chatting component are blocked. It is a continuously evolving process. Program you use to chat with friends is blocked? Everyone migrates to something else until the censors catch on and block it as well. And repeat.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

a post (sort of) about nothing in particular

I have been a largely absentee blogger. Aside from these two falsely-dated “tuesdays (not) in turkmenistan” posts, not much has crossed here in the past few months. This has largely been a practical problem. Due to some changes at work, many websites are now censored by the local telecom. This includes the blogger.com domain where this is hosted. Amusingly enough, I can access blogger through my Android app, but by interest in posted through my thumbs is quite limited. However, there are ways around this practical problem, mostly involving VPNs and other TLAs (three letter acronyms) that I do not fully understand. The other part of the problem has been one of energy and motivation. With enough interest, I am sure I could be posting from work. However, I have clearly not been doing so since I have not had the interest. Nothing new under the sun to write about? Perhaps. Spending my free time in other ways? Perhaps. Simply tired of blogging? Much more likely. Will this upcoming rotation see renewed blogging vigor? Meh. It’s nearly midnight here and I need to go board soon.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I am posting this from the Istanbul international lounge. Very nice. Very, very nice. Frankfurt should take some lessons from this place. And SFO should hang its head in deep, deep shame since its lounge is a horrid joke.

Monday, April 22, 2013

tuesdays not in turkmenistan: turkey edition

Akin to my last post, this is not actually Tuesday, but that’s what I’m going to say it is.

I have been in Turkey. After my course in Dubai ended (see last post for marginally more info about why I was in Dubai), I headed to Turkey. I spent a mix of time in Istanbul and time outside of Istanbul in the central Anatolia part of the country. This is a nice place. For sure I saw and did “touristy” things since, well, I am a tourist. These have been my days off (with the usual about of work via e-mail that goes with all my days off) and I can do as I please. Istanbul, at least the big sights like the Hagia Sophia, are certainly very tourist heavy. However, it was nice to see many locals (at least Turkish people) visiting many of the same historic sites. It is good to see that people here are also interested in their nation’s heritage. This does not even count the endless local school groups touring the sites. My goodness, short little people following the buddy system everywhere. And retired Germans. They were also everywhere.

Turkey is a nice place. I expect I will come back here one day. Perhaps not soon as there are so many other places to visit, but these unspent Lira should be used one day. Much like the U.S., there is simply too much to see here in a week. Lots of diversity, geographic regions, and history. The food’s pretty good as well, though I will simply never be a fan of lamb. It tastes too much like lamb.

Monday, April 15, 2013

tuesdays not in turkmenistan: dubai edition

This post is a lie, sort of. It’s not actually Tuesday, April 16. In fact, it’s more than 10 days later. However, I have been busy and my time has been better spent pursuing other endeavors of which will largely not be discussed here. Despite this, the contents of this post are quite true. And be true, I mean filled with conjecture, opinion, and hearsay.

I was not in Dubai long. All told, it was less than 80 hours on the ground there. And I did not see all that much of the place either. However, it essentially conformed to what I expected. Perhaps I only saw what I wished to see and my assessment will simply reflect all my preconceived notions, most of which were negative. My preconceived notions about Dubai were that it is basically Las Vegas without the gambling and strip clubs (but it does have hookers [or whatever term you wish to use]). Sand? Check. Hot? Check. Lots of shopping? Check. Lots of restaurants? Check. People from all over the world working there? Check. Interesting architecture? Check. Wide roads but oddly bad traffic? Check. No soul? Check. That’s basically what I saw. Perhaps there is a vibrant local culture where all the locals are contributing to fantastic advancements in the arts and sciences. However, I could not help but notice the city was powered by expatriate labor. (Perhaps this is an ironic comment from someone who has worked as an expat for the last four years, but at least everywhere I go our workforce is overwhelmingly local in content.) As I noted earlier, I did not see much, but what I saw was this. Locals were working government jobs. Things like immigration officers and police. But nearly everyone else was an expat. Every taxi cab I was in was driven by a foreigner (though that would arguably be true in much of the world), the hotel staff was an interesting mix of more non-locals, and the restaurant we had the course dinner at was staffed by additional foreigners.

A side note for now. I was in Dubai for a training course for work. Hence my presence there in the first place and why there was a “course dinner” when we all went out as a group and had dinner together. Ironically enough, in true Las Vegas fashion, we went to a buffet. And it was not even a very good buffet. I would say it was distinctly worse than any decent Vegas buffet I have ever been too. To further add to the Vegas comparison, the buffet was at a big hotel and resort. A few guys in the course who had been there before basically compared it to Disneyland. You can even swim with dolphins at the resort part. I can only assume they are chronically depressed dolphins.

Back to all the foreigners at the hotel. We stayed in a nice business hotel and also had the training course in one of their seminar rooms. The coordinate that our instructor interacted with was either from the U.K., Australia, or South Africa. I realize that it is terrible I could not distinguish her accent, but I only her heard speak a few times and not very clearly at that. Regardless, she was clearly a “professional” of sorts. Meanwhile, other hotel employees like the housekeeping staff and the people who stocked the little room outside our main conference room with food and water (waiters I suppose) were all either African or Southeast Asian. No kidding. There was a bar in the lobby area where we had some drinks after the last day of the course. Staffed by more expats. I cannot recall a single instance of seeing a local doing what could be called blue-collar or service work.

Dubai is a strange and magical city in this regards. It is also totally unsustainable.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


In the Frankfurt airport and free of Altyn Asyr's censorship of the internet.