Friday, February 13, 2009

Daily Minutiae

It occurs to me that I have been less than forthcoming about daily life in Vientiane. So here are the minutiae of our existence that may be of interest if you have never been here before.

For the past few months it has been "cold." For a few weeks there it was cold enough to wear long pants and a jacket and if you took a tuk tuk at night, you might shiver. Mornings were chilly enough to notice that the water heaters they use in showers here don't really do the trick.

Instead of one big water heater which heats up and stores the water for the whole house, most houses here have only hot water in the shower, if at all. The water heater gets plenty hot, but only if the water pressure is quite low. So a trickle will scald you, and full force will give you goose-bumps. But, the real concern is the electricity being so close to the water. The heater has an emergency breaker if it detects a short circuit caused by you getting electrocuted, but it is not sensitive enough to save your life. Power is rarely grounded here, so we are constantly getting a little buzz from our computers and other devices, though we have not died in the shower, yet.

During the cold season, perhaps because it was windy or perhaps because it was too cold to cook outside, our neighbors hadn't been burning plastic. They are back at it again, and sometimes we wake to the fumes. Our landlady has asked them to stop, but it is a big problem throughout the country. Apparently, people use plastic bags, pieces of shoes, purses, etc to start their fires to cook their rice, because the plastic burns for a long time. The Public Service Announcements warning of brain damage are ignored, like many of the other directives from on-high.

For example, a recent article in the Vientiane times, the local newspaper, detailed the government's stance on the "Correct understanding of Valentine's day... The notice was issued to prevent fine Lao culture being affected by the influence of inappropriate forms of celebration, as setbacks have occurred in previous years.... Valentine's Day is incorrectly considered by many as a day for play, entertainment and lavish spending.... "

But I am afraid the fine Lao culture is no match for the recent setbacks. Case in point, last week, Sean Kingston performed here, sponsored by Tigo, one of the mobile phone companies. He has a popular song in Asia, perhaps in the US as well- something about "you got me suicidal..." Tigo advertised and promoted the concert heavily with billboards, posters, spam sms text messages, etc. Our neighbor who works for Tigo gave us free tickets.

Unfortunately I was too tired from a day of enjoying fine Lao Culture- drinking Beer Lao and eating fried crickets while floating down the river on restaurant boat- to attend the concert. I have decided that fried crickets aren't bad- much better than the water beetles.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I just updated my little website mobitol. I built the site for myself because I wanted to be able to copy and paste text from websites when browsing on my Nokia e61i phone. I'm hoping other people find it useful as well.

Unlike the iPhone, Nokia phones that use the Symbian s60 operating sytem have copy and paste built in But, for some reason, users can only copy and paste text in the default web browser (Gecko) if the text is in a text-entry box of a form or is part of a link. (At least this is the case on the e61i.) So the main content of most websites was out of reach, until now.

I've now added the ability to choose whether you'd like to retreive the plain text or the html source code, whereas before I could only get the source. Users just type in a url, hit "go!" and the site's text or source is popped into a text box. Users can also open new windows, a function that is unavailable in the default settings of the browser as well.

Some things still don't work yet. If the site is built using frames, only the frameset text will be retrieved. Also, right now some of the source code like cascading style sheets and header info will appear in the plain text version. But it's a start.

If you have a Nokia phone, or any other phone for that matter, I'd be interested to hear how well or not mobitol works for you.