Saturday, 19 January 2013

A few things I learned...

Here's a quick list:

1. Un petit peu fran├žais; mostly, it's still guess-work and making up stuff; but I've also learned a few phrases and words. I kind of manage to go around and ask for directions or buy things in the shops. Sometimes I punch way above my weight and try to make more serious conversations (usually with the French lady who's hosting us in her house), only to miserably fail and increase the amount of made up words by a million-fold.

2. Baby's formula milk is horrible. On the other hand, changing nappies is not as terrible as I thought it would be. Also, the length of snots in babies is incredible.  

3. There's a weird monopoly in the motorcycles market, here in Bamako. For some reason, everybody seems to own a KTM Power K, and I mean: everybody! There are a few different colours, but the model is always the same. And they don't even bother customising their own. People don't seem to get confused, though. Of course, nobody is wearing an helmet (well: actually that's not true. We did see the same guy a couple of times, who was wearing a proper helmet. Most people just use a hat, though).

4. Mali is a strange mixture of very modern things (eg everybody has a mobile phone) and things that in Europe, I guess, were popular with at least a generation before mine (eg children playing rolling a tyre).

5. Some people employed in the Malian public sector have very strange ways; their work ethic is questionable, as are their proof-reading skills. But then again, I'm told that most get paid every three or four months; I guess this changes the perspective a bit.

6. Some people employed in the Italian diplomatic sector have even stranger ways; I was impressed by the Embassy (which is located in Dakar and covers the whole of Western Africa): they were friendly, quick in responding and very helpful. But, so far, I have definitely not been impressed by the Consul here in Bamako $-$ for all sorts of reasons, the services he provided are, let me put it politely, waaaaaay below par.

7. It's really nice to wake up in the morning without even wondering what the weather will be like, and just knowing it will be sunny, dry and 31 degrees.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

(Dis)Utility

Mart Janssen writes me that he's tried to run the examples for BCEA and pointed out a problem $-$ it all boiled down to a missing script, really, but thanks Mart (if you're reading this)!

I've now fixed the problem by updating the file Utils.R (which was responsible) to include the script for the function betaPar2 (which I use to compute the parameters of a Beta distribution under a constrain specified by the user in terms of the mode and the upper value that is reasonable to assume).

I think the very first version of the file I've put on the website was actually OK (ie it included the required function), but then I must have messed it up during one of the updates.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Quiet Saturday

Today we were allowed to go around Bamako's centre. Even in the morning there was no demonstration and the mood seems much more relaxed among the Malians. We tried to get a feeling for their opinion and most people seem to be happy about the military intervention that has stopped (for now) the rebels marching southward.

While we were driving around town, I thought that the streets were a bit busier than usual and that people were dressed a smarter way. So I put up my clever voice, polished my home-made French and asked the driver whether that was the Saturday effect, only for him to reply that, no, actually there's no difference...

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Happy new year

Admittedly, quite late, but we've been quite busy in the last few days... We're still in Mali, waiting for XY's paperwork to be finalised. The process in itself is quite distressing as the bureaucracy is not very easy, down here.

The weird thing is that while this is, effectively, a country at war, it really doesn't feel like it. I was talking to a few people here (a French lady who's been living here for the past 12 years, our lawyer and our amazing driver) and they would all give the same account of the situation, ie that, despite news of Islamic fundamentalist rebels moving southward, things aren't so bad, after all.

And to be fair, that's the impression we got while going around Bamako, the capital, in the past two weeks. Until yesterday, you couldn't tell that this was a country in trouble, as people would be up and about and extremely friendly. As is customary, on Sunday there were a million weddings all over the streets

The only real clue was that the hotels are kind of empty and there are not many tourists around. Yesterday and today there had been demonstrations in town (but then again, only in the very centre of Bamako) to call for a more appropriate government intervention to re-instate national unity and the non-clerical nature of the state. Apparently the army are fighting back the rebels in the North, right now.