Friday, 12 December 2014

Circles of Birds

In British English there's a term for the strange love some people, mainly men, have for flying rodents: pigeon fancying.

It's normally a hobby confined to older people and it's seen as a little odd and, perhaps old-fashioned.

Maybe that's also the case in Lebanon, I don't know any pigeon fanciers here, but it's common enough to see clouds of pigeons circling above Beirut of an evening.

Birds, in a circle

If that's not amusing enough, the accompanying whistles and claps coming from the fancier create a sort of soundtrack to a lazy evening. The kick of it is that Lebanese pigeon fancying is a competitive sport. Yep. I called it a sport.

Fanciers compete, clashing their bird clouds together and attempting to trick birds from another coop to join their pack of flying rats. Yes, the competition revolves around "stealing" your neighbour's birds. I'm sure that the average bird probably changes teams on a regular basis.

Pigeon fancying, in a city. In a country that is notorious for shooting and eating anything that flies. Odd. But fun.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Digital Hobo: Urbanista, Hamra

This is the first entry in my new Digital Hobo series.

After a delay, mostly down to work, visa visits and all sorts of fun and games, I recently visited Urbanista, in Hamra, for a spot of digital squatting.

Firstly, I was amazed to discover that the password for the Wi-Fi in Hamra was the same as that in the Gemmayze branch. So simple, so clever.

I’m a fan of the original Urbanista, I love it, it’s a little pricey, but the coffee’s great and I’d recommend the baked chicken rolls.

Anyway, enough of the food, I was more interested in discovering if I could watch Zoella’s latest offering without having to wait 45 minutes for the stream to buffer.

Here are the results:



Well, after waiting two minutes for the page to load, I actually got a pretty good result.

Taaa Daaa!

Fast, clearly it’s never going to be as fast as Ookla says (0.94 Internets), but it was fast enough to learn about Zoella’s latest skin regimen.

As this is the first Digital Hobo review, I’m unsure as to what rating to give Urbanista, Hamra.

I’ll plump for a good 4/5 WiFis.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Digital Hobo

I'm introducing a new series to BritinBeirut: The Digital Hobo.

Let's start with a definition ... actually, to be more accurate, let's wait for Chrome to load the relevant page on Merriam Webster.

To pass the time, here's a joke I recently heard. "An Irishman, an Englishman and a Scotsman walk into the bar, the Irishman's holding an enormous ... "

Oh, it's loaded.

noun \ 'ho-(,)bo \
: a person who has no place to live and no money and who travels to many different places
:  a migratory worker
:  a homeless and usually penniless vagabond
plural hoboes also hobos

Adding "Digital" to the beginning of that describes my situation in Beirut perfectly. OK, I'm not penniless, nor a vagabond, but I do move around a lot for work and life, and I'm certainly a migrant worker.

As a freelance communications guy I spend a lot of time hopping from place to place, updating various online platforms and generally being the scourge of Beirut's bars and cafes as I relentlessly hunt for a decent Internet connection.

Having left the country for a year, I'm out of touch as to the best connections in town. I have a rule though, it's got to be free, none of this paying for 30 mins here, or an hour there.

So, Digital Hobo aims to give a relatively humorous look at Beirut's free Wi-Fi spots, I might even comment on the usual concerns, like the coffee, maybe. It depends how long I have to wait for Chrome to upload my latest ramblings on this or that...

This post was inspired by the fact I'm currently sitting somewhere waiting for 13MB PDF to download. It's been 10 minutes so far.

Oh, and here's a little tune for you to enjoy. I'll link to it, uploading it would just drain my will to live.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Pictures of Beirut

BritinBeirut has been polluting the Instragrams this week.

A great name for a 24/7 in Hamra

Possibly the Worst Beer in the World

An excited equine in Downtown!

Glad to see that #Grammarfails still happen 
in Beirut

Shopping by "candlelight" #Blackout

Finally, this scary little Wednesday Adams 
in #Oslo in Mar Mikhael

If you'd like to follow along, click on the Instagram widget in the right hand column.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Some Things Never Change

After a year or so out of the country I find myself back in Beirut for a few months before I (hopefully) head off to the UAE.

As a freelancer and a digital media guy, I’ve been rudely reminded of the state of the city’s Internet infrastructure, or the lack of it. It seems that merely updating your profiles and playing around on a few sites takes forever and I half expect to hear the clicking and beeping of an old dial up modem in the background.

I suppose I got lazy and complacent, living in London over the past year and enjoying Internet speeds so fast as to almost be redundant. I mean, if you’re getting in excess of 2 MB/s, who needs 3 or 4?

Case in point - when I shamelessly lifted the image above (from here) the website code popped up in Google and I had to reload.

So, I’m back, trying to (re?) adopt my old lifestyle of sticking the laptop in my bag and heading off to Hamra’s cafes to get a little work done like some sort of high tech hobo. I’m leery of endlessly paying to refill my generator at home, so it’s to Prague I head when the daily three-hour cut approaches.

Freelancing’s a pain in the ass at the best of times, but when you head into a place and get 56 KB coming down the pipe, you know you’re screwed, it's like listening to the endless dripping of a leaking tap. I was told time and again that the Internet plans in the country have improved, but it seems like the bars and cafes of Hamra have avoided the upgrade. Expensive coffee? Sure. Internet from 1995? Yep.

First world problems, as they say, but it is depressing when your 3G connection is faster than your wireless.

If anyone has any recommendations, I’d much appreciate them.