I suspect the ‘picnic site’ is the dirt on the right …

Ecotourism rock

This was taken on the way out of Mfuwe, Zambia yesterday morning.

Yet another depressing thing about Ricoffy

It never fails to amaze me that, in the continent that hosts the original coffee plants, we continue to suffer with instant coffee pretty much everywhere. In the highlands of northern Tanzania, where there is some dynamite coffee grown and roasted, you’re still likely to be served instant at most guesthouses or mid-range hotels. Thankfully, this IS changing.

In Zambia it’s worse. “Ricoffy” is a chicory-based instant which is popular in South Africa, and is just about the only thing you can find in most Zambian hotels and restaurants. Chicory coffee is … well, not to my taste, to say the least. Sour, flat-tasting ink.

This morning, at a lodge on the Luangwa River, I was treated to a cup of our old friend Ricoffy (served in a nice looking coffee pot and everything, piping hot) and, gritting my teeth, decided to down it for at least the caffeine. Mid-way through my second cup I began to wonder – two cups of Tanzania’s finest instant*, Africafe, actually gives me the jitters and I have to stop – but I could feel nothing.

A little research later, thanks to EnergyFiend:

“Nescafe’ Ricoffy contains 0.79 mgs of caffeine per fluid ounce (2.66mg/100mls)”**

So, about 1/10 of what you’d get out of an espresso. Erk.


  • Stick to tea.
  • It is totally cool that there is a website called “EnergyFiend.com” devoted to caffeine.


*Which is actually a pretty fine acceptable cup of coffee …

**Based on data from the Nescafe site and the can itself.

Getting Google Docs data into R

This was a tortuous path to success … seems like Google has changed the way GDocs are accessed several times over the past couple of years, including https by default which meant that normal read.csv(url) functions didn’t work.

To get the mobile internet spreadsheet I wrote up for TZCRC:

    • Opened the spreadsheet in Google Docs, then selected File|Publish to web and selected CSV to get the link (below).
    • Used the link with RCurl and read.csv in the code below:
u <- "https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?hl=en_GB&hl=en_GB&key=0AmFzIcfgCzGFdHQ0eEU0MWZWV200RjgtTXVMY1NoQVE&single=true&gid=4&output=csv"
tc <- getURL(u, ssl.verifypeer=FALSE)
net <- read.csv(textConnection(tc))

Giving the data frame:

Provider Bundle MB TSH TSH/MB Validity
Airtel Daily Bundle 20 500 25.0 1
Airtel Handset Browsing Bundle 400 2,500 6.3 30
Airtel 1 Day bundle 300 3,000 10.0 1
Airtel Weekly bundle 3,072 15,000 4.9 7
Airtel Monthly bundle 8,000 70,000 8.8 30
Airtel Quarterly Bundle 24,000 200,000 8.3 90
Airtel Yearly Bundle 96,000 750,000 7.8 365
Tigo Light 200 3,000 15.0 1
Tigo Light 500 7,500 15.0 7

… etc.

Homebrew on OSX – easy installation of UNIX/Linux tools

“the easiest and most flexible way to install the UNIX tools Apple didn’t include with OS X.

… and they’re right! Homebrew can help you to install a whole range of great UNIX / LINUX tools (wget for one), in single steps; an alternative is MacPorts, but I have abandoned it in favour of Homebrew as it’s far easier! The disadvantage is that it doesn’t have as many tools available.


  1. for Homebrew you’ll need to have XCode installed from your OSX DVD, be using an Intel mac, and might need the Java Developer Update installed;
  2. For SQLite and other necessary tools, install the GDAL complete frameworks from Kyngchaos.

To install Homebrew, paste this into the terminal:

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/gist/323731)"

… and that’s it. You can now use brew commands (no sudo needed) on the command line.

Keep Homebrew updated from time to time with:

brew update
brew upgrade