... in improvisation

The motorized mountain bike(s) of Damascus

Back in december when walking through Damascus I ran into this mountain bike rigged up with small combustion engine:

Mountain bike fitted with a combustion engine on Khalid ibn al-Walid street in central Damascus

If you ask me this is quite a marvel of engineering and although I never spotted a second one during the 3 days that I spend in Damascus I am pretty certain that this is not a unique modification but rather one of many that are produced in some back alley workshop. If anyone has seen more of these or has additional information about these please do let me know…

Update (26 Februari 2017):I ran into the same design in Mexico City today.

Cuban recycling art: beautiful self made race-carts

03 Dec 2008 | 289 words | art cuba improvisation photos urbanism

Cubans are probably the global kings of recycling [not in our spoiled western meaning of the word though, they will happily leave their sandwich wrappers and cigarette boxes lying next to a natural pond in the middle of a national park]. it appears that they can prolong the active life of pretty much any vehicle by decennia using a welding gun and some imagination. The many custom build taxis and busses based on 1950’s american cars are the prime example of this, but there are many other examples that do not appear on you standard postcard [such as containers or chairs]. One particular area where these recycling skills are applied are children’s toys:

In a number of cities we have seen boys racing down small hills (or other slopes) on self constructed carts made from scrap wood and industrial ball bearings:

These carts are extremely beautiful in their simplicity and the kids we saw playing with hem exposed great skill in navigating them down the pothole ridden streets of Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The carts are all variations on a basic design, that consists of a wooden rectangle used as a frame. at the back of the frame there are two ball bearings on an axle and above them is a small plank to sit on. the third wheel is attached to a piece of wood that is attached mid-way to one of the sides of the wooden frame with a singe nail or screw. the piece of wood extends beyond the frame on the other side and the carts can be steered by moving the extended part of this ‘front axle’ forwards or backwards.

More images of carts and kids riding on them on my flickr account.

Born again camera

Among other things i dropped my camera (a canon powershot pro1) today. I had dropped it once before and nothing had happened then but today it broke. The 30 cm fall from a table on a stone floor resulted in parts of the casing coming of the body and the trigger casing being broken so that the trigger did not work anymore. (no pictures of the damage here as the camera is broken). Of course it sucks if you are far away from home and have 10 more days to explore the back alleys of Bangalore. But then the same back alleys can give new life to almost any piece of electronic equipment:

For the sake of comparison we first went to the official canon service center form digital cameras somewhere in the vast northwestern extensions of Bangalore city and there i got exactly the treatment i expected. They told me that my camera was broken and needed to be fixed and that they could not do that themselves but had to send it to Delhi which would at least take a week (knowing Canon, that means 6 weeks or more – my last experience with their service in europe concerned getting a replacement battery charger and that would have taken them 6 weeks even though it was a shipping model!). They also could not tell me how much it would cost but they were sure that the entire body needed to be replaced (read: will be very expensive). But as i said we only went to canon for comparison and after this everything else could only be better.

Next we went to national market which is your location in Bangalore if you want to get anything electronic and/or digital. From the latest Nokia phone to last week’s hollywood release on dvd (or last month’s bollywood release as the pirates respect the national entertainment industry slightly more than hollywood and give them a month or so of exclusivity for their theatrical releases). Lawrence had told me about a stall that where it should be possible to get the camera repaired, but the guy only sold cameras. he did however pointed me to a stall in another market around the corner where someone would be able to fix my camera.

At this stall there were two gentlemen sitting in the middle of a pile of cameras in all states of disassembly (and a framed picture of someone in a suit that was obviously taken during the middle of the last century but according to them it was nevertheless ‘the inventor of the camera’). Unfortunately they were to busy to repair my camera before monday but assured me that come monday morning i would get it repaired for rs. 250 and that it would take no more than two hours.

Ajith Camera Repair

We went back to national market in order to buy some DVDs but on the way back i noticed a sign stating ‘Ajith Camera Repair at the end of a narrow dark hallway. So went to see Ajith who was sitting in a 2 square meter room that was filled with cameras and other electronic equipment in advanced stages of disassembly. Nothing in the room looked like it had been produced in the 21st century, but Ajith was confident that he could fix my camera in 15 minutes for a ‘simple price’. So i left my Camera with him and in exchange he gave us a little booklet ‘Why you must be Born Again’ by Edmonds Owhorode. Shaina asked him if he was a Born Again Christian which he confirmed and i knew my camera would be born again to. Actually it took my camera 3 times 15 minutes to rise from the ashes but the price was indeed simple: a mere 200 rupees which is less than 4 euros.


Why you must be born again

update (12.11): Lawrence told me today that a friend of his has actually been commissioned a while back by a camera manufacturer to research why the cameras sold in India had fewer defects than the cameras sold elsewhere. They concluded that from the fact that the percentage of cameras brought in for repair is significantly lower than in other countries. I guess this is simply due to the fact that nobody brings them to the authorized service centers because they suck.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: