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July 21, 2003
Day 12 - Ashley And Friends Head Home: Hell On Wings On British Airways

Another Successful Bookmobile Voyage!

Day 12

We left Egypt today, boarding a flight which turned out to be a complete nightmare. As I put it: hell on wings, British Airways flight.

The plane sitting on the ground (without air or ventilation) was so hot that Tessa passed out. Very bad. We also got rerouted: instead of flying Cairo->London->SFO we were informed at the airport that we would be going Cairo->Marseiles->London->LA->SFO, which, after losing cabin pressure midair became Cairo->Rome->London(overnite in London)->Chicago (change airlines)->SFO. And, yes, they lost our baggage.

But we're still alive!

Posted by Lisa at 11:31 AM
July 18, 2003
Day 11 - Time To Get Started On The Trip Home
Day 11

After our final goodbyes at the Library we hopped on our train for Cairo to leave the next morning. The train ride was again very beautiful and Cairo was, again, very hot, noisy and smoggy. After some dinner near the American University in Cairo we made our way through one of the crazy Cairo bazaars and headed back to the Mayfair hotel to get some rest.

Photo Below: Ashley (middle) Saying Goodby to Khalid (to his left) and Youssef (on his right).

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Posted by Lisa at 10:30 PM
Day 10 - Printing Books, Ironing Out Bugs, And A Visit From The Director Of The Library Of Alexandria
Day 10

We met a bit later today (10am) since it is still the weekend and wanted to let the IT Team (Khalid, Youssef, and Mohammed to get some rest over their break.

We expected a relatively slow day--which it turned out to be-- of printing books and ironing out bugs. We found out a bit later the almost-mythical Director of the Library-- Dr. Seregaldine would be coming to take a look at the station. The Director was a former higher-up in the World Bank, speaks more languages than there are days of the week, and has earned Ph.D.s in more than one field, in addition to the honorary Ph.D.'s that universities around the world have given him.

We kept hearing that he was on his way down (the library's office space is a conceptual pyramid of heirarchy, with the most important and most modern departments (eg Information & Computing Technology on the 3rd of 4 floors) on the top, working down to the most traditional departments (eg rare manuscripts in one of the 'basements').

After about 4 hours of waiting the Director swept into the room with a couple assistants, the head librarian, and the director of ICT in tow. He was really thrilled with the setup and promised to find money for the mobile unit's vehicle. He described the setup as "fabulous" and commented that "the dream [of printing books from digital copies which Brewster had spoken about at the Library in October] has become a reality".

Posted by Lisa at 01:42 PM
Day 9 - Time To Relax For An Afternoon - Adventures In The Egyptian Marketplace
Day 9

Today, being the beginning of the Egyptian weekend, we all took the day off.

The filmmakers arrived back in Alex last nite and we warbled around the city getting some great footage of people in the streets shopping, eating, smoking shisha and getting married (the poorer people in the city throw great wedding parties in the street, everyone dancing and singing and no one getting blindly drunk -- which is really refreshing to see).

We were all feeling a little ill so we ended up sitting on the Corniche (the seafront) eating sandwiches at one of the fancy hotels called the Windsor Hotel.

Photo Below: One Final Shot Of Library Exterior

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Posted by Lisa at 01:34 PM
Day 8 - Mounting The Signage
Day 8

Today was relatviely uneventful. I worked with the library's Graphics department to design the signage for the printing station in the library.

Given the station's assembly line which goes from the huge printer on the left side (when facing the setup) to the smaller equipment to the right, I designed a signage layout that includes a large portrait-oriented poster on the very right of the setup (behind it in front of the plate windows) followed by 3 smaller square posters to the left with a picture of a girl doing each of the bookmaking steps.

We got the library's professional photographer to take photographs of the girl (a student who was reading in the Children's Library (...sorry for the interuption) printing, cutting, and binding an imaginary book.

Posted by Lisa at 01:26 PM
Day 7 - Ashley The Suspected Counterfeiter!
Day 7

I returned on my own to Alexandria today. We finally got clearance from the Library's security department who had concerns that the color printing equipment could be used to counterfeit money, if it were to fall into the wrong hands (always wanted to use that phrase).

The library's extensive security team is a nearly-autonomous entity in the library and works fulltime to keep the library premises safe. Before I left, I spoke with the security chief, General Sharif, who assured me that there wouldn't be trouble with the equipment.

Today I found out that the security team oversaw a test printing of a scanned Egyptian bill and found out, unsurprisingly, that the quality of the printing was not nearly good enough to be used to actually counterfeit money. (In fact the Chief Science Officer at HP informed me that this consideration is taken into account when designing the print equipment, since it's not only the Egyptian authorities, but also American ones, who have concerns about counterfeiting through high-end print equipment.)

Photo Below: Of course in Cairo we had to see the pyramids (which are basically in the middle of the city and visible from the highway) and had to do the quintessential pyramid activity--camel riding.

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Photo Below: Filmmaker Mark in one of the Pyramids. The 30 degree incline leads to a chamber that's empty except for a cracked, empty tomb. The sense of history inside this chamber is immense.

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Photo Below: Here the Mark, Jenny, and Tess setup their equipment in front of the pyramids and Sphynx for a day of shooting.

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Posted by Lisa at 01:09 PM
July 16, 2003
Day 6 - Ashley And Filmmakers Meet With Rights Activists In Egypt

Ashley's back in town, but some of his posts never made it to me, so I'm posting them in order:

Day 6.

Tess, Jenny, Mark (the filmmakers) and I hopped on an afternoon train headed for Cairo from Alexandria in order to meet with an Egyptian-American who runs a human rights internet group called Virtual Activism (see www.virtualactivism.org). The train ride from Alex to Cairo is surprisingly beautiful: along the Nile and Nile tributaries the rough sand of the Egyptian desert becomes lush farmland and greenery.

The meeting with the human rights activist (I'll leave her name out of this) went great--she was thrilled with the Bookmobile concept and thinks that it's an important way to solve the crisis of the digital divide in Egypt. It turns out that the Egyptian government has built the infrastructure for country-wide internet access--for FREE-- but the hardware is "prohibitively expensive" for Egpytians, in addition to the daunting knowledge gap that exists amongst the literate/semi-literate and illiterate Egyptian population. However, she also commented that showing people how computers and the internet--which is an opaque concept for some people in Egypt-- can produce a physical, tangible and familiar thing like a book, would help to drive investment in information technologies.

Photo Below: BibAlex dusk: pic from the Library of the sun setting over the Meditaranean, the night before our train to Cairo.

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Posted by Lisa at 01:40 PM
July 01, 2003
Day 5: First Book Printed!

This just in from Ashley:

Date: 6/30
Time: 7:22 pm

We made a book! It's an Arabic book entitled "Wonderful Water" (water being very wonderful when it's 110 degrees out). So, the stationary unit is now functional and will be operational tomorrow once the security team is satisfied that it can't print counterfeit bills. (And it definitely cannot.)

We checked out some vans today and saw these little Suzuki vehicles that would work really well for an Egypt Bookie. They're pretty cheap too-- abuot $8,000 new. All we need now is a willing, benevolent, wealthy person to put up the cash. We also snuck in a little sightseeing since our driver, Mohammed, who's actually a higher-up in the admin. department wanted us to eat Egyptian ice cream (*really* good) at the Citadel-- the Western-most point of the city). Fun.

Tomorrow's off to Cairo for a meeting with the director of an NGO and some pyramidal sightseeing (I hope). Then back to Alex to make some more books and hopefully get rolling with the mobile unit.

Sorry for no pics today, I've got to run to a dinner appt.

Ashley in Egypt

Photo Below: This is Mohammed and me at Alexandria's Citadel--the point where the Lighthouse of Pharos (one of the ancient wonders of the world) used to stand. This was after a day of scoping out vehicles for the Library's Bookmobile.

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Posted by Lisa at 06:49 AM
June 29, 2003
Day 4: Printing Station Set Up!

Date: 6/29/03
Time: 4:58 pm

Day...4! Still making steady progress with the Library's stationary printing and binding unit. Unfortunately, the laserjet has been causing yet more troubles (in addition to the concerns that it might be used for counterfeiting money) since it came as 110v instead of 220v. Nothing a transformer can't take care of though.

We worked on getting signage for the station today, and, after my weak attempts at taking pitcures of it in use, had a pro. photographer and designer from the lib. do the work for the signs.

Tomorrow we go van shopping and then Tuesday off to Cairo to meet with a Human Rights activist who's based here and in the States.

Hopefully tonight we can find some of Alexandria's famous seafood, since we've been mainly eating when there has been time (and, yes, I actually ate at McDonald's once...pathetic).

Here's some more pics. Enjoy.

Ashley in Egypt.

Warning: the photo below is linked to a really big file that may crash your browser if you're on an older system or a system with lousy memory! (So don't click on it if that may be a problem.)

Posted by Lisa at 12:45 PM
Day 3: Photos From Egypt

You might want to go check out Day 2 again, because I just added photos there too.

Date: 6/28/03
Time: 7:42pm



This is day three and things are still moving pretty fast, especially by Egyptian standards. Shockingly, all the equipment arrived, and the arrival coincided with our arrival, so we're really stoked about that.

We're going to buy some PCs tomorrow (which is a bit complicated here-- it's not going to CompUSA and whipping out the credit cards) and then we'll be ready to roll out books on demand.

We've been exploring Alexandria more and more, and get more and more enchanted by it. We smoked hookah (flavored tobacco) last night and drank Turkish coffee after a 10hour work day.

We hope to head to Cairo on Tuesday to meet with a human rights activism group that's also based in the States and focuses on digital divide issues as well.

More pics attached.


Warning: the photo below is linked to a really big file that may crash your browser if you're on an older system or a system with lousy memory! (So don't click on it if that may be a problem.)

Posted by Lisa at 11:00 AM
June 27, 2003
Day 2: Ashley In Egypt

This just in from Ashley the Bookmobilist in Egypt on day 2.

Date: 27 June 2003
Time: 4:44pm

Hello everyone! Day 2 has gone really smoothly here. We've managed to get all the equipment (printers, cutters, scorers) out of the tighter-than-tight Egyptian customs and have had the Library's engineering dept. construct some tables. We hope to have things up and running soon.

On Monday the filmmakers (who are making a documentary about these goings on) and I will be travelling around, shopping for some sort of vehicle to create the BibAlex Bookie.

We've also begun to think about a catalog system where users will be able to see if a text in the Library is available in digital form, and then, if they want, go upstairs (or downstairs, there are 11 floors) and print and bind it.

Things are looking good: the setup is housed in its own space right next to the Children's Library at an entrance to the building.

Warning: the photo below is linked to a really big file that may crash your browser if you're on an older system or a system with lousy memory! So don't click on it if that may be a problem.

Posted by Lisa at 07:51 AM
June 26, 2003
Ashley's In Egypt!

This came in today (no pictures yet):

Hello all! So I'm here with 3 filmmakers in Alexandria Egypt. This place is really incredible. We were given the VIP tour of the Library of Alexandria (BibAlex), which is one of the most beautiful contemporary structures I've seen.

I'm working with BibAlex's IT Team to build these Bookmobile units. They've dedicated almost an entire hall to this unit, which is at the entrance of ISIS-- the International School for Information Science.

Things are going great. I'm in the middle of a meeting with the IT Team, so I've got to go for now. Will write soon.

Posted by Lisa at 07:36 AM
June 23, 2003
Ashley The Bookmobilist On His Way To Egypt

The Library of Alexandria ("BibAlex.") (sorry, "eg" url doesn't seem to work right now) in Egypt is working with the Internet Archive to build its own bookmobile.

Here is a little movie of Ashley Rindsberg, Internet Archive Bookmobilist, about his upcoming voyage to Egypt to build a "Library of Alexandria Bookmobile."

Ashley will be blogging in this category from Egypt starting this Wednesday on (after he gets situated in Egypt) and going for the next two weeks while he sets things up over there.

Some independent film makers will be going over there with him to film the process for a movie they're making. (More on this soon!)

Ashley the Bookmobilist (Small - 6 MB)

Ashley the Bookmobilist (Hi-res - 83 MB)

Audio - Ashley the Bookmobilist (MP3 - 3 MB)

Here are a couple more photos linked to high resolution JPEGs:

Posted by Lisa at 03:09 PM