May 13, 2005

Soccer Bags

High in the Atlas Mountains a few hours drive from Marrakech you will find very few pieces of land flat enough for a soccer game. The children of Imlil have managed to keep their interest alive, however, by using unwanted plastic bags to make a soft and padded ball which doesnt roll too far down the hill - even when little Hussan deliberately kicks it over the edge!

Just two hours drive from the famous souks of Marrakech are the High Atlas Mountains, world famous for trekking adventures and an absolute must see for visitors to Morocco. Our journey took us to Imlil, a small town at the end of the road somewhere near Toubkal. Imlil is surrounded by little communities nestled into the valley, far beyond road access and reached only on foot. For the less energetic among us the option was available to burden a donkey with our backpacks as we headed up the hill in the fading light of the evening. With delight we accepted the offer and by nightfall we were safely tucked away in our Gite - accomodation of the most basic variety.

Sunrise the next morning brought our first proper view of the surrounds. At last we could see where the sound of crashing waterfalls was coming from. High above us the snow capped mountains resisted the sun's early rays, while down below the river ran a furious pace through the valley floor. Outside our Gite a track cuts into the hillside. In places it becomes quite wide, providing enough room for two donkeys to pass each other comfortably.

These sections of track also function for impromptu soccer games with the young boys of the village. At first the rules of the modified game seemed difficult to fathom. We quickly learned that the basic goal is simply to run around after the ball, kicking madly, screaming and yelling and laughing. We joined in the fun and suddenly it all made perfect sense. Our addition of passing the ball between players was a novel addition to the local style and lead to even more squeals of joy by the young lads.

One little fellow, named Hussan, was playing his own rules entirely, and upon getting his foot anywhere near the ball he would eagerly kick it high and wide. His goal was to clear the rocky path edge and send the ball off down the hill. He managed this several times during our short match, but on each occassion several boys would cautiously grab his arms to make sure Hussan himself did not fly off the edge secondarily.

The ball itself was actually a sturdy plastic bag stuffed three quarters full with other plastic bags. It's design ensured a great deal of dampening when kicked, but equally so the ball failed to roll very far when kicked over the side of the path. Most times it would stop where it landed, unable to bounce or roll as a normal soccer ball would. Each time it went over the edge, courtesy of Hussan's efforts, another boy would climb down a few metres and retreive the ball.

A few weeks later we were back in Marrakech and came across some more conventional soccer balls for sale. We contemplated buying a bundle of them and sending them off to Imlil for Hussan and his friends. We decided against it however. Chances are that with one good toe poke such a ball would simply bounce and roll all the way down to the river, never to be seen again. I cant think of a better use for the plastic bags anyway.

May 02, 2005

The Name Catchers

Owning your own internet domain name was once the provence of geeks and big business, but the trend for collecting new and interesting domain names is increasingly popular with the masses. The phenomenon is not restricted to enthusists in the manner of bird watching or train spotting, dont get me wrong. And let's not assume such collectors are eccentric recluses with idle money and fancyful thoughts, far from it. They are regular people who live next door, someone you enjoy a sunday brunch with, or maybe even a relative.

Name Catching has come about through the reduced cost and increased ease of owning a domain name. For as little as $20 a year you can register your own domain name and go about finding a home for it. You rarely need to show much justification for the selected name either. Even in Australia the rules governing suitable claim to a domain name have been greatly relaxed. There was a time when a business had to show are clear connection with the name being requested. It was a timely process and not always sucessful. Getting approval also meant having to dig deep for the registration fee each year, in the order of $70 or more. This is no longer the case.

So a lot of people with small businesses, or maybe just an idea for a business, ended up getting themselves a domain name. They didnt always know what they would do with it of course, that's another matter entirely. Thousands of domain names each year are registered and never mature into a fully fledged website. The rush of invention and inception cut short by the realities of a busy lifestyle. Thousands more, however, will join a stable of siblings, belonging to a sole responsible parent who dilligently pays the minor registration fee every couple of years. A domain found by a name Catcher had a pretty bright future.

For many people who already have a website adding new domains to your kingdom is a relatively painless. Each time you are inspired by a new opportunity for expression you simply grab a witty name to define the borders of your creativity. My friend Jo and her partner Micheal were setting up a new collection of photos online and wanted to call it "happy pics". Michael mused that "happy pigs" would be funnier, and soon followed. This new site joined,,, and many others.

This happy tale of new born domains finding good homes is not the full story however. Even in this new world of instant websites there are casualties. Some domains reach their re-registration date and are sadly overlooked. What seemed like a novel idea two years before can become a closed chapter upon the expiration date. Once loved websites such as end up Many companies now exist for no other reason than to pounce on overdue domain names and hold them for randsom in the hope that some of their forgetful owners will have a change of heart and come looking for them once more. Only a small percentage of names are ever re-united with their owners, but a princely and profitable sum is levied in such instances.

For the multitudes of surviving names there is another burden to consider. While they may achieve a modicum of longevity in the short lived world of online names they rarely achieve any great level of fame or fortune. More often than not the latest addition for the Name Catcher is for whimsical purposes and a suitably small audience. You dont build a new everyday afterall! But that's life when you're from a big family - you have to share the attention with everyone else. Unless the Name Catcher has big plans and intends on lavishing devotion your digital destiny is likely to be a dosile one. Just the occasional visitor or email following the initial flurry of interest.

I have enquired among my friends and have been surprised at how many are multi-domain holders. Most have two or more and several are fully realised Name Catchers with between 5 and 50 domains in their grasp. So if you havent managed to secure a few of your own then chances are you're missing out on the trend. Don't worry though. Despite the best efforts of our interent aware generations there are still lots of domain names left, although they are getting increasingly obscure. Perhaps in time you may have to give up on and add to your collection instead. But that's OK, the internet is very friendly to such websites and, since everything is linked to everything else, it's rare that someone will have to actually type it in.

And if you're thinking of setting up a new website for your soon to arrive new child you might want to check for an available domain name first. Funzlrumpit is not such a bad name for a kid really.