I have always wanted to go. Yemen is the source of all Arabic languages (Proto-Arabic) and Semitic dialects that only really receive mention in the Bible. Whether or not Sana'a is the oldest inhabited city (people also compare to Damascus in this race to proven the unprovable), it is a source of history stemming back farther than any of us can image.
And the drug shrubs! What else could you ask for.
It's a damned shame that the Middle East is so ravaged by conflict. There are so many places I'd love to visit. I want to drive the Khyber Pass in my old Land Rover, I want to visit my family's roots in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon (apparently a Hezbollah stronghold these days). I want to chew qat in Yemen and float the Euphrates in Iraq. Maybe someday...
This was the essay that took me to his site the first time around:
There is no way that that city disappears. The economic incentives are too strong to pipe water in. 3km up some mountains is nothing. Humanity has built pipelines a thousand of kilometres long and over or through much taller mountains.
The city might be corrupt as hell, but when there is truly a water shortage (right now, if they are using it for crops, there isn't in the economic sense) some rich guy is just going to bribe everyone in the way and build that pipeline then charge everyone in the city a dollar a cubic meter or something. Certainly cheaper than rebuilding a stone city.
It doesn't matter what technology you use to bring in water. When the cost gets high enough, people are going to leave the city, and the poorest will have to leave first.
I find it hard to believe that the local economy has collapsed to the point where they can't afford a pipe to a desalination plant.
But if this place is indeed the equivalent to Manhattan I can understand the disbelief. Compared to the trillions tied up in real estate the cost of a pipeline to NYC would be trivial. Yeah it might cost $50b (probably much, much less but lets go crazy) but with at least 10mm people around to receive the water it's $5k per person amortized over a decade it comes out to $50/mo/person
I realize that the economics in Sana'a are probably hugely different than here in the US. But if people earn less, labor is cheaper too, etc.
The difficulty here isn't that given the facts it could happen. It's that getting to the point where you have all the facts has turned all the assumptions that you normally take for granted completely upside down. Speaking as an engineer I can understand the difficulty.
http://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=Yemen gives a gross income per capita for Yemen of around $1300. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Yemen has a more optimistic $2200. Sana'a may be richer, but I guess the poor will be significantly below that.
I don't find it strange that they will not be able to pay for the infrastructure and the additional costs of desalination and of pumping the water to the city (over 2 km up)
Also, looking at http://files.transparency.org/content/download/700/3007/file..., Yemen is perceived to be extremely corrupt. That means that its population may not trust their government with that amount of money, even if they could afford to pay it.
50 years and $6 billion for a tunnel 60 miles long. The city owns lots of land around the source waters, but I think that is their only expense in acquiring the water, and the tunnel flows downhill to the city.
Also, the 21st President of the United States was Chester A. Arthur.
Not everything has to be a Fermi thought experiment.
It's not the OPs inability to believe that's the problem. Show him all of his flawed assumption and he'd readily change his mind (I would hope anyhow). But how do you disabuse him of those things which he takes for granted here in the US? That's a difficult process.
It's all hypothetical, of course -- and no one is removing eyes based on your say-so -- but that's a shitty punishment for anything.
Generally a punishment for a wrong-doing should try to encourage/force the guilty party to be a functional, non-destructive member of society if at all possible (exceptions as needed to protect others).
Punishments that harm the person's ability to earn a living, or have normal interactions with other people, are counterproductive (and can force the person to resort to criminal behavior to survive in the future), so punishments that inflict serious physical and/or psychological damage are stupid. They give a few people their "vengeance", for whatever that's worth, and otherwise they damage the society as a whole.
That's what I'm basing my comment on and what we're discussing. If the OP is wrong is another discussion but I don't see any room for interpretation here.
> maybe he was just throwing a rock to see it jump?
Are you seriously saying it's OK to throw rocks at cows?
According to who? My grandfather was a prison governor and a pioneer in treating prisoners humane. Before his time the general thought was to "throw them in a cell with only water and bread". So I definitely know this discussion very well and I still believe the punishment itself could be an end goal.
There's a lot of space between "OK" and "take the boy's eye out with a rock", which is what I'm arguing is the wrong punishment. (No, it's not OK to throw rocks at cows.)
> According to who?
According to me, of course, for the reasons I (briefly) gave. You're welcome to continue the discussion with your own arguments, and your grandfather's experiences sound interesting.
In case anybody was wondering, this is most likely because Yemen has the same daft law as much of the Middle East: you only start paying property tax when your house is complete, so if you leave the "last floor" (roof) notionally incomplete (a row of bricks plus some construction detritus, as if you were still working on it), you never pay tax.
In Yemen the practice is to have the top floor of a dwelling be the mufraj (room with views where men chew qat) which is what makes me skeptical about the tax idea there. The buildings certainly don't look unfinished from rooftop level.
The thing that makes me most skeptical, though, is just that it's such a wonderful, repeatable story.
Sadly it doesn't seem to be mainstream anymore.
There's evidence it was a natural disaster, which makes much more sense -
If you downvote this comment, I think explaining in a reply why this article belongs in Hacker News would be great.
"On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."
I posted it because it's damn interesting, and secondarily because the site could use a little more diversity.
The other side of the coin is that it was well written and humorous, which helps, but the language itself brought to life incredible images. Writing is a skill. Good writing is an art. Both can be appreciated but one is adored. I always assumed that hacker-types generally had a wide array of eclectic tastes and interests, and I'm pretty sure some of the more famous ones would agree . Besides, who doesn't like a good, lively story about a culture that's alien to the majority of us Westerners?
I'm still puzzled though. I've never understood why some people have a penchant for clicking links they know they'll hate, read them anyway, and then post their misery and suffering. It would seem less of a cognitive load to ignore the unwanted than to embrace and let it fester.
(1) "Hey, this article is titled '10 cool things about X' (where X is some programming language or framework or library or server or something) but it didn't explain what X was! I've never heard of X so clearly no one else has either!" Every once in a great, great while, it's a defensible comment, but it's just not worth making the comment even when it is. Just Google it if you haven't heard of it, that's what the rest of us did.
(2) "Hey, this article you guys linked to doesn't fit into the category of articles that I have assigned to your website!" Seriously, no good can ever possibly come of this. Downvote the article if you feel this way, that's why the ability to downvote articles exists. It's just so not worth verbalizing the sentiment.
Unfortunately, the third most tiring and unnecessary comment that can be made on such sites is probably the one I just made, so sorry everyone! :) I mean well, I really do.