Sunday, 30 March 2008

A quick update

This last week has been a difficult one. On Tuesday, I went to the island's capital, Santa Cruz and, to cut a long story short, although I don't think I overdid anything or walked too far particularly, by the time I was coming home at lunch time, I could bearly manage to put one foot in front of the other.
When I got home, I fell into bed, where I've spent most of the last 5 days, with a migraine-like headache (complete with blurred vision) I can't shake, nausea, the same scary and terrific pains in my chest that I've had since last October; feeling the cold, plus a whole assortment of miscellaneous aches and pains in my shoulders, back, hips, knees and legs that have literally had me in tears.

This is how things have been, on and off, for the last dozen years or so, but never quite this severe before. In that time, I've become adept at pacing myself to be able to do as much as I can, without overstepping my limits.

I'm used to being occupied and busy; people are often surprised by how much I get done and, one of my mottos to live by is that "the more you do, the more you can do" (applies both physically and mentally), but it's no longer working for me. About all I've been able to do is drink water and sleep on and off, because even just getting up to go to the bathroom needed great effort and tired me out, to collapse, breathless, trembling and sweating from the exertion, back into bed, where I'd keep dozing off involuntarily during the day, whenever the pain subsided enough or even despite it, to still sleep most of the night too.

Today has been the first day that I've even bothered with the computer, so it's a good job I never promised a schedule of any kind here! Seriously though, I really could do with some help. Impossible, I know.

Lost in Spain

One of the *good* things about spending almost a week lazing about, generally feeling icky, is that one does not mind terribly much how bad the TV is. And, let's face it, in Spain, when it comes to TV, bad can mean very bad indeed.

Antena 3 showed this Austrian mini-series, Zodiak - Der Horoskop-Mörder over two nights last week, dubbed into Spanish, of course. (For the amount of attention I was paying, they could have left it in the original German.)

Despite the incredibly unbelievable characters and near comedy plot holes - do read the snarky review at the IMDB, which is absolutely spot on (I like to look up unfamiliar things that I've watched, just to double-check my comprehension, or re-suspend my suspended belief mainly) - nevertheless, it made a pleasant change from the familiar formats of British or American crap dubbed badly and, provided visual eye candy, whilst not overly taxing the aching brain.

The really bad news is that this was the best thing on TV all week!

Monday, 24 March 2008

Cannabis Prevents Alzheimer

A university in Jerusalem claims that cannabis slows down the loss of memory associated with Alzheimer's, after findings in tests carried out on mice.

They've now passed onto the phase of analysis on humans, so we can probably expect to encounter old people, who'll still forget stuff eventually and, in the meantime, giggle a lot and are constantly raiding your 'fridge for nibbles.

Better that than the unruly snow-tops known as ‘Saga-louts’.

Sheesh, the young people of yesterday!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Poisoned Future

Bit of a rant ... Because one of the main reasons I moved to this area of Tenerife is because it's inside a protected, Rural Park, where poisons are were "prohibited". Then a sign was put up that indicates that the area has been treated with a herbicide, Glitan to control the weeds and, I'd rather they didn't. The tourist blurb says:
"The Teno Rural Park is one of the most beautiful areas on Tenerife. This park, traditionally isolated due to its limited and difficult access, with its mountainous massif in the north-west of Tenerife is of great ecological value, both scenic and cultural: it includes many examples of traditional island architecture. Large areas of laurisilva forest still survive here, a type of rich leafy forest vegetation, and are the home of many species of animals, such as, the Osprey. It is precisely its rich birdlife that has led to its being declared a protected area for birds. ..."
Fountain of YouthThe area is also only just emerging from subsistence farming, but it's becoming more and more abandoned, because young people don't want to get their hands dirty (it's said) and all the rules and regulations make it nearly impossible anyway.

So, with nobody working the land, weeds grow, rats multiply, people poison.

The Teno Rural Park is managed by the Cabildo (Tenerife Island Corporation), who are the same people responsible for the environment and ... for doing things like weed killing, as well as the annual rat control program.

And each year, their measures seem to get more "unnatural".

Just a couple of years ago, they would they would get out-of-work laborers (and, I think, offenders who'd copped for community service) to clear the weeds at the sides of these lanes and there must be plenty of such people available.

The change in methods, even if this chemical is less toxic than other herbicides and pesticides, seems less like progress and more like a regression to me. Anyway, the sign was taped onto the pipes on top of the horse trough and I understand that this "important tourist attraction" must be kept neat and weed free, but I can only hope this is in no way contaminating the water supply.

It is (or was) untreated, clean water straight from the mountain galleries. This is less than 50 yards up the lane from the bridge to the property where I live and, it means that, despite living in this beautiful rural valley where they ought to be out gallivanting around, my poor cats now have to remain locked indoors. Amongst other reasons, but with ever more frequent and stronger chemical treatments, the cats haven't been out in over a year, which rather defeats the object of deliberately moving to an area because it was ideal for them.

You might tell me to shut up and stop moaning, because getting told at all here is miraculous and, this is better than last year's signs, where the date of the treatment was left BLANK. This year's signs at least looked more like warning signs. Yes, looked, past tense, because the wind and rain had seen them off mostly by the 17th/18th, only 3-4 days into the 10-day "danger" period.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Perspective and reality

Tell the truth, after all, it can only get you fired, as former CNN TV news producer, Chez Pazienza, found out back in February. (Via: Blog Herald.)
I've wanted to comment on this for some time now (but life got in the way), because I can draw parallels with so much of what he says and, besides that someone who self-professes to be "an insufferable wise-ass " and an "occasional nuisance to authority figures", simply has to get my vote.

Part of the "offending" paragraph had me spluttering with laughter too:

"I wake up every morning baffled as to why America hasn't deported George Bush and Dick Cheney, Hollywood hasn't stopped trying to convince me that Sarah Jessica Parker is attractive [...]"

I hope nobody would ever agree to take these "deportees" and I wake up every morning wondering why the rest of the world hasn't wiped out George Bush yet, but then that would be stooping to his standards, wouldn't it?

But it does seem incredible to us that Bush tossed aside the US Constitution, broke more rules than he's ever made and, yet nobody does a bloody thing to stop him. It's like the entire US population is on Prozac. At times I've seriously suspected it's been added to the water supply.

They show Sex and the City (badly dubbed, like everything else) on Spanish TV and, I watched it a few times; gave it a fair chance, but ended up thinking what a pathetically sad, totally unreal, load of old tripe it was.

Now, I'm a girl, but it occurred to me that one of the reasons I could not bring myself to watch it was because Sarah Jessica Parker definitely isn't what I consider to be sexy or attractive. Maybe that's unkind. Maybe she is perfectly pleasant in real life, but the character is some kind of schoolgirls' own unreal bedroom fantasy and, I imagine, would be about as appealing to the average red-blooded male as being required to shag in a bed full of gonks, My Little Ponies and other cuddly toys, i.e. decidedly flaccidity inducing.

To have that confirmed, by someone better qualified than I, helps.

I mean that both flippantly and seriously.

The point here is what it all says about the crap we are fed as "reality."

If I'm reading this right and I'm sure I am, Carrie Bradshaw's character was never meant to appeal to men. She was meant to appeal to a certain type of rather "ordinary" (and, frankly, naively impressionable) single female, who is supposed to feel she will magically become sexy if she emulates the fictional character. Above all, if she will just spend copious amounts of money on all those pointless fashion items that the character shills.

Please, don't try to tell me it was by accident that the character works for Vogue and happened to "need" these "props" and then, out of the blue, the series makes these things "popular."

For a start, it's plainly obvious that most men couldn't care less what women wear, as evidenced by the overtly stereotypical, but none the less half true observation that the way to impress a man is to "Show up naked. Bring beer."

There's another irony here that most folk will probably not have caught:

One of the top brands associated with the series is, of course, Manolo Blahnik shoes. And all power to Mr. Blahnik if he can eek a meagre living out of peddling footwear, but here's the irony: if you've never lived on a Canary Island, you may not realize that his home, La Palma, is the steepest island in the world. Having spent 16 years on the next door island of Tenerife, I can tell you that even in the towns here, where pavement laying is much more of an art than a science, shoes like that would be worse than friggin useless.

In most areas of these mountainous islands, Timberland boots might be a bit "feminine" and not quite rugged enough for the terrain. That has nothing to do with the series, but I do think that irony sums up the great gaping gorge between reality and this fiction served up as though it were important.

Like we don't have enough celebs with pointless lives already.

Long, long ago, I said that the term "freedom of the press" (or any media) was an oxymoron, because even when it isn't deliberately biased in a sinister way, the editorial policies have to be beholden to the whims and tastes of the corporate advertisers, who ultimately pay the bills and the salaries.

Chez' requiem for his career, spells that out and confirms it too.

If news were a public service, however, it could be massaged by unscrupulous governments. Ironically, Britain's system, where there are both Government and commercial offerings should be able to give people the required balance.

Should, I said, but it doesn't, does it?

Unfortunately, that requires people to be smart enough to hear what all parties have to say and decide who is telling the nearest thing to the truth. Most people do not do that: they choose their favorite media, choose to lap it up wholesale and choose to adopt an attitude that excludes all comparisons and thinking.

Daily Mail readers seem to prove that theory best (or worst) of all.

What really needs to be done is for the emphasis and spending to be put back on real education: an education that actually taught people how to think things through in an intelligent and mature manner.

Somehow, I doubt this will ever happen in my lifetime, because we are being carefully brainwashed into believing that "people don't like to think", therefore, not thinking is the "right" and "acceptable" thing to do.

Why? Well, in my 'umble opinion, this is mostly because people who can think tend to be a more than "occasional nuisance to authority figures."

Then having also worked in the accounting profession - which should also be "above" corporate control - but who ultimately pay their bills too, I can also say that I have found myself out of jobs because I was too honest.

Ironically again, now that I'm unemployed (unemployable), I've been far less outspoken than I have ever been in my life before, but I'm working on it!

So I'm going to say bugger the employee handbooks.

Why be afraid? If everybody decided to defy all the silly rules at once, how could they possibly enforce them?

Truly, I applaud what Chez did. CNN deserve to be made an example of for their stupid actions, but they're not the real problem.

The real problem is the incessant celebrity and infotainment bullshit; and the failures of education systems worldwide that turns people loose who are so "desensitized" that they don't question it all.

Chez provided us with a golden opportunity to get some perspective and reality back, if only we are prepared to look beyond the surface of this.

We need to have news deal with news; you know, genuine issues.

We need to get back a way of discerning the truth from the crap; the fact from the fiction; the reality from the fantasy.

The middle ground, safe, politically correct way is not the right way.

Really, I'm not sure when it was, nor why, that people - everywhere, not just in the US - started just soaking up whatever junk they were fed and refusing to think or question anything, but it's like they abdicated all responsibility.

At the same time, it seems like everyone is burnt out stressed.

And that's a lot of people's excuse for just keeping their heads down. But, one of the biggest causes of stress is the feeling that one is not in control.
You know, maybe the only way we can feel that we are in control is to take control and, along with it responsibility, for our own thinking?

Aside: What does worry me though, being 50 odd, is Andrew's opener here: "Media companies love to appear as if they are embracing new media. However, comments are often moderated and edited, podcasts are one-way streets and YouTube sharing is always disabled. It's sorta like when your friend's mom, even though she's 50, is trying to be cool. The end result is always sad."
But then, I'm nobody's mother and, I've never tried to be cool.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Irish Logic, Pythonesque DIY and Eurovision

irish_clover My mother's maiden name was pure Irish, despite the fact that she's from a long line of "true" Cockneys, born wivin the sound of Bow Bells before they were silenced (the first time, I think) and my father's mother was brought up in Cork, in Ireland, so there was probably no hope for me really ... When I was a kid, I remember  my gran used to get a real shamrock (someone sent it from Ireland), to wear on St. Paddy's Day every year.

Anyway, I was chatting to my mother on the phone yesterday afternoon, about what I have absolutely no recollection now. Yes, this probably is a "senior moment" on my part, but that's not the main reason for "losing the plot."

Whatever important issue the conversation was about, mother meant to refer to MI5 (the United Kingdom's counter-intelligence and security agency), but what came out of her mouth was MFI (flat pack furniture Made For Idiots).

For once mother, yes, I can see how you'd easily confuse the two! :)

Given the farcical nature of so many events being reported out of the UK in recent times, I have absolutely no trouble imagining that security services (and British authorities in general), have employed the same bloke who writes the bloody useless instruction leaflets for MFI, IKEA or anything else that requires self-assembly, to re-write the "spy manual".

At this point, both of us collapsed into fits of girlish giggles, as we imagined "Flat Pack DIY Spy Kits", made from crappy MDF (Medium-density fibreboard). That thought probably should only have occurred to the "hallucinatory" mind of Monty Python, Terry Gilliam.

Where was I? Planet earth? Oh no, it was Eurovision.

Well, I wasn't, but Naomi commented that Spain's Rodolfo Chikilicuatre reminded her of a Karaoke singer. Whilst I don't disagree with her, that, I think, raises the standards for karaoke singing, as I remember it!

What more can I say, other than that I used to compere karaoke at an Irish bar in Playa de las Americas. We had an Irish vet in one night, singing drunkenly, so I warned people not to take their pets to him the next morning, because he might try to castrate the females. Another night in that very same bar, some bozo had asked if my name was, "Pamela like in Pamela Anderson?" and, being blessed (then) with "The Gift of the Gab", or at least, ability to string sentences and throw back the odd one liner, I said "Nah mate, more brain, less tits."

Recalling this made me realize too just how boringly normal I've been becoming in my old age and I think it's time to (in)correct that! Wink

(Oh yes, San Patrick is also celebrated in the Canary Islands, as Mojo Canario tell us, "with big drunken parties." They don't say? Is the Pope Catholic?)

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Space Baby

space_baby "IT'S OFFICIAL - Birmingham is the weirdest place to live in the UK.", say the Birmingham Mail in "a clever piece of publicity", as Birmingham: It's Not Shit's Jon Bounds describes it.

This is probably the first "marketing gimmick" for the city that I can actually imagine Brummies getting behind and being proud of. If the British, in general, are experts at putting themselves down, then Brummies have converted this self-depreciating humour into an art form. For another thing, weird is a whole lot more relevant than trendy tacky urban beaches. :) Because after all, who the hell wants to be labeled as boringly "normal"? Not me for a start. I've made a lifelong career of being weird and proud, so I would say Brum probably produces some of the weirdest members of the human race.

My mum has always told me I was born (fairly normally, bar the 5 days labour) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, Birmingham in 1957, but I was initially dragged up in Great Barr, which is virtually next door to Aston.

Where, says the article:

"Between 1957 and 1958, Cynthia Appleton, a housewife from Fentham Road, Aston, claimed she was repeatedly visited by "spacemen" who showed off their futuristic technology, taught her Venusian and got her pregnant with a "space baby".

Mrs Appleton dear, if what you got was pregnant, then what they showed you wasn't just their "futuristic technology": it was something else entirely.

Bloody hell, that's the same year. This can't just be a coincidence, can it? :) OMG! Is that what motivated me to call this blog Cosmos, maybe?

Tell you, this really is The Twilight Zone fodder (listen)!

As Jon Bounds says, "it's all crap obviously". Actually, he says "obviously" twice (see title of his post), which tells you two things; 1) Brummies say obviously a lot, obviously and 2) unless you are one, it probably isn't obvious at all.

Also notice that we Brummies often describe ourselves as "mildly sarcastic".

This should show you that we also attempt to master "gross understatement."

gazoo What I think about "tiny winged figures, wearing goldfish-bowl helmets, [...] shaking the Christmas tree, dislodging the fairy", is that dear old Mrs Hingley had been at the cooking sherry or smoking herbal fags! Or, simply watching too much of The Flintstones. Mind you, I worked in Oldbury once and, since I couldn't understand a bloody word those Yam Yams were saying, perhaps a space ship had gone off in that direction ...

It's all so long ago it's a blur ... Although I hadn't remembered the date, I was aware at the time, that I'd left Birmingham, the first time, on the very same day that the "old" "new" Bull Ring shopping center was opened, on May 29, 1964.

I was only 7 then. The only reason I was familiar with the city at all was through going back to visit my grandmother and, later when I lived in Brum between 1984 and 1992. It struck me, looking at images of the Birmingham skyline, that I wouldn't know the place at all now.

I only recognize the Rotunda, which again, wasn't finished when I left and the, also then still under construction, GPO/PO/BT Tower.

In the 80's, a 4 story Victorian "mansion" in Kings Heath was equivalent to the price of a "shoebox in t' middle o' road" down in "the smoke". My problem (like everyone else), is that I only ever had a shoebox budget. I've also lived in Handsworth, Selly Oak, Kings Heath and the cheap end of Bournville - Stirchley - although the back gate of Cadbury's was in my road, so we used to say it was Bournville, hoping to add an extra 5 grand to the value of the house! :)

The weather, even when it wasn't weird, was a good reason to leave again!

In reality, I always seemed to be "just visiting" the place of my birth and when I went back to live there, no longer with a Brummie accent, the "natives" treated me as an outsider. This always felt strange, actually, to be the only person in my family to be born in Birmingham, yet the one who knew the city least. In all probability, this sequence is responsible for shaping my feelings that "I don't belong anywhere, therefore I belong everywhere": a true citizen of the world and, also allows me to make my home anywhere I lay my sombrero.

Actually, to say that I feel like I'm "just visiting this planet" - or, as Russell Grant so kindly put it in my horoscope the other day, "It's as though you are a rare bird in a nest filled with starlings" - doesn't seem far fetched to me.

Space baby image repurposed from loonyblog, which also seemed wholly appropriate.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Blogger giving it 110 percent ...


Yes, yes, we thought that 100% was, well 100%, the lot and that 110% was just a figure of speech, but Google obviously knows reality better than us.

After hitting the button to republish the entire blog for Secret Tenerife this morning, this is what happened. And that really, genuinely, is a screen capture. No tricks, no Photoshop. It's still going as I type. Read the figures a couple of times. You may need to rub your eyes and try again too. I did! :)

Thursday, 13 March 2008

You don't need to be a genius ...

genius... to read this blog, but for those of you, like me, who had no idea what age group junior high school equates to, that's apparently about equivalent to Middle Schools for 8-12 year-olds. Sounds awful doesn't it?

Enough to make anyone think that I write some pretty infantile things. Well, they probably wouldn't be wrong.

But I am reminded that way back when I was at college in about 81 (1881, I think) they called this "reading age" and, we were told that you needed a reading age of 8 to comprehend The Sun and a reading age of 11 for The Telegraph.

(You just need a better BS deflector for the former, though it has been asked Is The Sun newspaper good reading material for chavs?.)

These days, with the seeming dumbing down of everything, I'd love to know what current Newspaper Readability ratings are, because I personally reckon they've all slipped several notches, but they change the tests and methods of assessment so much that I doubt we could compare "apples with apples."

It also seems to me the only fiction in the plot of Idiocracy, where, "the world has devolved into a dystopia where marketing, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism run rampant and dysgenics have resulted in a uniformly stupid human society", was setting it 500 years into the future.

For those similarly afflicted with some fascination though, here is an article dealing with measuring the reading age of books and other reading matter.

But did you know that 2008 is National Year of Reading in the UK? Maybe I just missed it, or it isn't being publicized well, because this is the first time I came across it. You can understand the need, when the National Literacy Trust point to this article (from the Guardian in 2006), which says in the UK: "Up to 16 million adults - nearly half the workforce - are holding down jobs despite having the reading and writing skills expected of children leaving primary school."

Average Reading Age in the UK - 9 years! It, sadly, sounds perfectly feasible that the information in this post, dated 2004, is correct in saying that, "Time and again, I see articles in UK newspapers about how the average "reading age" of the UK population is in decline. The last one estimated this to be equivalent to that expected of a nine year old." Likewise, I have seen plenty of similar reports, but not a lot that would back them up.

What I can say, from my own personal experience of recruiting school leavers in the UK, in the 80's, is that the problem is not that new. I think the rot was creeping in when I was at school and they abolished Latin, slates and the cane. Not that I think bringing the last two back would help any.

This report from the BBC suggests that in 2002, the UK was above average: "The report suggests teenagers in the UK are reading well above their peers in other OECD countries. Of the 31 countries examined, the UK is rated seventh in terms of the average reading age of 15 year olds. Finland has the highest mean reading age of 546, while Brazil has the lowest at 396." That doesn't necessarily mean UK teenagers six years ago were exceptionally bright, I think it means that the average is decidedly crap everywhere.

In 2001, "psychiatrists suggest that the average UK reading age of the internet population is 14." Hummmm, sounds high and again, based on no scientific proof whatsoever, I would also beg to suggest that once upon a time, you had to have at least half a wit to work a computer, but that with the availability of cheap PCs and much easier to use Windows, the level has inevitably dropped.

The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America

For those of you who would like a free read, here's the ebook version (PDF all 736 pages of it - Right click and "Save Link As" Click here to begin download. File is 6.75 MB) of Charlotte Iserbyt's The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. (You can see reviews of the book and order the dead tree version here.)

The Literacy SiteIt's been my contention for years that a) education is the worlds most important issue and b) yet it's in governments' interests not to have too bright populations, so I can see how they would have an agenda for letting standards slide. Today, it's more about conformity and attitudes than any real thinking and knowledge. For those who want to discover or even improve their own reading / comprehension levels, things available online: The Child Development Institute offers a Reading Ability Screening Test. Or you can download the The Burt Reading Test (1974) Revised.

RocketReader offer some Fun Tests: How fast can you read and understand? and How does your reading speed, comprehension and vocabulary rate?

But I suggest you look at this Speed Reading Test Online. As you read the passage for the test, you'll realize that there's a very simple method to improving these and anything you want to do better in life. PRACTICE.

And why would you not want to do better, whatever your current level is? After all, you wouldn't want to wear this T-Shirt because it's true, would you?

For what it's worth, I did the Speed Reading Test and find that I'm still faster than the average reader (I'm nearly a good reader) at 285 wpm (being old, lazy, having eye problems and needing new specs have slowed me down a lot in recent years.) However, my comprehension score of 82% (compared with a typical average level of 60%) wasn't too shabby, so I am not too dissatisfied overall.

Hardly genius level though, is it?

Yeah and I never had the body of an athlete either! Sarcastic

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Rubbing it in ...

image There's really nothing like rubbing it in, is there? Today I made a very rare visit to the front page of Yahoo! whereupon, I was greeted by name.

No surprise there, since I was logged in via other Yahoo! services.

Anyway, if Yahoo! knows my name, it also knows other stuff in my profiles, like my DOB and my AGE and it appears to think the latter is "advanced" ...

Because in the top right hand corner of the page it asked me "Worried about Memory loss?" and invites me to check Yahoo! Health for answers.

Later on, down the right hand side of the page was displayed a typical silver haired (I'm not) "wrinkly" feature about "Alzheimer's Disease Resources".

Well, thank you Yahoo! If there is a link between you recognizing me and offering me "content targeted to the user", you just managed to make me feel older than Keith Richards. Maybe that's extreme, like Methuselah's granny then!

At this rate, if I don't croak first, very soon I'll need need to add "Warning! Elderly Person Blogging" in the sidebar, as "oldgit", Big John has.

Of course, I would bookmark the helpful Alzheimer's Disease Resources too, but there really doesn't seem a lot of point, does there? I might not need them now, but by the time I do, I won't remember where I saved them, will I?

Now why did I go to Yahoo! in the first place? :)

Facebook are just as bad. After my last birthday they stopped showing ads asking "Are you 50 and single?" and started offering me retirement planning.

Wake up Cat

Chandira wrote about her alarm cat, saying "I can figure out how she knows to wake me up a few minutes before my alarm goes off every morning." And she even adjusts for weekends and daylight savings, which makes it even more of a mystery. Any animal behaviorists in the house? This is so intriguing.

Anyway, by another one of those weird coincidences, I happened to bump into this video (Simon Tofield's short film 'Cat Man Do' has been nominated in the 'Best Comedy' category at the upcoming British Animation Awards.)

And I swear he's been studying my Balu in order to make this.

The little bugger drapes himself on top of me to whack me upside the head (and I really must trim his nails), then as soon as I move, he's off playing innocent. Here's a video of another Cat Alarm: same action, only more gentle!

Episode two of Simon's Cat 'Let Me In!' is brilliantly observed too. Mico has this habit of standing on his hind legs and rapidly pummelling the glass door with that nails across a blackboard quality. Thomas once learned to flap a letterbox to get his personal slave to go open the door. My dad once altered the workings of a door handle, so that it lifted up to open, because our old cat Sue could open it the normal way. They all share one trait: wait till the end. I know that these two episodes have already been seen millions of times, but it's just so clever, I'm sure this cartoon will be truly massive.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Status: Not Interested


Buzznet is not my all time favorite place for storing photos online (I just keep a few "family photos" of the cats in there), but they did score some points with me in having, I noticed only today, a "Not Interested" option under Status.

At most sites, you get the usual choices between married, single, divorced or whatever and I'm often tempted to select married (call me old fashioned, but I don't like to lie, even on social networking sites), because if I truthfully select single or divorced, a flurry of lovesick Romeos wants to be my "friend."

Often I've resorted to spelling it out on profiles, but that makes no difference, whereas, I'm sure this is a field people would be able to search on at most sites, so you would HOPE that those looking for other single members would not even see the profiles of the irrelevant and "Not Interested" ones in their searches.

Whilst, I know some people use social sites as dating sites, it's wrong to assume that single always means "and looking." It would be nice if more sites added a "Not Interested" option for those of us who are "Not Interested".

It would be nice if there was some sort of equivalent that worked in the real world too, but that's a whole other story / rant for some other day! :)

Thursday, 6 March 2008

How to stick one on your customers

... greatly insult them and make them hate you even more. Unelco, the monopoly that purveys occasional electricity in the Canary Islands, today sent me a credit note, a list of six "incidences" during 2007 and a letter explaining that it has been decreed that customers who had suffered a certain level of interruptions during last year are to receive compensation.

Hurray, you say? Well, not so friggin' fast ... You don't get real money, of course. The credit note says that the amount is to be discounted from the next bill, (so they can go on earning interest on it, presumably.) And the dumbshits could have earned interest on a whole lot more money if they hadn't wasted it on sending customers three whole A4 printed pages of chopped down trees, not to mention the cost of the unnecessary postage, because they could have just put this in with that next bill that they're deducting it from.

The frequent power cuts - almost always, could not happen if the cables had been below ground, but they won't spend money on that - are less trouble than when electricity shorts, going off and then on again, repeatedly, or when it returns with a surge, both of which always cause damage to appliances.

The last time this happened, it fried a phone, but I've lost count of the TV's, stereos, videos, coffee machines, phones, computers ... that have "mysteriously" given up the ghost after power cuts.

Who's going to pay for these? Not them, of course, because going to their offices (repeatedly) to make reclamations they are sure to disallow, always cost more than the appliance is worth.

The cables coming up this valley and over my house, until 18 months ago were unprotected, bare wires. There is a potential major health issue here, which is unresolved, but also every time it rained and the wind blew, these cables would spark like a firework display, while the house would vibrate with the shorts.

Last time our local pylon was hit by lightening, it took 7 hours for them to come out and tell me what I'd told them: that the pylon had been hit by lightening. And at the time they must have done a temporary fix. Because, a week or so later, I wake up to no electricity yet again.

No less than FIVE vehicles, one of which was a crane lorry and one of which was a 4x4 with something to the effect of "Prevention of risks of accidents at work" written on the side in Spanish (and yes, there was a supernumerary, useless looking bloke doing nothing at all with a clipboard in his hands) were in attendance to do the work, which indicates that they were hardly passing casually. They replaced all the twirly bits (fittings) at the top of the pylon and also exchanged the transformer. There is no way that you have one of those big boxes in stock, just to casually drop by and do a repair (did I mention these are precisely the type of transformers my dad used to design?), so Unelco's other problem - actually Spain's - is that it is unacceptable (it's inhumane) in the civilized world in the 21st Century to cut people off for most of the day, without warning, when they must have known they were going to do this work.

We should have been warned, by phone, text, leaflet or whatever.

The technicians are all subcontractors, of course, so when you ask them questions, they have a scripted response that it's not their problem / responsibility, you have to go to the Unelco office at Los Realejos. My response to that is, when I pay to have electricity supplied, I pay to have it supplied to the house, not so that I have to go and get it!

Meanwhile, if you phone Unelco, whose problem / responsibility it must be, the phone automatically cuts off while you're waiting to get through.

Of course, the pylon would not have been hit by lightening and none of these money wasting repairs would be needed, if the cables were under ground.

Not that I want to press the point here, but this is the truth.

When I came here 16 years ago, I was prepared to accept some inconveniences, but this is a whole new century and, it's not about expecting British standards abroad. Spain joined the EU 22 years ago and, like it or not, progress has happened and these islands are now part of the "civilized" world. Local people suffer equally: they too rely on electricity, having been encouraged to do so by local authorities for internet connections, etc. They can manage to build far too many roads and buildings, yet wonder why they attract trashy tourists or that tourist numbers drop ...

Well, maybe this lack of dignified, basic considerations is one of the reasons?

So, you wanna know what is the vast sum of "compensation" I'm going to receive for the five "computable incidents" (No sorry, one was a Fuerza mayor / Major Force / Act of God and therefore not payable. Although, as an atheist, I wish to claim exemption / entitlement), i.e. power cuts of between 2 hours and 4.5 hours in 2007 was? Bear in mind that I've been on the island since 1992 and this compensation was as a result of something established in 2002, however, this is the very first time we've been compensated at all (yet I've never had an electricity bill under 100 euros) and, compared to prior years, 2007 really wasn't that bad. They're allowing me a whole 4.34 euros - about £3.30. In Total.

They're having a fucking laugh, aren't they?

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

My Birthday ...

Tried to let the event slide past unnoticed this year, but all sorts of websites and forums "conspired" to remind me with a barrage of "Happy Birthday" spam.

Alright, maybe spam is a bit strong of a word, but at my age, being reminded at all is always unsolicited!

Worse yet, with so many websites being personalized for the user these days, everywhere I go, I keep being told how damn old I am.

They all clicked over and added on another year automatically and I'd rather they didn't, thank you. This is a novelty that probably wears off by the time one reaches 13 1/2. So, what could I do to commiserate with myself? ...

Oh yes, I know, food! I like food I do and, being a lazy bitch, settled for a restaurant that I can see from the house, the recently renamed (well, last year) Asadero Los Pedregales. This also gave me a chance to take a nice little stroll across the valley and see the pretty spring flowers coming up and all the blossoms on the trees. Actually, that did cheer me up no end, because I distinctly remember many occasions in the UK when I had tried to have birthday parties in early March, only to have people cancelling right and left because they couldn't drive through the horrid snow. Here it's been warm enough that I've broken a sweat a couple of times. Even so, to be honest, I'd have had to walk a heck of a lot farther than just across the valley to counteract the bad effects of this huge steak and naughty pudding, but if you're going to treat yourself, you do it proper, don't you? Eating Out in Tenerife: Asadero Los Pedregales


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