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Thursday, 15 March 2018

405: A cock and bull story!

One of the reasons for writing blogs is to help my former students expand their knowledge of the English language. A cock and bull story, according to the Oxford English dictionary, is an implausible story used as an explanation or excuse. Maybe when you're trying to explain to the boss why you're late for work. The rest of the blog, although it may seem implausible, is a true record of my recent, very short, trip to Valencia. Coincidentally, I arrived there at 16:10 on Tuesday and left at 16:10 on Wednesday. On reflection, it was not long enough. I should spend more time there next time. I haven't been to a bull fight in Spain, and have no plans to do so, but the 'sport' (if you can call it that) is certainly part of the Spanish culture.
I bought a 24-hour transport card and spent Tuesday evening wandering about, exploring the town. Valencia is in extended carnival mode, but more of that later.

 On Wednesday I decided to visit Oceanografic - a large area containing diverse marine environments and housing fish and marine life from different corners of the planet. 

 I spent quite some time enjoying looking at the different aquaria and then sat down to watch the dolphins performing for fish. It was a good show. Trainers and dolphins worked well together. Part of me objects to the fact that we are, perhaps, exploiting the animals for our own gratification, but I watched it anyway. 

And then back to the station with a few hours in hand before my train back to Salou. I'm pleased I had been forewarned that at 2 p.m., every day for quite a few days, there would be a series of enormous bangs. They lasted for a good 5-10 minutes and the whole street was covered in dense smoke. Who pays for all the fireworks I wondered, but there was loud applause from the large crowds when it finished. Perhaps there are more tourist bucks coming in than pyrotechnic bucks going out? 

Here is a link to explain all about the Valencia Fallas and a short video

404: Page not found

The plan is that after I have written my 500th blog I will publish the whole lot as a coffee table book for my great-great grandchildren to read in case they ever feel the need to ask questions about their ancestors. I know I'll have to pay for self-publishing as I do appreciate I don't have the literary flair and style to attract publishers to pay me.
I know I always regret not asking my grandparents more about what they got up to in their lives. This particular blog, short and sweet, is an irreverent poke at the most famous Windows error code of all - 404 - Page not found. "What was Windows", the great-great grandchildren will be asking. 
How everything will have moved on by  then. How things have changed since my grandparent's day. (Yes, these are my grandparents, from a long long time ago).
Enjoy this Renny Gleeson short TED Talk about page 404. I know I did.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

403: A technical blog - especially for Olive

If you're not geeky, or you're not my cousin-in-law Olive, then please read no further. I want to regale you with my Internet problems and how I overcame them. 
When I came Salou, almost a year ago, I compared the prices that various ISPs (Internet Service Providers) wanted and saw that they were much more expensive than in UK - especially when you factor in the cost of a landline. I didn't really want or need a landline so investigated alternative ways of getting internet access here in my flat. 
I hit on the idea of a mobile router, which works using a SIM card. I bought a Huawei LTE CPE model E5186s-22a. I put in a Spanish SIM and found it worked perfectly well, but. Isn't there always a but? The but, in this case, was that there was a maximum entitlement of 26 GB per month. If I went over, as I did most months,  then they billed me even more than what I had signed up for. I soon found that this wasn't enough for my needs - the odd Skype lesson and streaming the 'occasional' UK TV programme soon ate up the gigabytes.(N.B. In UK English programme is used for TV programmes and program for software.)
Image result for huawei lte cpe e5186s-22a 
So, bite the bullet and pay for internet through a landline. 48 Euros per month (roughly £42). There are comparison sites here and you can get cheaper rates ordering on-line rather than visiting a shop but whenever you click on an offer you are asked to telephone somebody. I don't like using the telephone at the best of times but to try and communicate in Spanish when I only have 400-500 words of general Spanish and almost no technical Spanish would have been an absolute nightmare. When I went to a local Orange shop they eventually told me that Movistar had the monopoly on certain numbers, including mine, in the block of flats where I live. That may, or may not, be true but Orange said they weren't in a position to help. So, trog off to the local Movistar shop where I signed a contract for them to provide landline and internet (+ 2 SIM cards).
The technician arrived within a few days and told me, I think, that I had to have their router near to the telephone point. This is nowhere near where the TV and desktop are currently located. Desktop, and notebook and mobile now all worked wirelessly and give me continuous access to the internet without worrying about running over a monthly entitlement, but (and there's that but again) streaming TV from UK paused to reload more often than I liked.
I knew that internet over ethernet would be faster than internet over wi-fi so I have just been out and bought a 7.5 metre telephone extension cable. The router is now on the shelf above the TV and is connected by internet cable to my desktop PC. Download speed is almost 4 times faster. The smart TV in the bedroom also lets me wirelessly listen to music and watch the best that You Tube has to offer. (I had been worried that if I moved the router the bedroom TV would then be out of range but everything is fine).
All's well that ends well. Now I just have to advertise the old mobile router on eBay and move on to the next (technical) problem. And secure the cable around the wall with those little things whose name I have temporarily forgotten.
And finally, for anybody who wants to become a geek......

Thursday, 1 March 2018

402: Having my cake and eating it too!

The blog title fairly accurately reflects my lifestyle, although today I'm able to use it literally! Do please note that the people of Ramsey are very sophisticated - you get a knife and fork to eat your cake. 

I'm duty cook today so set off for Tesco to buy the ingredients. The raspberry turnovers jumped into my basket as I passed them. Our local Tesco is the other side of town so a brisk walk there and back helps me to reach my daily step goal. Unfortunately, after exercise I often feel that I've earned a little reward - hence the finger doughnut and coffee in the Windmill Bakery on the way home. Walking back across the sports field I noticed that there was nobody in the pensioners' playground. Hardly surprising really!

The idea of sports equipment for the elderly is admirable. If it helps older folk keep fit then it keeps them out of hospital and/or the doctor's surgery, thereby saving the NHS money. Unfortunately I don't think the uptake has been very high. 
Short and sweet today - not like the doughnut, which was long and sweet. Here in UK two snowflakes and the country grinds to a halt. For a video I thought I would give you a link showing how those in the Moscow suburbs cope with the snow. Look at the link to see 'real' snow.