Monday, 8 February 2016

Spanish News for the English (8)

The 'Spanish News for the English' 2016 is a sometimes tongue in cheek service, in support of European Multiculturalism for English Pensionistas (pensioners) Pensionistas who are considering a different type of winter break. This time as an alternative to the more usual break of an ankle, leg or arm due to the inclement UK weather.



Today its a tale of woe and a reminder to keep your wits about you.

We met up with another couple of Brits who like us are travelling south through France and Spain. The driver regaled me with a story that should be a heads up for others thinking of travelling by motor home through France and Spain. Like us he prefers travelling on the Autopista (Motorway) to munch the miles. For us having the motor home set on cruise control to match the speeds (58mph) of the commercial vehicles, makes for a easy and much more relaxing day of driving. But I digress.

Our motor home acquaintance had checked the route map and noted that there was a section of good coastal road to the south of Barcelona. Which was only passing through a few smaller towns along the way. A road which would allow him to come off the Autopista early (Save a few Euro's in tolls) and to drive through to their overnight destination and also shortening the journey by a few miles. He was stood at some traffic lights in one of the small towns when there was a knock on the side of the vehicle. There were a couple of men stood alongside their vehicle. One of the men said in broken English that the motor home had a flat tyre. (the UK number plates are a give away)

He got out of the vehicle, closely followed by his wife. He went to the near side, which is away from the UK vans side door. Sure enough he had a flat tyre,. The two men seemed to be of eastern European origin as they did not speak much if any Spanish. One of the men engaged them both in conversation. Explaining in broken English that there was a tyre repair centre behind the row of building where they were now parked. On returning to the vehicle they noticed that the cab door was open. His wife discovered that her bag was missing along with an amount of money and a number of important documents. It looked like an opportunist thief had been in the van and helped themselves.

They limped the van off the main road round the corner to the tyre centre. At the repair centre the tyre fitter informed them that the tyre had actually been stabbed through the side wall. Then the penny tumbled, they had been stood in traffic for only a few moments when the 'Flat Tyre' occurred. They then realised that they had been set up and robbed by being distracted by the 'helpful people'. They were feeling a little bit foolish that in a moment, they had been taken in.

We have heard similar stories in the past about other travellers being accosted in various ways This started me thinking about what we can do to make our journey a bit safer. Often when such stories are retold. Mobile homes are travelling or parked up on their own. There is an old saying about their being safety in numbers. Often we see other motor homes heading in the same general direction as ourselves. Now we tend to create a small convoy by tacking on behind. We sometimes meet up with others owners who have stopped for comfort breaks. We always tend to park close to their vehicle. This also gives the impression that the vehicles are in convoy.

Now we have changed our habits even further. We have hidden documents and money in separate places inside the vehicle. When we are driving through towns and coming up to any traffic lights which are at red. I slow down early and creep forward in the hope that the light will change before we arrive. We now only drive with all the vehicle doors locked. If I need to get out for any reason, I lock up the vehicle and take the keys with me every time. Even if its only to pay for fuel in a garage.

This is currently our third trip driving through France and Spain. A few days ago, we were tooted at by a vehicle on the Autopista. The first job is to note the registration number of the other vehicle. You could also take a picture on your mobile phone. We have a forward and rearward video camera which start recording our journey whenever the ignition comes on. We also have a small note book which is kept in the glove compartment. Where we note down things, like amounts of fuel purchased or reg numbers of any odd behaviour by other vehicles.

The passenger in the passing vehicle was indicating that something was wrong at the back. (We carry a couple of cycles on a bike rack at the rear) A quick check through the back and we could see that the cover had come loose at one side and was flapping about. We gave the thumbs up to the passenger, but only slowed our vehicle down. We kept moving, to give the vehicle chance to leave us behind. I checked the mirrors for any other following vehicles. When we were sure that there was no one following behind. We pulled over onto one of the emergency stopping points where there is an emergency phone available. Where I was able to secure the cover in a few moments. Only one of us went out – the other secured the vehicle from the inside.



Caveat: Due to language difficulties and the unavailability of translation services. There may be one or two small inaccuracies in the news provided.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Access to the Internet via your mobile phone

I have a mobile phone which I use in the UK. Its not tied to a particular communications provider. (unlocked) It has an 'all you can eat' data contract with my current provider. For the last couple of years my provider has wanted to get me off this contract. However, I have always refused a new contract which is usually offered with a sweetener in the form of a replacement 'supposedly free' phone. At the time I took out the contract, it was one of the more expensive options. But I got a good deal at the time for my needs. However today, by comparison its quite a cheap option for the unlimited data download.
There is much you can do to improve the number of 'bits you get for your buck'. But first a bit of background to why things have changed and the providers are trying to get everyone off the 'all you can eat' contracts.
The internet set off as something equivalent to the 'wild west' you just dipped a toe in and took your chance. Though it was essentially free. The network providers sold us a connection to the all new digital highway' that was the internet. We paid for the connection which for the last mile was usually over copper wires. Cable companies seemed to be the way to go. It meant digital data to the home. But as it was new infrastructure installation had a cost, it was also slow and expensive to install. Towns and cities where was where the cable laying went on a pace. By chance the cable ran past the front door of a small village where I lived at the time. There was even a subscriber box installed a few yards further up the road. However the cable company (shortly afterwards bought out) were not interested in a one off service provision.
So there was a two tier system. You had to pay for an installed phone line and the data was a separate service option using a modem/router – that you also paid for. As the mobile market was increasingly taken up and people wanted communications in their pocket.
As we became ever more reliant on the mobile phone and many people – myself included, I dropped off the land line modem/router to the home. I now use tethering, between my laptop and the phone. If your communications providers decided that tethering should be a paid for extra. If you know what you are doing – it is relatively easy to get round the restriction - by patching the browser to report (spoof) that it was a mobile phone version of the same browser.
The mobile phone and the commercialisation of the internet is big business today. Take the mobile phone. The contract price provides you with as many texts as you like, as many free phone calls as you like. The money now is made by the amount of internet data you down load. But the data is managed differently You now buy it in gigabyte chunks and you might reasonably expect that you get what you pay for.
Or do you?
The communications service providers make their money not by providing phone calls (Phone calls are so – yesterday) Remember the time when you had an alerter and the short text messages. (once again, its so old-school) Today the money is made by selling you the data in Gigabyte chunks.
Which brings us to a second issue. Who has control over what data you are downloading?
Today, Internet sites make their money by selling advertising. They want to be able to push, stream or pop up stuff on your desk top. This is mostly stuff that you don't want. But you are paying for data that you don't want.
Then there is 'click bait'... This is the real kicker. You see something that you are interested in reading on a web page. You start to read and there are adverts on the same page that you are also downloading. Then the article continues a paragraph at a time on page two, three, four and so on. With even more advertisements on each new page. And so it continues, page after page where the bit you wanted to read is a couple of megabytes – but at the same time you are downloading tens of megabytes of unwanted advertising.
I ask again, who has control over what data you are downloading?
You can take some control back – But only if you can limit in some way the unwanted advertising data. You can cut back the unwanted data that you are currently and often unknowingly paying for. But you have to do a bit of work by doing a bit of reconfiguring of the way you use things.
So one of the first issues is to look through your mobile phone at all the stuff you don't want, use or need. Usually this is stuff that you get prompted to update from time to time. So that you are updating the things you don't even use.
1-If you don't use an application - then you don't need it. Uninstall the application from your phone. It saves space on your phone's internal storage. It can also make your battery last longer. (some sit in the background ticking away using bandwidth and power) Uninstalling unused apps can even speed up your data downloading.
2- Updating applications costs you money, its a data download. Turn off any automatic updates. Configure your phone so that you choose what applications to update. (never, ever choose the update all option) Updated applications often work just as well as the previous version. So don't change what is working for you. Many free applications have – inbuilt sales – often downloading advertising data in the background. Applications updates usually bring - a much wider choice of the stuff you don't want or intend to buy. But you are still paying for the unwanted data download.
3- If you are one of those folk, who must update everything. Go to the pub, have a beer. and use their free wifi option. However, check that you have not ticked the - use both mobile and wifi option - to speed up downloads. Because you will still be paying for a significant amount of the data download that is not delivered to your phone via the wifi link.
4- If you are like me and tether your laptop to your mobile phone. TURN OFF AUTOMATIC WINDOWS UPDATES. I have just reconfigured a Windows 7 laptop for someone. That had downloaded in the background the windows 10 update! As a result the user had lost about 3gb out of a 5gb per month allowance. He did not want to update the laptop. He did not like Windows10 and certainly did not want to pay for the download. But he has now!
5- Got a favourite browser that you use on your tethered laptop (I use Firefox but your taste might vary) Then install a pop-up blocker. This will help to reduce the unwanted data downloads. It will get the annoying adverts off your screen. I prefer Firefox as its easy to use and very configurable for pop-up blockers.
6- Got a favourite application (say Facebook) there are also blockers available for the endless stream of mind numbing adverts. Which are usually based on the content of messages and any posting you make. Send a couple of Facebook messages to yourself about electric kettles and then see what advertisements you get offered.
7- Turn off notifications in the Facebook forums you don't use very often or better still delete the ones you don't use.
8- Got hundreds of friends? Then turn the ones you don't talk with very often into acquaintances. If I have infrequent conversations with people. I down grade them to acquaintance.
9- Or better still – do what I do. Every now and then I have a purge of the acquaintances. Its amazing how often people don't know that you are no longer a friend or acquaintance.
10- Do you just accept Facebook friend requests by default. I don't. I currently have about 60 requests from people waiting, people that I don't know or even vaguely recognise.
11- Never accept a random request without a message explaining why you should be friends.
12- In Facebook groups that you use very rarely, ones where you read through the posts only to find little to inspire you. Leave...

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Spanish News for the English (7)

The 'Spanish News for the English' 2016 is a tongue in cheek service, in support of European Multiculturalism for English Pensionistas (pensioners) Pensionistas who are considering a different type of winter break. This time as an alternative to the more usual break of an ankle, leg or arm due to the inclement UK weather.

Dateline La Palma:

Fiesta 'Los Indianos,' or Festival of the Indians, is a Carnival which sees thousands of the 'Palmeros' all dressed in white take to the streets. In what looks something similar to the 'festival of colours in India. The towns folk seem to be going crazy and chucking talcum powder at each other for hours on end. The fiesta’s name refers to the Canarian migrants who sought a better life in Latin America in the 19th century. Its a throwback to the way they were greeted warmly on their return to the island of La Palma. As for the talcum tossing, it's thought to be linked to the disinfectant powder sprinkled on the travellers to avoid the spread of disease.


Dateline Baza:

The filthy festival which really lives up to its name takes place in the town of Baza every year in September. When locals from the Andalusian village re-enact a medieval dispute with their neighbours from the town of Guadix. They do this by covering their bodies in oil and grease and pelting “intruders” with paint and eggs. The term 'intruders' seems to apply equally to anyone from Guadix, Baza or anywhere else, who just happen to be around at the time.


Dateline Bilbao:
Bilbao is a large city, however it lives up to the wonderful wacky and weird reputation of the Spanish and especially their festivals. The 'Bilboko Aste Nagusia,' or the ‘Big Week’ festival. A special time when Bilbao goes bonkers with the 'Big Week' festival which lasts for the standard maƱana week which is nine days long! This event includes everything from a strong man competition to high profile music concerts and fireworks displays. Our favourite part of the fiesta is however, the Ugly Festival which sees people vying to pull the most revolting face possible. This is another British tradition of face pulling usually framed through a toilet seat. 'Gurning' which seems to have made its way across the Bay of Biscay.

Caveat: Due to language difficulties and the unavailability of translation services. There may be one or two small inaccuracies in the news provided.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Spanish News for the English (6)

The 'Spanish News for the English' 2016 is a tongue in cheek service, in support of European Multiculturalism for English Pensionistas (pensioners) Pensionistas who are considering a different type of winter break. This time as an alternative to the more usual break of an ankle, leg or arm due to the inclement UK weather.



Dateline Spain:



The Spanish have come up with a new roadside Radar system. Built into what looks like a nondescript electrical control box. Not only can they detect the speed of the vehicle. They can also detect if a mobile phone is in use in the vehicle. The system which takes up to 50 photographs a second can also detect if the driver and passengers are wearing seat belts. The images are fed into a computer system which can then from the various images build a 3D image of the vehicle interior. In the first week long test of the new hightec system. 1349 motorists were fined for not wearing a seat belt. 1113 were fined for using a mobile phone. 57 motorcyclists were fined for not wearing a helmet. A further 57 of the new roadside units are to be rolled out over the next few weeks.



Dateline Mojacar:



One of the last remaining Great Train Robbers has passed away in Spain. Gordon Goody aged 87 who is reputed to have masterminded the robbery. Served 12 years and then moved out to Spain on his release. Where he lived a very quiet life running a beach bar called the Kont Tiki.



Dateline Barcelona:



You may or may not have heard of Faith – a three legged pony. Faith was found with a deeply infected leg. The result of which Faith had to have an amputation done. was fitted with a prosthetic front leg in a revolutionary and pioneering bit of veterinary surgery. Unfortunately Faith who had been living in a horse sanctuary had a second infection and had to be put to sleep. Though Faith has now passed away, it was after enjoying a further 5 years of pain free life. But that is not the end of the prosthetic leg – which is currently being adapted to fit a Shetland pony living in France called Iris.



Caveat: Due to language difficulties and the unavailability of translation services. There may be one or two small inaccuracies in the news provided.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Spanish News for the English (5)

The 'Spanish News for the English' 2016 is a tongue in cheek service, in support of European Multiculturalism for English Pensionistas (pensioners) Pensionistas who are considering a different type of winter break. This time as an alternative to the more usual break of an ankle, leg or arm due to the inclement UK weather. Contributing further to the previous two postings on weird and sometimes wonderful Spanish festivals.



Spain is full of festivals celebrating the ‘reconquest’ of Spain. Celebrating the return of Christian rule in the country. Which also brought with it the Spanish inquisition. Spain had undergone a very a long period of Moorish rule.



Dateline Alcoy:



Among the most spectacular of these fiestas is the Festival of the Moors and Christians. Which is held every year in the Alicante town of Alcoy. The fiesta comes around each year in late April. In this colourful event the locals, who seem to have more than the usual enjoyment of the Spanish passion for dressing up. Begin re-enacting the battle of Alcoy. The battle took place in 1276 which saw the town ‘rescued’ from the Moors. This is similar to the Iraqis we rescued who were already living in Iraq.



Dateline Sabucedo:



Today's first remarkable fiesta is called 'The Shearing of the Beasts' which takes place in Sabucedo (Galicia) every July. Not so much the Barber of Seville, this fiesta is a bit more Sweeny Todd. The fiesta is reputed to be more than 400 years old. The festival sees hundreds of wild horses rounded up and driven down from the local mountains. The animals are then herded into a small arena. Where the people of Sabucedo seem to lose the plot and what has been described as bedlam ensues. For not only are the horses wrestled into a position where they get a short back and sides applied to their manes. In something of a throwback to the wild west. The horses also get 'hot' branded rather than the more humane 'freeze branding' technique.



Dateline Las Nieves:



As usual, I have saved the best until last. If you are into Goth or Alice Cooper you will feel very much at home at the Festival of Saint Marta de Ribarteme. (patron saint of the resurrection ) This fiesta held each year in July, has something of the morbid about it. Anyone who has experienced an out of body or near death experience can take part. First you will however, need to bring your own coffin with you. You then get to enjoy being carried around the town of Las Nieves. While this is happening, the population consume lots of red wine and set off fire crackers.

Caveat: Due to language difficulties and the unavailability of translation services. There may be one or two small inaccuracies in the news provided.