Thursday, 30 July 2009

Cable Fault Cuts Off West Africa

This will seriously damage the Nigerian SCAM / SPAM industry.

Story here.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Slightly Happy News

Many people have said that my book Tybalt & Theo would make a great film or TV series, and I agree with them. So a few months ago, I set about writing a screenplay adaptation of it.

I have to say that it was a massively difficult task - it might have been easier if it was someone else's novel I was ripping to shreds. The hardest thing, initially, is to get the length right. One A4 page of properly formatted script is reckoned to be about one minute of screen time. So for a lightweight comedy like this (especially one from a writing virgin), the ideal length is 90 minutes. Compressing 280 pages of novel into that was damn hard - in fact, I didn't make it, I stopped when it got to 110 pages.

Anyway, I sent the script off to the UK Film Council: they have a development fund for new writers, and I might have got some dosh off them. In the end, they said no, but very nicely. They offered me free use of a Script Doctor service, which surprised me immensely. I don't know if every reject gets this offer - it must cost UK Film a fortune if they do. So, the script is now with the doctor, and I await the diagnosis nervously.

Telefonica Is A Bit Sucky

One of the absolute basic rules of selling stuff, especially online, is to make it really easy for your customer to pay. Make it so that the customer barely notices they've paid. We have the technology.

For reasons I won't go into (okay, it's teh recession, man, you can haz ch33zburger, g00d gess), our Telefonica payment did not go through at the start of this month. No worries, I have cash money now, I'll pay the bill.

Telefonica themselves don't handle the dirty stuff, despite having a gazillion shops scattered around the planet. You can pay into various banks (but only between 9.00 and 9.05, on Mondays or Thursdays when there's an R in the month), or any Post Office at any time.

So I go to the Post Office, hand over the bill, and the clerk types stuff into the computer.

Computer says no.

She tries a different combination of possibilities.

Computer still says no.

I'm irritated, but go away without hardly killing anybody, and return the next day with other numbers that might work, and a sunny, optimistic smile on face.

Computer said no.

You may be wondering, if you've ever lived in one of the many extant versions of the real world, why this is so difficult. So am I. The Telefonica computer system that is installed in all Spanish Post Offices wants four pieces of information: name, phone number, type of identification (CIF/NIF, passport, residence card) and the number that corresponds to the selected type of ID. Plenty of scope for error there, then, and absolutely no need for anything more than the phone number. All of the info is printed on the bill anyway, so it's just redundant, time-wasting crap.

I went home and called Telefonica. They do actually provide service in English, and the boy on the phone confirmed that all the info I gave him was correct, and it should work. Go back and try again, he said. Fuck off and die, I replied. I tell him I suspect there's a programming error in the system (yay, Keefie, call centre operatives know all about stuff like that). The CIF/NIF that puzzled you a bit earlier, well, CIF is a company registration number, NIF is a Spaniard's National ID number. I have neither. I have an NIE (Foreigner's ID number). So I think that's where the glitch is. I ask the dude if he can change the ID type to Passport. Sure, he says, and tries to do it. Ah, he says, can't do it. There's already an account with that passport number. Yes, I say, that'll be the old place in Chueca. He confirms that this is the case. But, I say, that account is closed, yes? Yes, it is, but it stays on the system like, forever.

I can't get him to understand how illogical this all is: I might have five properties scattered throughout Spain - do I need a separate form of ID for each one? He's given up. Go to Post Office, go to Post Office... is all he can say now.

I'm only trying to give them money. If any of you wanted to give me money I'd be bending over backwards to get it off you. But that's because I'm not a state-owned can't-be-bothered used-to-be-monopoly.

Oh, there we go, Internet just got cu--

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

New Spanish Words

I learnt two new words of Spanish today, cerradura = lock (lit 'close hard') and cerrajero = locksmith.

Why? I hear you ask. Well, MamaDuck's handbag was stolen today. It contained her phone, credit card, sunglasses, other stuff, and keys to the house. It also contained a few bits of paper that had our address on.

She reported the theft to the Police, got a report and set about cancelling the credit card and mobile account. Given that the thief not only had the keys, but also the address, I set about getting our front door lock changed, hence the new vocabulary. We now have a lovely new cylinder in our door (85 Euros including 5 keys and installation).

Amazingly, we've just had a visit from two nice young Policias, returning the handbag. All intact except for the credit card, the shades and the phone. So the thief got virtually nothing - the card was maxed-out and is now cancelled, the shades were scratched, the phone was a freebie from Vodafone. But we've shelled out 85 Euros for a new lock, wasted half a day chasing round fixing things, and will now have to buy new shades and a new phone.

I have to admit to being a little bit disappointed. I was planning to spend tomorrow here in the dark with the blinds down. When I heard the thief trying to get the key into the lock, I was going to rush him with the blunt end of our broom, push him down the stairs and nick his wallet. If necessary, the ironing board is strategically placed by the door for a more serious attempt at achieving unconsciousness. Failing that, I know where the sharp knives are.

I have to say, I have nothing but contempt for these people. What fucking planet are they on? Why do they think it's okay to take other people's property? I mentioned our unfortunate propensity for being robbed to an Ecuadorian lady once, and asked her what she thought. She shrugged, and said 'you are obviously Gringos, so you are rich, so it doesn't matter to you.' Hmm, can't deny the first point. Completely, utterly, galactically wrong on the second two.

This kind of crime is usually blamed on Romanians and Roma/Gypsies/Pikeys. We can tell you with the voice of more experience than most that Latinos are actually the ones to watch.*

*Racist generalisation, not all Latinos are thieves. Investments can go down as well as up. May contain nuts. Although Romanians and Roma need to be treated with extreme caution. Disagree? Sue me.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

When I'm Old...

... I wanna join a choir like this one: Young At Heart.

You don't have to be able to sing, remember words, or anything!

We were invited to see a special showing of the documentary 'Young At Heart' last night, and it was bloody brilliant. If you ever get the chance to see this, don't miss it. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll stomp your feet like a foot-stomping thing, and at the end of it, you'll come out and think 'when I'm old, I wanna be like that.'

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Arse About Tit

I spent most of yesterday designing a cover for my new novel:

MamaDuck kindly pointed out that this is a bit of an arse about tit way to work, given that the book is nowhere near finished yet. But it is now just over 10,000 words, which is the minimum required for uploading it to Authonomy, so a cover is needed - you have to either supply your own or use one of Authonomy's generic horrors. You can read it here.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

How Pricey Is My City?

A survey out today shows that Tokyo is now the world's most expensive city for an expat to live (it was number 2 last year). London has dropped from last year's 3rd to this year's 16th.

Of particular interest to me (this year's rank first, last year's in brackets):
20 (52) Dubai
26 (65) Abu Dhabi
37 (28) Madrid
38 (31) Barcelona

Full story here.