The rain in Spain…

…s caused mainly by people speaking Spanish. It seems to be a language geared up mainly for spitting on people. Rolling the ‘r’s, the velar frictive ‘j’, the lisping ‘z’s: what the hell’s going on here? Oh well, at least the vocabulary and grammar seem relatively simple in comparison to certain languages I could mention.
Incidentally, a good site for examing just how different languages can (and could) be is the Primer in SF Xenolinguistics. Yes, I know it’s about science fiction languages, but it makes some good points about actual languages, too.

It’s all Spanish to me

So how did my experiment in language learning work out? I didn’t quite manage to complete my Instant Greek book, since I ran out of time, but overall, it was pretty good. I could understand what was going on in specific scenarios pretty well – anything outside of the book’s scope was still gibberish – and I could actually speak to people and get them to understand me. All in all, feeling quite chuffed about my linguistic adventures.
The Greeks seem quite happy when you give Greek a go, although since they all seem to speak English, I did begin to feel as though I’d wasted six weeks on a language only spoken in one country, but c’est la vie.
Anyway, my plan continues. This morning, Instant Spanish arrived. The scenarios and dialogue are almost exactly identical, except in Spanish of course, right down to the names of the characters: Tom and Kate Walker. The only noticeable difference so far? They meet Mr Iglesias, rather than Mr Onassis, in the first story.

Mobile phone insurance

Mobile phone insurance. Have a think about it. What’s the point? You’ve been on a contract for a year, someone steals your phone: what happens next? You get a new phone free on another contract somewhere else. Or you buy a pay as you go phone.
How about stolen airtime? What if the thieves make calls with your phones? Check your small print. I’ve been investigating and very few insurers cover airtime theft (aka “airtime abuse”). One covers airtime abuse only after you’ve reported the theft to your network provider: the phrase “as useless as a chocolate teapot” occurs to me.
I’m still checking Carphone Warehouse out, which claims to insure up to £1,000 or airtime theft; the CPP Group does similarly but only for theft of airtime during the 12 hours before you report the theft to the provider, the police and the CPP group. I’ll let you know if anyone turns out to be more helpful.

Back at last

Well, I’m back. After the hot, sunny weather of Kefallonia, it’s a shock to come back to the grey skies and rain of the British summer. Where’s the sunshine gone? Who knows? Maybe it’s migrated south. Anyway, over the next couple of days I’ll fill you in on everything that’s happened since I went away.

On my holidays

I’m off to Greece for a fortnight, starting tomorrow. When I get back, I’ll update you on some more screeners, mobile phone insurance and its overall uselessness, exactly how rubbish Orange is, just what I thought of The Omega Factor (it arrived this morning), the irritating thing about my iPod, and why my Mac is no longer the centre of my digital lifestyle (not through choice).
Oh, and I might comment on some actual IT news for a change. That would be exciting, wouldn’t it?

T-Mobile again

Turns out the gypsies were a bit more keen on my phone than previously thought. My T-Mobile bill for £431.88 arrived this morning. There were 32 calls to Romania starting at 1 in the morning. Apparently, that’s enough for T-Mobile to realise that something’s not quite right.

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Money for nothing?

Is it just me, or do banks seem to like technology only when it suits them? Take debit cards. How difficult would it be for debit card purchases to instantly debit an account? Not that hard, with a few web services or dedicated links between banks and card companies. Yet, strangely enough, it takes a day for the purchases to show up on your account, even though ATM withdrawals show up instantly.
What takes it so long? Could it be that if it arrives in your account at an unspecified point in the day, you might not have enough money in your account and you’ll have to pay an extortionate overdraft charge?

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My past returns to haunt me

I used to edit a magazine called Mapping Awareness. As the name suggests, it was about maps. It was also about GIS systems (geographic information systems. Yes, another of those phrases, such as PIN number, that annoy subs), geographic information, remote sensing and other exciting things.
Anyway, I left MA in 1998, which is now six years ago. My how time flies. A couple of weeks ago, I got my first GIS commission in ages. So I started putting the feelers out to see what’s changed since then. My initial impressions? Nothing. Nothing at all has changed. The same people have the same jobs. The PR people are the same. And everyone’s talking about the same things as they were six years ago. I’m sure that impression is going to change once I start doing a few more interviews, but I feel like I’ve uncovered a Jurassic Park mosquito here.