Sunday, 20 December 2015

Snow in Guardamar!

Santa greets; spot the snow falling!
 As far as I know, the last time it snowed in Guardamar was in 1957. A friend, Joaquín, tells me that he was just a young boy at the time. He was playing in the street when white flakes started falling from the sky. He was so frightened by this unknown phenomenon that he ran home.

Well, now there is snow again in Guardamar!

In addition to the usual street decorations, the Christmas tree and the Belén (which this year has moved from within the town hall to the main square), Guardamar has erected a small but rather fine Christmas village in the Avenida de las Pinos, at the entrance to the Reina Sofía park, which can be found in that street.

The amazing flying sleigh and Santa's house
The little village includes play areas for children, a number of elf-sized buildings, pointy-eared elves, Father Christmas’s own house, and an elevated area, where Father Christmas meets and greets more or less scared children (who, after having spoken to the Man in Red, can then leave by going down a slide!). Here, too, the children get to see and feel snow, for behind the Santa area is a snow-making machine that produces a fine fall of snow. Given the temperature here, the snow has no chance of settling, of course, but the effect is excellent and there is plenty of white foam around to at least provide the illusion of snow.

In addition to the little Christmas village, a few stalls close by provide the germination of a Christmas market. Perhaps this will grow into something more substantial in coming years.
A couple of elves

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Mais ils sont fous, les Français?

The French have been juggling with the Le Pen clan for several years. Sadly, since the Front National was set up in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen, it has gained ever more popularity in France. Even more sadly, this increase in popularity has gained pace with the increasing misery of hundreds of thousands of other less fortunate members of the human race and, more lately, as a result of the terrorist activities on French soil.
Now, in the first round of the French regional election's, the Front National has made considerable gains in numbers of votes and this is very worrying. Why do people revert to mindless nationalism at times when sense and solidarity are required? Nationalism has been shown to be an ineffective, divisive tool, offering no long-term solution. There are sufficient examples in recent history to show that nationalism fails, fails, and fails again: Germany under Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, Spain under Franco. Is there really any need to look further to learn the lesson?

Come off it, people of France! You should be wiser than to turn to nationalism. Consider your country's motto, "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité." If that doesn't speak against nationalism, then I don't know what does.

Hopefully, by the second round of the regional elections, you, les Français, will have come to your senses, and will reject all of the Front National candidates.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Trump trumps Trump

We all know that Donald Trump is a megalomaniac fool. Yet, despite his ridiculous outbursts during the past few weeks, he has now even managed to trump himself with the totally bonkers call to ban all Moslems from entering the USA.

Yes, Donny, that’s really going to solve the problem of Daesh terrorism, isn’t it.

Do you really think that true Moslems have anything, anything whatsoever, to do with Daesh? Islam is a peaceful religion (well, as peaceful as any organised religion is) and Daesh’s use of that religion is pure and simple manipulation.

Donny, boy, your pronouncements serve only to whip up the xenophobia, the prejudice, the white power, the Christian fundamentalism that exists just below the surface of America.

Take detention and write 500 lines, “I must constantly endeavour to shut up.”

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Crazy week

Really, is this the next President of the USA?
It started out when the Catalan “parlament” voted for a “democratic separation” from Spain. The motion was able to be carried because, although the pro-independence parties do not represent a majority of voters, they do have a majority of seats in the parliament (thanks to the same crazy non-proportional representation system of election as is used in the UK).
So now, at a time when Europe needs to think seriously about becoming more unified and less nationalistic, Artur Mas and his cronies have to go and stir things up, knowing full well that their posturing will very likely lead to similar demands, not only in other parts of Spain, but in other regions of Europe, too.

Then there was David Cameron’s diatribe against the European Union. Another Wally who really should know better, but is instead kowtowing to nationalistic tendencies within the UK and, more specifically, England. The really sad thing is that, if the UK government actually do decide to pull out of the EU, it will be a decision made by the UK parliament, a parliament dominated by members from England (there are 650 seats, 533 of which are for English constituencies and only 117 for the other three countries of the UK). In other words, the opinions of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland would count for nothing.

Cameron, if you’re in a club, you follow the rules of the club. Don’t mamby-pamby about old-fashioned nonsense like sovereignty and “our way of doing things.” The UK is pretty irrelevant on the world stage, so stop listening to your aristocracy, whose heads are stuck where the sun doesn’t shine, and get on with reality. This week you sounded like a little schoolboy who couldn’t get his own way and was running a tantrum because of it. Grow up.

Thank goodness that at least a few Americans seem to have come to their senses and booed that modern mountebank Donald Trump at a meeting towards the end of last week. Can you explain how a fool such as Trump can be considered as a potential candidate to lead a nation as powerful as the USA? To be the person to decide whether or not to press the button? Okay, the Americans have made some extremely strange choices in recent history, George W. Bush perhaps being the prime example, but Trump even trumps him!

Yesterday saw the terrorist attacks on innocent civilians in Paris. Responsibility for the attacks has been claimed by Islamic State. Now, no doubt, Marine Le Pen and her Front National will be spouting out about how Moslems should be deported, immigrants returned to their countries of origin, and refugees held back at the borders. All this along with strengthening of France’s own borders and stuff the rest of Europe. Nope, that’s not the way to do it, even though such scaremongering will bring in the votes of the masses. What is now required is more tolerance, better controls at the external borders of the EU (for one thing that’s a lot cheaper than having each country control its own borders), more cooperation between the security forces of EU countries and preferably an EU-wide security force. Islamic State has little or nothing to do with true Moslems; IS is just a band of terrorist thugs that has been allowed to develop since the downfall of Hussein’s Iraq regime (thanks, USA, for leaving the vacuum that was gradually filled by the fundamentalists). I might be naive, but I just do not understand how so-called powerful countries, such as the USA and its allies, are unable to simply wipe out IS.


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Free phone calls

I've found a good little video about phone hacking in the old days. The Americans called the device that was developed to do this the Blue Box and the best Blue Boxes were made by a couple of people whose names might be familiar: Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. Yes, indeed, the fellows who later started the Apple computer business.

See video

In the 1960s I knew nothing about Apple, Wozniak, Jobs, or Blue Boxes, but I was in a boarding-school and did occasionally need to phone home. Stuck below the staircase of the main building of Woolverstone Hall was a public phone booth. It contained the old-fashioned black coin-operated typical UK public phone of the time, with its A and B buttons and its heavy bakelite telephone handset that sat upon a rotary dial. (The photo here shows a similar sort of setup, though not the actual equipment at school.) It cost a lot of money to phone to London, where my mother lived, so I seldom used the phone. However, an event occurred that meant that I needed to phone fairly regularly, and that was just too expensive, so somehow I figured out that phoning could be done for free.

Looking at the Blue Box video and remembering how I solved my own problem, I think that the UK phone system at the time was very different to that of the US. The latter was already digital and relied on tones to form its connections, whereas the UK system was still analogue and used pulses to generate the necessary dialling information. I suppose I must have heard from someone that it was possible to generate these pulses through the use of a cunning trick, so I experimented a bit and it wasn’t long before I had mastered the technique and could call anywhere that didn’t require the intervention of an operator.

The trick was to tap out the required number with the handset cradle, with a brief pause between each digit of the number: one tap for 1; two taps for 2; three taps for 3…10 taps for 0. The timing between taps was crucial, as there really could be no delay: a brief delay in fact signalled the end of one digit and the start of the next.

In those days, telephone “numbers” were more often than not formed by the name of an exchange and a unique number, so to phone home I had to dial the “number” Woolwich 5869. In telephone terms that was WOO5869 and the WOO had to be translated into digits. That was easy enough, however, as the telephone dial provided both alphabetic and numeric data.

As can be seen from the dial. WOO5869 “translated” as 9665869, so my calling sequence was as follows:

nine taps pause six taps pause six taps pause five taps pause eight taps pause six taps pause nine taps pause

And it worked!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

24 little hours…

Bad weather seldom lasts long in this part of Spain and yesterday we were just about back to normal after the fierce storm of Sunday night. The sky is once again its wonderful shade of blue, the sun is shining brightly and the temperature is well into the twenties.

It was Hairdressing Tuesday a couple of days ago, so here’s a photo of She Who Must Be Obeyed enjoying a stroll near the Reina Sofía park after the holy event of washing, cutting, setting and heaven-knows-what-elsing. As can be seen, after less than twenty-four hours from the time I took the pics of the storm’s effects on Guardamar beach, the weather was already quite lovely and, if anything, it has only got better since. Quite a difference to when we lived in Belgium!

A news report states that a large amount of money, several hundred thousand euro, destined for a children’s hospital, instead found its way to pay for the renovation of the luxury apartment of a bishop or other some-such high-up of the Vatican. Well, blow me down with a sea breeze, who would have thought it?

Come off it! Organised religion is nothing more than organised mafia and the Vatican is the great control post of one of the most corrupt band of hypocrites amongst the many that the world has produced. Thank God I’m an atheist! Get rid of organised religion and the world will be a far better place.

Monday, 2 November 2015

What a difference…

a day (or two) makes.

Just a couple of days ago, the weather here was quite wonderful: warm, sunny, blue skies, sand-between-your-toes type weather. Actually, I dislike sand anywhere, let alone between my toes, but I do appreciate warm, dry weather. The accompanying photo shows the central beach in Guardamar last Friday afternoon, with plenty of people on it (no, honestly, that's plenty of people at this time of year in Guardamar).

Now take a look at this photo, taken from just about the same spot earlier today (Monday).

There are signs blown over, flosam on an unsually high tideline, ugly grey skies, and rain over Santa Pola and Alicante. Elsewhere, large channels have been grooved out of the sand and the paseo (promenade) is littered with debris.

During the night, we had a huge storm. There was not only plenty of rain and lightning, but some very, very heavy wind, almost tornado-like. Indeed, there are reports of there having been tornados in Torrevieja and Benissa.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Makes you think…

1 November. Isn’t that a holiday of some kind?

Anyway, it has been pointed out to me by several people that there has been little movement (none) in this blog for some time, so here’s a bit of movement to address those claims.

Actually, I have discovered a revolutionary new way to keep a blog: on paper! The thing is, I am currently reading a book called, Pogingen Iets Van Het Leven Te Maken, and, although I am reading an epub version of it (ebook), it purports to be the hand-written diary of one Hendrik Groen, who is no less than 83-and-a-bit years old. His diary tells of his life in an old people’s home near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. It is at times highly amusing and at others somewhat disturbing. Makes you think… All in all a wonderful read, so if you get the chance, buy it and read it. If you are unable to read Dutch, don’t lose hope, for the rights have been sold to publishers in more than 20 countries and translations are on the way or are already available. I don’t know when the English translation (I think it is to be called, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83¼ Years Old) will be published, but it should be soon. Strangely, nobody seems to know just who Hendrik Groen is, or if he really exists. It seems likely that it is a pen-name for a much younger author and no less than 17 names have been suggested on the literary blog Tzum.

In other news, you might not have noticed, but New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup yesterday, beating Australia 34 - 17 in the final match, following several weeks and a total of 48 matches of generally very good rugby. One match in particular stood out, when Wales beat England 28 - 25 at Twickenham itself. Yes indeed, Twickers, home of English rugby. Really, after beating England, it didn’t matter how much further Wales got in the tournament and they were knocked out in the quarter finals by a last-minute try from South Africa. Still, Wales beat England in front of a Twickenham crowd of no less than 81,129. The score was 28 - 25, by the way, the 28 points being for Wales (the winners), and the 25 for England (the losers).

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Shaky start to 2015

It's been a while since we last felt a tremor, but this morning at about 07.15 we were shaken awake by quite a significant rumble that lasted several seconds.

The epicentre of the small earthquake was at Los Montesinos, a village just a few kilometres down the road. (In the accompanying map, the location of the epicentre is indicated by the red star and El Raso, the urbanisation in which we live, by the blue star.) According to the IGM (Instituto Geográfico Nacional), the quake measured 3.2 on the Richter scale and was located at a depth of some 5Km.

The shake was very noticeable, particularly in towns such as Algorfa, Benjúzar, Orihuela, Torrevieja, Callosa, Catral, and our own Guardamar del Segura, as well as areas to the north of Murcia and Elche.

The police received plenty of calls from worried citizens, but no damage of any note has been reported up to now.

This type of tremor is quite common in this part of Spain, although one of similar size has not occurred since February 2012.