Wednesday 30 July 2008

Wanton violence in Montevideo

Last night we were the victims of some nutter on a motorbike.

I've always learnt that you should look both ways when pulling out of a side turning, and I look again just to make sure. It's a good habit I picked up from my father a long time ago. I'd spotted a moped coming from our right and warned Ale. I also saw a motorbike at some distance, so after we'd pulled away I said to her that someone was woofing it down the road at a great rate of knots. He was flying.

I didn't think anything more about it until I suddenly became aware of the motorbike rider pulling alongside Ale's window, and he booted the door good and hard. He accelerated away along Jose Ellauri until he got to the traffic lights. At a distinct disadvantage here, I egged Ale on to pull around the waiting cars so we were doubled up at the lights. I managed to get a flash photo of the cretin at the lights and that's when he legged it on his motorbike. I think he thought at that point he'd got away with it, until he got caught at the next set of lights - at which point, I jumped out and shall we say, remonstrated with him [Post censored due to the fact my parents might be reading this]. I don't think he'd seen me as I was wearing a black jacket in the car, and my head literally scrapes the roof of that poxy Chevrolet Celta (Vauxhall Corsa in the UK).

We 'persuaded' him to follow us to the police station, where we gave a statement. Ale didn't think that much would be done about it but the guy was driving with no front head lights. HELLO? If it wasn't for my sharp-eyed reactions in the first place, he could already be one of the accident statistics here.

What a clown. To cap it all, he started getting all airy with the police, who then ushered him away into a back room. Good riddance to Mr 'SEL 861'. If I ever see his bike again at the side of the road, he will mysteriously suffer from a puncture. Or two.

Where is everybody?

I''ll certainly admit that I'm unable to see good old Blighty from here in Montevideo, even on a fine sunny day. Even Buenos Aires isn't within reach. However, I can't see a blinking thing recently, as we seem to have been cursed with fog over the last two days or so.

Dank is one word that springs to mind, and that's a word not often used in the English language.

I sit here awaiting news about a possible job offer, and the weather seems to fit my mood ;-)

At least it seems to deaden the effect of all the noise coming out of the cars, which for some reason over here tend to have blown exhausts 50% of the time. Perhaps the owners need their earwax removed. More than likely, they're simply tone deaf or don't give a flying ....

Grey JB

KDE and Gnome on Ubuntu

For those of you that don't know, these are the names of the two desktops that are primarily in use on Ubuntu. KDE used to be more Windows-like in it's appearance but my view on that has changed a lot since I've installed/tested KDE4.

KDE4 now looks like a toy desktop with oversized icons, and poor response speed. Goodness knows what the developers were thinking when they released this. I've quickly purged all of KDE from my system and I now run exclusively with Gnome, with Compiz enabled.

Compiz allows me to manage my desktop in a rather nice graphical way. For example, I have 4 workspaces available which I can switch to and from, and the transition between different workspaces (or desktops, if you want to call them that) is handled by some rather fancy graphic effects. Mine is set to display a desktop cube, with the four desktops shown on the face of the cube. You can move it up, down, left or right with the mouse or keyboard. It is incredibly useful, and also looks superb.

All the Windows users feel very jealous when I show them what I can do with Ubuntu 64. Who needs Windows in a world without Gates eh?


Thursday 17 July 2008

Old skool for Winamp

This blog post is made especially for Steve Miller ;-)

I have been going through some of the plugins for Winamp recently and became frustrated at the lack of suitable visualizations, as they like to call them. I remembered having a great spectrum analyser installed way back in the mists of time and just couldn't find it.

I spent a while on the Winamp plugin section of their website, and after much digging - I came up with this legendary plugin by Mike Lynch (from Canada) which of course I downloaded and installed immediately!

As a convenience, I've whacked it on my personal webspace here:

Classic Spectrum Analyzer for Winamp (DOWNLOAD)

Simply double-click on the file once it has downloaded successfully to install. Next, fire up Winamp and do Ctrl-P to access the preferences. The spectrum analyzer should now be listed in the Visualization section, where you can start the plugin, stop it and also change the settings. I quite like having mine set with large bars on the default red/yellow as shown in the screen dump shown above right.

Judging from what this bloke's website says, it would appear that it's not being developed any further, which I think is a shame.


Tuesday 15 July 2008

Montevideo Players anniversary party

We both went to Acevedo Diaz last night for the anniversary party of the Montevideo players. If you've read the blog before, you'll know it's the oldest 'foreign language' amateur dramatic society in Latin America.

We were delayed on the way as Ale's mum called us to visit her, as we hadn't seen her in a long time. We stayed for a while and gave her the invitation to Sofia's 2nd birthday party which is happening this Saturday at Manzana Azul (Blue Apple) on Luis de la Torre.

We eventually turned up at the Montevideo Players around 22:30 to find the usual motley crew assembled. A raffle was held, with top prize being dinner for two at some place in Carrasco, which Ale seemed very interested in. Suffice to say, we won nothing ;-)

We were able to meet up with John and Stephanie again last night, as I needed to get some info about immigration. Stefanie seems to know all the information required as she had dealt with it for her Scottish boyfriend. We were also able to exchange stories about how long things take to arrive from the UK. It would appear that 6 weeks for a package to arrive from the UK is certainly not out of the ordinary!

My time here is running out unless I apply for an extension which hasn't been completed yet. Last time I was out of the country was Buenos Aires back in April, so I need to get cracking with this - with the help of Ale of course.

Just as a footnote, today is a beautiful day here, except for the incessant canine discord. It's a lovely change since we are officially still in the middle of winter!


Vero Abella's birthday

We were invited to this event on Saturday, which took place at the Golf Club in Montevideo. Sounded good at the time but then I was told I had to wear a mask. When I discovered that it applied to other people and not just my ugly mug, it seemed like a good idea, much better than some fancy dress lark. If you're sad enough like me to have a Facebook account, then you should be able to track down some of the photos of me.

As usual, Ale looked at her best whilst I did my best English man abroad impression hehe. She danced the night away whilst sipping Diet Coke (or Coca Light as it's called here) whilst I slunk into a corner glugging on the Johnny Walker hehe.

I'm sorry but the music here just doesn't do it for me. Perhaps I'll grow to love it in time. Vero Abella seemed to be enjoying herself, and the night out ended around 4am with a quiet drive back home.

Monday 14 July 2008

Thanks for the mammaries

Well, apologies for the title but I thought it quite apt in the circumstances.

We were browsing at the local shopping centre here in Montevideo, rather stunningly original in its naming convention of 'Montevideo Shopping' when I came across this clothes shop. Apparently, it's like a black-hole where women get sucked in and lose hours of their lives. And come out with nothing useful to show for it.

Obviously something was lost in translation here when the decision was made to name the shop, or worse still, the owners have no idea of the meaning of the word in the English-speaking part of the world. So here it is in all its glory.

Thursday 10 July 2008

Don't cycle in Montevideo

Woke up yesterday to hear a lot of commotion outside, or in other words - lots of emergency sirens. I discovered that there had been an accident involving a cycle and a car, although the car was nowhere to be seen.

It would appear that there were two blokes on one bike, so one was pedalling and he was giving a 'backy' to the other one on the saddle. Not the safest option I grant you, but then again you don't expect to be mown down by a car either.

The aftermath (if you can call it that) was pretty non-eventful with a single police car and two ambulances. Note the rather helpful parking demonstrated by the 2nd ambulance driver.

I think on reflection that cyclists here tend not to have the same importance as the UK to the drivers of Montevideo as you can no doubt see, with the badly mangled front wheel of the bike in front of the police car on the 2nd picture.


Wednesday 9 July 2008

At long last (PayPal situation)

After 4 months of painful 'correspondence' with PayPal, the clowns have finally unlocked my account. It only took 18 emails, a fax and a 20 minute long international phone call to get it sorted. The 20 minute conversation was pointless by the way, as I was eventually told that they don't discuss security details over the phone. Priceless.

The people involved in this hopeless organisation sit behind a stonewall defence of webforms and the game they like to play most, pass-the-parcel.

One day I am in communication with someone called Aurora, the next and it's someone called Ferizchel. And to use the word communication is probably too strong a term.

And all of this occurred because I simply bid/bought for some memory on Ebay from a PowerSeller in Hong Kong whilst I am here in Uruguay. My Ebay account works fine and so did my PayPal until their systems flagged my IP as 'possible 3rd party activity' on my account.

Their logic is patently flawed and it's caused me a lot of problems. Don't whatever you do pay for anything on your PayPal account in a different country or your account will no doubt get locked like mine did. You will then enter a black hole of miscommunication with the automatons at PayPal. You have been warned ;-)

I am going to vote with my feet and say goodbye to PayPal, and hello Google Checkout!


Tuesday 1 July 2008

Party party

Ale arrived home from work yesterday to tell me that we were attending a party for one of the daughters of her close friend Caroli, as it was Federica's 15th birthday. Here in Uruguay, it seems to be some sort of custom to have a party when you're 15 years old - normally they wear a more formal dress, and celebrate by cutting the cake, and blowing out the candles. Last night, Federica blew out each candle in turn, giving the candles to people like her sister, parents, godparents and friends which was a lovely symbolic gesture.

I also got to meet up again with Gaby Peralta and her husband, who seems an avid PlayStation man much like myself. He had loads of suggestions and was talking 19 to the dozen in Spanish so you can imagine how funny that was, with me understanding perhaps one word out of every 20 or so! Still, I think a PS3 evening is on the cards very soon providing it gets fixed or replaced.

My last visit to Uruguay finished with Gaby's wedding, and I got hammered on pure whisky, which seems to be the drink of choice here. Now this was over 2 years ago, but I had a great time. The next day wasn't quite so good (translation - I felt like death warmed up) so it was nice to be able to chat to her under more normal circumstances. She suggested that it would be a good thing to get involved with teaching English to people for use in business, and it's something that I may follow up. It could be quite an easy way to make some money here, as I am currently out of work. We'll see what happens.

That's all for now.


PS3 - a ray of hope ;-)

There's a smidgin of good news about my PS3, which is dead. See previous post for details.

After some detective work by my girlfriend Ale, we managed to find the official authorised Sony Repair Centre here in Montevideo. We took the PS3 there last night to find that the place itself looked a bit worse for wear, with just a few bits of old Sony kit on display. Part of the repair centre was co-habited by Abitab, which is a payment centre where people can pay facturas (bills) etc.

Still, I've got my receipt and said goodbye to the magical black box for the next 72 hours, as I've been told it will take them that long to figure out what is wrong with it. I doubt they have that much technical expertise on the PS3 as it is so new here in Latin America, and I'm left wondering if they will simply replace it, or send it to Buenos Aires which is a possibility.

My only concern with the option of replacement is that my PS3 is the 60Gb version, with 4 USB ports and the ability to play older PS2 and even PS1 games. The version available here I believe is either a 20Gb or 40Gb. The hard disk size doesn't matter to me at all since that is easily upgradeable to 160Gb or even 250Gb, so it will all hinge on whether I can get the backward-compatibility or not. Fingers crossed.

However, an alternative option is available to me as I was able to speak to my insurance providers yesterday back in the UK, and they were able to confirm that I was covered. They were willing to provide a new replacement either here in Montevideo, or back in the UK. The UK option would be best for me of course, as they would be able to source the 60Gb version with all the bells and whistles (I hope).

So Wednesday is the big day for me, when we get to hear from the Sony centre what's happening. Fingers crossed.

JB - bored at home.