Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Momento de Verdade

Computers are great when they're working but a royal pain in the jacksie when they're not so imagine my dismay the other day when I pressed the big button and nothing happened.

Because the box under the table was whirring away and making all the right noises, my amateur IT diagnostic skills led me to suspect the fault lay in the monitor so it was unplugged and whisked off to (French but English speaking) computer man in Santa Cruz. He sounded pretty upbeat about being able to repair it (unlike his reaction to the symptoms of the printer a few months ago which was "the chances are it's f***ed").

Back in Faja Grande, I called on PL, our Italian neighbour of the burning car disappointment to ask if he had a spare monitor I could borrow pro tem. PL is the sort of chap who would have a spare monitor and, sure enough, he did. A clunky old 14 inch "fat screen" one (what were these all about?) but I wasn't complaining.

Got it home and plugged it in and same problem - whirring under the table but blank screen. Urgent phone call to computer man in SC - did this suggest to him that the problem lay in the box under the table rather than two different monitors? Yes it did except his preliminary foray into the guts of my monitor suggested it had big problems as well. In short two coincidental but separate problems.

Computer man in SC, who is more of a hardware bod, reminded me of the existence of (Portuguese but also English speaking) computer man in FG who is more of a software bod - why didn't I give him a ring? Which I did and he was kind enough to call on his way home from work that evening. He did something called "uninstalling and reinstalling the VGA driver". That could be Mongolian for "looking for portents in the entrails of a sacrificial yak" for all I know but it had the desired result - whirring under the table and things visible on screen as well.

Computer man in FG was kind enough to refuse any payment for this 45 minute evening house call and the point of this post was that, as he was re-booting the computer to see if his VGA whatsname thing had worked, he said "This is the moment of truth". I asked him what the Portuguese for moment of truth is and he said it's momento de verdade - same idiom as in English. You can't always take it for granted that these idioms translate directly word for word so as well as getting my computer fixed, I got a Portuguese lesson as well. How good is that!

Apropos of nothing to do with computers or Portuguese idioms but just to get another photo into this post (as there is a limit to how many interesting computer pictures you can have), it's been raining very heavily - a chuver gatos e cães, as I would be fairly certain the Portuguese idiom is NOT (but note to self to find out what it is) - here recently and here is our neighbour's car about to be washed down the street this afternoon.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Things that make me cross #1 - the SNP

There are a lot of things that make me cross but #1 (for now) is the SNP.

For non-British readers, the SNP is the Scottish Nationalist Party, the political party which believes Scotland should become independent of the United Kingdom.

At present, Scotland has "devolution" (autonomy) within the UK so Scotland is to the UK what the Azores and Madeira are to Portugal - i.e. enhanced regional self government but with key and international matters reserved to central government in London/Lisbon.

The present administration in Scotland is led by the SNP although it's a minority government. But this has not prevented them from coming up with some pretty bonkers ideas in pursuit of gesture politics. For instance that Berwick - a town in England - should become part of Scotland on the basis that it was in Scotland until 1482. Uh huh. Or that Mary Queen of Scots' remains should be "repatriated" to Scotland. Great.

I'll be coming to MQS in due course in the history of Scotland series but, in fairness, the Berwick and MQS proposals were not mainstream SNP policy but utterances of their "loony left" - although why the utterers were not immediately expelled from the party for bringing the cause into disrepute baffles me.

But recently there have been signs that official party policy is beginning to lose the plot as well.

The headline in "the Scotsman" (newspaper) today is that the SNP would abolish the BBC in an independent Scotland and replace it with an alternative state sponsored broadcaster "specifically attuned to the needs of viewers in Scotland". These needs including - wait for it - broadcasting free Scotland's qualifying football matches for the World Cup and European Championships.

My first thought was this was mischief making by the Scotsman which is not exactly noted for its nationalist leanings. So I turned to the actual discussion document published by the Scottish (soi disant) Government and, sure enough, there it is at bullet point 11 of the Executive Summary:-

We would be able to add national events which are prioritised and broadcast on free-to-air television. For example, Scotland’s football qualifiers for the World Cup and European Championship are currently only available on satellite television, but a Government of an independent Scotland could make them available to all fans on terrestrial television.

Talk about bread and circuses!

Still, I give the SNP credit for their realism - it will only ever be Scotland's qualifiers that will be broadcast. No question of us ever getting to the finals!

The opposition parties' initial reactions were right on the money, though, and, in fact, exactly the same as my own - would this mean we don't get Eastenders and Strictly Come Dancing any more? Something for the SNP's spin-doctors to home in on at their focus groups - footie or Easties and Strictly - what would you vote for?

For f**ck's sake ...

Friday, 18 September 2009


Did you know - and I don't want any arguments about it this time - that the longest word in the English language with only one vowel is ... ready? ...


That's another one you can impress your friends with along with leg averages (pace phenotypes).

You're entitled to ask how I know that strengths is the longest word with one vowel and I'll tell you. I stumbled over it while Google searching the longest Scottish placename. You can tell I've got too much time on my hands and I'd be better employed drawing road signs but I had a faint recollection from my 1974 Guiness Book of Records that it's a crofting township on North Uist called Claddach-baleshare.

But a quick glance at the OS map reveals places up the west coast of North Uist called Claddach-kirkibost and Claddach-knockline which also have 17 letters (as well as Claddach-carinish, Claddach-illeray and Claddach-kyles although at 16, 15 and 13 letters respectively they don't enter the longest name stakes) and I don't recall anything about C-baleshare being first equal (unless Ross and Norris McWhirter were playing fast and loose - perish the thought).

This is what Claddach-baleshare looks like on Google Earth by the way - rather beautiful, I thought.

Cladach is a gaelic word meaning shore and Claddach-kirkibost is an interesting fusion of Gaelic (Celtic) and Norwegian culture brought to the west coast of Scotland by the vikings as alluded to in History of Scotland Part IX because Kirkibost is pure Norwegian meaning "church settlement".

None of which gets us any closer to the longest Scottish placename although I did discover that that place in Wales with the improbably long name -


- is a complete fake. Apparently there's no such place called "St Mary's Church in the valley where the white rabbit jumped over the babbling brook by the dark oak wood [etc.]" and a railway company just made it up as a spoof so that tourists could have their pictures taken next to the improbably long sign at the station.

Anyway - how did I get started on this? I can't remember. But lest I be accused of "blog drift", here's a gratuitous photo of Fajã Grande which is Portuguese for "big flat area between landward cliff and sea"

PS - did Ross and/or Norris McWhirter not get blown up by the IRA and/or was one of them not a member of the BNP or something? Or was that Roy Castle?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


On the island of South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, I believe that defunct microwaves are recycled as mail boxes mounted on posts at the end of the driveway to your croft. I don't have a picture of one, unfortunately, but what I do have - a poor substitute, I know - is a photo of a caravan in South Uist being pressed into service as a post office:-

On the island of Raasay (Inner Hebrides), I gather that washing machine drums are used as filters in hydro-electric generation although I emphasise we're talking domestic micro-HE plants here, not the Hoover Dam ... and as I type this I find myself wondering if that dam is so called due to reliance on recovered vacuum cleaner parts? Does the harnessed might of the Colorado River get channelled through an old Hoover nozzle before it hits the turbines?

I digress. The island of Flores' contribution to the reciclagem of white goods is that fridges and freezers are re-used as field troughs for the cows to drink out of:-

So between that and motor cars doubling up as soft fruit driers, Flores is pretty far ahead of the curve on the old low carbon economy doo-dah. Once they've done something about the cliff edge ... I beg your pardon, "municipal coastal waste disposal facility" (no pics but not joking) ... we'll be well on our way to being the green capital of Europe.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Did you know ...

... that the vast majority of people have a higher than average number of legs?

This is because, even if only one person in the world had one leg, the average number of legs per person would drop below two and become 1.9999999999999 ... Thus, if you have two legs, you have more than the average.

You can impress your friends with that factoid.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Palm Tree Update

It would seem that someone has not given up hope on Percy the Palmeira in that a plank has been inserted in an attempt to wedge him into a more upright position:-

I expect it must be rather uncomfortable having a plank inserted in you like this - it must be a bit like having to wear braces on your teeth. But look what it did for Keira the Kiddies' Slide in the background who has matured to adopt her buttress as a permanent feature. Or maybe it's not tough love at all but rather that the junta da freguesia (parish council) is attempting to supplement kiddie-sliding capacity on the cheap.

Apropos of nothing, there are some bashed up cars around on Flores but what do you suppose happened to this one snapped down at the Balneareio the other day?

It appears to have been hit in the port rear quarter by a vertical cylindrical object - an abused palm tree perhaps?

Friday, 4 September 2009

Cocktail Hour

We've got a friend staying just now who's partial to a gin and tonic at the back of six. I'm not averse to a G&T myself but we don't keep it in the house so both vital ingredients plus limes (far better than lemon according to friend) were high on the list for a visit to Santa Cruz today (even though it's not a "second Friday" but it gave the sun-drying tomatoes an extra trip out).

The tonic (Schweppes, of course - what was the 70s advertising slogan? "Pssst! You know who.") was quickly sourced, as were the limes, but what about gin? Now I have expatiated previously on the merits of keenly priced beverages (see for example here and here) but wait till I tell you about the gin we found on the shelves of Supermercado Braga (pastries, car repairs and wood cutting also undertaken on moderate terms).

J G Kinsey Gin brewed in - of all places - Motherwell (Scotland) and retailing at - wait for it - €4.72 a 70cl bottle. That's right - €4.72 which at today's exchange rate is £4.10! That's my kind of gin. We scooped both bottles off the shelf - what a shame there weren't more: I reckon I could probably make a profit exporting the bottles individually wrapped in eiderdowns. And despite fears that it would probably be neat drain cleaner and give us all strokes before sundown, it made a very decent decent G&T and I'm still here to type this message.

By the way, they've started to strip the paint off the church in preparation for redoing it for next weekend's annual festa - wonder why there were so many empty Kinsey's Gin bottles lying around the cemetery?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Road Signs (Again)

As mentioned in a previous post, I'm fascinated by road signs and I spotted a tremendous one while surfing the net the other day:-

Picture courtesy of arjayempee

How good is that? Iraq and Damascus on the same sign! Is it significant that they're both in the same direction, straight on?

And you know how the Americans are always banging on about the "road map" for Middle East peace? Do you think this junction is on it and, if so, do you go straight on for Iraq and Damascus or go right for Tartus and Homs?

Meanwhile, back here on Flores, they re-did all the road signs recently which was a bit of a shame because the old concrete ones:-

disappeared but the consolation was to see what the new, 21st century ones - particularly those giving directions at junctions - would look like. As it turned out, they were a bit of a disappointment - poorly laid out and Fajã Grande is always rendered as "F. Grande" and on an annoying brown or orange (no consistency - tsk!) panel alongside a symbol of someone diving off a diving board in recognition of FG's status as an attraction as one of the two premier swimming areas on the island:-

With it's associated bar, restaurant and barbecue areas, the balneareio (bathing area) at FG gets busy on Sunday afternoons (busier than above pic suggests) but note that all these people are locals, not tourists, so they don't need inconsistently coloured signs to guide them to "F. Grande" diving centre (the diving board gets washed away in winter storms and is not always replaced come following summer anyway).

This is the only one of the new road signs I've bothered to take a picture of so far. It's at Lajes.