Saturday, August 21, 2004

This truly does take the cake for "coddled students".

One day these people will get out into the cold harsh world and discover that it is not like this.

(Link via slashdot).

Update: Non-freshmen are resentful

Friday, August 20, 2004

Moving west

I am now in Santander in Cantabria. This is a seaside town which looks like it had ambitions a century ago to become the Cannes of the Atlantic coast of Spain. Clearly it didn't quite work out, and the town went into a bit of a decline. The interesting thing though is that this has now obviously reversed. The town still has a rundown decayed look in some ways, but the prosperity of the last 20 years in Spain has clearly had an impact, and although it is not the Cote de Azur, prosperous people clearly now come here. Interestingly enough, discount airline Ryanair are commencing flights here next month, so that will mean it will be in easy and inexpensive reach of 20 million people in the south east of England. If I was running a hotel here that would certainly make me happy.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Note to Ros

You really need to see more of Asia. Going to South America is good, though. I have never quite managed it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


The plan on this trip was actually to fly into Bilbao, and to go west along the Galician coast, eventually ending up in Porto in Portugal. As it happens, none of the discount airlines fly out of anywhere between Bilbao and Faro along the coast, so the options were either to buy a ridiculously expensive one way fare on British Airways or to come back to Bilbao. Thus I have a return flight out of Bilbao in two weeks time.

Also, as I was planning the trip, I found myself slightly annoyed by a failing of mine last year. On that occasion, I saw lots of road signs leading pointing to Iruña, but did not realise that that is the Basque name for the city that is known in Spanish and to the world as Pamplona. Added to the fact that Pamplona is in Navarra, which (besides being famous for its wines) is traditionally Basque speaking but has a quite different history the country a little to the west (and is thus not part of the semi-autonomous Basque region today) and I could find a few good reasons for making a little detour east before going west.

On top of all that, the plane flew over San Sebastian on the way into Bilbao, and the beaches and islands and steep hills of that city looked so beautiful that I got an odd urge to go there. Therefore I spent yesterday afternoon in San Sebastian, the evening in the bars and restaurants of the city, and this morning came to Pamplona. San Sebastian is a gorgeous and glorious beach town, but in August that makes it something of a circus. Pamplona received an enormous influx of tourists in July for the running of the bulls, but is slightly saner in August. So I have been wandering around the city this morning. It looks culturally different, too. Whereas the Spanish national flag is not to be seen in Bilbao or San Sebastian, it is more visible in Pamplona. Here it is more a case of the Navarra, Spanish, and EU flags side by side. And I haven't seen the ikurriña, the Basque nationalist flag, although they are everywhere in the other two cities. One feels that although Navarra is certainly part of the larger territory that Basque nationalists feel should form a greater Basqueland, the Navarrans themselves are a little more ambivalent about it.

And I forgot to pack my power adaptor to allow me to charge my iPod, phone, and camera using European mains sockets. I put it on my pile of things to pack, but it seems it didn't go in my backpack. A helpful woman at the tourist office this morning suggested I try one shop. They didn't have adaptors, but they suggested another shop that did. So all is well.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Watching sport in a foreign country

There is something deeply surreal about sitting in a bar in Bilbao and watching Australian equestrians compete in the Olympics with the commentary in Spanish (or was it Basque). The downside is that there is a nasty tendency for people in bars to switch the television to uninteresting basketball games between Spain and Argentina when what you really want to watch is the swimming finals.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Well, it's a good thing I have the remains of an old Thinkpad to put it on

Okay, so I now get the point of the dock. You sit the iPod on it when you get home, and it simultaneously charges and pumps the music through the speakers of your sound system. Clever. Although it is a shame it comes with such a short power cable.

Update: While I was wandering around London this evening my iPod suddenly stopped playing music. I initially thought that the switch that locks the key pad was not working, but after looking at it carefully for a couple of minutes I discovered that the problem was actually that the software had crashed and the iPod was frozen. I knew there would be some way to reboot it but it wasn't obvious, and as it has an internally sealed battery there was no obvious way to simply disconnect the power. I therefore had to wait until I got home and then consult the manual. I then found out which combination of keys to hold down to reboot it, and once I had done this the iPod was fine.

But this was all a little declasse somehow. Crashing software is so, well, Microsoft. Apple have a classier reputation, somehow. (Which is not to say I haven't had Macintoshes crash on me at inopportune moments. I have of course).

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