Saturday, 28 June 2008

AXIS of EVIL!

What was my reward for hours of torture spent bouncing between numerous waiting rooms at the post office? If you are just joining this thread you need to read here and then here first to know what I'm venting about.

As somewhat anticipated, my parcel was a batch of forwarded mail from the UK containing the following:


  • 9 bank statements and
  • 7 credit card statements
  • 1 Annual report publication (199 pages) from a bank (yawn)
  • 2 Pension statements from the USA (showing a loss for last quarter)
(despite the fact I signed up for electronic versions only for all of the above!)
  • 2 Natwest bank card readers (whatever they are?)
  • 8 solicitations for extra credit and balance transfers (how many trees do banks kill every day?)
and........ drum roll please.......................

A letter from securemail delivery service in the UK saying that they tried twice to deliver an atm card but I wasn't there to accept it, so I need contact them to arrange to pick it up in person (must show id) - that's going to be easy, NOT! The damn machine swallowed my card here recently so I had ordered a replacement and that was the one thing I really needed!

Now that North Korea is off the list, I'm officially nominating the Post Office all over the world as part of the "AXIS of EVIL!"

Join forces with me now and help spread the word!

.

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Friday, 27 June 2008

Gone Postal - Past Tense!




....So back I went the following day. If you don't know what I'm talking about you need to start here first. Just to throw some complication into the mix, a friend who had heard about my saga/adventure the previous day, politely asked, if I could enquire about her missing package (a book), sent from her Grandma in Portugal to Buenos Aires back in May, that had never showed up. She had called the post office but got no answer. She had the details (registration #) and was told by the Portugese Post office the package was in the international post office in Buenos Aires. (kill 2 birds with one stone n' all that!)

I like a challenge, so I accepted. Forty minutes by subway and walking, take a number, forty minute wait, show passport as i.d. and I get handed the magic ticket with a magic number, to go to the next room and wait with the 300 people, waiting for the package.

Then I ask about my friends M.I.A. package and am told, low and behold it's here!

  • Me:- "Why wasn't it delivered?"
  • Rather Hot Postal Working Girl:- "Dunno!"
  • Me:- "Why didn't you send a notice to make my friend shlep down to the local sorting office as a tease and then tell them they needed to shlep down to this out of the way office, you know, like you did to me?"
  • Rather Hot Postal Working Girl:- "Dunno!"
  • Me:- "OK - so what now?"
  • Rather Hot Postal Working Girl:- "Hmmm... Well You need to go the next room and wait for your number to be called out for YOUR package!......But you need to be in this room too, so we can advise you about your friends package!"
  • Me:- "Talented as I am my Dear, I cannae be in two places at the same time, what do you recommend?"
  • Rather Hot Postal Working Girl:- "If I was you I would wait halfway, between this room and the next and just keep your ears open - very open!"
  • Me:- "Fair enough, I like a challenge!"

Be careful for you wish for. This was not a digital display with luminous numbers incrementing, there was no visual display what so ever! Only an inaudible version of crazy bingo!

In Spanish - Over a really bad speaker....numero...12??34, 183???, 34???,45???? - NOT EVEN THE SAME SEQUENCE OF NUMBERS??????

Even the locals were stupified..What? Que? Que dice? No entiendo? TOTAL FRIKKIN' chaos ensued! 300 pissed off confused people, wanting to kick some postal ass!

Once your number was called you passed thru a turnstile and then two doors. There was a big sign on the wall - "Don't enter unless your number has been called!"

After an agonising hour of this farce, I stormed in and by a stroke of luck, my number had been called. I picked up my first package and walked past the security guards (without hassle or signing - make note for later on!) and back to the other waiting room for package #2.

After an hour, I heard a scream of "Portugal!"

"That's me!" I said and waited for the package to be handed over but alas NO, this was just the line to get the ticket to go back to the dreaded room with the 300 people and wait your turn!

I picked up the ticket and waited an eternity trying to decipher the inaudible drivel and finally picked up package # 2.

Free, Free Free at last!, I marched out of this hell hole!.... well not exactly.. I got stopped by security because I hadn't signed my packages out, (despite having no trouble the first exit?) so had to return and sign, countersign, initial etc.

NOTE: DON'T POST ME ANYTHING HERE. EVER! NOT EVEN A CHEQUE. JUST WIRE $$$ TO MY ACCOUNT! PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME GO BACK THERE! PRETTY PLEASE!

So what was in the package that was worth all this shi$ I hear you ask?
No frikkin' idea - I haven't even opened it yet! - See Photo above! - Tune in tomorrow!

.

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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

I'm Going POSTAL!



I got a little notice from the post office (Correo Argentina) the other day to let me know they tried to deliver a registered letter but I wasn't home. In actual fact, I never left the house all day so that was a big fat lie. Mr Postman just couldn't be arsed ringing the buzzer. The notice said I had to come and pick up the 'package' from the local sorting office. There was no option to have them redeliver but that's fine I'll go and stretch my legs.

Twenty minutes there, take a number, twenty minute wait, show drivers licence as id, twenty minutes back. The 'package' was in fact a letter from the post office. Hmm... why are the post office sending me registered letters? The letter was a notice from the international sorting office advising me that I have a 'package' to pick up. W.T.F. - Why didn't you just let me know that in the first place!

So I head to the international sorting office downtown. Forty minutes there by subway and walking, take a number, forty minute wait, show drivers licence as id and...

  • Surly Bored Postal Worker: - "You need to show a passport."
  • Me: - "huh!...I just showed my drivers licence to pick up a registered package this morning so why do I need to show a passport now"
  • Surly Bored Postal Worker: - "That was a domestic package, this is an international package."
  • Me: - "W.T.F. why didn't you let me know this?"
  • Surly Bored Postal Worker: - "We did, it's in the tiny fine print on the back of the notice near the bottom."
  • Me: - "F$%&8@#&{~>?{}][%%#!!!!" x 10
  • Me: - "So I need to come back tomorrow, forty minutes by subway and walking, take a number, forty minute wait, show Passport as id and then I get my package right?"
  • Surly Bored Postal Worker: - "No, this line is just to show id. We then give you another ticket with a number and you go into the next room with 300 people and wait for your number to be called"
  • Me: - "You're F'in joking right?"
  • Surly Bored Postal Worker: - "Actually no and there's one more thing, you need to pay a 4 pesos admin fee."
  • Me: - "F$%&8@#&{~>?{}][%%#!!!!" x 1000

Roll on tomorrow!

.

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Monday, 23 June 2008

MONEY FOR NOTHING !

I have a bit of a passion for travel. I have a currency collection which the missus kindly scanned for me yesterday. Ta much - missus! - I've just had a brainwave on how we can be rich, but more on that later!

Some would say I'm a wanderer, others might call me a tinker or a gypsy or a knacker. My first big adventure away from home was for a month about 150 miles from Dublin in the Gaeltacht (Irish language summer camp) of Ballvourney County Cork . You stay with a local family and take Irish classes during the day. I was 12 years old and practically starved due to an extra stingy mean host but survived off my card gambling earnings. On return to Dublin, I literally cried a river and thus began my wanderlust.

At 20 years old, during college summer break, I went to Copenhagen, Denmark in an effort to earn money to help pay for my upkeep. I landed a prestigious job in Burgerking where half of Dublin seemed to work and became an expert at tossing whoppers (sounds lude but it's not!)

The work was mind numbingly boring but we made our own 'craic'. You'd start out bottom rung of the ladder, cleaning the toilet, restaurant and work your way up to the broiler, fry station, whopper table, sandwich table and maybe even as a cashier if you could memorise 'double whopper med ost'. (double whopper with chese!)

I can still visualise and almost smell the nasty grease tray from the broiler which collected the drips of fat - yeuch! I went back for a second stint a year later as you could make more money in BK at that time than in a 'real' job in Ireland. After all the hard work, I figured I had earned a well deserved rest so I ended up blowing most of the dosh in 10 days island hopping around Greece :-(
fyi - I have not eaten in Burgerking since then - When you know what and how its cooked you steer clear! - Don't Supersize me!

After college it was either join the dole (collect unemployment benefit) or go to London, so off I trodded to the UK. I spent 3 years there and in retrospect had a good time although it wasn't where I wanted to settle down forever and Irish people were not flavour of the month at the time due to the troubles in Northern Ireland (Thankfully now over). So I headed to Australia where I spent another 3 years. I saved enough money to go walkabout for 9 months and if it wasn't for a slight visa complication (um..err.. I didn't have one), I might still be there as I absolutely loved the place.

I headed back to the UK and tried to make a go of things in Liverpool for six months but it just didn't work out so I returned to London where within a week I landed a good contractor job at a US bank. It was then that I won the lottery, yes I WON THE LOTTERY! - WAHOOOO!!!!!

Okay, unfortunately it wasn't a money lottery, it was a green card visa lottery where you submit your name and if you're lucky, a computer picks your name at random and if picked and after much paperwork you get to go and work in the USA. I managed to swing a transfer with the same US bank and off I went to the Big Apple, New York. It's a fantastic city and there is so much to explore in and outside of NY. I ended up staying 10 years and traveled extensively east coast, west coast and in between. The bug had not subsided so back I went to London for 2 years and rode the Ryanair/EasyJet cattle planes many many times to see as much of Europe as I could.

I've now been in Argentina for a year and have been fortunate enough to see most of the highlights in this great country and well beyond. The time has come to think of somewhere new however so I have a couple of questions for you the reader.

  1. If you still live where you were born, were you ever tempted to leave, why did you stay, and what keeps you there?
  2. If you moved, what motivated you to leave and would you consider moving back?
  3. Finally - What's the favorite place you've visited home or abroad?
Oh! and I almost forgot - FREE MONEY!

Wherever you are, you can place a low value local currency note in bleach for 2 minutes to remove the ink. Let it dry and then stick it in your printer and print off a note from the currency collection below. Don't say I never gave you anything and spend it wisely....and no I won't bail you out so don't even ask!

.

.

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Thursday, 19 June 2008

Take the poll if you dare!

I've got bloggers constipation so you either need to come down here and give me cod liver oil or fess up with personal stuff so I can ponder then dump.
- Don't hold back now! Feel free to create a whole new category in the comment section! After you vote - elaborate as far as the comfort barrier allows in the comments! You spill and I will too!

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Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Yes - DO cry for me Argentina!


I have to admire the Argentinian sense of camaraderie. As a nation, they have been fu(ked over so many times by their politicians that there is a seriously deep sense of distrust of any governing body, be it a financial institution, religious or school committee or national government. As an Irishman I can fully relate to that and then some! The Argentinians now come out in their droves to get their point across in peaceful protests at the drop of a hat.

Tonight (June 16), we had yet another protest (2nd in 3 days) with thousands of people banging pots and pans on the streets of Buenos Aires and Entre Rios, Gualeguaychu, Entre Rios, Santa Fe and Cordoba provinces. This is to let the new-ish President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner know that her decision to raise taxes on farmers exports is not winning her any friends here or abroad. Her popularity ratings are sinking like a sumo wrestler in a bath of jello and are even lower than it was when I wrote about it here. In fairness, she desperately needs to raise money somehow but this may not have been the best course of action. She tried to forceably remove the farmers road blockades at the weekend which turned into ugly riots in the rural areas. Some blogs and bulletin boards have hyped this as potential civil war which I find to be annoyingly hyped exaggerated hysterical nonsense, but it is a serious situation nonetheless.

The level of frustration among the porteno people was noticeably heightened tonight when thousands of people hammering on saucepans, waving flags and carrying signs, took to the capital's main streets. SMS texts were flying around earlier in the evening, gathering support and advising people of the impromptu protest and many of the main streets in Buenos Aires were completely blocked and traffic brought to a grounding halt.

This is the fourth farmers strike in three months and more vocal than the previous big protest and threatens to cause food shortages yet again. Restaurants and supermarkets were left bare just a few months ago and it's likely the same will happen again. Hopefully the government won't need to resort to THESE TACTICS this time.


Photo: Courtesy Bloomberg

Inflation is at an all time high of up to 25% (depending who you believe), but this is venomently denied by the government who publish their own 'adjusted' figures of 8%. (All I know is my beer costs 25% more than it did a year ago nuff said!) Foreign investors are starting to run for the hills, so we could be in for a rough ride. I really hope I'm wrong, but this country is renowned for its up and downs which come in cycles (last crash 2001) and this cycle could be just about to turn into a cyclone!

I know what you're thinking - This is a serious post for Quickroute - Where's the pics of naked chicks - ( See post below -pervs!) - but seriously - How's the economy/job situation where you are???

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Monday, 16 June 2008

Argentinian TV - What's on your Box?


Photo: TV Show - Bailando por un Sueno

Television has changed a lot since I was an innocent wee lad back in Ireland. As a very young lad, I remember watching TV programs like The Waltons (good night John Boy!) and then in my late teens watching Beverly Hills 90210 (I had the hots for Kelly). We had some great home grown soaps like The Riordans and Bracken where none other than actor Gabriel Byrne started out. Then there were those nice 'wholesome' shows like One Man and his Dog where you watched a farmer control his dog solely by whistling and the dog guided sheep thru an obstacle course and into a pen (riveting stuff I kid you not!)

Then came the advent of Reality TV with Survivor, Big Brother, The Bachelor and that god awful horrible series called The Swan where contestants were competing to have extensive plastic surgery. I hated all of these shows and would rather watch paint (or indeed cow dung) dry.

Around the same time we had the explosion of quiz shows like Who wants to be a Millionaire and You are The Weakest Link - Goodbye!

Now we are in the era of talent shows. American Idol, X-Factor, Pop Idol etc and they have gone one step further and added celebrities to these 'talent' contests.

The current unbelievably popular craze on Argentinian TV is Bailando por un Sueno (Dancing for a Dream). It's been around for a few years. They pair up numerous professional dancers with a celebrity (non dancer) and whittle them down over several (agonising) months. Although I refuse to watch an entire show (well over 2 hours), I do like to watch the highlights (go figure!).

Surprisingly I couldn't find anything on YouTube (maybe copyright issues), so I had to do some technical wizardry to port these videos up (I hope you appreciate the lengths I go to just to educate you to the Argentinian way of life!)

Since all these type of shows are syndicated world wide, I presume they have something like this in your neck of the woods - yes????????? - Let me in know comments pls - Muchas Gracias!




If YouTube doesn't work you can see it here



If YouTube doesn't work you can see it here



If YouTube doesn't work you can see it here



If YouTube doesn't work you can see it here

I'm not sure RTE (Irish TV) would go for this!

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Wednesday, 11 June 2008

I See Dead People!

Recoleta District (Barrio), Buenos Aires



Probably the most touristy district in Buenos Aires is Recoleta. It's here you find an over priced arty / souvenir market (on weekends) and restaurants that charge double than outlying areas. It's also where you find lots of famous dead people in the cemetery including several ex heads of state and of course, the pride and joy of the country, Evita a.k.a Eva Peron (don't cry now!) and don't make jokes or this could happen.

If you don't like cats then don't come here because the stray cats are breeding like rabbits or indeed err ..em...cats, in this dead zone and pissing like horses and the stench of cat pish can be over powering at times. The graves / tombs are elaborate to the point of being tacky and probably cost more to build than a 3 bed apartment uptown. It's a good central location though so maybe you could invite the relatives to stay at your tomb for a long weekend after you've snuffed it.

Although the 6pm curfew could be a tad awkward unless they can scale high walls. It seems to be par for the course in Buenos Aires to have very high walls around a cemetery and I'm still not sure if it's to keep the grave robbers out or the dead people in!


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Sunday, 8 June 2008

Taking the Piss



The following post (which is really just a republishing of an article courtesy of Throughthetube.com is dedicated to my bloggy friend Xbox4NappyRash (you need to visit his blog - for real!) and gratefully brought to my attention by my cuz Brendan.

- - - -
In homes, apartments, and shanties throughout Buenos Aires, thousands of graying women joyfully pee into plastic containers at all hours of the day.

It isn’t exactly the picture postcard image that Argentina’s Secretariat of Tourism wants spread around the globe.

Gauchos, mountain peaks, tango, Patagonia, steak – now that’s the stuff of travel brochures.
Yet at any given moment, there are thousands more 65-year-old matrons holding a piece of Tupperware between sagging thighs – silently praying that their hand is steady and aim direct – than tight-assed 20-year-olds twirling the Tango.

Properly aged piss, it turns out, is one of Argentina’s least-known but most-valued exports.

The liquid gold from the ripe bladders of post menopausal women has been helping “float” the Argentine economy by tens of millions of dollars a year for the last decade. Somewhere deep within the pungent molecules of senescent whiz – we’re clearly running out of original ways to say pee – is a high-value hormone used to combat infertility in younger women with ripe, but unwilling eggs.

“At first I said no,” explains a donor. “Now they bring me a little gift every month but I don’t donate it for that, but because it’s for a good cause, and if I’m going to flush it away anyway.”

For every 200,000 litres of post menopausal urine, one gram of the Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone 1 (GNRH1) can be extracted. This is a bit like evaporating a lake to get a glass of water.

It may take only an hour for three beers to pass through the bladder, but getting GNRH1 out of the pee is a four-month process. However, that one single, solitary gram can create around 2,000 doses of fertility promoting medication. It is in demand across the globe.

A study presented to the European Congress of Human Reproduction and Embryology found that more than five out of every 100 women with fertility difficulties treated with this hormone would successfully become pregnant, “which is clinically very significant,” affirms Anders Nyboe, the principal investigator of the study.

The drug works by the application of a “massive doses of follicles that stimulate the ovary to produce a great quantity of ovum,” explains Claudio Chillik, director of the Centre of Studies in Gynaecology and Reproduction. With a greater quantity of ovum (or egg cells) successful fertilisation is more likely to occur. A Swiss researcher figured this out in 1962. And we thought they only made chocolate.

Oh, and it also can work on men. About 1% to 2% of infertile men have a gonadotropin insufficiency. GnRH is an effective treatment for them too, helping turn recalcitrant sperm into Olympic champions. Get grandmother another beer!

It’s still dark in Buenos Aires, but the smell of morning is in the air. Birds are beginning to sing, delivery trucks are starting to roll, and men are picking up bottles of fresh piss from front stoops. Morning never smelled so profitable.

The urine collectors are from a company called Biomás. On any given day they will gather unknown quantities of plastic yellow-filled containers. The truck you pass on the way to work may be hauling hundreds of litres of tepid urine.

If trucks filled with urine left a trail they would lead you to the Instituto Massone. This is the collection point. The refinery. The place where urine goes in and hormones come out. Instituto Massone is the only Argentine laboratory to engage in the “dark art” of pee to hormone transformation.

It must be very profitable. Europe and the US form the principal market for the hormone of which Argentina is the world’s greatest exporter, satisfying more than 80% of the global market. The rest comes from China and Japan where, we can deduce, senior citizens just don’t have the same quality “right stuff”, as those from here in Buenos Aires.

Back we go to grandmother’s house. She is carefully snapping the lid on a container careful not to spill a drop. The great majority of donors belong to Buenos Aires’ middle classes, they’re over 60 years of age and retired. And, for taking the time and effort to fill the jug, they are paid nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Oh, they do get a lovely monthly gift. Well, it isn’t all that lovely. It is actually worth almost nothing. You see, there is this little law in Argentina that prevents ‘the commercialisation of parts and materials of the human body” which would make any form of official payment for the urine illegal. So, to stay within the law, Biomás hands out household goods ranging from breakfast trays to juice jugs. Apparently the juice jugs are recyclable, if you know what we mean.

Why do elderly women go to all this trouble for kitchen trinkets? The most common response that donors give is that ‘it helps women that cannot have children’. Although there are sometimes other, less obvious, incentives: “I like to donate because it’s like helping. They greet me…and that’s nice, above all for me because I live alone,” says another donor.

Not all of the women are completely sure of what the future might hold for their unconventional donations once they make their last deposit and put the drum out on the front porch before turning in to bed. “They explained to me that it was for medicines and for creams, I think, I don’t remember,” confesses one of the donors, aged 70.

The future of this potentially colossal market leads to some fabulous mental images: makeshift hollow stools amongst a daily vegetable market where elderly women display clusters of yellow vials. They take turns calling out their individual GNRH1 counts and prices per litre.
- - -

So if pee could potentially be worth as much as this, I guess the old phrase 'golden shower' has a whole new connotation!

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Thursday, 5 June 2008

National Three Peaks Challenge

Fancy a wee bit of exercise anyone?



Outline map showing the location of the three peaks.

The National Three Peaks Challenge is a mountain endurance challenge in Great Britain in which participants attempt to climb the highest peaks of each of the island's three countries. Whilst the challenge has no official rules or time restrictions, many participants try and complete it within 24 hours.

The mountains climbed, in order of elevation, are Ben Nevis in Western Scotland (1344 m), Snowdon in North Wales (1085 m), and Scafell Pike in North-Western England (978 m). In all the challenge involves some 42 km (26 miles) of ascent and descent, with total travel approaching 765 km (around 475 miles). The challenge is usually undertaken starting with Ben Nevis, the highest, and for many the most distant.

Target times are generally suggested as being around 4 hours for Snowdon, and 5 hours for each of the others. In itself this time isn't unrealistic for most relatively fit people, but it's certainly not a gentle walk, and when three climbs are required within 24 hours the Challenge becomes more difficult, draining your energy and depriving you of sleep.


Photo: Snowdon

My brother and some work colleagues completed this triple hike / drive megathon at the weekend in an effort to raise lots of money for charity. By the sound of things, it was no walk in the park and several people got helicoptered off the mountains because of cold and exhaustion. One poor unfortunate soul of a unknown team wandered off the path and died.

If anyone is interested donating to a worthy cause (Cancer Research), you can click here
It's all legit and above board

...Or feel free to just peruse the photos and reminisce about when you were young and fit! Extra points if you can guess which one is my wee bro (hint = beer!).

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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The End of the ROAD



They say 'All good things come to an end' and so it is with this 1 month trip of Central America. In hindsight, 8 countries in 4 weeks was a little ambitious and I didn't get to see everything I wanted but I came pretty darn close.

Bogota wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, except for getting sandwiched between tear gas wielding riot police and rock throwing protesters (Link). Northern Colombia is beautiful and the people are very friendly except one 'bad girl'.

Watching huge ships navigate the Panama canal is a humbling experience. It truly is a wonder of the world. Zipping around on water taxis is a way of life in Bocas del Torro. (Link)

The beaches in Costa Rica are great but only if you're into surfing. We had a great time when our skipper brought us chasing a school of dolphins who entertained us for a bout 15 minutes. (Link)

Getting caught in the first torrential downpour of 'rainy season' in Nicaragua was quite an experience, as was being covered by a million flies who hatched the day after! (Link)

When people in El Salvador say they want to 'ride shotgun' they really mean it! Even lil' ol' Grandma packs a Colt 45 in this place! (Link)

The West Bay beach on Roatan is probably the nicest I've ever seen and the snorkeling is out of this world. (Link)

The cayas of Belize are beautiful and the people would be horizontal if they were any more laid back. (Link)

The Mayan ruins of Tikal in the middle of the jungle look like something out of a Indiana Jones movie. The quiet, colourful, clean city of Antigua is practically therapeutic. (Link)

I can safely say, I've had enough of buses for a while. It was a relief that I didn't suffer too much from 'squirt alert'! All in all, it was a fantastic trip.

Next stop, the lotto shop to buy some tickets so when I win, I can become a permanent professional bum!

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