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Thursday 21st July, Madrid, Spain

Sorry for the lack of news on this page recently, but there hasn't been much to post about. The house painter that I worked for a couple of weeks ago doesn't have any jobs on at the moment, and I've been mostly spending my days surfing the net. Ironic that I am an experienced painter looking for work, yet last week I had to sit by while the ceiling of our kitchen was repainted. It's a bit of a story actually.... While I was in France last time (a couple of months ago?) the tenants upstairs from us had some problem with their plumbing. The result was a generous amount of water soaking through our kitchen ceiling. Well, the plumbing problem was thankfully rectified promptly, and the next day I received a visit from the landlady, accompanied by a painter. The water leak had left a fairly large stain on our ceiling. The painter surveyed the damage and scratched some important notes in his notepad. When would it be convenient for me to have the painter come and fix it, the landlady asked. I shrugged, and asked "When does he want to come?"
"Manana" the painter said with confidence.
Having some understanding of the vagueness of the word 'manana' (which translates literally as 'tomorrow', but really means 'some time in the future') I pressed for a more specific answer. "Manana por la manana?" I asked. (That means tomorrow morning) The painter nodded and smiled.
So the next morning I waited around for the painter. Of course I didn't have anything else to do except walk to the panaderia for a loaf of bread, but I still found it annoying that he didn't show up.

Then, six weeks later, out of the blue, there's a knock on the door and not one, but two painters standing there. I let them in, and after much fussing and important discussion between the two of them, they announced that they had finished, and bid me a cheerful 'hasta luego'. I didn't think our tiny kitchen ceiling would have been a job requiring two tradesmen, but never mind. Then when I inspected their work, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. They had painted a small square of the ceiling, just the part that had been stained, no more than one square metre. It was bright white, and the remaining three quarters of the ceiling was still its original cream colour.
And it took two of them!!!

Yesterday I did a day's work polishing the marble floors of a three bedroom apartment, which was welcome change from sitting at a computer... and a very welcome injection of cash. In place of any truly rivetting travel news, I want to share with you a few tidbits that have come my way during the week.

First, I want to draw your attention to a couple of hilarious books. Of course nothing measures up to the highly acclaimed "Of Walls and Men" but these two are definitely close runners-up in my opinion. 'Molvania' was popular when I was in England last year, and I had the opportunity to browse through it at friends' places.

For a preview of both books, visit www.jetlagtravel.com but remember... if you purchase your books from Amazon via links in my website- such as this one- I earn a commission. While small, these commissions do add up (or at least I wish they would add up!) and everything goes towards keeping The Savage Files on the net.

Speaking of all things monetary, I'm sad to report that for the first time in two years, my credit card has actually reached (and exceeded!) its limit. In fact it has been pushed even more firmly over its limit by the bank's $30 fee for exceeding my limit! Everyone knows that I left Australia without any money, but I've always had my trusty plastic card to fall back on in emergencies such as when I fancied a cold beer. But I always managed to keep the balance to a manageable level, even completely paying it off twice- once after working for three months in England, and again after a gruelling month of work in the south of Spain. But now I find myself with not even enough available credit to treat Maria to a Happy Meal at MacDonalds, and yet surrounded by a mountain of unsold copies of my latest book.

Sooooo.... what I'm saying (if I've been too subtle!) is that I need to make some books sales. Urgently! If I don't get a significant injection of cash into my Paypal account before the end of the month, the automatic payment transfer to my webhost will not go through, and the interest added to my credit card balance will probably result in yet another overdraft fee. I'm not asking for donations. What I'm asking is that if you have been procrastinating with your order for either of my books, now would be a great time. There's a discount for orders of more than one book (same discount appplies if you buy one copy of "Everywhere but Missouri, Mate!" and one copy of "Of Walls and Men") and they make a great gift idea!!!

Also, a few readers have asked me if I am still accepting challenges. And of course I am. If you have a good idea for a challenge for Madrid, or parts thereabouts, hit me with it. Likewise if you have a challenge for Rome (that's in Italy!) I'll be having a weekend there in October and will be happy to undertake any challenges while there. And of course it's no longer a secret that Maria and I will be spending Christmas down under, so if you have any challenges for the Sunshine State of Queensland, where we will be spending our time, I'll be happy to post them on my 'Challenge Steve' page in advance.

I'll leave you with a piece of humour that was sent to me this morning. It should tickle your funny bone, especially those of you who spend a significant portion of your life hunched over a keyboard...

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If Toyota had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon."

In response to Bill's comments, TOYOTA issued a press release stating:

. If Toyota had developed technology like! Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics ....

1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.

2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply haveto accept this.

4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five percent of the roads.

6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation" warning light.

7. The airbag system would ask "Are you sure?" before deploying.

8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

10. You'd have to press the "Start" button to turn the engine off.