Sunday, January 26, 2014

Spanish sport does it again, a trip to Stockholm, hacked, Suzy in Paris, home again, walking, cooking and other tales of this week.

Cooking lasagna in the kitchen on Saturday morning.
Good morning my friends this wonderful sunny day in January – at least here.  

How has your week been?  Mine has been busy with a great trip to Stockholm but it also had its hiccups as I was hacked whilst I was there.  But more about that later.

Let me start where I left off last Saturday.  After I had written my post, there was great news for Spanish sport, first from Chile and then from Budapest.  In Chile the toughest rally in the world, the Dakar, ended with good news for Spain in a double win.  Nani Roma won the car rally 10 years after winning the motorcycle race and Marc Coma won the motorcycle race for the 4th time.  How many nations can perform such a feat as they did last weekend?
Nani Roma left and Marc Coma right celebrating their double win for Spain at the Dakar Rally last weekend
Spain is great at sport, perhaps it is the top sporting nation in the world currently.  This week Nadal beat Federer to get through to the final of the Australian Open which he is playing today.  If he wins it will be his 14th grand slam victory and second win at the Australian Open.  Yes Spain is great at football, tennis, car racing, golf, basketball, handball, cycling and other sports, but it has never been great at winter sports such as ice skating.  Well that changed too last weekend when Javier Fernández won the European Figure Skating Championship for the second time in a row in Budapest. 
Javier Fernández making ice skating history for Spain last weekend.
Suzy meanwhile, who is not interested in sport, was continuing her long weekend in Paris with her boyfriend Gabor.  She told us all, that she had fallen in love with Paris where she had only been once when she was about 12.  Here is a lovely photo of her by the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre.
Suzy by the Moulin Rouge in Paris last weekend.
On Sunday she met up with Cynthia, the girls’ French friend from the Nokia N-Gage training camp they attended in Finland about 10 years ago.  The Finnish company was once again true to its catch phrase: “Nokia connecting people”.  Here is a lovely photo of the two girls reunited in Paris last week. 
Suzy reunited with Cynthia in Paris last Sunday
On Sunday of course I set off to Stockholm.  It took me most of the day as there are no direct flights at the weekend. I flew through Munich and arrived in the late afternoon to find it was dark and cold of course (about -3ºc) with snow on the ground.  I was really looking forward to the snow so as soon as I had checked into my hotel, the Stureplan, next to the company (TeliaSonera) offices in the heart of the city, I wrapped up and went on a long walk.  Off I went and my destination was the small island of Skeppsholmen which you get to via a bridge of the same name, just past the Grand Hotel with views of the old city when you walk along the pathway bordering the Baltic Sea.  The evening was beautiful and the snow conjured up a sort of peaceful silence. 
Approaching the island of Skeppsholmen last Sunday night.  I enjoyed a walk in the snow on the island.
I reached the boat stop on the island and turned round to walk all the way back to Stureplan.  I must have walked for over 2 hours.  I came back through the park just off the Grand Hotel plaza area to find people skating on an outdoor skating rink.  I can skate and was slightly tempted but decided against it.  If I hadn’t been alone, maybe I would have tried.  Also I was hungry and looking forward to room service whilst watching series 2 of The Paradise which I had bought recently on Amazon.  However that was not to be as I found out the restaurant was closed and there was no room service. Thus I had to walk out again in the cold and find somewhere to eat alone; not an attractive prospect.  I happened upon a French Bistro called Zink Grill on Biblioteksgatan which looked very inviting and there I had a wonderful meal accompanied by my friends on Facebook.
The Zink Grill in Stockholm during the day time.
Whilst Suzy and I were having dinner in Stockholm and Paris respectively, Olivia was returning home from Andorra via Valencia.  On Sunday evening she dined in company, with friends from the “manada” who according to Eladio filled the house.  That, I commented to them on whatsapp, is how I like the house to be; full of people and cheer.

Monday morning was mine for the taking.  I was free until 14h when I would be meeting my communications colleagues at the company headquarters.  So off I went again for a long walk.  This time I walked along the famous Drottninggatan Street (Queen Street), all the way to the old town, Gamla Stan.  From there I made my way via the Royal Palace to the square again where the Grand Hotel is located.  Once again my destination was the beautiful island of Skeppsholmen.  That day my fit bit (remember the wearable device I have that monitors all my activity during the day) recorded I had walked 14.55km and had burned 2.265 calories.  I am delighted with this device and am forever competing with myself to beat my own records and stopping to sync it with my phone to find out how much I have walked so far.
My fit bit statistics last Monday after so much walking in Stockholm.
Walking in Skeppsholmen during the day was lovely as this time I could really appreciate the snow and the views. As I walked on the path along the Baltic Sea it felt like being in the country, even though the city is a stone’s throw from the island.
Snow on the ground on the Island of Skeppsholmen on Monday morning.
It was midday by then and I had two hours left until my meeting.  I decided to do some shopping at Lindex (a sort of Swedish Zara) in Galerian where I bought a jumper for Olivia and yet another blue and white striped long sleeved top for me.  Afterwards it was time to eat something. I had spied a lovely cafeteria called Vienna (Wiener Caféet) in Biblioteksgatan and decided to have my favourite meal there: an open topped prawn sandwich which is called “räksmörgås” in Swedish. 
My favourite Swedish dish "räksmörgås" which I had for lunch on Monday

It was while I was eating that my friend Fátima rang to ask if I was ok.  She said she had received an email from my gmail account saying I was stranded in Cyprus!  I realised immediately that my account had been hacked.  This was the email the hackers sent to my approximately 1000 email contacts.
The email the hacker sent to all my contacts on gmail.
Those who replied got another email asking for them to send me 1000 euros to a Western Union account in my name!  Suddenly I was inundated with calls and messages on all the platforms with my friends and contacts warning me I had been hacked and some of them worried and even offering me money.  Very soon I got a message from google on my work email to say my password had been changed and that if I hadn’t done it which of course I hadn’t, to reset it and recover my email account. That was one big hassle.  Of course I didn’t have time to do it there and then at the Vienna Café as I had to rush to my meeting.  Meanwhile I was totally incapable of enjoying my “räksmörgås” which I had to leave unfinished.

During the meeting about our activities at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, my mind was not on the meeting but on solving the hacking.  Once I re-established the gmail account I realised the hackers had not only sent out the emails hoping to make some money, but they had been very spiteful and had deleted all my emails of the account I must have had since about 2005.  They didn’t stop there.  They also added an “e” to every email address making it invalid, they created another email with my name at Yahoo and changed the settings so that all emails I received at my google address would be copied there.  I then saw that all my emails were being sent straight to my spam folder.  They had even changed the information on my signature and the number for my mobile phone contact.  Thankfully help was at hand.  Our lovely CIO at Yoigo, a commanding officer from the Spanish Civil Guard, helped me reconfigure the settings.  However, no one so far has been able to help me recover the emails. Google maybe a great company in that it has wonderful products, but they are vulnerable and there is no customer service to contact when you are in trouble, just forums where you can post your problems with no guarantee of an answer.  I found out that the hacking happened at 11.15 that morning via a Blackberry phone through a server in Lagos Nigeria!  Imagine!  I still do not know how the hackers acquired my password. They also acquired my Facebook password but thankfully didn’t do any damage there.  Since then of course I have changed my passwords but I have also added extra security so that my accounts will never be hacked again. 

I have installed “2 step security” whereby you access your email account not only with your password but with a code which is text messaged to your phone.  You add your pc as a “trusted computer” and thus don’t have to add the code every time.  Anyone trying to access your account from a different computer or mobile will not be able to do so without the code.  You can read more about how to do this here.  Other accounts such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Facebook, etc, have similar extra security tools which I have now installed.  It seems password “pawning” is rife.  This week one fifth of the email accounts of the population of Germany were compromised (i.e. hacked) so look out and add that extra security to yours if you haven’t already.  I think maybe as I travelled through Germany that is when my password could have been pawned but I will never know.  All I can say is that the feeling is horrible.  You feel violated, naked and attacked.  Until Monday I was rather lack about internet security but after the hacking attack, my attitude has changed, for the better. There are some nasty people out there hoping to make money from innocent people like me and they are spiteful as you have seen.  So beware my friends, beware.

After the meeting we had some spare time which of course I had to spend on finishing solving my hacking problem!  We were to meet again later and walk to Nybrogatan 38, the restaurant where we were to have a goodbye dinner for our Norwegian colleague, Oyvind who was leaving the company and even changing sectors – yep he’s going to the food sector.  We will miss him. He was one of the most senior members and also a lot of fun. I asked my Finnish colleague Timo to take a photo of me next to Oyvind opening his presents to remember him and you can see it below. Thanks Timo (better late than never hahaha).  Later I left the group slightly early as I wanted to get a good night’s sleep and I walked back to my hotel accompanied by the delightful Irene, a beautiful Swedish colleague in a wonderful mink coat – something you don’t see much in Stockholm. 
A photo with Oyvind (opening his presents) at the farewell dinner in Stockholm on Monday night

The next day was Tuesday and it was the end of my trip and I was going home.  I had breakfast but not completely alone as during the meal I communicated with my family via Whatsapp.  Eladio sent me a “selfie” of him and Olivia having breakfast at home which comforted me.  Suzy sent greetings too and we all looked forward to a breakfast together again sometime soon.
The "selfie" Eladio sent me of him and Oli having breakfast on Tuesday morning at home.
Again it took nearly all day to get home.  I caught the 9.50 flight from Arlanda to Frankfurt and must mention that it was at the flight gate that I got the Swedish newspaper, the Svenska Daglabdet and the main German paper, Die Welt (the world) for my 94 year old polyglot Father.  I am very proud of him and his knowledge of languages, amongst many other things. I wonder how many other people of his age are so mentally fit and can read in 6 languages like him (English, Russian, Norwegian, French, German and Spanish). Not many I am sure.
The Swedish and German newspapers I got at Stockholm airport on Monday morning for my Father
At Frankfurt I had an hour to kill and as it was nearly 14h I decided on lunch.  The problem was that the only restaurant near my gate was a Japanese one, not my favourite food. But there was no choice so I ordered a chicken curry dish with rice. It turned out to be delicious.
My Japanese meal at Frankfurt airport - notice I asked for a knife and fork!
What was not delicious was having to put up with 3 Japanese companions eating at the same table.  They were eating a Miso soup and were making awful disgusting noises.  Funnily enough it was the two men who were eating in this disgusting way, not their woman companion.  Thankfully they were in a rush and had to leave their meal half way through so I only had to put up with their disgusting eating for a short while.

On the flight to Madrid I continued watching the end of The Paradise Series 2 which had kept me entertained on all of my flights to and from Stockholm.  I arrived home in the middle of the afternoon to sun and much warmer temperatures than in Sweden of course.  I was home by about 5 and unpacked and went for my walk alone as Eladio was away invigilating exams at the UNED University, something he did every afternoon last week. We had dinner together when he came home and that night I slept like a lamb in my own wonderful bed.  I say slept like a lamb as my fit bit told me the next day that I had only woken up 3 times which is the least amount of times I usually wake up and which can go up to about 9 times.  I know now thanks to my fit bit that I never sleep longer than 2 hours in one go. 

Wednesday was a quiet day. It was also a fasting day and on Wednesday, to keep up with the high statistics of my wearable device (fit bit) I went for a walk twice, once in the morning with Eladio and the dogs and on my own in the afternoon where I was accompanied by my great collection of classical music thanks to Spotify.  This whole week has been about walking and walking, walking a lot in Stockholm and walking twice a day at home nearly every day since I have come back!  It feels so good.  It was on Wednesday evening that I finally saw Olivia who I had not seen since she left for Andorra.  Miguel her boyfriend had come to stay this week too. 

Thursday was very busy.  I was up early to go with Olivia to Iralta Films, a production company who will be doing her video book.  I left her to it there at about 11.15 as I had an important appointment at 12 at the Faculty of Media Studies at the Madrid Complutense University.

I was attending the Elocuent Prize Giving ceremony there as one of the jurors.  The prizes were for best communicators in as many fields as you can imagine.  There were two categories, “pop” prizes voted on by the public at large on internet and “top” prizes awarded by the jury. 
The jury at the Elocuent Prize Giving Ceremony on Tuesday
The best thing about the event was seeing familiar faces I hadn’t seen for a long time, such as Ramón Pradera who was the MC or Vicente F.B, a journalist friend from way back.
With my friend Vicente at the Faculty of Media Studies at the Complutense University on Tuesday a.m.

Friday was quiet, the only to activity to record being our dinner out that night.  We used The Fork (El Tenedor) again to book a table with 40% discount at La Terraza Escondida in nearby Pozuelo.  We have been there twice now and I think it will become one of our favourite restaurants as the atmosphere is so cozy, the staff welcoming and the food superb.  I look forward to taking our friends Phil and Kathy from England there when they come at the end of February.

On Saturday I slept badly and was awake early.  Once awake I am not the sort of person to stay in bed. So I was up at 7 and had breakfast on my own in the kitchen with the dogs. This is what I had; lovely healthy food with a great cup of real coffee and foamed milk.  Actually it is what I have for breakfast every day when I am not fasting.
My breakfast on Saturday morning  - notice the iPad on the left, very much a part of it.
My morning was very productive.  After breakfast I set about making lunch and had decided upon homemade beef and vegetable lasagna.  Eladio who loves to see me cooking in the kitchen took the photo which illustrates this week’s post.

Later, wearing the black jumper with white hearts Eladio’s brothers and sisters had bought me for Christmas, the two of us went off to the Centro Oeste shopping centre to buy a birthday present for my friend Fátima.
Wearing the jumper Eladio's brothers and sisters bought me for Christmas.
We got home on time for the first walk of the day and then lunch with my Father.  I think both men enjoyed my lasagna.  The weather yesterday was wonderful and when we went on our second walk in the afternoon the weather application on my iPhone told me it was sunny and 16ºc. Well that is something for January.
The weather in Madrid on Saturday
On Saturday nights we usually stay at home but yesterday was different.  We had been invited to dinner at José Antonio and Dolores flat in Madrid, the block of flats where we used to live too many years ago.  It was a wonderful quiet dinner, just the four of us and Dolores had made a delicious fish dish followed by apple crumble and fresh pineapple.  They impressed us with a pineapple slicer and corer which I never knew existed. Well they do and they are great and cost very little as I have seen on Amazon, just a few euros. No doubt we will be investing in one soon too.
A great gadget for coring, slicing and pealing pineapples
We were home after 12, very late for us but the occasion was worth it.  We had a lovely dinner and spent most of the time talking about our village Montrondo and the family of course.

And today is Sunday, Oli and Miguel have gone off for a bike ride, Fátima has just left for her days off and won’t be back until tomorrow evening.  Hopefully we will all have lunch together.  Tomorrow will be busy. Eladio will be off early and I have a conference call at 08.30 with Stockholm and then I have to go to the office for a mid-morning meeting. 
Oli and Miguel out on their bikes this morning.  
Now it’s time to leave you. I’m sure you know what I’m going to do now after writing this week’s blog.  Well yes you are right, going for our first walk of the day. I’m back now and just on time to add a photo of the walk, a moment when our dogs Elsa and Norah met an Afghan hound.  See how sunny it was.
On our walk this morning we met an Afghan hound which is pretty unusual.
Cheers till next time


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