Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dallying with white collar crime, large trucks and different drinking establishments

I'm not sure, but it's possibly I was committing some white collar crime yesterday. What's disappointing is that it wasn't even particularly interesting or high reward white collar crime. All I was trying to do was to send some money from my American bank account to my British bank account, a simple enough task you'd think. Normally when I've sent money back home to the UK I've sent it as a wire transfer from my bank. I knew they were charging me exorbitant fees but I never looked into exactly how much they were charging me. It turns out they are charging me really rather a lot, something like a 3% commission and $20 flat fee (so about $50 if I ship back $1000).

So, I thought I'd try and use PayPal to send money, as they only charge 2.5% commission. PayPal has a few interesting quirks, one of it's quirks is that you have to tell it what the money is for: eBay purchase, other auction purchase, goods, service or quasi-cash. Deciding that, for a change, honesty was the best policy I ticked the quasi-cash (just exactly what quasi-cash was not made clear to me, but it seemed the most appropriate of the options — I particularly didn't want to claim I was paying myself for services rendered). Anyhow, it turns out that quasi-cash is not allowed for cross-currency transactions, so I had to go back and click on goods instead. They only let me send $40, which may have something to do with the relative newness of my UK PayPal account and their enhanced security measures as a result of this. After this first $40 payment they allowed me to send four further $20 payments, before they stopped letting me send money. Now, I'm not sure if sending myself money like this through the PayPal system is entirely legal (obviously, I didn't bother to read the terms and conditions when I signed up for my PayPal accounts). I have a sneaking suspicion that in this land of crazy banking laws it is illegal, as practically everything useful is, but hopefully nobody is going to worry about the odd hundred dollars here or there.

My latest attempt at a cheap foreign exchange is to use XEtrade, an on-line foreign exchange service. In theory, as long as I don't mind waiting for a while, it should be possible to make commission free, fee free exchanges using their service. In practise, I may well have died before I finish their excessively convoluted account opening procedure. The final step in this process is to send these lovely people copies of a variety of documents including my passport, visa, a voided cheque and probably some other nonsense I'm forgetting. Their preferred method for me to send them this information, is via email. It's not my preferred method. I think I'd be a little nervous emailing somebody a copy of my passport and bank account details. I particularly enjoyed reading their page entitled Protect Yourself Against Fraud And Identity Theft shortly after they recommended me sending all these documents to them as an unprotected email.

Away from the seedy world of foreign exchange, I saw something rather amusing on the way to coffee yesterday. We were walking passed a truck getting, or giving, a jump start to a van, when the truck started rolling towards us. The man in front of the truck, the driver I suppose, panicked a little and tried to stop the truck rolling down the slope by pushing against its front. Unsurprisingly this method was not particularly successful and after a few seconds he scrambled up into the cab and put the handbrake on. This little man standing in front of this great big truck trying to stop it roll down the slope by pushing against it, was so perfectly the image of utter futility that it still it makes me smile.

I got drunk, although only somewhat drunk not fall down drunk, somewhere other than Vic's last night. I feel ever so proud of myself. One of the reasons that I feel ever so proud of myself, was because I managed to ride down to the bar in the front seat of a little car with a guitar stuck between my legs, and neither myself or the guitar are any the worse for wear. The destination was open mic night at Club 202, which is actually quite a cool little bar, with a nice sound system, in what seems to be a converted warehouse. In contrast to most open mic's I've been to a large fraction of the performers were really quite good. The guy who was playing when I walked in was particularly good, and there's something very pleasant about walking into a bar for the first time to be greeted with the sound of good live music. Hopefully, I'll be able to drag myself away from the comfort and convenience of Vic's and venture out down there again sometime.

And yes this is another one of those nights when I was planning on going to the gym, but had to faff around for a while beforehand.

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