If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday 11 March 2013

Every man has his Pryce

So Huhne and Pryce are both going to prison.  I'm pleased.

For the avoidance of any doubt, this is not because he liked to drive fast.  In the grand scheme of things, speeding is not such a big deal for me.  I've done it, you've done it, and unless we have been very unlucky no-one has been harmed as a result.  But perverting the course of justice is a very big deal.  It strikes at the very heart of a democracy, and it deserves exemplary punishment.  If Huhne had taken his fine and points, he would have lost his licence, which would have been inconvenient.  I doubt if anyone would have decided not to vote for him as a consequence, which it would seem was his big fear.  If anything, we might have felt more kindly-disposed towards him.  One of us, and all that.

But he couldn't take the idea that he might be punished like the rest of us.  He reckoned he was too important than that.  And now he is going to prison.  Good.  As Richard Nixon could have told him, it is never the original offence that does for you; it is always the cover-up.

Learn the lesson, politicians and celebrities: take your medicine and move on.  The rest of us don't really care, unless you suddenly start to behave like the rules don't apply to you.  Then we think you're a prick, and will rub our hands with glee as we watch you slide.

So Huhne is a politician and a liar - but I repeat myself.  Nothing new there.  It's Pryce who has come out of this the worst.  Perfectly happy to go along with the scheme (marital coercion, my arse) until he leaves her and she wants revenge.  The contents of the revealed emails couldn't be clearer.  And I reckon that Isabel Oakshott has a few questions to answer, too.  She virtually talked Pryce into it, almost an agent provocateur.  Another lesson for the pols and celebs - never trust a journalist.  It's the story they want, not justice.  (I enjoy reading Fleet Street Fox, who makes a good case for her profession, but reality tells me that she is in a minority.)

A plague on the lot of them.

Free Gift for Smokers

Library picture, obviously

Ha, that got your attention!

I was clearing out a cupboard last week, and I came across a relic of my pipe-smoking days.  It's a reasonable quantity of tobacco - Gold Block, The Aristocrat Of Pipe Tobaccos - five 50g pouches, total 250g, never opened, still in a sealed box.  I must have bought it on the ferry one year and put it away for later, only for 'later' never to arrive.

I was going to chuck it in the bin, but I hate throwing anything away that could be useful to someone, and then I thought of you guys.

I have no idea how old it is (it is six years since I touched any kind of tobacco), but the box has never been opened, so the baccy is still sealed in its pristine little hermetic pouches.  There isn't a 'best-by' date on it (was there ever such a thing?), but I don't recall tobacco going off in storage very much, not when it has no exposure to the atmosphere or daylight.  But I don't know.  Your risk.  Leg-Iron could probably advise; he seems to be the go-to man on tobacciculture.

Worth about £50 at current prices.  And it may not even have the health warnings on it (the box doesn't), so it is officially harmless.

Anyway, it's free to the first person to claim it - I will tell you how much the postage cost, and you can make an equivalent donation to the charity Help For Heroes or the RNLI.  Fair?

A week, and then it's in the bin.

U+03C9: Greek Small Letter Omega


OK, I give up on this one.  Following recent heartache about a deluge of smelly spam to this blog, I recall that I have noticed one feature of a couple of the early spam posts: somewhere in the post, there would be a Greek omega character (ω) in place of a 'w' in one or more of the words.  Once I had noticed it, I started to look for it, and pretty much every one had an omega somewhere in it.

Now, I don't have enough brains to be able to rack them properly, but I did get out the magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers and fiddle with them a bit.  And I can't for the life of me work out why this should be.  Is it an attempt to create words that will be readable but unrecognised by spam filters?  Or are all the spammers, English-illiterate though some of them are, all closet Greek scholars, channelling Thucidides?


Sunday 10 March 2013

Eggs, Bacon, Sausage, Beans ...

(Obligatory Monty Python reference.)

The enabling of the Captcha word verification thing seems to have been 100% effective.  In the last 48 hours I haven't had a single spam comment.  On recent experience, I would have expected between 50 and 100 spam parcels to arrive in my inbox in that time, all to be read (quickly, but carefully, just in case there is a diamond among the turds) and deleted.  It's not that the process took very long to accomplish, it's that I had to do it at all.  And there was the additional disappointment of seeing eight new items in my email, looking forward to reading either an interesting comment or a kind email from a 'regular', and seeing a whole column of 'anonymous'.  Perhaps it's a little vain or selfish, but I value comments and emails relating to the blog, and even after nearly three years blogging I still get a slight rush when someone bothers to put finger to keyboard in relation to something I have said.

I'm going to give it a week or two and then disable the WV thing.  I'm hoping that I will have fallen off someone's list of 'easy' blogs and perhaps some kind of normality will return.  I'm just hoping the spammers don't read this paragraph.

Regarding Captcha itself: yes, it is an abomination, but it works.  The WV system needs to be difficult enough to delay and deter commercial commenters, whose whole effort must hinge upon banging off comments across the blogosphere by the thousand, and yet not be so irritating and/or impossible to deter someone writing a genuine comment.  So far, I think Captcha have the balance wrong.  If I have written a comment on someone's blog, I don't mind going through a mild set of hoops to 'prove I am human', but Captcha can be so impenetrable that it needs several attempts to get it right - and after this, sometimes the text of the comment has disappeared*.  When this has happened, I have rarely got the energy to start all over again.  I give up and have a cup of tea instead.  I don't blame anyone who feels the same way.  But I can't deny that it has put an effective barrier up against non-genuine commenters, and for that I am grateful.

Please keep the comments coming, though.  If the thought of going through Captcha appals you, pop your comment in an email (under Contact, top right) and I will publish it for you.  That's far less work for me than ploughing through hundreds of turds each week.  I appreciate each and every (genuine) comment.

* see comments to the previous post for a suggestion from Microdave on how to beat this if you are a FireFox user.

Mothers' Day

If you have got a Mum, give her a hug and say thanks.

One day, you'll wish you could and won't be able to.

Saturday 9 March 2013

As a Shakespeare fan, I can't help myself ...

... whenever this programme comes on BBC Wales:

All I can see is "Scrum The Fifth".

Friday 8 March 2013

Sorry about this, but ...

... for a limited period, I am going to require verification for all comments.  Yes, that means the dreaded Captcha.

I have had a growing spam problem over the last few months.  Some posts seem to have been attracting the spammers like flies to a corpse.  I have had the Blogger dashboard set to pre-moderate posts older than 14 days, and most of spam comments have been on older posts, so I get notification of the comment and can delete it rather then publish.  Kind of, I get to read all the crap so you don't have to.  However, recently some sub-14-day posts have been attacked by the semi-literate moronati, and the comments have all made it to the front page.  I've had to spend a bit of time tidying things up.

This is not acceptable to me.  I run this blog for my own pleasure, and I hope my readers get some kind of twisted amusement out of it too.  I do not run it so that unknown wankers can use it to advertise payday loans, online casinos and diet pills.  I have turned on comment moderation, but while this means that spam posts can be caught before they get published, I still get notification of them.  Currently, I am reading and deleting probably 50 a day.  I have to read each one, as I have a couple of valued commenters who only ever post as 'anonymous' for reasons best known to themselves, and I would hate to delete a valid and wanted response because I was too lazy to go through them individually.

The only solution is to re-activate the horrible Captcha filter.  It is an abomination, it's true, and I know that it will put people off commenting.  It puts me off, so I can't assume my readers will feel any differently.  But if I have Captcha in place for a week or two, perhaps the spammers will decide that I'm not worth bothering with.  I didn't have a problem a few months ago, and perhaps the situation will revert to the status quo ante.

Some of the blogs I read have a system where the first comment only is moderated, and after that you can comment all you like.  I'm not sure if this is a WordPress feature or some other platform, but it seems like a good idea.  I know that Blogger doesn't offer this, so if I can't resolve the situation otherwise I will have to consider moving the blog to another platform.  This would be an enormous pain in the generative parts, but at the moment I am totally fed up with the spam situation, and I need to sort it out one way or the other.

So, if you do decide to leave a comment, I'm afraid that you will have to get the magnifying glass out and complete the Captcha algorithm before you can do so.  I am going to revert to moderating only older posts, so if you can stand to go through the Captcha hoops, your comment will appear immediately.  And if your comment does reach the blog page, you will get double points for persistence, and my undying gratitude and respect.

One tip: if you have written a longish comment, before you hit the button do a Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C to copy the comment to your clipboard.  It has been known for comments to disappear after 2-3 attempts at Captcha, and it's possibly the most annoying thing that can happen to a thoughtful individual.  It has happened to me many times, and most of the time I don't bother re-writing the comment.  I just move on.  That's not what I want for you guys. 

I'd be very happy to have your feedback on this, by the way.  Email me at the usual address.

Thank you for your patience.
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