A short walk on Christmas Day

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As anyone who knows me is aware, I’m not a particularly big fan of Christmas – which really means I can’t stand it – for a number of reasons, which chiefly involve me hating it as a religious festival because I’m an atheist, and hating the commercial aspects (specifically the buying and giving of gifts) because… well, let’s just say I think Charles Dickens probably had access to a time machine, and actually based the character Ebenezer Scrooge on me. This year, I decided the best way to avoid Christmas Day itself was to pop over to The Brecon Beacons for a nice little walk. (I do this on a semi-regular basis, trying to pop over at least once every month so, in fact, my Christmas Day walk was actually my December walk).

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Tips – well, one tip, anyway – for driving in snow.

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The view from my window this morning was of a small white covering on everything: snow. This isn’t deep snow I’m talking about – there was only about an inch of it, judging by the flat, undisturbed surfaces in my garden – but upon seeing it my first thought was “Oh no.”

People who drive in and around Bristol can’t cope with small amounts of snow. If only three snowflakes fall, and even those three are nothing more than a rumour, then traffic becomes slow: this seems to have happened last Thursday when I was making my way home. So now we’ve had a few dozen genuine flakes, that surely means traffic chaos. That was my fear – that’s why I thought “oh no” – and it was confirmed by the radio.

With that in mind, I decided to put up a page of hints and tips on how to drive in the (pitifully small amount of) snow we have in Bristol. However, having given the matter some thought, I’ve decided that most of the things I could suggest should be common sense – and ruling out the common sense ones, we’re left with just one which, I think, is the most important tip of all:

  • If you feel that you are losing control of your car in these so-called “adverse” conditions, if you can see my car please try to aim for it. It seems to me that since you aren’t capable of controlling your car in these conditions, if you try to avoid my car there’s a danger that you might hit it, but if you aim for it you’ll probably miss – and I’d very definitely prefer it if you missed. Thanks.

No way, Mr Spammer

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I wondered how long it would take – and the answer is one and a half to two months.

One and a half to two months, that is, before spammers found a new potential outlet for their rubbish: the comments section on this blog. (Not that there are very many people reading it!)

No spammer has actually tried using the comments to spread their garbage as yet, but today I received a user registration from a very spammy looking address.

Well, I have news for you Mr Potential-Spammer – any user’s first comment, and ALL comments including URLs have to be approved by me. Don’t bother.

TeleBilling Call Back Scam

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I received the following invoice a few days ago from TeleBilling Ltd, showing a total amount payable of £39.50.

Scan of TeleBilling invoice

Scan of TeleBilling invoice

I didn’t recognise the name TeleBilling Ltd. I didn’t recognise the number supposedly called. I didn’t recognise the service that I was apparently being charged for. And I also didn’t recognise the number given as “my” telephone number: Continue reading

Barclaycard expects customers to ignore sensible practices

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I forgot to pay my Barclaycard bill this month. The amount I forgot to pay was massive. Absolutely huge.

Yes, the balance from my statement last month was a staggering £21.28.

Okay, that small amount of sarcasm aside (almost as small as the amount in question), at the end of the day the payment was due and I forgot to make it. It was my mistake, so let’s just get on to the point of this:

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The curious coincidence of ‘Carriers’ and ‘The Crazies’

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Okay, it’s not that interesting – in fact pretty boring – but when it happened, the absolutely amazing alliteration advanced itself into my mind and I just wanted to use it.

Basically, the  complete non-story is that when I gave my nephew a lift somewhere yesterday, he commented that he’d been to the cinema the night before and seen a trailer for a film that was about some kind of virus, but it made him think of zombies due to the what happens to the infected, the way they behaved. He couldn’t remember, at first, what it was called, only that it began with a C.

Knowing that a remake of George A. Romero‘s The Crazies was at some stage in its production (I haven’t kept up, so I don’t know what stage it’s at) I asked if that’s what it was. He said no, then remembered that it was called Carriers – which I hadn’t heard of.

I went to see Law Abiding Citizen today (it’s reasonable; a bit of a stretch and definitely requiring some suspension of disbelief, but it’s reasonable; okay; not too bad.)

One of the previews was for Carriers.

And the next trailer was for The Crazies.

There you go. I said it was crap non-story. I just needed to tell it as an excuse to use the alliterative title.

I appear to have shamed my local paper into censoring me

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It was only a really, really trivial thing – but that’s what it looks like: My local paper have removed a comment I made on their website, and I can only imagine that it was removed because I shamed them.

The news report I commented on is this story about the son of a recent lottery winner. When I read it I noticed the comment that the chap in question wasn’t happy that his “personal life had come out” – the fifth paragraph in the article, which reveals where he lives, and his wife and son’s names and ages. The paragraph before gives his age and what he does. Indeed, later in the article, it points out that he originally claimed to do something else, in order to keep his real job a secret – I imagine most, if not all of the rest of the details I’ve mentioned were also included in what he didn’t want revealed.

The Bristol Evening Post published that information on their website in the very story in which they quote the man as saying he was unhappy about those details being published. Ironic, I thought.

And that’s pretty much what my comment said. I quote from memory, but it was something like:

‘[He] said he was “not happy” that his personal life had come out’ – quotes the Evening Post, while publishing those very details. How ironic.

Today, that comment is gone.

Removed.

Deleted.

Censored.

Some thoughts on munged email addresses

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Note: This post is actually an article I’ve had on a couple of websites for a number of years, originally written shortly after softrock.co.uk became the victim of a very deliberate use of email addresses at that domain in the headers of UCE (aka a “Joe Job”). Now that this blog is up and running, it’s the ideal place for such material – so one quick re-read, check and update later, here it is.

Introduction

Right at the start I should state that I am very strongly opposed to the use of munged email addresses, due to softrock.co.uk having been inundated with non-delivery reports and other annoyances since spammers used softrock.co.uk addresses in the From: line of their junk several years ago. I make no denial of that and do not try to defend the fact that my position is biased against munged addresses as a result of this.

However, please do not let that put you off reading this if you are a user of a munged address, or if you are considering using one. If anything, you should read on because there are some alternative suggestions towards the end of this article, just for you. Please consider using them, instead of your current or intended approach.

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Spoiler space on usenet and mailing lists

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Firstly, what actually is a spoiler? It’s where a plot detail in a film, book, TV show or whatever, is revealed to people before they are able to see the film/show, read the book, etc for themselves. Sometimes a spoiler can be fairly mild, revealing nothing more than the name of a new character, but they can also be very severe, revealing a significant plot point, and spoiling the viewer’s enjoyment if they know what’s coming (hence “spoiler”).

So, then, what’s spoiler space? Well, a long standing convention on Usenet is to employ “spoiler space” when revealing plot details. This is a mutually acceptable approach between those who wish to discuss what they’ve seen (for whom such a discussion isn’t spoiling anything), and those who don’t wish to discuss what they haven’t seen (for whom such a discussion is spoiling things). Spoiler space is simply a couple of dozen blank lines inserted before any comments that include spoilers (with a note above those lines to say what film, TV show, etc is being spoiled). The idea is that people see that bit above the blank lines telling them what is potentially being spoiled below, and decide for themselves whether they want to scroll down and read/participate in that discussion. (The point of the blank lines is to force the actual spoilers down the screen, hopefully off the bottom, so that they aren’t read by accident – good peripheral vision can be a dangerous thing!)

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