Sunday, 19 October 2008

Jol Jolly LOL

Tottenham Hotspur's defeat at Stoke today, leaving them adrift at the bottom of the English Premier League, 3 points below Newcastle (who have a game in hand), must bring a light smile to Martin Jol's face. It must make up for the fact that his latest club, Hamburg, failed to beat Schalke o4 today. But Hamburg do remain top of the Bundesliga.

I have nothing particular against Spurs, or their individual players. Indeed, I used to enjoy going to see them in Europe (and willed them on in those endeavours) when I lived in London in the 1980s.

However, it is now clear that the undermining of Martin Jol by Spurs just over a year ago, was a massive act of hubris, for which the club is now paying the penalty (no pun intended in the context that Spurs gave away two penalties to Stoke today).

Martin Jol had managed to take Spurs to within a whisker of Champions League football. But he was viewed (by the Spurs Directors) as being not sufficiently ambitious in the pursuit of that elusive champions league place. So he had to go.

Enjoy this moment, Martin. Revenge is a dish best served cold!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

How badly read am I?

Reading this post by the inestimable Bill Blunt, I decided to respond to the challenge. In short, the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books that came out of the BBC's Big Read survey.

The groundrules are that you should:

1) Look at the list and embolden those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them.

When I started looking at the list I thought I'd hardly read any of them, but I did get past the six mark. I haven't italicised any books that I intend to read, because I don't think I do want to read any on the list right now. I clearly avoided Austen, Bronte and Dickens in my youth!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible [most of ]

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8= Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

8= His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare [most of ]

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte's Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Alborn

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Monday, 14 May 2007

Had it with the spammers

I had a very nice little guestbook on my family history website. It was a great feeling to get an e-mail to say that someone had posted an entry on there. But then the spammers started coming. This meant laboriously working through all the spam entries and deleting them (one by one).

I found out a great trick to tackle this from someone else with the same problem and who was using the same webspace. Just change the name of the folder for the guestbook (and the accompanying links) and that would fox the spammers (until two months later they had found you again).

But then I found I could no longer change the folder name on my webspace, nor could I upload a new configuration for the guest book. By this time I was getting ten to twenty entries a day on the guest book. Most of these were for viagra (how did they know of my impotence?) but there were others which I think were related to sex (but in other ways – see below).

Some of the guestbook spam pointed to pages on sites run by educational institutions in the United States. I followed one of these up and pointed out to the owner of the sub-site that this was what was happening. I received a very courteous e-mail in reply which thanked me and promised that the site would be taken down. But it was a just a mere drop in the ocean – and still more came.

I did laugh at a few of these spam entries. Like the example shown above - my boss compels me to post these links on your site. Unfortunately, most of the spam entries didn’t even have cheeky humour to redeem them.

Anyway, it finally got to me, and I secured a new guest book with a spam filter from Smart Guestbook, and saved off the 40 or so legitimate entries from my old guestbook to preserve in aspic and lovingly reproduce on my site. I’ll let you know if the new spam filter works.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Speed must go, with undue haste

What other sport’s governing body but cricket’s can completely mess-up their showcase tournament?

The Cricket World Cup in the West Indies can only be seen as an unmitigated disaster. Granted, the International Cricket Council cannot be held responsible for the mysterious death of Bob Woolmer, but most of the other sins can be laid at their door:

- An interminable competition lasting almost seven weeks

- Near-empty stadiums - Locals priced out of attending the matches

- Regulations that stopped people enjoying themselves – no instruments, no drinks unless bought through official concessions

- A commercial strategy underpinned by an assumption that India would at least survive the first round (they didn’t)

- Rigid application of a standard approach to handling rain-hit matches – which ruined the final as a spectacle

While some of these issues were addressed during the tournament, it was by then too late.

The only bright spot was the fun had by Bangladesh and Ireland in tweaking the noses of their supposed superiors.

The ICC has embarked on a strategy of commercial maximization since Malcolm Speed became their Chief Executive. He should now do the decent thing, and stand down.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Cyndi speaks

The doyenne of genealogy websites, Cyndi Howells, has recently started her very own blog.

So why is Cyndi so important? Her website Cyndi's List is the biggest repository of genealogy/family history research links on the web. It's not just a list, but a sophisticated indexing system, which gives people the opportunity to browse or search in a variety of different ways for what they are looking for.

Cyndi's List has now been going for more than ten years, and it is interesting to read Cyndi's observations (and frustrations) about how people use the web and issues associated with running such an important site.

A lifesaver for timid bloggers

Thomas Hamburger Junior told me about a wonderful site with help for bloggers to adjust their templates to meet their more particular needs. I can heartily recommend it - Tips for New Bloggers.

It's worth reading quite a few of the tips first, before trying anything - and don't forget to download your template before trying anything!