Weird comment spam

I’ve been getting some bizarrely customised-for-this-site comment spam recently. For example:

As well as the main critical mass ride there’s now a north london version.

Those Friday Thing folk said that boobah is “a bit odd”

Today is the European Day of Languages. I wonder if David Blunkett is taking part?

Linguist Geoff Nunberg considers the way politicians and journalists are pronouncing place names associated with the war on Iraq.

When we moved here, Mrs Stefanou told us this was one of the nicest bits of Crouch End, while her son told us it was a great place to be because it was so easy to get to Crouch End from here

I wonder how robust this statistic is? And does this one only tell half of its own story?

You had your last chance girl. Now you will get a sound lesson in obedience and respect for your elders. Take off your clothes.

Actually, the last isn’t particularly customised-for-this-site. But you get the idea – the spambot is not only using randomly selected nonsense phrases to get past filters looking for the traditional ‘viagra ch3@p cl1ck h3re’ kind of spam, it’s picking ones that are relevant for a vaguely political, vaguely pedantic North London-y blog.

Perhaps the idea is that I’ll probably be busy, bored or drunk when I’m moderating my comments, therefore probably won’t notice that the commenter’s name is ‘cheap-prescription-drugs’ and their alleged blog URL is, and therefore that I’ll probably let their spam through…

On tax

Let’s abolish inheritance tax. Let’s abolish capital gains tax.

Instead, let’s treat all income as, well, income, and tax it as such. Whether you happened to make it from being clever and lucky enough to get a job, being clever and lucky enough to find a high-interest bank account, being clever and lucky enough to invest in profitable shares, or being clever and lucky enough to have a rich granny who liked you when she died.

This seems both fairer and more efficient than the current scheme of treating “money that a person receives based on stuff they’ve done” differently based on entirely weird and arbitrary criteria.

The Games

You may or may not be aware of The Game. The Game only has one rule: if you remember you’re playing it, you lose. I just lost the game, thanks to a reminder from Matt Turner.

But Matt has a new, more insidious version of The Game, which I’ve also just lost: if you remember Melanie Phillips exists, you lose. Thus, the punishment for losing is doubled, as is the reward for not losing.


1) This website keeps disappearing. If it happens again I’m going to have to kill my hosting provider. Which is a shame, since I’ve met him and he’s a nice chap.

2) I’d forgotten I said this: “blogging is a bunch of midgets fighting over bugger all”.

3) The Sharpener, which is not a bunch of midgets fighting over bugger all, is back with a new look, new contributors and regular updates. Yay!

A very common language

I’m aware of most of the differences between British English (yuck, but it’s the least ambiguous term I can think of) and US English, and I’m pretty aware of what’s going on in US politics, at least on a national level. Australian English and politics can still leave me baffled, however:

PM: I suspected Iraq wheat rort

My comprehension wasn’t helped by the fact that Google News UK listed this as a story, and sourced it to the ‘Daily Telegraph’. I was left wondering what on Earth Tony Blair had actually suspected, and what kind of bizarre mangle his words had been through…

Healthy eating != bruschetta-eating

Julie Bindel has a comment piece in the Guardian about the class snobbery that permeates the healthy eating debate, and particularly about the way that fair-trade liberals sneer at the poor for eating badly. It’s nearly sensible, but it falls down on a crucial point:

Encouraging a healthy diet has far more to do with choice than education… Although the majority have worked out that freshly squeezed orange juice is better for their child than fizzy pop, they have neither the budget nor the time to offer it… It is time we put working-class and poor people on a par with those of us who can afford to choose. It is no good sneering at people in Scotland who deep fry Mars Bars if we do nothing to make healthy food more widely available.

The point where this falls down, just in case you missed it too, is that healthy food is not expensive or unavailable.
Continue reading Healthy eating != bruschetta-eating

Let the inept subsidise me

I’m a great fan of governments and companies making their money from voluntary, rather than compulsory, charges. The lottery is an excellent example. Another, outside of the government sphere, is personal banking. There are generally no charges for holding a UK current account or credit card, and you can usually get the kind of quality deal that means the bank is paying you for your custom (the fact that it’s free almost makes up for the fact that the industry has no concept of customer service).
Continue reading Let the inept subsidise me

Oh my god, they defamed Kenny

I’m not normally a fan of people who bring libel suits, although I have no intention of saying anything unpleasant about them [*]. All I will say is that if you fancy joining a club that includes James Goldsmith, Robert Maxwell, Jeffrey Archer and (Mrs Ripper) Sonia Sutcliffe, your social preferences are a little different from mine.

However, I’d be willing to make an exception for our marvellous mad Mayor. According to the Sun, he’s “a crude bigot who makes no secret of being … anti-Jewish”. As the Guardian Diary points out, this is clearly defamatory in English law. You’d have to have a heart of stone to object to Ken cleaning Mr Murdoch out for big money, although it would be particularly delicious if Ken gave the damages to Lesbian Community Activists, Asylum Support Groups, Travellers’ Rights Committees and other such Sun-hated types…

[*] similar rules apply to scary chaps in alleyways, knife-wielding fundamentalists, etc.