Wednesday, 26 September 2007

I have no idea what this is. Seriously.

Imagine if a 5 year old was forced to translate a philosophy textbook while on acid.

I have no idea what this is. But it's pretty compelling.

Found via Play This Thing!, which is a really good resource for those of a gaming nature.


I have wasted many hours of my life (particularly at work) reading the archives. For anyone unfamiliar with them, they are a general repository of funny quotations from IRC logs (though I think they accept quotes from any instant messaging service). Either way, some are clearly faked, some are boring, some make no sense, but the vast majority have some element of humour in them and there are many absolute comedic gems.

The humour is generally computer-centric, but there's enough there even if you're not that technically minded for it to be worth a look. Browse the top rated ones for an idea of what kind of humour is there. They're good work material because they're in chunks, so you can do the old work-nonwork-work-nonwork cycle quite efficiently.

This is probably the one that put me most in danger of actively falling off my chair at work today: #572066

Monday, 24 September 2007

All a little phishy

I meant to post this back when it happened a couple of weeks ago, but kept forgetting. Strange and slightly worrying phone conversation:

Me: Hello?
Switchboard: Hi, got a call for you from Alpha Deliveries
Me: Ok. Thanks.

Them: Hi this is Pete from Alpha Deliveries, and we've got a parcel here for you that's due to be delivered on Monday. It's registered post and weighs more than 4 kg, so we're going to need a signature.
Me: Ok...
Them: Can you confirm that you'll be in between 7am and 7pm?
Me: At work?
Them: Yes... your office is on Upper Richmond Road -
Me: Yeah. I won't be here all that time, no.
Them: Well, could you give us the name of someone else that'll be there so that we can make sure someone named signs for it. Otherwise we'll have to bring it back here.
Me: [name of co-worker]
Them: And is there another name, just to make sure that we can get it delivered?
Me: [name of another co-worker]
Them: And can you give me another name, just so we can definately make sure it gets signed for.
Me: (suspecting something is wrong and panicking slightly) Um, no, I don't think there's anyone else that'll be here.
Them: Ok, thank you.
Me: Ok...
Them: Bye.

I was concerned by the slightly strange request for so many names, and the fact that I hadn't ordered anything. Needless to say, nothing arrived on the Monday. So either it's the world's slowest delivery company, they got the name on the parcel wrong (possible, since there's another person in my office with my initials, and people have called the wrong one of us before), or it was someone trying to fish for information.

Had I been a little more awake (it was a Friday afternoon when they rang) and not trying to do two things at once (I was showing someone where something was on my computer at the same time), I hope I would have been a bit more guarded with what I told them. I hope also that I would have asked for the guy's name and the company name again. And possibly a contact number or order number.

As it is, I have no idea how they got my name and work number, since I don't even know my work number and certainly haven't written it down anywhere. The only place where my name and the name of the company I work for are together is on Facebook, which seems an unlikely source of information for whatever scam they're trying to pull.

I also don't know what they could do with the information they got from the call, the names of two other people who work for the company I work for. I don't really know what other information they might have hoped to get out of me, over the phone, either. Altogether, I don't think I gave much away, and if it was a scam attempt, I don't really see what they got out of it.

Lol, RL n00b.

Finally, someone talking in a language I can understand. I found these a while back, and I've definitely posted these somewhere before, but I can't remember where. Certainly not here, though.

Part 1: Preparation
Part 2: Conning
Part 3: Spawn Points

UPDATE: As promised in the comments thread -
Part 4: Chat

Yay! :D

Friday, 21 September 2007

Strange fruit

I've got a couple of things I want to do entries on, but my brain is so frazzled from the whole working week thing, that I'm going to leave that till tomorrow at the earliest. So just a couple of links for now:

Via Enter the Jabberwock, this story that has apparently been quite big in America, but which appears to have escaped all coverage here in the UK. No particular reason why it would be covered over here, but it's interesting to think of all the hugely important stories that just don't make it through national news filters.

It's also the first time I've noticed the international blogging community exerting a pretty serious self examination in response to a percieved lack of coverage of a particular story. I'm not qualified or knowledgeable to draw conclusions about whether it's new or notable, but I thought it was interesting.

Even if you don't read the whole discussion of the reaction here, read Joe Solmonese's words at the march - they're pretty powerful.

Clearly the reaction and coverage linked to above are pretty one sided, and it would be interesting to read a piece taking the other side of the story, but whatever the details of the situation, it seems pretty clear that there are double standards being imposed.

Thursday, 20 September 2007


I don't give a shit about smartphones, but the fact that Stephen Fry has a blog makes me very excited.

His server seems a bit dodgy atm, so you may have to try a couple of times.

UPDATE: Yep, his server appears to have gone down. I assume it's being fixed.

UPDATE 2: Seems to be working again now.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Friday, 14 September 2007

"Gate"-aholics II

This is not going to be a long post (and there are the famous last words) because it doesn't need to be and I've already made a substantial entry today. Plus I'm tired, so this is bound to not be as good as I want it to be anyway.

I agree that the use of -gate as a suffix should be avoided in general, and I believe that it largely is apart from by those in the press. I believe that it's functional more than patronising to the reader however, being as it is a catch-all phrase which is useful in headlines and summaries. I do however see the constant stream of -gate's in the media as lazy (and not in the good language evolution way, in the uncreative I-can't-be-bothered-to-think-of-anything-else way).

I think I know what you mean about -gate being more specific than the other neologisms I mentioned, and that whereas something like "workaholic" is instantly understandable, as long as you know what "work" and -holism both mean, "spygate" isn't. I don't think that's necessarily a problem. We've already agreed that "spygate" is rubbish in the story it's been used in, but also pretty much in any context as it is so vague. Let's take another fairly recent example instead: Lewinskygate. I'd say that anyone with a general knowledge of recent history would know that Lewinskygate refers to the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the mid to late '90s. When more carefully formed, -gate constructions can work as a useful summarising of something that would otherwise be a little wordy. In the Lewinskygate example, you'd have to instead say "The Monica Lewinsky scandal" or "the Clinton-Lewinsky affair". I personally prefer the more wordy descriptions as they seem more elegant (as elegant as a presidential sex scandal can be, anyway), but I'd have no problem with anyone using Lewinskygate either.

Insofar as being understood in general conversation, I'd also say that both the -gate construction and a more traditional description are on a par. With either, you'd have to have at least some knowledge of the event to know what it referred to. Using "the Monica Lewinsky scandal" and "Lewinskygate" again, I think that with both you'd have to have some background knowledge of the event; in both cases, if you knew nothing about it you'd have to ask for further clarification. And again, putting "spygate" into this example against something like "the F1 McLaren scandal" shows how terrible that particular -gate really is.

I hope all that's made sense. I agree with you on most of your points, and pretty much everything you've said about the way a lot of the media write, but I'm still willing to not close the gate on -gate, if you get my meaning.

Suffixgate part deux

Thanks to Bambi for the swift response - I feel that I agree with many of your points, but, much as my sense of self-preservation is screaming at me not to get involved in a debate on grammatical necessity with an English graduate, I do want to post some follow up thoughts.

I totally accept the points you make about the evolution of language being both necessary and out of our control. I'm not attempting to suggest that there is anything that can be done about be-gated words in general, but perhaps to suggest that these are words that we should try to avoid bringing into the language intentionally.

I also accept the point you make about laziness in writing. My point was not that the contraction or creation of words was lazy, but that the (journalistic) writing style that coined 'tag' terms like 'spygate' was lazy in style, because of the assumed need to simplify and condense everything for the reader.

I'd also like to suggest that there are a couple of differences between the words that you suggested were introduced similarly, and -gate words. The first is that while all of the words you suggest have general meaning (anyone in any country in any time period could be hospitalised, or use a spork), the -gate words have very specific meaning, generally referring to a single event. I can't think of an analogous concept to this one really - a set of words that describe instances rather than abstract concepts - unless you could make comparisons with people's names, which are not general concepts, but refer to specific instances (of people).

The second is that I would contest that words with the suffixes -ise or -oholic (or -aholic) are instantly understandable. They can be applied to other words in the english language, and provided you understand that word, you will understand the new word. With -gate, on the other hand, there is no frame of reference. I know what 'spy' means, but that does not help me if someone refers to 'spygate' in a conversation. Whereas, although I've never heard anyone use the word 'sproutaholic', I would know what it meant (assuming context), because it is a word describing a concept, rather than one describing an instance (of an event).

These differences, I feel, are the crux of why I take more issue with -gate suffixes than other (equally nonsensical) ones. But, my problem is less with the words themselves, but with those who create and use them without thinking about what they are doing and why.

As far as pissing on people's posts, as long as a point is well argued, it's never pissing. Plus I'm sure I have done worse to other people in the past and so probably deserved it.

N.B. Were I to use a '-gate' word on this blog any time in the future, it would, of course, be an ironic reference to this post. Ahem.


Having read my partner-in-blog's most recent entry, I felt it necessary to respond. I don't agree with everything he said. But first, the parts that I do agree with, so I don't get bogged down in them:

1. The suffix -gate is definitely being overused.
2. The vast majority of the media love anything that helps them sensationalise a story or make it soundbite-worthy. For example, if suspicion of the parents in the Madeleine McCann case continues to mount and they end up going on trial, I am fairly certain we'll start hearing about "Maddygate".
3. The F1 investigation Telf linked to is not worthy of being a "gate", and the moniker it has been given ("spygate") appears slapdash and badly thought out.

However, when it comes to the emergence of the -gate suffix in general, although I'm not particularly fond of it, I have no problem with it whatsoever. When used effectively (i.e. not "spygate") and not in excess, it can effectively and concisely encapsulate the general feel of a scandal by juxtaposing it with the sleaze and underhandedness of the Watergate scandal. Admittedly, most will not seem to be of as great a magnitude as Watergate, but if that had not been one of the biggest scandals of the 20th Century, if not the biggest, the -gate suffix would most likely have never come to be in the first place.

The fact that as a grammatical construction it doesn't make sense is not really an issue. If "spygate" is out then so are "telethon" and "workaholic", which take their prefixes from "marathon" and "alcoholic" respectively. The suffix -thon
has nothing etymologically to do with doing something for a long time, nor does -holic (although almost always -aholic, despite the fact that the original word ends with -oholic) have its root in having an addiction to something. You could argue that these two, along with -gate, are only colloquialisms at the moment, but their widespread usage and understanding surely means that they are destined to be part of some future generation's technical terminology.

The formation of the term through laziness is also something that I take issue with; not because I disagree with that fact, but because a significant amount of words used every day in English were formed simply through laziness. Why else would we have "don't" and "can't"? If it wasn't for laziness we wouldn't be able to say "goodbye" (originally a contraction of "God be with you"), or go scuba-diving without saying we're going
self-contained-underwater-breathing-apparatus-diving (possibly stretching the point a bit, but scuba is now an acceptable word and not an abbreviation). By the same token, laziness has given us the "spork" (a portmanteau of "spoon" and "fork") as an easy-to-remember name rather than inventing a completely new one. Biro and hoover, both originally brand names, are now synonyms for ball-point pen and vacuum cleaner respectively through laziness. Even "today" and "tomorrow" used to be "to-day" and "to-morrow", with the hyphen dropped simply for ease. The list goes on, and there are I'm fairly certain examples of laziness forming words back through the centuries even though most of the ones I've mentioned here are mostly from this Century and the last. Laziness is one of the key ways that English grows and changes as a language, and on the whole I embrace that, -gate's and all.

That's not to say I don't see where Telf is coming from. One of the overused suffixes of modern times I dislike is -ise - quite often exclusively -ize, as many of the versions I dislike come from American English. Two such examples are "hospitalize" (to put into hospital) and "novelize" (to turn into a novel). There's no grammatical or etymological reason I dislike these -ize's; I just find them over-sanitary and, on the whole, ugly words to use. But I accept that they are here to stay, as English has to continue developing, and will go in whichever direction it chooses whether I like it or not.

Apologies if you feel I've pissed all over your entry, Telf. That was not and is not my intention. Essentially, I agree with most of what you said about the media, but just felt a need to clarify how I feel about suffixes such as -gate and the other linguistic devices I mentioned, and show that hostility towards them is generally not necessary, but more importantly on the whole pointless. If history chooses to retain the -gate suffix there isn't a huge amount that can be done to stop it.


It distresses me that the suffix '-gate' meaning 'scandal associated with' has become so deeply seated in my mind that I don't think twice when people use it. I find it distressing both because as a grammatical construction, it doesn't make any sense and because it's symptomatic of the media trying to simplify and sensationalise a story rather than just passing on the facts.

Why call the current F1 investigation 'spygate'? Firstly, it adds nothing to the story, other than giving lazy writers a convenient handle to use, and secondly it's a poor description of the scandal itself. 'Spygate' could (and probably has been used to) refer to any number of espionage-based scandals over the years, and will also be used in the future. While 'Watergate' instantly identifies one event in time, in 3 or 4 years, who is going to remember what 'spygate' referred to? Especially given how many '-gates' are apparently being coined in recent years (

Ultimately, there's no reason to ever coin a '-gate'. It was originally a pun on Watergate [citation needed], and it should have remained as such. I don't know why it grates so much when I hear -gate suffixes. Maybe I wish journalists were less interested in finding a catchy tagline for a story and more interested in the story itself.

I wish I could link to a clip of the Mitchell and Webb sketch about adding '-gate' to words, but I can't find it online anywhere at the moment.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

I has syntax error?

Posting links without real discussion is somewhat poor form, but firstly, I'm at work, and secondly, there's not a huge amount more to say about this, other than it's the funniest idea I've seen in a long time.

Monday, 10 September 2007


Found via Kill Ten Rats:

Really interesting article talking about the way our brains automatically devalue statistics. The main point being that if you present people with a statistic and a mentally comfortable reason for that stat to be true (e.g Men are involved in proportionally fewer car accidents because they have better spatial awareness), then accepting the stat becomes much easier because the reasoning has been provided. Most people, especially when not actively engaging the cynical portion of their brain, will take the easy route of:

Do I agree with the premise (men have better spatial awareness)?
Do I agree with the reasoning (better spatial awareness -> better driving)?

If both those boxes are ticked, the stat (Men are involved in proportionally fewer car accidents) is automatically filed away as accepted.

The only way round this is to actively consider whether the reason given is the only factor. In the case of my rather hasty example, it is clearly not - there are a huge number of factors affecting driving ability and road safety - but it would be equally dishonest to say 'Women are involved in proportionally fewer car accidents because they are less aggressive drivers'. One of the two positions must be true, but to present it in such a simplistic manner is misleading.

Basically, next time you laugh at the 'obvious' conclusions published after research, it may be worth considering how obvious it is. And, more generally, applying this rule to any situation in which a statistic is used. Clearly it's not possible to question fully every statistic you read, but being a little cynical never hurt anyone*.

* This statement may not actually be true.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007


I don't really have the time or the mental wherewithall at the moment to write about this properly, but hopefully I'll come back and say something meaningful shortly:

Read some of the other stuff that guy's written if you can, even if the original article doesn't appeal, as from what I can see, it's all pretty awesome.