Belated congratulations

…to Air France pilot Philippe Riviere, who reacted to airport security stupidity last August in the way that everyone *wants* to [1]. Good on him, and bollocks to the security staff. Particularly since he’s a fucking airline pilot, and therefore is presumably reasonably au fait with what are and are not signs of a would-be terrorist [2].

[1] This is strictly untrue; however, hammering nails through people’s eyes is generally considered a little uncivilised.

[2] Are signs: travelling on your own, wild staring eyes, being a male under 30, carrying a Qu’ran. Are not signs: being a sarky French get, telling the ground security staff you’ve got a bomb, being the FUCKING PILOT.

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Listing precariously

Via everyone in blogland, but especially Chris Brooke, I’ve answered a gigantic list of cultural questions. I think it’s aimed at Americans who are about a generation older than me, but I may just be ignorant. Anyway, view the full post for my full answers

1. Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly? Kelly

2. The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises? Gatsby

3. Count Basie or Duke Ellington? Basie

4. Cats or dogs? Cats

5. Matisse or Picasso? Picasso

6. Yeats or Eliot? Yeats

7. Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin? Keaton

8. Flannery O’Connor or John Updike? O’Connor

9. To Have and Have Not or Casablanca? Casablanca

10. Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning? Kooning

11. The Who or the Stones? Who

12. Philip Larkin or Sylvia Plath? Larkin

13. Trollope or Dickens? Trollope (preferably neither)

14. Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald? Holiday

15. Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy? Tolstoy

16. The Moviegoer or The End of the Affair? End of the Affair

17. George Balanchine or Martha Graham? Who?

18. Hot dogs or hamburgers? Hamburgers

19. Letterman or Leno? For execution, both. For watching, neither. If suicide is the alternative, Letterman.

20. Wilco or Cat Power? Wilco.

21. Verdi or Wagner? Verdi, not from a position of great knowledge.

22. Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe? Kelly.

23. Bill Monroe or Johnny Cash? Cash.

24. Kingsley or Martin Amis? Equal, but in both cases only books written before they turned 40.

25. Robert Mitchum or Marlon Brando? Brando

26. Mark Morris or Twyla Tharp? I’ve always liked the Bluetones, so Mark Morris.

27. Vermeer or Rembrandt? Van Meegeren.

28. Tchaikovsky or Chopin? Tchaikovsky.

29. Red wine or white? Red, unless it’s below £4, in which case white.

30. Noël Coward or Oscar Wilde? Coward.

31. Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity? Blank.

32. Shostakovich or Prokofiev? Shostakovich.

33. Mikhail Baryshnikov or Rudolf Nureyev? I’m guessing the first one is some kind of ballerino, not a gay Russian people-drowning game show host. So Rudolf it is.

34. Constable or Turner? Constable.

35. The Searchers or Rio Bravo? Say what?

36. Comedy or tragedy? Comedy.

37. Fall or spring? If we’re talking verbs, definitely spring. Seasons, I’d say autumn.

38. Manet or Monet? Manet.

39. The Sopranos or The Simpsons? The latter. If you pick the former over it, you entirely deserve to be wacked.

40. Rodgers and Hart or Gershwin and Gershwin? The Gershwen.

41. Joseph Conrad or Henry James? Conrad. James is unreadable.

42. Sunset or sunrise? Sunset.

43. Johnny Mercer or Cole Porter? Porter.

44. Mac or PC? RiscOS

45. New York or Los Angeles? NY, unless we’re talking “to remove from the earth”.

46. Partisan Review or Horizon? The former, if only for the “Marshall Tito: 8/10” connotations.

47. Stax or Motown? Stax a million times over.

48. Van Gogh or Gauguin? Close, but the alcoholic wins over the paedophile.

49. Steely Dan or Elvis Costello? Elvis. Also wins over other Elvis.

50. Reading a blog or reading a magazine? Content: blog. Format: magazine.

51. John Gielgud or Laurence Olivier? Gielgud.

52. Only the Lonely or Songs for Swingin’ Lovers? OTL.

53. Chinatown or Bonnie and Clyde? Chinatown.

54. Ghost World or Election? Ghost World.

55. Minimalism or conceptual art? Minimalism.

56. Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny? Duck.

57. Modernism or postmodernism? Modernism.

58. Batman or Spider-Man? Batman.

59. Emmylou Harris or Lucinda Williams? See “Letterman vs Leno”, with “Williams” substituted for “Letterman”.

60. Johnson or Boswell? Boswell.

61. Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf? Woolf.

62. The Honeymooners or The Dick Van Dyke Show? See “Harris vs Williams”, with “suicide” substituted for “Williams”.

63. An Eames chair or a Noguchi table? An Ames room.

64. Out of the Past or Double Indemnity? Are these films?

65. The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni? The Don.

66. Blue or green? Blue.

67. A Midsummer Night’s Dream or As You Like It? As you like it, so do I.

68. Ballet or opera? Ballet, just.

69. Film or live theater? Film.

70. Acoustic or electric? Electric.

71. North by Northwest or Vertigo? Vertigo.

72. Sargent or Whistler? Whistler.

73. V.S. Naipaul or Milan Kundera? Kundera, times a million.

74. The Music Man or Oklahoma? Are these musicals or something?

75. Sushi, yes or no? Yes.

76. The New Yorker under Ross or Shawn? No.

77. Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee? I feel somehow guided to Tennessee.

78. The Portrait of a Lady or The Wings of the Dove? Wings.

79. Paul Taylor or Merce Cunningham? Who?

80. Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe? Frank Lloyd Wright, and not just for his length.

81. Diana Krall or Norah Jones? Watching paint dry.

82. Watercolor or pastel? Not really bothered, either would be more exciting than Krall or Jones.

83. Bus or subway? Bus. However, I’d pick an underground railway over either.

84. Stravinsky or Schoenberg? Stravinsky.

85. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? No.

86. Willa Cather or Theodore Dreiser? Sometimes I feel ignorant.

87. Schubert or Mozart? The former, mostly due to my pathological dislike of the latter.

88. The Fifties or the Twenties? See 87, but with order reversed.

89. Huckleberry Finn or Moby-Dick? Whale fish, whale fish.

90. Thomas Mann or James Joyce? Mann for readability, Joyce for lastability.

91. Lester Young or Coleman Hawkins? See 86.

92. Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman? Dickinson. I think you need to be USAn to appreciate Whitman.

93. Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill? Churchill, although Lincoln’s hat/beard combo deserves respect.

94. Liz Phair or Aimee Mann? Phair.

95. Italian or French cooking? Wop.

96. Bach on piano or harpsichord? Sure.

97. Anchovies, yes or no? Yes.

98. Short novels or long ones? Depends entirely on the quality.

99. Swing or bebop? Bebop.

100. “The Last Judgment” or “The Last Supper”? The Final Countdown.

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Today my ambition is to find the cocklord from Redmond who decided not to equip Excel with a reliable “undo” function, and insert skewers into their body until the mass of the skewers is greater than or equal to the mass of their body.

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Misleading about fraud

First Direct, the British online bank owned by HSBC, has written to its most regular cash machine users to tell them that they’re at risk of being defrauded, and that they should consider getting all their weekly cash out in one go.

Now, there are two types of ATM fraud: the type that involves dummy hardware, and the type that involves reading your PIN over your shoulder, hitting you with a cosh and nicking your card.

First Direct’s advice has no impact at all on the latter, more prevalent kind of fraud – it merely removes the “reading your PIN over your shoulder” step for the mugger-to-be.

It might have a limited impact on the first kind… but even here, the chance of being tricked by a stick-on keyboard is lower than the chance of having your wallet nicked.

Has First Direct taken leave of its senses… or is it being cynical? A customer’s bank is liable for most of the money defrauded from their account – and for none of the cash stolen from their wallet. If First Direct can try and ensure its customers shift their likely way-of-losing-money-to-criminals from fraud to mugging, then its own financial position is noticeably improved.

(also, why is the bank contacting the people who use cash machines most? Surely they’re *more* likely than average to notice strange add-on equipment, lurkers behind shoulders, etc…?)

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BBC still online

Philip Graf’s report into the BBC’s online services finds that the situation is pretty much rosy.

Some sites are viewed as a waste of time and money, and will be axed: the fantasy football, gaming, soap, surfing and national ‘what’s on’ portals. Approximately four people will care; three of them will be perma-stoned bleach-blond public schoolboys from Newquay, and one will be David Baddiel.

Overall, good.

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Hacker lunacy

Various British MPs are lobbying for increased jail sentences for computer crime. This is stupid: the day computer crime is anything more than a mild annoyance to anybody will be the day I eat a salad made entirely of hats.

As an individual, if you’re too half-witted to install AV software, download security patches, and avoid clicking on “make your web experience way groovy with our dodgy software” links, you probably shouldn’t be using a computer. As a business, similar rules apply: you ensure your networks are properly firewalled and patched, you ensure customer data is kept on secure servers, or you go back to ledgers and abaci. It’s not rocket science.

There are, admittedly, a few people who might use cybercrime to cause serious damage to non-idiots – fraudsters, extortionists and terrorists. However, they’re already eligible for long prison sentences for fraud, extortion or terrorism. The proposed legal changes would make zero impact on these crimes, while leaving mostly-harmless recreational hackers eligible for serious jail time…

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