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February 29th, 2004

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01:02 am - Silly telly
Happy Leap Day! Er, boing? (Also, happy birthday to oralelk, a tall_man recommendation who I have enjoyed reading.)

Didn't watch much TV today, but what I saw had a very high ratio of silliness to minutes, which is always handy.

1) The USA may be enjoying an effective Champions' League of Survivor, but we have Back To Reality where sundry "you know, her off..." veterans of similar shows are given a Big Brother-like experience with all the action you'd get in a full-length show compressed into three weeks. While there are the perennial concerns that "reality show" is really shorthand for "a show in which people will be subjected to misery, and we will broadcast the misery because misery is sometimes reality", this has been largely very entertaining indeed. Particularly entertaining was introducing a party of fourteen sugared-up birthday kids, armed with boxing gloves, to the mansion, who pounded away ineffectually and amusingly at the resident immature-but-likeable (hello!) singer. Knockabout fun with no malice whatsoever.

2) Very funny advert. The scene is an overhead view of a Formula One motor racing pit lane. A car pulls into the designated box and the pit crew change the tyres. While this is going on, the driver gets out of the car, runs to a designated box and spins around in it several times, before running back to the car, getting back in and driving off again. Result, a crash sound effect plus the commentary "it's all gone pear-shaped". Tagline: read the Guardian on Monday to see how they're going to make Formula One more entertaining this year.

I'm sure I saw exactly the same advert exactly once last year. (I thought I mentioned it here too, but Google doesn't confirm this.) If the Guardian are going to do a very similar supplement just before the start of every Formula One season, that's fair enough, if only to have an excuse to play this extremely entertaining advert exactly one weekend per year.

3) A new BBC comedy show called "Fur TV". It is patently obvious how this show was sold to the BBC: "like Sesame Street except with rude gags". Two interleaved scenarios see Kermit-height puppets interact with human actors. One scenario is very clearly intended to be Bert and Ernie, except Ernie here is a Californian new-ager and Bert a stodgy British writer. Yes, they share the same bed; another gag suggests the slashy (only-just-sub)text is canonical.

The other scenario is a three-parter; a cool puppet ("Lapeno" - not far from those not-very-popular new characters from Muppets Tonight) attempts to teach a geeky puppet ("Mervin" - a cross between Grover and Flat Eric, but with a massively protruding lower lip) the ways of women. The geeky puppet inevitably gets into trouble, and the cool puppet's bruiser friend (think Sully from Monsters Inc. with the head - more specifically, the jawline - of Zig's friend Zag) bails them out of trouble. Geeky puppet then throws himself out of a window only to be revived, for no adequately explained reason, in bondage with a dominatrix about to pick him apart stitch by stitch.

The writing is lousy and unsubtle, but the look of the puppets, plus the way they move, is a clear and affectionate tribute to favourite TV furry puppets of the past. Not sure this one will keep my attention into episode four, but likely to provide at least two or three episodes of cheeky, silly fun. "Fur TV", Saturday nights, BBC 2.

4) We read that Channel Four and five are considering a merger. If the two were to merge - and, twentysomething Brits, you know where this is going - would the resulting group be (da da ding-da-ding BONG!) Chanel 9?

Let's clear out some of the other URLs that I have long meant to write about some day:

  • Recommending Ferry Halim's Orisinal games is like saying "hey, heard of those crazy little eggs Weebl and Bob?" and this is even a second-hand rec from deepfun but A Summer Walk is the second best ever walking-jumping-and-bursting-bubbles-to-jangly-music game and the best for over fifteen years. 6240 to beat.

  • Exploding! Toilet!

  • Spammers! Current Bayesian filtering spam rules can be defeated if you include enough "good" words in your spam mails. While finding the good words needs to be done on a recipient-by-recipient basis, if I wanted to target LJ users with my spam, I'd start plucking things from their interests lists. 'Tis but a matter of time.

  • About 60% of the way down: "bright sparks aren’t so hot under the collar"... " those of average intelligence are likelier to be more active in the sex department". No further comment is needed, so I'll just say "Exploding! Toilet!" again.

  • The BBC have a slightly old punctuation quiz. I got four wrong, gasp: 1, 2, 8 and 4, noting that 4 can be either right or wrong depending on which part of the world you come from. Slightly shoddy.

  • Sad to hear that Alzheimer's Disease has a firm grip on Ronald Reagan. Will people start comparing him to Howard Wilson?

  • Also sad to hear Sir Alex Ferguson needed heart treatment. I have a lot of time for all of Sir Alex Ferguson, Gerard Houllier, Graeme Souness, Barry Fry, Joe Kinnear and Tony Blair, who have all had similar symptoms. (Except Graeme Souness, who is a perennial underachiever.)

  • However, it's not all bad news: militant groups declaring ceasefires has always got to be good news, even if you support the cause in question.

  • I think the UN being used as a non-partisan mediator (item two) is good news for the world as well.

  • Middlesbrough Football Club are in the Carling Cup final tomorrow, so a local bookmaker has given away free £1 "correct-score-and-first-scorer double" bet vouchers in the local paper. (Which costs £0.30, giving the purchase a positive EV right there, let alone the free newspaper and the jobs section.) I wouldn't bet on this using my own money, but I've gone for 1-1 after 90 minutes with Bolton's Kevin Nolan scoring first. Nolan is Bolton's top scorer and in form, but because he's "only" a midfielder, you can get decent odds against him. Obviously not likely, but there's a free £41 in it for me if it happens.

Current Mood: hyperExploding! Toilet!

(8 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:February 28th, 2004 07:18 pm (UTC)
and, twentysomething Brits, you know where this is going

It seems "-something" also includes "minus one".
[User Picture]
Date:February 29th, 2004 08:09 am (UTC)
A sufficient, but not necessary, condition. :-)

(Possibly not sufficient. Any Brit 2Xs who weren't fans of The Fast Show? Come on, I know you must be out there...)
[User Picture]
Date:February 29th, 2004 04:32 am (UTC)
Re #4. Thirtysomethings were there ahead of you, too. Although I also thought "oh, groovy funky Channel 9" in Rimmer's voice (but it turns out that it's Channel 27 that have the hologrammatic newsreader after all). I love that the Australian Channel 9, based in Adelaide, proclaims itself "Proudly parochial" on its homepage.
[User Picture]
Date:February 29th, 2004 08:07 am (UTC)
Turns out, what with Australia being a big place and all, that Seven, Nine and Ten are all Networks of regional affiliates - a bit like ITV, I suppose. Not sure how much support they have for regional programming.

This suggests an obscure-as-hell-if-you-aren't-Australian puzzle: what is the missing sixth member of the sequence? ABC, 7, 9, 10, 31. (The answer, incidentally, is SBS; ABC - the Australian BC - broadcasts on 2, Channel 31 on 31, plus the 7, 9 and 10 networks; the SBS is the Special Broadcasting Service. Good word, special.)
Date:February 29th, 2004 11:25 am (UTC)

Blog lynx

Grammar test: oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. Some of the questions are the worst sort of Meaningless Trivia (In Very High Rotation) for which we rightly slammed 100%, and here it's not relevant. There's no definitively correct answer for Q4, and I spotted nine errors in Q2 by counting each missing quote mark as an error. Must go round and slap the BBC with a copy of Professor Grammar's Book Of Pedantry.

Defeating Bayesian spam filters: oh dear oh dear oh dear oh very dear. This is not news by any means: Paul Graham's original A Plan For Spam explicitly said that if a spammer were able to reverse-engineer an individual's list of good words, then they might be able to force some spam messages through.

The computational cost of reverse-engineering that list for each person is immense - the researcher quoted by the BBC sent 10,000 emails, and he had to process the fraction (how big? The report doesn't say) that got through.

This method also assumes a ceteris paribus situation - it depends on the targetted user not adding the spams to their corpus of spam. Spotting the spam will quickly reduce the effectiveness of the reverse-engineered list by lowering the "good" score of the "good" words, while increasing the "spam" score of the spam words. This will very quickly eliminate this method of attack. It's like trying to hit a slowly moving target with a fixed gun - it can be done, but you've got to be accurate, and the chance will go.

On a sidebar: once again, we see the BBC's unspoken assumption that everyone in the world uses specific Macrohard products. What is this "preview pane" of which Auntie speaketh? Indeed, what are these insecure mailers that run externally-linking HTML in the message display? It's no wonder Gill Bates gets kidnapped so often...
[User Picture]
Date:February 29th, 2004 11:54 am (UTC)

Re: Blog lynx

oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. [...] oh dear oh dear oh dear

You are Barry Chuckle and I claim my five "To me!"s. Watch me abuse punctuation niceties in the name of clarity. Abuse, Chris, abuse.

Only a few minutes ago I received two e-mailed messages entitled "Reality show". Both were overtly spam, based on the sender's e-mail address. (I wonder if there's initiatives in place to identify spammers from their overtly spammy-looking From: lines? Faked, naturally, but seems as promising a technique as any of the others.) Nevertheless, I looked at them all the same, even though I knew they would be spam, because of their subject line. Some of the LJ comment spams which have actually made reference to people's current moods and music selections have been very interesting, even if not at all convincing.

There are some interesting marketing things to be done through LiveJournal; mhw and titanic_days made huge sums of virtual money on a LiveJournal Virtual Pyramid Scheme the other day. Happily the game reveals all its stats, not least the one showing that 80% of people lost virtual money in the scheme, but it was still an extremely interesting indication of what is possible when some popular bloggers push things. See also bookshop's petition (though you will need her to Flist you first). There's definitely something MLM-ish to be done here.

Thought I had something else to say, but I've forgotten it now. Whoops!

Remembered it now! I was invited to Orkut, the Friendster-like social software thing that's done by a Google engineer with extra "cool" and extra "trust" involved. It actually works quite well when I remember it's called Orkut because it was invented by a guy named Orkut and it's not called Okrut because it was invented by a guy named Turko. (The latter seems more likely, somehow.) It isn't doing wonders for my life so far and letting one web site - this one - try to run my life for me is about enough. Nevertheless, I was amused to see a rant from a /friendsfriend who got sick of all his /friendsfriends sending things that he considered useless to their /friendsfriends, including him. Seems that goodwill often does not extend even to /friendsfriends. (Perhaps there should be some sort of reputation manager system whereby your friends somehow get ranked by the quality of their friends and so on, so we can work out just who is the biggest social climber, who is considered cool, who is the Big Swinging Dick to be befriended and so forth...)

Eek! I'm trying to algorithmically define BNF!
[User Picture]
Date:February 29th, 2004 12:16 pm (UTC)

Re: Blog lynx

Pyramid scheme: here we go. Note mhw at #4 in the scheme, despite having joined very late; his downline includes the anon at #3, whose bf is directly downline at #7, who probably inspired Lucy at #49, and so on. Even mhw's upline is at #9. The next step would be a slightly more onerous pyramid scheme, whereby you had to submit something non-trivial but not of monetary value to join - say, 16 generic compliments or somesuch. If there's nearly as much take-up of that, then try again with something a bit more advanced still. Eventually we get down to the $5,000-a-go "hearts" schemes of legend.

Big Swinging Dick is a technical term, by the way, rather than random obscenity. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:February 29th, 2004 08:28 pm (UTC)
While we're doing The Fast Show gags, That's Amazing!

Thought to suggest to suggestions: ability to make one's own usericons be displayed upside-down through user choice would potentially amuse.

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