Accessible authentication codes

My friend Alan has just decided to introduce word verification on his blog, to prevent spam commenting. Word verification is when you’re forced to replicate an obfuscated in a textbox, in an attempt to ensure that you’re a human rather than a ‘bot. I was forced down the same route in July, 2005 when some comment spammers linked off to poker sites to elevate their search-engine rankings. The authentication plug-in did the trick in eliminating that pesky behaviour.

The lovely part about Alan’s implementation (a plug-in, no doubt, as I am confident that this is well outside his skill-set) is that it has an accessible alternative. If you click the disabled logo to the right of the textbox (not sure I approve of the logo), it reads out some numbers which you can then type into the box. Sweet!

Lily Allen: LDN

Just heard Lily Allen perform an acapella version of her new single on the Jonathan Ross show. Absolutely beautiful! iTunes here we come.


Never use a colon at the end of a title in a document; never succeed a colon with a dash, unless you’re creating an emoticon. Thank you.

Freshly roasted

I bought a coffee from Pret a Manger yesterday. The girl turned around to make it, revealing the following slogan across the back of her T-shirt:

Freshly roasted

Not sure if they’ve fully thought that one through…


As mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently found out how to do the equivalent of a SUMPRODUCTIF. Here’s the detail on how.

First of all, some context.

SUM does exactly what it says on the tin. It sums a range of cells.

SUMPRODUCT is a lesser-known function, and sums a set of products. (a1*b1*c1) +(a2*b2*c2) + […] + (an*bn*cn)

SUMIF sums a range of cells if a certain condition is true. For example, sum people’s salaries in a column if they are based in London.

I wanted a way of putting a condition on the SUMPRODUCT function. That is, I wanted to do a sum of the products only where a condition for those rows held true.

To make the formulae more manageable, let’s assume I’ve named a few ranges: conditions is the column of data that I want to validate the condition against; range1 and range2 are the two ranges that I want to do the conditional SUMPRODUCT on. And let’s assume I only want to do this if the values in the conditions range are "London".

The formula would read:


Basically, the first term acts as a range in its own right, taking the value of 1 (for London) and 0 (for anything else). This means that it’s not actually doing a conditional SUMPRODUCT, but instead it’s multiplying the entries for which the condition fails by zero, which has the same effect. I think the double minus at the beginning is to ensure that the first argument is read as a formula.

Quite beautiful.

What comes between F and C?

D and E, I hear you cry. I’m actually talking about the swear words. The F word has somewhat become common parlance and as such, less powerful as an expletive. As far as I am aware, the only word stronger than that (without delving into the field of racism) is the C word. (For the sake of Francis and his desire to read my blog at work, I’ll save spelling these words out in full.)

The C word is certainly reserved for very special occasions. I have a good friend (who will remain nameless) who once told me that she saved it for instances such as hopping into the shower and realising too late that the boiler’s broken. She had allegedly shouted the expletive at the top of her voice recently in that very scenario. I occasionally use it in a joking manner, but only in circles of friends that I know well, and that I know will take it with the frivolity with which it is intended. It is becoming more common in its use, but it still holds pride of place in the swearer’s armoury.

Is there anything that fits neatly between the two? More powerful than F, but less frowned-upon than C?

I often used to muse as to whether newly created swear words would take over the mantle of old ones as these are diluted by popular use. I have to say, thus far, I have seen little evidence of new words filling their shoes.

Poof reading

Full-page advert in today’s London Lite, with the following banner headline covering around a third of the page:

Weekend City Beaks.

How on earth did that get through?

Spreadsheets, documents and SI units

If you are referring to a spreadsheet that was produced in MS Excel, please call it a spreadsheet; not an Excel spreadsheet. Likewise, please never refer to Word documents; documents will suffice.

If you refer to a spreadsheet or a document, I along with much of the rest of the world, will assume Microsoft. Only if this assumption is invalid should you qualify the noun. Thanks.

It seems we need some new SI units. Today I heard of one IT solution being five times more complex than another. I also heard of something having ‘tons’ of potential. And advertising is quoting a 70% increase in hair’s radiance. The committee that decides upon SI units needs to act fast to get all three of these baselined and suitable units identified.

Lyrics good and bad

First of all to what I believe to be the worst lyrical construct ever. I’m not talking about the worst lyric ever. (For the record, that honour goes to Rhythm is a Dancer by Snap: I’m serious as cancer when I say rhythm is a dancer.) I’m talking about the worst-scanning lyric of all time. My view is that this particular honour goes to Roy Orbison for a particular segment from Crying:

I thought that I was over you,
But it’s true so true.

Next, a short note to share my view that Sleeper were lyrical geniuses. Sleeper were lyrical geniuses.

Banged up abroad

There was an interesting documentary on Channel 5 tonight about a British couple who were caught smuggling cocaine from Costa Rica. Allegedly, they thought they were smuggling cannabis, in much smaller quantities than was actually the case.

Throughout the documentary, the footage was generic, suggesting that they may have either got away with it, or else been released already. In fact, they are serving their sentence in separate Mexican prisons, due for release in 2014. They will likely be released in 2009.

Both criminals seemed reasonably rational, particularly the guy. However they both only had thoughts for themselves, and didn’t seem to be bothered about the potential damage the drugs they attempted to smuggle would have done. They didn’t think themselves the victims of injustice. Instead, they were annoyed at having been caught, rather than having taken the stupid decision in the first place.

Seemed odd.

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