Burrell: besmirchable?

Amongst today’s news is the story of Paul Burrell’s complaint against the News of the World being upheld. In response to the breach of the Press Complaints Commission’s code in the News of the World’s article titled Burrell: I had sex with Diana, Burrell claimed that the article had "besmirched" his name.

besmirch: attack the good name and reputation of someone.

Surely in order to be besmirched, one must have a good name to attach. No?

The despicable BlackBerry font

The standard BlackBerry font sits alongside Comic Sans in its effortless ability to grate on my poor eyes.

BlackBerry font

It’s brash, bulky, fat and utterly despicable.

More than words

My daughter is getting quite verbose in her old age. Below is a smattering of the words that she’s now able to say, six days shy of 20 months old.

ba-bye, bye, cake, daddy, Fifi, go, hello, juice, mama, more, no, no no no, ok, party, Peppa, shoe, tea, tree, whee, wiggle, wiggle wiggle wiggle, wow, yay, yes.

Most are said in context (yes, wiggle wiggle wiggle has a context), some are used to mimic us parents. The big exception being: more. She says more when she actually wants no more. No more food, no more juice, no more TV (rare), no more music, no more being dangled upside down, whatever. It’s really quite funny to watch, her pushing away the juice while insisting more.

Half an hour of spam

22 spam messages made it to my inbox between 7.17pm and 7.46pm this evening.

I decided to check whether my spam box had been similarly inundated. It had: a further 505 messages hit my spam box in the same 30 minute period. That compares to exactly 3,500 messages in the last 30 days (older spam is automatically deleted). That’s an average of 2.43 messages per half-hour period. So 505 was a bit of a surge.

So while I was a bit annoyed to get 22 unwanted emails in my inbox, it’s better than getting 527, and a 95.8% detection rate isn’t so bad.

Thanks, Google.

Signs of appreciation

"You f*cking c*nt. It’s like knowing someone with a superpower. […] I am actually genuinely grateful you small piece of stubborn Yorkshire granite."

Another satisfied spreadsheet customer.

Breaking rank

I was asked yesterday to enhance a spreadsheet to give a table of the top five-ranked items based on number of respondents to a question. With 115 possible respondents, there was a chance that there would be ties for some of the places, and I wanted the spreadsheet to override such ties with a random ordering. So if the most popular three question each attracted 85 responses, order them randomly into slots one, two and three nonetheless.

Excel’s RANK function ranks all of these equal first. To get around this, I added a random, miniscule amount (=RAND()*0.00001) to the total number of responses and used this revised figure to determine the ranking. After creating the random numbers, I copied and pasted values over them to make sure the ordering didn’t keep jumping with every action.

Not pure, but a creative way to solve the business problem, if I may say so.


The BBC got it right; the Daily Mail, as you’d expect, got it wrong.

VAT has been cut by 2.5 percentage points, but it has been cut by 14.29%. Prices that previously attracted a 17.5% VAT levy should reduce by 2.13%.

At the end of 2009, VAT will increase by 16.7%, with prices increasing by 2.17%. You do the maths.

Conflating variables: Down’s syndrome

A very interesting BBC article that also highlights the possible issues with drawing conclusions where variables are conflated.

It covers the increasing prevalence of babies born with Down’s syndrome, both in terms of raw numbers of births and the proportion of Down’s births to total births.

With 717 births in 1989 before the pre-natal test was introduced, the number fell to 594 in 2000, but has since risen to 749 in 2006. The percentage of births of which the baby has Down’s syndrome has also increased by 15% since 2000.

One argument cited for the increase in numbers since 2000 is that society has become more accepting of the condition. An alternative argument is the increasing average age of child-bearing women, something that itself increases the propensity for conceiving a foetus with Down’s syndrome.

Identifying the genuine reason for the trend would require more data, specifically the abortion rates over time of foetuses vs. the risk assessments resulting from the triple test performed.

Accuracy with little added value

I ordered a tumble dryer from Co-op Electrical on Sunday to replace the one that’s packed in after eight years’ service. I chose Co-op Electrical for two reasons:

(My only issue with the order was it taking over a minute to get around to loading the credit card details form.)

Ordering the appliance at 10.38pm last night, I could choose a Tuesday delivery slot, which I was quite impressed by. And further, I received a text and email today confirming an expected delivery slot. Apparently, "it will be between 09:13–11:43", but "times are a guide only".

While it’s all very well that I have a very precise two-and-a-half hour delivery slot, it adds little value to my life. The delivery can arrive any time between 7am and 8pm and if I’m not in for it, I’ll pick up a £35 surcharge.

So if I pop out for half an hour at 8am and miss the delivery, I’ll pay a surcharge despite it arriving outside the expected delivery slot.

My only option is to stay in until it arrives, something that I would have done anyway with a 7am–8pm slot. Ho hum.

Special Needs Pets

I was flicking through the channels just now, and happened upon a Channel 4 programme titled Special Needs Pets. Its Virgin Media description:

Documentary following animal lovers struggling to come to terms with their beloved pets’ disabilities, from parrots on anti-depressants to paralysed rabbits.

Who on earth said British TV was going to the wall?

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