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This Blogging Month: January

This is a new monthly feature, where I’ll summarise the site news and stats for the preceeding month.

January saw the highest number of unique visitors in the site’s history, and one of the highest numbers of hits in history – well over 40,000, compared with just 5,000 in January 2004. This takes the overall number of hits since Jul 2003 (when I moved to this domain) to just over 384,000. Advertising and Amazon referrals have performed very strongly this month, much better than usual and much better than expected, with a 131% profit over and above the cost of maintaining the site.

January was also the first month in my blogging life where I’ve managed to post every day. So there’s been plenty of stuff to read.

Since my last update, I think I’ve finally finished tweaking the design of the site by adding a few icons in place of text links, one of which is for a new ‘Printable Version’ feature. I’ve also added a tool whereby you can subscribe to Comments sections for a particular post – that is, once you’ve posted a comment, you can tick a box to say that you’d like to be informed of any further comments on that post. You can now also see some stats in the ‘About this Blog’ section of the sidebar.

I think that’s about all I’ve got to tell you for this month’s update. Keep reading the blog!

This post was filed under: Site Updates.

Half empty

There is tremendous value in having a loser friend – someone far worse off than you, who is slightly in awe and worshipful of your life. You complain about this friend constantly and your other friends get annoyed and say, “I don’t get it. Why are you still friends with that person?”

So everybody has a loser friend, then? I thought it was just me. But there we go.

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

Paxman attacks BBC over 15% cuts in news budget

For an organisation whose first duty is to inform, cutting the BBC’s news budget by over 15% seems a particularly strange decision to make, even if cuts are being made across the rest of the organisation. The News budget should come first, and should be being ever increased (as the overall income increases), certinaly not cut.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Jackson in court for abuse trial

If the jury in the trial of Michael Jackson doesn’t find him guilty, I’ll be extremely surprised.

But the real question is whether he actually is guilty, and I suspect not. Though it’s just a hunch.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Lies, Damn lies, and Newspaper sales

It appears that, along with many other people, I was duped into believing a false story. I’ll let the silicon.com Weekly Roundup explain and ridicule:

And finally, still on the subject of questionable journalism, news reached the Round-Up this week that one of the year’s most ridiculous stories was little more than a lie… cheaply concocted to sell papers. (Which is the Round-Up’s slightly self-important way of saying ‘phew, thank God we didn’t write this…)

The saga began with a journalist writing for the Romanian tabloid Libertatea claiming to have found a couple who named their child ‘Yahoo!’ in celebration of the fact they met online.

Even the most copy-hungry newspaper editor, with all manner of serious ear, nose and throat issues should have smelled something a little bit fishy at this point but the journalist concerned, the negatively charged Ion Garnod, had gone to the trouble of backing up his story with a forged birth certificate.

(The Round-Up can’t help thinking at this point that it’s a very telling sign-of-the-times that skilled forgers in Eastern Europe are turning to journalism as a source of income.)

However, as surely as night follows day, fact followed fiction and Garnod was exposed as a liar who made up the story “to make himself look good”.

To do what? To make himself look good!?

Whatever happened to elaborate lies about sexual conquests – perhaps involving twins – or great sporting prowess?

“Alright lads… how’s it going?”
“Good thanks Ion… what’s kept you, you’re very late?”
“Oh, I bumped into this couple who named their baby Yahoo!”
“Wow, you’re the greatest, pull up a chair and let us buy you an absinthe.”

The Round-Up doesn’t know who Garnod hangs out with but really thinks his peer group is way too easily impressed.

What about:

“Yeah sorry about that lads but I bumped into the Cheeky Girls and spent a wild night in a hotel with them…”

Actually, maybe ‘Yahoo!; the baby was the better option after all.

(Apologies at this point to any readers in Romania for having a woeful grasp on who the latest Romanian pin-ups might be… without a doubt there must be better than the Cheeky Girls.)

Simona Ionescu, Garnod’s deputy editor-in-chief, told Reuters “we fired him”, which didn’t exactly tax the shorthand of the Reuters journalist.

Ionescu did go on to say: “If it were real, it would have been a good story indeed.”

No, if it were real it would still have been a story about a couple who named their baby ‘Yahoo!’ let’s not get carried away.

I think I’m right in saying that this is the first time I’ve blogged a completely inaccurate story in twenty-one months of posting, and I’m really quite bothered about having helped spread this myth. I’ll certainly be checking my sources even more closely in future to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

So, apologies for making the mistake, and I’ll trust my source on this a little less from now on (though, in fairness, the VNU Network are normally reliable).

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Technology.

Cash machines that can charge up to £10

Until I read this in the Sunday Times, I never realised that there are cash machines that charge quite this much. It’s crazy.

I wondered to myself why people would use such a machine, until I reached the end of the article:

Tintagel in Cornwall, for example, used to have branches of Lloyds, Barclays, NatWest and a van containing a mobile HSBC cashpoint, which made regular visits. NatWest and Barclays have closed, Lloyds is open just four hours a week and has no cash machine, and the HSBC mobile unit paid its last visit on Friday. All five machines available in Tintagel and the villages of Boscastle and Delabole charge fees.

This is getting silly. If the banks cannot manage to provide an appropriate level of service to their rural customers, then they must expect that these customers will abandon them. But the customers are left with little choice when all of the banks in their area have closed.

Of course, the other very negative impact this will be having is on the small local shops, who will be taking more card transactions than before, and so facing higher charges.

This is bad news all round, but I can’t see any way around the situation other than by forcing the hugely profitable banks to maintain a free (loss-making) cash machine service in rural communities. And that’s never going to happen.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

London’s Olympic dream in tatters

The Observer is particularly upbeat this morning:

London has in effect abandoned hope of winning the 2012 Olympic Games, because it is so far behind Paris, key members of the bidding team have told The Observer.

Did anyone ever think that we had a chance of seeing the Olympic Games in London? It was never terribly likely, and I’m not sure that the bid had a great deal of public support anyway, particularly from those who live further north than Coventry, since it just seemed like (yet again) vast amounts of money would be spent on an event in London, while the rest of the country would be pretty much left out.

I realise that the idea was to ship some of the stadia around the country after the event, and that the bid was supposed to reflect benefits for the whole country, but people are never going to see that in a London-centric event. The whole country got behind the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in a way that could never happen with a London-based sporting event.

Of course, if all of this speculation is wrong and Mike Lee (London 2012’s director of communications) is right, then I could end up looking very silly:

Not only is this an open race with everything to play for, but there are also five months to go before the vote. The mood is upbeat and confident. We have received extremely positive feedback on our proposals, and on the details of our candidate file, which we submitted in November.

I’m fairly sure that we won’t win. But I am willing to be proved wrong.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Former minister is HIV positive

This article from BBC News says that

The former Labour culture secretary, Chris Smith, has revealed he has been HIV positive for 17 years.

This shouldn’t be big news. The more that HIV is treated like some terrible disease that has to be ‘announced’, the greater the stigma that will be attached to it. Chris Smith was right to make it public that he has HIV (he makes a very convincing argument for doing so in today’s Sunday Times), but the media are wrong to make such a big fuss about it.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

Bird flu leaps from human to human

According to this Observer article,

One leading British expert, Professor John Oxford, commenting on the new research, said the virus had broken down the ‘final door’ which prevented it being spread between people. ‘This is a very important step towards the conclusion that we all wanted to avoid,’ he said.

I have told you that this is going to be a big story. It could have absolutely devastating worldwide consequences, and millions could die. Despite this:

A flu drug, Tamiflu, works as a preventive measure, but the UK has not yet decide how much of this drug to stockpile.

I really think it’s time Mr Blair and co got their thinking caps on. Unless, of course, they want to see this kind of case study repeated across our country:

Her mother, who lived in Bangkok, went to visit when she heard her daughter was sick, and cared for her in hospital for two days before the child died. Three days later, she too began to experience fever and severe shortness of breath. Within a week she too was dead.

The time to act is now.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Ruth Kelly and Opus Dei

This is getting out of hand. The exaggerated version of a religious cult portrayed in a work of fiction (and, as I’ve said previously, not a particularly good one at that) has somehow crossed into mainstream politics.

Ruth Kelly was right not to distance herself from her religion, and if fools want to criticise her for belonging to an organisation they know very little about, then let them go ahead.

In particular, I think Matthew Parris’s comments in the Times are unconsidered:

[Kelly] has rejected a suggestion that her religious beliefs could affect the way she carries out her role in government in relation to sex education. How so? Does a believer not believe religion has lessons in this area? And, more importantly, at a time when the status of “faith” schools is a vexed question, can Ms Kelly really stay dispassionate in the tussle between those who do and those who do not believe that the State — and the taxpayer — should be sponsoring faith-based education?

What does Matthew Parris suggest we should do? Have only Education Ministers with no particular relgious faith? Or would that bias them against faith-based schools?

Ruth Kelly should be left alone to privately practise her beliefs. There are bigger, more important, battles to fight in the political arena than this.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

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