Scribble, scribble, scribble

I suppose this is what they call a blog. Except that blogs are supposed to be updated more often than this is.

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< November 2008 >
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Friday 2008-11-21



I got a phone call today from someone purporting to be from the fraud department at Barclays, wanting to talk to Emma. They gave me a number she could call them back at. "And if I check your website, will I find that number there?" "Oh yes. And it'll be on the back of her card, too."

So, I go and check the Barclays website. No sign of that phone number. I look on the back of my bank card (which is the same as Emma's, modulo details). No sign of that number. Uh-oh: phishing?

What saith Google? Well, it found one non-content-free hit for the phone number (since then, writing it in different ways, I've found more; see below): a blog post by Charlie Stross, who as well as being a pretty good science fiction author shows every sign of being sensible and wise. He thinks he was being scammed. The evidence he presents is pretty convincing.

So I called Barclays (not using the number I was given by the Mystery Caller) and after some to-ing and fro-ing got through to their fraud department. And, lo and behold, the person I spoke to there confirmed that they had tried to call me, and that the number I was given was genuine.

On the whole, I'm convinced -- if it's a scam operation then they've successfully subverted either Barclays' website or their phone system, and they've done it in a pretty polished way -- but Barclays do seem to be trying pretty hard to give the impression of being scammers.

Other evidence: 2007-01-10, 2007-09-08, 2007-11..2008-10, 2008-06-05.

The number, mostly so that Google can find it: 0800 389 1652 = 0800 3891652 = 08003891652.

Monday 2008-11-10


OK, the mystery of the vanishing email is resolved. Speaking of which ...

You can stop BT Yahoo! SpamGuard from automatically sending suspected spam messages to your Bulk folder if you want. It’s hard for us to imagine why you would want to do this, but you’re the boss.

Well, in my case, the fact that (1) I never asked them to turn it on in the first place, (2) if they ever told me they were doing so then I missed it, and most importantly (3) the 25% false positive rate, would be "why I would want to do this". But I can understand that those reasons might be a bit too subtle for the good folks at BT.

Presumably the 25% false positive rate (by which I mean: over 1/4 of the messages in my BT "spam" folder were in fact not spam) is the result of a self-training filter going unstable because, not knowing it was there in the first place, I never went through telling it what messages it had misclassified.

Saturday 2008-11-08


Good grief.

Then again, if your country's highest mountain is named "Boggy Peak", I can see the appeal of finding an excuse to rename it.

Friday 2008-11-07


In the wake of the success of Proposition 8 in California, this has appeared in several blogs (mostly on LiveJournal):

Copy this sentence into your journal if you have ever been in a heterosexual marriage and the idea of same-sex marriage being a threat to your heterosexual marriage is the biggest bunch of shit you ever heard.

I'm not sure I can quite affirm that, just because there's such a tremendous amount of stupidity and silliness out there, but it's certainly a strong contender.

I have long thought that issues like love and sex and religion and fertility are basically none of the state's business, and that its involvement in "marriage" should amount only to having some sort of legally recognized partnership (which might or might not be called "marriage") that people – any people – can enter into, whereby they pool their goods and various other interests. Then those who want the partnership they're entering into to be formally approved by their religion, or marked with special declarations of love and faithfulness, or whatever, can do that in whatever way they find best. (And those who feel that their own marriage is somehow threatened by someone else's can go jump in a lake.)

And, in case it's not obvious, such a partnership needn't have anything to do with love or sex or children, though of course many of them would.

This is a special case of a general principle that seems obvious to me (though I have trouble saying exactly why it should be right, which may be a warning sign): governments shouldn't try to legislate for things they can't reasonably enforce – such as a partnership's really being anything to do with love, sex and children.

(Of course there are all sorts of details that would need to be right, and I'm not going to try to discuss them here.)

Tuesday 2008-11-04


Quite a lot of email sent to me (and to Emma) appears to be vanishing without trace. If you've sent anything to either of us and haven't had the reply you expected, please try sending it again. (The problem, whatever it is, appears to strike at random; your next message isn't at extra risk just because your last one got lost.)

Sorry for the inconvenience. I'm looking into the problem urgently and hope it gets fixed soon.

I don't know how long it's been going on, though it seems either to be quite new or to have got worse recently. If you've had suspicions that mail hasn't reached us in the past and haven't already told us, please let me know. Thanks!

Note: The way comments here work is basically that they get mailed to me by the webserver. Therefore, mysteriously unapproved comments should be considered equivalent to mysteriously unanswered emails.

Update, 2008-11-10: evil BT stealth spam filter. Sorted. I've retrieved everything from the last month, but anything before that is lost and gone for ever.