25 December 2011

Good morning to you all and our very best wishes for a splendidly splendid Christmas. I’m sure Santa will have visited you all as you’re bound to have been very nice and only occasionally naughty during 2011 (apart from brother Steph, obviously). We’re off to Nick and Lucy’s later to share the festivities and we’ll take Pen’s folks along for the ride. I’m looking forward to a staggeringly splendid feast and am sure I won’t be disappointed.

For those of you who may not have received our Christmas greetings (either because the post is delayed over the Christmas rush or because we’ve struck you off the list this year), you can find a virtual copy here. In addition to the usual nonsense, the virtual addition has a number of additional photos as well as a link to a video/slideshow of our holiday in Tuscany this past summer. Enjoy it if you dare.

The other “big” event this week was, of course, a birthday last Thursday which was most enjoyable. Thanks to all of you who sent cards or posted Facebook greetings as well as to those who phoned. We Skyped with Adam in China and were delightfully surprised to find Ben online at the same time – what else does one do when one can’t sleep at 3.30 in the morning but get up and get online. So, we were able to have a group birthday Skype which was very nice.

I did receive more cards than one can shake a stick at but I have to confess my favourite came from Sandy and Pam:

Happy Birthday

And the greeting on the inside of the card reads, “Hope your birthday doesn’t stink.”

I can assure you that it didn’t and, as a birthday treat, my sweetheart took me to dinner at the Inn at Farnborough which was exceedingly pleasant. We had been aware of the Inn and its excellent reputation but had never been before – it was a delight. A wonderful, straight-forward ambiance, absolutely delicious food, very good value and excellent service. I think it will become our favourite place to go for those “special” occasions.

I also had the most marvellous present from my granddaughter:

Grandpa Photo

Thursday was also the day of the El Gordo lottery in Spain which distributed something in the region of $3.29 billion in prize money. I was aware that El Gordo is the largest lottery in the world but I wasn’t aware that the drawing takes place on my birthday every year. I also wasn’t aware that it (allegedly) started in 1812 (can that really be right?). The BBC web site has a short video clip which you can see here. Bizarrely, pupils from the San Ildefonso School in Madrid “sing” the results.

And thank you very much but I don’t need anyone to make the obvious connection between me on my birthday and the phrase “El Gordo”, especially after a fine meal (including dessert)!

Another amusing little article which caught my eye this week on the Guardian web site. Apparently, an automated profanity checker went into overdrive last weekend which resulted in the electronic programme guide for Virgin Media (a cable television service provider in the UK) censoring the names and titles of a variety of programmes. The 1959 version of The 39 Steps, was described in the on-screen programme guide as being a Hitchc***k remake starring Kenneth More and there was also a reference to Charles D***ens’ Christmas Carol.

This reminded me of what has generically become known as The Scunthorpe Problem which I remember from the early days of the internet and e-mail. According to that reliable source of all information, Wikipedia:

The Scunthorpe problem occurs when a spam filter or search engine blocks e-mails or search results because their text contains a string of letters that are shared with an obscene word. While computers can easily identify strings of text within a document, broad blocking rules may result in false positives, causing innocent phrases to be blocked.

The problem was named after an incident in 1996 in which AOL’s dirty-word filter prevented residents of the town of Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, England from creating accounts with AOL, because the town’s name contains the substring cunt. Years later, Google’s filters apparently made the same mistake, preventing residents from searching for local businesses that included Scunthorpe in their names.

  • Residents of Penistone, South Yorkshire, experienced problems because the town’s name includes the substring penis.
  • Lightwater in Surrey suffered similarly because its name contains the substring twat.
  • Residents of Clitheroe (Lancashire, England) have been repeatedly inconvenienced because their town’s name includes the substring clit, which (among other meanings) is a slang word for “clitoris”.

(Goodness, I hope my mother’s own on-screen profanity checker is working normally!)

Have a great day and a wonderful holiday break.

Love to you all,

Greg