Press office

At work today I received a letter addressed to my publication's press office.

Press office? The website only has a dedicated editorial staff of two. Mind you, we're both press (technically) and we work in an office...

James Brown wants to buy a sun lounger from me

The Engine Room has received a great bit of what I can only assume is spam email:

I am Mr. James Brown and i am contacting you to know if you do have sun loungers for sale?I will like you to email me back if you do with the types and prices of the sun loungers you have,Also do you accept credit cards as form of payment?

I am looking forward for your mail.Thank you very much.

My Regards..
Mr. James Brown

The Godfather of Soul isn't dead - he's alive and well and wants to buy a sun lounger. From me.

And this isn't the first time I've blogged about sun loungers either...

BBC finally assumes people know what Twitter is

A few weeks ago the BBC News website ran a story entitled Hundreds on Armstrong Tweet ride. It began:

About 300 people have joined an impromptu bike ride with cycling legend Lance Armstrong after he issued an open invitation on a Twitter post

Interestingly, the story doesn't say what Twitter actually is. Until now, the Beeb seems to have felt the need to explain that it is a "micro-blogging service" (as in this story from April), a "social messaging network" (as in this story, from the same month), or a "social networking website" (as in this story, again from April).

So does the Lance Armstrong story mark a change in house style? Without trawling through dozens more stories on the BBC News website - which I may do if I get bored - it's difficult to tell...

Vetchlings, must and a bain-marie

I'm currently reading the historical novel Imprimatur, by Rita Monaldi and Franceso Sorti. It's enjoyable, but rather hard going in places. Here's an extract in which the narrator, a serving boy at a tavern, describes a meal he has rustled up for the guests:

I made a special effort and prepared a little broth with eggs poached in bain-marie, together with vetchlings; to which I added an accompaniment of croquettes of soft bread and a few salt pilchards minced together with herbs and raisins; and, to complete the meal, chicory roots, boiled with cooked must and vinegar. The whole I sprinkled with a pinch of cinnamon; the precious spice of the wealthy would surprise the palates and refresh the spirits.

'Vetchling' is "a plant or species of the genus Lathyrus; the genus itself" (OED). This genus includes the sweet pea.

I'm not sure what 'must' is in this context; possible contenders (again from the OED) include "the juice of freshly pressed grapes before or during fermentation into wine" and "any of several varieties of apple used chiefly for making cider".

I didn't know what (a) bain-marie is either, but I imagine that most of the readers of this blog will do.

Headlines: 'Brown book breaks record in hours'

The ninth headline down in this BBC News 'Most Popular Stories Now' widget caused me some confusion:

BBC News widget including ambiguous headline
What was this brown book, and why was it breaking records?

After a moment's thought, I came to the conclusion that it must be a book about (or possibly by) prime minister Gordon Brown.

Obviously, I was wrong: the book in question was Dan Brown's latest novel, The Lost Symbol. The cover does look fairly brown, though.

If the BBC cares about SEO, it really should include the title (or at least the name of the author) in the headline of an article about a book.

BBC News: Brown book breaks record in hours

Sky's professional standard install

Satellite TV company Sky had a promotional van parked in my local town centre today. Among the services and products being promoted was a "professional standard install". This could mean:

a) The standard install(ation) is professional. In which case, are the other installations unprofessional?

b) The install(ation) is of a professional standard. In which case, why is it not simply a professional install? Perhaps it's carried out by amateurs but to a professional standard...

What not to say in a meeting

At work, whenever I want to use an image on a web page, I first have to upload it to the database - at which point it becomes known as an 'asset'.

Recently I've been experiencing a frustrating delay between uploading an image and being able to place it on a web page. So today, at a meeting with the other web editors and some of the developers, I decided to get to the bottom of the issue.

It came round to 'any other business', and the woman chairing the meeting asked if there was anything that anyone would like to raise.

"Yes," I said, rather indignantly. "I'm having trouble with my assets."

I'm sure you can imagine everyone's reaction...

From the sublime to the Mr Pricklepants

News stories, in print and online, can catch your eye for all sorts of reasons. Absurdity is one of them:

A colleague of mine called me over to his desk just to share this Empire headline (and strapline/standfirst?) with me. I'm glad he did.

We didn't feel any need to read the full story, though.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee and me

I didn't blog yesterday evening because I was at the Science Museum here in London, listening to a talk by Sir Tim Berners-Lee - the inventor of the World Wide Web.

I've written about it for one of the Computer Weekly blogs, if you're interested:

Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the Web (past, present and future)

Overheard in the Newsroom

So I've fallen in love with a website: Overheard in the Newsroom. Unsurprisingly, it's a collection of "the best quotes overheard in the newsroom".

So many of the quotes I can relate to:

Reporter talking about the copy desk: “Has this desk ever seen this much action?”

Copy editor: “Last time there was cake… ”

I'm definitely going to be contributing, and hopefully making it slightly less US-centric.

Oh, here's the OHNewsroom RSS feed and here it is on Twitter.

Unforeseen circumstances beyond our control

An Indian restaurant near my office has closed down "due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control and the current economic climate".

That suggests to me that the owners of the restaurant either foresaw the recession or have it within their control (or both). I just hope they've left the restaurant business to become economists.

Headlines: Gordon Brown ordered mission...

R Mason spotted this poorly written headline on the Times Online website:

Times Online screengrab showing amibiguous headline
She writes:

When I first read this, I wondered: why would a mission hold a journalist? Why would Gordon Brown give it orders?

(If you can't see the picture, the headline reads: "Gordon Brown ordered mission to free kidnapped reporter Stephen Farrell")

England is a place next to the Wirral

Here's a Multimap screengrab I took today:

Is it just me, or does this map make it look like (the) Wirral and England are two neighbouring places? You can find the town of England just east of the Wirral...

(For those who don't know, the Wirral is a peninsula in England, albeit close to Wales.)

Stammering and stuttering

I've just started reading David Mitchell's novel Black Swan Green, and already I've found a passage I'd like to share. The voice is that of 13-year-old stammerer Jason Taylor:

Most people think stammering and stuttering are the same but they're as different as diarrhoea and constipation. Stuttering's when you say the first bit of the word but can't stop saying it over and over. St-st-st-stutter. Like that. Stammering's where you get stuck straight after the first bit of the word. Like this. St...AMmer!

Is this really true? Maybe - but even if it isn't, it should be.

Juxtaposition: cocaine deaths / adult cot death

Sarah pointed out this recent Metro front cover to me:

Metro front cover from 27 August

The lead headline reads:
Cocaine deaths jump by a fifth

The headline above the photo of the teenage girl reads:
'Angel' who died in her sleep at 16

At first glance, Sarah assumed that the girl had died after taking cocaine. However the copy alongside the photo begins:

This is Kelly Blair, a bubbly teenager whose life was cut short when she died in her sleep. The 16-year-old, described by her parents as their 'special angel', is thought to have been a victim of adult cot death, which kills around 150 people in Britain a year.

In other words, the picture caption is entirely unrelated to the cocaine story.

Sarah would like to know whether the juxtaposition of the two stories was intentional or unintentional. I'm not sure. What do you think?

Names: Joy Rider

A couple of years ago, Apus wrote about one of our colleagues who had uncovered some interesting names while working on her family history: notably, Arthur and Walter Bottle.

That same colleague has continued her research and she recently stumbled across another great name: Joy Rider.

Interestingly, the Joy Rider in question was born in Kent in 1939, while the first recorded usage of the word 'joyriders' (or in this instance, 'joy-riders') dates from back in 1908 - according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The definition it gives is: "A pleasure trip in a motor car, aeroplane, etc., often without the permission of the owner of the vehicle."

The word originated in the US and I'm not sure whether it was widely known in the UK by 1939. I would suspect not, judging by this evidence.

Greetings to any Joy Riders reading this post!

Cook for 12-20 minutes. Maybe

Cooking instructions for a Morrisons 10" fresh vegetable pizza:

Cooking appliances vary. These instructions are given only as a guide.

Make sure that the food is piping hot throughout before serving.

Place pizza on a baking tray and cook in a pre-heated oven at 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6 for 12-20 minutes.

The pizza is handmade and so probably doesn't conform to a precise shape or thickness - but 12 to 20 minutes? An instruction such as "cook until the cheese melts and starts to brown" would be more useful (to anyone unsure of how to cook pizza, that is).