A very gluggable red whine

Apologies for the lack of posts recently - I've been really busy at work.

On the plus side I now own an iPhone, which makes it much easier for me to take and upload photos. Here's the first:

This bottle of wine (sorry: whine) has been sitting on my kitchen worktop for the past month, waiting to be blogged. I can't remember whether it had "boiled sweet characters", and if so, whether they were a good thing. Somehow I doubt it.

Roger Boyes byline goes viral on Twitter

Yesterday morning our head of content pointed out to me a Times Online story titled Vienna Boys’ Choir Caught up in Sex Abuse Scandals - written by Roger Boyes:

Roger Boyes story in The Times

Not exactly a case of nominative determinism (Roger Boyes doesn't himself roger boys, as far as I know), but pretty good nonetheless.

Later in the day - and before I'd had a chance to blog - I spotted #timesbylines as a trending topic on Twitter. Tweets included '"It Was Stephen Gately's Lifestyle That Killed Him" by Gabe Asher' - thanks to @TheLakePoets for that one.

Apparently #RogerBoyes trended as well.

Oh, and Boyes'
Wikipedia entry has already been updated to read:

In March 2010, an article he wrote for The Times about paedophile priests became a viral hit on Twitter because of the apparent appropriateness of his name for the subject matter; "to roger" being a British slang term for having sexual intercourse.

So The Engine Room is slower than both Twitter and Wikipedia. Sorry about that.

Spoof letter in the Daily Mail?

Gareth has sent in this scan of a letter that was recently published in the Daily Mail:

Daily Mail letter about 6 Music

Gareth writes:

Even disregarding the letter's content, the name at the bottom clearly shows this up as a spoof letter – although I fear this may be lost on many of the newspaper's readers.

The question is: is this letter something that the Mail has made up themselves, or is it a parody that someone has sent in that has been mistakenly published as genuine?

In fact, working as you do in the publishing industry, can you confirm my long-held suspicion that the majority of printed letters in newspapers and magazines are simply made up by bored staff members?

Thanks, Gareth - what a brilliant letter. However, Googling "Derek Hartopp" suggests that it is not a spoof, as unlikely as that seems.

From my experience on consumer and business magazines, I can say that a minority of letters are made up.

I certainly haven't met many journalists with moral qualms about faking readers' letters.

That said, the primary reason for making up letters is need rather than boredom. Magazines often commit to running a letters page every week or month and then fail to receive enough suitable letters before the next issue goes to press. Of the letters received, some will be incomprehensible, some irrelevant, some libellous, some unoriginal, and some simply unprintable.

The present inebriated

Carl Jackson has written in to say:

I just thought your readers might appreciate this passage on grammar and usage from an SAT parody book called The BSAT: http://www.bsatworld.com/lookInside/grammarUsage

Thanks, Carl. I especially liked this par:

Compare "I drank too much" to "I have drunk too much." Drank is the simple past tense; drunk is the past participle. Don't confuse the two. (Also don't confuse with "I am drunk too much," the present inebriated.)

What Apus did next: Motorcycling Memories

I began this blog back in April 2007 with Apus, who was then chief sub to my sub editor. In February 2008 Apus retired, although he continued to contribute to the blog until the summer of 2009. So what has Apus been doing since then?

Apart from sitting on the beach and eating bacon sandwiches, he has put together a website called Motorcycling Memories, "a miscellany of motor cycling musings, milestones and memorabilia". Apus used to work on Motor Cycle Weekly, you see, and motorcycling remains one of his great passions.

Just thought some of you might be interested to know.

To be kept locked when not in actual use

What, as opposed to metaphorical use?

I also love how the text is left-aligned (ragged right, if you prefer to call it that) rather than centred. It gives the sign a certain poetical quality.

Daily Mail columnist resents her online readership

Columnist Bel Mooney had this to say in yesterday's Daily Mail and Mail Online:

To be honest, there are times I faintly resent the fact that people read newspapers for free online, instead of buying a real paper. [...]

If you're reading this online and you live in the UK, tell me why you can't be bothered to fork out a measly 50p for a proper paper you can take with you, cut things out of, etc? I don't see why people should expect something for nothing.

That's great, Bel. A lot of respect for your web audience there. And it's not as if Mail Online is a charitable endeavour...

Word of the day: copyleft

I first came across the word 'copyleft' in a Computer Weekly article called The World of Wikinomics just over a year ago.

Here's the par in question:

Projects under that [WikiMedia Foundation] umbrella include Wikipedia (contributed to and edited by millions of people, and the fourth most visited website in the world) Wikibooks and Wikisource (out-of-copyright or "copyleft" texts) Wikimedia Commons (royalty-free multimedia files) Wikinews (which, like "microblogging" site Twitter, often breaks news globally), and Wikiversity (free-to-use courses and educational materials).

I'm not sure whether CW is saying here that Wikisource includes both out-of-copyright and copyleft texts, or whether it is saying that 'copyleft' means 'out of copyright'. I'm veering towards the latter.

So is copyleft a synonym for 'out of copyright'? Not according to Wikipedia:

Copyleft is a play on the word copyright to describe the practice of using copyright law to offer the right to distribute copies and modified versions of a work and requiring that the same rights be preserved in modified versions of the work.

Copyleft is a form of licensing and can be used to maintain copyright conditions for works such as computer software, documents, music and art.

Whatever its exact definition (if it has one), the word 'copyleft' originated in the 1970s and now has fairly widespread use: over seven million results in Google, although some of those are company names and so on. I'm surprised I only encountered it for the first time in 2009.

Oh, and just because I like it, here's a copyleft symbol:

Usually fish are in the water now they are falling out of the sky

Here's an extract from a recent Telegraph.co.uk article called Australian town, 326 miles from river, hit by raining fish. Check out the quote from Joe Ashley, 55:

Extract from Telegraph article about raining fish

Harry Campbell sent this one in to The Engine Room, and he asks: "Is punctuation now rationed at the Daily Telegraph?"

If anything, I think the lack of punctuation conveys a rather appropriate sense of panic on the part of Joe Ashley. I'd be panicked if I thought crocodiles might start dropping out of the sky...

A balls-up from iTunes Genius

So iTunes' Genius feature is not such a genius (click on the image to see a larger version):

iTune's Genius gets its Balls in a muddle

I selected a song from my collection by North London singer-songwriter Edward Ball, and Genius suggested an album of easy-listening piano music by Peter Triggvi and Edward Ballantyne.

If Duncan Bannatyne and Johnny Ball ever take up singing and release a duet, I shall have to disable Genius entirely.

Update 9.30pm - so here's a video from Ed Ball (not Edward Ballantyne) complete with Anna Friel guest appearance:

Most every country

Here's something else that cropped up in the online training course on data privacy that I took recently (click on the image to see a larger version):

"Most every country"? As well as appearing twice in print (as shown), it was also used once in the audio track that accompanied the visuals.

On this usage of 'most', the OED Online says:

Chiefly N. Amer. Modifying certain universal and non-assertive determiners and pronouns, as all, any, every, anyone, everything, etc., and corresponding adverbs of time and place, as always, anywhere, everywhere.

This adverbial usage of 'most' seems rather colloquial to me, and not appropriate for a company training course - but then I'm a British English speaker.

Any American English speakers out there want to comment?

I used your pic with my article

Yesterday The Engine Room received this email:

Hi, I used your pic with my article at suite101.com. - see it at http://personalbudgeting.suite101.com/article.cfm/executors-need-information

That's the entire email, and I'm not sure what to think about it.

On the one hand, I'm pleased to see one of my photos being used elsewhere - and it was nice that the author of the article got in touch to let me know. On the other hand, it would have been nicer if he had asked first - and where's the thank you?

Orange you glad I'm a banana?

Bananas, looking suspiciously round and orangey
Thanks to my colleague Adam Tinworth, firstly for taking this photo and secondly for letting me publish it here on The Engine Room.

The blogroll: it lives! On a page!

So I've finally reinstated The Engine Room's blogroll. You can access it using via the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The blogroll is just the same as before, except that I've removed a few blogs that are in disuse. I have a lot of new discoveries to add to the blogroll, but that will have to wait for another day. I'd also like to display it in a more interesting way - again, that will have to wait.

Anyway, the blogroll lives on a 'page' rather than a post entry - I'm very glad that Blogger has finally added this feature. If you want to know more, see Blogger Buzz: Creating Pages in Blogger.

I've also added a little widget at the top of the sidebar on the right so you can easily find me elsewhere on the Internet.

Expiry date is one one one two

So I've just paid my electricity bill over the phone. My electricity company has a voice recognition system in place, so instead of speaking to a real person I just followed the cues and read out my account number, card number and so on as required.

All was going swimmingly until I was asked to read out my debit card's expiry date. On the card itself this is given as '11/12' (in that format) so after a moment's hesitation I said "eleven, twelve". No dice! I then tried "November two thousand and twelve". The system grudgingly accepted this, replying with: "Your card expiry date is one one one two. Is this correct?"

Note to companies using voice recognition systems: when you ask customers for information, please tell them how to give that information.

(And note to potential fraudsters: my card's expiry date isn't actually 11/12. Probably.)

Where's rougher than Walford? Balham

EastEnders is set in the fictional East London borough of Walford.

Walford is hardly the most affluent place in the world, but sometimes the scriptwriters need the action to take place in an even rougher, more dangerous part of London - and for that they look south.

One current plotline has several scenes set in the South London neighbourhood of Balham. It is portayed as a wasteland of council flats, dark alleys, and menacing gangs:

EastEnders gang scene set in Balham

I lived in Balham for a year not so long ago, and saw more yummy mummies than hoodies. Wikipedia notes: "Property prices have risen as middle class professionals have moved in, causing the district to lose some of the working class feel it had up till the 1990s."

There are plenty of places in South London that make Walford look like Knightsbridge, but Balham isn't one of them.