The Mysteries of Spam

One of the abiding mysteries of spam is just how incompetent much of it is. Here is a splendid example which I rescued from my spam folder:

Greatings my sweetheart!You are disturbed by administration of sites of acquaintances.You are the member of this group.One of our members interested in you and we send you the message delivered from MemberName=‰MiraOldy‰This WOMAN wishes to get acquainted with you.There is HER message:Greetings the stranger, are Written by me to you from the big country of Russia, I have read your profile,and you are interesting for me, I see you as a pleasant interlocutor,I wish to get acquainted with you better and to exchange photos and not only.I will be very glad if our relations do not stop on that that we will communicate only on correspondence,I‚ll be glad to meet you one day.I will tell a little bit about myself:I‚m very nice, sociable and cheerful girl.I‚m 27 years old, growth 169, my eyes are brown, hair dark, weight of48 kg, a sports constitution. I regularly visit fitness the centre to support the figure both to be in shape and to like men.If you are self-assured and trust that can deserve my attention that write)) we will look that will turn out∑∑∑∑)Mira.



A few years ago, I’d have suspected that this was a machine translation, but I don’t think there is a translation engine out there which would make such a hash of things. Certainly Google’s translation software would have made a much better job of it. I can only assume that there is somebody out there with a very exaggerated idea of his or her command of the English language.

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Peter Victor Danckwerts – Brave, Shy, Brilliant

Although it is quite near to publication (anticipated Spring 2012), Peter Varey’s book on my uncle, P. V. Danckwerts, is still evolving and the subtitle has changed from ‘The Blitz, bomb disposal and beyond’ to ‘brave, shy, brilliant’. I have read an early draft of this book and think it is fascinating. How many people’s lives combine bomb disposal with an academic career as a Cambridge professor? Peter was, I believe, the only Fellow of the Royal Society to be awarded the George Cross.
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Enough!

thorn1

Why did I ever get dragged into discussing politics and economics? They are important but, let’s face it, boring.

Here is a far more interesting question: why do type designers always create such hideous upper-case thorns? On the extreme left of the illustration above is a capital thorn. It is not very elegant but at least the bowl doesn’t run nearly the whole height of the letter. Below are the lower- and upper-case thorns from Minion Pro. See how squat and bulbous the upper-case letter is. What it is crying out for is a descender (at least in fonts such as Minion which have a descending letter J).

thorn2
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Not Worth Discussing

I won’t deign to discuss in detail the ridiculous spat between France and Britain over the credit ratings on government debt. French politicians actually managed to damage the market’s perception of France’s credit-worthiness by their foolish outbursts. They are right that many of the fundamentals are worse in the UK than in France. However, when they point to lower growth in the UK they ignore the fact that this is largely due to the UK’s deficit reduction strategy – at least we have one! Also, we have conducted proper stress tests on our banks, something which neither France nor Germany has done, with the result that the market can be fairly certain that the UK government will not be faced with bailing out banks again, something which cannot be said for France.
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Comments System

I’ve just activated comments on this page. Hope it works!
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Crazed Belgian


Guy Verhofstad, one of those awful career politicians who afflict all nations these days, represents a country which took 18 months to form a government because they couldn’t agree on anything but he thinks that the UK should have signed up for the ill-conceived Save the Euro Pact without question. Of course he does; the UK is a large net contributor to EU funds and Belgium is a large beneficiary of those funds. Why couldn’t we just hand over what little money we have left to little Belgium, whose economy is probably in worse shape than Greece’s?
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Britain is Not the Only Country with Reservations

Just in case anyone thought that Britain alone had reservations about the new Euro pact, Le Figaro reports that France’s Socialist Party contender for the presidency, François Holland, has stated that he will renegotiate the agreement if he wins the election. Unfortunately, while talking about the efficiency of the markets, he also emphasises the use of Eurobonds. These will not be acceptable to Germany, partly because they will discourage market efficiency, partly because Germany would end up shouldering most of the cost and partly because they simply won’t work.
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Now We Really Need to Worry

Le Figaro tells us (see here) that there will be a ‘Golden Rule’ to ensure that Euro Zone deficits are reduced. Who do we know who was famous for his Golden Rule? Why, Gordon Brown, of course, who did so much to destroy the British economy. He spoke of prudence while displaying great financial recklessness. Let us hope that this rule is more reliable than his.
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Cameron's Big Mistake

In this age of spin doctors it is remarkable how bad British politicians are at basic public relations. Blair, despite a great fondness both for spin doctors and himself, was pretty useless at PR and Cameron is proving himself equally useless.

Where he went wrong was not in refusing to sign the absurd Euro Auto-Destruction Pact but in failing to explain clearly to the world, and particularly European leaders, why he could not. He should also have emphasised repeatedly that he wanted the Euro to succeed, as he undoubtedly does.

Instead, millions of people are left with the impression that Britain is trying to destroy the Euro. This is very convenient for Merkozy, the true, if unintentional, architects of its destruction. It was they who repeatedly turned a blind eye to breaches of the rules, including (as Angela Merkel has admitted) by Germany itself. It was they who dithered when decisive action could have saved the Euro very easily.
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No-One Wants the Euro to Fail

With the possible exception of a few very stupid, very ill-informed or very mad people, no-one in Britain wants the Euro to fail. Any fleeting Schadenfreude at the collapse of this ill-conceived and ill-executed project would be quickly obliterated by the terrible impact on our own economy. I like to think, also, that we would feel rather more compassion for the Euro Zone countries than they have ever shown towards us.

Sadly, it seems almost inevitable that it will fail and we shall all be much the worse for it.
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Why Cameron Had to Say No

I am not a great fan of David Cameron. Just as Tony Blair modelled himself on Margaret Thatcher, Cameron seems to have modelled himself on Blair – glib, populist but not perhaps as egotistical as Blair.

Cameron has been vilified by the French press and much of the British press too for his refusal to sign up to the new pact which is intended to save the Euro, but he had little choice. If you are cynical, you could say that it would have been electoral suicide for him to have signed it (and I haven’t seen Sarkozy doing what he thought was right rather than what he thought would be popular). However, Cameron need not have worried about electoral suicide, as signing would probably have ensured that he would have been ousted by his backbenchers long before the next election. For all I know, hanging on to his job may have been a motivating factor for Cameron but it is unfair to assume that.

Ed Miliband (the Labour Party’s own Mr Bean) predictably attacked Cameron for his stance on this matter but if you read what he has said he doesn’t suggest that he would have signed up for this absurd pact. Of course he doesn’t, because Ed Miliband must know that it would be just as unpopular in the Labour Party as it is in the Conservative Party. He also knows that, however attractive the idea of taking some money away from those in financial services is, the proposed tax of financial transactions would be a financial catastrophe, not only for the UK but for the EU in general.

The EU’s own figures indicate that a financial transaction tax would cost the UK £25.5 billion and would have a detrimental impact on the EU’s GDP:

The model used to analyse the macroeconomic impacts suggests that at 0.1%, a transaction tax on securities could, without the application of mitigating effects, reduce future GDP growth in the long run by 1.76% of GDP and of 0.17% at a rate of 0.01%.

Now, these figures are little more than guess work, but they assume that between 70 and 90% of these transactions would move outside the EU. Since London is by far the most important financial centre in the EU, most of this loss of trade would be felt in the UK. And for what? To reduce the EU’s GDP.

Why would Merkozy propose such a suicidal tax? There are, I think, four possible explanations:

  1. Both France and Germany have long been jealous of Britain’s dominant position in the financial markets and they hope that by destroying the City of London they will benefit. It is hard to see how. Perhaps they would just leave the tax in place for long enough to destroy London’s dominance and then remove it.
  2. They are very, very stupid. Given their inability to sort out the problems of the Euro Zone this is a distinct possibility.
  3. It is a deliberate attempt to sideline Britain by proposing something which they knew could not be accepted by any British Prime Minister. This seems a distinct possibility. After all, the last thing that Merkel and Sarkozy need at the moment is anyone listening to British politicians, politicians who have dared to suggest that the Euro cannot survive. Although such a Machiavellian plot is not in any way uncharacteristic of the prevailing philosophy in Berlin and Paris, I can’t help wondering if the useless dimwits who have presided over the destruction of the Euro would be capable of anything so clever.
  4. A variation on 3 above. Merkozy think the Euro will fail and they want someone else to blame.
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French Lunacy

In a fine example of why the attempts to save the Euro are sure to fail... Read More...
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ScopeWorks

I made this animation with ScopeWorks... Read More...
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Professor P. V. Danckwerts

A book on my uncle, Professor Peter Danckwerts, will be published in 2012. Details are available here.
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