Friday, January 26, 2007

Useless Yahoo!

I am TERRIFICALLY fed up with Yahoo! so-called support services.

On my very first website hosted at Geocities, I have a contact form based on a script that Yahoo! has provided to divert enquiries to my named email address.

Within the last four weeks, I have been receiving spam email from civics at My login name is in the message body along with lots of links to websites I certainly don't want to visit.

Will I be able to stop this? It certainly won't be as a result of trying to contact Yahoo! "support" services. I drilled down on the Help page through to the point where I had to fill in a contact form. You can't telephone or message anybody.

I tried, believe me, to explain the situation. I received what appeared to be a personalised email, fairly quickly, informing me that action had been taken to rectify the situation.

The next time I downloaded my email, I received another two spam messages supposedly from civics at geocities.

I wrote back, receiving an inane reply referring me to an online document about terms and conditions which was absolutely no use in my situation, because I don't think we're dealing with a phishing page on a website, but a possibly compromised script supplied by Yahoo!.

I wrote back again. I seriously question whether the people at the other end in the Yahoo! offices can be bothered to actually read the complaints. Either that, or they are simply ignorant about anything beyond what is in front of their noses. The woman, because it was the name of a woman who signed, told me to explain fully what the problem was. All she had to do was scroll down the email for goodness sake. AND I'd included the headers of four offending messages.

I wrote once more. This time, the reply wasn't even individually signed. I was told that the support service I needed related to email. Get this Yahoo! It's not my Yahoo! email address that's compromised. It's YOUR script! Or is someone picking on me? Now that would be paranoia!

I was about to give up when I realised that there might be a different way. And I'm hoping it will work.

The messages also contain the Remote IP.

Thanks to that, maybe I've got their number. I'm using Visual IP trace to track down the souce of the spam, which apparently is Japan and China. The software enables me to report the abuse to Yahoo!, producing a nicely formatted email including the offending headers and asking Yahoo! to let me know what they've done about it.

Let's see if it happens.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Galapagos Galloper, or how I came to love social networking

I first heard about ARPANET, an ancestor of the Internet, while I was taking a postgrad library course at the end of the 1970s. The US government funded research in the 1960s into how to establish a communications network that would work regardless of damage inflicted in a global nuclear war.

By 1993, not only had academics caught on to the use of ARPANET and its descendants in communicating scientific progress and discoveries, librarians had recognised its potential too, as a vital tool to finding and sharing information.

I am reminded of that famous line in 'The Mummy', when the character Evelyn Carnahan rises in front of the campfire in a state of intoxicated euphoria and declares, "I, am a librarian!"

Inspired by news from the library world about this marvellous information medium, I subscribed to CompuServe and was one of the first to experience the delights of using http:// Librarians had become accustomed to using tools such as FTP and Gopher.

Let's come up to the present, when a whole new sphere of commerce and creativity has been unleashed by the Internet. Let alone using a computer, today's kids probably couldn't conceive of a world without a net connection.

But it's what you do with it that counts.

The first net users would probably have taken the notion of networking entirely for granted. Now, the emphasis is all on social networking media. MySpace, Live Journal, YouTube,, Digg, Reddit, and so on.

Google has got in on the act with its involvement in Blogger, Picasa and YouTube, while I see strong legacies of Yahoo! in Flickr, MySpace (uses Google search) and I have found the services very useful at times, and have even made one or two contacts as a result. It's people like my daughter who use the 'social networks' ruthlessly to raise awareness of both themselves and their ventures.

This is by the by. My little tale concerns a blog which I have created and defined myself using open source software. Last week, I posted about the absurdity of the price and concept of three days' bed and breakfast in a rather beautiful outpost of Arabia. I ruminated on the alternatives and value for money. Quite by chance, I had been reading an article online about the Galapagos Islands and visited the website of the company used by the journalist. The Galapagos, and its rich haven of wildlife which has evolved separately on the islands, appears to be quite enchanting. I mulled online about whether I should go. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity could put you back a mini fortune, particularly if there is more than one in the party.

Next day, I discovered that John Gallagher, based in the Galapagos Islands, had left a comment on the post announcing that he could help adventurous people with trips around the Galapagos, accommodation and advice on cheapest fares. For one thing, how soon would that type of communication ever have happened without the Internet.

I sent him an email to thank him. Your eyes should widen even more at this point. At 3.30 pm the same afternoon, my Skype phone rang. John was calling me from the other side of the world via Skype having used the Call Me function on my website. We chatted for half an hour. I became truly inspired.

I asked him how he had come across my original posting. He uses Google alerts. Every time someone, somewhere in the world writes 'Galapagos' in a newspaper article or blog, Google sends him the link.

Ten years ago, this COULD not have happened. My ambition would have waned into wistful memory.

Now, this trip is on my mental itinerary. The stumbling blocks will be my husband and my son. My husband, who spends a lot of time abroad, will remonstrate because I intend to travel to the other side of the world without him. "It's too expensive!". I can hear him saying it already. I can't really leave my 16 year old son on his own for two weeks or more. I asked him if he'd like to come with me.

"How far away is this place and would I have to fly on a plane?", he answered. "You know I don't like flying."

Why do the men in my life have to be such wimps?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Gothic bellydance and Gothla UK

I know this video is very dark. It was taken at a Goth nightclub in Leicester in December 2006, and shows my daughter Rosie performing gothic tribal fusion dance to 'Kiss them from me' by Siouxie and the Banshees.

Those of us who are not really in the know, and don't really care, would say, 'Ooh look, she's bellydancing!' There's nothing more calculated you could say to stir up the 'bellydance police', who have a very purist idea of what bellydance is. The moves should be slow and controlled. The emphasis should be on erect posture and isolated control of muscle groups.

But hey, Rosie is dancing and performing well and evidently enjoying herself.

Why, you may ask, was she dancing in a Goth nightclub? Rosie and her friends are putting on a Gothla UK weekend in Leicester in mid-June. Three exemplars of gothic fusion bellydance, Sashi, Tempest and Ariellah, are coming over from the States to perform and to conduct workshops in aspects of core control, muscle isolation and dance.

They will perform at a hafla (hence gothla) on the Friday evening and will be joined by performers from UK. The wonderful thing about haflas is that ladies can dress up extravagantly and dance themselves between performances. It's a very egalitarian affair.

The workshops will take place next day, and in the evening, participants can try out their workshop-learnt skills at a Goth disco.

The action will take place at Darkscape in Leicester, the Goth nightclub where Rosie and her friends exhibited their talents to raise interest in their venture, and to spread awareness of the universality of dance. (Sorry if that sounds pretentious - was a bit stuck for words.)

You can sign up to keep informed of what is happening at Gothla.UK. You can watch more videos of the Gothla team and exponents of gothic and tribal fusion dance at GothlaUK on YouTube.

Monday, January 01, 2007

To YouTube, or not to YouTube?

Now that Google has taken over YouTube, it would be remarkably easy to add a link in a blogspot to the unofficial video showing Saddam Hussein's execution. Google offers to link any YouTube video for you.

I hesitate to do so. I will not say that I am deeply concerned by the so-called morality of whether it is appropriate to increase the visibility of the event. I'd be more inclined to admit that I would not wish to be accused of prurience to see a man in his death throes. On the other hand, I would have turned away at the point of execution if I had been there. Violent killing of any kind is totally repugnant.

Debate has continued all day on BBC Radio 4 as to whether it was appropriate to:
  • film the execution
  • screen the execution
  • watch the video of the execution

Dismay has been expressed about the taunts at the dictator in his final moments. I believe it is this which detracts from what was portrayed in the official video. The unofficial version could be accounted as the most truthful. It only highlights the widening differences between Sunni and Shi'ite in Iraq. It doesn't pretend that the event was in any way truly dignified.

Some say that Saddam appeared calm. Some say that he could not believe what was happening right up until the end. Some say that he wore a great coat to stop himself shivering. Some say that he was shaking in fear.

Given the way he responded to his tauntors and his recitation of the Muslim prayer as he fell, I would doubt the latter.

I did see the photo of Saddam hanging on the rope which was printed on the front page of the Gulf News website yesterday. He seemed to me to look as if he were at peace. He looked much younger.

We judge by what we think are our standards, without acknowledging that standards are different between people and between cultures. We won't even admit that we could shift our standards only too readily if circumstances changed.

I admit that I was puzzled that the Iraqi authorities carried out the execution on the first day of Eid al Adha, the holiest day in the Muslim year, rather as Good Friday is in the Christian year. This is the day when the pilgrims on the Haj return from Muzdalifah where they have gathered stones to throw at the devil at Mina.

It's quite menacing to consider that it was the first day of the Eid for Sunnis, but the day before Eid for Shi'ites.

It doesn't matter who responds in the US, and nobody has so far as I know, they will not be able to contradict the belief of many Arab citizens that the execution was carried out at the behest of the US Government as one more strike in its 'war against Islam'.

Just in case anyone reads this, consider this paragraph from an article in the Washington Post of 2nd January 2007, which would appear to counter that last suggestion:

"Shiite leaders have begun to push harder for more independence from their American backers. Most recently, the government ignored U.S. objections to hanging Hussein too hastily. He was executed, amid jeers from Shiite witnesses, four days after an appeals court upheld his death sentence."

And Reuters published this yesterday:

'A senior Iraqi official told Reuters that U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had urged Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to wait another two weeks, until after the long Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, and had insisted on a variety of documents including approval from Iraq's Kurdish president.

U.S. forces had declined to give Saddam to Iraqis for fear of abuses of his prisoner's rights. They only agreed to hand him over for execution hours before the unannounced hanging. Apparently, the prime minister's office provided all the documents they asked for and the Americans changed their minds when they saw the prime minister was very insistent.

An advisor to Iraq's prime minister said that the government would look into how guards in the execution chamber had smuggled in a mobile phone camera.

He said: "They have damaged the image of the Sadrists. That should not have happened. Before we went into the room we had an agreement that no one should bring a mobile phone."'