It is with regret…

Dear Correspondent

I regret to say that I have been unable to deliver your electronic mail to Mr Stafford. My employer has left with me strict instructions to run certain automated checks on the spelling, grammar and vulgarity of unsolicited messages, and I’m afraid it is due to the result of these checks that I am unable to deliver yours.

Mr Stafford has adopted this procedure after realising that many so called ‘spam’ messages contain basic errors of spelling, errors of punctuation and grammar or simple profanity. As you will know the basic problem of spam filtering is where to set the threshold so that no important messages are deleted, and so that few spam messages are delivered. Mr Stafford reasoned that he would not miss being denied badly spelled, poorly constructed or simply rude messages — even genuine ones — and that this procedure would be most effective in identifying spam that was not caught by his frontline spam filters. Additionally, this system means that any spam that is delivered does at least have the virtue of being well written, something which mitigates a good part of the offence, he feels.

This is why I have been employed as an ’email butler’, and why you are hearing from me rather than receiving a reply directly from Mr Stafford. Please understand, I am certainly not saying that your message *is* spam, merely that it fails on my checks of what we regard as proper English. Perhaps you have misused the apostrophe? I’m afraid to say that the misuse of just one of these little fellows is enough to have your message rejected (not so with mis-spellings, which my employer allows, in my opinion, to compose a very generous percentage of the message).

If you feel that your message is important enough to be brought to Mr Stafford’s attention then I would urge you to either redraft with more care, or to send a short note to Mr Stafford requesting that you be added to my list of his trusted friends and colleagues — I’m afraid to say that, as has always been the case, the ‘right sort’ are allowed to get away with behaviour that would have the ordinary person thrown out of polite society!


E Butler

On behalf of Tom Stafford, Esq


Reed Elsevier finally gets out of arms fair business

Guardian news 30/5/08:

Reed Elsevier has finally stopped organising arms trade fairs – five months later than it promised shareholders and staff….Yesterday the company said it had sold the DSEi, ITEC and LAAD defence exhibitions to Britain’s largest independent exhibitions group, Clarion Events, for an undisclosed sum…”The events we have acquired in the defence-and-security sector are a valuable and profitable addition to our portfolio and fit perfectly with our strategy for international expansion,” said Clarion Events’ chief executive, Simon Kimble.

Story at

Clarion seems to run trade shows for the gambling, petrochemical, biofuel and gas industries, as well as the NEC baby show…


links for may 08

intellectual self-deference psychology

Don’t belive the neurohype (excerpt)

Vaughan is so spot on over at that I’m going to excerpt him here:

For example, an experiment might find that fear is associated with amygdala activation. But it’s impossible to say the reverse, that every time the amygdala is activated, the person is fearful.

Here’s an analogy. On average, people from New York may be more impatient than people from other cities.

If you predicted that all people from New York were impatient on the basis of this, you’d be grossly mistaken so many times that it would make your prediction invalid.

In fact, taking the average attributes of populations and applying them to individuals is stereotyping, and we avoid it because it is so often wrong as to cause us to misjudge people.

Alternatively, if you met an impatient person and therefore concluded that they must live in New York, you’d be equally inaccurate.


sloganeering II

The democratisation of publishing has come at just the right time to salvage the knowledge that will be lost due to the disintegration of the traditional family.


Better You Should Learn Wen Do

Men protect women, a man once told me indignantly.
some do.
Who do they protect them from?
Other women?
Wild rutabagas? *
Rampaging rabbits?

Helen Potrebenko

* A kind of swede



Now, from Defra, you can get a noisemap of the UK, searchable by postcode. This is the area around my house:



Elsevier chair on activist shareholders

Dutch institutional investors and company executives are pressing for more rules to govern activist shareholders, news agency Reuters reports.

‘We have all seen that investors with a short term horizon and a strategy of shareholder activism try to make life miserable for companies,’ Jan Hommen, chairman of publishing group Reed Elsevier, was quoted as saying. ‘They have no loyalty at all to the company or other stakeholders.’, 9 May 2008



Thesis: Irony is so corrosive that even the slightest drop in anything you pursue will eventually destroy all seriousness and purpose. The project will then be impossible to sustain, except for the regular injection of large quantities of self-importance (for examples see critical theory, purportedly ‘post-modern’ art).


Looking out II

I have this recurring fantasy where a younger me is looking out of my eyes as I go about my daily life. The fifteen year old me can’t read my thoughts, or affect my actions. He doesn’t know how he got here, temporarily trapped inside the thirty year old me, doesn’t know what is going on. All he can do is read what I look at, listen to what I say, and try and deduce what kind of destiny awaits his future self. Is he pleased with how he ends up? Is he amazed at the confidence, the responsibility, the freedom that I have? Does he smile in recognition when I call up people he already knows, obviously still in touch? Does he wonder how some things worked out? He can’t ask any questions, trapped there. He just has to look for clues. Some people leave a trace on my adult life while he’s visiting, others are agonisingly absent. He watches the adult me and tries to figure out if these absences distress him, tries to figure out what he likes and avoids, what he loves and hates. He can’t tell for sure, just watches me, as I watch myself, swept through my own life.


links for april 08