Annual Review Of The Year

It’s that time of year again. Last year, I made five resolutions. I have made a good start on the first one, although it is a massive project and has taken much longer than anticipated, not least due to distractions of the Tom kind. The second I failed on miserably. The third hasn’t gone too badly, although it has improved of late. The fourth, well let’s not go there, shall we? – only 186 posts this year, including this one – not good enough. And the fifth one I’ve done reasonably well on – I’m certainly a lot happier on that score than I was this time last year.

So, for 2007, I’ll continue the good work where the good work has started. Beyond that, I haven’t really got that much that I feel I particularly want to resolve to do – there is plenty to keep me occupied.

2006 has been a year like none before it, entirely due to the arrival of Tom. He has, as I expected, changed life totally and for the better. In addition, we’ve had a lot of travel (I’ve been to Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Hungary this year) and there is more planned for 2007, with trips to Germany, France, Netherlands (naturally), Portugal, Poland, Ireland and Italy on the cards. 2006 has also seen us starting to make new long term plans. We’re not yet sure if they will come to fruition, but the notion of emigrating doesn’t look beyond the realms of plausibility. We’re also much closer to finally sorting out our finances, which has to be a good thing and has implications for all areas of life.

New Year’s Eve this year will be spent with friends, eating and drinking too much whilst (hopefully) Tom sleeps. Then I’ve got to wind myself back up in to work mode after an extended Christmas break – which, when I wasn’t being ill, I’ve enjoyed and was much needed, particularly as I’ve spent nearly the whole break at home with Hels and Tom, undoubtedly a good thing.

Happy New Year to all grayblog readers. Keep coming back if you like this sort of thing.

Between a rock and a hard place

The US has found itself in an unenviable position regarding Saddam Hussein. It would have been far more convenient, from their point of view, if he had died during the initial fighting concomitant to the invasion – I am sure that is why they expended considerable resources on trying the achieve that end.

However, having survived and then subsequently being captured, he was always bound to be a problem for them. Firstly, there was the problem of bringing him to some sort of justice – either in Iraqi courts, in US courts or in an international court. As the US continues to ignore the ICJ, the Iraqi courts always seemed the most likely venue – but without using the independent ICJ, it was always going to be open to accusations of being victor’s justice.

Secondly, once the inevitable guilty verdict had been found, there was the problem of what to do with him. Alive, albeit in prison, he could always remain the focus for protest and the hopes of his sympathisers. Dead, he has the potential to be seen as a victim or martyr, particularly by the Palestinians whom he supported. At least, after death, he is unable to make pronouncements, lead protest or be a general pain in the backside for the Americans and the Iraqi government.

The question must be: is it right to kill someone simply for reasons of political expediency? Surely, by doing so, the US and Iraqi authorities (and, by association, the British government with its so-called ethical foreign policy) sink to the same level as the dictator who also killed when it was expedient to do so. (And, is it right to produce television footage of his death for publication? Surely that is a breach of the Geneva conventions, although I suspect the Americans would argue that they do not apply in this case).

Not quite normal

This is going to be a not-quite-normal Christmas. Firstly, it’s our first Christmas as a threesome, although Tom doesn’t really have an inkling as to what it is all about. I’m sure that he will be more excited by the wrapping paper, ribbon and boxes than by the gifts themselves, although I suspect that the maracas, tambourine and glockenspiel will all be hits as they all make a good noise. Shopping for Tom is remarkably easy (the problem is knowing when to stop) and we’ve worked particularly hard to buy only a moderate number of presents and to aim for quality over cheap tat.

However, this Christmas will also be not-quite-normal as we all fight illness. Tom has a stomach bug which has resulted in vomiting and diarrhoea, although he has remained remarkably cheerful in spite of it all. I took him to the out-of-hours clinic last night for a little medical reassurance (“plenty fluids, a little Calpol, lay off rich food – call back if anything changes”) and he sat on my knee smiling broadly at the doctor (but then he is a bit of a flirt, so I shouldn’t be surprised). Hels has sinusitis, which is causing her to be nauseous and dizzy as well as taking all the flavour and fun out of food. She spent much of today in bed and seems a little better this evening. As for me, I’m pretty tired out by caring for them both and tonight I feel a little flaky – I’m hoping that is a symptom of fatigue and not a harbinger of Tom’s tummy bug (having been around unpleasant nappies for the last two days, nothing would surprise me).

But the presents are wrapped (I’m just tying ribbon on the last few), the cards are delivered (save for three to be dropped through neighbours’ doors in a moment) and the fire is burning (although we can’t get near it for cats). I’m just about to break open the Bristol Cream and Hels is browsing the TV guide. Tomorrow we begin the round of parental visits with my parents, followed by my in-laws on Boxing Day.

All we need now is a holiday. Merry Christmas.

UPDATE: I was struck down on the evening of Christmas Day by Norwalk virus – look it up if you want to know the symptoms, but I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say that I’m a few pounds lighter now. Tom is better but Hels is still not well.
And, as if anticipating my holiday sentiment, my brother and his fiancée gave us a bunch of hotel vouchers so that we can take a break.

Bad Behavio[u]r

A few weeks ago, I installed Bad Behavior on this site. This prevents malicious access to the server, thereby preventing comment spam and other nasties. It works in a different way to Akismet in that it doesn’t allow the access in the first place, thereby preventing a long queue of spams from forming that need to be moderated (either manually or automatically).

I’ve noticed two things. Firstly, whilst Akismet is still active, it is now picking out less than half a dozen spams per week. This will disappoint Rodney who was looking forward to the next pie spam chart, I’m sure. At this rate, it will be a very long time before another 50,000 spams make it to grayblog.

Secondly, the number of access attempts blocked by Bad Behavior (hate that spelling) has declined dramatically and rapidly since I first installed it. During the first week, over 7000 malicious access attempts were made on this site – which shows where the gazillions of spams were coming from and must have been putting a bit of a strain on the server (and adding to my bandwidth bill). By the second week, that figure had halved. I’ve just checked the figure again and, in the last seven days, there have been just 416 malicious access attempts. This implies that by preventing access and returning an error code to the malicious server, I’m actually deterring them from even trying to access grayblog – clearly the spam servers learn where they get 404s and 200s so that they don’t waste resources (clever chaps, these spammers).

Conclusion: I recommend Bad Behavior whole heartedly. I think I may install it on my other (work) blog.

Car update

We got my new car. It had a fault. It went back. They fixed it. Now I’ve found another fault (switch on the rear window washer and water squirts over the front windscreen – not right). It’s not going back for that – we’ll attempt to fix it (new washer motor, say the Renault forums).

Meanwhile, my old car is for sale on Ebay. The auction closes tomorrow night and looks very much like it will sell. Possibly for more than £21.

Tower Defence

I’m finding this game frustrating. No matter what strategy I try, the best score I get is 75. I have even compiled a spreadsheet of the different towers to help me, but I still haven’t got near the creator’s stated high score of 90.