What does not kill me, makes me stronger

After spending a few days in the north of Senegal, I returned to Dakar to find one of my sites had been hacked. Each page of my photoblog, Ria Galleria, had a long list of ads and links above my own photo posts. The ads were all related to travel, which is preferable to zoophilia, although the centred alignment was crime enough, typographically speaking.

After some frantic searching, I learned that I had been hit by a php injection, which is not the latest form of synthetic drug abuse but rather a hack that places a line of malicious code at the top of all the php files on your server. Given that my blogging software, WordPress, is built on php, this was a serious problem.

How did it get there? Probably through some security weakness in my outdated version of WordPress (or possibly an associated plugin). Updating is an obsession at WordPress, annoyingly so at times, but plain stupid to ignore for as long as I have. My excuse was that I could not rely on stable power supply long enough to undertake such a laborious process of synchronizing hundreds of files.

This hack attack was the push I needed to upgrade. I started with Ria Galleria, using a fully automatic update by SimpleScripts. It was simple, but it lost lots of tags and all the links to the photos — a pretty basic flaw for a photoblog. Still, I was happy that I had the basic setup back, and will re-upload the photos as and when.

More daunting was this four-year-old blog. Mon œuvre! ;-)

I decided to do the upgrade manually, and, several hours later, it’s up and running. For you, dear reader, there is very little difference from the previous version. If only you could see behind the screen … gone is the linoleum and the bakelite cabinet; now all is cool whites and a single pulsing red LCD atop a burnished titanium cube.

Actually there are a million tabs, tags, options and other delightful distractions to fiddle with. I won’t have any time left to write anything.

I mentioned that you would not notice anything different after the upgrade; that’s not true. As with my previous upgrade (two years ago, oops), some things don’t make it through to the other side. Last time it was the Ultimate Tag Warrior, a plugin that was as heroic as it sounds; this time it was my AudioScrobbler, which showed you what I’d been listening to. It seems the developer got fed up with working on it.

So now I have to write out what I’m listening to: Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie – Dark Eyes
Now it’s Eddie Palmieri – La Verdad. Next Goldfrapp – Utopia (New Ears Mix) … Phew … there’s got to be another scrobbler out there. [UPDATE: fixed — see sidebar]

On the plus side, the upgrade means I can use some new eye candy, such as this:

[WP-CUMULUS]

So much sexier than the static tag cloud I had before.

Wrap-up at five after midnight: I was hit, knocked down, got back up, dusted myself off, walked away looking better than before … and yet … I have a lingering fear that something is still lurking in a database somewhere, ready to strike again.

Postlapsarian PNP: After the fall from grace

The recent general election in Jamaica was a close run between the People’s National Party, in power for 18 years, and the Jamaica Labour Party. While at least one of the sixty seats remains to be decided by the courts, the JLP still managed to squeeze past the incumbents with a four-seat majority.

Politically motivated violence had been anticipated; in the event it was relatively peaceful, at least in comparison with the 800 deaths attributed to the infamous 1980 elections. One death stuck out, literally, in last month’s election: a JLP supporter stuck his head out of the party bus and was almost decapitated by bamboo growing by the roadside. Stupid behaviour, and worthy of a Darwin Award, but actually not at all surprising if you have ever seen buses carrying party supporters to a rally in Jamaica: there are more people on top of the bus than inside – not to mention those hanging from the outsides of the windows, or those sitting on the bonnet or hanging onto the radiator grill … The bus proceeds at top speed down the centre of the road, swerving violently in time to the beats from the monstrous sound system, which takes up more space inside than the passengers. It is an awesome sight, in the true meaning of the word.

My dear friend, the Reverend Dr Philip Phinn (read previously), had predicted a victory for the ruling party. Alas, his divine gift of prophecy failed yet again.

I took a more prosaic approach to predicting the winners and losers by using anagrams of names.

Here are the best results

BRUCE GOLDING (leader of the JLP, now Prime Minister)
Budge con girl – an eminently respectable goal

or

Boring cudgel – True, Bruce is no Portia when it comes to rabble-rousing

or

Glib con urged – a comment on the huge investment in a media blitzkrieg. I particularly liked the ambiguous slogan, “Be apart of the change”, used in one of the many JLP TV ads (watch ad on YouTube).

Adding “MR” to his name gives us the more sensational
Cold, murdering B.G.

From the other side, PORTIA SIMPSON MILLER (now former Prime Minister), gives us
A missioner pimp troll – a savage comment on her getting too cuddly with religious crackpots

or

Interim liar pomp loss – The only Prime Minister never to have been elected. For “Liar”, see YouTube vid link above. And yes, she did enjoy travelling in high style when she went “a farrin” (overseas).

SIMPSON MILLER produces the pithier
No slimmer lips

or

Smell imprison

My favourite anagrams, however, are generated by the now former Minister of Information, Donald Buchanan. He seemed to be the only member of the Government that spoke to the public and the media, relaying matters from other ministries and defending the party from any criticism. Unfortunately, he was also the most antipathetic person you could imagine as the Government mouthpiece: at his daily press conferences, he would slump forward on his desk, wearily reading from a sheaf of papers, occasionally peering up over his glasses to cast a withering glance over his audience – he oozed total disdain and resentment towards his questioners.

Anagrams of MR DONALD BUCHANAN give a possible insight into the man behind the frown:

Dubland anchorman

or

Hardbound clan man

or

Nonhuman bald card

or even

Bad man, unclad horn

Just in case you take my anagrammatical musings too seriously, note that MS RIA BACON is only

A minor scab

Gone crazy gone mad

Following the previous post about poor service, I felt I should balance it with a post about how difficult it is to run a small business in Jamaica, particularly when it comes to getting a loan. Shortly after we arrived in Jamaica last year, we considered taking out a loan to buy a car. Our bank was heavily advertising a loan promotion for buying a new car from certain local dealers. The way it was presented you’d imagine the interest rate was the lowest figure ever quoted in the history of financing. It was 18.75%.

We asked about loans for other purchases (we wanted, still want, some bookcases). In that case, the interest would be 33%! We were fortunate enough to be able to get a loan in Europe … at 6%, but few Jamaicans have that possibility.

I remember visiting a small town in Alsace many years ago. One section of the town had been the Jewish quarter. In the Middle Ages, only Jews were allowed to loan money (usury was considered sinful for Christians), and, what with the rising costs of financing military adventures overseas (plus ça change …), the local princes were all soon heavily in debt to the lenders. No problem. The princes simply banded together, whipped up some anti-semitic feeling, and slaughtered all the Jews. Debts cancelled.

And I bet they charged less than 33%.

Here is another example of high interest rates presented as if you should be amazed and grateful.

Gone crazy shopper

At this rate you can’t wait? In any case, after your “grace” period at 29%, you may freak out when you learn the normal rate is 49.5%. Ooops! Forgot to mention that, did they?

Look at that woman. She looks positively demented, or at least seriously unbalanced, judging by the way she seems to be staggering.

Gone crazy shopper (head)And what about her face?
Is she really happy
or is she actually
running away
screaming?

(This is the kind of chain-mail I get in Jamaica)

This is to warn persons who intend to go shopping in the plazas this Christmas. Please be very careful, and ladies don’t walk alone. My cousin was held up yesterday (Friday, 8th December, 2006) in the Springs Plaza at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Three teenage boys came up to her, one hugged her (I guess to make it seem like they all know each other) the other two walked up to her then before she could say anything, one with a knife and the other with a bottle of acid. They took her phone and $6,000.00 that she had.

The police are saying this is the new trend of stealing in the Half Way Tree plazas this Christmas season.

Stay sharp!

I had already planned to avoid the area because of the almost permanent gridlock in the car parks at this time of year. Having suffered miserably last year while trying to do Christmas shopping, this year we did everything online. Result: no traffic jams or parking stress, no threats of violence, better quality products and much more choice. The only loser is the Jamaican economy because, apart from local shipping costs, every cent has gone overseas.

Chinglish crassics

As an editor, it was all I could do to stop myself from leaping out and attacking this car in front of me with my red pen.

RAV4 gibberish

To calm myself down, I thought I’d do some breathing exercises when I got home. But I hadn’t counted on the instruction leaflet that came with the yoga mat:

Train the abdorminal muscle!

  1. Sit down the floor, two knee hows arose. stretched before the dual taltivs.
  2. Finger and health to behind, prop up two hands, it is right stretch knee, the left knee bovo arises.
  3. Lifting the lower jaw and suching the bodying upwards with the strength, the back becomes circular, Conscious breath, fall down.

Precantions:

  1. This product special-purpose cushion of sports, please don’t move and make it to use.
  2. At time of sports, please pay attention to being excessive, prevent the allident.
  3. Can’t carry on too fierce sports, otherwise increase burden for the body. When have not suited yet, must mot adpot the reluctant posture, want progessive sports.
  4. Plase note this product may fade, so can’t struggle or keep in touch with the moist clothes.

I saved the best till last …

  1. In Yoga or movement,breath in first before movement, feel elated and exalted after moverment.
  2. Use nose to breath in, at the time of breathig, the body should heave.
  3. When the belly button presses close to and carries the bone,feel elated and exculant from the mouth, don’t finish vomitting quickly also vomitting slowly.

ROFL … Agh!

I think I’ve pulled a muscle!

How low can you go?

Last Saturday, the fastest sprinter in the world, Jamaican Asafa Powell, beat all-comers at the Jamaica International Invitational meeting in Kingston. Even so, he had wanted to go even faster and blamed the starter for making them wait too long, claiming that “It was the worst start I have ever got in my life so far.” (Read more…)

I’ve long wondered about how much faster sprinters can go. There’s been a regular decrease in time over the last century, although the curve is slowing as the time differences become smaller. Since the introduction of electronic timing, for example, each new record has been less than 0.05 seconds faster than the previous record. Maurice Green’s record stood for six years before Asafa beat it, by 0.02 seconds.

World record progression 100m men

Source: Wikipedia

Statistically it has been calculated that at this ever slower rate, by 2100 the record will have only gone down to 9.52 seconds. Intuitively, however, I can’t help feeling that the progression will continue to the point of running the 100m in 0.00 seconds.

Blade runningFollowing this thought, have you seen the ad for the new Gillette Fusion razor? It’s the one with six, yes six, blades: five on one side and one on the back for those awkward places that five blades cannot reach. I knew this was coming (as did the Onion, 18 months ago). It was as inevitable a progression as the sprint records. The Economist’s graph shows that, by current projections, we may have a razor with 14 blades within the next few years (Read more …).

I remember the TV ads for earlier multi-bladed razors, where the hair would be progressively sliced ever shorter with each passing blade. In the Fusion ad, in contrast, there are no hairs at all, only a fine blue contoured matrix. I guess it’s intended to show the scientifically designed, contour hugging features rather than the fact that the man is already clean shaven. I guess also that idea in the earlier ads was rejected as being just too implausible, with the hair popping back up four times before it’s actually cut short enough to fly a jet fighter. It would also be a little too close to the bone, as it were, as in the Saturday Night Live sketch where the last extra blades start shaving off layers of the face!

Aïe!