@RJDoyleSW2: RT @MrTomBaker: Help make @TootingCommon greener in just 3 mins > consultation to close Dr Johnson Ave to cars ends Sunday > http://t.co/lv…

@Lamberts_Balham: That's a Yorkie! #sundayroast #yorkshirepud #Balham http://t.co/cUowcE7YoA

@balhamarms: #sundayroast #balham #fact http://t.co/UYEHWMJVCW

@Balham_Life: Kush can help you with distribution issues, advise on production, script issues! @KushFilmsOnline @Kush_Online info@kushfilms.com

@HuckFem: It'll be dinner by the time we get brunch @BrickwoodLDN #balham

Pink Floyd's David Gilmour: 'How I got involved with the inspiring Liberty Choir' - The Independent


The Independent

Pink Floyd's David Gilmour: 'How I got involved with the inspiring Liberty Choir'
The Independent
The idea of the Liberty Choir is that volunteers from MJ's community choirs – there are four at the moment, based in Balham, Notting Hill, Brighton, and Hastings – come into Wandsworth Prison to form a choir with prisoners who are nearing the end of ...

Black cab passenger who broke driver's jaw after refusing to pay £31 fare ... - Mirror.co.uk


Mirror.co.uk

Black cab passenger who broke driver's jaw after refusing to pay £31 fare ...
Mirror.co.uk
Patsalos claimed it was the taxi driver who was the aggressor during the scuffle in Balham, south London, in the early hours of 8 June last year. But the jury found him guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm by unanimous verdict. Mr Recorder ...

Milk, Balham

Bex.Walton posted a photo:

Milk, Balham

What a gorgeous coffee machine

Piccolo from Milk

Bex.Walton posted a photo:

Piccolo from Milk

Amazing brunch!

Bex.Walton posted a photo:

Amazing brunch!

Poached eggs with brown butter hollandaise, bacon and sourdough

Milk, Balham

Bex.Walton posted a photo:

Milk, Balham

Milk, Balham

Bex.Walton posted a photo:

Milk, Balham

Writing Books (The Easy Bit)

Last night I spoke at a London Perl Mongers meeting. As part of the talk I spoke about a toolchain that I have been using for creating ebooks. In this article I’ll go into a little more detail about the process.

Basically, we’re talking about a process that takes one or more files in some input format and (as easily as possible) turns them into one or more output formats which can be described as “ebooks”. So before we can decided which tools we need, we should decide what those various file formats should be.

For my input format I chose Markdown. This is a text-based format that has become popular amongst geeks over the last few years. Geeks tend to like text-based formats more than the proprietary binary formats like those produced by word processors. This is for a number of reasons. You can read them without any specialised tools. You’re not tied down to using specific tools to create them. And it’s generally easier to store them in a revision management system like Github.

For my output formats, I wanted EPUB and Mobipocket. EPUB is the generally accepted standard for ebooks and Mobipocket is the ebook format that Amazon use. And I also wanted to produce PDFs, just because they are easy to read on just about any platform.

(As an aside, you’ll notice that I said nothing in that previous paragraph about DRM. That’s simply because nice people don’t do that.)

Ok, so we know what file formats we’ll be working with. Now we need to know a) how we create the input format and b) how we convert between the various formats. Creating the Markdown files is easy enough. It’s just a text file, so any text editor would do the job (it would be interesting to find out if any word processor can be made to save text as Markdown).

To convert our Markdown into EPUB, we’ll need a new tool. Pandoc describes itself as “a universal document converter”. It’s not quite universal (otherwise that would be the only tool that we would need), but it is certainly great for this job. Once you have installed Pandoc, the conversion is simple:

pandoc -o your_book.epub title.txt your_book.md --epub-metadata=metadata.xml --toc --toc-depth=2

There are two extra files you need here (I’m not sure why it can’t all be in the same file, but that’s just the way it seems to be). The first (which I’ve called “title.txt”), contains two lines. The first line has the title of your book and the second has the author’s name. Each line needs to start with a “%” character. So it might look like this:

% Your title
% Your name

The second file (which I’ve called “metadata.xml”) contains various pieces of information about the book. It’s (ew!) XML and looks like this:

<metadata xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/">
<dc:title id="main">Your Title</dc:title>
<meta refines="#main" property="title-type">main</meta>
<dc:language>en-GB</dc:language>
<dc:creator opf:file-as="Surname, Forename" opf:role="aut">Forename Surname</dc:creator>
<dc:publisher>Your name</dc:publisher>
<dc:date opf:event="publication">2015-08-14</dc:date>
<dc:rights>Copyright ©2015 by Your Name</dc:rights> </metadata>

So after creating those files and running that command, you’ll have an EPUB file. Next we want to convert that to a Mobipocket file so that we can distribute our book through Amazon. Unsurprisingly, the easiest way to do that is to use a piece of software that you get from Amazon. It’s called Kindlegen and you can download it from their site. Once it is installed, the conversion is as simple as:

kindlegen perlwebbook.epub

This will leave you with a file called “your_book.mobi” which you can upload to Amazon.

There’s one last conversion that you might need. And that’s converting the EPUB to PDF. Pandoc will make that conversion for you. But it does it using a piece of software called LaTeX which I’ve never had much luck with. So I looked for an alternative solution and found it in Calibre. Calibre is mainly an ebook management tool, but it also converts between many ebook formats. It’s pretty famous for having a really complex user interface but, luckily for us, there’s a command line program called “ebook-convert” – which we can use.

ebook-convert perlwebbook.epub perlwebbook.pdf

And that’s it. We start with a Markdown file and end up with an ebook in three formats. Easy.

Of course, that really is the easy part. There’s a bit that comes before (actually writing the book) and a bit that comes after (marketing the book) and they are both far harder. Last year I read a book called Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur which covered these three steps to a very useful level of detail. Their step two is rather different to mind (they use Microsoft Word if I recall correctly) but what they had to say about the other steps was very interesting. You might find it interesting if you’re thinking of writing (and self-publishing) a book.

I love the way that ebooks have democratised the publishing industry. Anyone can write and publish a book and make it available to everyone through the world’s largest book distribution web site.

So what are you waiting for? Get writing. If you find my toolchain interesting (or if you have any comments on it) then please let me know.

And let me know what you’ve written.

The post Writing Books (The Easy Bit) appeared first on Davblog.

Diary of an estate agent: Balham - Homes and Property


Homes and Property

Diary of an estate agent: Balham
Homes and Property
Views Json Query: HTTP response: Bad Request. URI: http://api.zoopla.co.uk/api/v1/property_listings.json?area=&listing_status=sale&minimum_price=300000&maximum_price=700000&api_key=qxg65kxyp54xexazxj47u39g; Views Json Query: HTTP ...

London brunch breakdown: Milk in Balham - Evening Standard


London brunch breakdown: Milk in Balham
Evening Standard
They first opened Milk in Balham back in 2012 (then known as M1LK), but recently closed for refurbishment and a general freshening up. Milk has expanded too, to around twice its original size, and now has 35 covers outside. With the expansion comes the ...

New homes in London: Barrington Gardens and Balham Walk - Homes and Property


Homes and Property

New homes in London: Barrington Gardens and Balham Walk
Homes and Property
From £1,095,000: townhouses at Barrington Gardens have front and rear gardens plus modern open-plan interiors. Call 020 7228 8686. Balham has finally stopped claiming to be “south Clapham”. The area is packed with young singles, who fill the bars, ...

Financial Account Aggregation

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Internet Security Rule One about the stupidity of sharing your passwords with anyone. I finished that post with a joke.

Look, I’ll tell you what. I’ve got a really good idea for an add-on for your online banking service. Just leave the login details in a comment below and I’ll set it up for you.

It was a joke because it was obviously ridiculous. No-one would possibly think it was a good idea to share their banking password with anyone else.

I should know not to make assumptions like that.

Yesterday I was made aware of a service called Money Dashboard. Money Dashboard aggregates all of your financial accounts so that you can see them all in one convenient place. They can then generate all sorts of interesting reports about where your money is going and can probably make intelligent suggestions about things you can do to improve your financial situation. It sounds like a great product. I’d love to have access to a system like that.

There’s one major flaw though.

In order to collect the information they need from all of your financial accounts, they need your login details for the various sites that you use. And that’s a violation of the Internet Security Rule One. You should never give your passwords to anyone else – particularly not passwords that are as important as your banking password.

I would have thought that was obvious. But they have 100,000 happy users.

Of course they have have a page on their site telling you exactly how securely they store your details. They use “industry-standard security practices”, their application is read-only “which means it cannot be used for withdrawals, payments or to transfer your funds”. They have “selected partners with outstanding reputations and extensive experience in security solutions”. It all sounds lovely. But it really doesn’t mean very much.

It doesn’t mean very much because at the heart of their system, they need to log on to your bank’s web site pretending to be you in order to get hold of your account information. And that means that no matter how securely they store your passwords, at some point they need to be able to retrieve them in plain text so they can use them to log on to your banks web site. So there must be code somewhere in their system which punches through all of that security and gets the string “pa$$word”. So in the worst case scenario, if someone compromises their servers they will be able to get access to your passwords.

If that doesn’t convince you, then here’s a simpler reason for not using the service. Sharing your passwords with anyone else is almost certainly a violation of your bank’s terms and conditions. So if someone does get your details from Money Dashboard’s system and uses that information to wreak havoc in your bank account – good luck getting any compensation.

Here, for example, are First Direct’s T&Cs about this (in section 9.1):

You must take all reasonable precautions to keep safe and prevent fraudulent use of any cards, security devices, security details (including PINs, security numbers, passwords or other details including those which allow you to use Internet Banking and Telephone Banking).

These precautions include but are not limited to all of the following, as applicable:

[snip]

  • not allowing anyone else to have or use your card or PIN or any of our security devices, security details or password(s) (including for Internet Banking and Telephone Banking) and not disclosing them to anyone, including the police, an account aggregation service that is not operated by us

Incidentally, that “not operated by us” is a nice piece of hubris. First Direct run their own account aggregation service which, of course, they trust implicitly. But they can’t possibly trust anybody else’s service.

I started talking about this on Twitter yesterday and I got this response from the @moneydashboard account. It largely ignores the security aspects and concentrates on why you shouldn’t worry about breaking your bank’s T&Cs. They seem to be campaigning to get T&Cs changed so allow explicit exclusions for sharing passwords with account aggregation services.

I think this is entirely wrong-headed. I think there is a better campaign that they should be running.

As I said above, I think that the idea of an account aggregation service is great. I would love to use something like Money Dashboard. But I’m completely unconvinced by their talk of security. They need access to your passwords in plain text. And it doesn’t matter that their application only reads your data. If someone can extract your login details from Money Dashboard’s systems then they can do whatever they want with your money.

So what’s the solution? Well I agree with one thing that Money Dashboard say in their statement:

All that you are sharing with Money Dashboard is data; data which belongs to you. You are the customer, you should be telling the bank what to do, not the other way around!

We should be able to tell our banks to share our data with third parties. But we should be able to do it in a manner that doesn’t entail giving anyone full access to our accounts. The problem is that there is only one level of access to your bank account. If you have the login details then you can do whatever you want. But what if there was a secondary set of access details – ones that could only read from the account?

If you’ve used the web much in recent years, you will have become familiar with this idea. For example, you might have wanted to give a web app access to your Twitter account. During this process you will be shown a screen (which, crucially, is hosted on Twitter’s web site, not the new app) asking if you want to grant rights to this new app. And telling you which rights you are granting (“This app wants to read your tweets.” “This app wants to tweet on you behalf.”) You can decide whether or not to grant that access.

This is called OAuth. And it’s a well-understood protocol. We need something like this for the finance industry. So that I can say to First Direct, “please allow this app to read my account details, but don’t let them change anything”. If we had something like that, then all of these problems will be solved. The Money Dashboard statement points to the Financial Data and Technology Association – perhaps they are the people to push for this change.

I know why Money Dashboard are doing what they are doing. And I know they aren’t the only ones doing it (Mint, for example, is a very popular service in the US). And I really, really want what they are offering. But just because a service is a really good idea, shouldn’t mean that you take technical short-cuts to implement it.

I think that the “Financial OAuth” I mentioned above will come about. But the finance industry is really slow to embrace change. Perhaps the Financial Data and Technology Association will drive it. Perhaps one forward-thinking bank will implement it and other bank’s customers will start to demand it.

Another possibility is that someone somewhere will lose a lot of money through sharing their details with a system like this and governments will immediately close them all down until a safer mechanism is in place.

I firmly believe that systems like Money Dashboard are an important part of the future. I just hope that they are implemented more safely than the current generation.

 

The post Financial Account Aggregation appeared first on Davblog.

Opentech 2015

It’s three weeks since I was at this year’s Opentech conference and I haven’t written my now-traditional post about what I saw. So let’s put that right.

I got there rather later than expected. It was a nice day, so I decided that I would walk from Victoria station to ULU. That route took me past Buckingham Palace and up the Mall. But I hadn’t realised that the Trooping of the Colour was taking place which made it impossible to get across the Mall and into Trafalgar Square. Of course I didn’t realise that until I reached the corner of St James Park near the Admiralty Arch. A helpful policeman explained what was going on and suggested that my best bet was to go to St James Park tube station and get the underground to Embankment. This involved walking most of the way back through the park. And when I got to the tube station it was closed. So I ended up walking to Embankment.

All of which meant I arrived about forty minutes later than I wanted to and the first session was in full swing as I got there.

So what did I see?

Being Female on the Internet – Sarah Brown

This is the talk I missed most of. And I had really wanted to see this talk. As I arrived she was just finishing her talk, and the audio doesn’t seem to be on the Opentech web site.

Selling ideas – Vinay Gupta

I think I didn’t concentrate on this as much as I should have. It was basically a talk about marketing – which is something that the geek community needs to get better at. Vinay illustrated his talk with examples from his Hexayurt project.

RIPA 2 – Ian Brown

Ian talked about potential changes to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. It was all very scary stuff. The slides are online.

The 3rd year of Snowdenia — Caroline Wilson Palow

Caroline talked about Ed Snowden’s work and the way it is changing the world.

Privacy: I do not think that word means what you think it means — Kat Matfield

Kat has been doing research into how end users view privacy on the web. It’s clear that people are worried about their privacy but that they don’t know enough about the subject in order to focus their fear (and anger) at the right things.

The State of the Network Address — Bill Thompson

Bill thinks that many of the world’s woes are caused by people in power abusing the technological tools that geeks have build. And he would like us to do more to prevent them doing that.

The State of Data — Gavin Starks

Gavin works for the Open Data Institute. It’s his job to help organisations to release as much data as possible and to help the rest of us to make as much use of that data as possible. He talked about the problems that he sees in this new data-rich world.

Using data to find patterns in law — John Sheridan

John is using impressive text parsing and manipulation techniques to investigate the UK’s legislation. It sounds like a really interesting project.

Scenic environments, healthy environments? How open data offers answers to this age-old question. — Chanuki Seresinhe

The answer seems to be yes :-)

I stood as a candidate, and… — James Smith

James stood as a candidate in this year’s general election, using various geek tools to power his campaign. He talked through the story of his campaign and tried to encourage others to try the same thing in the next election.

Democracy Club — Sym Roe

The Democracy Club built an number of tools and web sites which built databases of information about candidates in the recent election – and then shared that data with the public. Sym explained why and how these tools were built.

The Twitter Election? — Dave Cross

This was me. I’ve already written up my talk.

Election: what’s next

This was supposed to follow my talk. Bill Thompson had some ideas to start the discussion and suggested that anyone interested retired to the bar. I put away my laptop and various other equipment and the set off to find them. But I failed, so I went home instead.

Yet another massively successful event. Thanks, as always, to all of the speakers and organisers.

The post Opentech 2015 appeared first on Davblog.

TwittElection at OpenTech

Last Saturday was OpenTech. It was as great as it always is and I’ll write more about what I saw later. But I gave a talk about TwittElection in the afternoon and I thought it might be useful to publish my slides here along with a brief summary of what I said.

TwittElection from Dave Cross
  • I started with a couple of screenshots of what TwittElection is. There’s basically a main page which shows how many days are left until the general election and a page for every constituency which has a widget displaying a Twitter list for all of the candidates in that constituency.
  • Why did I do it? Well I love elections. I have vague memories of one (or perhaps both) of the 1974 general elections and I have closely followed every general election since then. In the 90s I was occasionally  one of those annoying people who ask you for your voter number as you’re leaving the polling station and in 2005 I worked all night to make sure that the results on the Guardian web site were up to date.
  • I love Twitter too. Who doesn’t?
  • In 2010 I created a site that monitored the candidates in my local constituency. It wasn’t just Twitter (which was far less important back then) but any kind of web feed that they produced. That’s easy enough to do for one constituency, but it’s a bit more of a challenge for 650.
  • The technology for the system was pretty simple. It was the data that was going to be a lot trickier.
  • Just as I was considering the project, Twitter made a couple of changes which made my life substantially easier. Firstly they increased the number of Twitter lists that each user could create from 20 to 1000 (I needed 650). An secondly, they removed the restriction that Twitter list widgets were tightly associated with a specific list. Under the old system, I would have needed to create 650 individual widgets. Under the new system, I could create one widget and pass it a list ID in order to display any of my 650 lists.
  • I wrote the code in Perl. I made a throwaway remark about it being the “programming languages of champions”. Someone in the audience tweeted that quote and it’s been retweeted rather a lot.
  • I hosted the site on Github Pages in case it got too popular. This was a ridiculous thing to be worried about.
  • I used Bootstrap (of course) and small amounts of various Javascript libraries.
  • The data was harder. We have 650 constituencies and each one will have about six candidates. That means I’ll be looking for data about something like 4,000 candidates. And there’s no official centralised source for this data.
  • Back in November I asked my Twitter followers if they knew of anyone who was collecting lists of candidates and Sam Smith put me in touch with the Democracy Club.
  • At the time, the Democracy Club were just building a new version of YourNextMP – a crowd-sourced list of candidates. It did all that I needed. Which made me very happy. [Note: My talk followed one from the Democracy Club which went into this in far more detail.]
  • So with data from YNMP and my code, the site was build.
  • And it worked pretty well. There were a few bugs (including one that was pointed out by a previous speaker in the same session) but they all got fixed quickly.
  • I became an expert in Twitter error codes.
  • 403 and 429 are the codes that Twitter returns when you make more API requests than you are allowed to. There are two ways to deal with Twitter’s rate limits. You can keep a careful count of your requests and stop before you hit the limits. Or you can keep going until you get one of these codes back at which point you stop. The second option is far simpler. I took the second option. [Note: At this point I forgot to mention that the rate limits were so, well…, limiting that when I got my first complete data dump from YNMP, it took almost two days to build all of the Twitter lists.]
  • 108 means you’re trying to do something with a user that doesn’t exist. Basically, you’ve got the username wrong. Sometimes this is because there’s a typo in the name that YNMP has been given. Sometimes it’s because the user has changed their Twitter username and YNMP doesn’t know about the change yet. One common cause for the latter is when MPs changed their Twitter usernames to remove “MP” whilst the campaign was in progress and legally, there were no MPs. [Note: One of the YNMP developers spoke to me afterwards and admitted that they should have handled Twitter usernames better – for example, they could have stored the ID (which is invariant) rather than the username (which can change).]
  • Error 106 means that the user has blocked you and therefore you can’t add that user to a Twitter list. This seems like strange behaviour given that candidates are presumably using Twitter to publicise their opinions as widely as possible.
  • The first time I was blocked it was @glenntingle, the UKIP candidate for Norwich North.
  • I wondered why he might be blocking me. A friend pointed out that he might be embarrassed by his following habits. It turned out that of the 700 people he followed on Twitter, all but about a dozen of them were young women posting pictures of themselves wearing very little.
  • There was some discussion of this amongst some of my friends. This was apparently noticed by Mr Tingle who first protected his tweets and then deleted his account.
  • I’m not sure how good I feel about hounding a candidate off of Twitter.
  • Another UKIP candidate, @timscottukip, also blocked me. And I heard of another who was running his account in protected mode.
  • Some users didn’t understand crowd-sourcing. Every constituency page included a link to the associated page on YNMP along with text asking people to submit corrections there. But I still got a lot of tweets pointing out errors in my lists.
  • 72% of candidates were on Twitter.
  • Results by party were mixed. 100% of the SNP candidates were on Twitter, but only 51% of UKIP candidates (or perhaps I couldn’t see the others as they were blocking me!)
  • Was it worth it? Well, only 1000 or so people visited the site over the course of the campaign.
  • I haven’t yet seen if I can get any stats on people using the raw Twitter lists rather than looking at my web site.
  • I need to rip out all of the information that is specific to that particular election and encourage people to use the code for other elections. YNMP is based on software called PopIt and I think my code could be useful wherever that is used.
  • There are 1790 days until the next UK general election (as of Saturday 13th June 2015).

The post TwittElection at OpenTech appeared first on Davblog.

Quoted By The Daily Mail

This morning Tweetdeck pinged and alerted me to this tweet from a friend of mine.

He was right too. The article was about Reddit’s Button and about half-way though it, they quoted my tweet.

My reaction was predictable.

I was terribly embarrassed. Being quoted in the Daily Mail isn’t exactly great for your reputation. So I started wondering if there was anything I could do to to recover the situation.

Then it came to me. The Mail were following Twitter’s display guidelines and were embedding the tweets in the web page (to be honest, that surprised me slightly – I was sure they would just take a screenshot). This meant that every time someone looked at the Mail’s article, the Mail’s site would refresh its view of the tweet from Twitter’s servers.

You can’t edit the content of tweets once they had been published. But you can change some of the material that is displayed – specifically your profile picture and your display name.

So, over lunch I took a few minutes to create a new profile picture and I changed my display name to “The Mail Lies”. And now my tweet looks how you see it above. It looks the same on the Mail article.

As I see it, this can go one of two ways. Either I the Mail notice what I’ve done and remove my tweet from the article (in which case I win because I’m no longer being quoted by the Daily Mail). Or they don’t notice and my tweet is displayed on the article in its current form – well at least until I get bored and change my profile picture and display name back again.

This afternoon has been quite fun. The caper has been pretty widely shared on Twitter and Facebook and couple of people have told me that I’ve “won the internet”.

So remember boys and girls, publishing unfiltered user-generated content on your web site is always a dangerous prospect.

The post Quoted By The Daily Mail appeared first on Davblog.

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Home from the Holidays

Home from Malaysia, after an epic 36 hour flight back on Emirates. KL to Dubai leg was fine. Then we boarded the A380 at Dubai at about 3.00 for the 3.45 leg back to London. At 5.45 they took us all off the plane, having been delayed (1) by customer who had checked in, then never boarded, so they had to find their luggage and take it off the plane (2) then there was a problem with the plane's computer, which they tried in vain to fix, but no joy, so got a new computer, but also didn't work. So eventually they disembarked all of us and we sat around in the airport until about 9pm, after which they said we would be leaving at 7am in the morning and would be taken to hotels. Then we queued 4 times in total for the hotel vouchers, with each counter performing one small task on the hotel voucher. Each queue took about 30  minutes. In the end, I gave up on the last queue (which for the 10 minute bus ride to the hotel), where they were using just 1 10-seater minibus to transport about 200 people, and got some dirham from the airport ATM and took me and the kids to the hotel in a taxi. One good thing about DBX - they have a special woman taxi driver queue for women travellers, which I did feel much reassured about using, compared with having to drive off into the night with a male taxi driver in a strange place that you'd never intended to be in, in the first place. Another queue at the hotel to check in, where I had to throw a wobbly because after queuing for 15 minutes to get to the head of the queue, the guy at checkin promptly went wandering off without a word of explanation. Got to the rooms, the door cards wouldn't work, so had to go back down and get them both reset. Got to bed at midnight, fell on the bed and slept till 4am, then got the kids up and were on the 4.10 bus back to the airport. Entire flight fuelled by Burger King and McDonalds. Moderate throwing up by Sam and me. Very very glad to get back to UK. There were people on that flight coming from NZ, who had already been travelling for 33 hours BEFORE the delay in Dubai. With young children. The horror.

Now busy digitising the whole of my father-in-law's CD collection, which C is gradually transferring over to our house from Wolverhampton. He is in Wolvo today, helping MIL to clear out the house, prior to her putting it up for sale and moving back to Nottingham, after FIL's funeral.

Reading Talleyrand's Memoirs and Little Dorrit. Watching Series 1 of Merlin. Listening to Moby. Planning trip to Galways to see Smiggle and fulfil girls' fantasies of riding ponies along deserted Irish strands.

Driving

Today I said to my daughter that I was instituting a 100% patience policy when on the roads. From now on, people can do absolutely anything - cut me up, undertake me, beep me for slowing down to avoid a cyclist, refuse to give way even when they don't have right of way, go through red lights, stop their car in the middle of the street for 5 minutes so they can chat to their friend, stop on a double red light during rush hour while they pop into a shop and think that they make it OK by putting on their hazard lights, beat the queue by going in the filter lane and then barge in at the top - and not one snarky word will pass my lips.

She snorted in a manner that I can only describe as derisive. And added, "I give you one week tops."

Mouse and university

The Mac is doing that thing where it randomly disables the left click button on the mouse. Then in order to fix it, you have to somehow manoeuvre yourself to mouse settings, using only whatever options are available to you by right-clicking, switch the left/right settings on the mouse, which reactivates the left-click button (but only with right-click functions), and then go back and switch the left/right settings again, back to the normal settings. Can I just say that this never happens on my crappy old Asus netbook that everybody scoffs at because it takes 10 minutes to wake up in the morning.

Well, I 'm back after a titanic struggle involving two different mice and hopeless attempts to execute functions on the Mac using only the keyboard. Why on earth do they make this so difficult? There should always be something that enables you to do most of what you want, using the keyboard alone. If the mouse functions aren't working, how on earth are you supposed to rectify it when the only way you can switch the mouse buttons is by using the mouse? Gah!

Reading that thing in the Guardian all about how Kirstie Allsop is right out of line for daring to suggest that maybe girls should have babies first and then go to university. I can kind of see what she means. I actually think that everyone, male and female, should leave school after A levels and work for five years before they go the university. Apart from people who already have a very clear idea of their vocation and need to train for years to do it, like doctors. For everyone else, if they'd already worked for five years, they would really appreciate university when they get there and have a lot better idea of what they want to do for a living, having been obliged to live in the world for a bit, rather than spending all their time at uni boozing and acting like arseholes. Mind you, tuition fees are probably changing that scenario.

But setting that aside, the problem with Allsop's suggestion is that if girls effectively don't finish uni till they are 30, because they have been off having babies, they are going to be competing with fresh young male graduates and even though an experienced worldly wise young mum is actually going to be more useful and mature than some callow male doofus, our society is set up so that the callow male doofus is the one who will get the job. For Allsop's suggestion to work, society will need to be remodelled so that women who have the baby first and then join the work force and focus on their careers are not disadvantaged relative to the chaps. Maybe that's not easy, but it's a heckuva lot easier to change society (even though it is not easy at all) than to change Mother Nature - and Allsop is quite right, the body clock is ticking and you've got a lot better chance of having a healthy baby and a healthy mum, if she has the baby in her early twenties. I speak as someone who had my kids in my 30s and had the successful career, but my setup only worked because the husband was OK with being the homemaker, while I went out and brought home the bacon.

Anyway, off out to post the direct debit form for St Paul's school fees (argh!) and buy some deodorant. And the house will be safe, because I just had proper locks fitted to all the sash windows by our lovely lovely local locksmiths Oakleys at Southfields. Before today, if you'd been so inclined, you could literally have slid open our ground floor sash windows from the outside, walked in and helped yourself to our precious valuable collection of 5 year old malfunctioning Macs and netbooks and our displays of housedust and half-used pots of Dulux brilliant white gloss.

Saturday

Sofa guy didn't turn up. Does nobody want our sofa? It used to belong to a scion of the Earl of Minto! Are there no raging snobs out there any more? To go by Balzac, I'd do better to be trying to offload it in France, which seems to be full of raging snobs.

Unfriendly girl turned up and took away the Country Lifes. Seemed very standoffish, as if she thought I might have lured her to our house in order to murder her.

Attacked the Virginia creeper in the garden, which is starting to get above itself again.

Kung pao chicken for dinner. Fungus helped with the cooking. I think she's starting to get to be quite a dab hand in the kitchen.

Watched Mean Girls with the grils, which I have never actually watched in its entirety. At last I have found a film that I like Amanda Seyfried in. Then girls went to bed, Welsh Anne came home and we watched the rest of The Rebound with Catherine Zeta Jones, who is just so beautiful. Frankly, Michael Douglas should consider himself privileged to be permitted to service her orally, not go around casting aspersions on her lady parts. Then cracked open the chilled rose and watched The Makeover, with Julia Stiles, who is just lovely. She should actually run for Congress. I would vote for her.

Asked the girls whether they wanted to go and see Richard Armitage at the Old Vic in the Crucible. On the one hand: it's Richard Armitage! On the other hand, I don't want to see something about the Salem witch trials. Ever. Hashtag firstworldproblems.

Sent a protest text to Amnesty re that poor woman in Sudan who's been sentenced to death for apostasy. Two hours later, it was announced that she's being released. I like to think it was my text wot done it.

Passing On

Woke up this morning to an email from my husband, that his father had died in the night. His brother has driven over from Nottingham to be with his mother. He was 80-something and had not been well for a long time - heart condition, diabetes and some sort of cancer also diagnosed earlier on in the year, so I guess it was not unexpected, but still very sad. A blessing though that he went quickly, without suffering or lingering on, at home with his wife of 50 years, entirely lucid and himself right to the end. I guess that is the way most people would prefer to go. The thing that makes me sad, as with my own father, is wishing we could have seen more of him, more recently. It is a great shame that families nowadays live so far apart.

Not much else to report. Anne came up from Somerset for her usual shifts, but apparently the newspaper is getting rid of all its casual staff by June, so she has already started looking for a new job - she seems to have quite a few prospects - and at better newspapers too! She's also thinking a lot about her mother in Merthyr, who is ailing and how they can work it out so she can take care of her at home.

Went up to Clapham Junction to pick up Lol's shoes. Bought the girls steak bakes from Greggs and raspberries from the fruit stall, forgetting there was leftover spag bol for lunch.

Tried to use coupon for discount on Guardian at Tescos self checkout. Failed to work. Eventually the guy had to just give me 60p from the till. Honestly. These coupons are more trouble than they're worth. Since you have to swipe your Tesco card anyway, why don't they just automatically deduct the amounts or credit you with the points without your needing to scan the coupon?

Gave the old kid booster seat away to a tanned old lady on Freecycle.

My Glen Campbell Greatest Hits 2nd-hand CD arrived today. Loaded it up onto the cloud. Galveston! Oh Galveste-on!

Trimmed the lavender border and planted some peas and rocket in a spare bit of the back bed.

Accosted by young chap who seems not all there, while was out walking the dog. Harmless, just kept on repeating questions about the dog.

Spoke to someone at National Power about getting the meter moved. Weird accent from somewhere up north, I think. She was actually really helpful and got it sorted, even though I was pretending to be my own husband, as he is the accountholder. Luckily he has the kind of name that could be either gender and I have the kind of voice that ditto, especially over the phone.

Dhal, okra, mackerel and rice for dinner, ably assisted by my lovely sous-chef Fungus, followed by She's the Man on DVD, which was strangely enjoyable, even though it starred Amanda Bynes, who is now off her head, and Channing Tatum, whom I can never recognise. Dog got a bit uppity at dinner, kept on barking and bouncing herself off my thigh in a bid for titbits, even though Fungus had already given her a bit of mackerel. In the end I got so fed up with her, I shut her out of the living room. So then she went out the back door and re-appeared at the living room window, looking in wistfully.

And so to bed. As Samuel Pepys would say.

Tuesday: white cloud, Max Temp: 7°C (45°F), Min Temp: 5°C (41°F)

Max Temp: 7°C (45°F), Min Temp: 5°C (41°F), Wind Direction: SSE, Wind Speed: 5mph, Visibility: moderate, Pressure: 1011mb, Humidity: 87%, UV risk: n/a, Pollution: n/a, Sunrise: 07:52GMT, Sunset: 16:30GMT

Wednesday: light rain, Max Temp: 8°C (46°F), Min Temp: 4°C (39°F)

Max Temp: 8°C (46°F), Min Temp: 4°C (39°F), Wind Direction: SSW, Wind Speed: 7mph, Visibility: good, Pressure: 1005mb, Humidity: 95%, UV risk: n/a, Pollution: n/a, Sunrise: 07:50GMT, Sunset: 16:32GMT

Thursday: light rain, Max Temp: 7°C (45°F), Min Temp: 2°C (36°F)

Max Temp: 7°C (45°F), Min Temp: 2°C (36°F), Wind Direction: WNW, Wind Speed: 9mph, Visibility: good, Pressure: 1014mb, Humidity: 90%, UV risk: n/a, Pollution: n/a, Sunrise: 07:49GMT, Sunset: 16:33GMT