Comic Strips

There has always been a case – indeed, a need – for a change of strip for football teams, in the event of a clash of colours.  When there was a chance of confusion the away team would change to a second outfit, and that was the end of it.

With the modern need to flog replica kit at every opportunity teams now wear “away” strips simply to encourage a second form of income, but I’m not sure the psychology is right.  I recall a match last season in which Arsenal were beaten in an away game in Europe and in which they wore their blue strip when there was not the slightest hint of a clash with the home team.  This seems to me to be an immediate risk to results, for the simple reason that one is reinforcing the idea of being away from home.

In football, as in various other sports, there has always been a home advantage.  Sports psychologists and statisticians have long debated the reasons for this, but whatever reasons they come up with the statistical effect is obvious.  It may be less pronounced these days in the higher leagues of football, thanks to such things as standardised pitches and more comfortable travel before games, but the bias is still there.

The other thing that has evolved in recent years is the stress on small details, and marginal improvements in sporting performance.  Whether in terms of physical training or nutrition, or analysis of opponents, the small percentages count.  And it’s in that context that I don’t understand why clubs are willing to overlook the small but significant element of home advantage when choosing kit.

If you are going to be playing away, why reinforce that with the strip?  Surely Arsenal would have felt more at home (in all senses) wearing red and white in Germany.  And I am convinced that my own team, Swansea City, would have made a better fist of a lousy 0-3 defeat at Newcastle last year if they had stuck with their all-white instead of that naff green-and-black hooped outfit that looked more like a lower-order rugby team, and which actually blended so well with the green grass and massive dark shadows at St James’ Park that they seemed camouflaged and unable to see one another.

Of course, at the other extreme it’s possible to run into trouble with more lurid colours as well, as this little clip will illustrate.  That’ll teach ’em…


Spotting a Fraud

The constant  evolution of scams and fraud, both online and by phone,  makes for a modern  game of cops and robbers where – just as one  security breach  is identified – another  weakness  becomes apparent.   I guess it will go on and on(line), just as it has always done, in some form, since money was first invented.   Like most other people I do try to look after my data and property, but there are  a couple of features of online security that I don’t follow.   Perhaps you have the answer.

I just got an email from a financial institution, addressed to me (in reply to a transaction completed a few minutes earlier) and therefore pretty obviously ok.   It wasn’t asking for anything, just confirming some details.   But the thing that struck me was the reassuring note that I could check my postcode at the top of the letter, as proof that this was from the bank in question.  

Now as a layman I can see that to have a correct postcode  strongly implies  that this is not a boiler-room scam, sent out simultaneously to hundreds or thousands of people.   But the thing that has always puzzled me here is this: if scammers are as ingenious and sophisticated as we are (rightly) told, why could they not get hold of data such as postcode?   And if they then used the right one, the person receiving the email would be very likely to believe it must be genuine.

Similarly, we used to be told (and maybe still are) that a secure site will have a little green padlock symbol alongside the URL.   Yes, I’ve seen and trusted that symbol for decades, but again, if everything else can be imitated – apparently with bogus or cloned websites – then why could a scammer not mimic a green padlock symbol?

I’m asking this not in order to criticise the banks or institutions which might be targeted for scams, but simply out of puzzlement.   Of course, there are reasons for criticism – the way that Talktalk were hacked last year suggests pretty basic failings.   In subsequent months I was phoned on many occasions by people purporting to come from Talktalk, but there were always enough clues to show they were attempted frauds.   However, when I raised this with Talktalk I was told that it was simply a fluke that people were using the company name – to which I can only say it’s so odd that no one ever tried to tell me they were from BT or any other company.   I feel pretty sure my name and number, at least, had become available.

Then, very  recently, I rang them about another issue and after a few early questions was asked to go through some “security” steps.   These comprised things like my full address and postcode.   If I were trying to hi-jack someone’s account, the chances are that I would have had access to such obvious details anyway – the same is true for date of birth.   It was just a pity that Talktalk didn’t make use of the excellent new system I had already signed up to, whereby you repeat a phrase so that the unique qualities of your voice are analysed to prove who you are.

So in the case of this actual company, I would have to say that they are responding to a known problem,  albeit in a slightly patchy way.   But there, I’ve got into criticising one company, when all I wanted to do was raise the issue of details (postcode, etc) which allegedly show that a message is genuine when in fact they could surely be part of a fraud in themselves.