Wednesday 22 September 2021

Grand Theft Olfacto! The content scrapers are at it again...

It has been a while (nine years!) since I noticed someone posting chunks of my blog posts on their own website. The last time it was an Israeli site, and I wrote about the incident here. Which is not to say that people haven't been quietly scraping my content since 2012, because I haven't actively been on the lookout for it. The other day though, I was idly googling Bonkers about Perfume in the same way as you sometimes get the urge to google your own name and see what comes up - what? you don't do that? - and it wasn't long till I lit upon a site called "Bonkers about the Perfume". Which is not even correct English, so I immediately smelt a rat. 

I clicked on the site, which contained eight posts (in chronological order) from the autumn of 2015. Why those eight I will never know, but one of them was an account of how Val the Cookie Queen stepped up as emergency roadie and ferried the band around very close to her home in Austria, so I was a bit peeved about that one in particular being nicked. Also this account of visiting Liz Moores en route to another gig. The rest of the blog - labels, titles, headers etc - was in a foreign language.

Next up, I clicked on the name of the blog "owner" - a Roni Kusoy - who I think is probably Indonesian, based on the number of Indonesian people of that name on Facebook, though admittedly no Ronis. And on his Blogger profile I spied a further four perfume blogs I recognised: "old-timers" like me, and even bigger sites, namely:

Persolaise Perfumes (Persolaise)

Smellin Things of Perfume (Perfume Smellin Things)

Shrines Perfume (Perfume Shrine)

The Maisque Perfume (+ Q Perfume Blog)

And blow me down if this Roni Kusoy bloke hadn't also taken precisely eight posts from the same period of 2015 from each of these blogs and posted them on his phoney sites. He has scraped another nine blogs beyond that, including several about cats. ;) At least he hasn't been able to copy the illustrations across, so there are daft-looking blank spaces everywhere. You can see the full list if you are curious, and click through to the perfume ones from there. I don't want to give the man too many clicks from my own site, as that feels like playing into his hands.

Now it is only eight posts per blog, whereas the Israeli thief had taken a lot more, but I felt sufficiently annoyed to leave a comment on Bonkers about the Perfume, asking him to take the site down, and adding that I was going to inform the other blog owners (well, the owners of the perfume blogs, certainly, with whom I have a connection).


[At the time of writing I hadn't yet clocked the fake version of + Q Perfume Blog...]

Well, some time has elapsed but the offending sites are still there, and Kusoy hasn't responded to, or even deleted, my comment! (Which I made a point of leaving on all eight posts.) This chap also has a YouTube channel - it is the only other search result in Google apart from his Blogger profile - with two videos uploaded onto it, and all of 11 subscribers. Assuming it is the same Roni Kusoy, and I can find no one else of that name.

It just remains to puzzle over why he would even want to pose as the owner of all these blogs? Is it a mischievous game to climb higher up the rankings than the legitimate sites in question? Is he simply trying to harness lots of clicks and awareness of his name by instantly creating new sites with content, albeit not his own? And am I right that he is Indonesian?

If you are a blogger, have you had your own content scraped, and were you able to resolve the issue? I would be grateful for any tips as to how to get the sites taken down, because asking politely - or even rudely! - doesn't seem to make much difference. And I know this act of brazen scrapery doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, and barely counts as a "Grand Theft", except on aggregate perhaps, but still...

Wednesday 8 September 2021

Mind how you go: France - the sequel, now the cuckoo has landed


The cuckoo has landed. Yes, I am back in Blighty, after a 600 mile drive, two PCR tests, and 29 loads of washing. Or so it felt. And this after not having driven further than Stoke in 18 months until a test run to Buxton the weekend before I went to France, though that was only 50 miles.

I didn't initially think the holiday would spawn two blog posts, but there were a few noteworthy events since I wrote the one in August, so I decided to commit them to screen after all, prefaced by sub-headings for ease. 

The model guest

This is my 11th stay in the village, and my 7th as a home owner. And my first as a host! For I finally took the plunge and had a guest to stay, an old tutor from my university days in Belfast, whose hospitality I have enjoyed on work trips on and off for 40 years, but to whom I have never returned the favour - until now.

He was a delight to have around, spontaneously doing food shopping and the washing up. We remarked on what a treat it is when you live alone (as we both do) to have someone to share the chores with. He had helpful suggestions on task lighting for the area which would be a kitchen if I had the full complement of relevant appliances, and also made the happy discovery that my fridge does in fact have a freezer compartment! On the practical front, he pointed out some crumbling areas of masonry that had escaped my eye, an earth cable outside that might benefit from a protective cover against the elements, and a patch of possibly recent woodworm. For the time being I have set a "tissue trap" over the affected area (the beetles will eat their way through it if they are still extant), and will address the "tissue issue" on my next visit. 

My friend was also a mine of surprising food facts: for example, that if you eat even the tiniest bit of eggshell you might get appendicitis; that mashed bananas are okay to eat even after they go brown, and that eating carbs for breakfast is in fact the worst time of day. Wot, no croissants or pains aux raisins...? Why, in English they are even collectively called "morning goods". Clearly that one is never going to (Garibaldi) fly.

Most impressive of all, on the first day that I suggested we make an excursion to some local beauty spots in the Dordogne, he said he'd much rather go in search of a clothes airer for me, as there is nowhere to dry my laundry in the French house, assuming I had first figured out the coin-operated washing machine in the wall outside Carrefour. He would only agree to doing touristy things once we had scoured the aisles of a Leclerc hypermarket (in vain) in search of one. 

Another endearing aspect of my friend was the fact that he understood the insecurities associated with aging, announcing brightly one morning that he was going to the bathroom "to try to make myself look a bit less like Cro-Magnon". So yes, he is welcome back anytime.

And he hadn't been gone five minutes when the orange and white cat (by now a daily visitor) annexed his bed.

Pass the pool tickets

Towards the end of the holiday - and the end of the swimming pool season - a French friend in the village handed me a clutch of swim tickets, which had in turn been given to her by a Dutch lady who had some spare. I kept a couple for myself, as there were only two days left before the annual closure, and I couldn't see myself going for a swim more than once a day, and passed three on to my English neighbours next door. When I went to settle a bill with the guy who troubleshot my gas hob in 2019 (things move very slowly in rural France, not least invoicing), I offloaded the remaining tickets onto him, as time was running out. He couldn't use them himself, as he was working, but was confident he could give them to a French friend with small children. Sure enough, when I went that afternoon, there was a lady of a similar age to him in the pool, children in tow, so I inferred (with some satisfaction, I can tell you ;) ) that the last tickets had found a home...

Of note too is that when you go for a swim, you have to present your vaccine passport, which in my case consisted of a letter in an NHS envelope. The lady on the door didn't even glance at it, saying: "I trust you." I was touched by this, though it did make me realise that I could have had the letter in there inviting me for my bone density scan - or arguably just a bank statement.

Covid regulation hoop-jumping

I am now well and truly blooded in all the requisite forms and procedures involved (currently!) in going to and coming back from France. One of these requirements is the pre-departure Covid test at a local laboratory, the precise timing of which you have to calculate with care, as it needs to be so many hours before you leave the country, plus you also need to be sure of receiving the results before you set off on your homeward journey. I guess you could assume a negative result and set off regardless, but in the event of a positive result you would need to be prepared to turn back and self-isolate where you had come from. The lab promised results within 24 hours, and I had factored in 26 before I really did need to leave. As it happens, they were through in less than 10, which was a jolly quick turnaround.

I nearly came a cropper though when I tried to pay for the lab test upfront with a 50 euro note. The girl on reception looked horrified, and gestured for me to remove the offending cash from the counter. "We can't accept that - it's microbial!" 

Another aspect of the protocol to re-enter the country is a lengthy online form you must complete in the 48 hour window before arriving in the UK. (You need good maths for this caper, let me tell you.) I overheard two women talking about this outside the lab. I assumed they were frequent foreign travellers as they were already referring to said form by an acronym - "PLF".  Move over, Palestine Liberation Front - the new acronym on the block is for the Passenger Locator Form!

Another yogurt implement incident

In 1978, aged 19, my friend Averil and I went backpacking round France and Italy. Rouen was an early stop in the trip and where we realised we had failed to pack any cutlery. After trying and failing with a comb, we managed to eat a yogurt with the end of a toothbrush. I am 62 now, and stopped in Rouen overnight on the journey back, where history repeated itself.

The ne plus ultra of customer service

Whilst on the ferry I wandered into the duty free - looking for a small edt bottle of Shalimar in fact, but no joy - and instead came out with a box of six assorted wines from a small producer in Aix-en-Provence which the manager said were better quality and value than the ones I had randomly picked out myself. This lady also arranged for her colleague - who looked like a female prison warder in navy trousers and sturdy steel-capped shoes, with a big bunch of keys in her hand - to open up the car deck specially for me, despite it being normally out of bounds to passengers during the crossing. To be fair I couldn't have handled the box of wine and my belongings when the ship docked, but it still felt like a big favour. The colleague proceeded to undo bolts and pull back levers on the heavy metal door with a dramatic flourish, as though she were opening up a bank vault to reveal a gleaming pile of ingots, not my 9 year old Ford Focus, fortuitously parked just behind it.

And my luck kept coming...the same manager of the duty free magically popped up on the till of the cafeteria moments after I returned from the wine stowing mission. She insisted I be given a second cup of machine-dispensed hot chocolate free, in a bigger paper cup, because I had accidentally used a small espresso one and some of my drink had run over the side!

Here is the wine (not all purchased on this trip, hehe). Even so, I think I may need to up my drinking...;)

The not so speedy supercar

On the long drive back from Newhaven, I got stuck in stop-start traffic on the M25 (as you do, even in a pandemic with sizeable numbers of people still supposedly working from home). Interestingly, the French for "stop-start" traffic is "circulation en accordéon" (accordion traffic - or perhaps, concertina, even), which is nicely graphic. At one point I got stuck behind the low slung head turning high performance beast that is a McClaren car, and thought how frustrated the driver must have been not to get above second gear till nearly the exit for the M40.

Now I am back I am already looking forward to my next visit to the house, even if it will be dominated by chasing up a joiner to do some much needed window repairs, pouring gravel down a hole under the stairs, and treating the woodworm as appropriate. And more hoovering and weeding and de-cobwebbing, obviously. Apparently the cat is still hanging around my house, doubtless puzzled that I still haven't opened the door to let him in...