The best of Verity Stobb

Last week I received two copies of the book, The Best of Verity Stob from Apress (ISBN number of 1-59059-442-8 for those Internet Explorer users that have AutoLink enabled). I was technical reviewer for the book, though in the end, I became more of language expert than a coding one, pointing out which of the British terms in the book could cause confusion for American readers. Half-way through I suggested a “Glossary of British Terms”, and am so glad I did, because it is absolutely hilarious–as is the rest of the book, which is geek humor at its best.

If you don’t know Verity Stob, you learn much when you read the section in the book, About the Author:


Verity Stob has been a programmer for 20 long yeaers, and has extensive experience in many disciplines of the profession. Programming languages known in-depth include C++, Delphi, Visual Basic, plus scripting languages such as JavaScript, PHP, and–in a real crises–Perl. Can bluff her way in C# and Java, but there again, who can’t, eh? Ditto UML, XML, HTML, and any other -MLs you care to lob at her. Except for ML, itself, of course. Mostly Windows, bit of Linux at a push, Mac no way. (I’ll bung in a few methodologies later, bulk it up a bit.) Although currently living and working in London, prepared to be flexible…Definitely a team player…Very many good hobbies…Sorry, who is this for again? When’s the interview? I tell you, I’m not going if they use those damn Microsoft quizzes.

The book features the best of the Verity Stob column from EXE, Dr. Dobb’s Journal, and The Register, and includes, among other gems, several poems dedicated to technology, such as the following, which is destined to become popular with webloggers far and wide:

The Lincolnshire Poacher

When I went out contracting
in rural Lincolnshire
I’d fix the locals’ websites
by bosky broad and mere;
I’d fix them on my laptop, boys,
but my mobile bills were dear.
Oh, ’tis my delight when the bandwidth’s right
and the signal strong and clear.

The cost of getting on the ‘Net
was bleeding my firm dry.
And then I met a geezer
who told me of Wifi.
He told me of war driving
and was I glad to hear!
For ’tis my delight when the bandwidth’s right
and the signal strong and clear.

I learned to spot an access point
by chalk marks on the ground.
It seems that open networks
are scattered all around,
Right here I can surf happily,
but I did not tell you where.
Oh, ’tis my delight when the bandwidth’s right
and the signal strong and clear.

Good luck to fellow poachers
who do the chalky prep,
Bad luck to secure standards
and the threat of rolling WEP,
Good luck to dozy sys admins
who don’t protect their gear–
Oh, ’tis my delight when the bandwidth’s right
and the signal strong and clear.

Then there was the Antarctica firm that was infected with Visual Basic:

I was standing, hands in pockets, with the pilot of the rescue helicopter as he looked around the burnt-out ruins of the dome, shaking his head in disbelief.

“There’s one thing I don’t understand about this, Ms. Stob. How come you didn’t get infected?”

“That’s easy to answer. The thing is, I know that it’s possible to build anything–even an operating system–just by dragging and dropping a few controls onto a form. No, it’s all right–”

The pilot had taken a pace back in alarm.

“It’s OK, I was just kidding. Now, hadn’t you better go and get ready for take off? If we stay here any longer, we’ll all freeze.”

“OK, Ms. Stob.”

As he walked away, still suspicious, I took my right hand out of my pocket and looked at it. It had grown into a hideous, misshapen claw. Useless for typing, but fine for grasping the mouse and clicking things…”

The book is a wired, whimsical delight; the writing a unique representation of that dry, sophisticated, barbed British wit that can only arise from a people that have lived, crammed onto a little bitty island for centuries. But to return to my glossary, my favorite definitions are those for blimey, fag, monkey-juice and, of course, marmite:


A pungent slime made from a yeast. That this item does not occur in the text, apart from here, I regard as a failing on my part.

The reviews for the book have been very positive; among them is this from Andrew Orlowski. I picked this one out specifically, because Andrew is so near and dear to our little bloggy hearts.

An interesting fact about Verity Stob is that her face has been kept hidden after lo these many years of writing for several publications. This still remains true regardless of the book cover photo, shown below, at Bookpool–because that’s not the cover of the book I received. And no, as far as I know, the photos shown are _not_ Verity Stob.

Regardless of hidden faces and mystery pasts, the book is a good read, well worth breaking your piggy bank to buy.

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