Don't call me Mister

Ever fill in one of those online forms that asks you for a "title", and offers the limited choice of Mr, Miss or Mrs? What if you prefer Ms, or Dr? For the purposes of Olympic tickets, one of your faithful Backbyters told SOCOG he preferred to be referred to as "Sir" - and he got some pretty hot seats out of it, by the way.

All that aside, the choice of titles on these forms is notoriously limited, and certainly fails to meet the needs of those in political office, religious orders and the military.

Not, however, when you're flying the friendly skies. Check out United Airlines' Web site at, click on the links to join its "Mileage Plus" frequent flyer club, and check out the list of titles on offer. Possibly the biggest pop-up menu we've ever seen offers some 80 choices, ranging from the usual Mr, Mrs and Miss through Dr, Sir, Reverend, President and Vice Admiral (not, we "note, Vice President). Want to be called "Imam"? No probs at United. There are even some we couldn't decipher.

We did notice that "Holiness" is not offered. A deliberate snub at Catholics? Or is the Pope already on someone else's frequent flyer books?

Conspiracy Theory #354a

Just an observation: did you notice that the lawyer who argued Al Gore's case before the courts after the US election debacle, David Boies, was the same lawyer who argued against Microsoft in the anti-trust suit? Did you notice that he left so many holes in his arguments against Microsoft that the whole thing is almost certain to be overturned on appeal? Meanwhile, Al Gore's case was not exactly well-fought either.

Theory: is this part of a stealth plan to have Bill Gates installed as President of the United States?

Time will tell.

Puttin' on the spin

Microsoft recently released the results of a British survey it conducted into the different lifestyles of Windows users as opposed to Mac users. Mac users hated it for making PC users seem cool and youthful. PC users hated it for making Mac users seem like better lovers. In the interest of balance, here are the key findings of the survey, presented without spin. You will not find this elsewhere:

Mac users are four times more likely to attend arthouse movies than PC users. PC users prefer comedies. Neither group seems to like romantic movies much, although PC users like them a little more than Mac people.

When choosing an ideal Saturday night out, PC users chose a romantic meal in a restaurant. Mac users prefer dinner parties. However, Mac users are twice as likely to be involved in a steady relationship.

Twenty-two per cent of PC-using women would love to date Sean Connery, as opposed to 40 per cent of Mac-using women. Roughly half of women surveyed in both categories would not be seen dead on a date with Liam Gallagher.

PC users are more price-conscious than Mac users, while Mac users are more likely to select a computer on the basis of its colour.

PC users are twice as likely as Mac users to spend more than œ200 per month on clothes.

Eleven per cent of PC users are aged 18-24, as opposed to 6 per cent of Mac users. Roughly half of Mac users are aged over 45.

And it is on the basis of this research that Microsoft has introduced subtle differences between the Windows and Mac versions of Office. It should be obvious then, even from this summary, why PC users prefer to get their software in gigantic oversized cardboard boxes, and Mac people like to buy software in bizarre plastic bubbles. We rest our case.


Everyone knows what a "scruple" is: it's that irritating naggle you get in the back of your head when you're doing something wrong. For most people, it acts as a mechanism to stop them doing the wrong thing. We Backbyters use advanced meditation techniques to make it go away.

Did you also know that a "scruple" is (or at least was) a measure of weight used by apothecaries to measure out medicines? One scruple is equivalent to 1/24th of a troy ounce (about 1.18 grams for those of us in the modern world).

In an attempt to revive this meaning of the word (and to bring some morals back to society), an online store has appeared selling scruples. Pop over to, where you can buy coins made of solid silver, weighing in at exactly 10 scruples (the one shown here is actual size). We tried to buy a few for the offices here (goodness knows we could use some), but as of the time of writing they can only be shipped to the US - guess they need them more than we do.

Plans are afoot to sell them internationally soon. Won't it be great when you can buy American scruples?