I just tried to get through Scarface.

I made it to about 1:40 before checking to see how much film was left: another hour.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by modern films but this one is really not doing it for me. I played Vice City and rather enjoyed the setting. Seeing things I recognise from the game in the original film was rather fun but that’s about as far as the parallels go.

The Wikipedia article for it states:

The initial critical response to Scarface was mixed, with criticism over excessive violence and graphic language.

My only criticism of the violence so far has been how comically wacky it is. People get “blown away” by small arms fire in a hilariously pathetic and immersion-shattering way. Everyone seems to be packing MAC-10s or incredibly puny Berettas. Ah, the 1980s – when no one knew what guns sounded like and people getting shot bled a little ketchup.

Having taken a look on IMFDB it might be worth watching the rest of the film for the action but the amount of tiresome nattering is excruciating.

To me there’s two reasons for dialogue: to advance the plot or to immerse the viewer in the setting. I personally hate it when each and every line seems to be cut to the bone in order to save time. Dialogue shouldn’t feel like unnatural exposition and I get rather annoyed when I notice that something was just said purely to provide the viewer with a bit of information. If the characters all already know something then don’t have them say it out loud just for our convenience!

The other kind of dialogue is to colour in the setting. It doesn’t have to be important it’s just there to make the world feel alive. Film has the advantage over theatre in that it can show us things but the way a character tells a story, or chats with a friend, or orders a drink all help make the setting seem plausible.

So far most of the dialogue has been needless guff. At other times I find myself feeling like a few pages fell out of the script resulting in me playing catch-up. Time seems to pass at random intervals. The whole thing feels like its in desperate need of an editor. Or a director.

I’d heard such positive things about it though. I find myself wondering if it’s just me being picky. Back in the 1990s it was probably amazing but these days video content can be produced by anyone. I expect a certain standard from YouTube videos, for example. With that much content floating around the general standard seems to slowly rise. I’ve seen student films with more realistic gunplay, for example.

Perhaps I’ll finish it but it might be a stretch.

While driving down to Wales to move into my new flat I saw a billboard in a field. I didn’t snap a photo but it looked like a combination of these two:

Back in January I talked about how NapierTV used hashtags. This made me groan internally simply due to the fact that even the Red Tractor Assurance are using them now. People stared blankly at me like I was speaking ancient Sumerian at them when I spoke of the potential use case for the damn things.

Being ahead of the times is not always all that satisfying, I must say.

There’s a (social commentary) joke I remember seeing on Reddit that went roughly like this:

What’s something non-sexual that you find very attractive in women?
-When they can drive stick.
…In Europe we call that “driving”.

I tend to sneer at the notion of driving an automatic transmission vehicle. I grew up in the UK – we don’t really do automatic vehicles. Sure, they exist, but they’re rarer than hens’ teeth. As a result there were a few things that confused me when watching imported American TV shows as a child. A notable example of this is a rather quirky show that used to be on S4C (Welsh Channel 4 – “Ess Pedwar Eck”), Cadillacs and Dinosaurs.

At various times in the show there would be shots like this:OT1ZLKWemUfuI0

I now understand that what’s going on is shifting gears in an automatic vehicle but back then I was baffled.

A little later there was this:

I’d hazard a guess at me being sixteen or seventeen before understanding what “a stick” meant. We specify a vehicle is automatic, not that it’s manual. I’d heard of “manual” but the slang term “a stick” was completely alien to me.

Sneering aside I spent a while driving an automatic yesterday and I’ve got to say, ugh. How can anyone be comfortable driving one? When driving I’m used to being in control of the speed to a high degree. It’s a large mass of metal, I am not happy being only vaguely in charge of how fast I go!

Essentially it comes down to the fact that normally I use different gears as comfortable plateaus. Holding the accelerator at a particular position holds the speed there, holding it down long enough won’t push me into a different gear – there’s an upper and lower limit for my speed. The gears are a big part of how I regulate my speed for different situations. Not so nice.

So I stand by my derisive opinion of referring to someone who can only drive automatics as “being able to drive”. Learn.

I can’t say I respond to peer pressure very well. Usually attempts to get me to fall in line result in rebellion from me. Being told to do something simply because it is customary tends to get me riled up.

Something I considered while driving the other day was that there is an exception to this rule: driving. I find myself caring about what other people think a great deal. It’s rather jarring for me to be bothered by the opinions of other drivers. When walking I might pretend to be an aeroplane regardless of whether there are other people present but put me behind the wheel and suddenly I’m trying to stay out of people’s way and behave!

Perhaps part of this stems from my unusual opinions of who is “allowed” to drive. I’ve been licensed to drive a car since I was a teenager but the idea that I’m allowed to still blows my mind. Grown-ups drive cars, not me. Being somewhat childish at heart has this effect at times, I suppose. On the road I feel like I’m intruding into somewhere I don’t belong.

Giving it some thought there’s also the fact that I can’t make it my space as the rules are so restrictive on what one may do. I’m not suggesting that the law is wrong it’s fairly necessary but that goes some way to explaining my inability to get comfortable.

Or maybe British roads are just incredibly unwelcoming. To Paris!

Something I’m looking forward to in my new gaff is having my PC and my TV in the same room. My graphics card isn’t the best on the market, it never was, but it happily handles even very new games on fairly high settings.

One major bottleneck is my screen though. I love my monitor, don’t get me wrong. A 22 inch monitor at 1920x1080 is lovely to work with but it does mean that I have to run games at that resolution. Well, have to and have to

I have a friend who ran Oblivion at its default resolution on a reasonably large 1680x1050 monitor. He didn’t seem to understand my flabbergasted reaction to this. Let me clarify – the default resolution is 640x480. It was a blurry mess with virtually illegible text.

Maybe I’m just picky.

Of course, back in the day when we used CRT monitors the resolution was just a matter of detail preference. They could render things up to ridiculously high levels and things would stay deliciously crisp. LCDs have a fixed number of pixels though – try to run things at anything but the exact size they’re built for results in a thoroughly horrid experience.

It seems some people don’t notice this. Usually they’re in their 50s and think the text is too small (that can be scaled, dear – that way it’ll be big AND clear). Occasionally I run into someone my own age or younger who has the wrong resolution though. I try to restrain myself but it’s a struggle. I used to carry around a little command line app on a flash disk when I was at uni that’d bypass the lack of admin access and allow me to change the resolution. Any time I found a screen that had some how ended up in vaseline territory a few quick keystrokes tidied things up.

I had a point somewhere, didn’t I?

Well a larger resolution obviously means more pixels. My monitor has 2,073,600 pixels (1920x1080). My TV has 1,049,088 pixels (1366*768). Roughly half. It’s also a bigger screen.

Sure, it means less detail but on the plus side it’s larger and should take less grunt to run meaning more shiny effects can be turned on. I’m looking forward to trying that out!

Whilst this post is backdated I haven’t written a blog entry in several days. I don’t feel good about this but I’ve also been unable to really concentrate on writing simply because I’m reaching the final hours leading up to moving.

On Thursday (later today on the day of writing) I’ll be loading my stuff onto a car and heading out of Scotland for “sunny” Wales. Of course, I may not be there long, but it’s a major move both in terms of physical load and in terms of mentality.

Essentially I’ve lived in Edinburgh since I left home in 2006. I didn’t really consider it leaving home then but later it sort of dawned on me that I wouldn’t be returning to the family home properly. Well, maybe in the distant future when I own the house I’ll move there but other than that I’m out in the world.

I didn’t intend to stay in Scotland anywhere near this long but plans fell through last year and it’s taken 18 months to regroup and get back on my way. Thankfully the next move should be significantly easier as there’ll be two of us. I don’t look forward to it either but we’ll figure it out together.

In the meantime I’m not in a panicky mood, more a sort of tired malaise. There’s so much stuff and I’d really like to have it all packed. I’ve been ready to go for a long time and getting out of limbo is something I really look forward to.


It never ceases to amaze me just how bad one can make the user experience through sheer apathy.

Have you tried to login to a Yahoo! account any time recently? I don’t know about you but I can’t remember precisely which of my many passwords I use for the account. I tend to try a few or rely on my browser to remember. Ideally it’ll keep me logged in indefinitely.

Yahoo! starts forcing CAPTCHAs after an attempt or two. After passing one it doesn’t reset that attempt counter though. No. Every attempt after that requires one.

Eventually I give up and reset my password. Yahoo prompts me for a new one.

Of course then it stipulates that the password has to be at least six characters. It also needs to be “strong”. Their definition is unclear though. If I use one of my made up words with a number in it that’s six characters its still apparently too weak. Longer passwords that aren’t in the dictionary don’t work either!

Why don’t they just issue the godsdamned password if it’s so important to them that it’s secure?

I use my Yahoo! account for Flickr (that is to say I have photos there. I haven’t added new ones in years) and occasionally for Yahoo! groups (for Gorkamorka stuff). Its security is not a concern. The level they’re attempting is like putting a steering wheel lock and wheel clamps on a child’s toy car!

I can’t imagine why their company is in decline. I’m sure their few remaining users being unable to conveniently access their accounts has nothing to do with it.

Not a problem!

23 June 2013

In leaving Edinburgh I’m curating some of my possessions. That isn’t particularly surprising, of course, but with some things it’s not a case of “Will I need this?”. Instead it’s a matter of “I could bring this but do I want the memories that come with it?”

I have a set of eight glasses that were totally not pilfered from a drinking establishment above the Cowgate. They’re nice glasses, plenty of weight, but they were also used extensively at flat parties, including gatherings of people I didn’t like. Didn’t like and ended up having to clean up after, I mean.

Other things are more recent and positive. Well, they were until someone dropped the damn thing.

Every year Matt would go to the Heriot-Watt Beer Festival. I kept meaning to go along but didn’t get around to it. Eventually, in 2011, I managed to make it along. We had planned to film some stuff there but, well, we were tired and it didn’t really come together. It was fun nonetheless though.

The glasses seen in the picture are part of the festival and were marked at both the third of a pint mark and half. Beers and ciders were available in those quantities based on tokens. Buying the glass was essentially a ticket.

Despite my attempts to convey “it doesn’t matter, I used another glass” a certain someone still told another certain someone. Cue attempting to bring me a glass of water I didn’t ask for in a glass I didn’t want touched by anyone else at all ever.

I am not a happy Fox about this. It’s annoying because I don’t like useless trinkets that solely exist for decoration. I use this glass a lot and remember its day of glory with fondness. Fondness and a memory of how it was always a bit sticky due to a cider that tasted like delicious strawberry jam.

I’d better not mention to anyone when I want a damn cup of tea in future. Ugh.

You jellybean?

22 June 2013

I was watching Ashen’s video about the WiiU and noticed him say something with regards to the eShop:

(Around the 16 minute mark)

…hmmm, I dunno… They really need to change things ‘round and offer things cheaper if they actually want this to be a thing.

This phrase “a thing” seems to be fairly new when I think about it. I may be wrong but it feels less than ten years old. It’s more than just slang though when I give it some thought - it’s a cultural concept.

We currently live in a world where new products and ideas are thrown around quite often. Some stick, some are fads, and others never really go anywhere.


Crowdfunding is “a thing”, the Zune is not “a thing”. I suppose one could deem it as either happily accepted into modern culture or at least begrudgingly tolerated as the de facto norm.

It could be argued that such a notion existed before but I can’t think of any other time where things can emerge so quickly. High speed information exchange means that ideas can quickly reach millions of people in a way never before seen. Steampunk is now “a thing” whereas before it was a bit of a quirky alternative to goth clothes.

Whether that’s strictly true or not I don’t really know. But either way it’s very fetch.


21 June 2013

In playing Pokémon White 2 I find myself rather jaded. I saw the concepts in Pokémon Blue way back when but now that I’m a bit older and even more misanthropic it stands out painfully:

The world of Pokémon feels like a brainwashed state. Everything revolves around Pokémon – everything. Sports, theatre, construction, etc.. So far I haven’t encountered a single NPC that doesn’t gush gooey sentiments towards everything about their culture. Perhaps it’s because I was raised in Britain but being critical of one’s own culture seems healthy to me.

Would it be so hard to create a world where Pokémon were fairly new and the player had to journey through the world facing negative attitudes to the whole thing? Striving for acceptance and positivity in a world bent low by economic struggles?

Perhaps that’s a bit too dark. Sickly-sweet saccharine awfulness it is, I guess.

Unrelated to the idiotic atmosphere that permeates the game there’s the fact that the menus and notifications in the game seem to have been designed by someone who felt that a player shouldn’t be able to go more than a few moments without hammering on a button. Tiresome dialogue, tiresome dialogue, ugh. Can’t I just set a fast text rate that’ll keep things flowing rather than doing this:

Overly positive text about pokemanz… ⇩

[Button press]

…continued text of no real value!! ⇩

[Button press]

Vaguely relevant text. ⇩

[Button press]

Control returned to player.

It’s exhausting. Think about what the interface contributes to the game experience and design based on that, pillocks. Ask yourself “Why does this need to be here?”

Chances are that it really doesn’t.

Something that leaves me thoroughly grumpy is companies lying to me.

The current thing that’s getting my goat is Microsoft U-turning on all their DRM stuff. It’s not the U-turn that bothers me (it seems to be good news after all) but the fact that their word isn’t worth the time it takes to hear.


On Radio 4’s You and Yours there was a similar thing about descriptions provided by estate agents. Usually they should be taken with a dangerous amount of salt because they’re such perversions of reality. Why is it acceptable for companies to lie to us?

I’m not talking active mis-selling of a product – that is obviously not allowed. What I mean is that there seems to be an overwhelming culture of “never admit fault”. Perhaps the thinking goes that it will make the company appear weak. Of course the truth is that it makes them appear strong enough to take responsibility for their failures.

When my letting agency tells me something I have to basically disregard it because the likelihood of it being true is essentially zero. No one is coming to fix anything, we just have to say that as part of protocol.

Why do automated services express emotion about our wait? How can a company be an entity that feels “sorry”? They could care about me having a bad experience but if they did they wouldn’t be showing it through a pre-recorded message. “Your call is important to us”? Not bloody likely!

My generation, and several before it, have been encouraged to consider consumerism a form of self expression and self-actualisation. We’re effectively told that what we think and who we are should be primarily expressed through our appearance and possessions. Good for the economy, certainly, but not necessarily for our own mental health.

I saw this piece on the BBC website, for example:

(I’d use their embedding but for some reason it wasn’t offered on this video)

This idea of “generation cool” shouldn’t really be considered all that new – it’s fundamental to consumerist society. Before now though the main way to explain who we were to other members of the same society was through, essentially, peacocking.

The explosion of social media is interesting in that it allows us to curate an online version of ourselves showing off who we wish to be seen as. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen, admittedly, but at least in order to have photos of us doing things we consider “cool” we need to have actually done them!

It’s still self-delusion in some ways, I suppose, but the availability of instant sharing of experiences does at least help provide immediate reward. Instead of having to come back and tell people later we can be seen to be doing things as they happen, allowing our friends and followers to see. If this results in escalation towards us all trying to be more interesting people surely that can only be a good thing?

Whether we’ll achieve as much remains to be seen but there’s something to be said for better mental health. Not everyone needs to be a tortured artist, do they?

Whilst later in life I did get a class of older brothers it took some time and by then it was almost too late. I kind of wish that at 14 I could have received some albums from a hypothetical older brother.mriAJxg

Growing up I had a best friend, Ashley. He was a lovely chap although sadly we’re not still in contact (due to fairly divergent lives, not falling out, thankfully). He had an older brother, Bradley. I suppose in my mind the concept of an older brother is built a bit around him. He was a few years older than us and whilst he and his brother would fight on occasion he was always a nice guy to me. I can’t imagine why I didn’t seem like an obnoxious brat to him, or maybe I did and it was easier to be kind to me. Either way I was always rather impressed by him in that respect.

I recall playing, or watching Ashley play, the PSX demo for Grand Theft Auto. There was a table of sorts across the room – not a barrier per se but it sort of separated the room. In that section I think Bradley was listening to a new single by All Saints.

Now, I’m absolutely certain that song was playing at the time and the timeline works out (Grand Theft Auto was new) but it still confuses me as to how it could be right. I was surely in St. Michaels at that point and so didn’t see Ashley all that much?

Regardless of circumstances though it’s clear that I was there.

I recall a little later Bradley had a separate room, or perhaps that had already happened at that point. Either way it was a more “grown up” room, signifying his transition away from childhood. I was just an onlooker and little did I know that I would never really have that experience. My bedroom still remains but it’s virtually unchanged from when I first left for Christ College. A few bits of furniture have been moved around and there’s piles of computer hardware everywhere but other than that it’s really the same.

Some of us have siblings who at least provide a bit of a roadmap for development. Whether it’s better to have a blank slate or not is difficult to say but it might have at least made that shift a bit less painful.


Growing up I recall my mother didn’t like Madonna’s music but was rather impressed with her career. I seem to remember talking about the singer reinventing herself as necessary and seeing considerable success in doing so.

MYhmqpEOver the weekend there was Reddit Global Meetup Day 2013 and so I was out with my internet chums making new friends.

See? There I am in the background as Julia tries to dodge the overly powerful flash of her own camera.

It took quite some time for the after images to die away for me. Perhaps I too should have cowered from the light…

Back to the point – defining ourselves to others.

New arrivals get asked their names, not their usernames. The thing that many of them seem to forget is the fact that we don’t know them. Their name could be “Christoff Von Ludendorf”. The normal reaction would be “Call me Chris”, I would imagine, but what if they don’t actually like their name?

In introducing themselves they get the choice of how to portray themselves. We have no backstory for them yet, we don’t know anything at all about them. That’s their opportunity to frame themselves in a way they’re happy with.

How often do we hear people describing how they feel like they’re trapped in their own lives?

I personally don’t really understand. If you don’t like your friends, ditch them. Don’t like who you are? Change it. Don’t like people thinking of you as shy? Do your best to be loud and outgoing when you introduce yourself to the new crowd!

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as “change it”, but essentially that is the case. Make a decision and run with it – it’s easier than you might think. Every time you meet a new group of people that’s an opportunity to redefine yourself and create different expectations. By changing the expectations it becomes easier to be that person – others expect that of you from then on rather than expecting you to be like whoever you used to be.

Doing this has provided me with the most loyal and understanding friends I’ve ever had. Thank you, /r/Edinburgh. I’m going to miss you guys.

I was listening to Radio 4 the other day and there was an attempt to explain a few technical things to the audience. I phrase it that way because these are things that I hadn’t considered needed explaining and as such they can’t really be accurately lumped together.

Someone’s company website was threatened by some Albanian black hat who compromised site security and effectively held the business to ransom.

In explaining this subject it seemed to me that the audience not only barely uses the internet but more than that think it is powered by magic.

A digital intrusion doesn’t mean breaking into an office. Apparently this needed to be stressed. The issue here seems to also be that because the audience thinks the internet runs on magic they have no concept of what it actually is. Servers and lots of cables, basically. Lots of computers.

Well, servers had to be explained too. It wasn’t explained as “a computer like the one you have at home”. Instead it was described by its physical appearance “resembling a DVD player”. Don’t most electronics in cases look like DVD players in that case?

It aggravates me a great deal simply because what the device looks like is irrelevant compared to its function. Mentioning it to make it relatable is fine but could we deal with what it is as well?

“The Cloud” seems to be understood as some sort of nebulous concept due to its naming. It’s scalable computer resources outsourced to data centres. Alternatively “like paying a print shop to do posters when you need them instead of doing them at home”. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp. Instead we got a dawdling piece on data centres.

If we’re talking about data centres I’d love to have some discussion about lowering their power usage or repurposing the heat they generate. It’s a solvable problem after all.

Given the importance of the internet these days I simply find it strange that its basics aren’t covered more often so that people can marvel at the brilliance of it.


I saw you marvel!

Don’t get me started on “my internet’s down” or “do you have wireless internet here?”

I’ve half a mind to hook up a load of networked devices and a DNS server just to be a pedantic git. Perhaps that’s a bit far even for me. Just use the word “connection”, you goits. “My connection’s down” makes a damn sight more sense as well as not making the speaker sound less tech savvy than Thursday afternoon bingo players.

Console wars aside I’m not really all that interested in E3 any more. There’s games, sure, but they won’t be out for quite some time and even then I probably won’t play them for a while after that.

What did interest me was the “behind the scenes” style videos GiantBomb released:

I don’t feel I learned all that much at university, at least not as a result of the academic portion. This tends to mean that I consider my degree essentially worthless. In fact I have no idea where the actual document even is.

Watching these videos reminds me that actually I learned a fair bit through my own projects. I didn’t know they were called “risers” but I’ve worked in similar environments. Admittedly I’d not heard of SDI before, well, not outside Sid Meier’s Civilization II, but it’s a bit higher end than I’ve had access to.

Wandering around as a crew with cameras, trying to find places to film, working at events where annoying credentials are required. I know how to do that stuff! I’m not so good at attending as a patron admittedly but that shouldn’t be news to anyone.

I don’t think of it as journalism, per se, but I’m not really sure where to lump the skill set in question. It explains a little why I find the GB guys so relatable though, I guess.


Something I’ve seen drastically increase over the last year online is this:


What is it?

Well it’s a “sarcasm tag”. It’s supposed to indicate that the preceding statement was sarcastic.

Yes, it puzzles me too. Why would anyone indicate that and more importantly, why would they try to be witty if they were just going to explain the joke anyway?

Sarcasm is often conveyed non-verbally by tone of voice or emphasis of words. You can't communicate that through text.
-AvoidanceAddict [source]

Let’s see Danny Pudi deliver a line sarcastically.

How about another line where he actually delivers it with inflection:

Ho, ho ho. Very amusing. Except that by delivering it with inflection it becomes amusing due to its stark contrast with the character’s normal demeanour, not because of any real wit.

Generally speaking sarcasm is detectable due to the context. If someone is too dull or has the sense of a rampaging wardrobe then they might miss the contrast. Given that we were trying to be witty should we instead just resort to slapstick humour to pander to them? I mean, they get that and it makes them laugh, after all. Of course not, we’re not Saturday night television.

In this most recent case the topic title was as follows:

TIL that in 2006, the RIAA successfully took down a community-generated collection of 34,000 guitar transcriptions that had been compiled over 14 years

Obviously guitar tabs are evil. I mean, using a tab, anyone could just start performing covers of your song, for which the songwriter earns a royalty.

The RIAA must protect artists against potentially earning an income from their songwriting!
-gtalnz [source]

Putting aside that an exclamation mark often means the preceding statement was a joke (there’s your indicated tone, dullards), let’s take a look at this:

The discussion is on a main Reddit board, /r/TodayILearned, somewhere anti-corporate attitudes are the status quo and the RIAA is reviled. The story is about censorship, essentially. The internet created something and the RIAA took it away – something that normally gets Redditors very angry.

So that’s context.

Let’s see what gtalnz said – it supports what the RIAA did whilst also pointing out the foolishness of their behaviour.

Actually, I didn’t give you all of what gtalnz said:

Obviously guitar tabs are evil. I mean, using a tab, anyone could just start performing covers of your song, for which the songwriter earns a royalty.

The RIAA must protect artists against potentially earning an income from their songwriting!

-gtalnz [source]

Oh gee, you were making a joke? My gods, that went right over my head. Thanks for clarifying that you didn’t mean that guitar tabs are actually evil. That wasn’t obvious from what was written – had the sarcasm tag not indicated vocal inflection I would have been puzzled by his attitudes.

I’d also like to take this moment to think about when any adult I know last put inflection into a sarcastic comment…

…Nope, can’t think of any. We stopped doing that when we were about 15 once we realised that it was a lot funnier without the OTT delivery.

(The first 25 seconds or so of Scrubs S01E17 – My Student, in case the video gets taken down)

Here’s a transcript:


"Attitude" by The Replacements plays. J.D., Turk, and Elliot pile out of a car and casually head towards the hospital together.

J.D.'s Narration
At a certain point during your first year, things begin to feel a little different -- you've arrived, you know? You just start to feel....

They pass a game of hoops being played between a couple of doctors just outside the building.

[nonchalant] I'm open.

The ball gets passed to him, and he cleanly shoots it in with ease.

J.D.'s Narration

They continue up the ramp towards the front door. Turk and J.D. are unfazed by the awesome shot, but....

Oh, my God! Turk, that was amazing!

[hissing] Woman. Woman! Shush.

[quietly to Elliot] You see...it's a lot cooler if we don't make a big deal out of it.

Oh, right.

Similarly when being sarcastic it’s a lot cooler/wittier when delivered deadpan.

They are just saving themselves the annoyance of someone taking their statement literally, and then others reading their angry reply, and then others following suit, ad nauseam.

I fail to see the problem here. People who incorrectly interpret it as sincere aren’t worth worrying about. They missed the joke, pity them, but other than that why do we care?

If hilariously angry comments result because the person missed the point there’s a simple phrase – “Whoosh!”

Arguing with Americans online about tipping culture rarely ends well but I suppose I’m just a glutton for punishment in that respect.

I was thinking about why I have such an issue with near-mandatory tipping. Usually the arguments mentioned hinge on how little the serving staff are earning and the like. Personally I don’t see how this is my business or my problem.

If I go to a restaurant as part of the pricing I expect to get food and reasonable service. Not exceptional service, just sufficiently good to get the job done. I don’t want to have to remember my waiter/waitress’ name and in most cases I don’t care about having one particular staff member assigned to me. They’re serving staff, not geishas – it’s their job to interface between me and the kitchen not entertain me as if I was a guest in their parlour.

When I’m with a group (say eight or more people) I can see how we’re asking more than their basic service and so understand the addition of a service charge to the bill. Dealing with a group is trickier, that’s fine. Do a good job and make the evening run smoothly and I’d actively encourage a tip. There’s a lot more service involved after all.

On the other hand if it’s just me (or just a few of us) then I do not want to deal with that. I am incredibly uncomfortable having someone at my mercy like that. Trying their utmost to impress me so that I throw a crust in their direction? Lovely. That puts me in such a comfortable and happy mood – can we eat here next week too?

I do not want such a big say in how their wages work. Leave that to accounts and HR. I don’t know what their outgoings look like or how much income they need, I also don’t see why I should want to know. I don’t want to know who is covering Becky’s shift next Friday either. I’m the customer, part of that deal is not having to see how the sausage is made.

If I had a batman, a personal valet, could I bring him along and have him deal with the kitchen instead? I don’t have one, of course, but if I did I would already have dealt with paying him and the terms of his employment. He’d be there to ensure my dining experience went smoothly and I would already have dealt with his payment.

It’s somewhat facetious, I know, but the idea that I am supposed to decide what a server’s basic work time is worth upsets me. If I crunch the numbers – such as the number of patrons in the restaurant over the course of the day, the amount of time spent, and the amount they’d have to earn per hour to make a suitable wage – it doesn’t work out as all that much that I need to provide. But that’s not what’s being asked for – a percentage on top of the gross is. Ew.

Servewell, more brandy, if you’d be so good.

steelgulpaYesterday tUGS released a new document – a bestiary written by Ross.

What’s interesting to me about it isn’t the rules themselves (although they’re solid, no complaints there) but the way they exist as a component. With them a scenario writer (or more ambitiously a campaign writer) can create a richer game experience, should they so choose.

Instead of defining the specifics we’re building a toolkit from which future things can be made. We’ll probably provide some suggestions and guidelines but I feel there’s a lot to be said for putting user-friendly components in the hands of players and letting them play around with them.

In the past we’ve had to be a bit more autocratic – for example creating new factions. Not being clear there conveys a sense of amateurism and sloppiness, I feel. Instead of feeling open-ended it just seems unfinished. I don’t mind us being thorough and dictating under these circumstances, of course, but that’s only because everyone on staff is at least as talented as I am, if not far better than me. If I was working with the general community I’d be more in favour of a democratic way of doing it, I think. In this instance though we’re all experts and have played more GoMo than virtually everyone on the planet.

But as E. F. Schumacher puts it:

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.


Now that we have the expertise I feel it’s up to us to try to create a set of simple tools for players. This piece by Ross is an excellent first piece of that project.

Artwork by Clayton Tait (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike license).

Last night I watched the Game of Thrones finale. Opinion on the content aside it amuses me that it’s apparently “the most pirated TV show ever”.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) had this to say:

What you hope is that even though people watch it online, they will still buy the DVD. At the end of the day it's stealing. I know it doesn't feel like it but it is and it's not right.

You know what? I’m not going to buy the DVD. Also, it’s not stealing. I can’t steal something that doesn’t exist. I’m not talking about an intangible file – that exists, what I mean is that the service I want to pay for doesn’t currently exist and as such stealing from it isn’t possible.

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At least Michael Lombardo (programming president at HBO) isn’t too torn up about the fact that so many of us want to watch his content.

I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts.

The demand is there. And it certainly didn’t negatively impact the DVD sales. [Piracy is] something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network.

The main thing that seemed to bother him was that pirates should at least be getting decent quality encodings of the show!

I’d gladly pay a small amount to add GoT to a digital library just like any other shows. I’m not willing to pay DVD pricing though and given that the marginal costs are so low on digital I see no reason why my pricing point isn’t feasible. Perhaps not all the time but for a sale, for example.

Oh and defining copyright infringement as “not right” is a bit of a stretch. I’m not saying it is right simply that the concept of copyright is fairly abstract as it is. I don’t feel stealing is appropriate behaviour, certainly, but the comparison doesn’t work here as it’s not stealing in the traditional sense.

The fact that shop-bought DVDs contain mandatory trailers, adverts, and anti-piracy notices do little to sway me towards paying. Get a godsdamned grip – offer me real ways for us to give you money or pay Valve to sort out your digital strategy. Stop making criminals of people that want to be your customers.


I wish I wasn’t repeating myself by saying all that.

In packing up to move I have to deal with the huge volume of clothes I have. I don’t know about you but I’ve been roughly the same height and weight for over ten years at this stage. Add to that the fact that I don’t really follow fashion (instead wearing whatever makes me feel most awesome) and the result is a vast pile of garments.

So, assuming I’m tired of some of them but they’re not worn out – what am I supposed to do with them?

I could give them to a charity shop, for example, but then I don’t even get paid for the trouble of bringing the clothes to the shop. Hmmm, no.

How about one of those “Cash 4 Clothes” places? Well they pay by weight rather than garments. Not so handy.

Essentially I want to sell them. Not for a pittance (as in by weight) but also not for a fortune. I’d also like them to go to a good home if possible. They’re not bad clothes I’ve just worn them enough to get bored of them at this stage.

The kind of arrangement I’d like would be something like a set of stalls at a market. One would be able to bring clothes on the day and use a corner to sell them. If they sold then the stall would take a small cut. If I sold some of my nice t-shirts for £3 each and kept £2 that’d be fine with me. Similarly if I could buy second hand for those prices I’d like that too.

We all have so much stuff and it seems silly to not share the wealth to some extent. Perhaps this is a small future project.

Unless I believe in the importance of what I’m doing I find it incredibly difficult to be motivated. Being paid is not enough. An eventual paycheque acts as no real enticement simply because I need fewer possessions, not more.

That said as long as I believe in what I’m doing I am quite happy to work hard. I’m lazy in some ways – I don’t like to work just to work, but I can be found working long after hours if I feel it’s worth the trouble. To me that’s a sensible way to be. Busywork wastes everyone’s time.

Generally speaking though this means that I don’t want to work for most organisations. That’s far from the only reason though. I get bored.

It seems we’ve ended up as a society somewhere between temporary staff and lifelong careers. Unfortunately we’ve managed to get the worst of both worlds out of the deal.

The idea of working for one organisation for 2 – 3 years sounds like a lifetime to me. It’s not that long really but it’s the difference between 28 and 31. I’d rather work 4 – 6 months on task-based work rather than contractual length.

This is partly for my own sake of wanting to try all sorts of different things and partly out of consideration for potential employers. With an open-ended approach to work then any time I leave is going to inconvenience them and throw projects into disarray. If instead there’s an understanding that once the work is done a new negotiation will happen it puts a better deal in front of both parties. One side gets to see whether they like working with the staff member while the other gets to change path on good terms.

“Why did you leave your last employment?” should really be less of an issue. Sadly it’s currently a very important question to ask.

GamesMaster 64Back when I was a lad and the concept of a PlayStation 2 hadn’t crossed our little minds (but the N64 was all that mattered anyway) I used to read GamesMaster.

It wasn’t quite as fancy and in-depth as PC Gamer but then again it also didn’t cost the Earth. It was light-hearted, but fun, and didn’t take itself too seriously. It also didn’t talk down to me or feel polished to a cheesy smile. Well, back then it didn’t. Later they changed the look and I stopped reading as a result. That made me sad. It taught me the phrase “rarer than hens’ teeth” (in an article about Duke Nukem 64, in reference to the Holoduke item).

Anyway, I’m not sure if I’m getting it confused with PC Gamer but I’m fairly sure one of its criteria when reviewing games was “sound”. I didn’t really see the point.

The thing is that for me sound in games is usually fairly irrelevant. Sure, I notice when it’s really bad, but most of the time that’s all there is to it.

That said I actually really like when sound and music are used as a core game mechanic. When a suitable art style is employed to bring things together it can be a really, well, not tactile, but that sort of thing. The sound ceases to be decoration, as it were.

The prime example for me is Rock Band. Without audio it’s basically just a puzzle game. That said the art style doesn’t get in the way of the audio. Interestingly Guitar Hero wasn’t as good for this – it had a great look to it but it interfered with my appreciation of the music.


I hoped to enjoy Beat Hazard hoping for a similar integration. Nope. The art style there was too much and the game mechanics required too much concentration. The music seemed incidental at best.1340677-beat_hazard_006

The thing that prompted me to write this post was Crypt of the Necrodancer. It’s a Rogue-like that uses rhythm-based gameplay. Having watched the video I must say I’ve no real interest in it, but the idea behind it intrigues me. Perhaps I shall have to design something else using the integration of rhythm.

Until then I think I’ll have to stick to Rock Band. I really want something else that lets me feel like I’m part of the music. Listening to it on its own simply doesn’t cut it – I want to do the videogame equivalent of sing along. That is to say interact with it in a way that uses the music as a foundation for player agency and enjoyment.

I remember in student halls once turning on the TV in the living room and seeing some Scottish news. It wasn’t anything interesting, perhaps something about politics, but it did have a strange effect. It suddenly made the fact that I was living in Scotland clearer. Prior to that it was just a new place.

More interestingly though is the fact that I’ve not really looked at Scottish news since and the disconnect has returned. When I’m in Wales and see the Welsh news that my parents watch most evenings I feel like I’m actually in Wales. Something about hearing about local affairs makes the place more real.

Now that I’m leaving Scotland I don’t really feel I’m leaving. Edinburgh might as well be any other British cities in my eyes. It’s familiar and I’ve been here a long time but I’ve not visited the tourist sites, I’ve not felt part of the local community, and I don’t feel I’ve encountered much culture to participate in.

I wonder whether that’s because of the time, my age, or whether without mass media in common it’s harder to form the kind of connection that one used to expect?

I just rage quit. I don’t usually but in this case ugh.

When I say “rage quit” I mean that I carefully closed the game, sighed, and uninstalled it. I didn’t play a game to be frustrated.

Admittedly I would have given the scenario another shot had it not been for Dawn asking “What game are you playing?!”. Instead of the game bearing the brunt of my irritation she redirected it towards herself. It doesn’t help that she seems to unintentionally sneer when asking those kinds of questions. She doesn’t mean it but it still sounds that way.

I don’t like talking about games with her as I generally find it tiresome and frustrating. Sails minus wind, if that makes sense. Her association with “pro” gamers doesn’t really help matters.

The notion of spending enough time playing a game to reach that level boggles my mind. It’s like professional sportsmen – health benefits aside I don’t see the point.

Becoming an excellent creator I get, but an excellent participant? It seems daft.hqdefault

You’re wasting my life.

So, yes, I tend to play games on a fairly low difficulty because the notion of them being a challenge seems insane to me. I’ve got plenty of challenges in my life, I don’t need entertainment to fall into that category too.

Am I saying that another way of thinking is wrong? No. I’m simply saying that I don’t understand it. I also don’t understand feet being sexy but I’m not going to argue that such a thing is wrong.

If I’m annoyed at a game let it take my anger. I don’t want to be mean to you unintentionally.

Oh gods, Mrs. Doyle…

05 June 2013

The destruction of music because of YouTube is enormous.
-Krystian Zimmerman [source]

homesewing1Right. Yes.

Rubbing is killing engraving too.

Here’s the headline that goes with that:

Pianist Krystian Zimerman storms out over phone recording


That seems a rational response to something that only harms the performance for the person doing the recording.

As per usual the comments on the BBC lean towards the early 1990s. People taking issue with people “living their lives through a lens” (Do you? Either way does it directly affect you if someone else does?) and things like this:

This type of recording is how so many movies have been pirated in cinemas particularly in China, where such recording is now actively discouraged.
-imberhk [source]

You know who is doing this to rip off the concert? A negligible number. You might as well complain about someone making a rubbing of an engraving like I said in the introduction. A phone recording doesn’t record any kind of proper audio and the video is usually an impossible to watch mess of spotlights and darkness. Let’s all rush over to YouTube to watch!

If you want to download a cam release of a film, go ahead. Getting upset about that is like telling everyone how much you hate having leaky shoes when it rains. Shocker – it’s crap and no one is seeking that stuff out – and those who do are a bit weird. Not the good kind of weird.

Performers need to get over the fact that we live in the 21st century and people like to communicate with their friends. No one is filming a concert with a smart phone so that they can burn 10,000 DVDs to sell at a car boot sale. People film as a memento of the event or to share a moment with their friends on Youtube. Performers are just to sensitive and pretentious.
-Barton71 [source]

Currently that comment has a score of around –100. Admittedly it doesn’t use “too” where it should but other than that it’s on the money.

Personally I’ve filmed gigs using a proper camera and microphone. It still doesn’t sound great, admittedly.

Most of the comments seem to be overly negative people intent on telling other people how to live their lives. I can’t say I feel that going to a gig and filming it badly rather than simply enjoying it seems sensible – but them doing it doesn’t affect me. I’ll live my life this way and document enough to jog my memory.

There’s also the fact that at most gigs I get bored. Music alone is rarely enough to entertain me. The only exception to this rule has to be TJ Muller and the Dixie Six:

Despite intimidating company I couldn’t help but smile and enjoy their groove. There was even swing dancing. Amazing.

I’m really not fond of multinationals. The simple fact is that they exist for profit. That in itself isn’t the issue though – their economies of scale and resources mean they can operate with relative impunity in most democratic states. Legislation always lags behind reality. A company can exploit a loophole for as long as it is open and then quickly adapt. Legislative structures take a while to catch up and by that point the big fish have escaped the net.

In this case I’ve been thinking about how they contribute to the economy of the country they operate within. Follow the money.

Local people spend their money in a store owned by a multinational.

The profits from the store flow through the multinationals accountancy department.

The rest goes into the company’s coffers to pay for whatever needs to be paid.

A small amount flows back to pay the staff of the store.

Profits go to shareholders all over the world.

Unless they create an insane number of jobs there’s no way they contribute sufficiently to the local economy to justify the many other enterprises they are able to push out. Marketing and ability to endure enormous losses means they can afford to drive away all competition should they be so inclined.

So taxation needs to pick up the slack. Of course this just means that multinationals put a lot of resources into their accountancy departments to find the most impressively acrobatic routes to funnel money. Governments try to stop them and by the time they do a different route is used. It’s a fair cop, guv.

Local people spend their money in a store owned locally.

The profits from the store flow into the business, suppliers are paid, staff are paid, tax is paid.

The rest goes to the owner who also pays tax on earnings.

In theory the owner could sit on a huge pile of money but given that there aren’t ridiculous economies of scale at work it doesn’t usually work out that way. Even then, large profits tend to be invested or spent and the money keeps flowing locally.

I’m not trying to say that local business is better in every way but it would seem some inefficiency is required until we rebuild our system from the ground up to take into account the behaviour of companies much larger than anyone imagined when we started out. How’s that for a run-on sentence?

Capitalism is supposed to be about competition, if memory serves, but MNCs are incredibly anti-competitive. The question being whether we should favour efficiency at all costs in a Randian fashion or whether one needs to consider that efficiency in one area makes others inefficient. Which do we want for our economy and society?

Yesterday I was talking about converting vehicles to RVs (you can go and check if you like).

Today I’m going to tell you why they’re all morons.

Well, no, the individuals aren’t morons, but I find myself completely at a loss when it comes to understanding the interior designer’s perspective when it comes to most RVs.


I mean, what in the hell is that?

Aside from the decor being some early 90s suburban drearyism crap look at the way the space is used!

Now when it comes to these things I’m not a spot on my old man. There’s a place in Renwick, on Uxbridge Street that we used to house project staff in. It has a little house and a reasonably large lawn, oh, and a shed. Nothing unusual.

The thing being that in New Zealand things are usually quite nicely spaced out. The population density is pretty low, at least on the south island. Well, it seemed that way to me.

The thing being that if one evaluated the property on paper as a physical area it could actually easily house a small retail area. About eight units, if memory serves, and a little plaza, and flats above the units.

I think the recession made it a poor time to redevelop the property but it really opened my eyes to what one could do should one strip things down to a raw canvas.

More recently I’ve seen things like this:

For me an RV should be considered not as a tin can on wheels that one has to live within, it should be more of a central component in a living space. That sounds like rather wishy-washy talk, I know, but it’s more the idea of thinking about what I’d really want to use such a vehicle for – travelling and experiencing.

There’s three rooms I need most: a bedroom, a big room, and a bathroom.

“Big room”?

Yeah. I was going to say “living room” but I don’t even know what that means any more. How does one define that? I have a living room in my flat and it basically houses the TV and I sometimes play Gorkamorka in there.

I’d rather have a room that can be reconfigured for what I need to do. Having a TV would be nice, for example, but with the advent of modern TVs I see no reason why it can’t be mounted on an actuating arm that folds up to the ceiling. Ideally it’d be mounted on a rail as well in order to be movable to the bedroom!

Furniture should be kept to a bare minimum and instead follow the design seen in the video – capable of expanding to provide more rather than stuck providing too much. A fixed table seems daft when a great many of my meals are eaten with a plate on my lap!

Drilling down further there’s the basics of the structure that confuse me. Modern materials allow for much more advanced structures whilst keeping weight at a minimum. Weight being the primary concern in order to keep energy usage low. Ideally I’d be running from an electric or hydrogen engine, I suppose. Whether those technologies will be available any time soon remains to be seen, sadly, but either way cost should be kept as low as possible.

In terms of lining the vehicle there’s two concerns – heat and sound. One major element of this is getting the feeling right. Surely sound-proofing shouldn’t be that hard to achieve using multiple layers of different foams? I find the way noise cuts right through thin aluminium walls to be a major annoyance. I feel like people outside are right next to me – not very private! Fixing that immediately upgrades the living space to something a bit more personal and intimate.

I also don’t like being cold. I imagine you don’t either. Don’t worry, that’s normal.

Insulating things appropriately and redirecting excess heat energy from the motor should be within the realms of possibility with a little thought. Right? I don’t want to have to waste energy on heating, which is of course rather costly, when there’s perfectly good heat being thrown away into the vehicle’s radiator!

Similarly lighting should be a non-issue in this day and age but vehicles seem to be stuck using incandescent bulbs that draw ridiculous amounts of juice each! LEDs, a solar panel roof, and sensibly placed fibre optics to bring in outside light. Seriously, why has this problem not been solved yet?

I know it can be done in reality. Surely it’s not that much to ask?

There’s so much to say on the whole portable living space concept, I’m sure I’ll have to revisit it further down the line.

The general idea being to cut down possessions in a minimalist fashion, although not to an insane degree, and then combine that with a portable lifestyle. I love stuff but given how much stuff we can digitise these days I can take a lot of that stuff with me!

A horse is not a home

02 June 2013

I stumbled across this today:recovery_01

First off I was impressed by the price – $3,500

Something I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time is a portable living space. I don’t like being tied down to a physical location for too long. It’s remarkable that I’ve been in Edinburgh for this long.

I also loathe how much rent costs. It drives me nuts to think that whatever I earn is mostly eaten up by the most basic of shelters. It’s just an ongoing treadmill to simply stay housed. Ugh.

Something else that surprised me:


See on the back wall?

Yeah – the 1963 M109 is actually wired for 12/24/110V power. How about that?

Personally I’d probably want a bigger space but it’s an interesting base platform.

Another interesting project would be this one:


Personally I find the layout choice in the bus bizarre but then again I’m looking at things from my own perspective.

I want to do another post on what I think about with regards to these sorts of things but that’ll be tomorrow.

See food, eh?

01 June 2013

I hate it when I can’t quite scrub the grime off an idea.

(In this analogy the idea is metal ore)

I’m thinking about food wastage and tracking a household’s stocks. Sure, there’s smart fridges and so forth, but who actually owns one? Is there sufficient benefit to justify it? I wouldn’t say so.

What we do have is near ubiquity of handheld computers. What if one had an app tracking the contents of the freezer?

Say I cook a batch of chilli and eat several portions. I bag up the rest and in the freezer they go. I know I have food in the freezer but even I can’t usually keep track of the precise number of remaining portions.

As a result I’m not quite sure how long my food will last or when I’m likely to need to go shopping again.

What’s getting me caught is how to define some sort of standard for ready meals and home cooking that allows for the relevant data to be easily transmitted and tracked. QR codes sort of work but without a tiny printer or something that’s essentially a no-go.

Similarly I don’t tend to think about recipes in the traditional way. I’m working on an idea based around components and techniques that’ll fit together somewhat like a Scratch program.scratch1

It’s not done yet but the idea is starting to take shape. I want to optimise some elements of cooking so we can get away from the hassle and back to the fun bit – creating something delicious!

Visualising what we have to work with is step one though. It’d be interesting to see what would happen if one combined such an app with a projector phone though. Get your infographic on, girl!

I’ll see myself out.