Everything Bad is Good for You

I’m almost finished moving to my new apartment. It’s not quite time to crack open a beer and relax, but almost. In the meantime, I’ve taken my pastimes out of their temporary hiatus and once again started playing games (the beautiful, memorable [Cruise for a Corpse](http://www.the-underdogs.org/game.php?id=252) via the wonders of [Dosbox](http://dosbox.sourceforge.net/)) and reading (Steven Johnson’s [Everything Bad is Good for You](http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0713998024/qid=1117535500/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl/202-3786381-6615801)). Although I’ll probably end up writing something about Cruise for a Corpse later, I’ve got a couple of things I’d like to say about Everything Bad is Good for You.

The last book I read before the move was Kevin Lynch’s [Image of the City](http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0262620014/ref=pd_sxp_f/102-4206398-0567330?v=glance&s=books), a book about the theory of town planning. Most of that book is spent teaching us new ways to look at cities and helping us develop a new vocabulary for describing cities and town planning – most memorably, it introduces the idea of a city’s [imageability](http://interconnected.org/home/2003/12/19/in_the_image_of_the_city). Dan Hill took this concept and applied it to videogames in his amazing essay [Los Angeles: Grand Theft Reality](http://www.cityofsound.com/blog/2004/12/los_angeles_gra.html) – I would encourage everyone to read this, regardless of whether or not you are interested in videogames.

Stephen Johnson does something similar in Everything Bad is Good for You (EBIGFY). Like Lynch, Johnson also tries to teach us to look at videogames in a new way and give us the vocabulary to describe video game concepts. Johnson accurately and eloquently sums up the positive aspects of videogames beyond the oft-repeated “improves hand/eye co-ordination” nonsense, such as teaching us the art of making sense of chaos in order to achieve a game’s objectives (he calls this practice “telescoping”). He also describes, on a physiological level, why we enjoy playing games in spite of the fact that they tend to frustrate us for 90% of the time.

Although his section on videogames is barely 35 pages long, it provides a more succinct and lucid essay about the merits of video games than I’ve yet seen from actual [videogame](http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1841151203/202-3786381-6615801) [commentators](http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0349107238/qid=1117540158/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_2_1/202-3786381-6615801).


Lazyweb: Broadband options

My girlfriend and I have been apartment-hunting for the past couple of weeks. We saw a fantastic apartment yesterday up in Stoneybatter that ticked all of our boxes (and a few we didn’t even know we had, like a [Smeg fridge](http://www.smeguk.com/Inglese/FAB30R4.asp)). Possibly the only thing I didn’t like about the apartment was the lack of a phone line.

We just got word today that the landlord is offering the apartment to us. Hooray! There’s a two-week overlap between our current place and the new place, so this gives us plenty of time to move our stuff up there and get everything ready. Since my girlfriend and I are both nerds, I figure it might be a clever idea to use these two weeks to arrange for some form of internet connection to be installed.

I was thinking of checking out [Irish Broadband first](http://www.irishbroadband.ie/index.htm), because it elimates the need for a phone line. But does anyone know what IBB’s service is like? Any horror stories?

When we moved into our current place, I asking IBB if they could provide service for us. The guy actually laughed down the phone as he gleefully told us “We’re not taking any more customers on that node! We’ve got enough! haha!” So, if IBB isn’t a goer, we’ll just have to bite the bullet; get a new phone line installed and go with one of the ‘traditional’ providers. Any recommendations? Smart? Esat?

Please, Lazyweb. I need your advice.



There is something intrinsically *fun* about playing with your food. Children understand this. And we tell them not to do it because.. well.. we were taught not to do it and, goddammit, if we can’t do it, we won’t let anyone else do it either. So there.

This is why I love meal-making with mince. Making mince mushy. Alliteration aside, when I’m preparing a meal out of paste that was once recognisable as meat, I’m instantly transported back to my youth: I’m 5 years old again, creating a mess with [mala](http://www.corkslang.com/mla.html). Except my meat creations taste marginally better than my mala ones.

I’ve made a couple of batches of meatballs now, but the ones I made during the week were the first ones where the ingredients felt right. And best of all, it was thrown together in less than a half an hour when I got home late and wasn’t really in the mood for anything too complicated.


* 450g pork mince
* kielbasa sausage (or any smoked/spicy meat)
* clove garlic
* wholegrain mustard
* half an onion
* 1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
* lime leaves
* salt & pepper

Chop the onion really, really, **really** fine. It doesn’t have to be evenly chopped, a few larger bits here and there add to the texture. But it still needs to be thin.

Similarly, chop the sausage into really, really, **really** small cubes. As small as you can. A good handful should do you.

Crush the garlic with the side of your knife and then chop it fine.

Throw the onion, sausage and garlic into a bowl with the pork mince along with two teaspons of the wholegrain mustard and about a teaspoon of the tabasco sauce.

Roll the lime leaves in your fingers to crush it, then chop it to make sure it’s extra-fine and add it to the bowl. Season the mix generously.

Now the fun part – mush the whole thing around until you get a consistent paste. All the ingredients should be roughly spread throughout the entire thing. Roll the whole thing up into little balls. There’s no rule as to the size of these, but I’ve found that they should fit *in* the palm of my hand, not *on* the palm of my hand. Does this make sense? Bear in mind, the size of the balls will affect the cooking time.

Pour a good amount of oil (olive oil won’t splash, vegetable oil will) into a decent non-stick pan and get it good and hot. When it’s ready, start adding the meatballs. You’ll never have a completely round ball, so I’ve found it’s best to cook these on one side, until they’re on the point of burning, then flip them onto another side. When they’re a dark brown on most sides, you can start turning them more regularly, to cook the inside.

Serve in some noodles with some chicken stock (Knorr do my favourite store-bought chicken stock right now).


Movie release calendar

This is still very much beta – use at your own risk

Today, I set about teaching myself the basics of web scraping, with the intention of putting it to some good use. Coincidence or providence, I read Kottke’s post about [creating an ical for summer movie releases](http://www.kottke.org/05/05/summer-movies-calendar), and immediately thought of a personal itch I could scratch.

The Irish Film and Television Network provide a list of [Irish Theatrical Releases](http://iftn.ie/diary/index.htm), but this is just one big flat HTML file that is only marginally helpful. It still relies on me to remember to go to their page and see what’s out and when. It would be much more useful if this information was somewhere I tend to spend a lot of my day looking – say, my calendar program – and even more helpful if it was somewhere I could carry it around with me – say, my phone.

Well, now I can. Using various combinations of bash, sgrep, awk and sed, I created a script that will automatically grab the ‘releases’ page of IFTN.ie and export it as an .ics file, which can be read through iCal/Sunbird, and from there, synched to my phone.

You can grab the .ics file here:

If you find this useful, [please let me know](mailto:johnke@gmail.com).

And now the caveats:

1. IFTN’s listing page is braindead. I can’t help this, and my script can’t predict its unusual behaviour. For example, why does it have two release dates for “Kicking and Screaming”, one on June 3rd, the second on July 29th? And why does it randomly have two “2005”s after “Fever Pitch”?
2. This is my first real time creating a .ics file. I ploughed through [RFC 2445](http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2445.txt) for pointers, but I might have commited some mortal vcalendar sin without knowing it.
3. Bug reports to the [usual address](mailto:johnke@gmail.com)

For my next trick, I did the same for videogames using [Eurogamer’s release dates](http://www.eurogamer.net/releases.php). Grab the calendar file here: