Totally Fucking Mexico - How the Nathan Barley nightmare came true →

Nathan Barley is ten years old today and this is a great retrospective from The Guardian on how the show came about and why it's still so prescient. If you haven't actually seen the show yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And if you've already seen it, you owe it to yourself to watch it again.

Cards Against Humanity's Private Island →

The amount of planning and effort that these guys put into their little jokes is impressive. Although I kind of wish they'd gone with their previous idea of naming the island "Fuck Mountain".

Dessie

I realise I've mentioned him a couple of times on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, but I've never actually even mentioned it on my own personal blog. So let's fix that now.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Dessie.

Dessie

He's my dog and he's my best friend and I'm going to tell you about him. But first, a story.

My wife and I had wanted to rescue a dog for ages. We'd been out to Dog's Trust a few times and, although there were a lot of lovely dogs out there that needed homes, a lot of them were 'troubled' dogs. Actual conversation: "Oh! You're interested in Solo? He's such a sweetheart. Just lovely. But tell me, are there ever any small children in your house because he does have a history of biting. Yeah, he's been returned to us a few times because of that." Stuff that just broke my heart. I wanted to adopt them all, but I've never actually owned a dog before, so there's no possible way I could ever train one up to, you know, not bite small children. So we hadn't found the right dog for us. But we kept looking.

A friend of mine was fostering dogs for A Dog's Life and just before Christmas 2013, she started fostering Dessie. Here are the pictures of him from A Dog's Life.

Dessie - Before

The minute we saw him, we said "that's it, call of the search, this is the exact dog we want". He was so gentle and so sweet and we called up the charity the day after we met him to start the process. They don't actually allow people to adopt over Christmas (understandable, no?), so we had to wait a bit.

We actually got him on February 14th last year. Honestly, that timing had absolutely nothing to do with grand romantic gestures and had everything to do with bureaucracy.

Our lives have completely changed since then. In lots of ways, both obvious and non-obvious. Obviously, we have a lovely little creature to take care of now, so we have to arrange our lives differently. For example, we're meeting some friends for dinner next week and we're already talking about who's going to cycle home to walk the dog and cycle back into town before dinner. We have to plan things. We have to be more organised with things. No more leaving food on the table, for example. Also, before getting Dessie, I'd never picked up a still-steaming pile of shit on a frosty winter's day. That's a line I can't un-cross.

But there are also less obvious ways that things have changed. Like, we're part of the neighbourhood dog walking group that meet in the local park to walk their dogs. It's such a semi-formal group that they actually had a Christmas party, where everyone wrapped their dogs in tinsel and brought wine and brandy and cakes to the park and everyone had a merry old time. Before we had the dog, I had no idea this group was even a thing. Now I'm one of them.

He even climbed (most of) Lugnaquilla with us

It wasn't all smooth sailing though. For the first couple of weeks, he was absolutely terrified of me. I guess a handsome, burly man must have mistreated him before. We still keep getting these glimpses of what his life was like before he came to us. Snatches of his little neuroses that hint at some past trauma. Like, he's absolutely terrified of motorbikes. Even a parked motorbike on the street, he'll give it a wide bearth. And that was just the start.

For the first couple of weeks we had him, it was tough going. He wouldn't settle. He'd whine all night and then he'd whine all day (we set up a webcam so we could check on him via our phones - that's how quickly we descended into being just awful dog-people). But that's something I really appreciated about A Dog's Trust: along with the dog, they give you access to a sort of a dog counsellor that you can email with your questions and they'll give you advice. So you can say "my dog is doing $x", and they'll say "your dog is doing $x because of $y, you should try to $z". Well -- and I'm not happy about this -- when he hadn't settled after two weeks, I wanted to send him back. But the charity were lovely and answered all my questions and helped me get through it and I learned how to handle him much better because of them. That helped him become more comfortable with me and settle down.

And here he is now.

Best in Show

In this photo, he'd just won "best rescue", came third in "agility" and won "best in show" at the Greystones dog show.

So, things people should know:

  1. Sight hounds (whippets, luchers, greyhounds) are the laziest animals you'll ever meet. They sleep and they sleep. Here's a typical picture of Dessie: My dog likes to sleep I know everyone expects them to be really energetic and be a real handful, but if they can get just a couple of decent 20-30 minute walks a day where they can get off the lead and run fast, they're super-happy.
  2. The only issue with this is that they've got a really strong prey instinct and that can be a real problem. If they see something small (and preferrably furry), they must have it in their mouth. If that small thing is across a busy road, they don't care. So they need to be trained out of this, which can be a slow, slow process. It's only in the last couple of weeks that Dessie has stopped running out of our local park. For a while there, he was strictly kept on the lead, which was frustrating to both him and me.
  3. Also, you wouldn't think it to look at them, but they're incredibly affectionate. They're all skinny and pointy and you'd think they're not into the whole touching-feeling thing, but there's nothing Dessie loves more than to sit on the sofa with us. And he nearly always has to be touching us at all times. He'll be sitting beside you and just put a little paw on your leg. Adorbs. Again, another very typical photo of Des: Again, sleeping

If you're ever thinking about adopting a dog (and you should! I can't think of a single person whose life wouldn't be improved by getting a dog), I'd seriously encourage you to take a look at the whippets, lurchers and greyhounds. The pounds are full of them and they're just the best.

Monkey Island 2 Background Art →

Monkey Island 2 had some of the best art of its time. The colours, the character. And nearly all done in marker? So impressive.

Hello Jekyll

One of the nice things about having a blog that no-one actually reads is that you can do silly, borderline reckless things with almost no fallout. For example, you can completely change your backend from Wordpress to Jekyll on a whim.

So this weekend, that's exactly what I did.

And I have to say, it's been an interesting experience. I moved from Livejournal to my own Wordpress blog, on my own domain (fuckcuntandbollocks.com - RIP) in 2004. Besides the general embarrassment that comes from reading stuff from your past, (especially when I moved away from the earnest, personal writing on Livejournal and I was trying so hard to be clever and articulate over here), there's also the sheer volume of cruft that's built up over time. I've spent the weekend blowing the cobwebs off the darker corners of my Wordpress database and trying to extract this content into something that makes sense and will out-live Wordpress. Both of these have clarified exactly why I needed to move to something like Jekyll.

Now my blog is written in text files that live in my Dropbox and I don't have to worry about the latest Wordpress 0-day exploit.

But there's still a lot of work to be done. Broken images need to be found. Broken links need to be fixed. The migration is maybe 90% complete. So bear with me while I get it finished.

PT: The Movie

Someone put together all the best bits of PT (one of my favourite games of last year) and cut them together as a 'found footage' horror film. And you know what? It still scares the pants off me.

The matte paintings of the original Star Wars trilogy and their creators →

When I was about ten years old, I saved up all my pocket money for months and bought myself a hardback copy of Industrial Light and Magic: The Art of Special Effects. And the thing I loved most about this book was all the matte paintings. Such a simple idea, but so powerful and so evocative. I'd get lost in them for hours. And here we are, over twenty years later and they still draw me in, every time.

Mubi

You know the way on Netflix, there’s a ton of films, but they’re all shite? And the way that discovery on Netflix is next to impossible, so you have to go to third-party sites to see what they recommend, or even to find out what’s just been added (you know things are bad when you’re going to a fucking blogspot site to find out what’s new). So I’ve been looking for something new.

A few years ago, I remember trying Mubi and it wasn’t much better. It was like Netflix with an arthouse bent: hundreds of films, but hardly anything you'd want to actually watch. A broad selection of films so it looked impressive, but they were shallow as mud.

I don’t know when exactly, but somewhere in the last few years, they completely changed their focus. Now they’ve got an extremely narrow, extremely deep selection. How narrow? They’ve got thirty films. That’s it. Every day they add something new, every day they take something off. And they take care with the films they add. These are thirty tightly curated films that are almost always worth watching. Here’s the current list of films as of today:

There are some amazing films on there that I want to watch again. There are some amazing films on there that I’ve been meaning to check out for ages. And the ones I haven’t heard of? Well, the overall quality of the rest of the films means I’m comfortable knowing that they’re probably worth checking out.

Mubi isn’t paying me to write this blog post. I’m writing this for completely selfish reasons: I only just discovered how great this service is and I want to make sure it sticks around. So do me a favour and give Mubi a shot?

The Fleshlight Model Visits the Fleshlight Factory

My favourite part of this video is where she's standing next to the owner of the fleshlight factory and the interviewer asks the owner "have you ever used the fleshlight?" and he's like "of course!" then realises he's standing next to the lady whose fake vagina he masturbated into. I haven't seen anything that awkward in ages.

Broad City Meets Sleater-Kinney →

I don't know who in NPR thought it would be a good idea to invite the stars of Broad City (one of the best shows on tv right now, btw) to interview Sleater-Kinney, but that person should be given a massive promotion.

How PAPER Magazine’s web engineers scaled their back-end for Kim Kardashian →

One of the things nerds love to do is look at other people’s stacks and say, “what a house of cards!” In fact I fully expect people to link to this article and write things like, “sounds okay, but they should have used Jizzawatt with the Hamstring extensions and Graunt.ns for all their smexing.”

I rarely link to articles that relate to the kinds of things I do at my day job because they're usually so dry and boring. But remember when I said Paul Ford was one of my internet heroes? Well, this shows why. So terrifically written.

This is Water

A while ago, I went through a rough patch, both mentally and emotionally and this speech -- specifically the audiobook version -- helped get me through it. I'd listen to it at night when I was more likely to be hit with a panic attack and it helped calm me and also helped me think outside of myself, which was exactly what I needed.

God, I miss DFW.

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet →

Owning a cast iron skillet requires stability. It requires an ability to think in the long term. Can you live up to it? As you will see, this is not the kind of pan you can expect to cook with for a couple years and throw away once it starts to show signs of use. It’s not goddamn Teflon. Your cast iron skillet will outlive you, and your care is important, even crucial. More than anything, you should only have cast iron in your life if you love it. Now ask yourself, are you ready?

I bought a cast iron skillet a couple of years ago and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. We live in a disposable world of planned obsolescence and to have something that you know will outlast you -- well, that's a special feeling. Plus, it's an amazing tool to cook with. But this article is totally right: taking care of the skillet is something you have to take very seriously.