Glee rips off Jonathan Coulton
They even left in the “Johnny C’s in trouble” line. If this is real, then it’s really shameless.


I made this

Most videogame writing is shit.

And don’t give me any bollocks about objective vs subjective, or “yeah, well, y’know that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” It’s true. More than any other entertainment industry, videogame writing is dominated by churnalism — press releases repackaged as news or editorial. Most videogame writers could be replaced by a Markov Engine and I doubt many people would notice the difference.

Rab Florence’s Lost Humanity series on Eurogamer was something special. He wrote with wit, humour and passion. He wrote with honesty. He wrote the kind of videogame writing I wanted to read. Then there was a bit of a kerfuffle and he stopped writing for them.

Remember what I was saying about digital entropy? I didn’t want that to happen to this writing. It’s too precious to allow it to crumble away to nothing.

So I made a book of it.

I took all Rab’s original Lost Humanity articles — screenshots and all — and some of the post-kerfuffle articles that were written on other sites and dumped them into LaTeX using Zed Shaw’s learn-x-the-hard-way as a basic template. I added an index. I wrote a little introduction (I don’t know why). From all this, I generated a PDF, which I sent across to And for less than the price of a decent cocktail, I had a hard-copy of some of my favourite game writing.

I’m really happy with the way this turned out and it’s something I can see myself doing a lot in the future. Or at least, I could see myself doing it a lot in the future if I can sort out my LaTeX workflow. I haven’t found a decent/reliable tool for dumping HTML/XML to LaTeX, so it takes a good bit of manual futzing to get it to a print-ready state. There’s also Blackstrap, which will generate a book of your Instapaper/Pocket queue, which seems like it’s scratching a similar itch.


We should retire Aaron’s number
This is something I’ve thought about a lot. What will happen to all my accounts after I die? Will my digital legacy just lie dormant while slowly being eroded by entropy? It’s a sobering thought. All the gold I’ve been dispensing on this blog and on my twitter account — gone. That would be sad. But for this to happen to Aaron Schwarz? That would be absolutely tragic. Dave Winer proposes a solution: that the internet at large takes a role in curating Aaron’s content as important historical artefacts. A lovely idea.


Crossword master Araucaria reveals in puzzle that he is dying of cancer

Quietly, ingeniously and, of course, cryptically, the beloved – and sometimes feared – crossword setter Araucaria has used one of his own puzzles to announce that he is dying of cancer.
Above cryptic crossword No 25,842 sat a set of special instructions: “Araucaria,” it said, “has 18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13 15”.
Those who solved the puzzle found the answer to 18 was cancer, to 19 oesophagus, and to 13 15 palliative care. The solutions to some of the other clues were: Macmillan, nurse, stent, endoscopy, and sunset.

This is very sad, but also strangely uplifting. I hope when my time comes, I can face death with the same playful, pleasant attitude.


Little Differences

Reading (or is it re-reading? I can’t even remember if I ever finished it) Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and, being someone who works with computers for a living, I keep catching myself using it as an analogy for how I respond to computers and computer maintenance. It’s like I’m doing a mental search-and-replace as I read the book — ‘s/motorcycle/computer/g’.

This piece, in particular, grabbed me

A friend who owns a cycle of the same make, model and even same year brought it over for repair, and when I test rode it afterward it was hard to believe it had come from the same factory years ago. You could see that long ago it had settled into its own kind of feel and ride and sound, completely different from mine. No worse, but different.

Macs aren’t renowned for their customizability. In fact, it’s part of what I love about them. With a Linux/Unix machine, it’s possible to spend your entire time tweaking your system and not actually get any work done. Macs are limited in this regard, each one is pretty much alike, so the operating system effectively disappears and there’s almost no friction between you and your work.

All the same, I have still managed to modify my MacBook (through a combination of Moom, Alfred and Keyboard Maestro) to the point where someone using my computer will eventually go “whoa” and back away from the keyboard. But it makes total sense to me. It’s the way I work. The same as yours, but different.

There’s something nice about that.


Good Night Lamp

I spent six months living away from my wife while she finished up her work in Rome. It was the worst six months of my life. Like losing a limb. Having something as simple as this — a light that tells you when someone is there — would have made the whole thing just a tiny bit better. I think it’s nice because it imitates the presence of the other person, but also because it’s a small way of saying “I’m thinking of you”.



When the Dublin Port Tunnel opened, they inaugurated it with a 10k fun-run. 5k up one tunnel, 5k back the other one. I did this for a laugh. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go for a run somewhere that was built to be un-runnable. And I wasn’t in awful shape when I did it. I could comfortably run about four or five kilometers without taking a break. You know, not bad for an enormous fatass.

When you come out of the tunnel, you’re just in the middle of nowhere1 on the M1. There’s nothing to see. But when I came out, there were people on the bridge above the motorway. People just came out on a cold, bleary day to cheer a bunch of people they didn’t know. They even hung a banner – “YOU CAN DO IT”.

That broke me. I started welling up and completely lost my stride. And that’s because I am a complete sucker for this kind of thing. I think it taps into something deep inside my lizard-brain. Some really basic emotions. These people could have stayed at home in their nice, comfy houses, with their feet up. But instead, they came out in the cold to cheer a load of out-of-shape people they didn’t know, just to tell them they could do it. That was strangely powerful.

Whoever is doing the copywriting for Nike is doing a great job of tapping into that same feeling. I’m struggling to get into shape (or rather, a shape that isn’t ’round’) and I’m watching this ad almost daily. It’s cynical emotional manipulation by a heartless corporation, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a little bit beautiful too.

2013-01-09 10.35.36

And then there’s this. Who wrote this? Most companies would be happy to leave it to the app’s programmer to write something insipid and bland like “You beat your previous record”. Because let’s face it, running 7.19km isn’t really an achievement for most people. It doesn’t need any extra effort or thought. But for me (and people like me), it was huge. It was epic. And I just love the fact that they use epic language to describe it.

Thanks, anonymous Nike copywriter.

  1. Technically, you’re between Santry and Coolock. Which is a synonym for “the middle of nowhere”. 



But isn’t a language that deletes code crazy?

No, wanting to keep code that demonstrably has bugs according to its own specifications is crazy. What good could it possibly serve? It is corrupted and must be cleansed from your codebase.

Vigil will do this for you automatically.

Vigil deleted a function. Won’t that cause the functions that call it to fail?

It would seem that those functions appear to be corrupted as well. Run Vigil again and it will take care of that for you. Several invocations may be required to fully excise all bugs from your code.

Vigil – a very safe programming language