The mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been decoded →

After looking at the so-called code for a while, Gibbs realized he was seeing a common form of medieval Latin abbreviations, often used in medical treatises about herbs. ... So this wasn't a code at all; it was just shorthand. The text would have been very familiar to anyone at the time who was interested in medicine.

Yay for solving the mystery and all, but it's such a mundane solution that I can't help feel a little sad. Update: via MacDara Conroy on Twitter - Has a Mysterious Medieval Code Really Been Solved? (I'll save you a click: no)

Dear David →

Comic artist David Ellis is in the process of creating an amazing twenty-first century ghost story. One that's told across weeks of tweets and incorporating videos, soundcloud clips and audience participation. It's so simple, so well done and I couldn't be more impressed.

It Me

4D Toys: a box of four-dimensional toys →

This is incredible. Marc Ten Bosch wrote a really fun game about playing with 4D objects. But his video describing how the game works is also the best primer on how the 4th dimension works that I've ever seen.

The best homemade cacio e pepe

One of the things I miss most about living in Rome (apart from the awesome friends we had to leave behind) is not having steady access to decent cacio e pepe. I've written before about my love for this dish, how it completely changed the way I think about food. And it's the first thing I order whenever I'm in Italy.

To make things worse, I've never been able to successfully recreate the dish at home. The versions I make are always too gloopy, or it's too wet, or it's too flavourless.

Until Kenji.

In my house, Kenji Lopez-Alt is to food what Mark Kermode is to films. Nothing gets made without first asking "how would Kenji make this?" and consulting his book, The Food Lab (which might be my favourite cookbook). So, on a whim, I checked out what he had to say about homemade cacio e pepe. And he's got a video about it. I made his version tonight and it was, without a doubt, the best cacio e pepe I've ever made.

A couple of notes about his recipe:

  1. Don't use fresh pasta for this. The timings are for dry pasta and they're relatively precise - if you use fresh pasta, your pasta will be done before the oil has had time to cool down, so your butter won't emulsify with it. Plus, this is just a personal thing, but I think fresh pasta is kinda wanky anyway. If you're trying to impress someone with this dish, you're much better of spending your money on better quality cheese.
  2. Maybe use normal olive oil to fry the pepper at the start. Even being as gentle as possible, the extra virgin just has a sharpness to it that can overpower the cheese. Drizzling extra virgin at the end is plenty.

Binging with Babish: Kevin's Famous Chili from The Office

Andrew Rea's Binging With Babish is my new obsession. He's a filmmaker and amateur chef who deadpans his way through recreating dishes from films and TV. Like, I was tempted to share the video where he made the "Moistmaker" Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich from Friends, where he went out and cooked an entire 20lb turkey just for ONE sandwich. Instead, I'm highlighting the video where he recreates Kevin's chili from The Office and serves it authentically: on a sheet of cheap office carpet.

‘He Will Not Divide Us’ Livestream Placed in Middle of Nowhere, but 4chan Still Found Way to Troll It →

Finally when three planes flew over the area, 4channers were able to triangulate an approximate location of the flag.
This area was too large to search unfortunately. The 4channers began looking to the stars, using ancient astronomy to help map the direction of the camera and pinpoint a more precise location.

4chan has some of the best minds of our generation and I honestly believe that they could probably find a cure for cancer if they would only use their powers for good instead of just for being racist trolls and looking at anime titties.

Building the Ikea Bike Is a Pain Worth Suffering Through →

The Ikea Bike (the "Sladda") is an interesting proposition. It's a relatively cheap, low maintenance bike with some fancypants pluses (e.g. belt drive, disc brakes, and a modular ecosystem so you can get panniers and a trailer for your new bike). This is the first time I've actually heard of anyone's hands-on experiences with one. And I was totally sold until this line:

What isn’t easy to modulate are the gears on the Sladda. It only has two gears, and you can’t even choose which one you’re in. It runs on automatic transmission, meaning it adjusts between harder or softer gears based on your pedaling.

Dublin isn't even a particularly hilly city, but the idea of not being in control of your gears sounds insane to me.

Behind the Scam: What Does It Take to Be a ‘Best-Selling Author’? $3 and 5 Minutes. – The Mission →

Have you browsed Amazon's "best seller" lists recently? Noticed they're basically useless? Brent Underwood shows why there's so much useless junk on there (tl;dr people are exploiting the system to bolster their personal brand).

A while ago, I put up a fake book on Amazon. I took a photo of my foot, uploaded to Amazon, and in a matter of hours, had achieved “№1 Best Seller” status, complete with the orange banner and everything.

How many copies did I need to sell to be able to call up my mother and celebrate my newfound authorial achievements? Three. Yes, a total of three copies to become a best-selling author. And I bought two of those copies myself!

Setapp launches an 'App Subscription Service' →

I've mentioned before about how individual app subscription is becoming the norm, and how this could potentially be consumer-unfriendly. Well, Setapp have launched what could be described as "Netflix for apps". You pay $9.99 and you get access to all of their apps. There are 61 apps right now, a handful of which I actually use on a daily basis (Marked, Numi, Pixa, Sip and Ulysses - but that last one is a big one).

This seems like a great consumer and business friendly solution. Really hope this catches on.

Resilient Web Design →

Jeremy Keith has written a terrific primer on the importance of embracing the web we have and designing with open standards ("material honesty") and, more importantly, content in mind. It's a great read, even (especially?) for non-designers.

Coincidentally, over the last week or so, I've been making some changes to my personal websites (here and to make them more responsive and behave nicely on different devices. So this has come along at just the right time for me.

Indie Microblogging: owning your short-form writing →

Manton Reece wants to make a microblogging site for the open web and he's running a Kickstarter to help fund that. I don't know if another microblog can actually take on or even compete with Twitter (has anyone checked to see if is still breathing?) but I'm supporting this because I refuse to lose hope in the idea of the open web.

Films I Watched in 2016

For the last few years, I've been using Letterboxd to keep a track of every film I watch. According to my Letterboxd profile, I watched a total of 92 films in 2016. Which is the same number of films as I watched in 2015, which isn't bad, considering my wife and I had a child in early January, which severely limited our trips to the cinema.

I also scored each film I watched, with a maximum score of five. Which lets me pull out some statistics1!

My year in film

The average score across all films was 3.1 / 5, which is pretty good2! The lowest score I gave a film was 1 / 5 (actually, I gave it to two films: Camino and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse). The highest score this year was 4.5 / 5. The films I rated the highest this year were Rogue One (which I saw twice), Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Green Room and Steve Jobs.

92 films averages to 1.8 films a week. The graph of when these films were watched tells a bit of a story of the year. First week of the year, when my wife was heavily pregnant and ready to pop, we watched five films. Then, the entire month of April, when my baby was waking four or five times a night? One film.

I only reviewed 43 of the 92 films I watched in 2016, which is a shame, because my little reviews are more helpful to me in remembering why I gave a film a particular score. I could barely remember watching Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, but my review -- my little note to amuse no-one but myself -- reminded me why I gave it 1 / 5.


Last year, the average score was 2.8 / 5, so either films are getting better or I'm doing a better job of avoiding bad ones, I guess? 1: For context on the scoring, I have given nine films a perfect score of 5/5.

Best Games I Played in 2016

Every year, I do a roundup of my favourite games that I played throughout the year. Previous years: <a href="{{<relref "best-games-i-played-in-2013.markdown">}}">2013, <a href="{{<relref "best-games-i-played-in-2014.markdown">}}">2014, <a href="{{<relref "best-games-i-played-in-2015.markdown">}}">2015

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Okay, so technically this game came out in 2015, which is a great start to a year-end list for 2016. I played it when it first came out and it just didn't click with me. I'm not sure why. I knew going in that it fell under the ‘walking simulator’ umbrella. But I guess I was expecting more of a Gone Home style experience, where the game gives you an environment to explore and examine and a story that you uncover — or flesh out — for yourself. Except, as I found out, EGTTR is not that type of game. It's more like a radio play crossed with a heavy dose of Sleep No More. So, last month, I went back and played it like that, like it was a play that I was witnessing rather than actually being any part of, and the game bowled me over. It's poetic and beautiful without ever being mawkish and it's one of a handful of games to have ever made me cry.

Rise of the Tomb Raider/Uncharted 4

I don't think it's cheating to put both of these games on here. They're both really fun games that are great at different things. Uncharted had a great, grown-up story (a hero trying to settle down and re-adjust his priorities) and had the best free-flowing combat of any game I've played this year. In the previous Uncharted games, I'd hide behind cover and pick off the baddies one-by-one. In this, I was finally whizzing around the levels like the badass the game wanted me to be. Tomb Raider, on the other hand, had better, uh, tombs. Better puzzles that took advantage of the environment. The Baba Yaga DLC (which comes loaded on the PS4 disk) is stunning and a wild departure from what you'd expect from a triple-A blockbuster game.

TIS-100/Quadrilateral Cowboy

Look, if I can put Uncharted and Tomb Raider together on this list because of a thematic link, I can definitely put TIS-100 and Quadrilateral Cowboy together. In TIS-100, you have to solve a series of programming puzzles by writing assembly. Assembly! It's frustrating and you spend most of your play-time just staring at the screen, not typing anything. And oh my God, it's so rewarding when you finally figure it out. Just like real programming! Best part is that when you solve it, it shows you a leaderboard of how you did compared to your steam friends. If you've got nerdy programming friends, this is a huge pissing contest and it's great.

On the other hand, Quadrilateral Cowboy is about hacking to pull off elaborate heists. William Gibson meets Oceans Eleven. The game's action is more physical than TIS-100. You type your commands into your 'deck' in the game. For example, you program a door to open for five seconds, which should be just enough time for you to grab your deck and run through before the door shuts but not so long that the alarm will trigger. The real fun comes in stringing together a series of commands so that things will happen in sequence and allow you to steal the maguffin. Get that timing just right and you felt like you’re in Mission Impossible or something. But like, one of the good ones.

The Witness

Stop me if you've heard me tell this story before. When I was in my early twenties, I taught myself how to juggle. And the hardest part, I found, was just getting my brain to learn to let go of that third ball when two were already in flight. I spent weeks trying to throw that third ball in the air. I just couldn't do it. My hand wouldn't release it. Then, one day, something clicked -- and I mean clicked, like I felt a physical sensation in my brain -- and I could suddenly do it, no problem.

The Witness was that feeling again and again and again. Puzzles you think you'll never be able to do, then suddenly, something clicks and you're able to solve them. And then you build on that knowledge when you encounter the next thing you think you'll never be able to do. Rewarding and beautiful.


Firewatch starts with a strong emotional flourish every bit as powerful as the opening of Pixar's Up. And the genius of this bit of storytelling is that it completely affects the way you play the game, the choices you make. It's a walking simulator -- a nice hike in the woods simulator, really -- with a deep undercurrent of melancholy and loss. The development team has a pedigree that meant I was at least expecting something interesting. I wasn't expecting something so mature, so confident and so emotionally resonant.


This year's Hitman got so many things right. The slow roll-out of episodes meant that you didn’t feel that compulsion to just finish one level as quickly as possible so you could move onto the next one. You had time to get comfortable with each level and slowly ease yourself into the game’s mechanics. It also meant you were encouraged to explore, to try different things, try absurd things. But the thing I loved most about it was how ridiculous it allowed itself to be. It embraces the silliness of the game, from the opening training level set on a soundstage with a cardboard helicopter, right through to the Christmas DLC where your targets are the burglars from Home Alone. This was the first Hitman game I truly enjoyed.


There were a lot of quote-unquote 'horror' games in 2016 (I feel like the world reached peak 'survival' game this year), but these were mostly of the quiet-quiet-LOUD jump-scare variety. That's fun and all, but it's so one-note, it gets a little repetitive. Only one game genuinely chilled me this year and it was Kitty Horrorshow's Anatomy. A short, brutally efficient horror experience, which gives you the most mundane environment -- a suburban home -- then changes that out from underneath you on subsequent playthroughs. This is the simplest game on this list but it’s the one that’s stuck with me the most.


I'm terrible at shooting games. Just terrible. I've got old man hands, slow reactions and poor situational awareness. Oh, and I panic really easily. But here's what I loved about Overwatch: none of this matters. You can have all of these things and still contribute to you team's success.


Stylistically, this is kind of reminiscent of the developer's previous game, Limbo. But while Limbo was a cold, austere game with beautiful visuals, there's something warm and human1 about Inside. A few minutes into the game, you're followed by a gang of chicks. It's one of the cutest things you'll see. Tiny chirping pixels following you around. A little while later, a puzzle involves you sucking these chicks into a machine so they get spat out the top to hit a block and knock it where you can use the block. Then the chicks all run off. Except one. A chick — a tiny group of pixels — doesn't move. And it’s devastating.

The Last Guardian

For the first couple of hours with The Last Guardian, I was worried. I was finally playing the game I'd been waiting almost nine years for. The game whose original announcement had me rushing out to buy a PS3 the next day. The game that was the spiritual sequel to two of my favourite games of all time. And I wasn't enjoying it. It was cold and clunky. Was this what I'd been waiting for? But then I got to the part they'd shown in countless trailers. Jumping from bridge to bridge. And when Trico reached out to catch me with his mouth but missed and then swung his tail around for me to catch, I found myself holding my breath. Even though I'd seen this happen before. And I knew the game had worked its magic and got its hooks in me, hard.

And sub-human - that little mermaid girl still gives me nightmares