Sunday, November 21, 2010


Heading home after an excellent con, full of mild racism and explicit innuendo - can innuendo be explicit?

Thanks to Andrew for giving me stuff to do, Dave, Bry and Claire for giving me normal(ish) people to talk to in the dealer's room, and the committee for throwing the whole shindig in the first place.

Hopefully it won't take so long to meet up with people again next time!

Friday, October 15, 2010


The cartoon I was talking about in the last post was called Skywhales, and it's on YouTube:

It's a little bit different than I remember, and rewatching it hasn't really gotten rid of that weird feeling I get when I think about it. It's just so alien; in how it looks and how it sounds - the "language" that the hunters use, and that dischordant music, which always sounds like it's almost but never quite congealing into something familar.

It's like the whole thing was designed to unsettle me.


Something, I'm not sure what, just reminded me of a cartoon I saw years ago that's always stuck in my head.

It was on Channel 4 in the late '80s; probably '88 or '89, 1990 at a stretch. It had a very minimalist art style and, as far as I remember, no dialogue - just music. It was a one-off animated short, not more than ten minutes long.

Here's about as much of the plot as I can remember: it was about a group of people hunting a flying, white (and possibly skeletal) whale. I vaguely remember there being floating islands, but can't be sure. I don't recall the entire story, but towards the end, one of the hunters was dying. He went on a walk through a cave on an island, and saw visions of the whales they'd hunted at the start of the film. By the time he got to the end of the cave, he had turned into a whale himself, and then he was killed by other hunters.

I remember being very disturbed by it at the time, and every so often I'll remember the image of the whale that was once a man being killed by hunters.

It still freaks me out a little.

Does anybody know what it's called? I think I need to see it again, to reassure the six-year-old me that's still haunted by it.

Let's go make some CRAZY money

Yesterday was the PAL Dreamcast's eleventh birthday, which made me feel old. How must guys who remember the Spectrum feel?

To celebrate the occasion, I dug out my old machine to indulge in some nostalgia, which is becoming a bit of a tradition by now*. The Dreamcast was the first console I ever bought with my own money, and only the second games machine we had in the house growing up (not counting multi-purpose machines like the C64 and Amiga).

After a brief flip through the disc wallet, I settled on Crazy Taxi** - mostly because the recently-dated XBLA conversion had put it back in my mind, and I was wondering if it would be worth the entry price. But after 45 minutes of cruising crashing around the Arcade city, I'm more undecided than I was before.

The problem isn't that Crazy Taxi isn't fun any more; I had just as much fun barrelling through traffic with terrified fares screaming at me as I ever did. But it is very much a game of its time.

The twitchy handling, unconventional controls and inconsistent physics. The bare-faced product placement. It's hard to see a modern gaming audience overlooking these problems, with the advances made over the last 11 years - even if, without them, it wouldn't really be Crazy Taxi.

I know that my enjoyment is almost completely down to nostalgia. All the things that made me smile were based on how I used to play the game back in the day - trying to remember or recreate routes through the city, picking up the sequence of fares to get the best time bonuses, trying to hit the helipad edge at just the right angle to clear the traffic on the other side. The soundtrack, which introduced me to my favourite band for the last ten years.

I'll download the trial at least, of course. And the allure of achievements might be enough to sway me, if they're not too stupid. And the Crazy Box leaderboards - my brothers and I had a long-running Crazy Jump rivalry, which I won by the narrowest of margins (about 0.7m).

But at the same time, I already have Crazy Taxi, it's still brilliant fun in its current form and I don't know if I need or want it to be updated.

*The other Dreamcast tradition we have is Shenmue - my brothers and I play through the game from start to finish every year when everybody's back home at Christmas.
**Really, I should have played Sonic Adventure or Power Stone - the games I actually had on launch day.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Hunter S. Thompson's cover letter

This is Hunter S. Thompson's cover letter for a job application to the Vancouver Sun, written in 1958, before he was famous.

It's worth reading in its entirety, so I've not cut anything down.

Vancouver Sun


October 1, 1958 57 Perry Street New York City


I got a hell of a kick reading the piece Time magazine did this week on The Sun. In addition to wishing you the best of luck, I'd also like to offer my services.

Since I haven't seen a copy of the "new" Sun yet, I'll have to make this a tentative offer. I stepped into a dung-hole the last time I took a job with a paper I didn't know anything about (see enclosed clippings) and I'm not quite ready to go charging up another blind alley.

By the time you get this letter, I'll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I'll let my offer stand. And don't think that my arrogance is unintentional: it's just that I'd rather offend you now than after I started working for you.

I didn't make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he'd tell you that I'm "not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person." (That's a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.)

Nothing beats having good references.

Of course if you asked some of the other people I've worked for, you'd get a different set of answers.

If you're interested enough to answer this letter, I'll be glad to furnish you with a list of references -- including the lad I work for now.

The enclosed clippings should give you a rough idea of who I am. It's a year old, however, and I've changed a bit since it was written. I've taken some writing courses from Columbia in my spare time, learned a hell of a lot about the newspaper business, and developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession.

As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you're trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I'd like to work for you.

Most of my experience has been in sports writing, but I can write everything from warmongering propaganda to learned book reviews.

I can work 25 hours a day if necessary, live on any reasonable salary, and don't give a black damn for job security, office politics, or adverse public relations.

I would rather be on the dole than work for a paper I was ashamed of.

It's a long way from here to British Columbia, but I think I'd enjoy the trip.

If you think you can use me, drop me a line.

If not, good luck anyway.

Sincerely, Hunter S. Thompson

via Boing Boing

Friday, October 01, 2010

Cat Adventures

Savage Chickens - Cat Adventures 3

Third in a 5-part series. Here are episode 1 and episode 2.

This should be familiar to anyone who's ever owned a cat.

Friday, September 24, 2010

102 Year-Old Lens on Canon 5D MkII

Timur Civan is a director of photography for movies, and a photographer. He’s also a tinkerer, and he got his hands on an old Wollensak 35mm F5.0 Cine-Velostigmat, a hand cranked movie-camera lens from 1908. You see it above, wedded to his Canon 5D MkII. But where did it come from?

Civan got a call from his friend, known mysteriously only as “a Russian lens technician”:

He found in a box of random parts, hidden inside anther lens this gem. A circa 1908 (possibly earlier) 35mm lens. Still functioning, mostly brass, and not nearly as much dust or fungus as one would think after sitting in a box for over a hundred years. This lens is a piece of motion picture history, and at this point rare beyond words. So I say to him, “Wow… what do you have in mind?” he smiles, and says, (in the thickest Russian accent you can imagine) “I can make this fit EF you know…”

The results are astonishing. This century-old hunk of glass and brass makes a great picture. There’s vignetting at the edges, a softness and a lack of biting contrast. There’s also a color-shift in the non-black-and-white images. In short, the lens adds all the tweaks you might do in post-processing to Holga-fy your pictures. Civan is planning on shooting some footage with the lens, too, which is its purpose after all, and promises to share the results on the Cinema 5D forums, where he posted his photographs.

But aside from the great pictures, and the wonderful story of the mysterious Russian, we can learn something from this tale. Camera-tech comes and goes, but photography is really just about light. That’s why you should buy the best lenses you can afford. They will probably last longer than you.

102 year old lens on a 5DmkII [Cinema 5D forums]

Partly to test this new "Share to..." feature in Google Reader, partly because it's a thing I desperately want.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Big Rig

Haven't bothered trying to get this close to the rig until now, but my engineer dad wanted to get a better look.

Big Rig

Haven't bothered trying to get this close to the rig until now, but my engineer dad wanted to get a better look.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Now playing

I wanted to try and describe this band myself, but their poster does a better job than I ever could.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Alien vs Hunter

These names are getting more ridiculous, I think. Although this one probably isn't much worse than the "real" one...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Project: MyWorld

The thing I've been working on for the last three years has finally been announced! We can talk about it, at last!

What would it look like if Nintendo built Google Earth?

Project: MyWorld turns the real world into a fun 3D social gaming experience. Project: MyWorld is a virtual recreation of the real world combined with 3D gaming and social media.

It is the next-generation of social gaming.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Digital Economy Bill: The Reply

After waiting five days for a reply to my last email, I forwarded it to Stewart Hosie's main email address, as well as the SNP HQ email address.

Within a couple of hours, I'd recieved this reply from Kevin, the same assistant who'd replied to my previous missives. The yellow highighting around "PEGI" is his, not mine; I'm still not 100% sure why it's there.
Dear Paul

Further to our recent correspondence, Stewart has advised that, whilst he agrees there was a lack of scrutiny to the bill, he believed that the need for PEGI to become the classification system for video games overcame his concerns regarding scrutiny and the other sections of the bill.

He appreciates that you may be personally disappointed but his decision was one he did give careful consideration to.



This rang hollow to me; after all, the BBFC and PEGI already rate pretty much every game released in the UK, and rushing through a bill with the kind of security and civil rights implications of the #debill just to formalise that situation seems extreme to me, so I sent this short message back - and have yet to recieve a reply.

Thanks for the reply - I was just hoping to get a little bit more information from you about Stewart's decision.

Given that video games are already certified by the BBFC in some cases and PEGI in all others, what benefit does rushing through the Digital Economy Bill have? I don't see how waiting a couple of months with the system we have - which is perfectly functional and enforcable - is such a terrible prospect that the civil liberties of voters need to be put at risk from legislation that has not been given proper scrutiny and consideration.

I don't understand how the serious concerns about the bill expressed by internet companies, security agencies and your constituents are deemed less important by Stewart than the rushed official implementation of a ratings system that is actually already more or less in place.

I'm looking forward to your reply.



Hopefully I'll get a reply, but honestly I'm not expecting much.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Digital Economy Bill

Last night, the House of Commons passed the controversial Digital Economy Bill. For more information on why this bill is a useless piece of garbage, see here and a million other places online.

Immediately after the debate, shortly before midnight, I sent an email to my MP, the SNP's Stewart Hosie, asking how he'd voted. I got a reply from one of his assistants this morning saying they'd look into it and get back to me.

I found the answer myself, before they got back to me, so I sent this to them as well.

Hi Kevin,

I already know, thanks to Hansard (link), that Mr. Hosie voted in favour of the Digital Economy bill, which only really leaves one question outstanding:

Is it the official policy of the SNP to disregard the impact of wide-reaching and unscrutinized legislation on your constituents' civil liberties, in order to appease corporate lobbyists, or is that only the case for this bill? Did Mr. Hosie not read or understand the bill and its implications for free speech and communication, or did he simply not care? He obviously didn't feel strongly enough about the bill's contents to participate in the debate beforehand, despite being in the House of Commons for the finance debate that took place immediately before it.

Dundee prides itself on its thriving digital businesses; games companies like Denki, Realtime Worlds, Tag Games, Ruffian and Proper Games; Abertay and Dundee University's focus on computing and new media courses; the city's participation in the Fibre City Project, and of course the massive publishing and content creator that is DC Thomson. How can Mr. Hosie, who claims to represent many of the people who work for these companies and institutions, justify not standing up to say a single word during the Digital Economy Bill's debate?

Given the controversy surrounding this bill, and the massive impact it could - and very likely will have - on the future of communication in this country, it was essential that the whole House be allowed to scrutinize the whole bill before it was passed. Instead, the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat front benches colluded to have the bill forced through in the wash-up, bypassing the democratic process and cheating their constituents out of their rights. I am horrified that my MP and the rest of the SNP went along with this cheap sham.

Leaving aside the grave implications this bill has for the health of Britain's digital economy, the freedom of speech and the sharing of information, this is a severe precedent set for the future of democracy in the UK.


Paul Cosgrove

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


The most interesting thing I've been up to lately: I've made (and released) an app for the Palm Pre. It's a search app for the D&D 4e Compendium (if that doesn't mean anything to you, then you might as well skip the rest of this entry), which I put together for two reasons:
  1. I wanted to learn how to use Ajax and multi-scene apps in the SDK, and
  2. I wanted this app for myself
The second one is probably the bigger impetus; with any other phone or device, I'd probably have waited for someone else to (never) make what I wanted, but this is the first time I've been in a position to do it myself so I figured I should probably take the opportunity.

DnD 4e Compendium - Search Form DnD 4e Compendium - All Search Results DnD 4e Compendium - Type Search Results

These screenshots are actually significantly out of date; I've just finished the first pass on my second round of features, so it does a ton more now than it did when it went online last week. I'm hoping to test it more thoroughly over tomorrow and during a D&D game on Wednesday night.

I've done some minimal promotion, on the D&D forums and Twitter, and at the time of writing it's been downloaded 89 times, which is way better than I could ever have hoped. If anybody reading this has a Palm Pre or Pixi (or if you know someone who does!), you can download it here - although if you wait til the weekend, the newer version will hopefully be available then.

This is actually the second app I've written for the phone, but the first will never see the light of day for fear that I will be sued into oblivion for copyright infringement.

In other news: work is good; the Christmas holidays were over far too soon; we finally got a comfortable computer chair.

Friday, January 15, 2010