Archive for the ‘Whimsy’ Category

Back to the Drawing Board

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

As the new, temporary logo above might imply, this place is getting a bit of a makeover.  I’ve been away for ages, filling up my time with other stuff like work, but the truth is that I’ve missed writing horribly, and I’ve got plenty to say to boot.

To be honest, as a developer for the modern web, this place doesn’t really cut it any more anyway.  It’s been around since 2003 – when the browser landscape evolved at a glacial pace appropriate for the sea of broken calculators – and the last skin was knocked together over a few warm evenings in 2010 or so – long enough ago that IE6 compatibility still mattered.

Now the web is better.  Many of these old things don’t matter, or matter less, and we can finally afford to break free of the shackles of backward compatibility.  In line with how I feel about all this, it’s high time to kick this blog into line as an any-device, multi-resolution vehicle of whimsical nonsense suitable for these exciting times.

Of course, things get worse before they get better, so I’ve purposely pared down the existing site to embarrassing dullness to maintain the personal pressure on presenting a web presence I actually feel proud of.  (You may have noticed that I’m not filled with enthusiasm over this one.  Oh, you had?)  There’s a whole load of other things that need doing, including shifting the actual hosting which has been begging to happen for over a year.  That could even mean that the email works properly.  Who’da thunk?

So!  Begone, ye IE6 PNGFixes and bizarre filters for transparency!  Away, yon arcane PHP wizardry to conjure images of dubiously anti-aliased non-web fonts!  And what will I do with that vortex logo that I’ve been using since 2003?

Over the next few days I’ll be posting up some stuff that I have been working on over the last couple of years, ‘cos some of it is quite interesting.

In the meantime, as KC Green puts it…

tumblr_mee0xcsOtb1rzhg3ko1_1280KC Green’s Literally All I Do All Day

Happy Birthday, Sonic

Friday, June 24th, 2011

For those who missed it, Sonic The Hedgehog was 20 yesterday.  To celebrate, here’s 10 facts (plus a bonus) which I randomly squeezed out onto Twitter last night and you may have missed.  All of these are true.

No. 1: Sonic 2 was released on “Sonic 2-sday”, which was a Tuesday, which was a great play on words but also quite odd.

No. 2: The cheat codes for Sonic 2 in the UK were exclusively revealed in the VHS databurst on ITV’s Bad Influence!

No. 3: Rik once knew 10 cheat codes/glitches for Sonic 2. Play 19, 65, 09, 17 in Sound Test & A+Start in menu for level select.

No. 4: Sonic & Knuckles gives a series of “special stages” if plugged into any other MD cart, A+B+C+Start on title screen.

No. 5: Sonic CD had a cheat code that allowed you to play with the orientation of the 3D cloud texture on the title screen.

No. 6: The Sonic CD Wacky Workbench zones – the Past variant – had a secret statue in a room that threw you rings.

No. 7: Sonic 2 & Knuckles contains a bunch of new extra lives in hard-to-reach places that require climbing. Have a hunt.

No. 8: The Spring Yard Zone (Act 1, I think) is the only level in Sonic 1 to have 2 separate exit signs. (They both spin.)

No. 9: Extra lives in Master System Sonic 1 disappeared forever after collection, except one which gave 2 lives & didn’t.

No. 10: Tails’ full name is Miles “Tails” Prower, the quality of which as a pun is left as an exercise for the reader.

Bonus Mario Fact: Super Mario Bros. 2 was a completely unrelated Japanese game, with some sprites & title screens changed.

An Evening At Westfield

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Just stopping by the country’s largest shopping centre for a drink and some bunting. Y’know, as you do.

ISO Standard Work Music

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

The other evening/early morning I was up late coding – no grand surprise there.  While cursing quietly and achieving minor victory in equal measure, some familiar, soft electronica smoothed the path toward success.  In one of the few moments I noticed it was even there, I got to thinking about the same small stack of albums that have been doing this for the last ten years.  Glossing quickly past the disquieting realisation that I started university over a decade ago, this ISO Standard Work Music (to coin a phrase from those work-hard, play-hard halcyon days) was something I thought I’d share.

So turn back the clock, imagine you have an un-started 5,000-word essay/programming assignment to finish by morning, and enjoy a night out on the keyboard with DJ Rik Ward, circa 2001, at the helm…

10pm – 12:30am : Deep & Chilled Euphoria (mixed by Red Jerry)


A masterpiece of pensive synth, ambient wash and twinkle, this hefty double-CD soundtrack of being in for the long haul was notable for the significant number of unavailable-elsewhere dubbed-out remixes of popular euphoric trance of the era.  Deep & Chilled Euphoria took an expertly mixed journey from quiet, rumbling beginnings through the plainitive yearning of (a mis-labelled Irresistible Force mix of) Coldcut’s Autumn Leaves and a memorably sparkling, sparse version of BBE’s seminal Seven Days and One Week.

One Discogs reviewer describes it as an “incredible” release filled with “essential ambient gems” and I’d be inclined to agree.  As a double-bonus, one of the tracks has the excellently-named “Tim ‘Love’ Lee’s Semi-Bearded Remix” and the first CD contains something by Rui Da Silva that’s actually any good.

After 2 hours of ear-paddling, Moby brings the album to a close and you’re snapped out of your entranced concentration for a brief moment.  The silence lasts for as long as it takes for you to open your browser and go to…

12:30 – 4:30 : Soma FM’s Drone Zone & Beat Blender


Many are aware of soma.fm‘s perenially popular and undeniably funky Groove Salad which, although occasionally verging on the ambient, is just a little too groovesome for that special all-nighter mix of isolation and concentration.  Enter Drone Zone, which is still playing its trademark “atmospheric textures” as I write this, 11 years on.  Best described as sounding a little like you’re floating in space, the minimal soundscapes gently change as the midnight oil slowly burns away.

As the morning wears on and you inevitably begin to flag, up the tempo with Beat Blender, which lies somewhere in between the aforementioned two – slightly funkier beats lie alongside some deep, ponderous house to keep your brain ticking over as dawn approaches.

4:30 – 6:30 : Progressive Anthems


It’s getting serious now.  The sun is behind the horizon, as is the home stretch.  If only you could stay awake!  Quickly whipping out something to bludgeon your brain into paying attention, you whack Progressive Anthems on the stereo.  After briefly marvelling at the no-expense-spent cover art with its ground-breaking use of periods, your psyche latches once more onto vaguely-familiar mixes of then-recent trance floor-fillers.

This time, however, a variety of producers with even sillier names – Fred Numf feat. Five Point O for example – have been drafted in to make them longer and rather less interesting, which is exactly what you need.  Storm, Schiller, X-Press 2 and (god forbid) Tomba Vira thud past in an unremarkable yet not unenjoyable way that only early 90s progressive trance can.  Before you know it, 2 hours have gone by, and it’s half 6 in the morning.  How’s that assignment coming along?

6:30 – 8:00 : Chicane – Behind The Sun


The sky is orange, and the warm pads of Overture wash in your direction as you eye your word processor and realise you’re over the word limit and furthermore, you like what you see.  Somewhere nearby, a programmer surrounded by long-forgotten pizza has finally written something that works.

Your spirit lifts, and you hum along to the bittersweet melancholy of No Ordinary Morning.  By the time you’ve got to Saltwater the editing stage is two-thirds undereway and it’s looking cogent and coherent.  Confidence is rising and your warbling along to Clannad can be heard in the next room.  Bryan Adams’ appearance on the ropey Don’t Give Up goes unnoticed – the euphoria is building, you’ve cracked open a Coke and started on reformatting the headings.

The sun rises over the halls of residence to the final strains of Andromeda, bathing your room in colour as your enormous HP printer rambunctiously rattles out the finished article, waking up the rest of your corridor in the process.  Coat and trainers on, you stride purposefully out towards your department in the dozy morning sunshine.

Now, don’t spend all afternoon in the bar.  You remember what your mother told you about alcohol, don’t you?

Just A Little…

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

…Hammersmith in the evening. I’ve got some long-form posts on the boil but as a wanton social butterfly my time to complete them is scant. In the meantime, have this pic from yesterday’s 5-mile (count ’em!) walk home.