Category: Blog

  • Goodbye, Dungeon

    Today, Southampton’s Dungeon club announced that it would be closing this weekend. Although it’s been a long time since our university days, it’s sad to see it go. It’s one of the formative places of my youth—I was introduced to the place at age 18, full of nerves; by 21 the Hobbit and the Dungeon was our regular night out, and we couldn’t go to either without running into someone we knew.

    I dug through the archive to find some pictures of us all there, and came away with only two—these were before the days of high-res camera phones, after all. We were young, and clean shaven, and had glow-sticks braided in our hair.

  • The Bookmark

    The second book is nearly finished now, the one that not so long ago I thought I had lost the knack of reading. For all my worries, I had not lost the knack of reading, or of filling my mind and body and soul with all that I read.

    An old map serves as a bookmark, chosen at random from the detritus that collected next to my bed in untidier times. It’s a tourist guide to a place in which we were not tourists, a place of oil and dust and quiet optimism that one day the tourists might come.

  • A Most Productive Week

    January, it seems, has become our decorating month. Last year around this time, we finally sorted out Joseph’s bedroom, replacing the magnolia and jungle theme with something more to his current taste (and much tidier).

  • Enforced Reading Time

    Whilst faffing around with my blog the other day—in a regular incidence of “it ain’t broke but I’m going to fix it anyway”—I discovered some old half-written short stories that never made it to the web. (These two, if you’re interested.) Scrolling through the list of files that comprise my past attempts at fiction, it was immediately obvious that I’d not written even a scrap of a story since 2013. Worse, it’s been four years since I wrote anything complete—a paltry 342-word story called “Silence”, which my wife pestered me into writing. The last time I wrote something complete for myself was 2011.

    More worrying was the train of thought that followed that—when was the last time I read a work of fiction out of preference over doing anything else? Not a book read in a holiday’s abundance of free time, not a bedtime story for my son, but a book read out of pleasure, when I could or should be doing other things? Probably Neal Stephenson’s “REAMDE”, also in 2011.

  • A Comfortable Year

    Looking back on previous posts from New Years’ Eve, 2015 almost feels like a disappointment. There’s no pictures of far-flung deserts and mountains this year—I haven’t been abroad with work for so long that British Airways sent me a nice letter, telling me I’d been demoted to a mere peasant in their eyes and could no longer abuse the facilities of the business class lounge.

    We did manage four days in Vienna, and whilst it went some way to broadening the family’s geographic and cultural horizons, it mostly consisted of us improving our understanding of how to sleep in high temperatures, and whether it is possible to live on a diet of schnitzel alone.

  • Blast From the Past: Dragon’s Claw’s Chromatic Skill System

    Back in the dim and distant past of my school days, Dreaming Awake was called “Dragon’s Claw” and was going to be a video game rather than a book. As far as I can tell from trawling the Internet Archive, not much was posted about it online, but for some reason today I remembered the design work we did on its skill system.

    To my knowledge no game since has implemented something like this — probably because it’s not a particularly great idea — but it has a certain elegance to it so I thought it worth documenting.

  • Exploiting Conde Nast Magazine Subscriptions (for fun and profit)

    I have a pile of unopened subscription copies of Wired UK piling up in the hallway, so this evening I decided to try cancelling my subscription. It looks like you can only do that by email or over the phone, but for other subscription changes, such as change of address, the Condé Nast parent company offer a very helpful website. Rather too helpful.

  • Optimising for Download Size

    If, by some vanishing small probability, you are a regular visitor to this website, you may have noticed a few subtle changes over the past few weeks. In part due to trying to access it from a slow mobile connection, and also in part due to a series of tweets courtesy of @baconmeteor which got me wondering how much data is required to load a simple page on my own website.

    The answer, apparently, is just over quarter of a megabyte.

  • Android Without Google

    For several years, I’ve been considering whether I could—and should—dispose of my Google account. Since I wrote the linked post back in 2011, my use of Google services has declined anyway, and I no longer use GMail, Google+ or Google Calendar. At the same time, it has become apparent that users are at the whim of Google’s decision to close unprofitable services (even beloved ones like Reader), and to force us into using others against our will. “Don’t Be Evil” is starting to look hilariously naïve.

    The last hold-out in my desire to dump Google is my Android phone. Without a Google account and the closed-source “Google Play Services” blob that sits at the core of an Android phone, the experience is diminished significantly. While I like my phone’s hardware, I am not fond of the Google integration that I no longer fully trust. So, for the last few months I have been experimenting with running Android without Google.

  • Last Flight of the Vulcan

    The morning dawned slowly, dark and damp. The roaring of the coffee machine echoed the roaring of the rain driving at the windows outside, and we assumed that would be that for the air festival this year. Looking at the forecast, it seemed like summer itself was over too. The next week will be overcast and wet, and then it will be September, and the long autumn season will draw in.

    But by lunchtime the weather had brightened; one last gasp of summer sunshine, just long enough to let the Vulcan fly her last Bournemouth show.