Monthly Archives: February 2009




Good news for gaming geeks everywhere – Spelunky is not unbeatable. Today I finished this lovable bastard of a game after many hours of swearing and outright fun.

It’s an Indiana Jones-inspired platformer. It’s difficult and unforgiving, but fair. It’s cute and well-animated. Like its predecessor Nethack, the content is randomly generated and throws up constant surprises.

If you’re feeling anarchic you get to rob shopkeepers, who in this game have completely evil AI and will chase you down with terrifying efficiency.

It has a whole bunch of Secret Stuff which you find out in pleasant moments of ‘oh, I see’ and by checking out the buzz on the official message board.

the horror

the horror

It will make gamers respect you and give you fingers of whisper-nimble adamantium.

It’s completely free and will run on old PCs. As you can see from my stats (which I assure you are pretty good), don’t expect too many wins per play…

NYC polaroids 4

Something harsh and insistent breaks your doze. It’s morning. Saturday.

The door is buzzing. You’re not expecting any packages and it has been a while; it must be that time again. In the studio apartment, your bedroom is the living room, the kitchen, the entranceway. You drag yourself up and pull on some jeans, topless, eyes half closed.

You open the door.

A man stands motionless on the other side. He is short, squat and appears to be made of lego. Smoothly squared and plastic underneath his navy-blue boiler suit, his scalp surely bearing a stubby cylinder of plastic to clip into headgear (today a navy cap). He is of recently Mexican descent.

“Morning. Exterminator. Any pro’lems boss?”



In the shared hallway behind The Exterminator are faded plaques, dusty certificates, telling of the facilities once provided by the landlord – SHALL BE PROVIDED TRAPS, DUSTED ONCE A FORTNIGHT – now twenty years old and reduced to what ought to be. The artifacts serve only as a reminder of the dangers lurking within the walls.

Mice, bedbugs, rats, cockroaches… waterbugs.

Of all creatures, the waterbug is the most terrifying. You are not at all clear on: the appearance; speed; possibility of darting movement, or alarming colouration of the waterbug, and are content never to find out.

When The Exterminator asks – as he always does – you know what he wants to hear.

“No pro’lems? No… waterbugs?”

In remote Exterminator villages, when the young males come of age they are sent alone into the great communal basements, to survive for three nights in the rustling, scuttling darkness. To emerge on the fourth day, alive and of sound mind, grasping a furious waterbug – one great black/white antenna coiling in each hand – is a great omen for the tribe.

Today he bears a canister proudly before him, a hand-pumped relic from the 1960s, battered steel and thin rubber hose. Politely brushes past you – a liquid clang, the squeak of the pump.

You rub your eyebrows, make an effort to remember.

“I’ve seen maybe one cockroach this month. I think they get in behind the fridge.”
“Big one?”
“Yeah big one, maybe like this.”

Beneath the cap his eyes fix on you. Or perhaps on something just behind you; antennae wave in currents of air.

“Like a… waterbug?”

The horror.

“No. No… definitely a cockroach.”

His look fades.

The Exterminator sees into people’s mornings; the pale, vulnerable underplates of Saturday. He is not fazed by nudity, by embarrassment, by odours. Ignoring the darkness, the mess, he squirts a clear liquid carefully behind the kitchen units, behind the fridge, into the uncertain space beneath the kitchen sink.

You stand awkwardly until a pencil appears from behind a solid ear and the familiar form is offered to you. Then your scrawled and bleary signature, a barely disappointed

“Thank you boss, have a good day,”

and The Exterminator is gone.

the most pointless post ever

I’m back with a vengeance folks.

So I sent Aaron this email which I knew he’d find funny and he replied saying it was good TF material. The thought of posting it had never crossed my mind so blame him for this childish nonsense. If you start reading it and don’t find it funny then stop and go and do something else as the humour certainly does not improve any.

What follows is an exact email thread conducted yesterday by me and some former work colleagues, all professionals in the IT sector.

Continue reading


Air’s last post made me smile. I love these things. Would you like to know some facts about me? Well, I can’t promise they’ll be worth knowing but i’ll give it a good go.

1. My default frame of mind is bright and optimistic. I have shorter fuse than most though. Not something i’m proud of.

2. My mind absorbs numbers and superfluous data like a fat kid absorbs chips. I know most telephone numbers i’ve looked at a few times off by heart. Al’s old number in Saudi was 00966501613115, Aaron’s old number was 07900423577. I went on a date with a doctor once. She told me I was ‘on the autistic spectrum’. That’s not good date chat.

3. Catchy one-liners and concise phrasing turn me on and always have. I remember clearly standing up in the shopping trolley at pre-school age telling my mum to buy Vortex because ‘It Kills All Known Germs DEAD’. I loved thinking up clever taglines for ads at uni.

4. Being in the sea makes me feel elated. I grew up in the water. It’s the most magical element.

5. I learn most quickly when out of my comfort zone. I’d love to be more prolific with the gifts that I have. Lazyness is less acceptable the older you get.

6. My friend Lauren is always happy. Her philosophy is catchy and concise. ‘People are more important than things, relationships are more important than money’. She is wiser than me.

7. Hearing is on a par with sight. Music is more important to me than most things.

8. Erratic artwork appeals to me most. Pollock, Basquiat, Cabellut. Order terrifies me. I understand that it’s necessary but it freaks me out.

9. I can understand the argument for polyamory. Some people genuinely experience a need to be with more than one partner and are resolute about their partner’s right to do the same. I’m not one of them.

10. I have an irrational fear of the supernatural. It’s very silly but it genuinely terrifies me.

twenty-five things

My old high school sweetheart pinged me on pussbook with one of those ‘write twenty-five random things about yourself’ notes. It’s a fun exercise, a wee snapshot.

01. I love the exhilaration of snowboarding and skateboarding. Balance, acceleration, learned skills, nerves singing, muscles obeying, adrenalin, risk.

02. Science fiction is my crack cocaine. The feeling of having your imagination stretched in new directions and shaken out.

03. I’m a born problem solver. Unexpected adversity only gives me a blip of stress, quickly superseded by a calm, ‘how do we fix this’ response.

04. Loyalty is very important to me. Once I’m friends with someone, my resources are theirs indefinitely, irrespective of time and distance.

05. A colleague once said, “People are either collaborative, or confrontational.” I love cooperating on cool things – the feeling of combining talents to make something greater. I hate confrontation, and have difficulty with those people that pursue it for its own sake.

06. Making music with others is an amazing feeling, but for some reason I rarely find myself in situations where I can. I’d love to fix that.

07. I’m basically lazy and lack a strong work ethic, but the other genes I inherited make up for it.

mid-twenties, now there was a party

mid-twenties, now there was a party

08. I love creating things, but have a hard time completing them (see 07). I’ve found my best finish-rate is with the written word. So that’s what I concentrate on.

09. I hate not being taken seriously. I make an effort to be honest and say what I mean; it’s frustrating when people don’t recognise that.

10. Lucid dreaming is one of my favourite things. When the opportunity arises, I’m a flyer.

11. I love the feeling of understanding complicated things. When they click into place and suddenly appear simple, integrated into a wider network of thought. So I get my kicks designing complex software, and at home reading about science of all flavours.

12. Minimising stress is important to me at all times. I’m pretty good at it now; my boss tells me my calm approach is infectious.

13. Having money has never been important to me. It’s useful to alleviate domestic stresses, but in itself has little appeal. Easy come, easy go.

14. I often think of how I would be with my kids, teaching and playing. For now the scenario still feels far-off.

15. I’m a solitary person by nature. Years ago I would have said, ‘a need for constant human contact demonstrates insecurity’, but…

16. …I’ve learned that wildly different personalities are valid, and effective in their own way. Your own perspective is not ‘correct’, it’s just yours.

17. I much prefer order to disorder, but I’m not OCD about it.

18. Moving to another country taught me the value of minimalism, travelling light. The only things I gladly hoard are books, with the hopeful notion that my kids will appreciate them one day.

19. Long-term monogamy is by far my preferred state. However I’ve become very demanding over the last few years, possibly to a self-defeating degree.

20. In my 30s, I fully appreciate the restorative powers of the ‘disco nap’.

21. One day – when my future wife helps pay the bills – I’ll go part-time on my day job and start writing on a larger scale.

22. I think human relationships are the most important things we have. Getting to know people always works out for the best: you either experience something admirable in another person that you can emulate, or learn a negative trait that you can avoid having yourself. The more you meet, the more you learn.

23. I dream about my Gran and Gramps all the time, and I’m happy about that. I dream about my Mum much less often, but it’s always very upsetting in a bittersweet way.

24. I’ve never broken any limbs, apart from fracturing my skull as a toddler, way before the dawn of memory. When I was 18 I did suffer partial hearing loss in my right ear. I’ve long since adjusted, but as a consequence I feel a creeping introversion in noisy places.

25. I try to keep in mind that some things will never, never stop happening: learning, finding ways to be a better person, being wrong.