Tuesday, August 31, 2004

My Southpark Character

Rather like "what kind of muppet are you?" this one...

In the South Park Studios, Games section, there is a link to a Flash game called "Create your own South Park Character". I decided to create a character modelled on myself. This process involved some careful soul searching, so I hope you all appreciate the effort:

Key features:
  • orange shirt
  • khaki pants
  • black shoes
  • stubble
  • greying, unkempt hair
  • beer... sweet, sweet beer...
  • Team America

    The South Park crew have taken time off making their wacky TV show to make a new movie. The trailer is very funny. It doesn't appear to relate to South Park in any way, which I think is a good thing, their sense of humour could really be applied to anything.

    Monday, August 30, 2004

    Cadbury's Smash

    Here's a picture...

    Sorry I couldn't find a better one.

    For Mash, Get Smash!

    Smash was a dehydrated potatoe product sold by Cadbury's (the chocolete company) for about 10 years from the early 70s. The idea was you'd mix it with hot water and you'd have instant mashed potatoes. As a Google search will confirm, the product is only remembered now for the addvertising featuring cute Martians. The advertising (not the product) has got some attention and awards recently, as you can see from the BBC link, but also on a recent Channel 4 show about the best TV advertising.

    More information on the AD (including links to watch it):
  • CIA Advertising
  • BBC article
  • Download Video

    So what? you may very well ask. Well, I am now totally obsessed about the fact that this edible product once existed but I can no longer sample it. Certainly I never had it as a child. It is effectively extinct. I have as much chance of eating Smash as dodo roulade with cranberry sauce. I must know what it tastes like! I have done extensive research on the Internet and all anyone will say is that it tasted like shit. That doesn't help! Can you please be more specific?

  • Sunday, August 29, 2004

    The Weekend

    Spent most of Saturday with a hang over, after Friday night. Met Sandra and Marcus for some lunch, got home in time to see the repeat Mayo Vs Fermanagh game. This time Mayo made it into the final! (Check out what Anthony has to say.) Last night we watched The Happiness of the Katakuris, a strange but funny piece of work indeed! Today we went to check out the festival of World cultures in Dun Laoghaire, had a very nice pizza, and now we are watching the Olympics closing ceremony at home.

    Unfortunetly the weekend is over, back to work tomorrow morning...

    Thursday, August 26, 2004

    Reasons for Getting Broadband

    1. Cost

    If you use the Internet enough, broadband might actually be cheaper, as you pay just one fixed fee a month and don't pay for "Internet" calls. If you use in daytime for business or share with a family or flatmates, it will save you money.

    2. Usage

    You get a lot more out of the Internet if you don't have to worry about the cost and the connection is always "ready". You use it more! You send more emails, so you get more replies. You start writing long boring blogs, like this one.

    3. Internet Radio

    Check out BBC 6music, not to mention all the other BBC digital channels. All free, all very high quality. There are even some Irish ones!

    4. Skype!

    Cheap, cheap calls, all you need is a microphone (€5), and you can call any mobile, land line, etc. in USA, UK, New Zealand, Ireland, etc. for less than 2 cents per minute. (I swear I'm not on commission.)

    5. VPN

    With a Virtual Private Network (if your company has it) you can work from home when you need to. The file servers, the email system, the in-house Intranet, everything you need is in your living room.

    6. What else?

    These are just the examples that apply to me, who knows what I'll find next week. You've got movies, shopping, chat rooms, TV, interactive forums, shopping, photo diaries, digital books, online games (from Chess to Star Wars), virtual 3D worlds, live bands, free software, did I mention shopping?, from the local supermarket to goods from Japan? If you can think of it, someone is doing it. Most of it either doesn't work or just isn't fun over dial-up.


    So go and buy some broadband! Stop hanging around. The technology is mature now. The free trials are ready now. The price is right now. Break free of the TV! Stop arguing and just do it. Get wireless while you are at it. Internet enable your fridge.

    Oooohh... blinking lights!

    I'm supposed to go back to work now. Lunch break is over. But I could be here all day. It's a post-modernist christmas tree!

    NETGEAR ADSL Router / Modem / 54mbps Access Point DG834G

    Wednesday, August 25, 2004

    The Network

    Ok, here's the full story...
    • I bought my NETGEAR Wireless ADSL Firewall Router online from www.dabs.co.uk.
    • It came with a free NETGEAR PCMCIA Wireless card.
    • Both were delivered within two business days. (Total about £128 GBP, incl. VAT + delivery)
    • To set up the router I had to plug it in, turn it on and plug in the phone line.
    • Then I just plugged in the PCMCIA card to my laptop.
    • The laptop recognised the card, set up the drivers, and connected me to the wireless router's network (IP addresses and everything, all automatic).
    • Then I simply had to browse to a special URL (the router's) and put in my ISP userid and password.
    • Then the router connected me to the Internet via ADSL.
    • It was a similar story with the Ethernet card and the Desktop PC
      (though this involved a screw driver and messing with drivers and I needed the Windows disk, all because as we don't have Windows XP on that machine.)

    So now I have this:

    My own secure house-hold network supporting any Ethernet or 802.11g wireless device I like.

    I can webbrowse anywhere in the house. I didn't need to fiddle with any technical settings, download anything or mess with IP or network configuration. On top of that it includes a firewall so I can get rid of the firewall on the PC (which I needed to either uninstall or pay for).

    The whole process was easy, automatic, fool proof. In fact too easy, I'm not sure it evens counts as an achievement anymore.

    I remember when setting up a regular network (no wireless) would take two guys about two days if everything went according to plan and you got lucky. It used to involve screw drivers, obscure commands, expensive hardware, multiple operating systems and in some cases soldering . Now it's a sissy job, much to my relief, I was never that up for it before.

    Monday, August 23, 2004

    The Village

    2004 USA
    Directed and Written by: M. Night Shyamalan

    I loved this film. Great acting, great writing, some stunning photography. The sense of creepyness and the opressive atmosphere is amazing (one of the reasons Andrea didn't like it).

    There has been too much talk about the ending being predictable. You will get it before it becomes obvious, and any number of people who do get it will think they are smarter than Mr. Shyamalan. But they are missing the point. It does not makes any difference when or how you figure out the truth of the story, the film makes its point whether this is a shock or not. The truth would be a shock to the inhabitants of the village, that fact it succeeds in conveying very well.

    This film is about innocence, and the relationship between innocence and fear. My personal take on it is that the film asks if innocences is a good thing, and whether the price of innocence is worth it.

    Sunday, August 22, 2004

    Paula in Brazil

    Paula is having a two week holiday in Brazil staying with Andrea's mother. It is going to be a "pampering holiday" it seems, lots of beauty treatments and that kind of thing. She is also going to our dentist in Brazil since most procedures cost about 1/5th what they do here. The savings more than pay for her AirMadrid flights! If anyone who was at our wedding (the last time Paula was in Brazil) is reading this, give her a call!


    Thanks to Brenda and Bob (but not Mike who didn't tell us), we now pay one third of what we used to pay to call Brazil.

    Ireland to Brazil, any number, any time, 6.4 cents per minute!

    We use Skype, a Voice over IP system. Essentially this is telephone software for your computer, which you download for free and use with a microphone and speakers (built into the laptop in my case), while connected to the Internet. You can talk to any other Skype user for free. No big deal (similar to NetMeeting), but the great thing is that you can also dial any ordinary phone number anywhere in the world. The person you are calling does not need a computer. Your voice is carried over the Internet to the country you are calling, and over regular local phone lines for the "last mile". That is what makes it cheap. VERY cheap!

    Best prices, Ireland to Brazil (Euro cents per minute)
    (Default state-owned telco)
    UTV ClickSilver
    (Our current call provider)
    (A very good pre-paid call card)
    (VoIP provider)

    I know I'm beggining to sound like one of those corny adds where actors pretend to be talking about a product, but I'm impressed. Andrea likes it too. I have no idea how well it works if you don't have broadband, but it will save myself and Andrea a fortune. Another reason to get broadband if you don't have it already.

    Friday, August 20, 2004


    Tonight I connected more things to other things with wires (one of my favorite hobbies). But the end result was that I could connect things without wires! I got a Wireless (802.11g) Ethernet hub and ADSL router from Netgear (one thing does all of those), a wireless PCMCIA card for the laptop, and an old Ethernet card for the PC. Now I use the laptop anywhere. I'm sitting in bed while I write this. (Andrea is reading Manga). It was all a lot easier to set up than I imagined it would be! I have lost my Windows '98 CD though, so I'm not 100% finished with the main PC, but that should take 10 minutes to sort out tomorrow. Goodnight!

    Thursday, August 12, 2004


    I spent the evening photographing Andrea's Manekineko collection. (Manekineko are traditional Japanese symbols of good luck, normally used in shops and businesses. "Maneki neko" means beckoning cat, they usually consist of little porcelain or pottery statues representing smiling cats with one paw raised.)

    She has about 25 in total, they are starting to take over the apartment. Won't be long before we have to put up extra shelves to accomodate them!

    This isn't a great example, but it is the most elaborate of Andrea's collection and is an interesting cross over into her Hello Kitty collection!

    Andrea has been feeling a bit better lately, I'm glad to say. We'll put up all the Manekineko pictures pretty soon.

    Tuesday, August 10, 2004

    New Laptop

    The company have provided a new laptop for me.

    It's a HP something. (Windows XP, 1600Mhz, 1GB RAM, 40GB HD, etc.). Actually it is very nice, though a bit heavy, I was hoping for a small one. Every time I get a new PC I get less excited than the last time, and this is about the 10th. Maybe I'm just getting old.

    Sunday, August 08, 2004

    Weather in Dun Laoghaire

    In case you are interested this is what the weather is like in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland, right now (5:30pm August 8th, 2004)...

    At least it isn't cold, just wet and windy. August is the peak of summer in Ireland!

    Boktai - The Sun is in your Hands

    I just got a new gameboy game, Boktai. I haven't even started playing it yet but I'm expecting a typical exploration and combat game which pits you against vampires, zombies, and various sorts of un-dead monsters. The gimmick with this game is that it has a solar panel, it detects sunlight, and "stores" it up for use by your solar powered weapons in the game.

    I must say I fall for these gimmicks, despite the mixed reviews, rather like the real time clock in Animal Crossing (Boktai has this also, the game gets darker and harder at night). I am expecting to enjoy the cross over between real life and the game. It may occasionally be embarrasing when I have to leave my gameboy on the windowsill at work. There is one major down side though, I live in Ireland.

    What was I thinking?! The sun shines here for about 5 minutes in July and that is it for a year. I'm going to be vampire meat!!

    In other news...

    I lost my bag, it contained my Gameboy Advance but nothing else of value, apart from the bag itself which I liked (despite looking a little bit like a handbag). So an expensive mistake that cost me €140!

    I think I lost it at Paul's going away drinks on Friday night. It didn't show up in the pictures though...

    Monday, August 02, 2004


    2003, Japan, Action/Period/Martial Arts
    Directed by: Takeshi Kitano
    Written by: Takeshi Kitano (screenplay), Kan Shimozawa (novels)

    I watched Zatoichi last night on DVD. Both myself and Andrea loved it. This is a fantastic, stylish movie. Within the first few seconds you'll be thinking Tarantino has got nothing on Kitano. Everything about this movie is great; the acting, the story, the dialog, the sound track, the action sequences, the photography. It is the story of a blind and anonymous sword master and his encounter with the local people and the criminal gangs in a rural Japanese town. In places sad, in others exilerating.

    See details in IMDB...
    Buy it online...

    Sunday, August 01, 2004

    Connecting Stuff to Stuff with Wires

    How much fun can I take in one evening? Today I connected my ancient QuickCam to the PC, along with a new cheap-o microphone, and another 4x USB HUB. The QuickCam produces miserable images like this one:

    Whats that on my carpet? My carpet! Yes, it's supposed to look like that. I don't know why. I stopped asking these things years ago.

    If you want to see more of that sort of crap, in fact a whole sequence of myself in various bored poses, you can check out the online "MarkCam" (tm). Though I'm unlikely to just leave it running, you might want to phone first...

    So here I am with microphone and webcam set up. All I need now is someone to talk to. That might be the tricky part.