Category Archives: Cool things

My new website is ready!

Hi everyone!

Yes, it’s been quiet around here lately hasn’t it? I’ve got a few things going on:

I’m finishing my thesis on Monday next week
I’ve been putting the finishing touches on
I’ve got two clients’ websites to build

Yep, I’m definitely a busy bunny!

So, about the new site, the premise is that people have to guess the film/TV series name from a simplified version of a poster, DVD box art, or a scene. Have a look on there to see what’s been made so far to get the idea.

Currrently there are a couple of bits of coding to add, but I could do with more content so I’m hoping people on here might be able to help.

Basically, you create an account using the ‘join’ menu option, then you can use the ‘submit puzzle’ menu option to create new puzzles for the site. When you’re creating a new puzzle, please check the details on !

The best system of making the pictures I’ve found so far is to put the original image on one layer and then draw lines and sample the colours on layers over it. Personally I use Flash to make the pictures, but I’ve seen ones made in Photoshop or even Micro$oft Paint!

Important bit:
ALL IMAGES CAN ONLY BE UPLOADED IN .JPG FORMAT! This is due to the code involved in the watermarking feature.

After you have had five images approved then you can add a picture to your profile, and after ten you can add a link to a website. This will appear under your puzzles, hopefully giving you exposure to thousands of people every day! Hurrah!

This is still beta-test stuff, so if you have problems please let me know. There’s a forum on there too, which is a good place to post any comments that you have, .

Have fun!

Zombie cheerleader rampage!

Hurrah for Lordi (US link UK link), the barking mad rockers from Finland who are representing their country at this year’s Eurovision ‘Song’ Contest.

Any band that releases an album called ‘The Arockalypse’ gets my vote.

For people in the US who might not have heard of the Eurovision, it’s a big song contest where each country pretends to try and win, but actually only wants to give that impression because it costs millions to host and if you win then you host it next year. Ireland learnt this the hard way after winning three years in a row; their entry the year after was so bad that there was no way they were seriously trying to take part. The usual result is a bunch of below-average song-writing, passionate performances, and lots of dancers to make the whole thing seem more impressive. Every year someone (usually a country from northern Europe, who have developed a bleak sense of humour after several centuries of living in northern Europe) will put in a novelty act for a bit of a laugh. This year we have Lordi, but I’ve got a feeling that they stand a good chance of winning!

The Eurovision defintely needs more zombie rampages, and Lordi might just be the people to provide them.

Star Wars: The Designer Edition

This amused me today:

Star Wars: The Designer Edition

The concept is that the Stars Wars universe would be so much more fun if it was a bit less drab. The designs are fun, but I think it was the descriptions that caught my attention:

Fashion designer Betsey Johnson didn’t want Chewbacca to be called a “walking carpet” ever again. Gone are the earth tones and tattered accessories. The new Chewy is fun, funky, and fabulous!

The whole site has some great stuff on it, so have a browse!

Spam that’s mostly true!

Blimey, who’d have thought it? I was forwarded an email telling me to visit and to click on it to help raise money for mammograms. While 50% of the stuff written in the email is way out of date (it’s been circulating for five years), the site is actually real and does raise a huge amount of money through the advertising revenue from people visiting. They already get a massive amount of visitors, but everything helps and it’s going to a good cause. Visit and click today!

Drunken style wushu

Wushu is a cover-all set of Chinese martial arts that has a strong emphasis on jumping around all over the place looking rather cool, which is one of the reasons why I’ve always liked drunken style so much. Rather than having the more classically minded inspiration of animals, drunken style takes its inspiration from drunk people. The principle is that you fight with deception, pointing away from yourself or looking in another direction to confuse your opponent then flicking out a strike while they are distracted.

I had never seen the whole form performed in one go, but thanks to the fun of Google video here it is. It’s really rather funny to watch the guy fall over, sway, then perform an astonishing flip with almost no effort.

Personally, I do Wing Chun Kung Fu, in the ‘Wing Tsun’ style of Leung Ting. It’s not very pretty, but it is effective! Here’s some people who are very good at it, and here is the first form in all its bland glory!

Sadly, like many martial arts, and other old organisations, there are political arguments about who has the best form of Wing Chun which has led to lots of different schools and various spellings of the name being trademarked, such as Wing Tsun, Ving Chun, Ving Tsun etc. Each school has various good and bad points, but people only really begin to appreciate these fully after about fifteen years of practise, at which point they usually seem to split off and create their own version which is different from the others, gets its own trademark, and says that everyone else’s version isn’t right… Fortunately, unlike religion (where this also seems to happen a lot) this usually only creates a bit of tension rather than the death of millions, but it’s a shame that people can’t get together and try and agree on these things.

Two excited Japanese women and a robot snake!

Hibin wa roboto des! (‘Naaza’ means snake in Japanese, so I have no idea what that actually means, but the presenters sound very excited about it.)

My gods, these things will kill us all:


There is no confirmation yet, but it is thought that Nintendo is already designing their next interaction system based on fighting a hoard of robotic snakes while being cheered on by excitable Japanese television women with microphones. Shigeru Miyamoto might have said ‘Yes, it is a super new professional play method! It is a new gaming opportunity!’

As Kent Brockman would say, I for one welcome our snake-robot overlords!

2mins 50 secs is quite fun, where the two female presenters are clearly amazed by the robot snake as it swims around behind them.

In other technology news, $ony have said that the PS3 will be released worldwide at nearly the same time in November this year, 2006. This means that the Xbox 360 will have had a one year head-start in the market, so it will be very interesting to see $ony’s sales figures. There were earlier reports that the PS3 would be released around spring-summer time, but there appear to have been delays. $ony states that this is due to optimising the release date, but there has been some speculation that this is due to $ony trying to reduce component costs. The system is believed to be going on sale for an initially high price, even compared to the full 360 pack, which in the UK retailed for around £400. I’m looking forward to the system, but over £400 would definitely be enough to make me pause for a while.

Some good news about the system though: it will be 100% backwards compatible with existing PS1 and PS2 titles. While this isn’t an essential for a new system it is a very nice add-on, and certainly helps during those early months when the new titles are thin on the ground. Interestingly, they are also saying that there will be a 60GB hard-drive fitted as standard in the machine, which suggests that they won’t be going down the two-tiered road that Micro$oft used when releasing the 360 (the standard system lacked a hard-drive and various other useful bits).

Real-life version of The Simpsons intro

I have worked out how long I have spent watching the title sequence to The Simpsons. By my very quick calculation I have come to the conclusion that I have spent approximately twelve hours of my life watching it. That is a very, very sad thing indeed. I just hope that my calculations are wrong…

Anyway, Sky (the main channel that shows The Simpsons in the UK) have created a live-action version of the title sequence, so there’s another minute of my life gone. If you can overcome the growing sense of nihilism that I am facing then you can download it here. It really is very good indeed.


Lenore online! Hurrah!

For those who don’t know, ‘Lenore’ is a character in the comic books of a chap with the fabulous name ‘Roman Dirge’. Lenore is dead, apparently, and a little bit odd in the head (probably due to the expiration of her internal organs). Anyway, it’s all good fun and Mr Dirge has just started an online Lenore comic-strip. You can check it out here.

Exam tips

A friend of mine is coming up for her mid-term exams in the US, so I thought it might be a good idea to mention a couple of things that have helped me in exams.

Firstly, relax. I always think about exams as a way to demonstrate what I know, so think of them as a puzzle: ‘how can I say the most things that I know about my subject in answer to these questions?’ Approach them with the attitude that they can be an enjoyable workout for your brain and you’ll perform a lot better than if you’re massively stressed. So, relax.

A good way to help you relax is always having enough water. Obviously you don’t want to drink so much that you need to go to the toilet constantly, but the brain is the first part of the body to get dehydrated and this reduces its efficiency. Have a glass of water on your desk that you can sip at and don’t be afraid to ask for more during the exam. You might even like to get more than one at the start. There is another benefit of this: we don’t sit exams every day, but we do drink everyday, so we put a familiar motion in our body to help it relax and feel more at ease with the strange activity of exams. For the period before your exams, maybe a week or so, every time you take a sip of a drink think ‘relax’ and really get yourself to feel it. This will help condition you to associate relaxation with the drinking motion, and whenever you take a sip of water in your exam you’ll feel invigourated and ready to produce some great answers.

So, that’s the mental approach to the exam, now you need to get the best elements of what you know onto the paper. I would always spend the first five minutes of an exam brainstorming at the top of your answer sheet. It might feel like a waste of time, but it will give you a plan of what to write that you can refer to throughout the exam, so that instead of wondering ‘what shall I write next?’ you can simply look at the next point you want to make. This also helps you get everything said that you want to include, but more about that in a moment.

Write a two or three word summary of the question topic in the middle of the top third of the paper, then think of major ideas to branch off with from the main topic and draw them on.

Look through the main ideas and add branching sub-topics. Get about three or four sub-topics for each major idea. If you can’t think of that many then consider putting that main topic as a branch of one of your other topics.

Take a few moments to look at the overall set of ideas for themes and links that you might want to mention at the beginning of the essay, and then number the topics in the order that you want to write about them. With only a few minutes effort you then have a plan of what you need to write and in what order you will present it. Put a single line through the plan, to show that it’s not part of the formal submission, but leaving it perfectly readable. I’ve heard examiners say that seeing such plans increase the chances of a good score because, although they cannot formally mark it, they demonstrate the thought processes of the student and indicate a logical and organised approach to the subject matter.

Here’s an example plan that I drew up in a few minutes:

Here there was a hypothetical question of ‘President Bush’s reputation is extremely low in the international community. Discuss what factors have contributed to this situation.’

In the middle of the plan is the theme ‘Bush failings’, then we have four main subjects branching from this: Environment, Foreign Policy, T.W.A.T. (The War Against Terror), and Speech.

I then put in the main topics I could think of for each of these main areas of failure, such as not engaging with the Kyoto agreement, the prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq’s prisons, the lack of W.M.D.s in Iraq, and Bush’s sub-standard public-speaking abilities.

I began numbering the topics and decided that I had enough material and that discussing Bush’s lack of coherent communication skills next to allegations of child rape to get mothers to talk in Iraqi prisons was to trivialise the latter, so I crossed through the ‘Speech’ section. If an examiner looks very quickly at the plan they will be able to see this thought process, so you have demonstrated an analytical decision before they’ve even begun reading. Great!

So, my essay would move through the subjects like this:

Bush’s failures
–(Oil drilling in) Alaska
–(Tax breaks to polluting) industries
-Foreign Policy
–(Stopping imports of) UK steel (despite requests from the PM and his support in other fields)
–(Encouraging) China (into trade, then stopping imports when China gets better at textile production than the US)
–Afghanistan conflict (this may have been a good choice, but invading a country because of groups in it sets a bad precedent)
—(Was there any long-term) plan
—(Lack of rights for those in) Prison
–(Widespread allegations of, and legalistic redefinition of) Torture
–(Strategy that has) Angered Muslims (making them more likely to become radicalised)
–(Allegations of Iraq having) W.M.D.s
—(False) Evidence
–(Allegations that the war was really about controlling) Oil
–(Allegations of widespread) Corruption

As you can see, it would be pretty easy to write an essay from this quick plan, just by filling in the gaps. Also, this approach gives you a simple method of time-management. If you’re only on point 5 of 20 and you’re halfway through your time then you know that you need to make your next few points more quickly to fit everything into the time available.

I hope this has been of some use to you!

Mata: the new Liam Neeson

I’ve been having a fun five minutes with a PC-only download called Star Estimator. You pick a picture from your hard-drive, choose the gender and point to where the eyes are, press ‘start’, and off it goes to compare your picture to the ones of ‘stars’ stored on its server. After trying this with two different images I discovered that on average I look most like Liam Neeson:

Mata looks like Liam Neeson

He’s a bit old, but I’m not disappointed with the comparison. I’ve no idea who that ‘Matthew’ bloke is, but he looks vaguely familiar. I’ll stick with trusting the second suggestions more because they’re taken from a better photo 😀 I’m quite happy about the Stephen Dorff comparison too…

Well, as you do, I then tried the female comparison:

Mata as a female star

I don’t know who Monica Keena is, and I doubt she’d like the comparision, but I see where they’re going with that one. How odd.

So this got me thinking:

Samurai Lapin looks like Hugh Grant!

Samurai Lapin looks like Hugh Grant! Well, he does have a British accent…

LGG looks like...

The Little Goth Girl looks like a cross between Shannen Doherty and Linda Evangelista. I’d always suspected as much. I had them in mind when I was drawing her, can’t you tell? It’s the curves.

Mittens looks like...

Mittens looks like Keanu Reeves. Actually, I can see what they mean on that one.

Mr Snaffleburger looks like...

Mr Snaffleburger looks like a cross between Ashton Kutcher and Michael Caine. Err… No, I don’t really see that one myself.

And finally, because I had an image floating around on my hard-drive:

Christian Bale is the Nine Mouthed Baby!

Christian Bale is the Nine Mouthed Baby! That’s going to traumatise several people that I know, including my girlfriend. Mwahahaha!

Have fun!

Fun screensavers and desktops

Fancy having other people’s dirty confessions streamed to your desktop? (they get bonus points for making a Mac version too)

Here’s the one that I have as my desktop wallpaper:

Earthwatcher creates a new image of the earth, as seen from space, every twenty minutes. It’s really quite humbling to watch as the lights come on along the Trans-Siberian railway. As I write this the sun is going down in east India. This was mentioned by a person on my forums last summer and I’ve loved it ever since.

Of course, if you want to do something good with your spare PC runtime then get the FightAIDS@Home screensaver/distributed processing software:

Download it from here
(Currently Windows and Linux only. No plans for the Mac have been mentioned.)

Once you’re set up you can click this link and join the Matazone team so we can see how we’re doing together! Currently there are seven members of the team and we are ranked 1,072 in the world for our collective contribution to the study of AIDs and illnesses related to the human genome.

More info on that one here.

Retro game remakes

Oh dear… I really shouldn’t have found this site:


It’s remakes of classic 8bit games. I’m cutting myself off after rediscovering how much fun Lunar Jetman still is (remade as Solar Jetman). These are lovely, simple old games given a new lease of life for the PC age. They’re free to download too!

I must stop playing, I must start studying, I must stop playing, I must start studying, I must stop playing, I must start studying, I must stop playing, I must start studying, I must stop playing, I must start studying, I must stop playing, I must start studying, I must stop playing, I must start studying …

A very, very nice camera

Well, I don’t know who the person is, but a visitor to this site has been buying some very nice camera equipment in the last few weeks. Here’s the real cream of their picks:

Wooo… Purdy. Wouldn’t you just love to play with one of those? I’d just like to say a big thank you to whoever it is for using my associate links. The funding is greatly appreciated.

For new people, using the Amazon associate search boxes under the animations on my site means that I get around 5% of what you spend to put towards covering the costs of keeping this site running. It’s usually not a huge amount, but it adds up over a few months to a nice lump towards updating software, renewing hosting contracts, and paying for cup-a-soups so that I can have easy lunches while animating!

If you are going to be shopping on Amazon soon then please start your trip using a search box on my site! search box:



Amazon Logo search box:



Amazon Logo

Good Gifts

Now here’s a website that lives up to its name:

Good Gifts

Perhaps you won’t personally benefit from any of the things on there, but it’s a compilation of some very nice things to buy, ranging from decommisioned tanks that get turned into farm tools (£1000) to bikes to help midwives travel more easily in developing countries (£35). Or you can buy an elderly person a pair of slippers (£15) which might be a nice idea if you’ve lost someone this year and fancy doing something in their memory.

I think my personal favourite so far is paying £750 to get a book translated into braille:

The plot so far: the children’s section at the National Library for the Blind is under pressure. The huge demand from blind and partially sighted children and from blind and partially sighted adults to read to children outstrips supply. Please help: £25 buys a Braille book, £100 buys a book with giant print. And £725 actually provides transcription and master copying of a new title. And the name of the Good Giver (or receiver) is entered on the flyleaf. What a nice place to be.

How’s that for spreading Christmas cheer?

The JCB song

You might have seen this already, you might not, but it’s truly lovely, and they want to get to number one in the UK charts this Christmas. Good luck to ’em:

The JCB song

The video is a great piece of animation and the song is adorable. Do you get the impression that I like this?