Stuff that Syn does

"It's almost like I did it myself, mum!"

This is Why I Walk and Talk This Way
At 8:45 on Saturday morning, I was woken by my alarm. I was a little confused, because it was louder than usual, and I didn't remember my alarm going, "I'm a bad/Bad/Motherfucking DJ/This is why I walk and talk this way!". Eventually I twigged that it was a phone call, but by the time I put the phone to my ear and pressed Answer, it had rung through to voice mail. It was Myriam, but I was a little unsure why she'd be calling me at this time of the morning, even considering she was an hour ahead. I may have drifted off again, and got another call at 9am, which I managed to answer this time. She wanted Christmas present ideas for my family. Did I mention that she's coming over for Christmas? I don't think I did! Mum invited her over, and because she would have been spending it with aunts and uncles in London who don't celebrate the holiday, she decided to come. We're flying to Ireland next Saturday! That one kind of crept up on me, and it was only when Myriam said she'd see me in a week that it hit home.

In other news, I've been offered tickets to see two separate bands at the O2 Arena in the past two weeks. The first was from some girl on OKCupid who I'd sent a message to a week or two before, and got no reply from. She had a spare ticket to see Placebo, and she wanted to know if I was interested. I was kind of taken aback; I had to decline, however, as I was going to a gig in London the weekend before with James and Alex, and that had worked out kind of expensive. Second ticket was from my ex-housemate (One of the couple that moved out in September), who has a spare ticket for Depeche Mode this Wednesday. Considering I was listening to them quite a lot recently, I'd like to go, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to be working overtime that night. Also, cost is still an issue, and the O2 Arena's in sodding Greenwich, which would take me ages to get to! So yeah, no gigs for me :-(. Except the one I went to with James, of course. It was great, but I can't be bothered writing about it.

Speaking of which, I should go and play Forza 3. I bought it on Wednesday, and I'm completely lost in it already. I'm a total slave to racing simulations :-/

I had a dream this morning that I wanted to record, in spite of the fact that it's 1am and I should really be going to sleep. When I woke up, at around 6am, I wrote a text to James, which I sent at a more sociable hour. Doing this helped me remember the gist of the dream, I think.

Basically, all of humanity had died out; the reason was due to starvation. My brain didn't really give a good reason for this, but I wasn't questioning it too much. Suffice it to say that there just wasn't anything to eat. The extinction was very recent, and there were only three people left alive; Myself, James, and one of the programmers that I work with. He didn't figure very prominently, and got left behind pretty early on. It was kind of like an accelerated version of Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road', where James and I rapidly got weaker and weaker. Eventually we were at a harbour town, and in exhaustion we both fell into the water and were carried away. As we were swept along, I could hear birds singing, which struck me as odd, because I just assumed all life had died of starvation. Feeling more and more weak, we both washed up; James in a jungle, and me in a room that seemed to look out over the same jungle. I stood up with the last of my strength, and tried to open the door, so I could reach James, but someone was holding it closed.

Then I died/woke up. The feeling of getting weaker throughout the dream was very vivid, and similar to other vivid dreams I've had (Like the one where Aphex Twin came out of a TV and choked me, and I could feel his hands around my neck, or the one where I took drugs and could feel my face melting). I've 'died' in a few other dreams before, but it doesn't happen very often. Anyway, it was nice to be able to recall my dream; I've been aware of dreaming recently, but I can never remember quite what they're about when I wake up.
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The Chopstick.
Okay, I got my music blog up and running yesterday. Just one review so far, Hanne Hukkelberg's 'Little Things', but I'll hopefully have more to follow. I'm never going to run out of albums to review, but I guess I should be focussing more on (relatively) new releases. As such, I'll be reviewing Bibio's 'The Apple and the Tooth' next. It's excellent, and you should all listen to it.

Anyway, blog is here:

The Chopstick

I think the title is probably a reference to The Spoon. What do you think of the banner?

Games + Music
On my way to work yesterday, I saw a heron perched on a roof not far from my house. Another bird that I assumed to be a crow was flying around it, occasionally swooping at it, which would cause the heron to duck. Eventually it flew away, and the crow followed it aggressively. I meant to Tweet about it when I got to work, but it slipped my mind. I just remembered it this morning when I saw two small birds chasing each other around a wall.

So, what's been up in my life? Recently, I guess there was the play-testing we did at work. It was something I took part in back when I worked at Ninja before, and we did it again for the new game. I didn't do the testing, obviously; it would make no sense to try and get information about gameplay from someone who's been playing the game for the past 7 months. Instead we got in a few people who've never played it before, and took notes about how they played the game. My job was to encourage the guy I was with to keep talking about his experience, and what he was thinking. He was someone who played quite a lot of games, and it sort of showed, because he finished up a good half hour to an hour before the other three! Anyway, it was an interesting change of pace.

Other stuff: My previous plan to start up a music blog kind of fell through before; I tried starting a review of The Mars Volta's Octahedron, but I didn't really feel that strongly about the album, so it never went anywhere. Inspired by Lisa, however, I had another stab at it, reviewing an album of her choosing (Specifically Hanne Hukkelberg's 'Little Things'), and managed to finish it. I'm going to revise the review slightly this weekend, and I need to do some stuff to set the blog up, and try to make it look nice (I've never been too good at that, as you might notice from this one), and then I'll post it. I'm also planning to review Bibio's new album, 'The Apple and the Tooth', which is fantastic. I'll link to the blog here when it's ready, anyway.

Germany, Part 2: Freiburg
The train journey from Regensburg to Freiburg was largely uneventful. I had to change at Nürnburg, but I don't really remember anything about the station there. After five and a half hours, I arrived in Freiburg station; Joel and Chris were waiting for me there. As we went to get something to eat, I discovered that Chris didn't remember me. Fair enough, I guess! It was back in 2006, and I was slightly less sociable than I am now (Which isn't saying much, really). We'd met at a couple of GPA parties, at the same time as I'd met Thomas (Who I met again at the end of last year), but I guess I didn't make much of an impression back then. I tend to try to blend in at parties. When I told Chris we'd talked about Kings of Convenience, however, he remembered me. So that was good!

We sat outside a café, and Joel and I tried a local dish, Flammkuchen (literal translation 'flame-cake'); essentially a pizza with ham and onions, with sour cream instead of tomato and cheese. It was really good! We went to a nearby pub and had a beer; I managed to come across as someone who had very little knowledge of both beer and German. After that we made our way back to Chris' place, where we drank more beer and waited for a few of his friends to arrive. Corinna arrived first, followed by Florian. Corinna had lived in Guildford for a while, so she knew Joel already. Florian lived in Ireland for a while.

At around 10:30pm, after about 4 or 5 beers (Bottles, mind you!) we made our way to the pub/club, in the freezing cold. We milled around for a bit, and I had a Weissbier, which Chris informed me was made with yeast. It tasted odd, but nice enough! We moved back and forth between the pub area and the dancefloor, and spoke to a few German people. Chris, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, introduced me to a guy who'd lived in Alabama for a while. Before long, someone said the magic word (Jaegermeister), and shots went around. I had two, and a whiskey and coke, and eventually ended up on the dancefloor, dancing like some kind of twat. That didn't last long.

Suddenly it was 2am; outside the pub I remember some German guy talking to me about football (The next day, Joel and Chris told me I was visibly bored). Eventually we left, and made our way to Florian's house. I'm not sure how much I was participating in the conversation at this stage. I just remember Florian preparing several Vodka/Red Bulls, which I had one of. Corinna did the splits in his kitchen. Eventually I left with Joel and Chris, and we got back at around 4am, at which point it seemed prudent to eat cheeses and drink red wine. There was an Austrian cheese which I really enjoyed, but I've forgotten the name of it now.

I was fine the next morning; reassuring after my red-wine bender, but I was being a lot more sensible. We spent Tuesday walking around Freiburg, without much in mind. We had a really good doner kebab, had a look around Game Stop, and went to an independent record store. I was looking for German music in particular; they had a pretty small electronic section, but some fairly obscure stuff! Considering the poor exchange rate, though, it was all pretty expensive, so I only bought one CD in the end; Pillow - Flowing Seasons. Turns out it's not even German! It's on a German label, though. Also, it's really nice; ambient stuff, a bit like Helios, but with vocals.

Not long after that we went home. Florian arrived, and we played Assassin's Creed and Tomb Raider Underworld for a while, before heading back into town, this time with Chris' girlfriend Anne. There we went to a schnitzel restaurant, which was amazing. I made a point of ordering in German, which was met by applause, and the food was great. We were joined later by a friend of Florian's, whose name may or may not have been Pia. Her English was really good. Before long we left the restaurant. Joel and Chris and I went for a few more drinks, but I became really tired, so we got home at around 1am.

The next morning I had to leave fairly early; we walked to a bakery to get some croissants, and ate them with German ham and Swiss cheese. Then we walked to the station, which took about 40 minutes. Waiting for the train, I felt the same kind of thing about Chris as I'd felt after I met Thomas last year; even though I'd only really spent a couple of days with him, he felt like an old friend. Moral of the story: German people are cool. I left Freiburg at about 11am, and got home at about 8:30pm. So, it was a long journey.

Germany, Part 1: Regensburg
Soooo. Last Saturday morning I woke up at 4am, and left the house shortly after 5. To the train station, to Stansted airport, to Frankfurt Hahn, to Frankfurt Main station, to Regensburg station; the journey in total took me about 12 hours. Next time I visit Myriam, I'll just bite the bullet and fly to München, it'll be so much quicker.

Anyway, I arrived at about 4pm, and went to grab something to eat in the shopping centre beside the train station. I got scared of the German sausage, so I just went to Subway. Myriam got a coffee somewhere, so we sat there as I ate. After that, we walked towards the town centre, with no particular aim but to see the town; Myriam moved there about three weeks ago, but she was away for a week, so she hasn't seen a lot. There's a huge cathedral there, which we walked around inside of, taking photos. We wandered around some more, got a bit lost, and bought some fruit, vegetables and nuts from a stall. Back at the station we got some groceries, and took the bus to Myriam's apartment.

She'd planned to take me to an Irish pub that night, but after we made something to eat (Spaghetti bolognese) and drank some wine, we were both too tired, having both got around the same amount of sleep. So, we stayed in and watched Arrested Development.

Next day, a Sunday, pretty much all of the shops in town were closed. In the morning we decided really needed some orange juice, so we walked to the nearby business park, but no shops were open. We eventually found a petrol station, and got something to drink there. It was about 1pm by the time we got back, too late for breakfast, so we had some lunch. Headed into town at around 2pm, and ended up back at the cathedral. When we were there the day before, we noticed a small museum at the back, so we checked that out; turns out they had some pretty awesome artefacts. After some moderately successful low-light photography, we headed back out and walked around town some more.

We ended up at a small bar/bistro; I walked up to the bar to look at the menu, and the woman behind it said something to me in German. I told her I didn't speak any German and asked if she spoke English. She didn't. After some meaningless gesticulating and apologetic looks, I sat back down with Myriam to try and work out if they were still serving food; from what the woman has said, I didn't think they were. She came over to us, however, and went through the menu in bits of broken English that were better than my fractured German. Turns out they were serving pizza, so I ordered one. It was pretty good. When I was finished, I asked for the bill in German. She seemed pleased by this; she was really nice in general.

When we left, we got a bus to where one of Myriam's co-workers lived, a fantastically nice apartment. Several of his friends were there also, and the six of us played a version of Uno with several additional rules that turned it into a more fast-paced and exciting game. Drinking red wine (again), we played for a couple of hours. Back at Myriam's place, we watched another episode of Arrested Development, and called it a night.

Myriam left for work at around 8:30 the next morning, and I milled around for a while before getting a bus to the station, and then a train to Freiburg, five and a half hours away.

My Ruin
Guess I should write something about my trip to Ireland, huh? Heeeere goes!

I had a half-day on Thursday, and got something to eat with Mum and Beck before going home to pack. Mum was kind of rushing us, though, and it was a bit stressful; I'd hoped to set up the internet before I left (God knows I'd been trying for a week), but I didn't get around to it. Mum's a little on the cautious side, so we turned up early for the coach to the airport, which got us there much earlier than we really needed to be, and resulted in us sitting around in Stansted Airport's horribly crowded Wetherspoon's. Glee. Beck and I listened to Bibio's 'Jealous of Roses'.

The flight was uneventful. On arriving in Derry, Niall picked us up, and we drove to Beck's. Before long Dad arrived to take Mum and I home, and I had a fairly early night. I don't remember much about Friday; Mum and I went to Donegal town in the morning for a bit of shopping, and I bought Beck a birthday present and a card. Beck came around a bit later, with her PS2.

I don't remember much about Saturday morning either, come to think of it. Most likely this is because of what happened later. It was Beck's birthday on Friday, so we went out for a meal on Saturday night; my family, her fiancée, and some aunts, uncles and cousins, 11 of us in total. The meal was nice, but I was already quite drunk by the end of it. This can probably be attributed to Dad. I had a glass of red wine on the initial drinks order, and then he bought two bottles of red. Seeing as it was just the two of us drinking Red wine, we had a bottle each. It kind of went downhill from there, too. The manager of the restaurant/bar we were at bought us a round of drinks (This has happened before, as we go there quite a lot), and mine was a whiskey and Coke, which I drank in parallel to my last glass of red wine. Oh dear. From here on it gets a little fuzzy, but from photographic evidence I estimate that I had some toxic-looking pink cocktail (A 'Woo-Woo'?), a glass of some clear orange liquid that I remember nothing about, and at least one shot which consisted of Creme de Menthe, Baileys and.. Tia Maria? My last clear memory is of dipping my thumb in the shot and having someone attempt to light it to play some stupid drinking game. Of course, the game is supposed to be played with Sambuca, and Bailey's doesn't really catch fire. And then... nothing.

I woke up the next morning, feeling okay. It then occurred to me that I had no memory of getting home the night before. I checked the time; 1:45pm. Starting to get a little worried, I scoured my memory for any hint of what happened after I blacked out. Ah, there it is.. I remembered kneeling in front of a toilet in a cubicle, retching into the bowl. I think my cousin was outside, asking if I was okay; I mumbled an affirmative. Great. I grew worried that I had become some kind of fountain of puke and completely embarrassed my family, and got the shakes as a result. With no solid memories, how could I be sure I hadn't? I steeled my nerves, got up and went to the kitchen. Quizzed my Mum a bit on what had happened, and she said I'd been fine (Apart from being sick in the toilets), albeit rather drunk. I'd been singing at one point, and we got home at about 2:30am (My last memory is from about 11:30, according to the timestamps on photos). Feeling queasy and unable to eat, but not hungover, I sat and watched Crocodile Dundee on TV for a while. Decided to lie down again for a bit, and our cat Mitzy joined me; she didn't seem very lively herself. Whilst I was resting, I reclaimed another memory. This was the one I'd been waiting for.

I was in the toilets again. Someone had been sick in the sink. Eugh. It was me, wasn't it? I was that guy. You know how if you get a bit of food clogging the plug-hole of a sink, you can usually dislodge it by putting your in there and swilling it around? Yeah, I did that. I think my cousin was behind me again, and he told me to leave it alone. So, my main concern now is whether I washed my hand off before I went back out, or whether I spent the rest of the night with a puke-y hand. My parents didn't say much on the subject, which was either because they didn't remember much themselves (They were also drinking heavily), or because they wanted to spare me.

And that's largely it. I spent the rest of Sunday recovering, and flew home the next day. Work has been pretty ordinary. I should go now, because I'm planning on seeing District 9 today. Laters!

Just when my orange hair was starting to look awesome, I changed it. To green! First time I dyed it, the streak was still yellow, so it was quite a bright green. It faded after about three days, though, so I did it again, and this is the result:


It's a little more inconspicuous than the orange, so I don't like it quite as much, but I still think it turned out cool, and it's pretty much what I had in mind when I decided to dye it green. So, hooray?
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Super Cock Blockers!
You know, it occurs to me now that I never actually posted about this here before! Basically, TIGSource held an Adult/Education competition. I was initially set to do music for three games (One of which was called Commander Cock), but two of those fell through. I was left with Super Cock Blockers, which was developed by the Gang Garrison 2 guys, who you may remember I made music for before. This was more chiptune stuff, and it turned out pretty well.

The game is available here (Although it may be unsafe for work, if you work in a place that takes exception to pixellated willies and boobs. Or if you're easily offended!). If you just want to hear the noises I made for it without having to look at scandalous imagery, you can download the soundtrack here!

The rest of the competition entries are here, if you're interested in checking them out.

It's been, what... two weeks? Yeah, two weeks. I guess a lot of stuff has happened. I'm going to throw up some bullet points.

  • I finished watching the jPod series in the space of a week or so. It wasn't particularly good; considering the source material, it just struck me a being kind of safe. 'Spaced' is an example of a sitcom that's dark, surreal and subversive. jPod should have been, but isn't. I expected things to have been changed, but there were certain changes that just seemed to be in direct opposition to the book. Also: Rubbish ending. I'm done.

  • My Xbox 360 red-ringed! It froze in the middle of a game of 'Splosion Man (Which is okay, but nothing special, I wasn't missing much), and interrupted my playthrough of Bioshock, which I'd just started a couple of days before. I spent a weekend cursing Microsoft's broken site, and then phoned them on Monday. They sent me a UPS label, I packed up the 360 and had UPS collect it from work on Friday a week ago, and I got it back yesterday! I haven't tried it out yet, so it may still be broken.

  • In the absence of my 360, I got my gaming kicks from one of Steam's indie games bundles. This one has Braid (Which I bought on XBLA when it was released), Blueberry Garden (A short art game, which is pretty sweet), The Path (Another art game; I played the demo, and it was certainly atmospheric, but I haven't play the full version yet), Everyday Shooter (Which is pretty swanky, though a couple of things annoy me about it) and World of Goo. I finished the latter this morning, and it's amazing. Worth the price of the pack on its own (Which, actually, is what it usually retails for). So, in closing, get World of Goo.

  • Super Cock Blockers was finished and released in time for the Adult/Education competition over at TIGSource. I'll post about it, and my soundtrack for it, in the next entry.

  • After jPod, I bought two more of Douglas Coupland's novels; 'Hey Nostradamus!', and 'Generation X' (Obviously). The former is pretty nice, but it didn't grab me like jPod did. 'Generation X' is pretty sharp so far.

  • Two of my housemates are moving out in September. This is going to change a few things around the house, as a lot of the furniture and appliances are theirs. The landlord's going to replace most of the stuff. I am probably going to have to get a TV though. Frankly, it's time I had one that isn't a crappy 14" CRT. I'll probably aim for something around the 30" mark.

  • Myriam suggested we work on a webcomic together. Of course, it would be about the two of us. I was initially kind of resistant to the idea, due to not really being able to draw, but I thought about it a bit more, and figured that it was a stylistic issue; if I could find a style that suited me, and that wouldn't require a tablet and a huge amount of effort, maybe I could make it work. So, I decided on drawing 16-bit style sprites. I've done pixel-work before, and while I'm not particularly good at it, I can bluff my way through. I've done a couple of preliminary sprites, and they look pretty good!

  • Wow, I've got more bullet points than I anticipated.

  • Girls! I sent a message to this girl on OKC, which was actually a reply to a message she'd sent me back in 2007. The reason I never replied back then was that I was going out with Sarah at the time. Really stupid reason, frankly, but I dunno, I just felt a bit weird about it at the time. Anyway, it turns out she's really cool. Gamer, music student, cosplayer (But she makes her own costumes, so I'm not holding it against her!), and general geek. I think we really like each other.

  • Oh yeah she lives in New York.

  • Crap.

  • Okay, last item: Scott Pilgrim! After hearing that Edgar Wright was directing the movie, I figured I'd check the comic books out, and they're pretty sweet! Definitely pretty geeky, but interesting and well written. I watched Edgar Wright's video blogs on the production of the movie, and they kind of got me excited about the movie!

Okay, I'm done.


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