Thursday, May 31, 2012

Photos: Blossoms & Buttercups

Apple Blossoms #6

I picked up a new camera pretty recently and last week I decided to take it for a test drive around the wooded area at the back of my parents' place. I'm still sorting through the photos, but for now I thought I'd post a few macro shots I took of some flowers - mostly apple blossoms from their apple tree (actually just days before they fell off), as well as a a buttercup I found growing in the clearing. Enjoy!

Apple Blossoms #1

Apple Blossoms #2

Apple Blossoms #3

Buttercup #1

Buttercup #2

Apple Blossoms #7

Apple Blossoms #8

Apple Blossoms #4

Apple Blossoms #5

Cleaning Out My Spam Folder

Top 8 Idiotic Subject Lines (for Penis Enlargement)

8. Big penis is very cool!

7. Its very beautiful

6. Humongous bouncing boobies

5. The greatest shags of all

4. Butts that look awesome

3. Jay Leno found taking drugs

2. Violent lovemaking video

1. Ass rimming the easy way

How Do You Protzct Eyes?

Astkma symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightnesk; they’re effectively treated.

Allergic conjunctivitis may le the result of an allergic reaction. How do you protzct eyes?

Philosoraptor Would be Proud

Hi to you

I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.


Good day!

We don't believe in rheumatism and true love until after the first attack.

Yo Dawg, I Heard You Liked Fraud...


Dear Friend,

I'm Mr.Bamogo Nurudin, Director of auditing and account unit of africa development bank(ADB). I have a transaction of $6.2M to transact with you.This money belong to a decaesed customer of my bank and i want this money transfer into your foreign account as the beneficiary to my deceased client who died in plane crash with his entire families. I'm going to furnish you with every informations and documents for the claim which i have secretly collected from his file jacket with my bank and after the transfer of this money, i'm going to destroy everything of this transaction from my bank so that there will be no traces, and i will resign from service and meet you in your country for the sharing which is 40% for you for assisting me receive this money into your account as the next of kin to my deceased client, while 60% will be for me. please reply me urgently if you are willing to assit me in this transaction.

Cooking: Carrot Cake, Avocado-Lime Pie

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

Soup wasn't the only initiative I was undertaking to use up the vast carrot surplus last year; I also tried my hand at making a carrot cake. Based on this recipe, the cake itself went pretty smoothly; though holy shit, does it take a long time to grate carrots. :D I couldn't get a regular-sized tub of cream cheese for the icing, so I ended up having to scoop the contents out of eight mini tubs of Philadelphia Light instead. That would have been fine, except the frosting turned out a bit on the runny side, which I suspect may be down to using reduced fat cream cheese instead of the regular stuff. Overall though, the cake was pretty great; rich, moist and great with the light, orangey frosting.

Avocado Lime Pie

Avocado-Lime Pie

I randomly picked up a few avocados before Christmas and while looking around on Google for what to do with them, I came across a recipe for an avocado-lime pie, which sounded pretty good, and it was. Though, to be honest I'm not sure I could really taste the avocado in there at all. It pretty much just tasted like a regular key lime pie, which was more than fine by me. The last slice went down especially well with a cup of tea and Giant Bomb's Holiday Nostalgiafest to accompany it. :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Archive Raiding: The Not-so-super Bowl

In a box, in the corner of a spare room, under a table, I've had this slightly cruddy papier mache bowl tucked away, being ignored, for the last ten years or so. When events conspired to move this box moved a few feet from my PC, what else could I do but grab a camera and finally document this er, fine piece of work.

Not that anyone would guess from the highfalutin potential designs I was churning out for my Junior Cert. Art, Craft and Design project, but this was the phoned-in, basic-ass bowl I made for the craft part of the project. And worse still, it was always the only one I ever intended to make. All that other stuff was just complete horse shit :D

A little sample of what I'm talking about. Obviously these would all have have been ceramic. But that would involve some actual work, and screw that.

It's not the basic, unimaginative shape of thing that makes me dislike it though. It's everything else, from the deformed, mismatched flowers to the sloppy painting to the dodgy, green rim job. :D Ugh, and that weird green bit, sort-of leaking down from inside the rim: just awful.

I guess it couldn't really have turned out too much better though. I grudgingly cobbled together the bowl itself in the middle of my Christmas holidays in 1999 and I ran off the entire paint job one Sunday evening around February, colouring in a design that, ironically, I barley even planned out. The paints I had to borrow from the art room. And despite being told by art teacher to take them, I still snuck them out in as ninja-like a fashion as I could, knowing that two or three teachers were bound to shout at me for stealing them without taking even a nanosecond to consider an alternative scenario. That's the type of awesome school I went to folks. :D

But enough of that. Let's take a closer look:

I kind of like this sunflower actually. It has a nice abstract thing going. The red flower to the right looks pretty good too. Everything else is a bit of a mess though.

You know, both of these purple flowers could have turned out pretty well if I put a bit more effort into them. Everything else is pretty much a disaster though. And how did I get those blotches of red and green paint onto it? And how did I leave it like that?

And holy shit, I've just noticed that I made one of those fuchsia flowers green. (Those are supposed to be fuchsias, by the way.) I didn't even notice that at the time. Bloody hell, what a complete fuck up this whole thing was. :D

Purple, purple, purple, purple, purple. Okay, maybe not a complete fuck up. This sunflower is pretty awful though, lacking any kind of definition whatsoever. Ugh, and those bloody green bits. The only justifiable reason I could see for putting the two big green blobs on the thing would be to cover up some major screw up I made, but that wasn't the case at all. I put them there intentionally, on both sides of the bowl.

Compared to the red flower here, this blue one just looks deformed.I wasn't even trying here. :D

They're a bit messy (surprise!), but I quite like the bold, vibrant colours on the daffodils here. I'm guessing the much lighter one on the right was intentional, but the contrast between them looks makes this look really odd.

Moving over to left a bit more, these three flowers aren't too bad. The left one needs a bit more shading, but I quite like the look of the other two. Well, the heads at least; the stems are really pretty terrible, just like every other one on here.

Shifting back a bit to the right, between the two last sections, I think this is probably the bowls best, most competent-looking side.

The inside. Up until the day I was painting the bowl, I didn't actually plan to do anything inside it. I quickly came up with this just before I did it. Again, it's more the dodgy shading here than the design itself that lets things down. The middle flower here isn't too bad actually. But ugh, look at that daffodil.

I'm pretty sure more effort went into drawing this rough sketch of the inside than into any aspect of the actual bowl.

Aside from being a bit too dark a shade of blue, the paint job I did on the background really is shoddy. You get a pretty good view here of just how patchy it is here. It definitely needed a second coat, but I don't think I even noticed that at the time.

The rim; expertly done just as you'd expect.

Didn't they realise how this would affect the future value? I guess this is my exam number, written on by someone with a marker.

And with that, back into it's box it goes, banished to forever reside on top of a very high shelf. Well, until someone finally breaks it anyway. If you'd like to see some more pics, I've put up practically every one I took of it in this Picasa gallery:

Uh, have fun. :D

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cooking: Awesome Vegetable Soup

 Awesome Soup

Back in December, with a garden full of deformed carrots to use up, I started experimenting with making soup. First I tried making this marrow and carrot soup with a marrow I had picked up on a whim while doing some shopping, half convinced that marrows were only a thing that existed within the confines of vegetable contests in rural ITV dramas. The soup was pretty good though, a bit too thick maybe, especially after leaving the leftovers in the fridge for a couple of days.

The next one was a carrot and orange soup that I made on the day before Christmas Eve, but the less said about that, the better. :D With a view to making better soup once all the holiday commotion had died down, I put aside a 1.25L container of the water the Christmas Ham had been boiled in. A week after Christmas, it was still in the kitchen, unrefrigerated on a worktop. Actually, right above the fridge. Honestly, some people just can't be bothered. :D

Never one to be put off by a potential case of food poisoning, I decided that the time had finally come for soup batch number 3. So I started off by cooking half a turnip and a couple of small potatoes that were lying around, as well as about four large carrots worth of deformed carrot runts in the ham stock, seasoning it with some salt and freshly-ground pepper. (Though that fucking pepper been hanging around here for fifteen years at least, so take that as you will, :D) Without a decent hand whisk, I had no choice when the vegetables were tender but to fish them out of the stock and pop them in a blender until they were smooth.

As I was blending them, I decided that while I was clearing out Christmas leftovers with this soup, I might as well chuck in the two bits of vegetable-type leftovers that were festering away at the bottom of the fridge, which were: a small container of cooked celeriac, made just the way Mr. Oliver likes it and another container of the thick marrow soup from, ooh two weeks ago then; into the blender they went. When the vegatable mixture was nice and smooth, I popped the blender contents back into the stock to simmer away for another little while. To that, I added four or so teaspoons of flour dissolved in cold water to thicken it a bit, taking care to keep stirring the soup while I added it, least any gooey flour-based balls form within. Thickened up nicely, my soup was ready to serve.

I grabbed a bowl of it, to accompany my egg mayonnaise roll up in the picture and settled down to watch some no doubt fine entertainment on the internet. Maybe it was just the salmonella taking hold, but holy crap, this soup was awesome, way better than the marrow soup itself, no doubt down to the fact that this one used some real stock as opposed to a couple of Knorr cubes. Whatever black magic made it this good, I enjoyed several bowls of it as the post-Christmas period petered out and it was almost enough to make me ignore the random power outages and constant unwanted house guests that it brought this year. Almost.

So basically that recipe is:
  • 1.25 Litres ham stock
  • 4 large carrots
  • 1 small turnip / half a large turnip 
  • 2 small potatoes
  • cooked celeriac (ala Jamie Oliver) - roughly a 200ml container's worth
  • about 400ml marrow and carrot soup
  • about 4 teaspoons of flour, dissolved in cold water 
  • salt and pepper to season
Is there anyone insane enough out there to follow this to a tee? Prove me wrong, Internet.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Video: JiliK Plays Troll's Tale

Back in 2008 I picked up a really cheap microphone with a view to making some Let's Play-type videos. Up very late one night, I decided it'd be a good idea to take it for a test run by playing a little bit of Troll's Tale - a children's text adventure game from the 80's. Intense confusion, lame jokes and creepy grunting - yeah, it goes about as well as you'd expect. And man, do I sound weird; kind of like my younger brother doing a Dan Hegarty impersonation. :D

But damn it, while I was putting together the various World Rally Fever videos, I decided that the time had finally come to patch up the video's audio sync problems, edit out the (even) crappier bits and finally send it on it's way. Er,...enjoy?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Backlog Assault: Retro Wrap Party

Before I finally lower the curtain on this whole Backlog Assault thing (or at least last year's leg of it), I thought I'd borrow the format and use it as a bit of clearing house for a few chunks of game-related writing I've had rattling around my computer for ages now. After all, if there's one thing I learned from Sesame Street, it's the importance of recycling. :D

Title: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Platform: PS2

Bought: 29 January 2009
From: eBay
Price: €8.47
Beaten: February 2009

Backloggery Dump:
  • Just finished D.I.V.O.R.C.E.
  • Finished "Nice Package".
  • I've finished "Farewell to Arms" and I've only got one last empire building mission to do.
  • I've beaten the story and done a few of the side missions. Pretty enjoyable overall and the soundtrack was awesome.
Previously on JiliK's Blog:

03/03/09 - As I was finishing up Final Fantasy X-2 and wondering what I'd turn my gaming attention to next, I felt the overwhelming urge to grab this off eBay and jump back into my favourite GTA locale - Vice City. The city, the style, the awesome soundtrack - they're all in place and despite a few shortcomings, it's another enjoyable crime-filled journey through the streets of Vice City.

The game does have a share of minor technical problems - The low res textures on far away buildings have a habit of not being swapped for hi res ones until you're right next to them. When there's too much going on there's the occasional framerate dip where everything moves as if it's floating in molasses. Sometimes all the cars disappear from the road - not helpful if you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and you've just trashed your ride.

I also can't help missing Tommy and his posse from the original VC. Vic is a bit of a sick in the mud in comparison and the likes of Kent Paul and Ken Rosenberg are nowhere to be seen. Thankfully though, all those niggles fade away into the background when you're careering through a sea of flaming Cholo cars with "Living On The Ceiling" by Blancmange blaring out of your speakers - I've missed you, Vice City.

Final Thoughts:

Back in 2009 this was final PS2 GTA I hadn't played and without a HD console, it was the last one I could play for the time being. Because of that, I really tried to savour this one, even completing a bunch of the side missions before putting it down; something I rarely bothered with in the previous ones. Even so, I think this is probably the weakest of the five available on the PS2, feeling much more like an expansion pack to me than Liberty City Stories did. It's still not a bad game by any means though and I still love the Vice City setting more than any other in the series. Top notch soundtrack too.


Title: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Platform: Wii

Bought: 12 November 2009
Price: €46.99
Beaten: 18 December 2009

Backloggery Dump:
  • 22/11/09 I'm up to World 4-2. Fantastic so far, but what can't Mario throw shells upwards any more?
  • I'm up to World 5-2 and I've managed to grab all the star coins in Worlds 1 to 4. 
  • 14/12/09 I've beaten Bowser, but I've still got one level left to beat in World 9 and some star coins to grab.
  • 19/12/09 Done and dusted.
New Super Mario Bros Wii 100% Complete
    Previously on JiliK's Blog:

    24/11/09 - NSMBW actually arrived on Thursday, a full day early in all it's awesome, red-cased glory. I've been enjoying the hell out of it of far and I'm kind of surprised to see that it actually does pack a decent challenge, especially when it comes to grabbing the star coins in each level, which can sometimes require Super Mario World levels of platforming ingenuity. The level of fan service and affection for past Mario outings here is also really impressive; You can't help but smile when yet another seemingly forgotten enemy/obstacle/sound effect pops up and takes you right back to your misspent childhood, sitting in front of a TV, control pad in hand.

    The music was the thing I was most worried about before the game landed on my doorstep. There's been so much fantastic music featured in the old games, but the little snatches of the soundtrack I heard in trailers and such didn't do much for me. While I still not in love with some of the more prominent tunes in the game, there's still a lot of great music in here, like the underwater theme, which is just godly.

    I'm a bit disappointed by the boss fights so far though. While I'm happy to see the Koopa Kids back, the battles aren't too far removed from the ones you remember from the old days - stomp times three and you're done. With Kamek showing up to spruce things up before the final boss battle in each world, I kind of expect Yoshi's Island-kill-a-frog-from-the-inside levels of insanity, not minor alterations to the basic fight you just had a few levels ago.

    And while I'm bitching, why can't Mario throw shells up any more? It was an awesome method of dealing with those pesky lakitus. I guess it's compensated by the fact that Yoshi can now swallow and throw back frikkin' hammers, but only just. :D


    I finished NSMB in December '09 and while I loved every minute of it, in the end the soundtrack left me pretty disappointed. A few tunes aside, it's a huge let-down after the soaring majesty of Galaxy's score and the decades of classic ditties that came before it. I really enjoyed what they did with this game's last boss though. I was expecting another run of the mill tussle with Bowser; what I got was a mad dash through a tricky level away from a rampaging, giant lizard.

    Oh, and those star coins were totally worth collecting by the way. ;)


    Title: Everybody's Tennis  
    Platform: PS2

    Bought: April 2009
    From: GameStop
    Price: €9.99
     Beaten: 10 March 2010

    Backloggery Dump:
    • I'm working my way through Semi-Pro in challenge Mode at the moment.
    • 03/03/10 I've made it all the way to World Class in Challenge Mode.
    • 10/03/10 I've beaten everyone in World class and that should about do it.
    Previously on JiliK's Blog:

    24/04/09 - Looks like a nice, solid tennis game so far. There's more than a whiff of Wii-style inclusiveness in everything from the cute characters, to the relaxing music, to the menu design. I started off on the training mode, trying to hit panels on the opponent's side of the court, quite fun. The Challenge mode looks to be the where meat of the game is. For my first match I went for a little girl on girl action on the beach (sorry, I'll stop). The AI character put up pretty decent challenge. It's definitely not the lightweight casual game the presentation might suggest.


    I finally got around to playing this a year later and despite its casual-friendly appearance, it provides a pretty satisfying game of tennis. The single player mode has you moving up through a series of increasingly difficult classes, unlocking better characters and other stuff as you win each match.

    Some matches are significantly more difficult to win than others, with some condition being imposed to make them tougher. Some of these feel like a fair challenge, others, not so much. Trying to beat a super-advanced opponent with one of the bottom tier characters or having to play a whole game from the top of the screen are exercises in pure frustration.

    Should you fail to win under the special condition, the next time you play the match, the condition will be removed, which makes you feel pretty cheap the second time round. I can understand the developers not wanting to scare away any casual players, but perhaps they could have let the me choose if I wanted to activate wussy mode or not like Devil May Cry did (or so I've heard - I'm too much of a wuss to play it :D).


    Title: SSX 3
    Platform: PS2

    Bought: April 2008
    From: GameStop
    Price: Unknown
    Beaten: 24 June 2010

     Backloggery Dump:
    • I've beaten all the races and with that, I think I'm pretty much done.

    I hadn't played an SSX game before this, but it's pretty much what you'd expect - a mix of racing and Tony Hawk-style trickery.  Unfortunately, it also includes a bunch of douchy playable characters, and a douchy in-game DJ cranking out phat beats in place of a straightforward soundtrack. The soundtrack itself though isn't bad. There are some great tracks on it, but they have a tendency to be sup par remixes, rather that the original versions. The other characters are very much douches though - go near your rival in the head to head races and he'll deck you without fail every fucking time. An enjoyable, if not amazing game, with some really nice graphics for the time.

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    Accidental Screenshots: Half-Life 2 / Episode 2

    While I was watching Game Informer's Half-Life Super Replay the other day, I remembered that I had a huge cache of  Half-Life 2 screenshots sitting on my hard drive from when I played it in 2010, all accidentally taken while I was quick-saving. I posted the same type of shots from a bunch of other games last Summer, but there were so many of these I didn't really know what to do with them; I don't really have enough to say about HL2 to caption 21 images, apart from that it was a bloody great game, and this is coming from someone who doesn't generally care for FPSs. Thankfully, I managed to track down a Flash-based gallery widget, so I can still offer everyone this great content-free content, now with even less content. Woo, blogging!

    I actually just got around to finishing Episode 2 recently too, now putting me in the same boat as everybody else who's pining for more crowbar-waving hijinks aboard the Borealis. (sigh) But cheer up, I've got a couple of accidental shots form that too. One gorgeous one, highlighting the graphical bump from the original Half-Life 2 to Episode 2 and one from inside yet another vent. Woo, Half-Life! :D 

    World Rally Fever: The Road to Victory Part 2

    When we last left my World Rally fever campaign, I was feeling pretty optimistic about things. When I embarked on this campaign, I was afraid that beating the game would be an insurmountable task, but with the Rookie Cup under my belt with relatively little effort, perhaps that wasn't going to be the case after all.

    Much like the Rookie Cup, I'd played through the Amateur Cup quite a bit in 2001 and even a bit in 2002. At the time I had completing the first two tracks down to a fine art and I'd certainty raced the final track several times with the prospect of a cup victory very much in contention. Why had I never beaten it? I didn't remember, but I was about to get well acquainted with why as I set my sights on cup number two.

    Tokyo (Amateur Cup)

    We kick things off with a pretty straightforward track; one that I've raced on dozens of times back in the day. Even with a lot of experience here though, the trucks that randomly cross the road can still be quite a pain in the ass to avoid. Unfortunately, they won't be the last randomly occurring obstacles we see in the game either. Awesome music though; easily the best tune in the game here.

    Utah (Amateur Cup)

    Man, I used to be able to destroy this track. It wasn't without a lot of practice, but the tight bends, the narrow track, the piles of tyres, even the freaking dinosaur skeleton, I was able to tear through all of it and cruise into first without breaking into a sweat. Coming back to it ten years later, I got to re-experience just how freaking hard this track actually was, which is extremely freaking hard. :D It took quite a bit of fresh practice here before I was even placing high enough to proceed, let alone coming first. Not one of my finer performances above, but I was definitely getting there at that stage.

    Scotland (Amateur Cup)

    Overall, this isn't too much of a step up in difficulty from the first Scotland track, for the most part anyway. There are two quite risky jumps over water about 3/4 of the way around the track though, one after another. Both of these require you to avoid some unhelpfully-placed obstacles, the second one also requiring you to line up your jump so that you can swerve around a bend while in the air. Tricky stuff, but surely a high-level player like myself would have no problem pulling those types of jumps off, without say, colliding into a bunch of rocks...

    Hawaii (Amateur Cup)

    Utah may have been tough, but the Amateur Cup's final challenge is a fucking nightmare. There's really no respite to be found anywhere here. First of all, the whole track is extremely narrow, which is bad news for overtaking - given how aggressive the other racers tend to be, it's usually best to give them a wide berth least they bounce you into a nearby obstacle. And obstacles you'll find aplenty here: the whole right side is a wall of momentum-killing greenery; the whole left side is bordering a fucking ocean and in no less than three points during each lap, you need to weave through an even narrower path between these existing hazards, and a set of trees, bushes or hedges in the middle of the track, requiring such precision to navigate that you feel like you're performing a high-speed endoscopy or threading the world's most insane needle. Ah, now I remember why I didn't beat the Amateur Cup.

    07/08/11 - I've almost got the Amateur Cup, I just need a bit of luck to finish 2nd or 3rd in Hawaii. Holy crap, that's a badly designed track. - JiliK's Backloggery

    I didn't come this far to give up now though. What helped me eke out a passable result here I think was lowering the CPU cycles in DOSBox, slowing the game down. That helped me out quite a bit to get through the more obstacle-ridden parts of the track, not without crashing, but at least crashing a little less often. In the end I think it was still more luck than skill that finally got me through this bloody track.

    07/08/11 - I got through Hawaii somehow to finally grab the Amateur Cup. I'm halfway through the game now and further than I ever got in 2001/2. - JiliK's Backloggery

    And with Hawaii mastered, well sort-of, World Rally Fever's Amateur Cup was in the bag. This was the furthest I'd ever gotten in the game, but after that last track, I was feeling a lot more sketchy about the two cups to come. I would have felt even more so if I'd known where the next cup would have me revisiting.

    On to Part 3

    Shepard, What's Wrong With Your Faaaace?

    I was going to put together a little tutorial on how to import your Mass Effect 1 Sheppard into Mass Effect 3, but now that that problem's been fixed, there isn't really much point. I've still got a photo I was saving for it on my hard drive though, so why don't I post it anyway?

    Mass Effect 3 Shepard

    Here she is, after about an hour of faffing around, and having to to manually enter a long-ass code with the 360 pad (bottom left). I'm glad I went to all that trouble though; it just wouldn't be the same going through this game with any other version of Shepard after the 70 or so hours I put into the first two. The code I got initially didn't include all her features though; I was originally left with a bald, make-up free version with white eyebrows, that I had to tweak manually using a couple of pics that I took of her Mass Effect 2 incarnation. Oh look, here they are now:

    Mass Effect 2: Shepard #2

    Mass Effect 2: Shepard #1

    Not a bad match I think. They're both miles better than the version of her face from ME1, which had this really jarring, odd-looking join between her forehead and her hair. Having just watched all of BGS before I started playing it, I was going for a Starbuck-esque look at the time, but I have a feeling that the character editor in ME1 was aimed more at making bald space marines than tough, blonde military girls.

    Oh, and while I'm at it, I might as well pop up my finished Xbox 360 Mass Effect 2 save file. I needed to extract it from my 360's wad of Mass Effect 2 data in order to get the face code. If anyone wants to start up Mass Effect 3 as a female paragon (who knew to kick Ashley to the kerb when the opportunity presented itself), be my guest. You're on your own as far as using it goes, but there should be plenty info online. Link.