Thursday, June 30, 2005

Can You Beleive We Get Paid For Playing Games?

You know, I thought crappy false advertising was just the domain of the diet-pill pushers, the get rich quickers and the ‘you can earn a million in a day, guaranteed!” Crowd.

It appears I was mistaken.

Even Colleges and Universities are now getting in on the act.

Now I personally would have loved to have earned my degree online. It’s easy with an academic subject like English. They’d email me a reading list, give me access to an online forum or IRC chat room so I can ask my virtual tutor questions, then they send me the exam questions, and I email my completed essays to them.

Bing bang boom, I get a degree.

Unfortunately I went to a traditional university, you know the ones, the ones that actually make you get out of bed in the morning, drive there and have actual human contact.

I feel like I got my degree in the stone age.

These days, online courses are all the rage. Online Uni’s like Devry and the like are offering associates degrees, bachelors degrees, even masters degrees, all done in the comfort of your own home, and at your own speed.

On second thought, I think it’s damn good thing I didn’t get my degree online, if I could pick and choose when to do any work, I wouldn’t have got that 4 year degree in 3 years, as promised…I’d be 87 years old thinking: “Tomorrow… I’ll definitely start it tomorrow.”

It’s possible to get almost any further education online. One online college even offers an online Physical Education degree! Can you imagine what that must look like?

“Do 20 push ups. Click here when finished”

I wonder where this is going to go. Online singing lessons?

“Sing ‘AaaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaaaaAAAA’. Click when finished.

Art class?

“Draw a nice picture. If it’s good, click here, if it’s crap, click here.”

Maybe even public speaking.

“Make a speech, if it was heartwarming and well articulated, click here. If it was stammer filled babble, click here.”

Online Degrees! It’s the future people!

Of course, a lot of these ‘degrees’ they give you aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. I think everyone has received an email at some point offering them an ‘instant’ degree. One I got even said, as though it was a selling point: “Get any degree, right now, from any number of unaccredited Universities!”

That’s right, they emphasized the unaccredited part.

Learn what the words mean before you slap them in your emails, guys!

In other words, you send them anything from 20 to 200 bucks, and some 12 year old in his bedroom will run off a certificate on MS Publisher, and email it to you.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Anyone reading this, if you cover the cost of postage, I’ll send you a Bachelors Degree in anything you want from Paulius University. Hey, at least it’ll be signed by a genuine Bachelor of Arts!

Anyway, I’ve been going off on more tangents than a drunken chimp with ADD. Let me try and get back on track.

As some of you may know, being qualified in the Computer field isn’t quite a lucrative as it once was. Ten, maybe even five years ago, if you had a degree in some area of computer science, you had your pick of the jobs.

Not so much any more.

In fact, Microsoft certified systems administrators get paid buttons nowadays, for the simple fact that every man and his dog surfed the silicon wave of the late 90’s, and millions took to computers as a career. In the same way the dotcom industries all went south, so has the traditional computer career path. Where at one time, someone with a degree in computer science would be head-hunted by pretty much everyone, nowadays there’s about 100 people for every job. Yes, computers are a rapidly expanding area of employment, but the number of people going for those jobs is expanding more rapidly…and when you have one opening, and 100 applicants, wages drop. Hey, if you don’t want to work for $4.50 an hour, there’s another hundred guys who will!

So, what to do?

Well, apparently, some bright spark noticed that computer games are blowing up. What was once a ‘3 guys in a garage’ cottage industry is now big business (For example, the budget for Halo 2 was in excess of 50 million).

Of course, as soon as something becomes popular, big business sticks its oar in, usually removing every inch of creativity, and replacing artists with accountants. In other words, they want a slice of the pie, but don’t want to pay for the ingredients.

I’m going off on a tangent again, but this is something that really pisses me off. When anything becomes profitable, and therefore lucrative, the corporations step in and ask questions like “Do we really need that? Our last product didn’t have it, and it sold well, let’s just churn out the same crap again! Balls to originality and innovation!”

Anything in the entertainment industry has to be made, first and foremost, because the person making it loves making it. Profit should come second.

Making a TV show, game or writing a book for the love of doing it gets you the Mona Lisa. Doing it purely for the money gets you a paint-by-numbers picture. Creativity gets you Mozart, copying the original for cash gets you elevator music.

If you think I’m being a dumb conspiracy theorist, look around you.

Big Brother was groundbreaking television, but look at how many crappy reality TV shows there are on TV right now. Look at the number of DIY shows and makeover shows.

One original, good idea…cloned so many times that there isn’t a scrap of originality, creativity or interest left. ‘They made a shitload of cash off the idea, why shouldn’t we?”

Because it was their idea, and we don’t want the same thing on every channel.


So now, overnight, every university in the world, both online and traditional, are grabbing games programming with both hands. I don’t think there’s a university around now that doesn’t have a games design program in the pipeline.

So now we come to the advertising part.

You see, designing video games isn’t easy. It involves actual programming. That means math, complicated logic diagrams, the works.

In my life time I have created one game. I was 12 years old, and it was a text adventure written in BASIC. That’s the type when you get a paragraph, explaining where you are, what is around you, and you type what you want to do, IE ‘Go North’ ‘Pick up sword’ etc.

My game consisted of 3 rooms, nothing to pick up, and all you could do was go into each of the rooms. Oh, and if you typed anything but ‘Go north’, ‘go west’ or ‘go south’, it would crash.

This masterpiece took me two days to write.

According to the people advertising these courses in creating modern day games, with such things as ragdoll physics, transformable texture and lighting and advanced AI…you can knock one up in an afternoon.

These ads follow the same formula:

Step one. A group of ‘cool’ men and women in their early twenties introduce themselves as game programmers and designers.

Step two. They either show some pre-rendered computer graphics, and maybe some gameplay from a current game. (That’s right, the ones that cost 50 million to make), or, they show something that looks like it was made 5 years ago, complete with Space Invaders 8-bit sound effects. It becomes a case of spot the mistake. For example, one has a guy playing an X-box game, but somehow he’s controlling it with a PS2 controller. The sound coming from the game was straight from Space Invaders. In other words, it’s obvious that the ad writer and producer have never even seen a computer game.

Step three. Someone will come into the room and ask a question containing some generic, non-relevant computer speak, such as (direct quote) “Hey guys, how are the graphics coming on that game? I’ve got another one I need designed!”

Let’s break this down. First of all ‘graphics’ means, basically, everything you see on screen. So ‘how are the graphics coming’ is like going to a building site and asking ‘how are the bricks coming in that skyscraper’.

It’s meaningless! Hey everyone, how are the words coming on your blog?

Errr, do you mean the actual content? The font? The size? The layout?

These are apparently the people who will teach you to create games.

Secondly, ‘I have another one I need designed’. What….the…f**k is she babbling about?

Apparently, she has a game, that at that point isn’t even an idea. However, she’s on such a tight timescale, she needs them to design a new game…right now!

How can you have something that ‘needs designing’. If it hasn’t been designed, it doesn’t frigging exist!

To put this in perspective, imagine an advertisement for a creative writing course:

“Hey guys! How is the text coming in that book? I’ve got another one I need written.”

Yes, that’s how the games industry works. The big programming houses get requests that read ‘Wanted: One Game.’ Then, the head honcho runs to his programmers, asks them how something generic is coming on their current project, then hurries them along, because he has another one that ‘needs designing’


Step four. This is the part that really pisses me off. The guy or girl looks into the camera, give you a shit eating grin, and says something along the lines of “I can’t believe I get paid for this!” or “Can you believe we get paid for playing games?!?”


I honestly feel sorry for everyone who takes any of these courses. According to the ads, they’ll arrive at the University, go to a computer lab, play games all day, and come out of it with a degree, and games designers will be gagging to get their hands on them.

Imagine their faces when they get the 50 odd tech manuals dropped in front of them. Then they realize they have to actually learn to program the games.

Even if you’re a complete computer game layman, let me put this in terms that anyone can understand.

In a computer game, everything on screen has to be created, everything from the dirt on the ground, to the leaves in the trees. As an idea of how complex this can be, let’s just focus on one object. Let’s pick a tree. Nothing fancy, just a bit of scenery that the gamer probably won’t even notice.

First you have to model and design the tree’s shape. Difficult, trees have complex shapes, and you can’t replicate the same one over and over, or it will be obvious and artificial looking. Then you have to come up with colours and textures for your tree. Then you have to animate it. Obviously the leaves will move in a different way than the branches, and the branches will move at a different rate than the tree. The bark is a different color and texture to the leaves.

Then you have to make it ‘solid’, in other words, if the gamer walks into it, it will stop him dead rather than him float through it. Then you have to think what will happen if the player jumps through it. Will that single twig stop him dead, or will he brush by it? What sound effect will it make? Will it be any different from the sound it makes when the wind pushes it? Will an enemy be able to see it and react? How will the enemy react? How far away does the enemy have to not see it? Can he hear the sound?

You see, that’s one simple object out of literally billions in your average game. But that’s ok, take the Devry course, and you’ll be churning them out.

Can you believe we get paid for playing games?

No. Because you don’t. What you meant to say is:

Can you believe we get paid to program and design, code and test extremely complicated simulations featuring real world physics and artificial intelligence?

Yes, I can, because it’s bloody difficult.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

First Ten Readers Will Win $1000 Guaranteed! Visit For Details

Well, I have more bad news for all you web-surfers out there.

Creators of new web browsers have been warned not to include any built in Ad-stopper software. In fact, pretty soon, anything that blocks online advertisements may be made illegal.

The first question many will ask is: Why?

Well the answer is simple, and for once, makes sense.

There’s a lot of free stuff on the internet, but free to us doesn’t necessarily mean free to the webmaster. There are bandwidth costs, web hosting costs etc. In other words, everything on line, free or not, has to be paid for. So rather than charge users a monthly fee, they throw in a couple of ads and pop-ups, and the site remains free to the users.

As an example, if you could buy a 25 cent newspaper, with all the advertising cut out of it, it would cost about $5 a copy.

See, it makes sense…for once.

If this was the Bizaro World and I had a million readers a day, if I wanted to make my living from blogging, I wouldn’t charge you good people an entry fee, (chances are, no one would pay it…I have no delusions) Instead, I’d put up some Google ads.

The problem is everyone hates pop-ups, everyone hates ads. With my computer and crappy internet connection, they’re more than a nuisance, if I get two pop-ups when I’m surfing, that’s my entire bandwidth used up. My web surfing grinds to a halt.

The other problem people have, that each and every one of us has experienced, is when you arrive at a site, and get literally hundreds of pop-ups, and each one you close opens up two more. Even when I had 3mb broadband, sometimes I had to completely reset my computer just to clear them all. Nothing like 500 pop-ups causing your computer to freeze up.

Not to mention that a lot of these ads carry viruses and browser hijacks. There is nothing more annoying that having your homepage reset to some crappy search site that refuses to change back, no matter what you try. Oh, and when you search for one thing, and the browser sends you to a completely different site, with even more pop-ups and marketing…ARRRGH!

Also, from personal experience, there’s nothing like trying to convince your wife, three days after your wedding, that those 50 porn sites in your favorites got there through pop-ups.

In my opinion, if nothing is done, the internet will be completely unusable within ten years.

However, I don’t think advertising in itself is the main problem. I think the main problem is the sheer volume, and content of the advertising.

Take the Google ads for instance. That’s a prime example of non-intrusive advertising. Anyone who has checked out the Google adsense program will agree. You get three or four advertisements in a banner or sidebar, and it scans your page and delivers relevant advertisements to the content of your site. (For example, if your site is all about say, cars, all your ads are car based).

That’s a win-win situation. The webmaster gets the advertising revenue, the surfer gets a few non-intrusive and above all safe ads that are tailored to their interests, and no one gets bothered by pop-ups.

However, a lot of advertising programs treat their ads like a bludgeon. The idea seems to be to bombard the surfer with as many ads as possible, under the mistaken assumption that they’re bound to click one of them sooner or later. One site I visited, that wasn’t even that interesting, opened a new pop-up every 5 seconds. The ads weren’t even targeted, I had everything from Sony’s PSP, to ‘Spanish Amputee Grannies want your c**k’.

I, like most people, don’t put up with it. I close the site, and add it to my ‘Do not visit under any circumstances’ list.

Honestly, if I get given an advertisement through a browser hijack, or through overly intrusive pop-ups, I completely boycott that product. If they think screwing around with my browser settings, and really annoying the shit out of me is going to convince me to buy their product, they’re mistaken.

Oh, and those sites that hijack your browser, then try and charge you for a piece of software to clear the hijack, become the recipients of email bombs. (if those bastards want to screw up my computer, they can spend a day opening a million emails with 10 meg attachments)

Another big problem with on-line ads are that they’re always complete and utter bullshit. They lie. They don’t even have a passing resemblance to the truth:

‘Swat the fly and get a free iPod’

‘You have won $10,000 click here to claim!’

‘Free vacation to the Bahamas! Click here now!’

Does anyone actually fall for this shit?

How about a little bit of honesty? You know ‘Click here for a fair deal on an iPod’. ‘We’re selling Sony PSP’s, click here for more information.’

The net-surfing public have become so jaded with too good to be true ads, that the only ones we even consider clicking are the ones that are actually less attractive. We’ll click an ad that says ‘PSP’s for $150, limited time offer!’ but won’t click an ad offering anything ‘free’.

Every online ad has gone the way of the worst TV infomercial ever made. They promise such outlandish crap, that they are never believable by anyone with an over 40 IQ. My personal favourite infomercial right now is the one that says ‘I went to this website, was given the perfect opportunity, and now I earn $8000 a week, working only 3 days a month!”

The funniest thing is they never say the name of the website, and they run the same advertisement, but the actual website changes every time! On week it’s ‘32biz’ then it’s ‘75.opportunity’.

It also has the dumbest quote I’ve ever heard. Delivered by the world’s dumbest looking blonde:

“This wasn’t one of those ‘get rich quick schemes’, but guess what? I did!”

In other words, this isn’t a get rich quick scheme, but if you try it, you’ll get rich… and quick!

Like the self-help guy on ‘The Simpsons’…

“There’s no trick to it. It’s just a simple trick!”

Anyone desperate to visit ‘this website’ yet, and definitely earn 2 million in a year? (Actor portrayal, results not typical, your results will vary).

No? I’m shocked!

Come on! Who actually believes this crap? If there was a business you could do from home, working 3 days a month, and earn 2 million in a year, they wouldn’t be advertising it at 3am on a back water channel! It’d be headline news!

If there was a pill that you could take and drop 100lbs in a day, they probably wouldn’t need to advertise!

If there was a pill that could give you 6 extra inches in the trousers region, guaranteed or your money back…that company would be bigger than Pepsi, Coca Cola and Ford all put together!

Come on, how about a little honesty?

‘Visit this website, we will charge you for our service, but you may find an at home business that suits you, and with some hard work and elbow grease, you might get a reasonable second income.’

‘If you buy this weight loss program, you’ll have to eat less, actually do some work and exercise, but if you stick at it, and don’t just watch the video, you will lose weight.’

That sounds better, to me at least.

I might actually consider visiting a site like that.

However, that’s never going to happen. We will continue to be bombarded with stupid ads, the technique will continue to be ‘volume, volume, volume’, and we’ll continue blocking them out.

You see, with the internet, you can reach literally millions of people per hour. If you can show your ad to 10 million people per day, it doesn’t matter if only half a percent of the people who see it, click it. Half a percent of a ten million people is still 50,000 people.

However, if advertisers would use just a little honesty, and concentrate on getting the right ad to the right people, they could earn more money, with a lot less ads, and annoy a lot less people.

In other words, advertisers, keep car ads on car sites, keep sex ads on sex sites, and keep gadget ads on gadget sites. Don’t try to fool us by telling us if we ‘stamp on the cockroach’ we’ll win an MP3 player, because we’re not going to!

You see, advertising on the internet right now is centered around tricking and fooling people into visiting an online store.

However, chances are, you don’t have a few hundred dollars to spend on an impulse purchase, so all the advertiser is doing is pissing off a potential future customer.

If you do have the money and want a particular item, you don’t need a pop-up, you’ll actively look for the item, which makes the pop-up a complete wasn’t of time.

Long story short, if you don’t have the cash, a link offering something you want for free is tempting. However, when it turns out that it’s not free at all…they’re not going to get your business.

Personally, I look forward to the day when I can go 15 minutes without someone trying to sell me something.

In closing, send me the low, low sum of 200 dollars, and I’ll send you some secrets that will let you earn a billion dollars a week, get more girls as you can handle and will actually give you the power of God. Also, for 1000 dollars, you can purchase the actual Ark of the Covenant and Holy Grail combo set!!! Numbers are limited, send your money now!

The 9.50 Train From South Carolina is Delayed Due To Kitten

Many of you may have noticed that this update is a little late. Let me explain why.

Yesterday, I sat down at the computer to type. As it was over 95 degrees in this room, I was wearing a pair of shorts, and no shirt. 200 words in, Padme, the new kitten, got interested in what I was doing.

Did she jump onto the bed, and from the bed jump onto the desk? Did she curl up at my feet and meow until I picked her up?


She decided the easiest route to the desktop was a direct climb up my bare back. She pounced, and began her climb suspending her entire weight on 8 hypodermic needle-like claws. Can you imagine how much that hurt? Imagine sitting at your computer, right now, reading away, not expecting a thing, then BAM! Kitty claws raking your back.

After I finished crying, I composed myself and continued typing.

Suddenly, Padme reappears on the desk. “Awww, how cute!” I think. The cuteness factor stopped me questioning how she got up there in the first place…and why she didn’t chose that route the first time. She playfully attacks her own tail, falls over, and just blinks at me.

I go back to typing, she heads around the back of the computer. She spots something and pounces. The computer resets.

After I finish screaming, I compose myself, reboot the computer and start over.

2000 words later, I finish the post. A post I am particularly proud of. Maybe even the greatest thing I’ve ever written. I turn on the spell check, and seeing as my lightning fast 26k connection takes a million years run it, I head to the kitchen for Pepsi.

“What a post!” I think. “Can’t wait to read all the comments and see my traffic soar!”

I arrive back in the living room to find Padme break dancing on the keyboard. I mean, really going for it. Back flips, spins, the works. It would have been funny if I didn’t see the screen filling up with ‘agbngrghbrogrgrngorgnhrieog’

Her foot catches the mouse, the cursor moves outside the text input area, and she clicks it in the same motion. I dive for the computer, just as her back paw strikes the backspace key.

The computer savvy among you will know what happens when you hit the backspace key on a webpage.

Bink! I end up in the blogger dashboard.

After I finished crying, I compose myself and sit at the keyboard.

I click forward.

Slowly (extremely slowly, the 26k connection, mixed with pure dread will do that to time. Albert Einstein can stick his theory of relativity up his backside…time doesn’t slow down the faster you go…time slows down, the more you want it to speed up.)

Finally, I’m back at the ‘create post’ page.

Everything I’d written had gone.

After I finished cry, screaming, and finding it impossible to compose myself, I turned off the computer, and started to wonder how fried cat would taste.

Of course, Padme has the cuteness factor, the cuteness factor that makes it impossible to knowingly punish her. That’s the problem with kittens and puppies, there are times when you want to kick their little puppy and kitty asses, but there is no way in hell you can bring yourself to do it. It’d be like punching a baby in the face for waking you up.

So rather than try and re-capture yesterday’s post, I’ll save it for sometime in the week.

Today, I leave you with a question:

Cute playful kitten, unknowingly wreaking havoc? Or Darth Furball?

God I hope I haven’t acquired another pet that is trying to kill me. If it turns out that way, I’m having my dog, Jake, the Border Collie, flown over from England…He’ll sort em all out.

PS All the fish are dead…serves the bastards right.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

My Name Is Paulius, And I'm A Dumbass

I must be a real glutton for punishment.

Despite the fact that my fish are trying to bankrupt me, and my cat is trying to kill me, I went ahead and did it anyway.

We got a new kitten.

A stray had taken up residence at my stepson’s house, had its babies, and we just couldn’t resist. We now own a ginger long-hair kitten that we’ve christened Padme, although only time will tell if little Padme is actually a little Anakin.

Knowing my luck, it will be an Anakin, and in 6 months I’ll have ‘Darth Furball’ to deal with.

So why get a new cat, if I already own one…albeit a psychopathic killer moggy?

Well my old cat (Malibu is her name…and no, we didn’t name her ourselves) decided one day that she didn’t really like us anymore, and took up residence in the guest bathroom. The only time she would even consider leaving that bathroom was when she could see the bottom of her food bowl. (Not an empty bowl, mind you, just if she ate a few bites and could see the bottom). Even then she refused to actually leave the bathroom. She’d simply pop her head around the door and mewl at the top of her voice until someone rectified the situation.

That’s the main difference between dogs and cats. Dogs see you as family. Cats see you as staff.

“You! Yes you! Human boy! You call this a hotel? How dare you allow me to see the bottom of my food bowl! I ought to have you thrashed to within an inch of your life, you uppity human. Wrap that primitive, simian brain around this, monkey boy! Rectify the situation at once, or I shall speak to the manager!”

Then the bitch ‘tips’ me with a fur ball…in my shoes.

Since that time, she decided that she hated us so much, that she decided to live outside. One day, we opened the front door and our pampered housecat charged for freedom. I think she wanted me to beg her to come back inside. The reaction she got:

“Fair enough, you wanna stay outside? Screw you, you feline Hitler! You made your bed, you lie in it!”

...Wasn’t quite what she was expecting.

She made sure we knew just how much fun she was having: Fresh air, hot and cold running mice, she definitely wanted me to know that she was living the good life.

I laughed my ass off the first time it rained.

If I had taken a picture of the rain-drenched look she was giving me through the window, you could put it into the Oxford English Dictionary, right next to the entry for ‘pure evil’.

Oh, I laughed…I laughed and laughed and laughed. She could have taken shelter in her ‘kitty kennel’, but apparently, she didn’t like the carpet, the d├ęcor was so last year, and some inconsiderate bastard hadn’t rolled out a red carpet in front of it.

“MEEEEAAAAAWWWW! Let me in, fuckers!”

“What was that Malibu? I can’t hear you!”

“I’ll get you for this, human! Oh, you’ll pay, I promise you that, you English Bastard!”

Now before someone reports me to the RSPCA, I have to point out that she has a ‘kitty kennel’, and through visiting my Parents in Law and step-daughter…she’s eating a hundred times more than she ever has.

She’s enjoying herself…bitch.

In other words, I only see that cat once or twice a week. Usually when she tries to trip me, lead me into a trap, or just to flip me off.

Another summer favourite for her is to wait until I’m lying in the sun on a warm summers day, stay out of sight until I’m just dozing, then she sneaks up, screams in my ear and runs off laughing her little feline ass off …as I suddenly levitate 6 feet into the air, still in the lying down position.

It’s true, Dogs look at you and think: “This person feeds me, takes care of me, gives me attention and shelter…truly, he must be God.”

Cats look at you and think: “This person feeds me, takes care of me, gives me attention and shelter…truly, I must be God.”

So that explains the cat. What about my evil scheming fishies?

Well, in spite of all my best efforts, including a number of over-prices medicines, they’re not improving. The neons, being the smallest and weakest are all dead.

Typical, my favorites, of which I had 8, die, and they cost about 3 dollars a pop.

The goldies are looking really bad, and the calico, the ringleader in their evil plot, doesn’t seem to be improving either. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to sterilize the tank and re-stock for a long while, if they don’t make it. Hopefully, the Calico, will reap what he has sown, and will be given a vicious sack beating by the goldfish.

“You got us into this, you power-mad piscine retard! I’ll kill you!”

“Listen, fellas, I’ve got a plan!”

“A plan? A plan!!! Another motherf**king plan?!? It’s your plan that covered me with these motherf**king parasites! We’re all gonna die because of you. We’re taking the porcelain highway to the sewage plant of despair because of you!”

“Honest, this one will work…please listen!”

“Steve? You get the car battery, and Joe? You get the sack of doorknobs.”


Serves them right. The water breathing, gill-faced, dorsal-finned bastards.

So that’s why I got a new pet. One that is being quarantined from Malibu’s evil mind control, and well away from the fish’s evil influence. I’m hoping to actually have a pet this time that is fun, fairly low maintenance, and doesn’t want to kill me.

In fact, a while back, I watched the special features on the ‘Catwoman’ DVD. More precisely, the part that showed the trained cats.

I listened to what the ‘Cat Wrangler’ had to say:

“People think it’s impossible to train a cat, that’s not true, they’re just as intelligent as dogs. When people buy dogs, the first thing they do is put them into a training regimen, even if it’s just housetraining. With cats, people tend to show them where the food and litter box is, and that’s the beginning, middle and end of their training. It’s no wonder no one has a cat that will sit and come on command.”

I was intrigued, impressed and motivated. I decided there and then that I was going to train the new cat. People would come from far and wide to see the amazing performing cat, that will sit when told, rather than just giving you a dirty look and the middle finger.

So early this morning, I started Padme’s training regimen. I decided to keep a diary that I would post on here, and let you all know that training a cat is possible.

Here it is:

Saturday, June 25, 2005:


Training begins! Feeling very happy and motivated. Padme seems excited and is enjoying the attention. I will begin by teaching her the simplest of commands. ‘Sit’.

12 noon:

Padme seems more interested in attacking my socks, need to get her to focus, maybe treats will work.


Treats don’t work. She ate, burped, laughed...then promptly fell asleep.


That ‘cat wrangler’ guy is a lying bastard. He’s talking complete and total bollocks. I must have been insane to listen to him. Very funny, producers of ‘Catwoman’, all those cats are definitely CG. What a complete waste of mother f**king time! If I ever see the ‘cat wrangler’ in real life, I’m definitely going to punch him in the face and kick him in the balls.

Thus ended the great cat-training experiment.

Oh well, at least she’s cute, and doesn’t appear to want to kill me.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

My Goldfish Would Kick Jaws' Ass

The battle between my fish and I has escalated.

Having failed in a full-frontal assault on me, they’ve resorted to UN-Style economic warfare.

Confused? All will become clear.

Keeping pet fish can be fairly expensive. If you actually want your fish to survive, you can’t just fill a bowl with tap water and dump them in. Tap water is loaded with chlorine, there’s nothing to keep the water moving and oxygenated, and you need a filter to keep the water clean.

Pretty soon all this adds up. That’s even before you factor in the cost of the fish.

For example, I have 6 neon tetras, a calico fantail, a painted tetra and 2 common goldfish. About $30 dollars worth. Not a fantastic amount of money, but when you’re not actually working, not cheap either.

Well apparently the fish got their hypnosis machine working. Despite the fact we have a love-hate relationship (They love to hate me, and I just plain hate them), I had a spare few dollars and added a Black moor to the tank.

Now keeping your water fish worthy is complicated. Something I take pride in. Ever wondered why that goldfish you won at the fair died for ‘no reason’? It’s because you need a degree in advanced chemistry to keep the water breathable for them.

The long and short of it is the Black Moor died on the 3rd morning I had it (which I found a little sinister, fresh water fish from the store I go to have a 2 day warranty…coincidence? I think not!)

I was baffled.

My water is properly filtered, I use expensive conditioner and ammonia lock for the water, and all the other conspirators in the tank have survived for nearly a year…which, for some, is long past their usual life expectancy. I followed all the proper procedures for adding fish (Let the water in the new fish’s bag equalize to the tank, add a little tank water every 15 minutes to let them get acclimatized and accustomed.)

No use…belly up on the third morning.

Well today, it all became clear. The new fish had ‘Ick’, a parasitical disease.

Did I mention how contagious that is?

Now every single on of my fish is covered with a white fuzz.

The fish used their hypnotism to trick me into buying the diseased fish.

So, here’s my thinking. There are two possibilities.

One, they knew that the medicine they needed is expensive, but still a lot less than it will cost to replace them all. Not to mention to cost in removing all the water from the tank, sterilizing it, then re-filling and reconditioning it.

Two, They hate me so much, they would rather commit seppuku (ritual suicide), than spend another day incarcerated in Paulcatraz.

I’m leaning towards the first explanation. Not only did I have to spend close to 20 dollars on Ick-away to cure them, I also had to endure the fact that I have to buy a ridiculously overpriced Ick cure, from the same people who sold me the diseased fish in the first place. Also, there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Technically, it’s my fault for not quarantining the new fish before putting it in the tank.

Quarantine? Maybe I’d consider doing that if I actually had a second tank to quarantine new fish in, and had expensive fish worth about $50 each in my main tank.

I thought it was a little fishy (Ha ha ha…get it?), when I found the phone off the hook next to the fish tank.

(Ring Ring)

“Hello? Saluda River Pet supplies.”

“Hey dude? Wanna make some quick cash?…shutupshutup, I’m telling him

“Who is this?”

“You don’t need to know who this is. Call me ‘Deep Gill’”

“Deep Gill? What’s this all about?”

“Shut up and listen, there’s a guy with a British accent on his way to your store…do you have any fish with ‘Ick’?”

“We do, why? I’ve got one quarantined right now.”

“Excellent, everything is falling into place. Sell it to the British guy, it’ll be worth your while.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just double the prices on your Ick-Away.”

“I see. What’s in this for you?”

“Let’s just say we, I mean, I have a score to settle.”


“Dammit, Bruce, will you put the Hypno-machine back under the purple castle! He’ll see! Yeah, I know it’s cool, and no I don’t think if you use it on the tetra she’ll have sex with you! You’re not even the same species, you sick bastard! Oh, and will you hide that ‘Acme’ crate! Why you ever thought rocket skates would help us anyway is beyond me!”

(one hour later)

“Hey, new fishy! Yeah you! We’re over here, behind the diver…yes, I know those bubbles feel nice…will you pay attention? If you let us all rub ourselves on you, Big Sally over behind the plastic plant will make it worth your while. You’ve only got a matter of days left, so why not go out with a bang?… No Bruce, you can’t ‘have a go’ when he’s finished. That is my sister you’re talking about! You mention it again, and you’re belly-up, I swear to you!”

So now, the crafty sons of bitches are swimming around in expensive Ick cure laced water, casually flipping me off, and taking it in turns to go belly up until I approach the tank with the net…then they swim under a rock and laugh. I know, I can see the bubbles.
Stick with dogs…Fish and Cats are devious bastards.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

When Good Trips Go Bad.

I'm a planner.

That doesn’t mean to say I make things like lists and devise complicated itineraries in order to maximize my output. In fact, the only time I ‘maximize my output’ is when I’m sitting on the toilet.

To me planning means one simple thing. If you have an idea to do something, put it off for at least a day. That gives your brain 24 hours to hammer into your conscious mind all the reasons why, what you want to do, isn’t a very good idea.

Take yesterday for example. The wife and I are driving along, running some errands, when it dawns on her that she’s two days into her week’s vacation from work, and all we’ve done so far is rent a couple of movies.

“Hey sweetie?” She says, as I look out of the window… for some reason thinking about how much fun it would be to be standing on the hood of the car, then fire a web at the lamp-post and swing over and around, like Spider-Man.

“Mmm, hmm?” I answer. That would be so cool, I could fire a web at that telegraph pole, swing upwards, fly over that bridge, and land back on the car hood on the other side…damn that would be fun!

“Do you feel like taking a drive up to the mountains?”

“Sure.” Spider-man, Spider-man, does whatever a Spider can. “Whatever you want.”

I really should have been concentrating, for some reason, the little guy who sits at the front of my brain, takes notes, and hits me upside the head whenever I get close to automatically agreeing to something stupid, must have been on his coffee break.

You see, the wife enjoys what she calls “Little Adventures.”

I, however, have named her ‘Little Adventures’ a little more precisely.

I call them “Terrifying Chains of Events.” We have never, in our one-year of marriage, done anything spontaneous, that hasn’t turned into a Hindenburg-class disaster.

‘Let’s go for a ride!’ KABOOM! ‘Oh, the humanity!’

So the wife wants to go for a trip to the mountains, and I’ve agreed.

Unfortunately I’ve noticed none of this. I’m still zoned out.

Yeah, and I could have a lightsaber, that way, on my flight over the bridge, I could chop down that street sign and use it to surf along the top of that 18 wheeler. Hmm, if I was a superhero, I’d need some form of transport. Flying car? No. Flying skateboard! Yeeeaaah!

One sentence snaps me back to reality. The street sign that reads “Welcome to North Carolina!”

I turn to the wife. “Where in the hell are we going?”

“Up to the mountains.”

“The mountains? When did we decide on that?” I ask.

She’s always doing stuff like this, making decisions without consulting me.

“You really should ask me about things like this you know!”

The wife gives me ‘The Look’..

“Aha ha ha ha!” I say.

As usual, she’s not convinced. Sadly, I realize who’s going to be cooking all this week.

Now I should say I’ve been up into the North Carolina Mountains before. It was fun. The scenery was nice, there was lots of fun and quaint little shacks and things to see. It was an all round, and more importantly, planned trip.

I said I’d been there before. More precisely, I’d been there before I’d seen “Wrong Turn.” Nothing like the thought of in-bred, cannibal, murderous hicks when you can see nothing but trees.

All around me I see things that are straight out of ‘Wrong Turn’, mixed with ‘Deliverance’. I start expecting to hear the sounds of Dueling Banjos filter through the trees.

My heart begins to beat a little faster as we pass the “Road Kill Grill”, a smallish shack which is a biker hangout. Last time I saw it, it was funny. This time…not so much. Now, it looks like a local deviant hangout. The kind of place you stop to ask for directions…and are never heard from again. It looks deserted, I know, however, that they’re all hiding and waiting for me to step out of the car.

We pass a large boulder, which someone has written on the side:

“Are you lost, or saved?” With an oversized, predatory looking question mark.

I start to get just a tiny little bit freaked the f**k out.

I did, however, take the time to snigger at the sign that read: “Rocky Bottom”.

So we drive further along the winding road.

Let me explain, a lot of the time, you can’t see the sky, you can’t see the sun…just creepy looking trees as far as you can see. It’s the kind of place that you could walk ten paces from your car and get lost.

Then I see it…the exact goddamn truck the disfigured cannibals drove from “Wrong Turn”.

I casually lock all the doors, and start to wish I had a 9mm in the glove compartment. Or failing that, an AK-47 with an 800 round ammo drum. The second I hear that ‘nyuk nyuk’ laugh, I’m opening fire…and not stopping.

In fact, screw the AK, right now I want a gatling gun, a bulletproof vest, a large selection of grenades…and just in case one of them does manage to grab me, and I hear a fly unzip…one of those arm-mounted nuclear bombs from ‘Predator’.



Sure, I’d be dead, but at least I wouldn’t be making an appearance on “Hicks on English Guys, Anal Rape #3” (Available in all good hill-billy porno stores)

We pass a multitude of eerily silent logging wagons, past houses that any respectable serial killer would, well, kill for and a large number of locations that would be perfect to dump a body.

I start clicking the heels of my sneakers together and start mumbling ‘there’s no place like home...there's no place like home’

After a while I begin to relax a little. Then…

“Sweetie?” I ask. “Why is the sky so dark?”


The world simply explodes…into the most severe storm I’ve ever seen. Lightning is striking all around us, and the rain is so heavy, we actually have to pull over, because we can’t see more than two feet ahead.

There’s nothing like being caught in a major thunderstorm, on the top of a mountain, surrounded by very tall lightning rod-esque trees…right in what looks like inbred cannibal central.

It takes us about 2 hours to get down off the mountain. We’d drive for a few minutes, then pull over when the rain and golf ball sized hail gets too thick, drive for a few minutes.…oh, and did I mention the cougars that live in these mountains?

The fun doesn’t end there. We get down off the mountain, and keep driving.

I should make it clear here that I inherited a sense of direction that gives me navigation skills on a par with a dead stoat with glaucoma. I mean, I can honestly get lost in my own home. So I ask the wife:

“About how long until we get home?”

She looks at me, and says, with wild eyed glee:

“I don’t know…I don’t have the first clue where we are!”

She laughs.

I whimper.

Eventually, we get our bearings. Or to be more exact, we know what town we’re in, but don’t actually know where that town actually is. As the wife pointed out:

“We’re not lost, we know where we are. We’re here. It’s everywhere else that is lost.”

She actually thinks shit like this is fun. On the upside, we’re in an actual real town. I see actual buildings, I see a Bi-Lo, an Ingles and a McDonalds. I start to relax. I take command of the situation:

“We, uh, need to, uh, find our way home. We should, like, drive down some streets…or something.”

The wife suggests we ask for directions, a suggestion I instantly veto. Not through macho pride…but in every good inbred psycho movie, they always have someone in the town who provides their prey. I don’t wanna get directed to ‘Big Bubba’s house of Rape’, or worse still, get caught unawares, and wake up with a tennis ball shoved in my mouth.

We had three options.

1) A way we knew would get us home, but was all highway, and not very fun to drive when you’re getting 6 inches of rain every second.

2) We could follow road sign to a town that we know, and muddle back from there.

3) Go exactly back the way we came.

Guess which one we went for?

That’s right, option three.

Oh no, one ride through the creepy, inbred cannibal infested woods isn’t enough for us. Now we have to go back through the creepy, inbred cannibal infested woods… with its thin, winding roads…during a thunderstorm, when the roads are slippery and wet. Wet enough so we can slide off the road, get trapped, and get raped, before ending up on Bubba's dining table.

Oh, it was fun.

You see, I have no luck whatsoever. What should have been a fun trip through nature, enjoying the local flora and wildlife, turned into a pant-wettingly ordeal of Shakespearian proportions.

Like this afternoon. We decided against going to see a movie, and decided instead to fill up our new inflatable pool and lounge in the sun for a few hours.

Can you guess what happened 15 minutes after I inflated the pool? (With my mouth, by the way, the foot pump had vanished). I filled the thing with water, getting the crap bit out of me by the mosquitoes in the process…and did I mention I’m allergic to mosquito stings?

I’ll give you a clue what happened.

It begins with ‘K’ and ends with ‘ABOOM!’

That’s right, the same storm from yesterday followed us home, and waited until the most inopportune moment to spring a surprise reunion.

You know, some days, it’s not even worth chewing through the straps.

Monday, June 20, 2005

CapITaL Punishment.

Since I started blogging, I’ve been spending a lot of time walking around the blogosphere. I think everyone’s the same at first, you write your own, check your visitor stats about every 15 minutes, and rarely bother actually reading anything anyone else has written.

Well, I can honestly say that at this point, I’m pretty damn addicted to blogging and reading other’s blogs.

However, optimism can lead to disappointment. I mean, have you ever actually clicked that ‘next blog’ button?

Not a lot worth reading, is there?

Blogspot seems to be about 70% spam, 20% other languages (which aren’t necessarily bad, just no use to me), and about 10% actual readable material. Oh, and readable doesn’t necessarily mean good.

Put it this way, I’ve looked at probably 300-400 blogs, but only have about 7 in my favorites that I read regularly (Hey Serendipity, Cindy, Kato, Watski, Big Al and Mike). I once clicked through 30 blogs, and found nothing but blogs that consist of huge lists of search engine friendly words (IE Sex, boobs, pussy etc), obvious scams, and the occasional ‘revenge’ blogs (‘my ex is a shit’…nothing like a million posts on the same blog with all the same content over and over again. Look, he/she dumped you, get over it.)

The other ones that spring up very often are the suicidal teenager blogs. The ones where the writer does nothing but complain and whine about how terrible their life is, and how they’re going to end it all.

Surprisingly, ‘suicide’ blogs can be as funny as hell. There’s one I stumbled across which had the same guy swearing he was going to shoot himself, hang himself, gas himself in every post. Every post had about 15 comments from people acting as though they were trying to talk him down off a roof (Don’t do it!!!! You have so much to live for! Think it through…I can picture the panicking 15 year olds). However, this guy’s blog had been up and running for three years! Three years of posts saying how he was going to shoot himself as soon as he got off the computer…and the same dumbasses falling for it every time.

Can we say ‘I want attention?’ I felt like posting a comment myself. “Kill yourself, already, you’re boring the shit out of me!”

Now, before you get offended, bear in mind that there are about a million bazillion blogs on here. There are probably hundreds of thousands of good blogs, but with the sheer numbers on here, they’re in the minority. Chances are, if you type in actual sentences, aren’t trying to sell me something, scam me out of my money, or spew bile filled missives about a guy or gal you went out with once 6 years ago, I’m not talking about you.

However, if you fall into one of the following categories, I don’t care how offended you get. In fact, I would gladly come over to your house, drop trou, squat over your keyboard, and leave a basketball sized, chocolate mud baby on it, laugh at you...then make you eat it. I probably would piss on you if you were on fire…but only if I’d just drank 8 gallons of turpentine.

So who are these people? The people that lead me to fantasize about defecating on their computers?

The ones that use so-called ‘fashionable’ typing styles.

The first is the people who write their blogs, as though they’re writing it on a cell-phone keypad. You know the ones. ‘How R U doing, Do U want 2 go 4 a sk8 at the sk8 park B4 2sday?’

People, please. That’s perfectly fine in an actual text message. Using a phone keypad for texting is long and time consuming, you only have a limited amount of space for your text and have to push a single key about 8 times to get the letter you want.

However, a blog is not a text message. You can take as long as you want to type it, have unlimited space, and a full sized keyboard.

It’s laziness, pure and simple. If you want to write something for others to read…actually write it! You have a full sized keyboard in front of you! What’s next?

If you can’t be bothered to actually write your blog in full, don’t bother writing it at all. You’d be doing us all a big favour.

However, the cell phone typers have nothing on these people.

You know these ones to.

Yes, I’M TalkInG AboUT ThE OnES wHO tyPe LikE ThiS

What in the flaming blue f**k are these people on? What makes it even worse is that this typing ‘style’ and meaningless drivel seem to go hand in hand. If I read a blog, I want to do just that…read a blog. What I don’t want is a migraine with a side order of complete and total bollocks.

This must be the first form of communication designed to be as unreadable as possible. ‘Okay, I’ve already written over 100,000 words about the guy who I went out with once, 5 years ago, before he dumped me (This guy is usually referred to as ‘SHIT’, that’s right, in capital letters). Everyone is already bored to tears, it’s only half readable because I type in cellphone language…how can I make my boring, incomprehensible, teenage angst ridden, self indulgent drivel even more unreadable? I know! I’ll randomly hit the shift key!’

Why don’t you just go ahead and write it in ‘windings’? It’ll make just as much sense, and might result in fewer migraines.

I just do not understand what would cause anyone to type like that. I’ve only ever written anything even close to that once in my life, and that was the time I spilled coffee on my keyboard and managed to short it out.

I mean why? Why? Why? Why?

Let me let the WeiRdo TypErs in on a little secret. No one thinks that’s impressive, no one thinks it’s cool. No one reads it and thinks “Wow! This guy is obviously really different, non-conformist and cool!’ The only thing it makes people think is that you’re either a mental patient, or have wall-eye vision and a malfunctioning keyboard.

Here are a few little secrets. First of all, ‘different’ does not equal cool. Sometimes different is just different. If you want to stand out of the crowd, try to do it with the actual content of your writing, not in the actual writing style. Pick a different font for f**k’s sake if you’re that desperate. If you can’t write something interesting, don’t try to cover it by typing as though you’re typing with boxing gloves on and a wasp in your pants. We’re not fooled. We’re not impressed.

The other thing is that you’re not being different by doing it. There are about a million other people who are just as mentally impaired as you. It’s like the teenager who goes through a goth phase in order to be different and non-conformist, and doesn’t realize that all he’s doing is conforming in a different clique. (“Ha! I now sit on the other side of the lunch hall, with my myriad different friends! How different am I? We’ll show them, me and the other 40 goths that go to this school!”)

All that type of writing does is make your meaningless drivel about how much you hate your one-date ‘ex’, or how your teacher is a bastard and doesn’t understand you, even more incomprehensible. Talking in welsh riddles and screaming every third word is ‘different’ to, it doesn’t mean I’ll gain instant cool (sorry, kewl) and popularity by doing it.

If you talked the same way you typed, people would think you were having a seizure.

(deep breath)

Right now there’s a lot of angry teenagers, wearing eyeshadow in black bedrooms who are cursing my name while listening to Korn. They’re probably saying something like: “He don’t get it”, or “HE’s A H8r BcOZ He DuNT UnDerStanD thAt wE IS DiFFereNT, WoT A LuSoR”

Yes, maybe you are different, but having a cue-ball sized boil on the end of your dick is different as well…and that’s just about how cool, and about 1/10th as irritating, as you are.

I look forward to the poorly spelled hate mail.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

If You Can't Take It, Don't Dish It Out.

Every time I think the world just can’t get any screwier, something happens that makes me totally re-evaluate it.

Today I heard a story.

Ever heard of the shock-jock, Howard Stern?

Course you have.

Know who his girlfriend is?


Well, his girlfriend, the model Beth Ostrosky, being an apparent hottie; got the inevitable FHM cover.

Now that isn’t so screwy, it happens all the time. If you happen to be a very attractive woman, and get in the public eye somehow, chances are, at some point, you’ll end up on TV or on a magazine cover.

This happens all the time. Look at the socialite ‘celebrities’. The women who are famous for being famous. For example, Paris Hilton.

Lots of money? Check.
Long blonde hair? Check.
Nice pair of breasts? Check.
Willing to show off said breasts in a series of revealing outfits? Check.
Happen to be in a high-profile nightclub when the press is present? Check.
Any discernable talent? Maybe, but doubtful.

Congratulations! Welcome to the wonderful world of magazine covers, and bloody terrible reality TV shows. Apparently, all it takes to become a celebrity these days is a nice rack, and a nearby camera.

A few weeks ago, Jake Bronstein, the Editor-at-large of FHM America was interviewed on my favourite TV show, G4TV’s ‘Attack of the Show’ (There’s a link to their website on the left).

It just so happened that Howard Stern’s girlfriend was on the cover that month. The Editor was explaining the photo shoot, and started talking about the accompanying interview. (More accurately described as the ‘girlfriend excuse’…no darling, I wasn’t looking at her nearly bare breasts, I was simply reading the informative article.)

Kevin Pereira, the host asked:

“What can you actually ask her about? She’s only known for being Howard Stern’s girlfriend.”

Bronstein also said: “"Nobody knew who Beth Ostrosky was before she became Howard Stern's girlfriend…It was a good move on her part."

Fair points, don’t you think?

I know that sounds a little like he was saying Beth Ostrosky got involved with Stern purely for the fame…but in the context of the interview, it didn’t mean that. He was just pointing out that her relationship with Stern gave her career a boost. Which is true.

For example, If I happened to own a 6-pack, instead of the beer keg that adorns my middle, and just happened to have a face that looked slightly less like an arse…if my wife was a film star, and I ended up in a photo shoot, I’d expect all the questions to be along the lines of: “So what is it like to be married to Sunny?”

After all, she’s the talented one, I just happen to be a bit of convenient eye-candy. Sure, I may have my own things going on the side, maybe writing a column for a magazine, or I may be a z-list celebrity in my own right, but who do you want to hear about? The slightly well-known, or the world-famous?

Breasts and six-packs sell magazines and, let’s face it, very few people care what those boobs and that washboard stomach have to say. Let’s face it, would Pamela Anderson or Paris Hilton be on TV if they looked like Gomer Pile? Would Brad Pitt be half as famous if he looked like he’d fallen from the top of the ugly tree, hit every branch on the way down, and was then administered a sound beating with the ugly stick for good measure?

I don’t think so.

I’m not saying that every attractive female that has ever graced the cover of a men’s magazine is an airhead, bimbo or not a worthwhile person. I just mean, from a media point of view, very few are actually interesting.

Models tend to be famous for being good looking. Some of them turn out to have led interesting lives, but most of them tend to follow the “I got spotted by a talent scout in the local supermarket, and here I am today.” Storyline. We’ve heard that before, we don’t care. We just want to know if they have any interesting gossip about their famous partner.

It’s not just true for girls either. Ladies, when you see the new Ralph Lauren underwear billboard, you don’t suddenly develop an interest in where the well endowed guy in the tighty-whiteys went to school…you just wonder what’s under that small piece of white cotton.

Anyway. The FHM editor turned the question into a bit of a joke, explaining how in that sense you have to be a little tactful, and act interested in what the girl had to say, then just work in their relationship to the famous person.

Think of it this way. Imagine that a major celebrity gets a new non-celebrity girlfriend. She’s good looking, and ends up being in your magazine.

What are you going to ask her? Are you going to go over her life, step by step, in the hope of finding something halfway interesting? Or do you simply focus on her relationship with the celebrity?

You focus on her relationship, all the way. Your readers don’t care if the model is interesting; they just want to know about the bigger celebrity they’re involved with. If you interview a bit player from a movie, the first thing you ask is “What was it like working with (insert big star’s name here).”

Kevin Pereira and Jake Bronstein weren’t being vindictive or purposefully trying to humiliate Howard Stern, or his girlfriend. Pereira was simply asking a valid question, and receiving a valid answer.

Ok, I’ve set this up enough. Here comes the crazy part.

The next day, Howard Stern, on his show, started bitching and whining about how unfair to his girlfriend ‘Attack of the Show’ was. He also said “They kind of made me out to be a total dope.”

This was reported on ‘Attack of the Show’.

Pereira’s reaction?

He said, live on air, that they weren’t deliberately being offensive, and actually said he was flattered that someone like Howard Stern had even heard of them. Apologetic and flattering.

The story doesn’t end there.

A few days later, FHM’s Editor-in-Chief gets the sack.

Now I have to point out that FHM’s editor’s sacking is not directly linked to Howard Stern, although it was reported on ‘Page 6’ that Howard Stern had him sacked, and at this point in time, the story has not yet been retracted. In Bronstein’s personal blog, he also states that the ‘Howard Stern Incident’ was why he was sacked.

Right now it’s ‘officially’ only a rumor, but a highly likely and plausible one.

Now I can understand someone being upset that they were made to look a little stupid, and that it was insinuated that their girlfriend wasn’t super-talented on national TV…but Howard Stern?

This is a so-called “Shock Jock”. A guy who makes his living being as politically incorrect as possible. Here’s a guy who says what he likes on his radio show, and basically tells the world to suck his cock if they don’t like it. Here’s a guy who is apparently dead set against censorship.

If you’ve ever listened to this guy’s radio show, in my opinion, it is absolutely terrible. It’s basically an entire show based around insulting people, and him telling a procession of models to show him their boobs. Real ‘lowest common denominator’ entertainment.

This is what Howard Stern ‘shock-jock’ is known for. Making fun of celebrities and giving the censors heart attacks.

It seems that Howard Stern feels he should be allowed to be as insulting, as politically incorrect and as ‘in your face’ as he wants to be. However, no one else should be able to do the exactly same thing as he does, especially if it’s a jibe against him or someone he cares about.

A show that ‘kind of’ makes him out to be a ‘total dope’, is going to far.

Howard Stern laughing his ass off at everyone else is fine, but woe betide anyone who so much as insinuates something less than complimentary about his girlfriend, or puts him in a slightly bad light, however mild the so called ‘insult’ is.

A guy whose job it is to make fun of everyone else gets upset when someone even insinuates something bad about him.

What a hypocritical, self absorbed asshole.

If you want to retain any kind of credibility in a shock-jock image, don’t make shows like “Son of the Beach”, make a career out of laughing at people and giving the censors the middle finger…then throwing a hissy fit, and having someone fired, all because someone was mildly unkind to your girlfriend…especially when what they say is true.

Every model that has been on his show has spent most of the segment being told she’s hot, being asked about her boobs and getting hit on. He regularly makes other people out to be ‘dopes’.

Seems Mr. Stern tasted his own medicine and didn’t like it. Seems Mr. Stern thinks that it’s perfectly acceptable to ruin someone’s career, just because they acted slightly like him.

What I want to know is why is different because this time? Because the well endowed blonde is his girlfriend? Because, for a change, it’s someone else making fun of him?. In fact, ‘making fun’ is too strong a word. Asking a valid question, and exposing a slightly embarrassing truth is more accurate.

Come on! How ridiculous can one person be?

I mean, even if he didn’t have ‘editor’ fired, the fact he was bitching about it on his radio show is laughable. It’s like a professional thief complaining because his own house was broken into.

It seems Howard Stern enjoys being the biggest bully in the playground, but runs to the teachers when a kid hits him back.

You can’t make a career out of humiliating people, and run crying when someone gets you back.

I’m looking forward to a real celebrity getting Stern fired next time he decides to do the very thing he got Bronstein fired for…again.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Bloody Foreigners

I read a very interesting post today, following a link on serendipity’s site.
It was concerned basically with America’s attitude towards foreigners. It was interesting, and was based mostly on the American belief that most foreign countries hate them, despite the fact that, statistically, very few Americans have ever left America, (not including border countries like Canada and Mexico).

To be honest, my experience has been a little different. Most of the people I have come into contact with have said that they’d love to visit England, the topic being brought up when they recognize my accent.

I think the belief of Americans that they are unpopular is mainly the result of the media. For example, it was definitely reported on the American news that 50% of the British population disagreed with America over the last Gulf War.

However, if you follow this through logically, it means that if half the British people were against the war, half of the British people supported the war. However, the emphasis was put on the nay-sayers, not the supporters. Why? Because conflict is news, co-operation isn’t.

They say no news is good news, but it seems to me to be a case of good news isn’t news at all.

If you think about it, when was anything ‘good’ really given any decent coverage on the news? If we look at the Iraq situation for a moment, the only thing you hear about is suicide bombings, terrorism, attacks on allied soldiers etc. You never hear about the Iraqi people who are enjoying their new freedom. Even if they do report on something good, like the thousands of Iraqis now voting in free elections, and starting their own government, police forces etc, it’s only reported if the bad guys did something to disrupt the event.

In other words, the Iraqis creating a new non-corrupt police force isn’t reported. The Iraqis who were killed in a car bombing while queuing for interviews for the same new police force is.

In other words, the American people hear everything bad being said about them. They don’t hear any of the good stuff.

Again, think about it logically, if everyone hates America, why does it have one of the highest immigrant populations in the world? If they’re so unpopular, why are so many people clamoring to live there?

The other consideration is cultural stereotypes. It appears to be human nature to base your entire opinion of a country on one or two baseless stereotypes. For example, people I talk to over here, quite often assume that in England I lived in a thatched cottage. They assume that crumpets and tea were my main diet. I was once even asked if England had supermarkets, or just marketplaces like in medieval films.

Of course, America has its own stereotypes. They can be summed up simply as “Big Macs, Guns and Drugs’.

Now I live here, and can state categorically, that that’s not all America is about.

Take the gun issue. ‘Common Knowledge’ says you can walk into any major store and buy a gun as simply as buying a pack of cigarettes. America is gun crazy and you can’t walk down the street without a drive by shooting, or people trying to sell you crack.

What people don’t realize is that when you buy a gun over here, you get put through an instant FBI background check, if you have a criminal record, you don’t get your gun. Also, while hunting and non-concealable weapons are quite readily available, handguns and handgun ammunition is more difficult to buy.

I won’t get into the gun debate right now, maybe that can be the subject of my next post. (If that interests you, please let me know in the comments section). The truth behind America’s so called ‘trigger happy gun culture’ may surprise you.

The other big problem with ‘national relations’ is that someone can meet someone from another country, and based on that person alone, the native makes up their mind about the country that person is from.

Think of this. How many people do you know who piss you off? Every day your country is being judged on people like that.

That may seem a little like generalizing, and far too sweeping a statement, but it’s true.

Take me for instance. Every time I do something that is different to an American’s personal lifestyle, they don’t think it’s a Paulius thing…they think it’s a British thing.

For example, the day before my wedding, me, my wife and some friends went out to dinner. Afterwards we stopped by Barnes and Noble for some coffee. I spotted a small pack of vanilla mints, and having never heard of them, bought a pack. When I got back to the table, I offered them around.

One of our party had never heard of them either. She said:

“Vanilla mints? Hmm, must be an English thing.”

Now this is a very tame and non-offensive example, but it shows how people think. If you’ve never heard of something, and a foreigner tells you about it, we assume that it must be part of that foreigner’s lifestyle or culture.

Of course, like the above example, it can be non-harmful. For example, I found out that in the south, it’s customary to eat spinach and black-eye peas on new years day. Apparently, the spinach represents dollar bills, and the peas represent coins. It’s the tradition to eat that in the hope of prosperity for the New Year.

Of course, I got the world’s funniest look when I said the British tradition is for the youngest member of the family to enter the house first, carrying a piece of coal. That was weird…the spinach thing, however, was completely normal.

Coming into contact with most cultural differences is just a learning experience. Considering the UK gets so much American TV, we think our cultures are very similar, which they are, but there are some amazing differences you don’t come across until you live here.

However, you really do represent your country 24/7 when you’re an immigrant, and it’s a sad fact that if you act rude, aggressive or you’ve just had a bad day and are being a bit of an asshole…when anyone you meet leaves the conversation, they don’t walk away thinking ‘that guy is an asshole’, they walk away thinking ‘British people are assholes!”

If people know you, they think they know your country.

Even the post I read today, the one that got me started on this topic, pointed out that ‘Americans think everyone hates them.’ This simply isn’t true. Some Americans think everyone hates them. Some Americans think everyone loves them.

When you’re talking about a country with a huge population, you can pretty much say that every single opinion you can have about a country is held by someone.

I can’t stress this enough. Since I moved here a year ago, I’ve seen several people’s reactions to me.

To most, I’m a novelty. They love the accent, and they want to know more about England, why I moved, what my impressions of America are.

To some, I’m just another guy.

To a small minority, I’m just another stinking immigrant, here to steal their women and jobs. Luckily, that is a very small minority.

I’ve had everything from. “Yeah, America rules, it’s way better than England…that’s why you moved here, right?” to an incredulous “You lived in England and moved to South Carolina?!? Why???”

Believe it or not, two people, living in the same country, can have diametrically opposed opinions.

My opinion about other countries is the same as my opinion about different races. Don’t base it on the stereotypes…get to know the people.

You just can’t learn about a country from the media, cultural stereotypes and their leaders. Bush isn’t the most popular world leader right now, but can you judge an entire country on him? After all, not everyone in England likes Tony Blair either. Some people in America like Bush, but a lot also think he’s a brain-dead hick.

No, the only true way you can learn about a country is to spend some time there and get to know some of the people. Even then, unless you can arrange an in-depth interview with every person in the country, you can never truly know the country.

We tend to judge countries on the most extreme people in it. Americans think there are only two types of people in England, Pinstriped, bowler hatted, umbrella carrying posh people…or football hooligans.

In England, we see Americans as either the ultra-trendy super-cosmopolitan New Yorkers, or Cletus the slack jawed yokel. There appears to be no in between.

That’s just not possible. Unless everyone in the country is an ultra-trendy, super-cosmopolitan, slack jawed, shotgun toting brain-dead Hill Billy.

I think it’s an in-born, instinctual thing to automatically create an ‘Us versus Them’ mindset when talking about other cultures. I think every human being is born with some form of in-born xenophobia. It’s where all forms of competition come from. “You are different to us, let’s see who is better.”

The only real ‘truth’ I can think of that is the same in all cultures, is that most people who live there are just like you. They get up in the morning, go to their job, and try to earn a living.

Without coming across as idealistic, or a little too twee, I hope that one day, everyone can realize that.

I’ll end with a quote from Terry Pratchett’s “Monstrous Regiment” (and before I get attacked by the fanboys, I may paraphrase a little).

“The enemy aren’t psychopathic monsters, lad, they’re just like you. Probably joined up for a set of new clothes and three squares a day. If you met them in the pub, you might find you have a lot in common, like the same stuff and get on quite well. On the battlefield, however, you have to stick a sword in them, because if you don’t kill them, they’ll kill you…all because they’re just wearing the wrong bloody uniform.”

Us versus Them. That’s what it all boils down to.

Let’s face it, pick any of the major battles in history, when the swords or bullets are flying. Everyone on that field is in mortal terror, expecting death to come at any moment. If at that exact moment, the option to just pack it all in, go down the pub and watch the game on TV was offered…how many people do you think would choose to keep shooting at each other?
We’re all more alike than you think.

Those Wacky Executives...

I want to begin today by asking you all a question.

Ok, close your eyes (not literally, or you won’t be able to read any more of this) and imagine that you work in a bank. You’re a bank teller to be exact. It’s the beginning of the day, and one of your first customers approaches the counter.

“Good Morning.” He says in a distinctive foreign accent. “I need to get a couple of American Express travelers checks cashed please.” He then hands you a foreign driver’s license and a foreign passport for identification.

Here’s my question:

What is the first thing you ask him? Think about this for a minute, before you read any further.

I bet the first thing that popped into your head wasn’t:

“Do you have an account with us?”

Which is exactly what I have been asked every single time I asked to cash a check.

My usual answer was simply “No.” When to be honest, my answer should have been:

“No, genius, I’m in America, trying to cash a travelers check, using my British passport and British drivers license for identification. What do you think the chances of me having an account here actually are?”

Bear in mind that this wasn’t just one bank, this was every single bank I’ve been to in my first year in the USA.

This got me thinking.

There is no possible way that that number of people could all be that stupid. Working in a bank is not exactly rocket science, but it’s not a super easy job either. I mean, if you have to be good at math, use a computer, and understand things like percentages and taxes, you’re not all that likely to be able to completely miss the obvious.

Ah… it’s those wacky executives at work again.

This is becoming more and more common. Rather than assuming that the people working for them are human beings, and are therefore capable of independent thought, abstract thinking and initiative, the execs think they have a bunch of machines working for them.

What do machines need to function? Exactly specified protocols and rules.

I mean, God forbid a bank teller show a flash of personality during their interactions with customers. God forbid they be allowed to actually think and come up with an easy solution to a problem.

No, if you come into contact with the public, you’re given a script. When I worked for the British government, we were actually given a flowchart for each customer enquiry. For every question, there was an official, authorized answer. Deviation from the script was a sacking offence.

Oh, and in case the caller had the sheer audacity to ask a question that wasn’t on the list, or if the line of questioning led to dead end, you know what the little box said?

“Get phone number, and refer to supervisor for call back.”

It didn’t matter if you actually knew the answer yourself. It didn’t matter if you could look up the answer in 15 seconds. The customer had to wait, maybe for days, for a call back from someone else.

Everyone hates automated answer services. ‘..if the service you require is not on the list, you’re SOL, bang your head on your phone keypad now.’ Yet the execs are doing their damndest to make real people who work for them as machine-like as possible.

As an aside, if you’ve ever tried to use an American automated answering system that uses voice recognition, and have a British Accent, you might as well be trying to communicate with someone who can only speak some 500 year old variant of Vietnamese pigeon Flemish.

Oh, those wacky executives and their meetings.

When I finally complete my DeathStar (and just shoot the hero Jedi, rather than try to trap him with an overly complicated plan) and become the supreme ruler of the universe, I’m going to make even the suggestion of an Executive Meeting an offense punishable by the most painful death possible.

Every time an executive meeting was announced in a memo at my old job, I felt a chill run down my spine. It made me want to just scream, laugh manically, and jump headfirst through a window and just keep running until my legs gave way and my chest exploded. As regular readers of my blog will know, I believe that executives have the following purposes in life:

1) To be completely detached from any semblance of reality.
2) Come up with grand sounding ideas that are totally impractical and have as much chance of working in real life as Hitler has of being awarded the Nobel peace Prize.
3) Implement new things that makes something a company already does 50 times more difficult, and 1000 times more time consuming and expensive.
4) To blame others and fire a whole bunch of people when their schemes inevitably fail.
5) Lie through their teeth at every opportunity.

Let me give you an example.

When I first started working at my old job, when we answered the phone, we had to say one thing:

“Social Security.”

Simple and to the point. It announces who we are, and lets the customer know they’ve got the right number.

Then the execs had a meeting. Apparently, our phone greeting was too sterile and unfriendly. It was changed to:

“Good morning! Social Security.”

A little longer, not too bad yet…except for the totally condescending memo, informing us that the greeting ‘Good Morning’ was only to be used in the actual morning. In the afternoon, we had to say “Good Afternoon.” Glad they told me. I’d never have worked that out on my own.

This however, only lasted for about a week before it was changed to.

“Good Morning, Social Security, Paulius speaking.”

Oh, still not friendly enough. Two weeks later:

“Good morning, Social Security, this is Paulius speaking, how can I help you?”

I would like to point out, that I actually got called to see my section manager for not using the correct greeting. My crime? Saying “How can I help?” instead of “how can I help you?”

Get this, I actually had to go to extra training. That’s right, an hour of my life, given up to training to answer a phone properly. I even arrived back on the section to find the correct greeting taped to the top of my phone.

Ever heard of burning down the building to get rid of a bug problem?

One word off, and it’s a ‘go see your manager thing.’

It doesn’t end there. After a few more revisions, Social security was put under the same umbrella as ‘Jobcentre Plus’. In order not to confuse our obviously stupid customers, as well as adding ‘Jobcentre Plus’ to the greeting, we still had to keep the ‘social security’ part.

(Apparently, not saying ‘Social Security’ will confuse the customers. Changing the greeting about 8 times in two months is perfectly reasonable and not at all confusing).

Oh, and despite the fact that our office dealt with London, it was deemed necessary to inform our customers where the office was, despite the fact all mail was sent in pre-printed envelopes, and we didn’t deal directly with the public. Oh, and we had to give our section name as well.

In the end, every time we answered the phone, we had to say, word for word, (because if you didn’t, you got extra training and a talking to from your manager):

“Good morning, Social Security, Jobcentre Plus, Makerfield. This is Paulius speaking on London Review Three, How can I help you?”

It doesn’t sound like a lot, but imagine rattling that off a few hundred times per day, to a person who has already been kept waiting on hold for about 45 minutes.

I think only, maybe, one time out of 15, the customer waited for me to finish the greeting.

These same execs were the people who decided, that after a spate of Admin officers being attacked in Jobcentres, the answer was not more security.

No. They actually took all the safety screens down, and started firing the security guards.

Their thinking?

“Bullet proof glass, cameras and security send the wrong message and put customers in an aggressive mood. By removing all security, we will make the place more welcoming, making people calmer and less disposed to violence. We want to generate an atmosphere that you would find in a bank, rather than an unemployment office” – Exact quote from an inter-office memo.

Apparently, the reason these people were on edge wasn’t because they had no job and had a family to feed. It wasn’t even because they were sick of the overly-long and complicated claims process and had spent about 3 hours queuing.

It was because the Jobcentres didn’t have the right ‘atmosphere’.

I’m not exaggerating here, that’s the stone-cold truth. If you don’t believe me, do a google search. We actually went on strike over it.

Oh, and the best thing? Just before I left to come to America, we began to strike over pay, as the pay rise we received was actually 3% less than inflation, making our pay rise actually more of a pay cut.

Their answer? Our main boss who earns almost 900,000GBP a year, sent the entire service an email, explaining that we actually got paid an awful lot, and the pay rise was really generous.

But do you know what? For some reason, people working a highly skilled job (basic training took nearly a year), who were only earning 11,600GBP a year, weren’t happy with someone earning nearly a million a year telling them to stop complaining. They also had an ability that no one in management thought they had…the ability to do simple mathematics.

Like someone putting a dollar bill in your hand, and telling you it’s a hundred…and expecting you to believe them.

That’s just a perfect executive answer. If your employees complain about their low pay, simply tell them that their pay is great. If they complain because their raise is equal to about 3 cents per hour, when by law it should be at least a dollar, tell them that their raise is actually very generous…and to stop being ungrateful,

I actually earned about a million de-merit points from my boss on the day we had a meeting about motivation and maximizing our output. After listening to the terrible plight that our customers face for about 3 hours, she asked the question “What would motivate you?”

I answered: “Pay me more money.”

You just wouldn’t believe the look and the dressing down I got for not thinking about the ‘greater good’.

I was pissed off, and retaliated.

Her face turned to thunder when I pointed out that a lot of the poor souls she was using as examples to show who we were helping, actually got more in their unemployment checks, than I got in my paycheck.

She hastily changed the subject…I didn’t even bother drawing anyone’s attention to the fact she drove a Porsche Boxter to work every day.

That was true. Believe it or not, a lot of the unemployment checks I was sending out were bigger than my paycheck. I worked out that if I was married and had two kids, I would get more on unemployment than I would working for Social Security.

However, like the man said, our wages were great, and our pay cut…sorry, pay raise, was really generous, and we were very lucky.

Well the greater good can just kiss my hairy British ass. Especially considering the fact that I went through a year long selection process, followed by about 9 months training to earn less than your average McDonalds employee.

To me it’s simple. If you want me to work hard, you’ve got to pay me in direct proportion to the effort involved. I don’t work for a sense of well-being and the satisfaction of a job well done.

I work so I can eat and have a place to live.

Apparently, that’s the one thing that Executives never think of when trying to motivate their staff. Money. Moolah. Greenbacks. For some reason, earning vast sums of cash is not considered a motivating factor in making an employee work hard and want to keep their jobs. I was honestly at the point in my old job where I didn’t give a shit if I was fired or not. I didn’t give a damn if I met the ridiculously unreasonable targets. Maybe if I’d been earning more than 11,600 a year for a 40 hour week, I would have cared slightly more.

Now I’ve got to tell you a story. This is true.

In a meeting to discuss motivation, one exec suggested writing things like “Good Job” and “Well done” on different colored note cards. The thinking was the workers would start competing with each other, and start trying to collect all the different cards.

A new exec (the rot hadn’t set it yet), pointed out that if he told his office about the new system, and expected them to work harder to collect colored note cards…they would laugh in his face.

Another exec looked him in the eye, and said:

“You’re right. Maybe we should consider using bigger cards. Letter size perhaps.”

These are the people in charge, folks.

I’m going to end today’s rant with a joke that sums up my opinion of Executives entirely:

The British rowing team was in a race with the Japanese. After the race, it was determined that they lost by 10 boat lengths.

A team of consultants was called in at a cost of $10,000 per hour. After 5 years they came up with the following billion dollar answer:

‘The Japanese had 10 people rowing, and one person steering, while the British team had 8 people rowing and three people steering.”

In order to improve their chances of winning, the British team reorganized their boat. They had 1 overall steering manager, 2 steering liason managers, 2 steering floor managers, 4 area steering managers and one person rowing, motivated with a performance bonus package of an extra 2 cents per boat length they win by.

The following year, they lost by over a 1000 boat lengths. The single rower was fired for poor work performance; while the managers were each give a massive bonus for at least finding where the problem was.

This is the world we live in.

Stop the Universe, I want to get off.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Revenge of the Fish - Part Deux

Regular readers of my little blog will know that myself and DIY do not mix…at all.

In fact, anything remotely complicated usually results in bodily injury. Anything that involves more than three steps, or involves any kind of multi-tasking whatsoever, usually results in disaster.

For example, I can make toast, no problem. However, if making toast also involves buttering it and making some eggs to go along with it…I could easily lose a leg.

If you want a clearer example, or if this is your first visit, read ‘It’s a Man’s World’ in the archives. I would put a link directly to it, but that involves more than one step, and I enjoy owning all of my fingers.

Well, anyone who read my last post will know that my homicidal pet fish, in a new and surprising gambit to bring about my death, created a leak in their tank with a view to electrocute me. Of course, I tried to repair it.

I failed …the scars are still healing (It’s amazing the disasters I can cause with a simply tube of window and door sealant.)

I went to the next step. My mother-in-law just happened to have a spare aquarium in her basement.

What followed was a clusterf**k of such epic proportions, that it bears repeating.

So here it is.

“How Not to Change Out an Aquarium.”

1 Bring new aquarium into the house. Notice with dismay that things have been living in it for the past 20 years. Examine potentially the mine-able deposit of lime scale on the side of the tank.

2 I remember the front window incident, so I find cat and lock her away for the duration of the project. If she sniggers at me one more time…I’ll just lose it.

3 Begin by scooping out old gravel and ornaments. Spill gravel and ornaments onto carpet. Emit first swear word of the day.

4 Decide the ‘easiest’ way to clean the aquarium is to drop it in the bathtub and run shower onto it.

5 Leave water running for 15 minutes until entire 25 gallon tank is full of hot water. Squirt in some detergent and plunge my hand into the tank.

6 Remember a split second too late that the hot water in my house is maintained at about 80 degrees centigrade. Squeal like a 5 year old girl being hit with a water balloon. Hear wife chuckle from living room.

7 Turn shower back on, making sure the water is cold this time.

8 Wash out the tank. Accidentally put my head under the shower. Bathroom is 97 degrees, water is about 2 degrees. Let out a vibrato scream that an opera singer would be proud of. Head into living room and tell wife to stop laughing…seriously… it’s not funny.

9 Head back into bathroom. I look at the tank and slowly realize that I now have a half ton of water in a receptacle with no hand grips.

10 Try to lift tank to empty out the water. I might as well be trying to move the Statue of Liberty 6 inches to the left.

11 Notice that the end of the tank is hanging over plughole. I put my finger into the plughole and under the tank. With much grunting and swearing, I manage to lift the tank about 2 inches.

12 Drop the whole shebang onto my right index finger. Produce a piercing squeal that would make a banshee proud. The neighborhood dogs begin to bark Wife sensibly moves into the kitchen.

13 Manage to find a half gallon jug, and begin the long slow process of emptying a 25 gallon tank, a half gallon at a time. Wife hears uncharacteristic silence, and is scared.

14 Forget that sitting in a 97 degree bathroom, plunging hand repeatedly into hot water is not exactly healthy. Pass out.

15 Wake up with my face on the toilet seat.

16 Manhandle the empty tank into the living room. Set down on the office chair.

17 Find siphon hose, and siphon ¾’s of tank water into new tank.

18 Swear and throw things as I realize the gravel and ornaments should have gone in first. Can’t throw water away, as the old tank water is cycled, and all tap water will kill fish.

19 Begin to weep as I remember that I don’t own a net, and therefore have no easy way to transfer fish into new tank.

20 Bite the bullet and lift old tank, with already screaming back, and try to pour the fish into the new tank, whilst attempting to keep the gravel in the old tank. Fail dismally.

21 Laugh manically as the fish desperately try to swim against the current and stay in old tank. Eyes go all weird and starey as I cackle manically at the fish. Notice the look the wife is giving me as I cackle “It’s you own damn fault you stupid piscine bastards!!!!”

22 See the Calico flip me off. Wife does not see, despite my continued insistence.

23 Losing my mind completely, I put air-hose, filter, airstone and diver into new tank.

24 Remember too late what happens to an airhose inside a half full fish tank, that isn’t connected to an air pump. Only notice my mistake when the water spurting out of the loose end of the air hose splashes my leg.

25 Rise from the side of the tank like the Wrath of Kings, and let loose a Bellow of Rage. Birds scatter, deer run, entire day’s national supply of milk goes sour. Satan writes a letter of complaint.

26 Attempt to stop siphon effect the only way I can. Put my lips around the end of the hose and blow. It works, but not before I get a mouthful of dirty fish-water.

27 Choke, cry. Brush teeth for 35 minutes while sobbing uncontrollably.

28 I regroup and fill 10 gallon bucket with tap water. Add conditioner, chloramine-bond breaker and ammonia lock. Realize that fish are swimming in water about 100 times more pure and healthy than I will ever swim in, or even drink. Flip off the Calico, and call her a bastard.

29 Realize that I now have to lift a handleless 10 gallon bucket up over my head in order to gain the height necessary to pour the water into the new tank.

30 Get bucket to chest height and decide to adjust grip for better stability. Pour about 2 gallons down the front of my shirt. I’m so hot, and water is so cold that I drop the bucket in shock. Manage to save about a gallon.

31 See bubbles rise in new tank as all the fish laugh at me at once.

32 Prepare more water, and tip it into tank. Fish get sloshed around. Laugh at fish.

33 See the neon tetras swim in a formation that spells out ‘Fuck You’, in the style of the Birdmen from ‘Flash Gordon’. Begin gibbering. Wife calls local mental hospital.

34 Fight with wife as I struggle to drop a plugged in toaster into the tank. She convinces me that I couldn’t possibly have seen what I did. As soon as her back is turned, the Calico flips me off again. Start to wonder what a .22 caliber bullet at point blank range would do to a Calico Fantail.

35 Finally get the tank filled and I start the air pump and filter.

36 Notice the front of the tank has a completely immovable calcium stain. Notice that the back of the tank, which is facing the wall, is completely spot free.

37 Wife pulls my head out of tank, where I am attempting to drown myself.

38 Fall onto the ground in a cold damp heap. Rock backwards and forwards for about 8 hours…feel a little better, mainly thanks to the funky yellow pill the man in the white coat gave to me. Spend an hour looking at an apple and giggling.

39 Decorate tank and get everything up and running. Drop clothes in washer. Notice how smug the fish are looking…they think they’ve got a luxury apartment in Beverly Hills.

40 Seriously start to wonder how hard it would be to kick an fish in the balls.

I now only have one last thing to do.

Find the bastard who said owning fish was relaxing…then choke him with an extra large goldfish.