Friday, August 26, 2005

Nationalistic Shame

I thought that today, I'd do another 'quick, before the laptop crashes' post...but actually make it interesting to read, and not be solely about my new computer.

I saw that walmart had some fairly decent systems for a lowish price (I'm not the type to buy computers from Walmart, but my situation is desperate), so we went for a look, just in case.

Anyway, I've posted before on how when you move to a new country, it doesn't take long to realise that you're not just representing yourself, you're representing your entire country. For example, if I'm rude...people don't just think "Boy, that guy was rude." They think "Boy, English people are rude!"

So you can imagine how pissed of I was when this happened.

So, the wife and I were looking at an emachines desktop. It was passable. Suddenly, a wave of BO wafted my way.

A guy walks up to me, gets about 3 inches from my face and just stares for a moment. After he realises that I'm not intimidated in the slightest (He was about two feet shorter than me), he says:

"Gimme some change so I can get something to eat."

No please, no thankyou, nothing. Just a demand for money...in an unmistakable London Accent.

Now many of you may think I'm judging harshly, a poor guy, down on his luck.

Maybe, if it wasn't for the fact he absolutely stunk of booze at 10 in the morning.

It pissed me off. Not just because a drunk had walked up and tried to first intimidate me, then demanded money from me. It pissed me off, because every person this guy approached walked away thinking of British people as drunken, agressive bums.

So, I simply said "No." I didn't bother telling him I didn't have any cash (I didn't).

He stared for a minute, gave me a look of disgust and walked off, right towards an elderly couple.

Now, I'm not saying all homeless people or all 'vagrants' are out on the street because they like it, or because they're too lazy to get a job...it's not true. All I know is it cost me $40,000 to get to america...and even if he's here illegally, he at least had to come up with some steep plane fare.

Basically, I was pissed that a drunk tried to scare money out of me...and the fact that he reflects directly on me.

Asshole.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Hey all

Just another quick update.

By next thursday, I'll have most of the cash I need for the computer. Then it'll take me about a week or so to come up with the rest of the cash.

So, People, with any luck, I'll have the new computer in two weeks.

Anyway, I'd better post this, for some reason the text is appearing in the right place, but the cursor is halfway down the screen, corrupting everything it passes through.

I hate this laptop.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Quick Update

Hey all,

Just to let you know, through some creative budgeting, and a small cash advance from my parents (god bless them and the exchange rate), I should have a new computer by the sunday after next.

In short, I should be back up and running by two weeks today.

Unfortunately until then I'm still having to rely on my busted ass laptop that likes to switch itself off after about 15 minutes, or lock up, or freeze...so unfortunately don't expect anything to in depth until then.

So anyway, I ask again for everyone to be patient. I know that no one is counting the minutes until I'm back online...but I'd still like for you to be here when I get back.

Anyway, everyone have a good one, and I'll be back on line for Winter-een-mas, maybe even for Master Chiefmas

Thursday, August 18, 2005

God Killed my computer

Hey all,

This will have to be short. We had a lightning strike which fried our computer. I'm writing this on my old busted assed laptop that's taken me 3 1/2 hours to get working to where I can connect, and is likely to screw up, lock up and shut down at any second (there's some physical damage to the motherboard...likely caused by another lightning strike).

In short, we're a computerless couple right now. I'll try to see what I can do over the next few days to beg borrow or steal a replacement. Keep checking back, because I'll try to get to the 'local' (read over 60 miles away) library at least once a week, so I can put up new posts.

With any luck, I'll have an alternative within a couple of weeks (see if I can get an old 286 somewhere).

Basically, people, this is a 'stand by'. Or in other words, don't say "That guy never updates any more!" and delete me from your bookmarks. Life, What The Hell Is Going On? Will rise again!

Oh, and of course, those of you who also read my wife's blog (sunnysez.blogspot.com), should be aware that she can't post anything new either for the next couple of weeks.

PS The lightning strike also took out our coffeemaker. No computer, internet or coffee.

God really does hate me

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Eureka!!!!

As anyone who owns a TV will tell you, remotes have a life of their own.

They run away. They hide. They somehow manage to spontaneously disappear, then turn up three days later in the most unlikely of locations.

Of course, the human element plays a big part in this. I have personally spent 10 minutes looking for a remote before finding it…in my hand.

I’ve also done really dumb things like carry the remote with me to the kitchen without thinking. Then I open the fridge, put the remote on a shelf in the fridge while I pull out the Pepsi, pour my drink, then close the fridge on the remote. I then spend hours searching, and only find it when I give up and go back to the fridge for a drink.

However, whether you put ‘TV Remote Physics’ down to human error, alien conspiracies or unintentional psycho-kinesis, the truth is, they vanish.

Remote organizers don’t help. You know, those things you hang off the side of the sofa. You see, you have to take the remote out to use it…and once it leaves its little cubby, it instantly becomes a 6 inch bigfoot. You start to doubt its existence at all.

This leads to what I call TVRMS, or Television Remote Madness Syndrome.

TVRMS is the reason most men begin to sweat if they have to hand the remote to anyone. Not only are they giving up control of the TV (which is the same experience as a dyed in the wool dictator giving up his power), they also know that once the remote is more than a foot away from his body, it will vanish to the Land Of The Lost (that same location that the other sock and the disposable pens end up).

Some people descend so far into TVRMS, that they start to do truly crazy things. There is a person I know in England who absolutely insists that the remote is left on top of the TV. In order to stop losing his remote, he will get up, walk to his TV, pick up the remote, change the channel, replace the remote and then sit down again.

TVRMS is a real disease. Only some deep seated psychological trauma can cause behaviour like this.

It seems logical, he never loses his remote, but by leaving it on top of the TV, he’s rendering it completely redundant. It’s like bricking a car up in the garage to prevent it from being stolen. Effective, but kinda removes the point of owning a car.

A while back I had an idea. A complete and total cure for TVRMS.

When I first moved to the USA, we bought a new phone. Now this is a good phone, all the bells and whistles you don’t need, but really, really want. For example, it has both base unit and handset speakerphone…it will even ‘read’ the caller ID, and announce who is calling. (as an aside, this feature is strange, it can handle names like Juronkzuweenu without a hitch, but mispronounces names like ‘Smith’ and ‘Roberts’).

However, my favourite feature is the handset locator. If the handset goes missing, you push a button on the base unit, and the handset starts beeping. Then you simply follow the sound.

So I thought, why not have this with TV remotes? The technology exists. Just put a little button on your TV that when you press it, your remote starts bleeping. Problem solved.

I had dreams of fame, fortune and glory. This was one of those ideas that is so ridiculously simple, that anyone could have thought of it…and inventions that anyone could have thought of seem to be the most rare (like the plastic things on the end of shoelaces to stop them fraying, or reflectors in the road, or the little plastic handle to stop you burning yourself on those plastic disposable cups). My favourite invention of all time was invented by a builder. He got sick of housewives complaing about the mess he left on their floors after he’d had to drill the walls. So one day he laid a plastic sandwich bag against the wall before he started drilling…and it caught the dust.

He had a brainwave, and designed tiny little plastic bags that had post-it-note glue on one side. You stick it to the wall and drill through it. A very simple idea, and it made him a billionaire in less than a week.

As for my invention, unfortunately, after a little research, my dreams died.

You see, the problem with this idea is that the technology behind it already exists. Someone already owns the patent.

This means that any TV manufacturer who includes it as a feature will find themselves paying a royalty to the patent holder…and the cost of an extra couple of dollars for every TV made adds up to billions.

So unfortunately, chances are. We’ll never see bleeping remotes. (I mean actual bleeping remotes, that wasn’t an effort to hide a swearword.)

It’s amazing just how many great inventions will never see the light of day because either someone already holds a patent to similar technology, or just through politics.

There used to be a show on the Discovery Channel where inventors would showcase their inventions, and a ‘product champion’ (read: Agent) would pick a winner and represent the product and try and get it made.

On one particular episode, it came down to two people. One had invented a way that through all kids of gears a pulleys, you could make a boat oar that would allow you to row, but head in the direction you’re facing (when you move the oar backwards, the blade goes forwards in the water, and vice-versa).

It was a good idea, but not great. It looked like it would take a lot of maintenance, would stop working a lot…and to be honest…who cares?

The second guy had a great, and simple invention. He’d discovered that when disposable razors went ‘blunt’, a lot of the time it was because limescale and crud buildup on the blade. So he designed himself a little device to remedy the problem. Basically it was a wheel covered in felt. You pushed the blade down onto the wheel, the wheel would spin and clean the blade.

They demonstrated it live on the show. They took a well used razor, and gave it to someone to try out. Obviously, being blunt, it hurt like hell.

Then they cleaned the razor on the guy’s little device (it was about the size of a cigarette packet). It took less than two seconds, and the buy testing it was amazed. His actual words were: “This feels like a new razor!”

‘No contest!’ I thought. ‘Few people use rowboats regularly, but 99% of men shave every day!’

I was impressed. You see, my hair is very thick a wiry. I put a new blade in my Mach III Turbo, and it’s unusable in four shaves. I wanted one of this guy’s devices, it would save me a whole buttload of cash.

However, the ‘Product Champion’ dismissed it out of hand.

“It’s a great idea.” He said. “But you’ll never get it on the market. You’re basically trying to sell a product that extends the life of someone else’s product. If you can double the life of a disposable razor, you’ll be halving the razor company’s profits.”

The inventor gave an answer along the lines of ‘So? That’s not my problem.”

The Product Champion continued: “Unfortunately, razor manufacturers like Gillette and Bic have lots and lots of money. If you tried to release this, they’d take you to court because it would be their products that this is designed for.”

The inventor used a TV-friendly way of saying that was complete and utter bullshit, but the Product Champion put it into simple terms:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re right. Gillette and Bic are multi-billion dollar companies. If they take you to court, you’ll lose.”

So in the end, the winner was the guy with the crazy oars.

It seems that everything comes down to money. If you invent something that will make lots of it, chances are you’ll get it on the market…as long as it won’t take money away from anyone who is already richer than you.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Zombie PC's

Apparently, PC Gaming is dead.

The reason behind this ‘fact’?

The soon to be released Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360.

You see, PC gaming has always had an edge over the consoles, in that gaming PC’s are more powerful, and thus capable of running better games than current generation consoles.

Now with the release of the new next-generation consoles, die hard console gamers are proclaiming the end of the PC as a gaming machine.

“Look!” They say. “The Xbox 360 is just as powerful as any gaming PC, and is much cheaper!”

This has been spurred on by the fact that the relatively recent release of Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 took a leap forward in graphic quality. Of course, with such a leap forward, many PC gamers found themselves being forced to shell out for a $400 graphics card to supply the horsepower these games need. This made the console owners simply dance with joy.

“Why spend $400 upgrading your PC just to play one game, when you can buy a next gen console?”

However, in my humble opinion, as both a PC and a console gamer, this reasoning is flawed.

The first thing that makes me believe that PC’s will always be competitive gaming systems is the control setup. You simply cannot beat the keyboard and mouse combination for first person shooters. In fact, at the birth of online console gaming, it became apparent that an average PC gamer could, quite simply, beat the pants off an expert console player. The mouse gives much more precise control that a small analog stick.

However, mouse, shmouse! The console answer to this question is simply that at some point, console producers will get wise to this, and release a mouse for the console.

However, being the tricky devil I am, I have more arguments.

Consoles have a limited lifespan. They’re non-upgradable. When the next gen comes along, the previous generation consoles simply get left by the roadside. PC’s, being upgradable, can have an almost unlimited lifespan.

Ah HA! But what about the cost of upgrading!

Well, what about the cost of buying a new console every 3 or four years?

Especially with the price point for the new consoles expected to be around the $400-$500 dollar range, it’s not exactly cheap to buy a new console either.

The big difference is also the amount of money you have to spend at a single time on a console, you have to buy the whole thing. PC’s let you break up the cost. You can get a new soundcard on one payday, and a new processor later.

Also, with a PC, you don’t necessarily have to buy the latest and greatest upgrade. In fact, prices drop dramatically with every advance…and because with PC’s, things advance more quickly (no console manufacturer expects their customers to buy a whole new console every 6 months, but with every PC advance, as they are selling a single component, there is always a market for them).

As a for instance, with my last PC, an AMD Athalon 1.13 ghz processor was retailing for roughly 200GBP. However, three months later, when they released a 2ghz processor, the price dropped to 60GBP. I snapped one up, and it was more than capable of handling brand new games. You see, when brand new PC components are released, they tend to be ‘overkill’, in that the games available don’t really need it, but future ones will. This means that the second (or even third) best is, 99 times out of 100, perfectly capable of running any new game out there. By the time you actually need that new upgrade, the next one has come along, so you can get the upgrade you need at around half price or lower.

This brings me to my next point. A brand new graphics card may cost around $400, but much cheaper cards (around the $200 mark) are capable of running the next-gen games. It won’t be peak performance, and there will be one or two slowdowns when there are lots of characters on screen…but the same is true with a lot of console games (Like Dynasty Warriors 1 through 4). With the added advantage being that $400 graphics card will retail for at least half that in six months, and be below a hundred dollars in a year.

But who wants to wait a year?

If you put it into perspective, I do. Basically, in less than a years time, PC gamers will be able to upgrade their PC’s to next-gen console standards for less than half of what you’d pay for the console itself. Also, right now, PC gamers, with a less than 200 dollar upgrade, will be able to play next-gen games…albeit at a slightly lower frame rate.

In other words, console gamers laugh at PC Gamers shelling out $400 to upgrade their PC for a ‘single game’, but that’s only the equivalent of shelling out $400 for a new console. That $400 graphics card will still be capable a few years later…but graphics card prices tend to half every 6 months to a year…consoles don’t. In fact, the only time console prices drop dramatically is just before the next one comes along…at which point the console manufacturer stops supporting it, or releasing new games. My old PC hasn’t been upgraded in over two years, but it’s still a fairly capable gaming machine. It also cost a lot less than $400 to upgrade it last time (60GBP for a Geforce 4 graphics card and 80GBP for a new processor).

The other main thing that console-only gamers completely forget to do is look at the recent history of gaming.

The death of the PC as a gaming machine has been proclaimed every single time a new console has come onto the scene, from the original Playstation to the Xbox.

“Look!” They say. “My console can do what your PC can, and it cost half what you paid for your PC!”

“Give it 6 months.” The PC Gamers say.

You see, the advantage of being able to upgrade one component at a time means that in the lifespan of the PS3 and Xbox 360, PC graphics cards, processors and sound cards, will take at least one major step forward a year.

In other words, in the first year of the next gen consoles, yes they will be on a par, or even slightly ahead of their PC counterparts. However, by the middle of the console’s lifespan, PC gaming will be far ahead…yet again.

Basically, my old PC could do what an Xbox could, over a year before the Xbox came out.

I mentioned in my last post that my first computer was a Pentium 75. Well, here’s something to think about. I never actually went out and bought a new PC. I simply upgraded the one I had.

Eventually there wasn’t a single original component left, but I never once spent over 100GBP on a single upgrade. I’d wait for the latest and greatest component to come out, and then buy the one before it at a knockdown price. Here’s a rough price list, over 4 years:

New motherboard and case: 100GBP
Two new processors: 140GBP (Combined – not each)
Two new Graphics Cards 110GBP (Again, Combined)
New Sound Card 80GBP
More Memory 60GBP

Total 490GBP

That’s only 122.50 per year,which is roughly 60GBP per upgrade…and each upgrade made my PC capable of running any game that was available.

“But that’s roughly the same price as a next gen console!” I hear the console gamers cry. “Plus, you said that was over four years, which is roughly a console’s lifespan!”

Yes, that’s true. However, I didn’t have to come up with 490GBP all at once, and at the end of every year, my PC could run games it couldn’t run the year before. Can you say the same about your console?

In other words, I may spend roughly the same as you do on your console. The difference is, that my Gaming PC gets more powerful every year…your console doesn’t. When your new console is released, my Gaming PC can already do what your new console can do, and as soon as you catch up, Gaming PC’s continue to move forward.

It’s the ‘leap’ that makes consoles seem like great value. You play your playstation, and then the PS2 comes out, and it’s one hell of a leap forward. The same thing will happen with the PS3.

However, Gaming PC’s move forward all the time, gradually, rather than with big leaps. The consoles leap forward to match the PC’s, but then the PC gamer gets a 5 year head start.

Consoles seem great value, because a new console will cost you half what a PC will. The major difference is, with a PC, you only pay the extra cash once. They you just have to sink a couple hundred dollars into it every other year to keep it current…and within a year, your gaming PC will be far more capable than a current gen console.

I also find it kind of funny that the features that console gamers brag about, are ones that the PC gamers have been doing for years. One of the Xbox 360’s major selling points is the online connectivity, the ability to send email, play over the internet and now, the ability to have 32 players playing an online game together.

I was doing that almost ten years ago.

In fact, if you really look at it, the Xbox 360 is essentially a cut down PC. Yes it’s cheaper, but it’s not upgradeable.

There is one other argument that I have to put across…and that’s the other thing that Console-only gamers tend to miss. Every year at E3, the main console manufacturers show tech demos and promise the world, and every time the new console fails to live up to the marketing hype around it.

Game manufacturers show a trailer of a game they’re going to release, and 90% of the time, what you see is pre-rendered (IE, you’re watching a CG movie, not what the console is actually capable of doing in real-time). It looks fantastic, it’s almost photorealistic…but it always turns out that the company showcasing it was a little over enthusiastic…and it turns out that the actual game doesn’t look nearly as pretty as the pre-rendered movie does. It’s the equivalent of buying a beat up old Porsche from a junk yard, showing a potential buyer a photograph of a mint-condition Porche…and then leading them to believe that’s what they’ll be buying. Then you fix the car up as best you can. The buyer takes the car from you, expecting a mint-condition car… but is disappointed to see all the dings and scratches, and finds that the car isn’t nearly as fast or reliable as you said it was.

History repeats itself:

Gaming PC’s are usually way ahead of their console counterparts. For example, compare an original Playstation game with a PC game at the same time. If you want to see this today, put any Xbox or PS2 game next to Half Life 2 or Doom 3. (The Xbox comes close, but is not at the same level).

Then a new console comes out that can match, or even exceed a Gaming PC’s power.

The console gamers declare PC Gaming to be dead.

Then, Gaming PC’s move forward, until they far exceed the best current-gen console by the time the console is halfway through its lifespan.

Four or five years later, the next gen consoles are demonstrated at E3, and they match current Gaming PC’s

Then the console only gamers declare PC Gaming to be dead…again.

The new consoles will be born to much celebration and fanfare. Six months later, anyone who owns an fairly up-to-date PC will be able to match them for half the price of the consoles.

Personally, I play both PC and Console games. However, rather than shell out $500 for a Playstation 3, I’ll wait a year, and upgrade my computer to match it for half the price…and in two years, my PC will be more powerful.

Then in 5 years, when the new consoles appear and match my PC…I’ll repost this blog entry when the Console-only gamers declare PC gaming to be dead.

Will You Accept Magic Beans?

Have you seen those ads for EB Games on TV lately?

Basically they show a procession of people doing all kinds of things like giving blood in order to afford video games.

“There’s no need!” These ads cry. “We’ll trade your games for other games, or even buy them from you!”

“I’ll have some of that!” I thought.

You see, I’m used to PC gaming, and back in England had a few friends who were into PC gaming as well. Basically, I only needed to buy one or two new games every 6 months, and when I got bored of them, traded, swapped and borrowed with friends.

You see, games are expensive. I know this, and I understand why. Games today can cost as much to make as big budget movies…but without the movie theatre run to re-coup those costs. In other words, the price point for a new game is roughly $50 which, quite frankly, is a fair price.

Unfortunately, that fair price is far beyond my means right now. I’m having to stick to pre-owned and budget titles at the moment (which isn’t as bad as it sounds, seeing as I’m currently at the end of a 14 month gaming exile, all those older games are still new to me).

So, anyway, the EB Games advertisment intrigued me. I looked at the games I owned.

I’d finished Splinter Cell and Spiderman 2, and had gotten bored of Simpsons Road Rage, so I thought I’d trade them in.

Now, these are all budget titles right now, retailing for roughly $20.

I knew I’d be getting shafted on the price. I’d bought all these games, apart from ‘Simpsons’ from EB games itself. I figured I’d be lucky to get half my money back on them. That didn’t matter to me. Three old games that I’m bored with = one new game (albeit a budget title).

So I strode purposefully into EB. Games under my arm. I strode to the counter, offered my games and said “What’ll you give me for these?”

The main assistant at my local EB, surprisingly, is an actual gamer, and not a minimum wage shaved monkey (as is the norm). Basically, he’s the rarest of sales assistants. Knowledgeable about the products he’s selling, and will actually tell you to not bother buying that $50 game, because it’s crap. In other words, he’s more concerned with you leaving happy, so you’ll return, that trying to extract as much money from you as possible.

Anyway, he took my games and ran them under the scanner.

“I can give you $11.” He said.

For a split second, I thought ‘Hmm, three games, eleven dollars a piece, thirty three dollars. Not bad!’

However, the assistant’s face said otherwise. To be exact, what his face said was:

‘Yes, I know this offer is insulting, and yes, we’re pretty much trying to screw you over. It’s not my fault, I just have to do what the management tells me. I can tell you’re not a clueless parent with no idea how much these games cost, so lets just forget this right now.’

“Uhhh.” I said. “You don’t mean eleven dollars a piece, do you?”

“Nope.” Said the assistant.

“F**k it, I won’t bother.” I said. “That’s only three-eighty a game.”

“Yeah, I know.” Said the assistant. This time, his face said:

‘You know what? This if f**king embarrassing. I’ve got to offer people peanuts for their games all the time, and I don’t like it. I’d do you a good deal if I could, so please don’t give me a two hour lecture about what a rip off that is. I’ve heard them all before.’

Now, I would have just left it there, except there was a new guy working at the store, who seemed desperate to make his commission. You know the kind of guy. The one who will sell a na├»ve parent a PS2 game for his son’s X-box. The kind of person who will tell you with a straight face, out of either moronic stupidity or to deliberately screw you over, that Half Life 2 will run on a 286 with 1 meg of memory. With a crazed gleam in his eye, he butted in. His expression said:

‘I know you bought your Gamecube from us less than a month ago, so there’s a damn good chance you’re a complete newbie, so I’m going to attempt to screw you over. Commission check, here I come!’

“You know,” he said, “if you trade those three for the new Madden game, you get the game-trade bonus, and you’ll get thirty dollars for them!”

“Nah,” I said, “I don’t like American Football. I’m not into sports games, period.”

“Yeah!” Said the Shaved Monkey, in a spray of commission fueled spittle. “But then you can just trade Madden straight back, and we’ll give you $30 dollars for it!”

The regular assistant genuinely cringed. His cringe said:

‘This new guy is a retard. Please don’t let anything he says reflect on me. To be honest, we’re all trying to get the f**ker fired. I’ve talked to you for a little bit, and I know you’re experienced and you’ll see his bullshit coming a mile off. I want the ground to swallow me up, before I die of idiocy by association.’

I thought the offer over. I was expecting about twenty or thirty dollars, if I ended up with thirty, it’d be a good deal. Then a thought struck me.

“How much is Madden exactly?”

“Fifty-six dollars.” The Shaved Monkey blurted. He was nodding frantically. He looked like he’d hooked the fish, and just had to reel him in. It was time to burst his bubble.

I sighed inwardly.

“So, let me get this straight.” I said. “You’re offering me eleven dollars for these three games, that you’re going to turn right around and sell pre-owned for twenty bucks a piece…which we all know is bullshit. However, if I part-trade them for Madden, I can get Madden for twenty six dollars, which I then trade right back to you for thirty.”

“Yeah!” He said. He metaphorically started reaching for the landing net to scoop me into the boat. Unfortunately, if he looked a little closer, he’d have seen he had hooked a shark, that wasn’t actually hooked at all, that was about to bite his legs off.

“So what you’re saying is if I trade for madden, rather than walk out of here with eleven dollars, I’ll actually walk out with only four.”

“No!” Said the Shaved Monkey, the stupid bastard actually had the nerve to look exasperated. “We’ll give you thirty!” The fish had turned around and was swimming away from the boat.

“I know, you f…(sigh).” I said back. “But I’ll have just paid you twenty six. If I pay you twenty six dollars, and you give me thirty back, that’s four dollars.”

“So?” He said, honestly puzzled. At this point, he’d hit himself on the head with his fishing pole and fell into the water.

I raised my eyebrow at the regular assistant, who just shrugged.

I picked up my games and left.

In the end, I’m not sure what annoyed me more. The fact that, rather being halfway fair, the exchange policy gives the store a 400% profit margin… or that the Shaved Monkey had either blatantly tried to screw me over, in the hope I couldn’t do basic maths…or that he was as dumb as a box of rocks.

EB Games is the only business in the USA that I’ve come across that seems to follow British Capitalism.

You see, American Capitalism usually works this way: Give the customer the best possible deal, while maintaining a decent profit margin. That way, you get a happy customer, who will come back again and again…and in the long run, you’ll make more money from them.

British Capitalism works slightly differently. It works this way: Screw every single penny you can out of your customers. Go for the highest profit margin possible. The customer probably won’t come back, but you get a shit-load of cash out of them right now.

You see, if EB Games had traded with even a 200% profit for them (IE give me half the price I paid for the game), they’d have given me $30 for $60 worth of games. I’d have spent that $30 dollars right then in their store, and they have three new games to sell to someone else for $20 a piece. Essentially, I’d have been paying them $60 for $30 worth of games, and they’d be able to make a further $60 from re-selling the games I traded.

I would also have kept going back and back to trade my games when I’d finished with them…meaning over time, I’d continue paying them, without permanently removing any of their stock.

I mean, who in their right mind would accept $3.80 for a $20 dollar game? I could get at least $5 in a pawn shop, or better still, just sell them to someone for $10 each!

However, when it comes to games and computers, it seems British style capitalism rules.

My other major bug bear with the games retail industry is the shift away from customer service. Kato recently posted on this. As I’ve said before, computers are complicated and sales staff either seem completely ignorant of the products they’re selling, or are deliberately taking advantage to screw the customer over.

Kato’s story was about a trip to CompUSA where a sales assistant, desperate to make a sale tried to tell him that the CD-ROM version of a game was ‘faster’ than the DVD version. Or once translated from Sales-Speak, basically “We don’t have the DVD version in stock, so I’m going to feed you some bullshit in the hope that you’ll buy the CD-ROM version we actually do stock.”

To me, or someone like Kato, falling for something like a completely false sales pitch, or believing that getting less than a quarter what I paid for something is a good deal is laughable.

However, there are a lot of trusting newbies out there who will swallow everything a saleperson tells them. After all, they’re experts, aren’t they?…aren’t they?

Back when I got my first computer in the early 90’s, I told the salesman I wanted something to do schoolwork on, but would also be able to handle games.

At that time, the Pentium Processor had just been born, and the salesman sold me a (then) blisteringly fast Pentium 75.

It was a good computer, however, it was also ridiculously expensive, and not what I needed at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved that computer, but I’d paid about 1600GBP (about $3100) for a machine that wasn’t suited to my needs. At the time, the Pentium 75 was roughly the equivalent of a 4ghz processor today. For school work (word processing and the like) it was pure overkill. Like buying a Dodge Viper when you only drive a mile and a half a week, along roads where the speed limit is 15mph.

Also, when it came to games, this was during the birth of multimedia PC’s, and my new PC didn’t have a soundcard or a CD-ROM drive.

It’s true that an extra couple hundred dollars got me the soundcard and CD-ROM, which gave me a top of the line gaming machine…but for half the price I could have got a machine that was adequate.

Looking back, I got screwed. Plain and simple.

The Moral of this story is simple. Just because someone works in a games store or a computer store doesn’t make them an expert. To be a good salesman, you don’t need to be an expert in the product you’re selling, you just need to be an expert in bullshit. Stores don’t exist to give you a good deal and let you leave happy, stores exist to make a profit…through fair means of foul.

My advice to anyone who wants to buy a new computer, a component or anything computer related is this. Find someone who is a genuine expert, or at least knowledgeable. Take them with you as your personal bullshit detector. That way, you won’t pay through the nose for a bunch of bells and whistles you don’t need, and you’ll be sold stuff you actually need, and not just because the store has a backlog.

A good bullshit test is to get into a computer store, tell them you’re just looking, and want a very basic machine, because all you need it for is word processing. Make it clear that you don’t want a gaming machine, or anything fancy, just something you can type on, and it will print it.

If they try to sell you anything other than the cheapest machine in the store…run the other way…preferably giving them the finger while you do so.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

It's That Time Again!

When the average person (read: not a business), opens their own website, be it a blog, a personal page or a fan page, they become obsessed with hits.

That’s all you care about. You’ll visit a blog, look at their hit counter and see an unimaginably high number like 500. ‘Wow!’ You think. ‘500 people have looked at this guy’s page! One day, that many hits will be mine!’.

From personal experience, I’ve started three websites. One was a photography website, that I stayed interested in for about a week, and the other one, which was my first, was just a personal webpage with stuff I thought was cool. (It even had a non-stoppable midi file that played when you got to the site…what was I thinking). The last, which is not a ‘website’ per se, is this blog.

However, these three had the same thing in common. When I first started them, I checked the hit counter every 5 minutes.

Over time, though, the sheen wears off. I honestly hardly ever check my hit counter any more. One sec…yep, I have 4099 hits right now. Once you hit around the 500-1000 mark, you just don’t bother any more.

However, one thing I do check on a regular basis is my keyword analysis.

‘Keyword analysis’ is a clever way of saying ‘what people typed into search engines to get to your site.

So why do I check it often?

Because it’s an absolute diamond studded, platinum plated comedy Goldmine. In fact, scratch that, it’s a platinum mine, with gold accents.

Now being a complete and utter geek, I get a huge sense of superiority from seeing just how much people suck at google. For example, say I want to find a review of a game I’m thinking of buying. Let’s say I want to find a review of Resident Evil 4 (and let’s also assume that I don’t know that IGN.com exists)

I’d type +”Resident Evil 4” +review

That means that google will only show hits that have ‘resident evil 4’ in the page, and not just ‘resident’, ‘evil’ or ‘4’. By adding the plus sign before ‘review’, I’ve made it a ‘must have’, so I’ll only get pages that have both ‘resident evil 4’ AND the word ‘review’.

It seems that the public at large have no idea how to do this.

I thank them for it, that’s why they end up here.

Now the non-geeks out there probably don’t find that one tenth as amusing as I do. That’s on a par with geek stories like ‘hur, hur (burst of funions and mountain dew erupt from behind the braces), that guy pronounces CMOS as Cosmos! (Snicker) what a n00b!”

However, what will be funny to everyone is the stuff that these freaks are looking for. Some are a little weird, some are downright strange…and others make you want to take a shower.

Here’s my current toplist of stupid searches:

‘Target Vanilla Mints’

I’m guessing this guy wanted some Vanilla Mints from Target. Unfortunately, I’m not certain Target have an online store. Either that, or this guy HATES vanilla mints, likes to shoot them, and is looking for others who share his hatred for these accursed confections.

‘Names of companies who sell Chitterlings in Cans.’

MMmm, mmm, mmm. Canned Chitterlings! Nothing like a can of ground up chicken guts to set the mouth watering. Not only does this show that this guy has absolutely no idea how a search engine works, he’s looking for the Canned Chitterling Superstore.

Think of it, he’s craving canned chitterlings so badly, he’s probably been to all his local stores, and is now desperately searching the old Interweb for a company that will ship some.

‘Girls caked in mud with Ked sneakers’

I swear I am not making this up. That is one fucked up fetish you’ve got their fella. Not just girls caked in mud, but wearing Ked sneakers as well! Imagine bringing that guy home to momma! Imagine this freak’s wedding night!

“Hey baby, I bought you something special for the occasion.”
“What is it? Lingerie?”
“No, some Ked Sneakers! Yeah, baby! Now slap these bad boys on, then roll in the vegetable patch for a while…I’ll meet you in the bedroom!”

‘32biz’

Now this is one of those sites that’s advertised on a backwater channel at 3am. You know “This wasn’t one of these get rich quick schemes, but guess what? I did!” and “I quit my job and now I’m earning $20,000 a month working just three hours a week!”

This, sadly, shows that there are people out there dumb enough to fall for those ads. However, the funniest thing is that these ads say ‘all you need is a home computer’.

Maybe they should stipulate that the person should be able to tell his address bar from a google search page. This guy can’t even put in a web address, and he’s going to be earning $20,000 a month with his computer!

‘County of Los Angeles Incident Report’

This disturbs me…a lot, and not just because this person thinks that LA is a county. (EDIT - I've been informed that LA is, indeed, a county. Yep, I can be stupid to! At least I have the fact that I'm a dirty immigrant as an excuse) Was this person trying to look up a particular report? Someone should have told him that incident reports aren’t available online. The other thing is, if this guy is trying to file a report…why doesn’t he just go to the police station? He’s got a grievance bad enough that he wants to fill out a report on it…however, if he has to move more than 6 feet away from his PC, he’s not going to bother.

Mower blades turn too slow’

Not only is this an example of bad English (It should be ‘too slowly’, you frigging idiot), it also scares me that this guy is allowed to operate machinery.

If I had a problem with my lawnmower and needed advice…I’d find a help forum, or at least type something along the lines of +(company name) +(lawnmower model number) +Servicing. What the hell did this guy expect to find? It’s like me getting sick and typing “I don’t feel well” into a search engine in the hope of getting something that could give me a diagnosis.

‘crabs wav finding nemo’

All one sentence. I’m guessing they want a wav file of the crabs from finding nemo. This is just a geek laugh, at someone not knowing how to use Google. Well, it would be, if not for…

finding nemo crabs wav’.

Not only did the first search not work, they tried it again, with the same keywords in a different order. Now anyone who knows how to use a computer knows this isn’t going to work. Google just looks for every page with all those particular words. Swapping the order will do nothing.

However, the real kicker comes in when you realize that this guy visited this site TWICE! It didn’t work the first time, but maybe the content of ‘Life, what the hell is going on’ will magically change if he clicks it again.

Mr ‘crabs wav finding nemo, finding nemo crabs wav’…you’re a dumbass.

‘DIY watergun’

“Hey honey? This supersoaker and the garden hose just don’t have enough ‘oomph’, get on the internet and find me some plans, will you?” I can see the headlines now:

“MAN DIES AFTER ATTEMPTING TO CONVERT 90,000,000 PSI COMPRESSOR TO A WATER GUN”

But do you want to know the scariest thing? I didn’t just go through my Keyword Analysis and cream off the stupid ones. The above list is EVERY single search that has landed on my site in the past few weeks. Every single search was like this.

So, for all the people responsible for the above searches I have this message:

Those straps are there for a reason. Please stop chewing through them

Monday, August 08, 2005

This Post Comes To You From Next Friday

I read an interesting post on Cindy’s blog yesterday, and it really sparked my imagination.

The subject was (in a round about way) time travel.

Now I’ll admit that I’m a Sci-fi nerd. I’d even go so far as a Sci-fi geek. If the story is set in the future, chances are, I’ll like it.

Time travel has always been one of those things that has fascinated me. Like, the closer you get to the speed of light, the more time will slow down for you. From your perspective, the universe would be ticking along as usual, but for everyone else, you’d be moving in slow motion.

On the other side of the coin, this means that if you traveled at the speed of light for a few years, it would appear to you that you were normal, and everyone else was on fast forward. This means you could travel near the speed of light for about a year, and everyone else would have experienced a much longer time.

Anyone else want to see what the world is going to be like in 200 years?

Of course, then you get all the paradoxes that make sci-fi interesting. (A paradox is basically something that is completely logical, but can’t actually make sense). Let me explain.

The one favored by shows like ‘The Twighlight Zone’ is the Grandfather Paradox. If you could travel back in time, and kill your own Grandfather, you’d never be born.

However, if you’ve never been born, you couldn’t have traveled back and killed your grandfather. Which means you would have been born. So you could travel back…yada, yada, yada.

That’s where you get your paradox. A vicious circle of logic that can’t be broken.

I once watched a documentary (God Bless the Discovery Channel), back in the mid-90’s. A very clever man said that if you could travel back, you couldn’t change the past. It’s basic physics.

Another very clever man said “But what about free will? Physics can’t stop free will! If I went back in time, and had Hitler in my sights, physics wouldn’t stop me pulling the trigger.”

“Yes it would.” Said the first clever man.

“No it wouldn’t, physics can’t stop free will!” Said the second clever man.

“Ok, do a tap dance on the ceiling.” Said the first clever man.

He made his point. You can’t sit on the ceiling because gravity (IE Physics) won’t let you.

That made me think. If he was right, what would happen if you tried to shoot Hitler? Would Stephen Hawking come crashing through the roof?

However, even if time travel was possible, it wouldn’t be something I’d want to try…and not just because I’d have to find a way to generate one point twenty-one gigawatts to get back.

To me, traveling to the future would be a big no-no, no matter how much I wanted a Hoverboard, or a $2 ‘antique’ 80 inch plasma screen.

The reason for this is simple. What if you went forward 10 years, and found nothing but rubble? What if you found Hitler II in charge of the world? That would be a great Sci-Fi story. In which you’d be the hero and change the world and prevent the disaster from ever happening. However, I’m under no delusions. If something happened on a global scale, there’s not very much I could do…except do stretching exercises so I could kiss my ass goodbye.

The past wouldn’t be much good either. I’ve no interest in History. I also wouldn’t want to be burned for witchcraft when someone spots my mobile phone.

Now everyone over the age of 20 says they would like to go back in time, and talk to themselves. You hear it all the time… “If I only knew then what I know now.” But the experiences you had as a child and growing up are what made you what you are today. The one universal truth is we learn a lot more from our mistakes that our successes.

Then we come to the morality part.

It’s a standard question for every philosophy major (Which really should be ‘why the hell are you studying philosophy?’), which is ‘If you could travel back in time, and meet Hitler as a 10 year old boy…would you kill him’.

The philosophical ramifications of this question are simple. At that age, he’d done nothing wrong. He was innocent. You’d just be a child killer. On the other hand, by killing him, you’re saving millions of lives.

My answer? No way in hell.

This isn’t because of morals. It’s for two reasons.

The first is Hitler wasn’t the sole cause of WW2. He played a huge role, but if Hitler hadn’t stepped up, eventually someone else would have.

The second is simple. Hitler was insane. The only reason he lost the War was because of that insanity. He thought he was invincible, got over confident, and tried to fight a war on too many fronts.

Basically, we won the Second World War. If you took Hitler out of the picture, it may never happen, however, imagine if someone else took over the Nazi Party. Someone who was in complete possession of their marbles. Someone who could have won the war.

I’ll leave history as it is, thanks.

The other thing is, if you change on tiny thing, it can have massive repercussions.

For example, I met my wife, simply because I bought some bad shoes.

Ok, that’ll take some explaining.

I bought the shoes, and went to work. My best friend and I were going to be going out for a night on the town afterward. However, shortly before the end of my shift, the sole came off my shoes. I’d had them for three days.

Now most of the bars and clubs where I lived where Shirt, dress pants and shoes only. No trainers. I didn’t have another pair, so I didn’t go out.

That night, rather than being out, I stayed in. I went online, and while browsing some forums, came upon a post that said simply “This is my first computer, and I don’t have a clue. Anyone wanna help?”

You guessed it, that cry for help was from Sunny, the woman I eventually married.

Now if a poor choice in shoes can result in me meeting someone, moving to the USA and getting married…that means every little decision we make could have massive consequences down the road.

Time is a funny thing. The Trolls from Discworld believe that time’s running backwards…you can see the past, but not the future, so we must be facing the wrong way.

In my opinion, Time Travel is a bad idea…even if it’s only because trying to get your head around it makes you go cross-eyed.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

"GET OUT!" ..."Sure thing, Mr Ghost!"

If there’s one thing the wife and I are guaranteed to disagree on, it’s movies.

My favourite type of movies are Comedy and Action-Adventure. The wife’s favourites are Horror and Romance. Even if we both sit down to watch a genre we both enjoy, like comedy, things I will find pant-wettingly funny, won’t even cause Sunny to crack a smile. Things she finds hilarious, I find about as funny as root canal surgery with dentist tools made of fire.

However, the movies we disagree on most is Horror. You see, I just don’t like Horror films. To me, they come in one of two flavors: Formulaic and boring, or dysentery causing terror.

The first is plain and simple. You know what’s going to happen in most horror movies. Oh, look! Scary Monster! Sigh, girl checks noise in basement, Oh! What…a…surprise. The chainsaw wielding maniac is down there. Now hold up your hand in terror, make no attempt to fight or get away…scream, that’s a good girl, now die.

Boring.

The second type is very specific. Psychological Horror. These things terrify me. These are the movies where you very rarely actually get to see the monsters, ghosts and ghouls. It’s always about the thing in the house. What’s making that noise? Why do people keep vanishing?

Some directors have discovered the truth. Whatever they put on screen is only about 100th as scary as what people can imagine themselves.

There is a certain wussiness factor here. I’ll admit it openly.

However, I’m not actually scared when I watch the movie. However, at 3am, when I’m home alone, and it’s quiet, my imagination works over time

I just don’t see why people pay damn good money to have the ever living shit scared out of them…including all 7 colours.

My problem is I have a very active imagination. A VERY active imagination.

However, the worst thing about all Horror Movies is just how incredibly stupid the people in them are.

So on that note, my friends, I give you:

Paulius’ Comprehensive Guide On How To Survive In A Horror Movie Situation

Scenario 1 : The Slasher Movie:

So here we go. You’re with friends, in a big old house, usually on a dare. Suddenly you’re being stalked by a hockey mask wearing psycho with a big butcher knife:

DO Arm yourself.

The guy’s a lunatic, and isn’t going to stop until you or he is dead. Use anything and everything. He may have a knife, but ever heard the saying ‘don’t bring a knife to a gun fight?”

If no gun is handy, use anything and everything. Running screaming won’t do shit. If you’re going to die, at least give him a few scars to remember you by.

DO Stick together.

If we’re following the formula, you’re in a group including a Jock, a stoner, a nerd, a fairly normal guy, and a couple of slutty cheerleaders. If there’s just one guy, all of you together should be able to bring him down. Not many people can survive having 7 people putting the boot in all at once.

DO NOT Split up and go looking for the psycho.

This is a classic. “Hey, slutty cheerleaders! You stay here! I’ll go find the guy and bring him down.” (stab) “Ouch. Oh, I’m dead!”

Rather than walk into an ambush, set up your own. Pick a room with only one door, have a guy on each side with something heavy. He’s bound to check the room sooner or later. Splitting up is stupid. However, deeply suspect the guy who suggests it. Chances are he’s the murderer, or at least an accomplice.

DO Keep your car keys organized.

In a last minute run to the car, you do not want to be fumbling with keys while the slutty cheerleader is screaming down your ear, shouting “He’s there! He’s coming! Quick!.

Get the key ready BEFORE you run to your car.

DO keep your car well maintained.

The last thing you need is for your car to break down on a deserted highway at night. Also, you want to be sure your car will start when you run manically to it, chased by the psycho. Also, if you do jump in your car, and it refuses to start…get the fuck out of it, and run like hell. It won’t magically start.

When trying to get a car to start, the bad guy is either walking unnecessarily slowly towards it, or if he’s not visible, will slash your throat as you manically try to start the car. If it doesn’t start on the first try. Leave it and give it toes.
DO run away.

Heroics are all well and good. However, most people are called heroes posthumously.

Just leg it. After all, you only have to outrun one of the other people in your group.

DO NOT be a hero.

Standing your ground and fighting the psycho to buy the slutty cheerleaders a few more minutes to escape is very honourable. Unfortunately, it’s also suicide.

Also, it won’t work. If you stand and fight while others are running, you won’t even slow the psycho down. A last stand only works when everyone else is dead.

DO Know basic anatomy.

Sure, the psycho may be an 8 foot tall brick shithouse with arms like telegraph poles, but a good hard kick to the nuts will take ANYONE down…trust me. Also, the heart is not all the way over on the left. If you’re fighting a vampire, go right for the middle.

DO NOT give in to peer pressure.

When the cool kid calls you a chicken for not wanting to go into the ‘Old Johnson Place’, at midnight on the anniversary of a mass killing, just don’t go. It’s hard for a disemboweled stack of ex-human meat to make fun of you anyway. Better to be a living coward than dead and brave.

Scenario 2 : The Poltergeist/Ghost movie.

You move to a new house, and before you know it, furniture is being slung around, unseen hands are attacking you, and the walls start to bleed. What do you do?

DO Listen.

If someone warns you away from the castle because it’s haunted. Believe them. Don’t laugh it off and take your girlfriend there for a night of sex/move your family in/go on a dare.

The guy who passes off a warning as rumour or superstition, might as well have a target on their back. At the end of the day, what’s worse? Being fooled by a local having a joke, or having a poltergeist drop a piano on you?

DO Show an ounce of common sense.

If you get offered a 40 room mansion for a dollar fifty, expect there to be a catch.

DO some research.

When offered a gigantic mansion for the price of an ’82 Ford Fiesta, research the building. Dry rot may not be the worst of your problems. Check for past murders and ancient Indian burial grounds.

DO not look for reasons to stay in a haunted house. There isn’t a good one.

If you walk through the door, and the house starts breathing, the walls start bleeding and a deep bass voice says “GET OUT!!!”…get the fuck out. You’re obviously not welcome.

Yeah, you might have sunk all your money into the house, but having furniture thrown at you and being thrown around like a rag doll is not worth it. It will also put one hell of a crimp on your social life… “Don’t worry baby, relax, the walls will stop bleeding in a minute, and I’m sure the unseen hands will stop slamming you into walls soon. Let me put on some Barry White and ‘set the mood’”.

DO book two priests for the exorcism if you absolutely have to stay.

The first one is always a nervous rookie straight out of ‘priest school’, he’ll be killed horribly and instantly. The second is always a hard drinking, unshaven, cynical commando priest who can shout “The Power of Christ Compels You”, much more impressively and kick some serious ghost ass. He’ll also be wearing a duster jacket and a wide brimmed hat. Check for stubble. Stubble is the sign of a good exorcist

Scenario 4: Zombie situations

DO NOT go indoors. Zombies are slow and weak, so don’t barricade yourself in a building where they can get in, trap you and get you through sheer numbers. Get a gun, or a blunt object and go into the biggest most open space you can. You won’t even have to run, and can pick them off one by one with a blow to the head. If you must go inside, go to a building with lots of stairs and revolving doors, that’ll really fuck em up. Expect one zombie to get in every couple of hours…just be waiting with the baseball bat.

DO NOT get sentimental. When a loved one gets bitten and turns into a zombie…shoot them in the head. Let’s face it, are you going to stay married to someone who is always trying to eat your brains?

DO NOT listen to the guy with ‘the plan’. He’ll be the one who’ll suggest barricading yourself into the farmhouse. There will also be another guy who will disagree with everyone else, freak out, and still be complaining that he’s missing his business trip. He’s obviously unbalanced. Give him to the zombies or shoot him.

Scenario 5: Multi Purpose Hints

DO NOT check out mysterious noises in the middle of the night, on your own.

It’s going to be something bad. Just call the police and wait outside. There’s a chance they’ll be killed horribly, but they get paid to deal with murderers…you don’t. This goes double if you’re an attractive female, with large breasts, wearing a revealing nightgown and only have a candle for illumination.

Forget the basement, go to the front door, run like hell.

DO Know how to talk to the police.

Don’t just scream, or mention ghosts…they get whacko calls all the time. A call that says “There’s zombies attacking”, will get dismissed as a prank call. Just pick up the phone, shout ‘Officer Down!’, and run like hell.

DO know how to spot the murderer.

The murderer is always the quiet nerdy guy who makes an appearance for 5 minutes before the killing starts. He’s usually the guy you never notice, who is killing everyone, because he never gets noticed…or you bullied him at school.

If there’s no nerdy guy, look for the guy who always magically appears just after the murder with a plausible alibi as to where he was.

Also, look for the guy who suggests that everyone splits up. Think of it this way, no sane person wants to be alone when there’s a psycho in the house. Shoot him. If he’s not the murderer, he’s unbalanced anyway

DO accept a gun.

I don’t care if you’re a pacifist, or hate guns. If someone is trying to kill you, take the gun and defend yourself.

Put it this way, if I was surrounded by zombies or psycho killers and handed you a gun, and you said “No! I hate guns!” or “I’m a pacifist!” I’d shoot you myself. I’m not wasting my time and energy to defend you if you’re not willing to defend yourself. If you won’t defend yourself, you’re dead weight. Better still, I’d throw you to the bad guys, and run away while they’re feasting on your brains.

When surrounded by killers, only lunatics turn down a weapon.

DO make macho quips.

When your elaborate trap has the psycho hanging by their ankles from a tree, say “Why don’t you hang around?”

When you stake the vampire, say “Would you like some fries with that Stake?”

When you shoot a bad guy with a crossbow, say “Glad you can see my POINT!”

When they slutty cheerleader asks what happened when you just killed the psycho by cutting him in half with a bandsaw, say “He had to split!”

This automatically makes you the star…and the star can never die. If you hear someone else making bad puns, run like hell…he’s gonna survive and you’re more likely to die than the random red shirt wearing security officer on Star Trek.

DO NOT leave room for a sequel. If you’ve killed a vampire, take his ashes and scatter them in the sea. Chop the psycho into little bits. Burn down the newly exorcised house. Otherwise, you’ll get home, and the psycho will sit up, or you’ll hear the vampire laugh. Next month, you’ll be doing exactly the same thing…with a much greater chance of dying.

DO get medical attention. Yes, the monster is dead. Yes you’ve just had a battle royal. You’re bleeding, you’re looking macho, you’ve made your bad pun, and have a slutty cheerleader hanging off your arm.

However, repeatedly getting slashed, and having the crap kicked out of you leaves its mark. You’re running on adrenaline…go see a doctor before you go into shock, die through loss of blood, or end up keeling over from your fractured skull.

DO get therapy. Yeah, you feel great now. The monster is dead, you’re the hero, and it’s gravy from here on in. Wait until the nightmares start, or you bludgeon the paperboy because you’re having a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder induced flashback.

While you’re getting medical attention, ask the Doctor to recommend a good shrink

…and finally


DO Make sure they’re dead.

When the psycho-killer/zombie/vampire/bad guy is lying on the floor in a pool of blood, having just suffered wounds that would have killed an average person a hundred times over…DO NOT, under any circumstances relax, turn your back on the killer, take time out to kiss one of the slutty cheerleaders or drop your guard in any way.

This is the time when they wake back up and stab you in the back. Or you open your eyes and see that the slutty cheerleader you’re kissing has just been stabbed in the kidneys.

When they’re lying on the floor, motionless, shoot them in the head…about ten times. If you don’t have a gun, beat them with something heavy until there’s nothing but pulp left.

The killer always gets up for a final scare. Don’t give them that chance. At the very least, make sure that they don’t have the use of their arms and legs when they do try to get up.

THE END

Friday, August 05, 2005

How Does it Work? Uhhhh...Computer Monkeys

My internet connection in slow.

I don’t just mean slow. I mean SLOW. 26k as a matter of fact.

You can imagine how frustrating that is. If I want to look something up on the internet, I basically put in the web address, go make a cup of coffee, drink the coffee, and by the time I get back to the computer, it’s almost finished downloading.

I used to have broadband. A 2 meg file would take seconds. With this connection, we’re talking at least an hour.

During one L.O.N.G wait time today, it reminded me of something that happened about 8 years ago.

After much begging and pleading, and on the understanding I get my own phoneline and pay the bill, I finally convinced my parents to let me get online.

A short while later, my parents were introduced, through a bank circular, to the joys of internet banking. In other words, my mum asked me to show her how to bank over the internet.

Now this was when widespread use of the internet was still fairly in its infancy. As was common practice at the time, people who offered new services expected ten people to sign up, and got ten thousand. In other words, you had a few thousand people trying to use a service, designed to handle a few hundred.

So it was about 9pm on a Sunday evening. At the time, my mother was one of those people who would click a link, and if it didn’t respond instantly, she’d click it again, and again, and again…well, you get the picture. In other words, it was one of those times that she shouted down the stairs to get my help with it.

“Just click it once.” I said.
“But it’s not doing anything!” She replied.
“You’ve got to give it time.” I said. “You’re trying to get in during peak hours. It’ll take a minute or so.”
“This is SO SLOW!” She replied.

After waiting 5 minutes to sign in (you had to go through a couple of pages), she gave up. Internet banking was ‘useless’.

That was when the thought struck me. (and this isn’t just my mum, it’s pretty much everyone I’ve come across).

The alternative to waiting for a few minutes to do her banking online was to wait until Monday, drive the 25 miles into town, go to the bank, wait in line, pay bills and then head home.

It would take, at least, a couple of hours. Not to mention the expense of fuel for her car…and if she could actually get away from work to actually get to the bank.

However, 10 minutes in front of a computer, at a time when the bank isn’t even open, is unbearable.

Why is it that we take pretty miraculous technology for granted. Also, why do we expect it to work exactly as we want it to, and be easy enough for just about anyone to use?

The things we can do today would be considered science fiction less than twenty years ago. If we could go back in time 60 or 70 years (which is not as long ago as it sounds, chances are your grandparents where around then), and tell someone the things we can do today, we’d be an instant laughing stock.

Take email for instance. Today it’s taken for granted. EVERYONE has an email address. You type your message, put in a single line address and click send. Simple!

However, just think for a minute about just how complicated the actual process is.

Your words (including the formatting), are encoded into a medium that can be transmitted down a line, then it has to be routed through literally hundreds of computers, to the right recipient. It also has to be ‘secure’, so it doesn’t go to the wrong person, and only your computer can read it.

If you went back to the 70’s, and told someone in the street that one day there’ll be a machine that can send words and pictures to anywhere on the globe, at the speed of light…and that everyone will own one of those machines, and you can send messages for free…and what’s more, you’ll be able to order groceries, all kinds of goods, and actually talk to people, and be able to see them on a screen at the same time…not to mention the ability to access information on almost anything…

You’d be told you’d seen too much Buck Rogers.

Now your average internet user doesn’t care about any of the actual technology. It reminds me of the chapter in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where Arthur Dent finds himself on a primitive planet. He thinks of the wonders he could teach them, TV, videos, you name it.

Then he realizes that he doesn’t have the slightest clue how any of them work.

Here are some statistics for you:

15% of casual computer users think the monitor is the actual computer
60% of people who own a computer don’t have a clue how they work
89% of regular internet users don’t know what TCP/IP is.

If you do a little ‘research’ on the internet, you’ll find literally millions of horror stories from tech support. People who try to use a printer without actually connecting it to their computer, people who call about a broken monitor, and say it’s ‘out of ink’. People who think Windows has a ‘recycle bin’, because it needs to recycle the blank sheets on your word processor or they will ‘run out’.

Now there are some true idiots (like the guy who called tech support, kept them on the line for 3 hours, until he finally mentioned the power was out), but a lot of ‘stupid’ stories, I can’t bring myself to actually call these people stupid.

You see, back in the day, you needed some actual knowledge to use a computer. They were for hardcore users, people who could actually build a computer, and not in the way I can, but I mean make their own circuit boards from scratch.

Of course, the only way to make money on something is to make it accessible to the maximum number of people, so over time, computers have moved away from just the hardcore geeks, and have been made accessible to the casual user. What did IBM say in the late 60’s? “There is probably a world market for about 6 computers”. (At least I think it was IBM, I’m not sure, and too lazy to look it up).

Computers have become such a part of everyday life, that everyone has just gotten used to them. The fact of the matter is, you just don’t need to know how a computer, or pretty much any technology for that matter, works any more to use it. You go to the store, bring a computer home, plug in the wires (which I have to say is still beyond a lot of people), and just turn it on.

All the complicated stuff goes on behind the scenes, and to most people, the inside of that computer case is like looking into the human brain. To most people the idea of opening it up to fix something is like a brain surgeon handing you a scalpel, pointing at an open cranium and saying “There you go, have at it!”

People complain about computers and technology, but technology’s biggest problem is that it works too well. No one cares how anything works, as long as it does. Who cares how your TV or remote works? You just point one thing at the other and press a button, it does all the hard stuff for you behind the scenes.

If something is unreliable, you know how it works…because you have to fix it. You don’t get too worked up, because you expect it to break down once in a while. People don’t complain when their car needs an oil change, or a new spark plug.

Computers and technology, however, are those unassuming boxes that sit around the house. They work so well, that they become invisible, and we completely take them for granted.

Think for a moment. You’re sitting in front of your computer reading this. Think just how complicated that this is. I wrote this on Word 2000. I stored it on my hard-drive. Then I connected to the internet, copied all this information onto a web page, which then published it to a server somewhere. You connected to the internet, and with just a few clicks and keystrokes, you connected to that server, which downloaded this on to your computer. It did all that in a matter of seconds, and, chances are, we don’t have the same type of computer, operating system, or web browser version.

Yet you can read this from across the globe in a matter of seconds.

People get mad at computers, simply because they have no clue at just how complicated they are. No one expects to learn how to fly an F-16 in two easy lessons, but they expect a computer to be simple enough to use with no instruction whatsoever. Gone are the days of knowing where to put the resistor and the capacitor on the PCB, today, we have a talking paperclip that tells us what to do.

Arthur C. Clarke once said “Any sufficiently advanced technology will look like magic’.

That’s what we expect…magic. The little beige box on our desktop is supposed to send an email, simultaneously to 10 different people in 10 different countries when we click a button. Instead of simply being astonished that this is even possible, we bitch because the occasional mail doesn’t get there.

Computers have made it possible for me to write my parents a letter here in the USA, send it to the UK, and it will get there in seconds. Regular mail takes at least a week.
Just something to think about the next time your computer crashes

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tagging is Wrong. Call 1-800-STOPTAGGINGYOUBASTARDS for details

Ok, I was originally tagged by Sunny.

However, through a little creative misdirection (I showed her something shiny), I managed to dodge the bullet. That was until Kato 'Worse than Hitler' Katonian decided to tag me.

So here it is...you bastards


Three names I go by:

Paulius
Baby (but only by the wife)
'Hey you!' or 'stop thief!'

Three screen names I've had:
Paulius
Wamphyri19
FunkyCheeseball

Three physical things I like about myself:
Eyes
Mouth
Goatee

Three physical things I don't like about myself:
My gut
Hair
My Jar-Jar Binks-like feet

Three parts of my heritage:
Scots
Irish
British

Three things I am wearing right now:
Jeans
T-shirt
Socks

Three favorite bands/musical artists :

Don’t have favourites, I like everything from Jazz to Metal to 50’s Rock and Roll

Three things I want in a relationship:
Honesty
Trust
Laughter

Two truths and a lie:
I can type at 75 words per minute
I can hold my breath for two minutes
I’m sexually attracted to fire

Three physical things about the preferred sex that appeal to you:
Eyes
Legs
Boobies (huh huh, I said boobies)

Three favorite hobbies:
Reading
Gaming
Shooting

Three things I want to do badly right now :
Go get a Hardees 2/3lb Mushroom swiss
Stop the cat from clawing my feet
Beat that pesky Boss on Zelda: Windwaker


Three things that scare me:

Hah! I’m not afraid of anything…except Spiders, Cottonmouth Snakes, Car accidents and lots of other things

Three of my everyday essentials:
Cigarettes
My Gamecube
The missus


Three Careers you have considered or are considering :
Writer
Film Critic
Columnist

Three places you want to go on vacation:
Australia
UK (To visit my parents)
Japan

Three things you want to do before you die:
Publish at least one book
Try Skydiving (which may be the LAST thing I try before I die)
Own an Orange County Choppers Theme Bike

Three ways I am stereotypically a boy:
I love gaming
I love shooting
I snigger when people say things that sound dirty…like ‘Flange’, 'gusset' or ‘Blue tit’


Three ways I am stereotypically a girl:
I like to ‘have a conversation’
I can’t fix a car to save my life
I can hold a grudge

Three celeb crushes :
Carmen Electra
Kiera Knightly
The Doublemint Twins (That counts as one)

Three people I am tagging (cos apparently that's the form):

No one, because this tagging lark is evil. Plus, I don’t know anyone who’s not been tagged.

The Lunatics are In Charge of the Asylum

I watched a very interesting program on cable a few nights ago.

It was basically a discussion of the mistreatment of terror suspects being held by the USA.

The main theme was use of torture, pain and ‘stress positions’ in order to force information from prisoners.

Unusually for me, I agreed with nearly 100% of what the show said. That torture is just plain wrong, and is also a ridiculously unreliable way of obtaining information. If you put someone in enough pain, they’ll tell you anything to make it stop.

However, an expert on interrogation said the current situation was, for lack of a better word, stupid. He pointed out that torture is illegal and should stay illegal (I agree), however, he pointed out that people under interrogation need to be put under some degree of stress. He said, basically, that lives depend on what these people may know…but with Western squeamishness, terror suspects are almost being welcomed to Disneyland.

I don’t quite agree with the ‘Disneyland’ part, but as westerners, we are so squeamish about being seen as anything but good guys, that we do not get nearly as much information as we could. After all, if you were a terrorist, and were locked up with good food, a warm bed and daily recreation…where’s the motivation to give up any information…information that could save millions of lives?

No, I’m not condoning torture. Torture is wrong, plain and simple. The view could be taken that the enemy have no problems with torturing our people, so we should do the same…but the day that happens is the day we have lost everything we are fighting for.

However, stress is not torture. You can not get information from a terrorist by making him a nice cup of coffee, giving him a slice of chocolate cake and asking him nicely. There are effective, non-torture ways to force information from suspects. However, even something as mild as sitting a suspect in an uncomfortable ‘stress position’ for a few hours to make them uncomfortable is balked at by the western people.

We want it both ways. We balk at anything other than treating these people like honoured guests…but then scream “Why didn’t anyone do anything? How did we not know?” when the latest bombing destroys a few hundred families.

In other words, if we believe someone may be involved with terror, while we should not actually harm them, we shouldn’t blow the dust off the thumbscrews… However, they should be under constant pressure to reveal information that could save lives.

Now, it may not be apparent from my blog, but it takes a lot to get me really angry. Today, I read something that didn’t just make me angry…it made me seethe.

I’ve deliberately never posted about racism, basically because anything that isn’t patently pro-minority in a racial discussion usually leaves you branded a racist. Even something as minor as ‘Why can Chris Rock base a whole act around making fun of white people, but a single ‘black joke’ is evil and racist’? has you marked as the next Hitler.

However, I’m going to mildly break that rule today.

Now anyone with half a brain cell understands that just because someone is a Muslim, doesn’t automatically make them a terrorist. It’s also true that plenty of Westerners are also involved in terrorism.

In other words, being a Muslim doesn’t make you a terrorist, and being white does not automatically remove you from suspicion.

However, it is also true that Al-queda is an Islamic group. Therefore, the majority of Al-queda terrorists are, in fact, Muslims.

In other words, paying extra attention to Muslims when it comes to terrorism isn’t ‘racial profiling’…it’s just common sense.

Again, before I get flamed by everyone, please remember that I’m not suggesting that being a Muslim automatically makes you a terror suspect. Not am I saying that being white automatically eliminates you as a terror suspect.

All I’m saying is that it’s not unreasonable that Muslims tend to get singled out for security checks at places like airports.

Think of it this way. If situations where reversed and a Christian Fundamentalist group took to bombing Muslim countries…it wouldn’t be unreasonable to single out white westerners at airports in Islamic countries.

However, It appears that the Power’s That Be have become so afraid, so terrified of being considered racist or prejudiced, that policies are being put in place that are so ridiculously stupid, so asinine and idiotic, that it makes you wonder how people that retarded got in charge.

This brings me to the thing I read that made me want to bang my head against the wall until the lights go out.

Back in Britain, a new rule has been implemented that means that the Police, when raiding a suspected Islamic terrorist’s home…must first ‘show respect’ by removing their shoes before entering the house.

Pardon my language, but what in the flying fuckflaps are these people thinking?!?!

Taking your shoes off while raiding Islamic terror suspect’s homes!

THESE ARE FUCKING TERRORIST SUSPECTS, YOU FUCKING IDIOTS!!! ARE YOU AFRAID OF HURTING THEIR FEELINGS?!? ARE YOU AFRAID THAT OTHER MUSLIMS WILL COMPLAIN BECAUSE THE POLICE ENTERED THE BIN LADEN’S HOME AT NUMBER 54 WITHOUT TAKING OFF THEIR SHOES?!?

Apparently, blowing up buses packed with kids is bad, but when you find out who did it, God forbid you disrespect their fragile religious sensibilities by wearing your shoes in their homes!

I mean, seriously, what the fuck is going on? Are they going to stop arresting Christians on the Sabbath?

What’s next? Are they going to find a terrorist and knock politely on the door?

“Good Morning Mr. Bin Laden! I’m sorry sir, but we have evidence that you may be a terrorist, I apologize for the interruption and the accusation, but you know we have to check out these things, so, and I apologize for even asking this…are you a terrorist?”

“Nope, sorry.”

“Thank you sir, I apologise for the inconvenience, and might I just say that that is a wonderful collection of plastic explosives and AK-47s you have just behind the door there! Collector, huh? Goodbye, and Praise Allah!”

So let me get this straight. There is evidence that these people are either taking part, are involved or aiding the out and out murder for innocent civilians. There is enough evidence that their homes are being raided.

So it’s perfectly fine that you turn up at someone’s home at 4am. It’s perfectly fine that you knock their front door down with a battering ram. It’s perfectly fine that you storm the house, point automatic weapons at the occupants, before arresting them and dragging them off to jail…

But God forbid that you wear your fucking shoes and upset their religious sensibilities!

We’ve become so squeamish and afraid of being branded racist or heartless that we are literally willing to risk our own lives, as well as the lives of our police and armed forces, rather than ‘offend’ an Islamic Terrorist.

You see, they don’t play by the rules. Right now, every terrorist cell in England is spreading nails and broken glass in front of their doors.

We’re giving up the very things we are defending, in order to not offend the people who are trying to take them from us.

It’s this over sensitive and ‘political correctness’ mentality that is even spilling over into normal, every day life, including non-security issues.

Like this year’s Christmas parade.

For those who don’t know, any mention of Christmas was banned. Santa’s sleigh rode down the street without Santa.

Why?

Because a mention of Christmas, Santa or anything Christian might offend the non-Christians viewing the parade. Let me be clear, religion wasn’t banned, nor was denominational beliefs. Only Christianity and western traditions.

So forget the fact that hundreds of children burst into tears because they automatically thought Santa was a no-show because they’d all been bad and weren’t going to get any presents…as long as the minorities weren’t ‘offended’.

What the hell is offensive about watching a majority ethnic group celebrate their own traditions in their own country? Yes, minorities may be American or British Citizens, they may celebrate different holidays and have different beliefs, and yes, they have every right to openly celebrate their own traditions also. I’m not contesting that.

I just want to know why the beliefs and traditions of the majority are considered offensive.

In other words, if Hanukah or Ramadan was banned in order to prevent offending Christians…there would be uproar. Why ban anything? If we’re a multicultural society, what’s wrong with celebrating our own culture?

Now I’m all for ethnic diversity. I’m probably one of the few white people who actually sees Caucasoids as an ethnic group. At a Christmas parade, have all religions represented, the more the merrier.

However, being ‘racially aware’ does not extend to excluding the majority. After all, aren’t Christian beliefs and western traditions just as valid as all the others?

That’s right, we live in a time where it’s considered (rightly) offensive to exclude minorities, but is also completely acceptable to completely exclude the majority.

Am I the only person left in the world that considers excluding the traditions, beliefs and observances of the majority is just as racist and wrong as ignoring and excluding minorities?

I’m not pulling out the old chestnuts like “How come you can have a black pride march, or a gay pride march…and not a white pride or heterosexual pride march?” After all, as a white male, I have nothing to complain about. I don’t have to deal with a history of persecution and mistreatment.

On the other hand, I don’t go in for the ‘white guilt’ thing either. I don’t see why it has suddenly become wrong and shameful to celebrate western holidays.

Equality is the key. Putting one group forward while excluding another in not equal. Christmas was removed from a Christmas parade. The white people of America all applauded it, while patting themselves on the back about how non-racist they are…but at the same time wanted to see Santa, look at the angel on top of the tree, and sing Christmas Carols. However, everyone was too afraid to be called prejudiced, racist or a white supremacist to ask why the mere mention of a western holiday would be considered offensive to others.

I’m not talking about the fall of western society. I’m not suggesting that Britain and America will be Black, Muslim or Jewish Nations within ten years. I just want equality…true equality.

Represent your beliefs all you want. It’s this idea that America was founded on. However, I refuse to be ashamed or to sacrifice my beliefs for the sake of others. The whole idea behind America is that there’s room for everybody. Everybody. That includes the majority also.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Babies....Cute?...Or Hidden Stealth Killers

So today, I got rudely awakened by my 9 month old Grandson punching me in the face.

Ok, ok, I can hear you already. “Grandson? Grandson? Isn’t he only 24? What the hell?!?” (Click, click, click-click, click) “I was right! He did say he was 24! God, they really do start early in the South!”

Ok, let me explain.

I’m talking about my step-grandson. Many of you know that my wife is a fair bit older than me, she has a daughter from a previous marriage who is about my age, and she has two sons. Once I married in, I had a Cup-a-soup family. (Instant, just add water)…in that I have three stepkids, and three step-grandkids.

Are we clear now?

Ok.

So one of my stepkids has been out of town for the past half year. His brother, sister and wife went to pick him up from the bus station early this morning…so Sunny and I ended up looking after the kids.

So early this morning, Baby Christopher (Known as Baby Scoob, as his 4 year old brother asked if they could name him ‘Scooby Doo’) was left with us.

Now many of you also know about my nocturnal lifestyle. I got to bed at about 3.30am, meaning I actually fell asleep at about 5am. Baby Scoob was left with us at 7am. This means, the wife answered the door. I snored on.

Now it was early. Scoob was cranky, sleepy and wanted more sleep. Basically, he was placed on the bed with me, under the watchful eye of Sunny.

Now hearing a baby talking baby-talk when you’re half asleep is quite an unsettling experience. The first thing that popped into my head was ‘Sunny’s cracked. She’s finally cracked. Now I get to spend the next half-century married to a mental patient’.

Blearily, I open an eye, and come face to face with Scoob. Quite possibly the happiest, smiley-est baby in the history of the world.

“Ah.” I think.

My eyes involuntarily close again. However, Baby Scoob, having seen some activity from Papa-Paulius, wants to play. I feel him crawl towards me…

BAM!

Baby-knuckle…right to the temple.

Now I’m pretty sure the first time was a crawling-based accident. My head just happened to be in the way.

Now it may not sound a lot, but an unexpected punch when you’re 7/8ths asleep hurts like hell. My hand flies to my eye, and I start whimpering, quite ironically, like a baby.

Baby Scoob, on the other hand, has just witnessed comic gold.

BAM!

A second time, right on the lip. Scoob is cracking up. Causing pain is fun!

Ow, ow, ow, ow OW, OW, OOOOOOOOOOWWWW!

To add insult to injury, another wave of baby-giggles fills the air. Scoob his beating the crap out of his Papa and, just like a McDonalds commercial, he’s lovin’ it!

BAM!

Temple this time.

OWWWWWWWW!

“OK, You 15lb bully! I’m getting up! I’m getting up!”

Baby fighting isn’t fun, because:

a) It actually hurts (especially when you’re holding them and they decide to grab your eyeball)
b) You get absolutely no sympathy. (Oh, he’s just a baby, it can’t hurt that much!…The little barsteward is running off with my eyeball…fucking OW!)
c) You can, under no circumstances, hit the little Satan back.

Of course, as soon as I got up, Scoob decided to go back to sleep. Apparently a Super-king sized bed is too small for a 18 inch baby to share with anyone.

Then when he woke up, he commandeered the TV (IE, he started crying when I changed the channel to anything but Teletubbies and Boobahs).

I think we should all take a leaf out of Scoob’s book. Babies know how to get exactly what they want, do whatever they want…and never face any consequences.

They also have two breasts, the size of their head, on call 24 hours a day.

Lucky Bastards….