Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Handy 'Print and Keep' Game-Shopping Guide for Clueless, Sue-Happy Parents

Ok, I’m turning into a broken record with this, but since I’ve just sat through yet another “Warning – videogames are violent, and what are the games stores doing about it?” feature on the news, I just had to write this.

Now the feature was about how parents need to ‘defend’ their children against videogames this Christmas, and how to make sure that these evil games don’t find their way into, and I quote “The wrong hands”.

Ok, so I decided to write a simple ‘Print out and Keep’ guide to keeping your young children ‘safe’ from videogames this year:

  1. Go to the Games Store.

  2. Look for the game that your kid has asked for.

  3. On the FRONT, BACK and SIDES of the game, in about a two inch square, is the ESRB Rating.

  4. These ratings are as follows: E for Everyone, E 10+ ( for ages 10 and older). T for Teen (for ages 13 or older). M for Mature (for ages 17 and older). Finally there’s AO for adults only.

  5. Also on the ESRB sticker is a description of the game content, stating what the gamer can expect to see. These are extremely specific . For example, It would tell you if you can expect cartoon violence, fantasy violence, violence, violence with blood, intense violence etc.

  6. Buy the game that you, as a parent, feel is suitable for your child. If you’ve checked the ESRB rating, and don’t want your child to play it, don’t buy it.

  7. Occasionally check your child’s games, especially if they trade with friends, to make sure no unsuitable titles have crept in.

There, that’s all the bases covered. By following this, there’s no reason at all why little Timmy should ever get his hands on an unsuitable game.

Also, bear in mind that if you’ve just gone into a store, stuffed the game in your shopping bag, and later hear the game’s name during another ridiculous moral crusade on TV, you shouldn’t even think the word ‘lawsuit’.

You bought the game, you ignored the warnings, and you decided to not actually bother parenting your child. It’s your fault, not your local EB Games.

(Oh, and a Game Controller is nothing like an actual gun.)

You know Ive always

You know, I’ve always hated being described as ‘talented’ or ‘gifted’ (Although I will admit that that doesn’t happen very often.)

The reason for this is simple. It implies that whatever it is you’re good at was pre-ordained, and doesn’t take into account any of the actual effort involved. Saying someone is ‘gifted’ implies that they are good at a particular thing, and has nothing to do with practice and training.

For example, I went to school with a guy named David Greenall. Now, this guy was a stone-cold, platinum plated genius. He excelled at everything he did. He could do a pencil drawing that looked like a black and white photograph. He played piano so well that he went through every grading possible and beyond. (and this was by the time he was 15.)

At the end of highschool he graduated with A*’s in every subject. (In England you don’t get a ‘Highschool Diploma’, you get a grade on every subject you took, and that works the same as your transcript over here).

Oh, and an A* is one higher than an A+, there’s simply no higher grade.

Anyway, It was coming up to exam time, and someone said to him:

“At least you don’t have to worry; you KNOW you’re going to pass everything!”

David was not happy. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that the idea that he was under no pressure, and was guaranteed to pass, pissed him off royally. Especially considering he revised for those exams for at least 6 hours every day.

So what got me started on this topic today?

Well, I was practicing drawing, and I seem to have reached a plateau. I just don’t appear to be getting any better, and from my last post, you can see I’m not what you’d call a ‘talented artist’.

This got me thinking.

You see, I’ve been ‘blessed’ with a natural aptitude for a lot of things. If I like it, and I’m interested in it, I can become proficient in it quickly. I have an accelerated learning curve.

However, once I get to a certain point, my progress grinds to a halt, and I progress as fast as an asthmatic turtle climbing a steep hill.

For example, some friends and I decided to learn guitar. At the start I outpaced them easily, and was playing songs while they where still trying to learn the chords. However, once the ‘Paulius Gene’ kicked in, learning anything new became a battle, while my friends continued on, progressing at the same pace they had before, which was about 100 times faster than me.

This started me thinking about talent.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people, who excel in one area, tend to suffer in others.

I think it’s just the way their brains are wired. You get the people who are scientific geniuses, but can’t do anything ‘creative’ (art, music, etc.), to save their lives. Then you have the people who are absolute geniuses in one area, but have difficulty tying their own shoelaces.

This lead me to a question, one that I can’t answer.

When it comes to talent, is it an in-born thing, or can anything be learned? Does it just come down to practice and sticking at it, or are some people just better than others?

Basically, if I bought a piano, sat down and practiced for 8 hours a day, every day, would I eventually be as good as Mozart? Or would I reach a particular skill level and just get stuck there?

It’s a difficult question.

So what do you think? Do we all have unlimited potential, and can be good at anything if we practice enough? Or are some people’s brains just wired to be good at a particular thing, that the rest of us can never hope to become good at?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Do the Chickens Have Large Talons?

Hey all,

Been messing around with my new graphics pad, and I gotta say I absolutely love it.

Best $40 I ever spent.

I'm going to share a couple images I created with you. I'd like to point out before you crack up laughing at them that I'm not trying to show off my (Laughable) drawing skills, just trying to show what a complete amateur can do in half an hour on one of these things

The first one is a self portrait (You'll have to get Sunny to verify the likeness), and no, I don't know why I've got that extremely pensive/taking a crap look on my face either. To be honest, it reminded me of one of the portraits that Napoleon Dynamite drew, but here it is:

Image Hosted by

The next one is more cartoony. Anyone wondering why it's a partially dressed female, it's basically because I'd read that the human body is one of the hardest things to draw (we see them every day, so you can tell easily if something's a little 'off'), and I wanted to test myself. I also wanted to try my hand at shading.

I'll let you be the judge of my success or failure:

Image Hosted by

Picture number one was done with the help of a mirror next to my monitor, and picture 2 was just drawn off the top of my head. (Looks a lot like Sunny, before she stupidly let me cut her hair).

Basically, if you've ever considered getting one of these, get one! Mine is a Medion MD 41217, and Aldi are selling them at the moment for a measly $40. Considering you'd usually shell out over a hundred dollars it's an absolute steal. Put it this way, both these picks where drawn/shaded in under a half hour each, and I couldn't have done either half as well with pen and paper.

I know it's not much of an endorsement, I just wish I could show you some pen and paper sketches I'd done. That'd easily show just how much better these things can make your artwork. (Well, a graphics pad and Photoshop anyhoo).

Later, Bizatches!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

So, Sunny and I went to see the new Harry Potter Movie last night.

Now this post is going to contain some major spoilers, so for those who aren’t going to read on, I’ll just say that if you’ve never read the books, and only experienced Harry Potter through the movies, go and see it, you’ll enjoy it.

If, however, you read the books first, this movie is not so good.

A few weeks ago, when I heard that the new movie was coming out, I discussed it with my daughter-in-law, and Sunny (both rabid HP fans).

I looked at the HP boxed set on the shelf and said:

“The first book was only a couple hundred pages long, and that made a three hour movie. Goblet of Fire was four times longer… they’re gonna have to cut an awful lot out.”

I was as right as Righty McRight, Who has a degree in being right from Right University.

The movie begins with Harry in the Burrow, not in Privet Drive. He has his dream, but instead of it just being Wormtail, Nagini and Voldemort, Barty Crouch Jr. is there as well.

Harry is woken by Hermione, and they head to the Quidditch World Cup, although for some reason, none of the group other than Mr. Weasley have a clue where they’re going.

They arrive, get in the tent, cut to the game, we see the teams rush in, cut, and back to the tent. None of the game at all.

Then the Death Eaters arrive, burn up the entire camp site, and then Barty Crouch Jr. Conjures the Dark Mark. Winky and Dobby are absent from the entire movie.

Cut to Hogwarts, First task, second task, ball, third task, Voldemort’s rise…movie over.

That’s pretty much it.

No mention of Mad-eye blowing up his dustbins, Neville tells Harry about the Gillyweed, Sirius only has one (CG) scene. The first task is extended which leaves Harry hanging from a Hogwarts tower, but the second task is only a few minutes long. The third is laughable. There are no magical enchantments in the maze, only the maze walls change to block you in, and devil’s snare tries to grab you.

Not a Blast-ended Skrewt in sight…and I have to admit, I was wondering what the Veela would look like on the big screen. They never showed up.

Ok, ok, I can understand them seriously shortening the movie. If they’d stayed completely true to the movie, it would have made the extended version of Lord of the Rings look like a trailer. It did irk me a little that they extended some scenes, at the sacrifice of other important plot elements.

However, I’ve no idea if they thought that movie-goers are a hundred times dumber than fans of the books, but they drop so many hints about the ending, they might as well have handed out postcards with ‘Moody is Crouch Junior’ on them.

For example, in the book, they make sure you know that Moody is so paranoid, that he only ever drinks from his own hip-flask. In the movie, they go in the opposte direction, and make a point of showing how suspicious it is.

Every time Moody does something suspicious, he takes a conspicuous drink from his hip-flask.

Moaning Myrtle tells Harry that she saw ‘Bits of Polyjuice Potion’ in the drain, and asks if Harry is ‘up to something again’.

Snape corners Harry and accuses him of stealing the ingredients to Polyjuice potion. (This is in the book, however, in the book Snape only mentions the ingredients, and Harry thinks that he didn’t steal them, but Hermione did the previous year.)

In other words, in the book, Rowling drops the occasional, very subtle hint that may give you an idea of what’s going on, and only introduces Barty Crouch Junior about halfway through… and then only to say that he died in Azkaban. At the end, you discover that Crouch Jr. escaped from Azakaban, and you learn how he escaped.

In the movie, you know he’s alive and well from day 1, and it’s never explained how he escapes.

Basically, the book drops subtle hints… the movie bludgeons you over the head with them.

Oh, and the book makes you believe that Crouch Jr. might have been innocent, and sets him up as a sympathetic character. In the book, he gets accused, and goes full fledged psycho…complete with snake-like tongue movements. The book led you to believe that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Movie shows you he’s a complete and utter psycho bastard in the shortest time possible.

Also, because of this, you never learn the Crouch senior has been bewitched, or any of the other slightly ‘behind the scenes’ stuff.

There are also a few glaring omissions that are going to make the next movies a little difficult.

For example, it’s never mentioned that Rita Skeeter is an unregistered Animagus. The whole Harry-Hermonie-Krum ‘love triangle’ is completely missing.

In ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ Hermione blackmails Rita Skeeter into writing Harry’s full story of what happened the night Voldemort returned by threatening to tell the Ministry of Magic about her being able to turn into a beetle. This can’t be in the next movie, because the whole Animagus thing was left out.

In closing I’ll say this:

The Goblet of Fire is a good movie, it’s far, far from being bad. You go into it expecting to get the ‘Reader’s Digest Condensed Version’. However, even though this is a kid’s movie, you can’t help but feel like you’re being patronized and spoon-fed the story. It’s a ‘leave your brain at home’ movie. It’s also annoying that new scenes, that bear no resemblance at all to the book, have been included at the expense of some of the more important plot points.  

So, I’ll give this movie Two scores. One for people who have read the books, and one for people who only watched the movies:

Movie-goers only : 8/10
Book Readers       : 5/10

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Most Pointless Thing in the World...Ever!

I think I’ve discovered it.

The most pointless thing in the entire universe.

I’ll need to tell you the story that leads up to the discovery.

A few days ago, Sunny and I were grocery shopping at the local Aldi. (They don’t have much of a selection, but you just can’t beat their prices). As soon as I walked through the door, my Spider-Sense started tingling.

This store had shiny gadgets on sale. Shiny gadgets with buttons and flashing lights and everything!

As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, I consider myself somewhat of an ‘artiste’, (although not a very good one). You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Aldi were selling Graphics Tablets for a paltry $40!

(Quick note to those that don’t know: A Graphics Tablet is a device that lets you use a pen to actually draw directly into your computer…think of it as electronic paper. You draw on the tablet, and the same thing appears on your screen.)

I’d wanted one of those for a good long while, but had only ever seen them in excess of $100.

It was ‘justify buying it’ time. Luckily at this time of the year, this wasn’t too hard. Christmas is coming up, these are incredibly cheap and on sale, and if we don’t buy it now, they’ll all be gone. Early Christmas Present a go go, Baby!

Aldi do this every so often. They get a specific gadget (everything from iPod Shuffles to Sat-nav handhelds), and they get snapped up within days. If I wanted to buy it, I had to get it then, or at least within a day or so.

Anyway, today we went and bought it. Of course, even though it’s not Christmas yet, I had to try it out (Got to make sure it works, don’t I?).

Ok, so I got it home, installed it, and was impressed. I was half expecting it to feel cheap and not work quite as well as the expensive brands, but I was surprised to find that it looked and felt substantial, and worked like a dream.

It was forty bucks, but it feels expensive

The pen is pressure sensitive, so if you’re drawing, using something like Adobe Photoshop, a light touch will get you a thin line, pushing hard gets you a thick line…

Basically, it’s as close as you can get to drawing on paper with a computer (But still being able to do all the whiz-bang effects and stuff in photoshop). Well, at least as close as you can get without shelling out a few grand for one of those touch screen tablets (The ones where you draw directly onto the screen).

The only bad thing I have to say about the hardware is that Windows XP shits a gold brick if you try to run the tablet and a regular mouse side by side. The tablet DOES come with a cordless mouse (although it only works on the tablet, which is connected to the PC via a USB cable), but the mouse is the one part that really lets the rest down.

It’s plasticy as hell, feels horrible, and isn’t very ‘smooth’. It feels like a $2 mouse that’s been used on a cornflake mouse pad for a few years.

Basically, it just doesn’t come anywhere close to my regular optical mouse.

It’s not such a big problem. I can switch the tablet for my mouse while the computer is still on, so it’s just a case of unplugging one wire and plugging another in. The USB sockets I have on the front of my case make this especially easy.

Anyway, now that the hardware review’s over, this brings me to the most pointless thing in the world.

Let me explain some of the software that comes with this thing.

There’s some great stuff, some good stuff and, as the title of this post suggests, the most pointless thing in the universe.

My favourite thing is the Pen-lock software. You can password any file you like, and it uses your signature as the password. This system is nigh unbreakable. You see, as well as comparing your signature to the example you gave to the program, it also goes off the speed at which the signature was drawn, the pressure of the stylus on the tablet and what parts are drawn first.

Basically, it doesn’t just go off what the signature looks like, it goes off the way it looks and the way you write it.

Even if someone got a copy of your signature, and traced it onto the tablet, it wouldn’t work because they wouldn’t write it the way you do.

In short, the password is your signature the way that you and you alone, write it. It’s the poor-man’s biometrics (That’s fingerprint recognition to the layman), and as secure as a voiceprint.

There are a few bits of other software. One allows you to draw directly onto a document in your favourite word processor. Great for signing letters, especially if you need a good few copies of it. You simply finish your document, click a button in the taskbar, pick up the stylus and sign it. Easy!

One that’s absolutely no use to me, but would be great for others is the handwriting recognition software. You start a small program in the background, start writing, and it converts your handwriting into type-written text, and this works with any Windows Application.

Now, I can type a hundred times faster than I can write, but this would be perfect for someone like my Dad, who uses the Biblical System of typing:

‘Seek and Ye Shall Find’.

You know what I mean. ‘Tap’, search, search, search, ‘tap’. Let’s just say that text chatting with him, I can ask him a question, get up, make coffee and a sandwich, watch the complete extended version Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and be back just in time for his answer.

If he could just write his responses, it would be so much quicker.

But this leads me to it. The most pointless thing ever created. The one thing that the creator of should be sacked for, put in a crow cage and hung up on London Bridge for tourists to point and laugh at.

I’m talking about ‘Quicknotes’.

Here’s the basis of this app. You start it up and get a screen that looks like a piece of paper. You write your notes on it, and then (Gasp) you can print it out!

Think about this. You’re sitting at your desk, and want to write yourself, or somebody else, a note. You could:

  1. Start up your computer. Wait for it to boot up. Start up Quicknotes. Pick the colour and type of pen you want to use. Write your note on the tablet. Click print. Choose your print quality. Start printing. Wait for your print out. Go get your printout.


  1. Get a piece of paper. Write your note.

Quick, simple and costs the princely sum of one piece of paper, and a 7 cent bic pen, rather than expensive printer toner..

Now, to be fair, Sunny pointed out that it would be useful if you where in an office and needed lots of copies of the same note to circulate. However, my plan would be:

  1. Write note, visit photocopier.

Using Quicknotes is the equivalent of setting up a webcam conference to talk to people who are sitting at the same desk as you.

Now, I’m all for computers, they make life simpler and easier. Using mine I can write to my parents who are 3500 miles away, and they’ll get it in seconds rather than 7 days. I can start up Messenger and talk to them with the webcam, which costs me nothing but my normal internet bill.

Many of you, especially the more sarcastic ones out there, will point out that a Graphics Tablet could be considered pointless because pencil and paper is easier and cheaper. Yep, but then it’s not on my computer, and I can’t edit and enhance it with all of photoshop’s groovy features.

However, only an idiot could think that using a computer to get handwritten notes on paper could be any simpler and easier than actually getting a pen and writing the damn thing.

Pen, paper…you don’t need a computer in the way.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Man DIY. Revenge of the Plumbing.

Ok, it’s been an interesting couple of days.

Picture the scene. It’s the about 7am onTuesday. As usual, I didn’t sleep at night, planning to sleep during the day. (For those that’s don’t know, Sunny works nights, so I stay up at night so we stay on the same schedule).

However, I completely forget that Tuesday is payday, and therefore bill-paying day. The result is, I get about 4 hours sleep.

No matter, I think, plenty of time to sleep that night.

However, I got completely caught up playing ‘Sid Meier’s Pirates’, an absolutely amazing game, resulting in me not sleeping that night either.

Now, this isn’t unusual. I very rarely go to be before 7am, I normally get to bed any time between 6am and 11am, getting up around 3pm.

So I glance at the clock, and decide to get into bed.

The temperature in the bedroom feels like it’s about minus 10. The electric blanket goes on, and after a short, sharp scream as bare skin hits the ice-block mattress, I settle in. The electric blanket takes about a half hour to make the bed sleepable, and I eventually nod off.


Sleepy Time…

Sunny’s voice…

Wait? Did I just say Sunny’s voice? I glance, bleary eyed at the clock. It’s just coming up to 10am. I’ve been asleep for about 2 hours. I only slept for four hours the day before! I’d been awake for 24 straight hours. What is she thinking.

So there I am, curled up in my ultra comfortable, electrically heated cotton cocoon, and she speaks:

“Sweetie? The cold burst a water pipe up at Mommy’s house, and we’ve had to cut the water to the entire property. You need to go up there and help Frank fix it.”

One word entered my head. A word that can not be repeated, ever.

So I drag myself out of my lovely warm bed, to discover the temperature has dropped even further (In case you’re worried, it’s ok, my testicles descended again a few hours later). I drag on some clothes and head up there.

At this point, I wasn’t terrible bothered. Frank (My step-son) is incredibly good at this sort of thing, so I figure we’ll have it fixed in an hour, and I can go back to bed.

I almost heard fate laugh at me.

It turns out that the waterpipe that burst was about 4 feet underground. Also, the pipe is located at the side of the house, at the top of a hill, with a 50 degree incline. Digging 4 feet down, while trying to keep your balance isn’t fun.

Oh, and did I mention we had to cut down a tree and a bloody great Holly bush (Nice ‘n’ spiky) to get to where we needed to dig?

Anyway, a couple of hours later, we’ve dug the hole. Then we just have the problem of moving the 200lb brick casing so we can get to the pipe.

It was concreted down.

Cue the sledgehammers.

Smack a brick, grab a brick, hand it to frank to put in a pile.

A few minutes later, I hand him a brick, he glances at it, and throws it down like it’s red hot.

Out of a hole in the brick slithers a 6 inch Copperhead snake. Not big, but incredible, incredibly venomous. The kind of snake that an untreated bite from can kill you.

Squealing like little girls, we go postal on the thing. The bloody thing ended up in three pieces and was still effing moving!

A stout whack to its head with a 40lb lump hammer sorted it out.

We both decided we’d wear out thick leather work gloves out of that, and for some reason, the removal of the rest of the bricks took twice as long.

Finally we reach the pipe.

It’s broken in the worst possible place. Cue a trip to Lowes for a length of PVC pipe, a couple of couplings, a stop-valve, and a new huge PVC pipe to replace the brick housing (You need something to surround it so you can reach down and turn the valve if you need to.)

However, this means we have to cut the pipe to length, prime and glue one end in place, and then get the other side primed, glued and placed before the part dries.

We didn’t make it. One side stuck irreversibly before we could get the other end in.

Cue second trip to Lowes for two more couplings.

We try again, and almost the same thing happens.

Cue third trip to Lowes.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it took us 8 hours in the freezing cold just to get the new pipe in place. We still had two hours to wait for the glue to fully cure, so came home to wait. My Brother in Law said he’d come over when he finished work to turn the water on and check it.

He did, and it leaked.

The only thing that made me feel a little better is that he tried to fix it today, it took him a couple of hours…and his job leaked as well.

At least the water’s back on. Two days being unable to use the toilet will make you very happy to get the water turned back on.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Assholes...Just assholes.

Sorry that I’ve not updated in a few days everyone. I had one of those ‘episodes’ where I’d get a really good idea for a post, get three quarters of the way through it, then think “Why would anyone find this interesting?”

Click. Do you want to save? No.

Basically, I couldn’t think of a damn thing to write.

However, sometimes, when you’re really stuck, the internet throws you a bone. This turned up in my inbox today, from a fellow blogger, imaginatively named ‘The Best of Cat Trees’:

Hi Paulius, been searching the web, and came accross your site. Looking at latest info on how to clean cat urine. World gone mad...Official, maybe not the perfect match-but intresting read anyway.. off to look for how to clean cat urine...’

Somehow, someone went to the time and trouble to get around the Word Verification system to send me this piece of crap. (Getting around the word verification system isn’t hard, you just use a bit of character recognition software. Even if it only has a 4% success rate, if that bot tries it on 5 million sites…well, you get the idea.)

Let me explain how these pieces of dumbness given form get into you inbox.

Someone, somewhere gets hold of a piece of software called a ‘Bot’. (I find it hard to believe that anyone who thought I’d fall for the above sales pitch has the intelligence to write one of these programs themselves.

Here’s what it does:

The Bot goes to every site it can find that ends in ‘’, and attempts to write a post.

It begins with a template that reads:

“Hi (blank), been searching the web, and came across your site. Looking at the latest info on (spam link goes here). (Random excerpt from blog), maybe not the perfect match – but interesting read anyway…off to look for how to clean cat urine”

Then it fills in the blanks. It takes my name from the timestamp at the bottom of my post, adding that personalized touch. The spam link is whatever the spammer has set it to. Then it cuts the title from the post, pastes that it, then finishes with the “Not exactly the same” bit.

Basically, this is an actually attempt to fool me into thinking that someone was looking on the internet for the ‘best ways’ to clean up cat piss, accidentally stumbled upon my site (Which would be amazing since that post didn’t mention anything at all to do with cats, not even once), and then pointed out that it wasn’t an exact match (Not an exact match? Cleaning cat piss was and that post was about as well matched as a penis and a bacon slicer.)

Then comes the best bit. My absolute favourite part:

interesting read, anyway…’

Oh wow, Mr, Random internet spammer! You honestly think my blogs ‘pretty interesting’? Do you? Really? Honestly? Cross your heart and hope to die? God, I’m just so shallow and desperate for any form of validation, that a complete stranger with a cat piss fixation saying my Blog is ‘pretty interesting’ has made my entire life!

(You have to imagine me talking like Droopy Dawg when I write bit):

Wow…I’m so happy…let me visit your site quickly, if you think I’m pretty interesting, you must be a great blogger.

Guess what people? I did look at this site, (in the hope I could get his email address and email-bomb him). You know, I don’t think he was being entirely honest. I’m not even sure he’s a real blogger. His site must be new, because all it is is a title, one post with every single cat-related product name imaginable in a single column, and a set of Google ads…that are surprisingly selling cat products.

Ok, now for a message to all those idiots who are polluting Blogspot, Myspace and all the other blog sites with ridiculous spam. I’m talking to you, the people who write blogs that are nothing but ads and spyware. I’m also talking to you, the people who clog genuine blogs comments sections with yet more spam.

Please read this carefully.

You Are Fucking With The Wrong People.

I don’t mean that in an impotent “I’ll find you and kill you” way. I mean that in an “I’ll make sure you never do business on the Internet again” way.

You see, bloggers are a community, and we all absolutely hate you. But what can we do?

Well, myself, like many other bloggers actually know how to use a computer and I track everyone who visits this site.

Yes Mr. Catpiss, I know your IP address, what time you left the comment, and what ISP you use.

Now, just me reporting you to your ISP wouldn’t do much good, but what if I posted your information, and asked everyone who visited this site to report you as well? Oh, and what if they posted asking all their readers to report you as well?

It’d be simple. Small print at the bottom of a post “Today’s spammer Reportee is Mr. Catpiss, here’s his information, email his ISP.”

If I did that, I could have about 50,000 complaints against you within a few hours. It’s the old “I tell two friends, then they tell two friends, then they tell two friends…” situation.

In other words, you’re fucked.

…and trust me, nothing would make us happier than seeing a spammer get their internet service denied.

If you think I’m talking bullshit, Maddox managed to lose Orbitz millions of dollars doing the same thing. Don’t believe me?

Read :

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Computer Nazis!

If there’s one area where Sunny and I are completely different, it’s our taste in movies.

We do have a few movies that we both like, but most of the time if I love a movie, she hates it and vice versa. I like sci-fi and off the wall wacky comedies, whereas Sunny tend to like, for want of a better term, chick-flicks.

This means I tend to watch quite a few movies on the computer, as we only have one DVD Player.

So, this weekend, I set myself a project. You see, toting DVD’s back and forth to the computer, at least for me, leads to discs being left all over the place and getting scratched. When I’m done watching a movie, I leave it in the drive. The next time I need to use the computer, the disc ends up getting taken out of the drive and left on top of the computer…and I’ll put it away once I’m done…honest!

In short, I decided to turn my computer into a part-time DVD jukebox.

Basically, I used a great little app called DVD Shrink, which allows you to create a disc image from your DVD, while cutting the file size roughly in half, with no noticeable loss in quality. (Ok, this is mostly meant so you can copy an 8gig dual layer disc onto a 4.5 gig DVD-R, but I like it because it uses less disc space). Basically, you start with an 8 gigabyte DVD, and end up with a 4 gigabyte DVD image.

Now, a disk image is, in essence, exactly what it sounds like. The computer makes a ‘picture’ of the surface of the disc. Usually, you take this image and burn it to a recordable DVD to get a copy…but I didn’t want a copy, I wanted them stored on my hard-drive.

Unfortunately, you can’t just drag the files off a DVD movie disc, put them in a folder, and double click to play them. If you could, it would make pirating them just a little too easy. Also, just double clicking a Disc Image does nothing either.

Here’s where the clever bit comes in. Using another program (personally, I like Alcohol 120%), you can ‘mount’ these disk images.

What ‘mounting’ a disc does is ‘fool’ the computer into thinking that there’s another DVD-ROM drive connected to the computer when there isn’t. You mount the disc image in the new virtual drive, and then you can play the disc image, as though it was an actual disc.

If that was all Greek to you, basically what you’re doing is creating a ‘fake’ DVD drive to play your ‘fake’ DVD. Basically, your computer is just reading the information of your hard-drive, but thinks it’s reading the data off a DVD.

With me so far?

I’d like to point out at this point that all of the above is entirely legal, as long as you own the discs you’re mounting. I’ve said this a million times, but when you buy a DVD, you’re purchasing the license to view it. That I choose to copy these discs to my hard-drive, rather than read directly from the disc comes under ‘fair use’. If I put them in a shared folder, or put them on Bittorrent, I’d be in the shit. However, I’ve just copied them to my computer for my own personal use.

In short, for convenience, and to save a bit of wear and tear on my discs, I have a folder on my computer with almost my entire DVD library in it. To watch a movie, I start Alcohol 120%, mount the image in the virtual drive, and a double click lets me watch my DVD.

So I’ve legally stored my DVDs on my computer, using 100% legal, licensed software. That shouldn’t be a problem, should it?

Enter the Computer Nazis.

So everything was working fine…until I tried to run a game…a legal game, a game that I bought, installed, put in a valid CD key and still have the receipt for.

I tried to run it. The splash screen appeared, then…DINK! Error Window.

“Emulation Software Detected! You must uninstall this software to continue!”

Let me translate for the non-techies out there.

The Emulation software is Alcohol. An emulator, in layman terms, is a bit of software that lets a computer ‘act’ like something else. IE, you can get an emulator that makes your computer act like an old Commodore 64 or and Amiga. Alcohol 120% lets part of your hard-drive act like a DVD-Rom.

Basically, the game spotted that I have a virtual drive set up on my machine (That’s right, the one I use for my movies…the one that’s completely legal)…and it didn’t like it.

Basically, this game is saying:

“Stop! You have the necessary software on this computer to copy and mount this disc! You’re an evil software pirate! Well, Sonny Jim, if you think you’re playing this game, when you obviously copied it, you’ve got another thing coming! Get rid of that software, or I’m not starting up!”

That’s right, because I have the necessary tools on my computer to copy games, this particular game refuses to run until those tools are removed. It doesn’t think that it has been copied itself, it’s just noticed the potential for being copied.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I own this computer. I own every single bit of software on it. Why does someone else get to say what software I can and can’t put on my computer?

Basically, the Game Designers think they have the right to tell me that I can’t own another piece of completely legal software, because it’s possible for me to use it to pirate their game, something I haven’t done. It’s not complaining that it’s being ran from an actual copied disc, it’s not complaining because it’s being run from a virtual drive… it’s not detecting anything actually wrong…except that a virtual drive is present on the machine.

This is the equivalent of a TV refusing to turn on, because a VCR is attached, and the VCR can be used to play pirated movies.

Now, luckily, I’m tech-savvy enough to go and download another program that allows me to camouflage the virtual drive, so the game can’t detect it.

However, that means that to do something completely legal on my computer, to save myself a bit of trouble by storing my DVD library, I have an app to copy DVD’s, a piece of software to mount copied images, and another piece of software dedicated to getting around copy protection.

Pirating tools, in other words.

All this because software and movie producers are getting so over-zealous with their copy protection, that you sometimes need to ‘pirate’ and copy a legal disc that you own, just to get around the stupid copy protection, which is wrongly accusing you of something illegal. Also, honest users like myself are being forced to turn pseudo-pirate, because private companies think they have the right to tell me what I can and can’t do with my own computer.

I’ve even noticed that a lot of game demos are turning up with copy protection. The PC demo of F.E.A.R. has a warning message telling you it’s illegal to copy or distribute the demo in any way! Isn’t the whole point of a demo (being free and all), to reach as many people as possible so they can see if they like it to buy the game? A demo is advertising fuckwits! You’re trying to limit the number of people who see your ad! It makes no sense!

I’m all for copy protection. I like games and movies, and want the games and movie studios to have enough money to keep releasing better and better games. Make your disc as hard as you like to copy…but don’t make it unplayable, just because I have certain software on my machine. If you bastards weren’t so over-zealous, that software wouldn’t have to be there.

The truth is, there’s no such thing as unbreakable copy protection. No matter what you do, someone, somewhere will find a way around it, and distribute the copying software that lets a complete newbie copy a disc with a single click.

I know piracy hurts your business, but making things as difficult as possible for your genuine customers is not the way to encourage business.

Showing My Geek Roots

Hello all,

Not really got time for a real post today, so I'm linking two videos.

The first video should be interesting to anyone who uses the internet regularly. This was done in all seriousness, but is bloody hilarious today.

The second I thought was funny, but will only make sense to people who understand 133t Sp3/\X.

Real post tommorrow, bizatches!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

An Open Letter To Sega

Dear Sega,

Back in the late 80’s you released a game entitled ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’. It was a milestone in the then fledgling Games Industry.

Sonic became synonymous with Sega, and quite frankly, it was an excellent game, loved by anyone who played it. I remember fondly the playground arguments as to which game was better, Sonic or Mario. (I was strictly in the Sega Camp. Sonic was faster, cooler and all around better than that Italian Plumber with the mushroom fixation.)

I think you will agree, it was a much more innocent age in the Games Industry. Back then games where designed for children. An adult gamer was pretty rare.

If you remember, Sonic featured a cuddly blue hedgehog with ‘attitude’. Later he was joined by an even cuddlier Fox sidekick, by the name of Miles Prower. Slightly later he was joined by the slightly edgier red hedgehog, by the name of ‘Knuckles’.

You were in no doubt that you were playing the ‘good guy’.

The point of this game was to save all the fluffy forest creatures from the evil Doctor Robotnik. The formula was simple. Sonic Good, Robotnik Bad. Also, as was common with the children’s cartoons of the day, the only bad guys you killed where robots. Even the boss battles with Dr. Robotnik had you only destroying the craft he was in, before he escaped.

In short, the game was 100% completely bloodless and the only violence was against obviously evil robots.

Well, unfortunately, Sega’s time at the top of the gaming food chain is over. With the complete and total failure of the Dreamcast, Sega went from industry leader to an obscure console-less company, relegated to producing the odd game for other systems. You scrape a living now by releasing your classic games for the handhelds and the occasional console budget title. Basically, Sony’s PlayStation kicked the Dreamcast’s ass.

You see, every console needs a ‘Killer App’, a game that makes everyone want the console. You figured that Sonic in 3D would be enough. Unfortunately, the PlayStation had Metal Gear Solid. A brand new, excellent game, with an intriguing main character and a gripping storyline.

Basically, brand new will blow a re-hash of an old game with better graphics out of the water every single time.

In short, you where at the top of your field, and suddenly found yourself on the bottom.

Suffice it to say, I can understand your desire to be back on top.

Now, the hardcore gamer, such as myself, was part of what is now known as the ‘Nintendo Generation’.

We where there at the start, before 3D graphics, before environmental audio, before ESRB Ratings…the age of the 8-bit platformer and scrolling shoot ‘em up. Innocent games where you played the good guy fighting against the obviously evil bad guy.

This wasn’t the time for morally ambiguous anti-heros, blood or gore…this was the time of the sliver spaceship shooting the insect looking things, this was the time of the White Knight fighting the Ghosts and Goblins…and most of all it was the time of the Blue Hedgehog running super-fast and smashing evil robots with its spines.

Nowadays, the ‘Nintendo Generation’ has grown up. The same kids that begged their parents for a Sega Master System or the Nintendo Entertainment System now have kids of their own, mini-vans and mortgages. However, we never lost our love of games. Our tastes may have changed, but we’ll always remember Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex Kidd.

Times change. There’s nothing we can do about it, we can only adapt... However, you chose not to.

So today, Sonic the Hedgehog has fallen to the side to make way for the First Person Shooter. As adults, we now want adult games. Your Grand Theft Autos, your Halos and your Burnouts.

If you’ll pardon the pun, we can tell, and understand completely, that you want back in the game. E for Everyone games don’t sell too well. Mature games sell well, so you’ve decided to go ‘edgy’.

Unfortunately you’ve followed your recent form and have missed the point entirely.

Rather than start a new franchise, you’re desperate to cling on to what little name-recognition you have left.

I’m talking, of course, about ‘Shadow the Hedgehog’.

Let’s not attempt to fool ourselves, you simply took Sonic, painted him a dark red, and put a gun in his hand.

“Look everyone, it’s Sonic! Remember Sonic?” You say. “Only look! Now he’s ‘edgy’ and has a gun! You can play Sonic again, but satisfy your craving for more mature titles as well!”

Don’t you realize what you’ve done?

It’s the equivalent of watching Lion-o grab Mum-ra, push a gun in his face, slit his throat and stomp on his head. It’s like hearing Optimus Prime tell Galvatron to go fuck his mother…but most of all, it’s like watching Elmo take a dump in Oscar’s trash can, before calling him a whore, and setting him on fire.

You tattooed a swastika on Mother Teresa.

Sonic was my introduction to gaming, and it’s a game that I hold very dear to my heart. Watching you piss all over it, in an attempt to be ‘edgy’, whatever that means, is like being bitch-slapped by Santa.

If you want to connect with the current generation of gamers, you create a new franchise. You don’t take a beloved character, and make him into a gun wielding Gordon Freeman wannabe.

Yes, I know Nintendo released Super Smash Bros. A fighting game based on the Mario franchise, but even that was done in a fun and cartoony way. Mario Kart could be called violent, but you shoot turtle shells at the other Karts, which simply make them stop and spin around. That’s acceptable. They aren’t throwing grenades, and shooting automatic weapons at eachother.

You completely missed the point. As adult ‘first generation’ gamers, we do want more violent and controversial titles instead of the cuddly, family friendly titles. However, what we don’t want to see is a beloved iconic character being transformed from He-Man into Scarface.

If you’d left Sonic alone, he would have been remembered forever as one of the best first generation platformers of all time. Instead, you decided to absolutely ruin Sonic by forcing a game that just doesn’t fit the franchise. Would it have been so hard to make this game with a new main character? How about Shadow the Swamp-rat?

If a game is good, people will buy it. If a game is crap, people won’t. You can’t create sales by forcing an already known character (or at least a slightly changed version of one), into a new genre, especially one that is diametrically opposed to what we already know of him. People aren’t going to buy this because it’s ‘edgy sonic’, they’re going to avoid it because they don’t like seeing sonic turned into a marketing whore. Why didn’t you go all the way, and have him collecting crack rocks instead of gold rings?

Learn from your competitors. Link will never be a hard-edged anti hero. Mario will never be ‘gangsta’ and Donkey Kong will never rip people’s heads off and shit down their neck.

…and if the gaming community had its way, Sonic would never gun down the opposition with an over-sized Uzi.

In short, I would appreciate it if you recalled this game, and re-marketed it with it’s true, full title:

Shadow The Hedgehog : Fuck your childhood!

Many Thanks,


Friday, November 18, 2005

The Battle of The Sexes

When I first got married, I thought I had stumbled upon the most unique woman in the world. I was half-wrong.

Let me explain.

Sunny and I were very fortunate in that we were genuine friends for over two years before we even considered being a couple. Also, the fact that we lived 3500 miles apart meant one thing; we talked… A lot.

(Did you see that? I used a semi-colon…I’m so proud.)

You see, Sunny and I knew each other for almost three and a half years before we actually met in person. This gave us three and a half years to really get to know each other. All the little niggling things that cause fights in a relationship (socks left on the floor, who does what household chore etc.) were discussed, resolved and compromises where reached before we ever spent any time in each other’s company.

However, what convinced me of Sunny’s uniqueness was her reaction to one question. Not just one question…THE one question. I’m talking about the oldest unresolvable relationship problem since civilization started. You know what I’m talking about:

Toilet Seat, Up or Down?

You see, most women complain that their men leave the toilet seat up. For some reason, having to spend that extra second and a half to lower it is simply unacceptable.

Many a time has a man heard his wife try to sit on a toilet, heard the unmistakable squeal-splash as they fall in…and has known, with a leaden stomach, that he’s about to face his wife’s full wrath.

However, your average male has a different point of view on the Toilet Seat Situation. Basically, why do women get to complain when the toilet seat is left up, but men don’t get to complain when the toilet seat is left down?

To me, the matter is simple. A man invented the toilet, and another man invented the toilet seat. We invented it, so we get priority over toilet seat placement. We’re doing the standing up thing a lot more often than we’re in the ‘Buttock-Toilet Seat Interface Situation’, so our natural instinct is to leave the thing up. If you don’t look before you attempt to sit…that’s your problem.

It’s instinct ladies, and no matter how hard you scream at us, you’re fighting against a thousand years of ingrained genetic memory and evolution. (Oh, and if you don’t believe in Evolution, and follow the ‘Intelligent Design’ hypothesis, that means we’re designed by God to leave the toilet seat up. So telling us to leave it down is Blasphemy. Hah! God’s on our side!)

Anyway, my point is that this argument convinced me of Sunny’s uniqueness in the female world. This is what she actually said, and I quote:

“Men don’t complain when we leave the toilet seat down, so why should we complain when it’s left up? If a guy is willing to lift the seat, I’m willing to put the seat down.”

Truly, I had discovered the Holy Grail of womanhood. The completely rational female.

(This reminds me of a story I once heard, where a woman had just finished reading “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” She turned to her husband, eyes wide in Feminist Self Righteousness™, and said: “You should read this book. Women don’t need men to solve their problems, most of the time we just want you to give us a hug, and tell us everything is going to be okay.”

The next day, the woman got up and tried to leave for work. Just as her husband was leaving, she called him, and told him that her car had a flat tire.

He looked over the car, gave her a big hug, told her everything was going to be okay…and left for work.



I’ve now been married for nearly two years, and I’ve discovered that the toilet seat situation proved only one thing. Sunny had chosen something else to be psychopathic about. She wasn’t rational, she’s simply displaced her irrationality onto something else.

That’s right, she had chosen a much grander battle to fight. One that never has, or never will be resolved:

The Dreaded Loaf Of Bread Twisty Tie Debate.

You see, women do things this way:

They open the bread, take out two slices, make their sandwich, then they put the twisty-tie back on the bread!

Nope… Not going to happen. You see, I do what every other guy in the world does:

I open the bread, take out two slices, make my sandwich…then I spin the loaf, and tuck the loose end back under the loaf.

Let me explain this rationally. Putting the twisty tie back on is fiddly, takes time, and it totally pointless. Spinning the loaf makes an air-tight seal, keeping the bread fresh and tucking the loose end under the loaf holds this in place.

This way, the next time you want a sandwich, you simply hold the loaf by the open end, it magically unspins itself, and you have access you your bread again.

In short:

Twisty Tie = Time, patience and a longer wait for your sandwich.
No Twisty Tie = Quicker, easier, better…plain and simple.

However, this is not how Sunny sees it. Once or twice, she has grabbed the loaf, expecting the twisty tie to be there, and has dropped some of the bread on the floor.

This, apparently, is my fault.

Here’s my answer:

Be More Careful.

You see, this is exactly like the toilet seat. My system is quicker, easier and more efficient. Sunny’s way takes more time.

Sunny’s solution to this problem is for me to start putting the twisty-tie on the bread. My solution is for her to be more careful when removing the loaf of bread from the cupboard.

Not only are men responsible for ‘causing’ women to fall into the toilet, because they can’t be bothered to glance at the toilet before sitting down…now we’re responsible for women not making sure they grab the loaf of bread by the right end.

Guy’s, back me up on this, or next thing you know we’ll be sitting in pink houses, driving fuel efficient girly mini-vans, watching nothing but HGTV and spending our weekends at antique stores and garden centers.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Baby Talk.

Okay, before I begin, I want to make one thing absolutely clear. I adore babies. I want one of my own. You see, unlike most guys, I think they’re incredibly cute, fun and fascinating little creatures.

What I don’t enjoy, however, is new parents.

Picture the scene. I was standing in the checkout line at the local supermarket. The place was packed, and the queue was long. In front of me a young couple has a baby in one of those carrier things.

The baby gave me the look that nearly all newborn babies give me…the wild eyed, amazed stare. This baby was particularly cute, and suddenly broke out into an absolutely huge grin, and did the ‘baby wave’, (the one where they inexplicably punch themselves in the leg a few times.)

I made the mistake of smiling back.

“OH!” Said the mother, seeing my look, (she was obviously just dying for someone to notice her child.) “His name’s (whatever), do you have any of your own?”
“Nope.” I said.
“Oh, well little (whatever) here is incredibly advanced for his age! The Doctor said…”

Cue 20 minutes of this lady talking with her verbal safety catch on full-automatic. By the time I managed to get my groceries paid for and escape, there was nothing I didn’t know about that baby. I mean everything.

I learned everything from the child’s sleeping and eating habits, to how his eyes move, to the regularity, color and consistency of his bowel movements.

Ok, let me explain something to all you new parents out there.

Having a child must be one of the most wonderous and miraculous events in the world. I can appreciate that. Everything that child does is amazing and new to you, and you want to tell the world.

However, to everyone else, and I hate to say this, but your kid is just another kid.

Believe it or not, but we don’t find it amazing that your child woke you up 6 times last night. We don’t find it amazing that his eyes can follow his rattle.

It is also true that I have never in my entire life, ever met a baby that wasn’t advanced for his age.

Ok, I’ve never been quite sure what an ‘advanced’ baby looks like, because they all look the same to me. They sleep, eat and poop. Tell me your baby is advanced when he’s sitting up in his pram reading the complete works of Shakespeare, and when grandma is baby-talking at him, he looks up and says: “Do you mind? I’m attempting to read!”

Basically, you can call your baby advanced when he talks like Stewie Griffin.

In short, your baby is miraculous to you because he or she is your baby. To everyone else, he or she is just another baby, doing the normal baby things, and acting all babyish. Any baby story you can tell, we’ve all heard before… unless of course your baby traveled the world and single handedly found the Ark of the Covenant, which is unlikely, to say the least.

However, I understand that your new child is the new focus in your life, and the absolute most important thing in the world to you.

The following people are fine to talk about your baby to:

Your family and close friends.

The following people are off limits for two hour lectures on your new son or daughter:

Anyone else. Unless they specifically ask you.

This especially includes 24 year old British guys named Paulius, who are standing in line at the local Bi-Lo, quietly minding their own business.

Talk to your family, or if you really must tell the world, blog about it. That way, all who are interested can read with glee that your baby is now eating solid food, while the rest of us don’t have to.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Honk if you Blog!

In my top desk drawer, on the right hand side, lies my special notebook.

This notebook can be best described as a shorthand journal/idea repository.

You see, I was trained to write the old fashioned way. Carry a notebook and a couple of pencils with you at all times, and write down anything you find interesting.

It’s a very handy tool. It’s amazing how the most inconsequential every day happening can really make a scene in a story come alive. It’s the oldest adage in writing…write what you know. If you just happen to have a whole bunch of interesting things recorded in a notebook, it makes this easier.

However, my notebook has been neglected of late. You see, back in England, I had at least 20 or 30 full notepaper refill pads just stuffed with notes, that no-one could understand but me. I’ve not written anything in my new one in quite a while.

I started to use it for post ideas, but that idea didn’t really sit well with me. It seemed almost sacrilegious to put ideas for a silly little blog post in with my more ‘serious’ work, IE, the stuff that may get me published one day.

You see, I never really intended to become a ‘blogger’. I figured it was something to do to stay in practice with my writing and would be something just for me, that almost no-one else would read, and certainly no-one would read twice.

When I first set this blog up, I noticed that someone else had 400 hits. I wondered if I’d ever get to 400 before I got bored and quit.

Well, then this blog took on a life of its own. You see, my biggest problem with writing is keeping the enthusiasm level up on a particular story. I’d start to write, and a few weeks and roughly a hundred thousand words into it, I’d totally lose interest in the idea. I’d start writing Sci-fi, but then something would grab my attention, and I’d want to write Fantasy. The first idea would go out the window, and I’d start on the new one. Then I’d want to write horror, or adventure.

Blogging is perfect for me. You see, when I lose interest in an idea, I’ll put it to one side, and use this blog to keep in practice until I get excited about the idea again.

Well, ‘Life, What the Hell is Going On?’, is rapidly approaching 10,000 hits, a figure I never dreamed of. Now, while I’m finding it harder to come up with material without going over old ground, I’m still enjoying it immensely, and I hope all of you out there are enjoying it to.

I’d like to end today by giving out a huge thank you to all my regular readers who put up with my almost daily babble in order to keep me motivated.

Thank you all!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Makes You Think...

I’ve been playing a lot of Call of Duty 2 on the PC recently.

For those who don’t know, Call of Duty is a first person shooter set in World War 2. It’s absolutely amazing. Great set-piece battles, historically accurate weapons, constant high-pressure attacks from wave after wave on Nazis.

Now certain people would say that me playing a game like this is completely de-sensitizing me to violence, while simultaneously training me to be and ‘efficient killer’, and increasing the chances that I’m going to grab a gun and go postal one day.

I disagree. Do you want to know what playing Call of Duty 2 makes me think?

Not kill, kill, kill, but…

I hope to fuck I never have to do this in real life.

You see, the game is exciting, exhilarating and gets the blood pumping. When you pull off that perfect sniper shot, mere milliseconds before the poor bastard you’re aiming at manages to fire his mortar at the grain silo you’re camped on top of, it’s just fantastic.

However, this game also highlights two other things. The first thing is that if you miss that sniper shot in the game, you get killed and get to start over. In real life, you’d be dead, and there wouldn’t be a piece of you big enough to fit into a match box left.

The second thing you notice is that you get shot…a lot.

Now, in the game, getting shot isn’t such a big deal. The screen flashes red, your point of view flinches, and you’re treated to an ‘ooof’ sound. If you get shot enough, you get red tunnel vision, and have to run to cover for about 20 seconds to recover. Then, once the tunnel vision passes, you’re fighting fit again.

This is when the thought hits you.

In real life, it would only take one of those bullets to kill you, or leave you screaming on the ground, trying to push your guts back in, hoping to hell that a medic can get to you, get you out of the line of fire, and if not save you, at least pump you full of enough morphine that your last few minutes of life won’t be spent in white hot agony.

My step daughter’s boyfriend actually owned an original WW2 M1 Carbine, the slightly smaller version of the M1 Garand, the main rifle used by the American forces in WW2. The carbine was used mostly by officers, and troops that wouldn’t be on the front line. Last year, we set up a range at the back of the property, and he let me shoot it once or twice.

At first it was a thrill, my rifle is only a .22, which is no where near as powerful. The M1 made you feel invincible.

…but it got me thinking. You see, the Germans had guns as well.

Suddenly, the railroad embankment became cover for German soldiers, and I thought… “This rifle was designed and made specifically to fight the Nazis in World War 2. Some poor bastard got plucked from his home, shipped overseas, had one of these put in his hands, and told to go shoot the Nazis.”

I imagined what it would feel like if there really where Nazis behind that embankment, and they where shooting at me.

Suddenly, that rifle didn’t make me feel invincible anymore; it felt like a flimsy bit of wood, when what I really wanted was about 6 inches of armor plating, and a bed to hide under until all the bad guys went away.

That’s the one thing that nay-sayers of violent games completely miss. You can tell all the war stories you like in history class, but playing the game lets you live it.

What did I learn?

Not that shooting Nazi’s would have been fun. What I learned is that I’d probably have been killed. My chances of survival would have been so close to zero, they wouldn’t be worth calculating.

I remember one morning I was up watching the History Channel. The show featured interviews by soldiers who fought on both sides at a particular battle. It was amusing to me that they actually held re-unions for everyone who fought on that particular battlefield, and Allied and German veterans actually met at these reunions, and had a good time together.

This made me think as well. I was listening to a German Veteran discussing his experiences in the Battle, and he seemed like a really nice guy. He had that ‘everyone’s favourite granddad’ look about him. Then I thought: “If I’d have been around back then, I’d have shot that guy, simply because he was wearing the wrong uniform.”

I think that’s one thing everyone manages to miss. The allied forces are represented to us as the ultimate fighting force of courageous men, and the Germans portrayed as evil, twisted psychopaths.

However, everything I’ve ever seen, read or heard from someone who has actually been in battle is the same thing.

Basically, you absolutely shit yourself, but keep shooting, while resisting the urge to pull out your spoon, so you can to dig a hole, a hole you can hide in until all the shooting stops.

The truth is, you can show all the gung-ho, ultra-macho war movies you like, where the hero absolutely loves fighting, and charges down a machinegun nest single handedly, before lighting a cigar, and tossing off a humourous quip. The truth is anyone who doesn’t damn near soil themselves when getting shot at, is obviously insane.

(I would like to point out here that there actually where numerous acts of almost suicidal heroism on both sides in WW2, including a Private who ran towards a machine gun nest, tossing grenades, and managed to take it out before being killed. However, I seriously doubt that this had anything to do with bravado and machismo. He didn’t do it with no fear, with a smile on his face to prove how big his balls were. These acts of heroism come from knowing if you don’t do something, all your friends are going to die. Now, while I don’t know what went through that guy’s head when he did charged that machine gun nest, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t smiling at the time.)

I think it was put best by the character ‘Sergeant Jackrum’, in the Discworld Novel ‘Monstrous Regiment’:

“You’ll find yourself out there, lad, and you’ll come face to face with the enemy. He’s just like you, doesn’t want to be there, and would much rather be down the pub having a few pints. You’d probably get on really well if you met in normal life, but instead you’ll stick your sword in him and kill him, just because he’s wearing the wrong bloody uniform, because if you don’t kill him, then by God, he’ll kill you.”

So playing Call of Duty 2 got me as close to the real thing as I care to get.

I also realised that everyone who fought in WW2 was essentially, just like me, and that just makes me marvel at the bravery of these people.

A wise man once said: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the will to carry on despite it.”

That’s the crux of the matter. No one actually wants to get shot at. Given the option, I’m 100% certain that if you could go back in time to any of the battles in any of the wars in human history, and in the midst of all that fighting, give everyone the option of just dropping their weapons and going home…everyone would take it.

I’m sorry, but after thinking about it, I just can’t believe the bravery that these men showed every day. A group of people are shooting at you, and instead of turning away and running, they ran towards it. Just being able to keep your sanity while bullets are whizzing past your head, and knowing you could be killed any second is amazing to me.

You know, if I was alive back then, I’d like to think that I’d have made a fairly good soldier, that I’d have been able to do what an entire generation did before me…but to be honest, after really thinking about it, I’m not so sure.

Today, we take our freedom for granted. The ability to do what we want, when we want is commonplace and expected.

However, when you realize what our grandparents went through to earn that for us, it really puts things in perspective. We enjoy our freedom every single day, but I want to end today with a question.

Think of everything we have today. All those things we take for granted. If someone put a rifle in your hands, and said you had to go off to war, a war that you had very little chance of surviving to keep those freedoms, would you go?


Saturday, November 12, 2005


MC Etcher left a very interesting comment on my last post, about how in order to become a successful published author, you need to be part salesman, part marketer, part PR guru…basically, you have to be much more than a good writer to become a published author.

Unfortunately, this is all true, and this is also why my old writing tutor pointed out that the first thing you need a really good agent… to ensure you don’t get screwed over.

One of the horror stories she told me was this:

(I may have forgotten a few details, but all this is true.)

An author completed his first screenplay, and was doing his best to hawk it around Hollywood. His screenplay was a sci-fi adventure story about a future where knives had been made illegal, and the protagonist was a knife smuggler.

Fortunately, or so he thought, he managed to sell his screenplay. The price (I think) was $10,000. His screenplay was bought from him in a very literal sense. He sold the copyright, meaning they actually bought it from him. Basically, the studio owned his work, and it wasn’t his anymore.

Now the author of the screenplay didn’t think this was so bad. $10,000 was a lot of money, and rather than depending on royalties (if the film bombed he’d make almost nothing), he had guaranteed himself a big fat paycheck. Also, he figured, if the movie did really well, he’d become a hot property, and could negotiate a fantastic contract with his next screenplay.

However, and this is the bad bit, the studio had no intention of ever making or releasing his movie.

They simply wanted the title.

The movie studio was making a movie based Phillip K. Dick’s book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”… obviously not a very catchy movie title.

The title of the guy’s screenplay? Blade Runner.

The studio had bought this guy’s screenplay because they wanted the title. If they’d released the movie without buying this guy’s screenplay, they’d have breached his copyright, and owed him big money.

So now, this guy’s screenplay is in a dusty old drawer, somewhere in the film studio’s archives. The author can never get his movie released, because, quite simply, it doesn’t belong to him anymore.

Publishing is an absolute minefield for new authors. Here’s why:

Getting something published is a huge negotiation and all comes down to who owns the rights to what.

Usually, you get an advance on your first book, on what the publisher thinks it will sell, and if you negotiate right, a small percentage of the sales.

After the hardback printing, if you’ve negotiated properly, you get to negotiate a new agreement over the paperback rights. This is absolutely crucial. For example, Stephen King only made a few thousand off the hardback run of ‘Carrie’. However, it did so well, and because he had a good agent, he received millions for the paperback.

It can be incredibly confusing for a first time author. Do you sell the copyright, or just the publishing rights? What about secondary rights and ancillary rights?

For example, the following could easily happen:

You write your first book, send a copy to a publisher, and they want to publish it.

You’re so excited about being a published author, you just can’t wait. You’re picturing book signings, your book gracing the shelves of your local library and Barnes and Noble.

Imagine, though, that you’ve done no research. You know nothing about your rights and how to negotiate them. You want your book published so badly, that you’ll sign anything put in front of you.

So your book does amazingly well, but despite this, you’ve received nothing but your advance check, usually around $2000. However, your book has been at the top of the best seller list for eight weeks. What’s going on?

Your book does so well, they make a movie of it. For some reason, you’re not even consulted. Even worse, you go to see the movie, and find that they’ve butchered your story.

Next thing you know, the toy stores are full of action figures and other merchandise. Your book is now at the centre of a multi-million dollar phenomenon, and you’re not seeing a penny!

What the hell is going on? You wrote the damn thing! They can’t do this! Can they?

Yes, they bloody well can…and you don’t have a legal leg to stand on. Why?

Well basically, there’s a huge difference between selling your copyright and selling publishing rights. If you sell your copyright, your publisher literally owns your work, and can do anything with it that they damn well please. They’re free to change anything in it, and do anything with it, without needing your permission. Any money made from your work is theirs, because they now own your work.

If you sell the copyright, it would be like selling your car, and expecting to still have a say in how and where it’s driven, what type of gas it gets, and what the new owner is allowed to do with it… Basically, it’s just not going to happen.

It’s a much better idea to just sell the publishing rights.

Selling the publishing rights means that your publisher has bought the right to publish your book and make money off it, but you still own your work. Meaning they can’t do anything with it, without your say so.

This way, you haven’t sold your car, you’ve just sold a license that allows someone else to drive it… but you still get the final say on what they actually do with it.

Then we come to the other rights. Does the publisher automatically get to publish the paperback run? Or have you reserved that right, meaning you can re-negotiate later. Have you reserved any potential movie rights?

The best way to illustrate this is to do the above story the right way.

You finish your book, and the first thing you do is find a good, reputable agent. You hand off your manuscript to him, and let him do the legwork of trying to find a publisher.

Your agent finds a publisher, and you sell the publishing rights to tem, and get the standard first book advance of around $2000. During this, you agent negotiates all your other rights to get you a fair deal.

The unthinkable happens. Your book goes to the top of the best seller lists.

Your agent has reserved your rights on the paperback run. Your publisher doesn’t get to automatically publish it, so the publisher calls you and your agent in for a negotiation.

This time around, the publisher knows they’re sitting on a cash-cow due to the hardback sales. Also, because you still own the copyright, they know that if they don’t offer you a satisfactory cut of the profits, you can up and leave and find another publisher.

In other words, you wield the power now. Rather than being an unpublished author, where the publisher can give you the ‘my way or the highway’ treatment, they positively want to publish the paperback, because they know it’ll make them a ton of money.

So the paperback is released, with a generous advance and a decent cut of the sales (Royalties, in other words) and the cash keeps rolling in.

Then there’s talk of a movie. Again, you get a call from your agent, and you get to negotiate. Because you still own the copyright, you get to have a say it what goes on. Do you want to write the screenplay? How big a cut of the box office takings are you going to get? Do you want a cut of the merchandising? This is a big thing to note. Star Wars made billions more from merchandising than they ever got from the actual movie.

Basically, the key is not to go looking for a publisher, but to go looking for an agent.

A good agent has contacts in the industry, and knows how to negotiate. Most agents take a cut of what you earn, so the more you earn, the more they earn. In other words, the last thing they want is for you to get screwed over.

Also, if you go directly to a publisher, you’re one of millions of hopefuls. If your agent has a reputation for bringing quality work to a publisher, they’re much more likely to get your work published.

In the end, writing is a business. When you look for a publisher, you’re essentially looking for an investor, someone to pony up the cash to get your manuscript into print. They want to make as much money as possible, and if that means screwing you over, they’ll do it.

The biggest thing to avoid is First Time Writer Syndrome. It may be the hardest thing in the world to say no to someone who wants to publish your book, but that’s something you may have to do. Every writer wants to have their work published, and to see their name on the shelves…but in the end, do you want to be paid for your work, or let someone else get paid for your work?

Thus endeth the lesson.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

You To Can Make Millions From Your Blog!

I absolutely love self-help books.

Not because I think they’ll help me in any way, but because half of the time, the ‘advice’ they give you is bloody hilarious.

I remember sitting in Writing Class, when my tutor walked in. A girl was sitting bolt upright at her desk, grin on her face, and a book with a title something like “How to Get Rich From Writing”.

My tutor glanced at the book, did a double take, and almost burst out laughing.

“This is an excellent point I wanted to raise.” She said. “Don’t bother with any of this crap. The only way to guarantee to get rich from writing, or get your book published in ‘five easy steps’ is to write a book like this, because people who don’t know any better buy them.”

Red faced, the girl pushed the book into her bag.

“You don’t need someone who’s never published a novel telling you how to do it.” My Tutor continued. She turned to the dry-erase board and took out a marker. “Here is all you need to know, and the only way to get published.” She wrote:

  1. Practice writing until you’re very, very good at it.

  2. Come up with a damn good story.

  3. Do some research, and find a reputable, successful agent, specifically one that doesn’t ask you for money up front.

  4. Ask your new agent to find a publisher.

“That’s it.” She said. “Writing is a talent. If you’re good enough to get published, you will be. That’s all you need to know about how to get published.”

Now I’m not talking about all self-help books here. There are some good ones that give advice on how to deal with thinks like the loss of a loved one, etc, etc.

I’m talking about the ones that promise to make you a whole heap of money, with little or no effort. How to get women to like you. You know, crap.

I once read an advertisement for a self help book, that the sales pitch went something like this:

I’m 40 years old, short, balding and not very good looking, but I sleep with a new woman every single night! How? Because I know certain key words that drive women wild.

A friend of my brother’s actually wanted to buy this thing. I asked him:

“(Name removed to protect the ignorant), if a 350lb woman, with bad BO, no teeth and a mustache asked you out, is there any way you would say yes?”

“No.” He said, as if it was obvious.

“So what makes you think that just by saying the right thing, you could make any woman go out with you? Women are, you know… people. Not some weird alien race that once you’ve figured them out, you can wrap them around your little finger!”

“Yeah, but this guy says he knows key words!

Let me tell you all something. Unless those words are, ‘I have a squijillion dollars in the bank, my own private jet and a Porsche’ and the woman you’re talking to is as shallow as a bedpan, there are no key words.

I just want to know why the people who write these books are so out of touch with reality. Most of their advice would only work in a perfect world, or they appear to have been written by people who have lots of theories, but have never tried them out in real life. It’s like the son of a millionaire, with a trust fund, who has never worked an actual day in their life writing a book about how to make millions from just what you have in your pocket.

Yeah, pal, it’s a great theory, but come back when you’ve actually spent a single day with at least one toe in the pools of reality.

Sunny recently found a book called “Minimum Wage to Maximum Wealth”  (Yes, ‘maximum wealth’ was underlined, just to show they’re serious.

Now this book starts out with some fairly decent advice. Don’t buy things you don’t need, and certainly don’t buy things you don’t need on finance.

However, that’s where the reality stops.

For one, they suggest after you’ve paid off your credit cards, to close them out and never get another card.

Bad idea. The best thing to do is pay off a credit card, cut it in half, but leave the account open. Why? Because if you need to apply for a loan, and they get your credit report, if you only have a single credit card near its limit, it’s a red flag. You’re using over 90% of your available credit. If you have 5 credit cards, but only use one of them, on your credit report, it shows that you’re only using 20% of your credit potential.

Ok, but that I could excuse. What came next had me laughing out loud:

Speak to your boss, and demand that your company allow its employees to invest in the company. Demand an independent, non-salaried professional to oversee this, and also demand that the company hold regular seminars, courses and workshops on how to invest.

State that you are going to go public with this idea, and if they go along with it, it will result in good publicity for the company. If they refuse, state that they will get ‘appropriate’ publicity.

So basically, this great advice is to demand that your company change its business practices, and spend money out if its own pocket to do it, all to satisfy you, a single employee…and if they don’t do as you say, your ace in the hole is that you’ll tell the papers what complete shits they are.

Let me translate this into reality speak:

Go talk to your boss, and tell him you want your way, or you’ll cause a shit-storm of trouble for him. This will let your boss know that you’re an opinionated troublemaker with no grounding at all in reality.

By reading my book, you’ll expect your boss to be terrified of you writing a letter to the local paper, that no-one will be interested in or give a shit about. He knows it probably won’t get printed, because the column space will be taken up by a much more interesting story of a local man who taught his dog to water-ski.

Your boss will completely fail to register the fact that you’re causing trouble, and that trouble can be taken away with the two simple words: ‘you’re fired’. There is a line of people behind you who are so desperate for a job that you’ll be easy to replace with someone who will soil their pants on your boss’s say so.  

So go ahead, become the annoying ‘trouble’ employee, the one that your boss will at first simply avoid, before actively looking for an excuse to fire you.

Anyway, in closing I would like to announce the release of my own self help book, entitled “How to not be a self-help book-buying moron”. Here it is in it’s entirety, and you can print it out for free:

There is no easy way to make money. If there was, we’d all be rich. Self help books are crap written by people after a quick buck. They are under no legal obligation to deliver what they promise, so just don’t bother.

Here’s the one step program, to rid you of your self-help addiction:

Step One : Don’t buy them.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Don't Try This At Home

Mythbusters is undeniably great TV.

I would love Adam and Jamie’s jobs. Imagine getting not only paid to do some fiercely cool shit, but imagine getting a budget of $60,000 a month to do that cool shit with.

It’s schoolyard talk given life. You know what I mean, which 10 year old hasn’t uttered the words : ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if you could build your own personal jetpack?'These guys get to actually do it…and I get to live vicariously through them.

Today’s edition of Mythbusters was based on this clip from a Japanese gameshow.

Remember the experiment you did at school, which was supposed to be teaching you about Newton’s Third Law (Every action has an equal an opposite reaction), but was really an excuse to mess around outside?

For those of you that never got to do this experiment, I’ll explain.

You get a 3 liter plastic soda bottle, and fill it one thirds full with water. You jam a cork in the end as tight as you can, and then push a foot-pump needle adapter (The one you use to pump up basketballs), through the cork.

You put the bottle on a stand, neck end down, and start pumping air into the bottle. The air pressure increases until it forces the cork from the neck, forces the water out, while the bottle heads skywards, rocket style.

Well, this Japanese game show took this to the extreme. They used not one, but about 25 bottles, strapped them to some guy’s back, and launched him across a lake.

Unfortunately, the clip is obviously faked. Look closely at the bottle ‘jet pack’. If it was the water bottles lifting him, they’d pushing upwards, tight against the netting…and not hanging loosely behind him.

Fortunately, this didn’t stop the Mythbusters from trying to make it work. They failed, but there where some pretty spectacular failures… and I mean spectacular in a good way.

However, despite the fact the clip is obviously faked, despite the fact the Mythbusters failed to make it work, and also proved trying to launch a human being with a water-rocket jet pack would result in some serious injuries, a broken neck being one of them…you know that right now, all around the country, there are literally hundreds of fuckwits on their way to Walmart to buy as many soda bottles as they can:

“Hey dude, that was cool, I bet we could make that work…we’ll need about a hundred Pepsi bottles!”

“I’ll get the car!”

These are the same people you see on the myriad humorous clips on the old interweb. The ones who think it’s a good idea to have firework battles, hold firecrackers in their teeth, or otherwise do incredibly stupid things, and harming themselves in all kinds of hilarious ways.

It’s a sad fact today that you can’t show anything even slightly dangerous on TV, no matter how incredibly dumb you’d have to be to try them (and I’m talking ‘Hey y’all! Watch this!’ stupidity here)… Without having the ‘Do Not Try This At Home’ warning.

I watched a car ad the other day, and at the end the car drives into frame, puts on its parking brake, and does a wimpy 4 degree skid. What appears at the bottom of the screen?

Professional Driver, Closed Course, Do Not Attempt

Anything even slightly dangerous is suing-bait. How sad is it that we have to go to the trouble of telling people not to push a hammer-drill up their nose?

Well, something has to be done.

In addition to the Stupid Law that I’m trying to implement, I’m also starting a new campaign.

I want all the ‘Do Not Try This At Home’ warnings removed from TV, Radio and Print Advertising.

Why? Well, there are hundreds of reasons. Here are my main two:

  1. I’m fed up of getting my intelligence insulted, when people assume that I need to be told that standing waist deep in a salt-water bath, while simultaneously forcing my wedding tackle into a power outlet might be a bit of a bad idea.

  2. The people these warnings are for are, quite simply, a huge burden on the human race, and all deserve a good Darwin Award death.

These people are a major hazard to the rest of the human race. The ones who think it’s a great idea to clean the inside of a gasoline tank while smoking. The ones who think it’s a great idea to set fire to themselves on video. (I actually saw the last one on the internet. Some guy poured gas down his front, and lit it on fire, grinning all the time at the camera, and totally freaked out when it actually caught fire. What did he think would happen?)

A woman got attacked at London zoo, after climbing into the tiger cage. Two weeks later, someone else did exactly the same thing! What kind of person sees someone get badly mauled on TV and says: “She’s stupid, I’ll go show her how it’s done!”

I say remove the warnings. Positively encourage people to commit acts of suicidal stupidity. This would have two amazing benefits:

First of all, there would be a lot, lot less stupid people hanging around, and secondly, because these people feel the urge to film themselves being incredibly and colossally stupid, you could make a reality TV show that would actually be fun to watch!

Imagine it! An hour of TV featuring nothing but people who assume all you need to survive a hundred foot drop is a bed sheet tied to your shoulders with string, or an hour of trashbag-hangglider theatre.

I say, if stupid people want to do suicidally stupid things, we should let them. All it would take would be a slight re-wording in the warning.

Okay, picture it. You’re watching another ‘clever and funny’ TV ad. A guy strips naked, covers himself in honey, runs into a room filled with a half million bees, then to escape, he jumps head first into a wood chipper.

At the end, instead of ‘Dramatization, do not attempt’ it reads:

Go ahead and try it. We Double Dog Dare you, you big fat chicken!

Then underneath, in the small print they love to use on those ‘Earn A Squillion Dollars an Hour for Doing Fuck All’ ads, it says:

You attempt these stunts entirely at your own risk, we do not accept any responsibility for any damage caused by you performing stunts you have seen on this show…you chicken! Buck, buck, buck, buckAHHH! Chicken!

The idiots would start dropping like flies.

But I Don't Wanna Go to School Today!

I absolutely hate being ill.

Well, that’s hardly a surprise, I don’t think anyone actually likes being sick. You very rarely hear someone say: “You know what I’m looking forward to this Christmas? The cold! Yep, lovely winter cold. There’s a good chance I can get really, really ill…with the puking, phlegm and everything!”

Yep, that’s right. Paulius has been pretty sick over the past few days (Sick as in ill, not sick as in ‘sleeping with a llama’).

I think it was pretty much stress related. The whole business with dealing with immigration kinda does that to you. The result was me feeling like I’d drank a couple of pints of battery acid, and a head that felt like a small animal had made a nest in there and was attempting to escape while listening to very loud music, with an absolutely thumping bass line.

I ate so many antacids over the past week that I’m pretty sure if I keeled over right now, I’d leave my own chalk outline.

Being ill is never pleasant. However, being ill when you’re unemployed is much, much worse.

You see, there are a few advantages to being ill. You get waited on hand and foot, and you get to miss work (or school, depending on your age).

It’s especially good when it’s mid-winter. You can lie in your bed, listening to the rain drumming on the windows, feel a hint of an icy chill through your super-warm blanket and think:

“I may feel like absolute crap, but think about all the people I know who actually had to get up this morning, go out in this shit, and are now only an hour into a long strenuous work day. Fools! I know rubbing that rabid monkey on my face was a good idea!”

Oh yes, being ill does have its benefits. It’s especially sweet if you’re on salary, because you also know you’re being paid to lie in bed, drinking hot tea, and watching all the daytime TV shows.

I once got a particularly bad chest infection that left me laid up and of work for a whole two weeks. I really felt like shit. I don’t think I’ve ever been that sick before or since…however, it really cheered me up to look at the clock, thinking:

“Right now I’d be putting on my waterproofs and heading out the door to ride my bike to work in the rain.”

“Right now I’d be sitting at my desk, looking at the huge stack of claim forms and wondering where to start.”

“Right now I’d probably be getting screamed at by that Iraqi bloke that landed in the country on Monday, made his unemployment claim on Tuesday, and has called me every day since to call me a racist, just because he hasn’t got his money yet… despite the fact I’ve told him a million times that it takes around 12 days to process a claim.”

That last one is actually a true story. Oh, and don’t forget:

I just got paid to watch that TV show…I just got paid to drink that honey and lemon…I just got paid for that room clearing fart.”

However, when you’re smack dab in the middle of a period of forced unemployment like I am, being ill…it just, well, sucks great big fat donkey dicks.

This way, you get to sit on your couch, wrapped up in a fleece blanket, feel like crap and think:

“If I wasn’t ill, I’d be doing exactly this, only I wouldn’t feel like crap.”

Now where’s the fun in that? No free pay, no unscheduled off-day. No nothing.

Yup, being ill sucks. Being unemployed and ill, really does suck great big fat ones.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Shhhh! She's craaaaazy!

Actual conversation from today:

Sunny : “Paulius? If I just click print, will it bring up all those quick print options and stuff?”

Paulius : (In the Kitchen) “Yep.”

Sunny : “Ok.”

Voice of Lexmark Print Manager : (unbelievably loud) “PRINTING STARTED.”

Sunny : “NO! You stupid thing! Paulius, it didn’t give me any options. It just started!”

Paulius : “Did you click file, then print? Or just the picture of a printer in the menu bar?”

Sunny : “Menu bar?”

Paulius : “The thing at the top.”

Sunny : “Yeah, that’s what I did.”

Paulius : “Well, next time, click file, print.”

Lexmark Printer Manager : “PRINTING COMPLETED.”

Sunny : “YOU STUPID COMPUTER!!, I KNOW!!! I've got the printout in my hand, you idiot!"

Ten minutes later.

Sunny : “…and, print.”


Sunny : “I said shut it!!! Paulius! Why is he talking so loud?”

Paulius : “Sigh. (he?) Turn the volume down.”

Sunny : “Ok.”

Ten minutes later, and it seems Sunny and the Print Manager have gotten over their rocky beginning, and are becoming firm friends. As I walked past the living room, I heard:

Lexmark : “Printing completed.”

Sunny : “Why, thank you!”

I’m still not certain whether Sunny knows that the computer can’t hear her, but she’s gotten into the habit of holding conversations with the Lexmark Print Manager.

I’m scared.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Holiday Hijack!

Happy Guy Fawkes Day Everyone!!!

Ok, to my American readers, that’s going to take a little explaining. The usual reaction I get from my in-laws when I mention Guy Fawkes is, quite simply:


Here’s the deal. A couple hundred years ago, a guy named Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament (That’s the British Senate), and kill everyone inside, IE, all the politicians and leaders.

He was caught in the act, before managing to light the fuse, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and then executed.

Yep, that’s right, we celebrate this every November 5th.

The funny part is that no one can agree whether this tradition is celebrating Guy Fawkes’ capture, or the actual assassination attempt (To many people, blowing up a room full of politicians is considered a good idea).

In short, Guy Fawkes night, or Bonfire Night as it’s more commonly known, is simply an excuse to light a big bonfire, set off fireworks and have an all night party.

(Also, right now, many Americans are finally getting why Dumbledore’s Phoenix is called ‘Fawkes’…Bonfire night, Phoenix, fire…see the connection?)

However, this year, I will not be celebrating Guy Fawkes night, for the simple fact that we can’t afford a buttload of fireworks. Also, not many people in my area would appreciate fireworks going off all night for ‘no reason’.

However, some of my new American in-laws have decided that Guy Fawkes night is a great idea. Not because of the booze-soaked fireworky goodness, but because no one here has ever heard of it, so they can make up the ‘requirements’ as they go along.

Here’s an actual conversation that took place today between me, Sunny and my daughter in law, Marie:

Sunny : I feel like something sweet.
Marie : Ooooh, yeah, me to.
Sunny : I wish I had some of those cookies left.
Marie : Yeah, but what I really want is some cheesecake!.

Ten minutes later…

Sunny : November the fifth, why does that ring a bell? It’s no-one’s birthday is it?
Marie : Not that I know of.
Sunny : Oh, that’s right. It’s Guy Fawkes tonight, isn’t it?
Marie : What’s that?
Me : (I Explain Guy Fawkes night.)
Marie : So it’s some sort of holiday?
Me : Yep.
Marie : So is it just fireworks and a bonfire?
Me :Yep
Marie : There’s no cheesecake involved? We couldn’t have, like, a Guy Fawkes cheesecake?
Sunny : That is an excellent idea.
Me : A Guy Fawkes Cheesecake? A Guy Fawkes frigging CHEESECAKE?!? While we’re at it, let’s have a Thanksgiving cucumber! I know the two of you aren’t attempting to bastardize a 350 hundred year old British tradition, just to have an excuse to get some cheesecake!
Sunny : Why not? Guy Fawkes Cheesecake! Great idea! We need one! Let’s go get one!
Me : You do realise this is like me taking a dump on the Alamo, and then wiping my ass on the stars and stripes…all for the sake of a desert that I want to justify?
Marie : Who cares, I want cheesecake!
Sunny : Me to,
Me : You people are unbelievable. You’re not getting any cheesecake!
Marie : Why not? It’s Guy Fawkes Night! It’s tradition!!!
Sunny : That’s right! It’s TRADITION!

Nothing like having one of your oldest traditions hijacked by two women, all for the sake of cheesecake.

It’s almost as bad as last July 4th, when my Step-son, forgetting I was there, decided to throw a firecracker while shouting “The British are coming! The British are coming!” (I didn’t care, I thought it was funny. He freaked out for a day or so, thinking he’d really offended me. God, I laughed when I heard he‘d asked Sunny if he should come over and apologise.)

Guy Fawkes cheesecake. A fine old tradition. Just like the traditional Christmas Burrito, The New Year’s Caesar Salad and the Thanksgiving Cucumber.

Oh, well, I guess it’s just payback for the number of times I’ve called my in laws ‘Ungrateful uppity colonials’, at every major American holiday since I’ve been here…