Friday, December 30, 2005

Let Me Out. It's Dark, and There Might Be Spiders!

So I was playing Doom 3 today.

Let me sum up the story for the three people who have been living under a rock for the past year or so.

Basically, you play a space marine on your first assignment to Mars. Some creepy guy starts running experiments and, whoops, wouldn’t you just know it? A portal to hell is opened. Demons take control of your slain former allies, and big bad demons hunt you, while you just try to stay alive.

Got it?

Basically, it’s a First Person Shooter / Survival Horror. It’s also kinda scary.

Now the scares in this game run on the cheap Funhouse tactics. You creep along a dark corridor with the few paltry lights flickering, and suddenly a pipe will burst next to you, sending a jet of steam out at you. You open a door and a really ugly looking demon will jump out at you.

Basically, it’s jump-tastic fun.

The other thing is that Doom 3 is a very dark game. Oh, and I don’t mean dark as in dark and broody. Not Batman dark…just plain dark. The few lights in the game tend to be dim, flicker and go out unexpectedly.

Now on the one hand, this is great. You creep along and all the lights go out. There’s a flicker, and for a second you get a glimpse of a monstrous silhouette. You start to panic and spray bullets wildly in the darkness. Your muzzle-flash lights up the kind of thing you usually only see in nightmares.

However, there’s a snag that really bugs me.

You see, you have a flashlight. This is a good thing, and also ramps up the tension. Imagine walking around a very Alien (The movie) like environment, in almost total darkness, and all you can see is what your light illuminates. There are lots of “Arrgh! Evil Demon!!!! (Deep breath), no, it’s just a chair. Wait, what’s that? Did I just see movement?” Moments.

This brings me to the snag.

You can’t use your flashlight and your weapon at the same time.

This is obviously a deliberate thing. I’m guessing that the good people at Id Software decided that by giving you the option of being able to see clearly, or shoot, gives you more of a sense of vulnerability.

In one way, it works. You’ll be trapped in a room with two or three low-level enemies that can only hurt you by directly hitting you. You run around like a mad-man. Flashlight! There he is. Flashlight off. Spray bullets wildly in the general direction. Flashlight on. Shit! I missed. Shoot again.

Also, I’ve only ever experienced this level of foreboding and fear in two other games…Thief and Resident Evil. When all the lights suddenly go out and you’re faced with the choice of frantically trying to hit the flashlight button, or simply starting shooting, you actually panic a little. Also, when you round a corner and your flashlight suddenly illuminates the face of an ex-worker, with half their guts missing, an eye gouged out and covered in blood who’s only a few steps away…you damn near shit your pants.

It works except for one thing.

It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

You see, in that situation, if I was using a single handed weapon, like a pistol…I’d have the pistol in one hand and the flashlight in the other.

(Well, that’s not exactly true. If I found myself on a dark, creepy base on Mars that was over-run by Hell-spawn, I’d find a hole, crawl into it, and shit my pants until help arrived. Failing that, I’d shoot myself in the head. Better that than being disemboweled by an actual demon).

Anyway, I’m in a frigging Mars base. There’s loose wiring and offices everywhere. I’d take my flashlight and my assault rifle, and tie the former to the latter. That way, I’d be able to shoot and see at the same time, and even use the flashlight as an aiming aid.

This is the minor niggle that can absolutely ruin an otherwise good game.

You see, I simply don’t buy it. I can’t do something I should be able to do, because the programmers think it detracts from the game. It’s like having the veil suddenly twitched back, and it takes you right out of the moment. The game stops being a genuine experience, and becomes ‘just a game’.

Let me explain this concept to the non-gamers.

You know when you’re reading a book that is so well written and engrossing that you stop actually seeing the words on the page and just get completely wrapped up in the story? That’s what a good game will do. You forget about the controls in your hand and just fall into it.

When something like the flashlight in Doom comes along, it’s like the author suddenly decided to write “Did you like that bit? I worked especially hard on it!” in the middle of a paragraph.

It’s all about suspension of disbelief.

You see, for a long time (and in some cases today), games had to stop you from doing things you could do in real life because the technology didn’t support it. For example, in real life, if a burglar broke into this house right now, my options aren’t limited. I could run and get my rifle, I could pick up the chair I’m sitting on and throw it at him, I could jump through a window etc.

In a game, most of the time your choices are a lot more limited. In most games, you can’t pick up the chair and throw it because the chair is just scenery. The technology isn’t there to work out the physics, or work out how much damage the enemy would take from being hit upside the head with it. These are accepted limitations, you expect them and overlook them…in the same way you know that you can offer the characters in your book any advice.

However, trying to believe that a fully trained space marine can’t work out how to use a gun and a flashlight at the same time is ridiculous. Either this game is set in a parallel world where tape or any form of knot has not been invented, or this marine arrived on Mars on the short spaceship.

It’s sloppy, makes no sense, and really takes you out of the moment.



In closing, I’d like to send Id the following message:

Yes, we know that sometimes realism has to be sacrificed for the sake of gameplay and story-telling. Yes, I know that the Demons on Mars bit is a hundred times less plausible than the flashlight thing. But, and this is a big but, if you want to limit what the player can do in order to heighten the tension, do it in a way that we’ll accept. Don’t just think you can throw something in there and we won’t notice.

Why not give the flashlight limited power? The batteries are running out so you have to save them for when you really need them. You’d still have to do the same frantic search for the on button when the lights go out, only you’d be able to shoot to!

Failing that, what if your weapon-mounted flashlight was ‘damaged’ and prone to flickering or going out?

Why not, at the very least, put a laser sight on the weapon. That’s an idea, it could even cast a very creepy looking red or green glow, dim enough to still be scary, but the dot would give us just a hint of where the enemy is.

I mean, not being able to use a weapon and flashlight simultaneously? A retarded baboon could figure it out!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sigh, Now I Have to Buy Slippers.

Time is a remarkably inconsistent entity, don’t you think?

When you’re dreading something, it speeds up. When you’re looking forward to something it slows right down. Remember how Christmas Eve lasted about 6 weeks when you where a kid? Remember how the Summer vacation from school took three years to get to, and at the start, it spread before you like an endless parade of sunny afternoons, but before you knew it, you had to go back to school tomorrow.

Apparently, it’s been proven (I don’t know how), that children’s perception of time is different to that of an adult’s. Basically, time seems to move slower for children. To be honest, I have no problem believing it. Christmas used to feel like it came around once ever 3 years, a school week lasted at least three, and that 6 weeks of for summer felt like 6 months.

Maybe I’m alone on this, but did anyone else, when you got to the end of your summer break from school feel like it had gone really quickly, but when you looked back to that first day off, it felt like years ago?

Ppparently we live the first part of our lives in slow time. The middle bit in fast time, and the last bit in slow time again.

Anyway, Paulius, what got you blithering on about this topic?

Well, it’s my Birthday in 25 days, in fact, my 25th Birthday is in 25 days.

I think I’m getting old.

Ok, now before anyone older than me starts laughing at that, let me explain. I don’t mean that pretty soon I’ll be looking for furry slippers and stopping outside Macy’s window thinking “Oooh, that’s a nice cardigan!” I don’t think I’m getting old-old. I’m just getting older. I’m at the point when Birthdays have stopped being just about presents and ice-cream, I’ve actually started to realize that a year has just gone by that I’ll never get back.

Right now, I’m in my mid twenties, I’m in my prime.

However, it’s slowly started to dawn that I’m rapidly approaching the END of my prime.

Let me explain:

This birthday will officially mark the spot where I’m closer to 30 than I am to twenty.

Now this isn’t such a big deal. 30 is still bloody young. But once that measly 5 years has passed, that birthday will be the spot where I’m officially closer to 40 than I am to twenty.

It’s like my version of Kato’s Gladys has fallen asleep, then suddenly woken up and thought: “Where the bloody hell did my Childhood go?!?!”

Of course, this is underlined by the fact that the past couple of years have held some major changes for me. Two years ago, I was living at home with my parents. I didn’t have a house, I had a room. Mum was still in charge of the cooking and grocery shopping.

Now, two years later, not only have I left home, I left my country. So in the space of a year, I left home, got married, became a husband, step-father and step-grandfather…and in 25 days I reach my quarter-century.

It’s weird, every bit of my move here and my marriage to Sunny was meticulously planned for at least 4 years.  However, every so often I’ll catch myself and think “Dude, you’re married and living in America! How in the blue hell did this happen!?!”

Let me be perfectly clear on this, I don’t regret moving here and getting married, in fact, I’m absolutely loving it. I just want to know how in the blue hell I became a ‘grown-up’ without realizing it!

I think growing up that everyone looks at their parents and think that they have everything completely under control. It’s like adults, and especially parent-adults are a completely separate species, bred solely for the purpose of being in charge, and because they were bred for it, they know exactly what they’re doing.

You world model is:

I do what I want, adults do all the hard stuff like running things, and never the twain shall meet. Do as you’re told, or don’t do as you’re told, but do your best to not get caught.

Great.

Then one day it’s like you’re dragged out of bed in the morning, handed a certificate, and someone says “Congrats! You’re an adult! Now get to it!”

…And you’re like: “Huh? How did this happen?”

Suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a test that you didn’t study for.

Answering the question “Balancing a checkbook and making a mortgage payment consists of the following steps:” is no longer answered by writing “Mum ‘n’ Dad do it.”

Now I’m in that position, and I just have to think “Who in the hell made the massive mistake of giving me RESPONSIBILITY? Are they mad? Don’t they know I’m just one of the normal folk who see getting out of bed in the morning as a massive achievement? What’s going on?”

You see, despite the fact that I’m damn near 25 years old, I’m like 99.9% of the rest of the population.

No matter how old I get, inside, I still feel like I’m about 14.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I'll Just Buy You ONE Present

Christmas is different when you’re a (shudder) grown up.

First of all, there’s a lot more stress, and you actually have to do stuff. You know, Christmas shop, cook, organize things. When you’re a kid the biggest problem you face is whether to open the big present first, or save it until last.

Even your choice of gifts change. Take me for example. Once I’d scratched the ‘un-doable’ presents of the list (IE, the 80” Plasma TV, the Dodge Viper and the Harley-Davidson Fatboy), I was left with two main things:

  1. A DVD Labeller.

  2. DVD boxes.

Yeah, I know, I got my ‘toy’ (the graphics pad) before Christmas, but when I realized I’d asked for things to keep stuff I already own neat and tidy, even I was shocked. I mean, like, Holy Crap! News like that would give my Mum a heart attack.

Yes, I have to admit the magic of the Christmas season has faded a little for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I’d give my back teeth to be 7 years old again, lying in bed on Christmas Eve, straining my ears listening for Santa.

I also miss the Christmas traditions, my favourite of which was my Dad hiding my ‘main’ Christmas present behind the sofa every single year. I think every year he thought “Well, I’ve hid them there for the past 6 years, so this year they’re BOUND to think I’ve hidden it somewhere else.”

Ah, the old Christmas fakeout. “You didn’t get everything you wanted? Oh, wait! What’s this behind the couch?”

Wow, Dad, what a shocker. It wasn’t long before me and my brother would come downstairs on Christmas day and make a beeline for the couch.

Anyhoo…

Unfortunately, I’m also one of the unfortunate 25% of the population that suffers from CCTB syndrome, that’s Christmas-Close-To-Birthday syndrome, for those of you who have never heard of it.

People who have their birthday in November, December or January have problems. Let me explain this. My Birthday is on January 23rd. Less than one month after Christmas day. This gives me the following problems:

  1. Because Christmas and my Birthday are within a month of each other, I have 11 months of the year with nothing to look forward to.

  2. Everyone is short of cash after Christmas, so my birthday presents suffer.

However, the absolute worst thing that bugged the ever living crap out of me growing up was hearing the following from almost every Aunt and Uncle I had:

“Well, seeing as your Birthday is so close to Christmas, we’ll just get you a big Christmas present that will count for both.”

Translation : “I’ll get you a Christmas present, but if you think I’m springing for two gifts so close together, you’ve got another thing coming.”

As an adult, I can understand this. As a 6 year old, it was bloody annoying.

Saying that, however, there are a few members of my family that are absolute stars when it comes to gifts. Like my Uncle Joe and Auntie Les, who used to buy me a Beano or Dandy annual (That’s a British comic book) every year for Christmas.

I mentioned a few years ago that I really missed getting them now that I was ‘grown up’.

Guess what? A copy of the 2006 Beano Annual arrived all the way from England today. Yay, Auntie Les!

My Uncle Joe was also great because he constantly forgot everyone’s Birthdays, meaning at random intervals he’d just go out and buy a stack of toys to play catch-up. Unexpected gifts tend to be 100 times better.

Anyway, just in case anyone’s interested, this year for my birthday I would like a Mustek PL-607 portable DVD player with 7.5” LCD screen, with progressive scan and Video CD and DVD-R compatibility, priced a very reasonable $99.99 at CompUSA (After $30 instant savings).

Bear in mind that that’s just around 55GBP. Cough Parents, Cough, Hint, hint. Full amount preferable, but any donations gladly accepted.

They say it’s better to give than to receive, I’ve always been a very selfless person, so I’m happy to take the short end of the stick and receive so everyone else can give (Which is so much better).

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Festivus Everyone: "A Festivus for the rest of us"

Well, seeing as today is officially Christmas Eve, eve, I decided to write something Christmassy.

The following is a rhyme that my Dad taught me when I was little. He ‘altered’ it a little, as to leave out the swear words, and it’s that version I’m going to share with you today. One, because this is in my mind, the ‘official’ version…and two, my dad’s poor attempt to hide a cuss word makes this a lot funnier (at least to me) than the R-rated version could ever be:

T’was Christmas day in the workhouse, by far the happiest day of the year.
The men were full of Christmas Joy, their bellies full of beer.
And as the Workhouse Master, strode through those lofty halls.
He said “We wish you a Merry Christmas”, and someone shouted… “Shut up!”

The Workhouse Master grew angry, and swore by all his Gods!
“You’ll get no Christmas Pudding, you dirty, rotten sods!”
When up strode one young worker, his face as bold as brass:
“You can keep your Christmas puddin’…roll ‘em on the grass!”

While I’m in the mood, here’s another one:

Christmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat.
If you think you’re having turkey, you’re not, you’re having cat.
I used to believe in Santa, but my Dad makes such a fuss.
Last year I saw him run upstairs,
With two bags from Toys R Us.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Writer's block? More like writer's clog...

Over the past couple of hours, I’ve written three separate blog posts. Each time I’ve got three quarters of the way through and given up.

Sorry people, it’s been one of those weeks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gone Phishing

It’s a damn good job that many people are stupid. Especially the criminals.

First of all, let me explain what ‘phishing’ is.

Phishing, in a nutshell, is when somebody sends out a few million fraudulent emails, claiming to be from a genuine company. They then feed you a story about a server crash, or that someone has broken into your account, and that you need to go to their site to verify your information.

Of course, the site is a fake, and you enter your username and password, which they then save to rob you blind.

For example, today I received not one, but two emails claiming to be from paypal, both of them exactly the same. Here they are in their entirety:

Dear PayPal,We recently noticed one or more attempts to log in to your PayPal accountfrom a foreign IP address.If you recently accessed your account while traveling, the unusual log inattempts may have been initiated by you. However, if you did not initiatethe log ins, please visit PayPal as soon as possible to verify youridentity:https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr? cmd=_login-runVerify your identity is a security measure that will ensure that you arethe only person with access to the account.Thanks for your patience as we work together to protect your account.Sincerely,PayPal                    PROTECT YOUR PASSWORD   NEVER give your password to anyone and ONLY log in athttps://www.paypal.com/. Protect yourself against fraudulent websites byopening a new web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or Netscape) and typingin the PayPal URL every time you log in to your account.----------------------------------------------------------------      Please do not reply to this e-mail. Mail sent to this address cannot beanswered. For assistance, log in to your PayPal account and choose the"Help" link in the header of any page.Sincerely, Richard PayPal Community Support PayPal, an eBay Company


I knew instantly that this was a fake…basically; I don’t have a paypal account.

However, there are many people out there who do have paypal accounts, and for the non-computer savvy, they may be convinced by it.

It’s one of the most annoying things about phishing is that it’s done on such a bulk scale. If you send out a million emails, and it only fools a half percent of the people it was sent to, that’s still 5000 people.

If I did have a paypal account, and did click that link, I’d be handing my login to a stranger, who would then go ahead and empty my account.

However, as annoying or as frightening as this is, these emails can be pretty easy to spot. However, the truth is that you don’t actually need to spot them. This is for one simple reason:

OFFICIAL, GENUINE SITES WILL NEVER, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, ASK YOU FOR YOUR LOGIN INFORMATION.

Basically, if you get an email from your bank, paypal or any other website asking for your information, it’s a scam, delete, ignore or report it.

However, just for fun, let’s look over this email and point out the flaws:

  1. The first is obvious. Look how they ‘greet’ me. ‘Dear Paypal’.

If this was a genuine letter, they would greet me by my name that I’d obviously have provided them with. At the very least, they’d greet me with ‘Dear Paypal Customer’. Obviously, the originator of this email doesn’t speak very good English, or they would have spotted it easily.

  1. ‘Foreign IP address’.

This would not be a form email. The scammer has said a ‘foreign’ email address because they probably have no clue of what country I’m actually in. Chances are they would have told me that actual country the transaction was made in. This isn’t a hard fast rule, but it’s a red flag.

  1. The request makes no sense.

Think about it. If this was genuine, why would they need me to give them my login information? If your bank calls you to query an unusual withdrawal, do they ask for your credit card PIN number? If I did have a paypal account, and it had been used in a foreign country they’d just check if I made the transaction myself, and tell me to inform them if the transaction was fraudulent.

  1. ‘Verify your identity is a security measure that will ensure that you arethe only person with access to the account.’

First of all, spot the grammatical error. ‘Verify’ instead of ‘verifying’. This also makes no sense. The alleged fraudster already has my login information, so why would me giving them my login info help anything? If this was real, they’d ask me to verify that the transaction was fraudulent, and then ask me to change my login information. Not verify it. Why didn’t the fraudster do this? Because changing my login on the official paypal site wouldn’t help them one bit.

  1. Double sign off.

Notice how they end the email twice? One is ‘sincerely, paypal’, and the other is cut and pasted, with no punctuation: “Sincerely, Richard PayPal Community Support PayPal, an eBay Company”

  1. The false security announcement.

This is meant to put our minds at rest. Obviously, if this was fraudulent, they wouldn’t be reminding us to protect our password!

Bollocks.

The advice would be good, if it wasn’t for one thing. You see, typing the URL into a fresh browser window stops you from clicking a link to a fraudulent website. However, there are two things wrong with this. They tell you to type in the URL manually, but there’s a link that they you to click in the same email!

  1. Look closely at the paypal address.

See anything wrong with it? Look nice and close.

Since when did a standard URL begin with ‘HTTPS’ instead of ‘HTTP’? The address isn’t genuine. This is another common thing in phishing, Ask the potential mark to come to the ‘official’ site, but change the address slightly, so it looks genuine, but is actually sending you to an alternate, fraudulent site. For example, www becomes www2. HTTP becomes HTTPS. .com becomes .co.uk.

Well, you get the idea.


You see, computer crime is an incredibly clever business. Well, successful computer crime is.

Luckily for us, phishing has become a major industry for anyone who wants to make a fast, illegal buck. Why is this lucky? Because these people think it’s easy. The vast majority of Phishers are people who have very rudimentary computer knowledge. They assume that the people they’re scamming are as dumb as they are…meaning that these things are incredibly easy to spot.

Someone gets on the internet, sets up an email address, and bulk emails a few million people, asking for their login information to banks, online stores anything.

Believe it or not, the above email is one of the more ‘sophisticated’ scams. A lot of people simply send an email that says:

“Dear Customer,

This is an automated email from (Random Bank). Due to a server crash, we have lost a large percentage of our online customer’s information. Please email your username and password to:

Bankadmin@hotmail.com

Yours Sincerely

Some Asshole”

Yup, I’ve actually received an email like that, supposedly from Lloyds bank, which actually used a hotmail address.


Anyway, today’s story has a happy ending. This phisher thought that changing the return address to ‘admin@paypal.com’ was enough to fool me.

Luckily, I know what an email header is, and therefore know his real email address and his Internet Service Provider.

I emailed him with a ‘nice try’ message, and also emailed his Internet Service provider informing them that one of their users is a criminal, and also sent a copy of the email to the FBI fraud department.

I know the FBI probably won’t do anything, and at best, his ISP will simply deny him service, but at the very least it’ll make the guy shit his pants, and think twice before doing this again.

Anyway, in closing, just remember Rule One. Paypal, your bank or any other legitimate company will NEVER ask for your login information. They have backups for that.


  



Monday, December 19, 2005

Ass HOOOOOOOOLE!!!!!

(I was thinking about just how crappy my old job was today, although it did result in some interesting stories. This may be out of date, considering I left that job over two years ago, but it still bears repeating).

Working the phones at an unemployment office isn’t fun. It’s like working at the lost luggage desk at the airport. You just don’t have a good day. People only call when they have a problem, and hold you personally responsible.

Dealing with any government office isn’t fun, but bear in mind that the people you’re talking to agree with you. We’re there not because we enjoy it, but because we need the paycheck. The saddest thing is that we only make a few extra dollars a week than the people claiming unemployment do.

Here’s an example of what we have to deal with:


(Riiiiiiing)

“Hello, Social Security, Paulius speaking, how can I help?”

“Yeah, I haven’t got any money off you yet, what’s going on?”

“Ok, can I take your name and social security number please?”

“Why? What do you need those for? I don’t like giving out that information!”

“Ummm, because I need to know who you are, so I can look up your records.”

“No, you don’t need that. I spoke to Dave at the jobcenter.”

“Unfortunately, this is a benefits office, and we deal with over 10,000 jobcenters nationwide. We need your name and social security number.”

“I don’t like to give that out.”

“Well, that’s your choice. You can either give me the information or hang up. The choice is yours.”

“(Grumble, grumble, grumble.) Ok, my information is (deleted)”

“Ok, one moment.” (tappity, tap, tap.) “I’m sorry; we have no record of you. When did you claim? It might not have gone through yet.”

(I should make something clear here. All over the claim for it says it will take up to 12 days to process a claim. People would literally hand over their form and call complaining 4 hours later)
“I claimed on February 3rd.”

“February? It’s November now! You heard nothing for 10 months and are just calling now?!?”

“That’s correct.”

“Let me take your number, I’ll call you back.”

Cue an hour and a half of sorting through stored files. It turns out that she did claim in February, we wrote to her asking for information, tried to call her three times and heard nothing. I call her back:

“Yes Ma’am, we wrote to you because your form was incomplete, and didn’t get a reply.”

“I didn’t receive anything!”

“We tried to call you three times and left messages, and never heard anything back.”

“I don’t know how to work the answering machine!”

“Well, I’m afraid to tell you that if more than two weeks pass without a reply, your claim is terminated.”

(Cue twenty minutes of verbal abuse that we have the sheer audacity to not give her any money after she left half her claim for blank, and never got back in contact. We should also know better than to leave important information on an answering machine. I go to speak to my boss. He’s in a charitable mood, and goes against standard operating procedure, bends the rules and says to go ahead with the claim from the original date, and to get the missing information over the phone

I need to be absolutely clear on one point here. A new claim would have meant she would have been paid from that day. By completing her original claim, she’s get back pay from the date she claimed…which in this case was about 6000GBP:

“Ok, ma’am. We can go ahead with your claim.”

“Good!” (Click).

“Hello?”

(RIIIIiiiiiing RIIIINnnnnng)

“Hello?”

“Hello, it’s Paulius from social security.”

“(SIIIIGH) What do you want now?”

“I need the rest of the information for your claim.”

“GOD! Can’t you people do anything?”

“No. Unfortunately we’re not psychic.”

“Don’t take the tone with me!”

“I apologize; unfortunately we’re required to actually know who we’re paying money out to.”

(Cue 45 minutes to get her form completed. It should have taken five, but every single question I asked got me 5 back about why I needed to know it.)

“Thank you. Your check should arrive in about 3 business days.”

“THREE DAYS!?!? I need that money now!”

(I mute the phone while I swear loudly.”

“Ma’am, it’s been 10 months since you made your claim, and now it’s suddenly a rush job?”

“10 months because you fucked up!”

“I’m sorry?”

“We wouldn’t be in this mess if you people did your jobs properly!”

“Umm, Ma’am? The reason your claim was delayed was because you only filled out half or your form. Then you didn’t answer two letters and three phone calls. It’s impossible to pay a claim on an incomplete claim form.”

“Bloody forms! That’s all you care about! Forms! Forms for this and forms for that!”

“As I already explained, we can’t just give out money just because people want it; we need to know that you’re eligible.”

“I AM ELIGIBLE!!!!”

“Yes, but we don’t know that until you complete the form! You could be anybody. Unless you complete and sign a form, you could be a millionaire for all we know!”

“So now I’m a liar?!?”

“(Sigh). I’m not calling you a liar, I’m explaining why we need to you complete a form to get your benefits.”

“Well, I NEED that money today.”

“I’m sorry, but we only issue counter checks in extreme circumstances.”

“Like what?”

“Like we made the original mistake, or a person needs the money desperately.”

“I need the money desperately!”

(I should point out that despite the fact that being anything but ultra-polite to a claimant is a sackable offence, my patience was wearing thin).

“Considering you claimed 10 months ago, and this is the first contact you’ve initiated with us, I find that hard to believe.”

“(Ten minute, four letter tirade deleted to protect innocent sensibilities) I DEMAND TO SPEAK TO YOUR SUPERVISOR!”

(I go and get my boss, and explain the situation. He argues with her for ten minutes before hanging up.)

“Paulius.” He said. “Just issue the counter check, it’s not worth the hassle.”

(I swear under my breath. Issuing a counter check is a long and involved process. It has to be signed off by at least two senior managers, has to be called into the appropriate jobcenter, sent through the secure fax machine that needs a senior manager to authorize it.

Instead of going through the computer, it has to be done clerically and signed off on a few hundred times…this is because without all that authorization, anyone could write themselves a check for any amount and send it to any jobcenter they’d like. It’s essentially like printing money.

Basically it’s a pain in the ass..)

I issue the check (It takes two hours).

RIIIIIiiiiiing

“Hello?”

“It’s Paulius again.”

“Oh.”

“Your check is ready to be picked up at the jobcenter.”

“You mean it’s not coming to my house?!? Unacceptable! I demand you have it delivered to me!”

(I come within an inch of losing it.)

“Listen, let me make something clear. We were well within our rights to simply say ‘You didn’t reply to our requests for more information, you didn’t complete your claim form. make a new claim.’ Instead, we’ve bent over backwards to get you this money, which quite frankly, under the law, you’re not entitled to. We also didn’t have to issue you a counter check today, and could have just mailed it to you. Now, after all this, you’re DEMANDING we hand deliver the check to your house? I’m sorry, but that’s just not going to happen! Either go pick up your check, or don’t. It’s up to you!”

“Uhhh, I, uuuh.”

“Anything else I can help you with?”

(We’re required to say that.)

“Uhh, I, uuuh.”

“No? Goodbye!”

I slam the phone down so hard, my coffee mug almost shatters.

A few hours later, the phone rings. The unfortunate stuck covering the phone answers it. I listen from across the desk, from behind the stack of claim forms.

“Paulius? Yes, he’s here. Just one moment.”

She looks at me.

“Paulius, there’s a Mrs. (deleted) on the phone for you.”

“Oh, FUCK!”

“Huh?”

I explain the situation. However, as she transfers the call, I start to think:

Maybe she realized that I spent my entire day to get her the money that she wasn’t technically entitled to. Maybe she thought long and hard, and once she got the great big fat check, she thought she’d call you apologize, or at least say thank you.

“Hello, Paulius speaking?”

“Hello, I don’t know if you remember, but you organized a counter check for me yesterday.”

“Yes, I remember.” Tappity, tap tap tappity. “Yes, the check was issued, for 6475.23, for unemployment benefits between the 4th of February to November 18th.”

“Yep, that’s the one.”

“So…”

“It’s 4GPB short.”

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“No, ma’am, the check is correct.”

“NOOOO!” Said like she was talking to a retard. “I worked it out.” (I could hear her calculator beeping in the background). “It’s 4GBP short.”

In the end, I had to take her day by day through 10 months of payments, all for the sake of 4GBP, in a check for almost six and a half grand. I was right. She was wrong. She didn’t care.

“You people are nothing but a bunch of criminals! You should be ashamed of yourselves, (More 4 letter tirades).”

I hung up.

Imagine getting a six and a half grand check for doing absolutely fuck all, a check you’re not actually 100% entitled to, and then calling to complain, and calling the person who gave you the money a criminal, because he proved that your math was off.

…and people wonder why the people at benefit offices tend to be short tempered. We deal with this shit every day.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ice Storm

You may have noticed that Sunny and I have been noticably absent for the past few days. I can explain why in two simple words:

‘Ice Storm’.

Ok, let me explain to the people (like my family in the UK) exactly what an ice storm is.

Basically, the temperature suddenly plummets, and you get freezing rain. Within an incredibly short period of time (like half an hour) everything gets covered in an inch or so of ice.

Now that doesn’t sound too bad, but all that ice weighs a frigging ton, which means limbs fall from trees, powerlines break, and the cold plays havoc with all kinds of shit.

Basically, I spent the early hours of Tuesday morning listening to power transformers short out of explode one after another, trees falling over, tree limbs hitting the floor.

The next day it looked like a major tornado had been through the area. In fact, you know on those old war movies where there’s been a major battle in a forested area, and trees are snapped in half? It looked like that. Powerlines down in the middle of the road.

Basically, total devastation.

The most annoying this is that this happens where we live every single year. Basically, it’s cheaper to go out and repair the damage every year than to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place.

It particularly annoyed me because I’d been playing Morrowind for a couple hours and the power failed before I’d managed to save. Bastard.

Anyway, for us it was just a little adventure.

You see, our house is 100% electricity powered. No gas cooking or heating. In order not to freeze, Sunny and I spent the night at my stepdaughter’s house, who has a fireplace. It was fun, stayed up late playing poker, toasty warm by the fire.

Well, it was fun until my brother in law stopped by to check everyone was ok, and told us that 2500 electricity transformers where down in our area alone…and that it could be a week before power was restored.

We got lucky. Our main transformer was one of the first repaired, so we had power the following morning. My stepson still doesn’t have power and has been told that it’ll be December 24th before they get power back.

Anyway, although we got power back, our cable was out until a few hours ago, so no internet or TV, hence my absence.

Anyway, everything (at least for us) is back to normal now.

Normal service will resume when I can be bothered writing another post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

Sigh…

Here’s the deal. I do basically nothing with my time. Without a job, a car or anywhere to go (or anyone to see), my life revolves around getting up, watching TV, reading a book, using the computer and then going back to bed.

So can someone please explain o me why I’m so bloody tired?

Here’s the other thing. Sunny works at night, leaving the house at 11pm, and arriving home at about 8:30am. So, I decided that rather than sleeping at night, I’d stay awake and sleep when she arrives home.

There are a number of reasons for this. If I slept when she left for work, I’d be waking up just as she got through the door. Then, by the time she had enough sleep and was getting up, I’d be going to bed.

The other thing is I actually like being awake at night. Ever since I started work at a club back in England, where I’d be getting off work at 3am, and by the time I got home and wound down enough to go to bed it would be nearly 6am…I’ve lived a pretty nocturnal lifestyle. Being alone at that time means that I have the house to myself and free reign in when I want to do. Basically, I don’t have to feel guilty for not spending time with Sunny if I want to surf the net or play a videogame for a few hours.

Unfortunately, this isn’t really working.

You see, unless I’m awake for a stupid length of time, I’m never tired when I go to bed. I also get frequent (and blood terrible) insomnia. So I get into bed, after a couple of hours I finally manage to get to sleep, and once asleep, I don’t want to get up.

Tiredness only kicks in for me, after I’ve been asleep.

Sunny, on the other hand, I have no idea how she’s even alive. She’ll come in from work, sleep from about 10am to 2pm, and then spring out of bed, wide awake, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Then, if she feels like it, she’ll sleep for another hour before going to work.

Let’s just say that if I had to run on 6 hours of interrupted sleep every day, I’d be walking in front of cars, collapsing on the street…you name it.

Today was particularly bad.

Yesterday was Sunny’s day off, so we actually got into bed at a ‘reasonable hour’ for two people who sleep days, namely 3am. Sunny was tired, I was wide-assed awake, but we went to bed anyway.

I finally got asleep at about 5:30 in the morning. However, the biggest problem with trying to sleep at night when you’re not used to it is that you never sleep for long. It’s like trying to sleep for 8 hours at 2pm for people who sleep at night. You might squeeze in a short nap, but a full 8 hours? Not on your life.

So, after falling asleep at 5:30, I was up at 8:30. That’s three hours for the mathematically impaired. The other side effect is that to me, that was like taking a nice long nap in the middle of my day, meaning I was nice and awake when it was time to get up.

So we went to the mall, did a little window shopping, went out and grabbed a bite to eat.

By midnight that night, I was crashing. Then my step-son (He’s staying with us for a couple of days), flicking through the TV stopped on Lord of the Rings.

“Don’t bother with that.” I said. “I’ve got the DVD there, you can watch it from the beginning without any ads.”

We put it in. “I forget that I have the extended version of the movies (roughly 4 and a half hours).

We watch it. I get up to make coffee. I get woken up.

Eventually I went to bed at about 9:30 this morning after Sunny had got home. The first time I went to be tired in years. Sunny tried to wake me at about 4pm.

I thought “Ok, I’ll get out of bed.” …then fell back into a deep sleep.

The result? I actually got up at 12:15. Just the 15 hours sleep.

Now that’s understandable. Being up for 26 hours straight on just 2 or 3 hours sleep will make anyone tired.

It still doesn’t explain why the less I do, the more energy and rest I need to do it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Computer Monkeys!

As any true geek will know, the one thing you need above all others, to fully function as a geek is a close circle of fellow geek-friends.

Otherwise, the topics of conversation you like to talk about are met with, at best a confused smile and at worst, a completely blank look.

For non-geeks it’s an instinctual thing. As soon as you get a whiff of geek-speak, the brain automatically surrenders under the assumption that they won’t understand a single word you’re saying.

For example, trying to explain to one of my step-sons that I couldn’t just throw a DVD into my computer and copy it for him, because a DVD movie is roughly 8 gigabytes, and a blank recordable is about 4 gigabytes.

I lost him at the word gigabyte. Usually, at this point, dummy mode is turned irrevocably on, because no matter how hard you try to explain, they already ‘know’ they won’t understand it. It’s doesn’t matter how simple you try to make it, they give up before the fight starts. Even if you say “This disc holds 8 thingies, this one only holds 4 thingies, so you need to squeeze up the 8 thingies to get it to fit…understand?”

Nope, they don’t understand that ‘technical mumbo-jumbo’.

For example, when I was shopping for this PC, sunny pointed out one that was slightl cheaper, and a very similar spec. I pointed out that this one had a 64 bit processor.

I tried to explain the difference between a 32bit and 64 bit processor…but it was no use. (It’s actually incredibly simple. A 32 bit processor can deal with 32 bits of information at a time…a 64 bit processor can deal with 64 bits of information at a time.)

Alright, Hands up! How many people skipped right to this paragraph when they realized I was about to start explaining the difference between 32 and 64bit processors?

That’s right, you already ‘knew’ you wouldn’t get it, didn’t you. Go back and read it.

Anyway, I’m getting off point here.

This whole phenomenon is the reason why whenever anyone asks me how something works, I have a prepared 2 word answer:

“Computer Monkeys.”

That’s right. The computer monkeys do it. They live in your PC, and they do all the work. They’re very highly trained. If something goes wrong, a computer monkey fucked up.

If you don’t believe me on this, find someone who’s a computing layman, and start explaining how a hard-drive actually works.

It’s the same reaction you give when someone is giving you directions. First of all, you want to know, and listen. Within a few turns you start to get lost, and by about halfway through, you’re simply nodding and smiling and waiting for them to finish, so you can wind up your window and drive away.

Every geek needs geek friends. Why? I’ll tell you:

  1. Geek advice:

“Hey geek-friend! You’ve got your hard-drives set up in SATA RAID don’t you? Is it worth the hassle?

  1. Recreational talk:

“Yeah, I was playing Star Wars Battlefront online, and I got cornered by these three guys with rocket launchers. I was out of ammo, and only had my pistol, so I shot the first one, rolled behind cover, nailed the next one in the head as he gave chase, picked up his ammo, and gave the last guy three shots in the chest. He’d thrown a grenade just before he died, so I ran, jumped, and caught the tail end of the blast. It threw me about 50 feet! I had about 1% health left, and just managed to get to a medical droid. It was great!”

I told that story to Sunny today. I might as well have been talking Swahili

  1. Bragging rights:

When you buy a geek object, you want it to be appreciated. For example, when you’ve just shelled out for a shit hot digital camera, you want to show it off and hear envious chat about the fact it’s a 6.1 megapixel, 20X optical zoom, 3 stage infra-red scanning flash and the fact it can make extra copies of your pictures as web-ready 640X480 jpeg files.

What you don’t want to hear is “Oh, I like your camera, it’s a nice color isn’t it? Does it have a flash? Where does the film go in?” Guys, it’s like buying a ’98 Corvette, showing it off, and all your friends saying “OOOOhhh, it’s red! Red cars go faster, don’t they?”

  1. Grooming:

Sunlight hurts us. It’s nice to have a few people just as pale as you to stand next to.

All I can say is thank God for email and Skype. At least I can stay in touch with my geek friends back in England.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Thesis on the Human Condition...or 'Campers Suck'

Now that I have broadband back, I decided to get back into online gaming.

So, looking through my paltry game collection (well, it’s not that small, but nothing like it’s former glory when I was in England, and didn’t have to worry about buying luxuries such as food or electricity), I decided I’d wet my feet again with the original Halo.

I loved it. I wondered why I’d put off playing online for so long. Then after a few games, the answer hit me.

Because other people are idiots.

For the non-gamers out there, let me explain what I’m talking about.

Ever played Paintball? Or more precisely ‘Capture the Flag’?

The aim of the game is this: Fight your way, as a team, into the opponent’s base, grab their flag, fight your way back to your own base, and when you touch their flag to yours, you score a point. The other team is trying to do the same thing.

It gets pretty tactical. How many people do you leave behind to guard your own base? Do you send some people off as a diversion while you sneak into the base from the opposite direction? Do you have a vehicle stashed away somewhere, and have it perfectly timed so just as your flag carrier charges out of the enemy base, it arrives on the scene, while your other troops provide cover fire?

Basically, Halo’s Capture the Flag game mode is just like that, only without having to breathe that nasty fresh air, or do any (shudder) exercise.

It should be fun, like a fast paced game of chess.

Unfortunately, other people put the stops on that.

You see, unless you’re playing with actual friends and people you know, you get a mixed bag.

Now most of this is forgivable. You can’t really expect a bunch of strangers to form a cohesive team, especially since a lot of the time they’re from 5 different countries speaking 5 different languages.

That doesn’t make it any less annoying when you come charging out of the base with the flag in your hand, being hotly pursued by the opposing team, and a member of your own team appears from nowhere, jumps in your vehicle, drives off with it, before crashing directly into a tree. (I’m not joking, this has happened to me a number of times).

Then you get the real idiots. The people who think every single weapon, vehicle or power-up is their own personal property…and decide to shoot you in the back of the head because you took the vehicle they wanted.

However, the most annoying thing about online games is two fold. The first part is completely clueless people…and the second is that these clueless people are also whiny idiots who don’t understand the rules, or just appear to like verbal abuse. They have ‘Computer-Aided Bravery Syndrome’.

Let me explain this.

First I need to explain ‘camping’. Capture the Flag is just one game type. There are others from straight ‘Every man for himself’, to team battles where you fight for a particular amount of time, and the team with the highest number of ‘kills’ at the end wins.

Campers are annoying people who have picked a particular spot in the environment. A spot that gives them great cover, but a view of a high traffic area. They then spend the entire game ‘camping’ there, and shoot anyone who comes by.

Great tactics, but not very fun or sporting. The worst of these is the ‘Spawn Camper’. A ‘spawn’ point is where you re-enter the game after you’ve been killed. These people wait just outside this spot with a rocket launcher or something, and just blast away.

You can imagine how annoying this is. Boom, dead, wait… respawn. Boom, dead, wait… respawn. You don’t get the chance to take cover or shoot back, so your team suffers massive losses, while the camper racks up the kills.

Got it?

Now while regular ‘camping’ is unacceptable in a straight shooting match. In CTF, it’s just tactics and the actual point of the game.

Basically, you’re trying to defend your flag, so you’ll stand guard over it at a point on the map that acts as a choke point.

This doesn’t stop the clueless whining.

For example, in my game of Halo, there’s a cliff that overlooks the approach to the base. So my team had a couple of tanks, and a couple of snipers up there. A nice strong defense.

Then the messages start appearing:

“U CAMPER!”
“U FUCKEN CAMPER FAG!”
“THEY R CAMPING. NOT FAIR!”
“THEY GOT 2 TANKS UP THERE! CAMPER FUCKEN FAGS!”

(Oh, and apparently, ‘misbehaving’ in an online game appears to be the work of homosexuals. Apparently ‘camping’ is the Gay National Pastime.)

Sigh…

Listen.

It’s not camping, you blithering idiot. It’s called defending! Try going around the other way. Jump in a Banshee (aircraft) and fire some rockets at us! We defend, you try to break through…understand?

What do they expect? Hmm, shall I defend my flag? No, that’s camping, I’ll just run around and let them through. Oh look, it’s the entire opposing army! Shall we open fire from this highly secure choke point? Nah, that’s camping! Lets run out into the open where they can pick us off at their leisure!

The other major pastime for the clueless is accusing everyone of cheating, because they’re repeatedly getting their ass handed to them.

You see, many people play the single player game before going to multiplayer…and the thing is, the absolute worst human player is much better than the average computer controlled opponent. You see, in the single player game, you’re meant to kill a few hundred of them on your own. In multi-player, everyone has the same chance or survival.

Basically, one guy will stand perfectly still, out in the open, with his gun blazing, or single handedly charge about 5 members of your team, people who will actually dodge and send a hail of bullets back his way…and then act all surprised that he died.

I mean, I landed at least 3 bullets! Why is he still standing while I’m dead on the floor?

It’s called body-armor, fuckwit. I actually picked some up. Oh, and while you where standing stock still, I ducked and shot you in the head. You gun isn’t as accurate or as powerful as mine. I’m not computer controlled. I don’t have 1/10th the armor and health you have, and I’m not programmed to stand still and shoot slowly at you.

Ahem…this brings me quite smoothly to my next point.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more annoying in an online game than C.A.D.S.

You see, the game is anonymous. Doing something ‘wrong’, like say, shooting a member of the other team, leads to twenty minutes of badly spelled verbal abuse.

These people are basically crap at the game, and just can’t stand losing. If you use a rocket launcher, you’re a “fucken rocket fag’, because the rocket launcher is apparently an unfair weapon. The fact that they could easily get one of their own doesn’t come into it.

I once saw a player who, after getting killed a lot, decided that pretty much every weapon was unfair. Apparently,the reason, the one and only reason he was losing was because my team apparently where using the evil forbidden weapons. Shotgun? For ‘fags’. Assault rifle? Fags. Sniper rifle? Fags.

This is an open message to all of these people:

Getting shot and killed is all part of the game. Rather than rant impotently at someone you don’t know, and chances are will never come into contact with again, try actually playing the game and shooting back. If you lose, you lose. You can’t claim foul play because the game is a controlled environment where everyone has the same chance.

If you get beat, it’s because the other player is better than you. They may get the occasional lucky shot, but if someone is consistently spanking you, it’s because they’re better.

Oh, and to the guy who was on my team in Star Wars : Battlefront today: It’s not considered good form to continually unload your rocket launcher into a tight grouping of your own team-mates, just to take out one member of the opposition.

That is all.





Friday, December 09, 2005

A Humourous Interlude

Walking into the living room, I saw a flash of tell-tale ginger fur on top of the bookshelves. I started shouting, the cat’s been getting up there and knocking all kinds of thing off.

Half way through my tirade, I notice he hasn’t moved an inch. Closer inspection reveals that it’s not the cat, but the stuffed bunny rabbit we put up there to stop the cat from having his wicked way with it.

I feel terrible, like I’ve just verbally abused a rape victim.

I swear it’s eyes have gone even more glassy since I caught the cat humping it.


Standard response when someone sees my Master Replica’s Force FX Lightsaber.

“Huh? What’s that?”

“That’s my lightsaber.”

“Your what!?!??”

(I take it down off the shelf)

“Oh my God! You geek! You complete and utter NERD? How old are you? That’s pathetic! You big, big GEEK!”

(I turn it on, the light jumps from the handle to the tip with the movie-perfect sound. I swing it, setting off the motion sensitive ‘vwoooom’ sound. I hit it against something, getting the perfect ‘pshwting!’ clash sound. I turn it off, the light is ‘sucked’ back into the handle, again with the perfect movie noise.)

“Errrrr, Can I have a go?”

(This is also followed with a ‘how much did you ‘waste’ on that?’ and ‘where did you get it?’…meaning they want one of their own.)



Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Not The Most Successful Morning.

You know, sometimes you think you’ve experienced an emotion, only to find that you’ve never really experienced it at all. You have an experience that calls up that emotion so strongly, that it’s completely different from anything you’ve ever known.

Today I had that experience. The Emotion?

Aggravation.

Ok, that might not be an emotion, per se, but close enough. Let me explain what happened.

I’ve had a headache for about three days. One of those headaches that will spend a few hours lurking quietly at the back of your head, before springing forward and trying to burst out your forehead every couple of hours.

So to begin with, I’m not in the best mood.

Now, I live a nocturnal lifestyle, so about 8am is my bedtime. Today, Sunny was taking her son, Frank, for a job interview at 9:30, so she arrived home from work, changed her clothes and headed straight back out of the door. I didn’t go with her, because at this point, it felt like my head was getting ready to explode.

So I waited for Sunny to get in from work, cooked her some breakfast, and got into bed at about 10am. The bedroom was about 30 degrees, so I turned on the electric blanket, threw an extra comforter on top, and burrowed under the covers.

Fantastic, I was warm, comfortable and my head began to slowly ease up. I was just dropping off to sleep when:

RIIIIIIIIING….RIIIIIIIING….RIIIIIING

The phone starts ringing, my headache wakes up before I do, and the shock of it makes me sit bolt upright in bed.

I drag myself up, put on my robe, and head to the living room. I pick up the phone.

“Hello, Can I speak to Mr or Mrs Malone please?”

“Speaking.”

“This is MCI, you recently cancelled your phone service with us, and I was wondering if you’d be willing to sign back up if we offered you…”

“No, we cancelled because you screwed us over. We wanted long distance service only. You cancelled our entire service, which cost us more than we where paying, completely fucked up my dial-up internet service. Our two weeks with you cost us over $200. Not interested.”

“Oh, that was a misunderstanding sir. We can offer…”

“Why don’t you offer to hang up? Not interested. Piss off.”

(Click)

I head back to the bedroom, taking the phone with me in case it rings again. (I should point out here that our answering machine isn’t working. Sunny accidentally unplugged it to plug in the Christmas tree, and an down the backup battery…a ‘backup’ that the machine refuses to work without).

20 minutes later, I’m nodding off again. The phone rings.

“Hello?”

“Am I speaking to Mr. Malone?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’m pleased to tell you that you’ve been pre-approved for a Mastercard! You’ve also won a holiday for two at…”

“No I haven’t.”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“In case you can’t tell from the accent, I’m an immigrant, and still going through the process for my greencard. I can’t get so much a library card without it. Oh, and I’m not interested in your holiday, which will turn out to be a two day, high-pressure time-share sales seminar.”

“Oh, errr.”

(Click).

I put the phone back down. I mamange to go twenty minutes without a phonecall. I actually get to sleep. I’m just starting to dream when the phone rings, again. It takes me a minute to work out whether I’m dreaming it, or if the phone is actually ringing:

“Hello?”

“Uhhh, yeah. Lemme speak to Tony.”

“There’s no Tony here, you’ve got the wrong number.”

“Click”

No apology, no nothing. I start to drift again...

RIIIIIIING!

“HELLO?!?!?”

“Yeah, put Tony on the phone.”

“What the Fu…?!? Wrong fucking number. There’s no Tony here!”

(Click.)

Nodding off again, when five minutes later, the phone rings again.

“Uhhh, yeah, I need to speak to Tony.”

“Are you FUCKING RETARDED!?!? Okay, once, I can understand. Twice, you thought you’d mis-dialed the first time. But three…fucking…times? Do you even know how to use a fucking phone? FUCK OFF!!!!”

(SLAM!)

By this point, I’m pretty aggravated, as you can probably tell. I’ve been in bed for nearly 2 hours, and got the grand total of a minutes sleep. I get up, put on my robe, find some Migraine tablets, get something to drink and smoke a cigarette.

I get back into bed. About half an hour later, I’m on the very cusp of sleep.

RIIIIIIING!

“WHAT!?!?”

“Uh, Hey Paul, it’s Clay.”

“Oh, sorry, hey Clay, what do you need?”

“I was just wondering if Frank went for that job interview this morning.”

“Yeah, your Mom’s took him up there.”

“Ok, ask him to give me a call when he gets in. Where you sleeping?”

“I was trying.”

“Oh, sorry about that, see you. Bye.”

“See you later.”

(Click)

Clay is my other step-son, and the one who set up the job interview for Frank this morning. Usually, he doesn’t call when we’re usually asleep, but I guess today he assumed I’d have gone with them and we’d all be up.

It’s now nearly 2 in the afternoon. I’m falling asleep when Sunny comes home, walks into the bedroom, tells me that they’re back, and that she’s brought some food home.

I’m a little hungry, and definitely not sleeping, so I get up to eat it and ask how the interview went. So I stand in the living room, eating a Jack in the Box burger (Which was really, really good…one of the few nice things to happen to me today). My head feels like a 4 pound box filled with 5 pounds of angry bees. Sunny says something to me about tires. I just say “Uh-huh.”

I finish my burger, grab a drink and get back into bed. I’m nodding off again when I hear Sunny’s voice:

“What?! Are you back in bed!?!?” She sounds pissed.

“Of course I’m back in bed! My head feels like it’s about to explode, I’m fucking exhausted, my aggravation level is, on a scale of 1 to 10, about eight hundred and sixty four. Why wouldn’t I be in bed!?!?”

Well, to be honest, I thought that, but what I actually said was “Uh-huh.”

I hear her stalk off, grumbling a little.

“What?” I shout after her.

“I just asked you if you would come with my to get my car tire plugged! You said yes.”

The phrase that went through my head rhymed with ‘Brother-clucking Bun-of-a-sitch, rastarding bell!’

I literally drag myself to the end of the bed, I sit up, and grab the clothes that have been on the floor of a 30 degree bedroom for over four hours. I pull them on. It feels as thought they’ve been skillfully woven together by liquid nitrogen. I mean so cold, that I start dry-heaving (and it was only through the grace of God that those dry heaves didn’t turn into a full on pukeathon.)

I slump into the living room. Neither Sunny nor Frank are in there. I check the Kitchen. Not in there either.

I open the front door, just in time to see the back of Sunny’s car vanish around the corner. She didn’t know I was getting up.

If my head didn’t hurt so much at this point, I would have screamed. I go back to the living room and hug the heater for a few minutes while I smoke a cigarette.

I get back into bed. I get comfortable. I start to drift. The phone rings. The phone is also back in the living room.

I get up, stamp into the living room, and just as my fingertips brush the phone, it rings off.

Now I should point out that Sunny’s Mom has diabetes and isn’t too well. We can’t ignore the phone in case it’s an emergency, and since the MCI debacle, we no longer have caller ID (Our phone announces who’s calling verbally), and with the answering machine out of commission, we can’t screen calls.

I head back to bed. The second I get in, the phone rings again.

“Right! This had better be good!”

“Yeah, uh, let me speak to Tony.”

“(Content removed to save from offending pretty much everyone)”

I seriously consider unplugging the phone. Or failing that, taking it outside, and putting about 50 .22 rounds into it. Instead, I manage to control myself.

20 minutes later, Sunny comes home and gets into bed…and starts snoring.

I wake her up. (She has the amazing ability to be asleep within seconds of getting into bed.)

“You’re snoring.”

“No I’m not, I wasn’t even asleep.”

(Yeah, I just imagined that amazingly snore-like machine gun fire.)

“Whatever. Just turn over or something.”

15 minutes later…more snoring. I give up and just bury my head under the pillow.

Statistics:

Time in bed: 10am to 9:30pm = 11.5 hours.

Actual sleep obtained : 3 hours 15 minutes, spread over 11 hours in 5 – 10 minute stretches.

Mood : Extremely pissed off.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

You to, Can Learn To Google

Today I did my weekly check on my stats for this blog, and as usual, I left the keyword analysis for last. The things the idiots search for are sure to brighten up my day.

I was disappointed today, however, due to the fact that 99.9% of the searches people used to land here where, well, normal.

A few searches for the Mythbusters Bottle Jet Pack, a few people who have obviously seen the offer on the same graphics pad I have, and are looking for reviews. You know, the normal stuff the denizens of the interweb look for.

However, that 0.01% cracked me up.

The search, in its entirety was:

“My Urine smells different – am I pregnant?”

Ok, let me tackle the question first.

Probably not. There are plenty of reasons why your pee-pee will change it’s smell, especially if you’ve been eating different foods (For example, asparagus makes your piss absolutely STINK!).

However, it’s slowly becoming clear to me that the average person simply doesn’t know how to Google anything, or even how a search engine works.

So I’ve written the following: The beginners Guide to Google and Searching the web.

Ok, Google searches web pages. Simple enough, right? However, it only finds things that are in the actual content of the page.

So, Ms. Smelly Pee Pee, your search would be useless unless those exact words are on a page somewhere. Or it will bring up a page with every single on of those words in. IE Every page that has ‘urine’ or ‘pregnancy’.

You’re searching content, not asking a question.

Ok, now for the technical basics:

  1. Ms Smell Pee Pee’s search is useless. It will find every page that has one or all of her search terms in it. Including the words like ‘I’ and ‘am’.

  2. Putting a plus symbol in front of a word tells Google that that particular word MUST be in the search results. For example “+pregnancy”. This is useful because it allows you to narrow your search. Basically you’re saying “Find pages with this word or words in it, if any of the others show up, all the better, but they’re not necessary.

  3. A minus symbol in front of a word means ‘find all pages with my search terms, but not the ones that contain this word’. This is useful if you keep getting red herrings. It helps you narrow down your search further. For example, ‘urine’ on the internet is likely to bring up all sorts of weird pee pee fetish sites, so you could add “-fetish –porn” to the end of the search, and all pages that mention fetish or porn won’t come up.

  4. Words in quotation marks mean to search for the entire phrase. For example, searching for (New sony plasma tv) will bring up every page with the word TV, Plasma, Sony and New on it. Searching “New sony plasma TV” will only find pages with that exact phrase.

  5. You can use Boolean search strings such as AND, OR

So let’s put this all together, and construct a search term for Ms. Smelly Pee Pee.

She wants to know if she’s pregnant. So we’ll add pregnancy. Her clue is that her wee wee smells, so we’ll look for that, but considering we’re looking for a medical page, a doctor is unlikely to use the word smell, he’s much more likely to use the word odor. Another thing to try is part of a question, because many self-help sites use the question and answer format. So we can try the following things:

Pregnancy +”Urine odor”

+”Am I pregnant?” +”Urine odor”

Get the picture?

Basically, when you search google, it’s not like you’re talking to a librarian. You’re using Boolean search strings to look for content. For example, if I was looking for online drawing lessons, I wouldn’t search:

‘I want drawing lessons I can do on the internet for free’ For example, the word ‘free’ brings up a few million pages on its own. I’d be more specific:

+”Drawing lessons” OR “Drawing Tutorials” +online +free art

This means that for a page to appear it absolutely has to have the terms ‘drawing lessons’ or ‘drawing tutorials’ in it. From those pages, it has to have the words ‘free’ and ‘online’ on it. ‘Art’ is a ‘maybe’ word. If it’s there bring it up, if it’s not, it doesn’t matter.

Learn to Google, people!



Science, Morality and Philosophy...All in One Post! Value for Money, or What?!?

I watched ‘The Matrix’ (again) today.

You know that part where Neo asks Trinity if she can fly the helicopter, and she says “Not yet.” Places a quick call to the operator, who downloads how to fly the thing into her head.

I have never seen that part of the movie and not thought “That would be soooo cool!”

Big test tomorrow? Download the info into your head. Kiss all that studying goodbye!

Of course, rationality takes over and you think “That could never happen, brains don’t work like that.”

But I, my friends, have far too much time on my hands, and I think I’ve come up with a way to do ‘download’ info into your brain, that falls within the realms of real (if theoretical) science.

Ok, here it is:

The way your brain works is by making connections. In essence it’s a vast, intricate net. Whenever you think a thought, a connection is made, and that connection represents what you’re thinking about.

Now, most of these connections come and go. They erode over time and the synapses that created those connections go off and make new connections when we think or learn something new.

However, the things we learn and know create much more permanent connections. They can still erode over time, but most are almost cemented in there. Like knowing your own name, for example.

Also, every time a single thought is, well, thought, the connection is strengthened. That’s why if you’re trying to remember a phone number, repeating it over and over while you’re looking for a pen to write it down helps you remember it. You’re keeping the connection active, and strengthening it at the same time.

So in essence, if you could get in there, and wire up those connections yourself, you could ‘implant’ knowledge.

Basically, everything I know about, say, computers is made up in a vast net of synapses and neurons in my brain. If you could map what those connections are, and then go into someone else’s brain, and make an exact copy of that net…that person should then know everything I know about computers.

Ah, but how can we do this? Synapses and neurons are microscopic! How can we change them without doing severe damage?

Easy Nano-robotics.

Scientists are currently attempting to build robots so small that they are only a few atoms long. These robots have one purpose, to pull apart other atoms and put them back together in different ways.

Ok, now we need a little High School physics.

Everything is made up of atoms. Atoms consist of a nucleus of Protons and Neutrons, with an outer shell of electrons. These join together to form molecules, which form the things we see.

For example, A particular grouping of atoms makes an Oxygen Molecule. Another grouping makes a hydrogen molecule. If you put two hydrogen molecules together with one oxygen molecule, you get water.

Now, a nanobot would be incredibly difficult to build. However, the good news is you’d only have to make one. Then you could order that one to copy itself. Then they would multiply exponentially. Meaning 1 would make 2, would make 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 etc, etc.

Basically, in 20 steps you’d have over 2 million, and the next step would get you 4 million.

One is hard to make, but after the first one, they’re easy.

Going a little of topic here, the applications for these things are amazing. You could literally take anything in the world, and change it into something else. The example I read was that you could go to a landfill site, set the nanobots loose, and they could build you a full sized space shuttle, complete with fuel charged batteries and programmed computers.

People have difficulty believing this, as the idea of ‘something from nothing’ is hard to accept…but if you think about it, it’s perfectly reasonable.

Drought ridden countries could turn sand into water. Pollution could be turned into fresh air. Turn a slum into luxury homes…for free!

However, to me the most compelling application is medical. You could be injected with nanobots programmed to destroy any infection. You’d simply never get sick. They could remove cancerous cells on the atomic level, or better still, not permit them to grow. If we were injected with them, you could get a severe cut or broken leg, and they’d instantly swarm to the wound and repair it.

Oh, and they could literally turn fat into muscle. Have all those fats turned into healthy stuff after you’ve eaten them.

This brings me back to my original idea.

If you’ve grasped the concept on nano-robotics, you could see just how easy it would be to use them to ‘copy’ one person’s neural nets into another person…but it doesn’t end there.

You see, all these nets are interconnected into one big net. For example, the net that represents the concept of ‘cookies’ could be connected to the net representing a parent that makes them. Then the net representing that parent is connected to whatever you associate with them, and so on and so on.

This means that crippling phobias are the result of a particular thing or object being strongly connected to your ‘fear’ net. That link would be extremely strong.

But what if a nanobot could go in there and sever that connection?

At that you might think that that wouldn’t work, and that you can’t cure a fear like that. However, once you understand that fears, likes and dislikes are caused by the way our brains are wired, it’s pretty simple.

However, this is where we come to the bad news. Quite simply, Nanobots don’t exist, at least not yet. (There is also the alarming ‘Grey goo’ scenario, where if nanobots ever got ‘loose’ and stuck multiplying themselves, it would take less than 2 days for them to turn the entire planet, and everything on it, into nothing but copies of themselves).

There is also the small fact despite that we know that our thoughts and memories are made up of connections in our brains, at present there is simply no way of knowing which net controls what. Right now we know which part of the brain is in charge of, say, motor control and involuntary and voluntary actions…but we don’t know which part of our brain contains things like the concept of penguins. The simple answer would be to have someone think of a particular thing, and see which neurons fire, but then again, most people think more than one thing at once, and because of the interconnected nature of our brains, one connection instantly causes others to fire, and new ones to be created.

In other words, it’s a right bastard to figure out.

Nanorobotics would, quite simply, be the biggest advancement in the human race since fire, the wheel or electricity. We would literally have the power to turn anything into anything else. There would be no more hunger, pollution or disease.

There are, however, other considerations to take into account.

Going right back to my original topic of being able to download information into a brain, we enter (if you’ll pardon the pun) a very grey area.

Would we be able to copy the information alone, or would the understanding of that information go with it? For example, I know that “When a wire is passed through a magnetic field, a potential difference is set up across its ends”. I know that this explains how electricity is generated. This little informational nugget let me pass my physics exam at high-school.

However, do I actually understand it, or know what it actually means?

Nope, not a sodding clue.

There is also the point that this technology would render schools obsolete. We could do whatever we wanted until we passed puberty, then have 15 years of education downloaded into us at a single sitting. Forget school days, more like school day.

However, school is where we learn the other ‘rules’ and develop social skills. Our experiences there shape the person we become as an adult.

This leads to a bit of a problem.

The easy solution is to say that social skills and societal ‘rules’ could be downloaded at the same time as the actual ‘education’. However, children are obviously going to interact and learn themselves before going for their ‘school day’.

Everyone develops differently, and what if these social skills and societal rules conflict with the child’s own ‘natural’ understanding of them?

Imagine that a child grew up as a bully knowing for sure that because they’re bigger than everyone else, they can take whatever they want, and no one can stop them…and they know this as an absolute. It’s the cornerstone of their personality. Then imagine them learning that this is wrong and unacceptable as an absolute also.

You see, if a child is growing up anti-social, and is punished, counseled or whatever, what is actually happening is the one form of thinking is brushed away to make way for the new one. The neural net that says it’s ok to hurt people for their lunch money is slowly broken up, and replaced with the new net that says that this is wrong and unacceptable.

For example, if a child got caught stealing, and got his butt whupped for it, the net for stealing would become interconnected with the one for pain, teaching the kid that ‘stealing = pain’. (Again, this may have to be repeated a few times to make that connection strong and as unbreakable as possible). The nets begin to interconnect and the child learns that the way to avoid punishment is to avoid stealing. The ‘punishment’ net is connected to the ‘Things that are wrong’ net…meaning that eventually the child won’t steal because they simply know it’s wrong.

That’s the way to a healthy, well adjusted adult.

But if a sense of ‘right and wrong’ was ‘implanted’ in a brain, this means it would be possible for a child to believe that something is perfectly fine and absolutely forbidden at the same time.

Think about that for a second. Everyone has a well defined moral code of what is acceptable and unacceptable for them, but now imagine that you believe both ends of the spectrum at the same time.

It would be like being mentally ill. Schizophrenic.

Now, the bright ones among you might solve this by saying:

“These nanobots can change anything into anything! Why don’t they just erase whatever moral code is in there, and implant the new one?”

Well, this is problematic also. Who is to say what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable? A standard moral compass would have to be decided upon, and opinions vary amazingly. Some people think it’s fine to smoke, drink, watch porn and have sex outside of marriage…other people think that TV, movies and rock music is the height of depravity.

Morality is something that can’t be decided by consensus…and also, this would be like every single person having the same upbringing. We’d all be the same, and we’d think and act the same way.

A world of bi-polar schizo’s, or a world of cookie-cutter robots. Not much of a choice, really.

Anyway, I think this ramble’s gone on long enough, so I’ll leave you to your own opinions.



Monday, December 05, 2005

Hindu Guy + Gay Elf = Hilarity

Ok, everyone. I know I’m probably going to be going over old ground here at the start of this post, so I’ll be as brief as possible. I do have a fresh point to make, I promise.

Basically, my views on political correctness are as follows:

Political Correctness was thought up by a bunch of insulated middle class do-gooders, who have no grip on real life, have never been within 50 feet of an actual ‘minority’, and manage to be a hundred times more racist that someone who is deliberately trying to be so.

(Deep breath)…got that?

You see, it’s like the viral marketing internet phenomenon “Black people love us”. This was a fake ‘home page’, supposedly set up by a white couple to show just how much black people like them. Of course, it was racist as hell in a passive sense…but the point was it was meant to be so, designed to provoke a reaction, and was making an ironic comment about racism and political correctness…IE Stating that ‘Black People like you’ is just as racist and objectifying as wearing a swastika tattoo.

However, the most recent ‘Target’ advertising campaign manages to do this, but without a hint of irony.

Basically, Target’s latest thing is a shallow marketing ploy to make sure that people who don’t celebrate Christmas buy from them. Apparently, they’re not celebrating Christmas, they’re celebrating “Christmahannukwanzakah”…and amalgamation on Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanza.

Now this in itself isn’t bad at all. Yeah, it’s a cheap marketing ploy, but a clever one.

Once you see the ad, you change your mind.

You see, the Jewish contingent is the stereotypical old guys with the beards, hats and curly sideburns. Oh, and don’t forget the comic ‘Jewish’ speech style/ The Hindu looks like the picture on bag of curry powder, and talks like Apu on speed…but my favourite is the ‘Gay Elf’, who yes, has a mustache, and is as camp as a row of tents…pink tents…with gay men in them.

This isn’t ‘include everyone’ thinking. This is “pull up the worst stereotype you can think of, and splash it on the screen.

This ad proves my point entirely.

If this was on the internet, I’d think it was the latest anti-racism irony-filled piece of viral marketing.

However, it’s a television ad, put on at Christmas by a major corporation. It’s pure “What you See is what you Get”.

These idiots think that by being all ‘pro-minority’, and putting these people on TV, they’re gonna have the Jewish people, the Hindus and the gay community just gagging to buy shit from them.

Now, I went to school and college with nearly every one of those minorities, and in fact, my best friend was gay. They bore very little resemblance to those stereotypes on the Target Ads.

Now this is where usually, someone would demand that everyone they know boycott Target. I’m not going to do that. It’s not worth the bother.

All I’m going to say is have a bloody good laugh at them, and realize that this ad is at the pinnacle of corporate ‘Politically Correct’ thinking. Imagine that meeting:

“We need to target the minorities. If we make out that we’re multicultural, all the Jews, gays and Blacks will shop with us.”

“Yeah, but the Jews are all misers, but the gays love to shop like crazy!”

“So what do we need here?”

“Well, we’ll have one of each on the advert.”

“Yeah, maybe we should do some research.”

“Nah, it’s easy. Gay’s lisp, have high pitched voices and mince around rather than walk. The Hindus all wear turbans and talk like Apu, and the Jews wear those hats, have the funny hairstyles and talk funny!”

“By god, you’re right! To the studio!”

…Assholes

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Frostbite Took My Fingers

It’s true that a lot of people take the piss about British weather. You know, the cold, the rain, the fact you only actually see the sun for about 2 months out of the year?

However, what can be said for British weather is that although it’s raining most of the time, it’s usually mild weather. In the summer, it’s warm, but not too hot. In the winter, it gets frigging cold, but not ‘stupid’ cold. We get wind and rain, but no tornados and typhoons. The best thing about British weather, however, is that you get about a month’s warning as the season changes slowly.

Not so in South Carolina. In winter time, it gets down as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and in summer it gets up to and above 100 degrees.

Basically, in Summer you slowly cook, and in winter, you freeze your ass off.

However, the absolute worst thing is that the seasons change with no warning whatsoever. For example, I’ve gone to bed in an 85 degree bedroom, with nothing but a thin cotton sheet, and woke up with it so cold, I could see my breath, and discovered, to my horror, that my body has frozen to the mattress.

The other way is worse though. You get into bed, you have your thick flannel sheets, an electric blanket, and huge comforter, and as many blankets as you can find piled up on the bed…and wake up to find that it’s now summer, and that you suddenly bear a startling resemblance to an extra-crispy chicken wing.

Anyway, this is old news, I’ve talked about this before. What I want to talk about today is something I’ve never understood.

Picture the scene. It’s the dead of summer, and it’s too hot to breathe. So you turn the air conditioning on, until you get the room to a nice comfortable 71 degrees farenheit. It’s great. You sit on your couch, wearing just your shorts and a t-shirt, and just enjoy it.

However, in winter, it’s freezing outside, so you turn the heating on. You’re sitting on your couch, wearing a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, your jeans and the thickest socks you own. When do you start to feel comfortable? When the temperature gets up to about 80 degrees...and you’re wearing all those heavy clothes.

That’s right, the temperature that was comfortable in summer, wearing shorts and t-shirt is far too cold in winter when you’re bundled up to the max.

Why is this?

How come every summer, I can’t wait for winter, when I’ll be comfortable? But then in winter, when I’m getting out of bed on a frosty morning, I can’t wait for summer to enjoy the heat?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Duck and Cover

Picture the scene. It’s roughly 10pm in the Malone household. Sunny is watching Home and Garden TV (as she likes to do), so I pull out my mp3 player, and start listening to a Billy Connolly stand up show.

Unfortunately, because I decided to ‘save a little cash’ on the bargain bin ‘everything on this shelf for $1’ batteries, my mp3 player’s 20 hour battery life, is more like 4 hours…and these are not fresh batteries.

So an hour in, the damn thing dies. The shuttle forward ‘feature’ on this thing is only about 3 speed, so I don’t feel like sitting with my finger on the finicky button for 20 minutes to get back the where I was, especially considering the slightest vibration (like, say, a heartbeat) causes the button to ‘click’ again, taking you to the next track.

So I saunter over to the old computer, and start perusing the blogs (Good one today, Kato). My muse was on holiday, so no post ideas were forthcoming.

Now, not wanting to disturb my sweetie, I plug in the headphones, and head over to Break.com, a nice collection of videos of Darwin Award Wannabe’s hurting themselves.

About 20 minutes later, I’m halfway through watching a video about a guy who thinks it’s a great idea to drink a flaming sambuka without putting it out first. He sets his face on fire, throws the rest of the drink, setting the table, and a few other people on fire. There are screams, there is swearing.

My ears are filled with four word tirades. The video stops….however, the swearfest doesn’t.

Then I realize that Sunny has taken it upon herself to start vacuuming, not an easy prospect in our weirdly proportioned house. You just get started, and the cord pings out of the wall, the cat starts a game of hit-and-run, you’re required to move every single stick of furniture. Not a fun or easy task.

Sunny’s pissed…and one thought enters my mind:

“I’m going to pay for this before the night’s out.”

Now, to all the women out there, the solution would be simple. If I did the housework, there wouldn’t be a problem. Well, this is true, but there are problems.

You see, Sunny is used to being independent and living on her own. She has her own way of doing things. It’s not that she goes psycho if I put the knives in the drawer where the spoons go, but lets say if I make the bed, she ‘Does a Monica’, and will re-make it before she’ll sleep in it. My way of doing things is incompatible with Sunny’s. Therefore, I just don’t see much point in doing something if she’s going to re-do it later. She somehow gets madder re-doing something I’ve already done, than just doing the thing herself.

Also, Sunny is a Mother (and that deserves the Capital letter). This means that her dirt-radar gene turned on. For example, I vacuumed the entire house at 11pm last night. I thought the carpet was spick and span. Not according to Sunny.

On the other hand, I went straight from the nest to my marital home.  Let me explain why this matters:

When it comes to mess tolerance (10 being ultra messy, and 1 being freakishly ‘Aunt Petunia’ clean), I’m about a 6, Sunny’s a 5, and my Mother is a minus 3.

I was 16 before I realized that the kitchen sink didn’t automatically clean the dishes for you. All I knew was I put my dishes in there, and an hour or so later, I’d walk past and they’d be washed, dried and put away.

I once bought a magazine, put it on the arm of the chair, went upstairs to use the bathroom, and came back down to find my magazine missing. It was in the trash. My Mum said “It was left lying around, so I didn’t think anyone wanted it.”

My mother has been known to pull out the vacuum cleaner in the middle of a house-party, just because she spotted a dustbunny under the coffee table. That’s right, Mum, it’s okay to start vacuuming your guests, after all, if the news got out about the microscopic dustbunny under the table, people would talk!

That’s the house I lived in. A mess in my Mum’s house has the life expectancy of Adolf Hitler at a Black Gay Jewish Bodybuilder Psychopaths With Anger Management Issues Convention and Gun Rally. (Speaking of which, check out the local BGJBPWAMIGR Convention in your area, they’re a hoot!)

In short, here’s the problem:

I’m used to having all my cleaning done for me. Sunny is used to living alone, and not having someone else mess the place up. However, the worst thing is her mess tolerance is slightly lower than mine. Basically, when I think things will need cleaning in a day or so, Sunny needs them done now.

So you can imagine the pickle I was in. Sunny is doing housework, is pissed and is swearing. I’m at my usual place in front of the computer, watching dumbasses hurt themselves.

Again, you’d think the solution would be simple. Get up off my ass, and help her clean.

Nope.

You see, when Sunny is swearing, interrupting her in any way, even if it’s to offer help, is like waking a sleepwalker.

In fact, scratch that. It’s like putting your manhood in a hungry lion’s mouth, while whipping its testicles with a wet towel, calling it a pussy, and saying you’ve slept with it’s wife…and she was crap.

Kinda like:

“Here sweetie, let me take over.” (reaches for vacuum)

“Leave me alone.” (Said in the same tone as the ‘Get Out.” From The Amityville Horror).

“Sweetie, go sit and calm down, I’ll finish. It’s no trouble, hones…”

“ROAWWWRR ROWARRRRAWWWWW (Scratch, Rip, Tear, Splash)”

“It’s ok, sweetie, I’m sure that arm will grow back, and I’ve heard kidneys are quite cheap on the black market these days. I’ll be fine, honestly.”

So here’s the situation. Do I:

  1. Do nothing, guaranteeing I’ll get it in the neck for just sitting here while she sweats over the housework?

  2. Offer to help, thereby risking the possible loss of an arm, and risk incurring an unholy wrath that would soon be the stuff of legend?

Actually, the answer is neither. In this situation, I usually find a different task to do in another room, meaning I’m still ‘helping’ but keeping at least one wall of safety between me and the Bugblatter Beast of Trall that has temporarily possessed my wife.

Unfortunately, even that wasn’t possible today. You see, Sunny had found a few old pewter Christmas candlesticks for me to polish with my Dremel this afternoon, and while I did that, she cleaned the rest of the house.

This left me with option D. The dreaded option I never want to take. This consists of the following.

  1. Grab the cat, and lock myself in the bathroom, with a hurried mumble about having a bad stomach (From something I ate outside the home, and definitely not something Sunny cooked)

  2. Curl up into the fetal position and sob like a little girl for a while.

  3. Wait until the swearing stops.

  4. Wait about 10 minutes longer, in case of an ambush.

  5. Crack the door, throw out the cat, and slam the door shut again.

  6. Wait for the cat’s return. If it still as at least three of it’s legs, 60% of it’s tail, and only a slight limp, it’s safe to come out…but only if I have chocolate.

  7. If I don’t have chocolate, I simply attempt to flush myself down the toilet, and begin a new life at sea, under the assumed name “Sal McDirmuid”.

Oh, one little addition. If the swearing is accompanied by frenzied screaming, lots of stamping and the mention of my name in ANY context, the chocolate can only be administered safely with the use of a high-powered slingshot and a hunting scope.

However, the storm now appears to have passed, although this is no guarantee of safety. My wife is now like a vial of nitro-glycerine. The slightest tremor, the slightest mis-spoken word and everything goes splat.

Or as Igor would put it, the mob would hit the windmill.

It’s especially scary (like right now) when directly after the housework, when she’s sat down and relaxed a little, she lapses into “Incredibly Good Mood” mode. She’ll laugh manically at stuff that is only mildly funny.

The best way I can describe this is accidentally falling into a tiger cage, watching the tiger approach you with a hungry look in it’s eyes… then offering you a coffee and asking if you need another cushion to sit on.

IE, everything seems cool, but you know that it shouldn’t be happening, and wondering where the catch comes in, or when the trap is going to be sprung.

If I don’t post in the next few days, friends…Avenge my Death.