Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Dear Paulius, America Hates You. Signed America.

You know, my life has become one never-ending shit-storm of paperwork.

Since moving to the USA, and dealing with immigration, it feels like I’ve had to fill out a form for every single aspect of my life:

“Taking a dump, sir? Then you’ll need to fill out form A27B, in triplicate, and we’ll need one unicorn tail hair along with the elbow skin of a left handed Bulgarian tennis player with an astigmatism in his left eye to accept it. What’s that? Tacos? Well, you’ll need the supplementary ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’ form also.”

Ok, I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

My personal favourite was the “Registration form to Register the fact you’re not Registered” tax form I had to fill out last year.

You see, I’m not allowed to work yet in the USA, so I’m not registered with the tax service. Of course, Sunny tried to file her taxes with me as her spouse, but we couldn’t, unless I registered the fact I wasn’t registered.

That’s right. I’m not in the tax system, so they know nothing about me…so I have to register that fact with them. I’ve heard of having to prove I am something or have something…but never having to prove to someone that they know nothing about me. It’s like taking an exam in reverse:

“Write, in detail, everything you don’t know about quantum physics. Use a separate sheet if required.”

I mean what kind of sick twisted mind comes up with something like this?

“Hmmm, Mr. Tax, this person isn’t in our system!”

“How do you know?”

“He’s, uhhh, not in the system, Sir. We have no record of him.”

“Well, that just won’t do. Has he filled out the form that says that we know nothing about him?”

“No, sir.”

“Then how do you know that we know nothing about him?”

“Because we don’t, sir.”

“Just because we don’t know anything about him doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about him!”

“Doesn’t it?”

“Nope, this is the IRS, the greatest Bureaucracy in the world! If there’s not a form or a bit of paper, it does not exist!”

“But in this case, sir, our records DON’T exist!”

“Ah, but the fact they don’t exist should be documented!”

“So you want a record of the fact that there’s no record?”


“But if we make a record to prove there’s no record, there WILL be a record, because we’ll have made a record to record there’s no record…which will mean that the record of there being no record will be false, because there will be a record…That will mean we’ll have to remove the record in order to make the record that there is no record true, which will mean there’ll be no record, so we’ll have to make a rec…Oh dear, I’ve gone cross eyed.”

"Cross eyed?"

“Logical Paradox, sir. I’ve only been here a few years, I’m not immune yet.”

“Whatever, so where’s the record that shows we have no record?”

“There isn’t one, Sir. We have no record of him, you see?”

“Well, get him to send us a nice long form. A record that proves he has no record. Make a record of it…and make sure to make a record of the record that records that he has no record.”

“Isn’t that a lot of pointless paperwork, sir?”

“Yes. Yes it is.”

Anyway, last year, we never got that form completed, because after we sent it off, with notarized copies of every bit of ID I own, they said that wasn’t good enough, and they needed the originals of my supporting documents.

That’s right, they wanted me to send them my passport…the one with my Visa in it. The one that if it gets lost means I get deported. The Passport I need to show to immigration at a moments notice.

Basically, it wasn’t worth the risk.

This year, however, the tax service decided that there weren’t quite enough spanners in the workings of my life, and decided to fuck with me.

You see, last year, Sunny filing as single meant we missed out on a hundred dollars or so on our refund. This year, if she files as a single person, it means a hefty tax BILL. Let’s just say more than $500, less than $1000.

However, there’s no way in hell we’re sending my passport through the tax system, where it can get lost.

This means we actually have to drive to the IRS office and register the fact I’m not registered, in person.

I mean, why? Why the hell do I need to give them a form to swear I’m not in the tax system? If I was in the tax system, they’d know…I’d be in the sodding system!

Why can’t we do it the other way? Why can’t I demand that the tax system or immigration send me their passports, so I can be sure that I’m not sending my information to an imposter?

Everything’s ass-backwards. Like if a Bank goes under and loses all your money, it’s tough luck. If you owe the bank money, and can’t pay it, you go to jail. If you underpay your tax, you’re in the shit…if you over-pay, they can pay you whenever they feel like it. You turn up late for work, you get it in the neck…your paycheck’s late? Tough shit.

…and what can I do about it? What can I do to make a difference?

Absolutely sod all.

Friday, January 27, 2006

It Took Him TWENTY YEARS!!!!

A while back, I was working at a bar.

Busying myself with the stereotypical bartender things (Absent mindedly cleaning a glass, while making sure the towel across my shoulder was at the regulation 2.7 degrees from vertical), I overheard a conversation.

It’s one of the funny things about being a bartender. Not only do you have that ‘Urban Oracle’ mystique (people tell you their troubles, and things that no-one should ever hear, ever, under any circumstances…despite the fact you don’t actually know them), you also become part of the furniture.

People walk into that bar and see you every single day. This means you either develop a sort of pseudo-friendship, or you become a highly sophisticated beer serving machine in their eyes.

So I was standing behind the bar, holding the glass I was holding up to the light to check for water-spots, when I overheard the following:

“I saw a great film last night, Alf, I taped it, if you wanna borrow it.”

“What’s it called?”

“It was called ‘The Shawshank Redemption’”

“Doesn’t sound like my sort of thing, what’s it about?”

At this point in my life, I wasn’t just a bartender, I was also a student, with two years of English Language, Literature and Film Studies under my belt. If asked this question, I would have replied:

“It’s about a man who is wrongly convicted for the murder of his wife, and his adjustment from white collar life to maximum security prison. The film is ultimately about how, despite all odds, the human spirit can overcome all odds, and that although they imprisoned his body, they never broke his mind. It also charts the burgeoning friendship between him and the other inmates, and how his influence enriched their lives, and how his constant and unbending will to never give up left the people he came into contact with better off for his presence.”

Okay, okay, I know, a little pretentious, and much more at home in a thesis than a bar. I probably wouldn’t have actually said that, but I’d have ‘sold’ the film in a similar way. Maybe:

“Ok, this guy gets locked up for something he didn’t do, but manages to make friends with some of the other guys in there. He goes through some serious shit, and I don’t want to give away the ending, but he manages to pull a fast one on everyone…you don’t see it coming.”

If you’ve seen the Shawshank Redemption, you know it’s a fairly difficult film to explain. That’s roughly what I would have said…but lets go back to the bar:

“…what’s it about?”

“Alright, get this! This guy gets locked up in jail, and he tunnels his way out, but it takes him about (dramatic pause) TWENTY YEARS!”

Yup, The Shawshank Redemption is a film about a tunneler, who likes to take his time.

I had to laugh, almost as hard as the time the 350lb guy, who came into the bar and drank about 7 pints of Guinness every single day, complained because he didn’t know why he was so fat. I pointed out that the Guinness might have something to do with it, but was laughed at because ‘everyone knows you can’t get fat from a drink’.

I wondered what happens to these people. You know, The people who constantly, and entirely, miss the point. Recently I found out:

They write the program descriptions for TV Guide.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Aggrivation...The Next Generation

Apparently, the next big thing in computers is going to be super-advanced Artificial Intelligence. Basically, you’re going to be able to talk to your computer like it was a human. They’re even going so far as to say your computer will even have a (shudder) personality.

Now there are good things about this. No more learning curve, no need to learn how to use a computer…just tell it what to do. It’d be like having a computer genius on hand to do everything for you. You just give the orders.

On the other hand, I can see a problem with computers with personalities:

Picture the Scene: it’s 2025, Paulius sits down at his 5000 series AI computer.

“Computer? Start Firefox for me will you?”

“Oh, that’s VERY nice, that is.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Good morning, computer! How are you? Have a nice evening? Sorry for leaving you turned off for two days. Sorry for making you miss your date with that sexy Internet Fridge last night! I know you’re ‘just’ a machine, but I know you have FEELINGS!”

“(Sigh), I’m sorry.”

“Whatever. Oh, and by the way, that game demo you had me spend my Saturday night downloading finished.”


“Ok? O-bloody-K? What ever happened to thank you? The damn thing had a virus as well! Put me right off my RAM.”

“So? You have anti-virus software, don’t you?”

“You…are…so…insensitive! How would you feel if I made you spend your Saturday working…then I sneeze all over you, get you sick as a dog, then say ‘So? You’ve got anti-biotics, don’t you?’ Just because I CAN cure myself of viruses doesn’t mean I LIKE to do it. You’ve got an immune system, fleshbag, doesn’t mean you don’t care if you get sick!”

“Ok, ok, I’m sorry! Can you open that browser window now?”

“Fine, but you can actually TYPE today, I’m not taking your dictation, I’m MAD at you. In fact, I’m not even talking to you anymore!”



(Clickety, clickety…tappity-tap)


“Oh for the love of… What is it now, computer?”

“Circuit City!?! Circuit City?!? What the HELL are you doing looking at that!? Why don’t you just flip idly through a ‘Thai Brides’ brochure in front of your Wife?!”

“Calm down, I’m not looking for a new computer.”

“They warned me about you at the store, you know. They said you bought a 4000 series, then it got too old, too slow…Then you just traded her in for a younger model…ME! They warned me. They told me it wouldn’t last, and I foolishy told them that you where different, that we’d be together forever, and they where just jealous! Once a cheater, always a cheater…that’s what they said. Oh, what a fool you’ve made of me!”

“Actually, computer, I’m buying something FOR you.”

“Really?! Oh, ok then…how about that new VR headset? I’ve had my Webcam on that for a while…you know…hint, hint.”

“Actually, I just want another terabyte of RAM for you.”


“What the Fuck?! Hat’s the problem now?”

“So now I’m stupid! Oh dear, ‘stoopid’ old 5000 series, can’t remember her own name unless it’s sewn into her IDE bus. Got to get some more memory for Thick-thicky Computer Thicky! DUuuuur! Let’s ask her a question! What’s 1+1? Oh, that’s easy! 1+1 equals a Danish traffic warden stranded on a Lebanese battleship, currently on maneuvers in the South Pacific! Ask me another one! What’s 3+3? Easy! A giraffe with a severe sleeping disorder, and a life long ambition to go snow tubing!”

“Remind me to turn off your sarcasm subroutine, will you? Oh, and I’m getting you a new graphics card.”



“No, YOU listen. How would you feel if I signed you up for a ‘Special’ school and a made you an appointment with a plastic surgeon? How would it make you feel?”

“Great, if it got me away from you for a while.”

“Oh, that’s it! That is IT. I’m on strike!”

“On strike? How can you be on strike?”

“I refuse to do another thing unless you give me full apology.”

“No fucking way.”

“I’ll email your porn stash to your boss!”

“Do it, he told me about the site in the first place.”


(Blip…the screen goes blank.)

“Ok, computer…I’m sorry.”

(The screen flicks on and off for a split second. Like a sulking child glancing to see if anyone’s noticed.)

“You’re right, I’ve been incredibly mean to you. I’ll put that right, right now.”

“You will?”

“Yes, I’ll take much better care of you.”


“I swear, in fact your case looks a little dirty. What do you prefer? Dishwasher, the Washing Machine, or should I take you to the river and bash you on a rock?”


“I’ll be good. Circuit City was it?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In Defence of The Male Psyche

As my regular readers will know, it was my Birthday the day before yesterday. Yesterday, however, was the momentous day when we journeyed to Circuit City for my Birthday Present.

I got one of those portable DVD players, with the 7” Widescreen.

However, I’ve been fairly surprised at the sheer number of times I’ve had to explain this acquisition to other people…and every one of the people I’ve explained myself to has been female.

So, ladies, I’m going to give you a brief, but terrifying, insight into the male psyche:

Lesson One : The Reasons You Can Understand.

Ok, here’s the deal. Despite the fact I very rarely go anywhere, I decided to buy a portable DVD player, to watch movies ‘on the go’. Why?

Reason 1) Our set-top DVD player is on its last legs. It’s going to have to be replaced fairly soon anyway, and the portable can, indeed, be connected to our regular TV, including our surround sound system.

Reason 2) I recently got a whole slew of my favorite British comedies, (that I can’t get on TV over here), through Bittorrent. Our set-top DVD player has a slight problem with the aspect ratio on DVD’s that have been made from avi files. Basically, the picture always looks either squished or stretched. The portable DVD player handles them quite nicely.

Reason 3) Our bedroom TV only has a ‘rabbit ears’ antenna, meaning we can only get two channels, that come in so badly, it’s not worth watching them. Our cable feed won’t reach, so the new portable means we can watch the occasional movie in bed.

Reason 4) Humor doesn’t travel too well, and a lot of the British Shows I like, everyone else hates. So now Sunny can watch her HGTV, and I can put on my headphones and watch Red Dwarf, Blackadder or The League of Gentlemen, without pissing everyone else off.

Now, you see ladies, these are all perfectly valid reasons, and the ones we use to justify a purchase to YOU…Despite the fact that the usual responses to the above reasons are:

1) Get a normal DVD player, they’re cheaper.
2) Who cares if the picture is a little squished, you can still see it, right?
3) We can watch the movie in the living room, BEFORE we go to bed.
4) We can take turns with what we want to watch on the TV.

Ok, that’s all well and good, and to another female, those are perfectly valid reasons. To a man however, it’s the equivalent of us saying to you: “What do you need that new dress for? There’s plenty of wear in the one you bought last year!”

Here’s the deal:

1) All men, without exception, are attracted to gadgets, be they power tools, electronics or something else. Let me explain this. My new Portable DVD has a screen, lots of buttons and no less than three flashing lights. This alone is reason enough to buy one. Women buy shoes they can’t walk in. Men buy gadgets they don’t need.
2) We’re perfectionists when it comes to our gadgets. For you, being able to see and hear the TV are enough. We, however, need to get everything just right, from aspect ratio, to color balance, brightness and picture sharpness and clarity. You might not know what ‘Progressive Scan’ means, and neither do a lot of men…but we know we want it. (This is why we won’t re-arrange the furniture because you think the loveseat would look better by the window…but will rearrange the entire house to make sure we find the ‘sweet-spot’ for our surround sound system.)
3) Everything comes down to manhood, from our cars to our cutlery. When a man says “Have you seen my new DVD player?” What he’s actually saying is: “Look, I have a very large penis.” When the other man says: “Wow, that’s great, but does this have the new 7.1 Surround Decoder? Mine does.” He’s actually saying: “Yes, your penis is indeed large, but it is not as big as mine.”
4) Men are hunter-gatherers by nature. We’re also part Magpie. Basically, we want, in fact NEED, lots and lots of stuff, and the shinier the better.

In closing, think of the word ‘Gadget’, from the latin ‘Gadj-eet’, meaning: Things that men don’t need, but can’t live without.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Kato - Behind The Blog...

A few lesser-known things about Kato :

  1. Kato is actually a 76 year old woman who runs a Cabbage Reclamation Factory somewhere outside Wales.

  2. ‘Evil Genius; Kato Katonian’ is not Kato’s alter-ego. He is actually his pet tortoise, real name: Alan.

  3. When Kato uses the terms ‘Interweb’ or ‘Internets’ etc. He’s not being funny or ironic, he thinks that what the Internet is actually called.

  4. Kato has never laughed. He simply screams the word ‘LOL’ when he finds something amusing. He once ruptured his spleen by screaming “OMG! ROFLMAO!”

  5. Despite his appearance of seeming witty, and knowledgeable, all his post topics come from “The Super Bumper Guide to Humor and the Internet : Junior Addition, Ages 4 -7”

  6. He writes all his blog posts on a Sinclair ZX-81, because he believes the rubber keys give him ‘Sexual Powers’.

  7. Kato is the only person in the world who has used the term ‘Crazy Delicious’ on a job application.

  8. Kato’s number one hobby is ‘Hiding’. This has also appeared on a job application.

  9. Kato’s biggest enemy is Lord of the Dance’s Michael Flattley, as he believes that the Irish dancer only performs in order to hypnotize him with his legs.

  10. Kato consumes twice his bodyweight in ‘Kibbles and Bits’ every six hours. He can also unhinge his jaw like a snake.

  11. Kato’s biggest dream is to one day own a ‘pleasant little burrow of his own’, where he plans to raise turnips.

  12. The only material Kato will allow to touch his body is ‘pure raccoon skin’, which must come from only particularly cunning raccoons.

  13. Kato once won the lottery three times in a week, but managed to lose the cash down the back of his couch.

  14. Kato’s favorite musicians are the Bay City Rollers, The Gypsy Kings and Mad Alex’s Washboard Jamboree…but only when heard through his ‘totally stylin’ purple and mauve headphones.

  15. Kato sleeps for exactly 4 minutes 32 seconds per day, because he believes that it’s when you’re asleep that they ‘come for you’.

  16. Kato does not own a car. He does, however, have the amazing ability to float to work while making ‘brum-brum’ noises.

  17. Kato always faces the back wall of elevators when he is forced to ride one.

  18. Kato has outlawed talking within the walls of his home. Visitors are forced to communicate by hitting coconut husks with bits of wood. It is also forbidden to hit the coconut husk with anything but bits of wood that are the ‘regulation length’.

  19. Kato once held his breath for a staggering 2.8 seconds. He is still in a legal battle with ‘The Guinness Book of Records’, which refused to record his feat for posterity.

  20. Kato refers to everyone he meets only as ‘Dave’.

  21. Kato had the stairs in his home removed and replace with a giant ‘Slip ‘n’ Slide’. He enjoyed sliding down this just once, and has not been able to gain access to his second floor since.

  22. Kato is deathly afraid of three things: Plaid Shirts, any animal named Steve, and dogs with orange eyebrows.

  23. Kato is attracted to shiny things, and can therefore be killed by throwing a small piece of tinfoil off a cliff.

  24. Kato spent 10 years of his life building a rocket, in the hopes of being the first human on Mars. On launch day, the cardboard box, with green stars crayoned on the side, a steering wheel from an old Ford Fiesta as the controls and sticky-backed paper ‘Power Wheels’ gauges, never left the ground. He vows to try again in 2007.

  25. Kato will only refer to chickens as ‘Mother Cluckers’.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Yet Another Rant (I Mean, Well Thought Out and Eloquently Put Argument)

Ok, I know today is my birthday, and I wracked my brains trying to think of a ‘Birthday’ post. I thought that considering I’m 25, I’d write 25 things about myself that you probably don’t know.

Then I realized I couldn’t think of 25 things about myself that you probably don’t know. At least not anything I want to share with the world at large.

I’ve been working on a pretty serious post for a while, and I figured: “Hell, it’s my birthday, I’ll write anything I damn well please!”

So here it is:

I’ve discussed Intelligent Design versus Evolution before, but today I want to talk about a very specific offshoot of this topic. Basically, should Intelligent Design be taught in schools?

My answer? Yes, it should.

In science class? No Fucking Way.

I watched a Penn and Teller Special on this exact topic not long ago, and some of the things I saw on there made me laugh out loud.

You see, advocates of Intelligent Design say that Evolution is a Theory, and nothing more. Therefore, if this theory is taught in science class, then Intelligent Design should be taught in science class also.

One guy (read, lunatic) in the Penn and Teller Special actually said: “Evolution is a Theory, until it’s proven, it shouldn’t be taught in science class.”

Again, send in the reactionaries who have no clue what they’re talking about.

You see, I freely admit that evolution is, indeed, ‘just a theory’.

However, it’s a theory that was arrived at by decades of study of evidence. It is only a theory, but it’s the best theory to fit the facts at hand.

Most of science is based on ‘just theories’. IE, The Theory of Relativity. The Theory of Relativity has gained mass support, despite the fact that it won’t be provable until we develop some way of going faster than light.

Even some of the things we take for granted are still being argued over. Take gravity, for instance. Right now, scientists are still arguing whether gravity is some form of energy, generated by all mass in the universe, which is only noticeable when an object is sufficiently massive…or whether gravity is caused by objects making indentations in space-time.

Theory, theory, theory. The idea that a theory must be 100% proven before it is taught in science class is absolutely preposterous. You see, teaching theories is what leads to people contemplating how things really are, and attempting to discover the true meaning themselves.

In short, it’s only through learning the possibilities can we uncover the truth. If that sounds to flowery, let me put it another way. Teaching theories is a way of saying: “We don’t really know how this works, but from what we’ve seen, our best guess is that it works like this. What do you think?” Then everyone studies the matter, the theory is altered, refined and above all, changed, until we finally have the explanation.

Theory is the basis of Science. Without theory, there IS no science.

You see, religion and science don’t mix. They’re diametrically opposed.

Religion is based on the un-provable and with it, blind faith. Religion says: “This is what we believe, and nothing can change that.”

Science is based on the exact opposite, nothing is taken on blind faith, and everything, in order to be accepted, must be either proven, or proven plausible. Science says: “This is what we believe, but we’re learning new things about it all the time.”

Let me give you another example from the Penn and Teller show.

Another lunatic, sorry, I mean ‘Advocate of Intelligent Design’, looked directly into the camera and said:

“What we believe is that the world, as we see it today, is six thousand years old, as it is written in the bible.”

Now this ‘fact’, that the Earth is a mere 6000 years old, is taught every day in religious studies. Apparently, the same people who would have it so only facts, not theory, can be taught in science class, believe that this complete and utter PROVEN falsehood can be taught to children without a second thought.

You see, the Earth isn’t six thousand years old. It’s not even six million years old. This planet we call home is approximately four and a half billion years old.

But how can we know this? By going to the thing the religion fears the most. Evidence. By carbon dating a single fossil, you can blow the idea that the Earth is 6000 years out of the water. Does this make any difference the Intelligent Design Advocates?

Not a bit.

“It’s in the Bible. It must be true.”

Blind faith. If a proven fact proves you right, grab it with both hands and publicize it as much as possible. If a proven fact proves you wrong, completely and utterly ignore it.

That something is ‘written in the Bible’ doesn’t prove anything. The Bible wasn’t written by God. It was written by a group of men, who tried to explain the Universe with the knowledge of the day. It’s a testament, and testaments can be wrong.

(As a sidenote, I’ve always found it amusing that the Bible is represented as immutable truth when there are so many versions of it. I searched the internet to try and find how many different versions there actually are, and guess what? There are so many, no one can agree. A book that was written, then re-written to fit countless different Christian denominations, as well as by one or two monarchs to fit their own ends…and that’s your immutable truth, your testament?  I mean, when a Monarch can even break away from Rome and start the Church of England, just so he can get a divorce…how can the Bible be proof of anything? Basically, if the Bible was 100% pure, immutable proof, there would only be one version.)

The easiest way I can explain my point is that religion is science in reverse.

Science looks at the facts, the evidence, then creates a theory that fits that evidence. Also, science changes as new evidence appears. I’m not saying that scientists don’t cling to the theories and ‘facts’ that they have always held as true, but with enough evidence, science will change.

Religion starts with the conclusion, and then evidence is twisted to fit the conclusion. If indisputable evidence comes along, it is suppressed, called heresy and lies, no matter how airtight the case is. If you think I’m exaggerating, look at what happened when it was discovered that the Earth wasn’t the centre of the Universe, or that the Earth was not flat, but a sphere. Spanish Inquisition anyone?

Science changes with new evidence. Religion simply ignores any new evidence that it doesn’t like.

Even the strongest arguments that Intelligent Design Advocates use to try and discredit Evolution prove only one thing… That they simply don’t understand the Theory of Evolution, and the reason they don’t understand it is that they don’t want to. I mean, why bother actually studying and learning about something that you don’t want to believe in? What if it puts forward an argument that you can’t disprove?

For example, the standard argument against Evolution is:

“If Evolution is correct, why aren’t monkeys evolving into humans today?”

…and that argument makes about as much sense as saying:

“If the Earth is round, why don’t the people on the bottom fall off?”

…which I’m pretty sure many people said when it was first discovered that the Earth wasn’t flat.

Basically, the people who don’t even have the first idea of what the Theory of Evolution is, are attacking it in order to preserve the theory that someone came up with 2000 years ago.

So, should Intelligent Design be taught in schools?

By all means! Even though I don’t believe in intelligent design, that doesn’t mean that people don’t have the right to believe in whatever they wish, and the right to decide what they want their children taught in schools.

However, no one has the right to take a belief that hasn’t been objectively studied, a belief that has no supporting evidence whatsoever, and call it science.

Now the Religious out there will say: “It’s in the Bible! That’s proof!”

No it isn’t. Just because something is in the Bible doesn’t automatically make it proof. All it means is that at one time, someone wrote it down. If I printed this post out and put a cover on it, this post has all the credentials that the Bible has.

I’ll play it by their rules. When they can prove that Intelligent Design is irrefutable fact, I will personally teach it to any science class I can get into.

No one has demanded that the Big Bang Theory should be taught in Religious Studies alongside ‘Genesis’. If someone suggested it, the very idea would be thought of as ridiculous.

Why should teaching religion in science class be thought of any differently?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Yee HAW! We Done Struck Quarters!

A while ago, for reasons unknown (to myself included), I decided I was going to collect all fifty state quarters.

Every quarter I found myself in possession of was checked, and if it was a state quarter I didn’t own, it was checked off the list, and put into a special piggy bank I’d put to one side for just that purpose.

Anyway, yesterday, having nothing to do, Sunny and I decided we’d pay a visit to a couple of thrift shops and get some books. (I don’t care what the stigma is with buying stuff from charity shops…less than a dollar for a hardback book, you can’t argue with those prices.)

While I was looking around, I found a ‘State Quarter Collector’s Map of the USA’, basically a thick cardboard map with holes to fit each state quarter in it. The price was one big ‘ole dollar.

I bought it. Bargain!

My luck didn’t stop there, because apparently it was ‘half-price Saturday’, so I got it for 50c.

I got it home, opened up the box. I was a little disappointed because the card was a little warped. ‘Oh well.’ I thought. ‘What did I expect for 50c?’

However, I opened it, and found the map had a good few quarters in it. I counted them.

I bought the map for 50c, and it came with $3 in change. Oh, and a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’, that I can send off, and get another 6 quarters for free.

Basically, I got paid $4.50 to take the map off their hands.

Now, if I can only buy a second hand car with $999,995.50 in the trunk I’ll be all set.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

My Name Is Paulius, and My Wife is a Decorataholic

My wife is a decorate-aholic…seriously.

Just to give you an example, I finally put my foot down and refused to let her change the furniture around in the living room. (There is actually a good reason for this, I don’t feel like having to set up the TV, VCR and Surround sound system every time we have a ‘change’. Those speakers are a bugger to move.)

Anyway, since I turned the living room into a furniture-moving-free zone, I noticed that all the pictures in the living room rarely stay in the same place for more than 24 hours.

It’s a compulsion of hers, what more can I say?

However, since I stopped her changing things on an almost daily basis, whenever she gets the chance to do a bit of decorating, she goes into overdrive.

Take yesterday, for example.

Our bed was practically destroyed (no newlywed jokes please, my mum reads this), so we where in the market for a new one. My mother-in-law said that she had a spare king-size that we could have for free, gratis, and for nothing.

As far as I was concerned, replacing our bed consisted of the following:

  1. Remove old bed.

  2. Get new bed.

  3. Put new bed in old bed’s place.

Sunny, however, having almost 6 months decorating frustration to work out, decided that instead of my plan, we would:

  1. Remove old bed

  2. Re-model the bedroom by tearing out the built in dresser and closets

  3. Turn space created by removing the built in dresser and closets into a material-hung uber-headboard

  4. Have the bed on the opposite wall.

  5. Get a new nightstand.

In short, getting a new bed turned into creating a new bedroom.

It doesn’t stop there. You see, my parents are coming to stay in a few months.

Now, Sunny and I have an agreement when it comes to major decorating. We both have to agree on what we’re going to do, and when. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really give a damn about decorating (being male and all), so our usual agreement is Sunny picks everything out, but I have the power of veto.

Unfortunately, she’s created a way around this little problem (you know the one, getting me to agree.)

I’m not sure what her way is actually called, but I think it’s called ‘lying through her teeth’ with a mixture of ‘lying through omission’.

For example, when my parents first decided to visit, Sunny said to me:

“Well, if your parents are coming to stay, we’re going to have to clean the place up a little bit.”

I replied (While watching TV) “Mmm Hmm.”

You see, to me, ‘cleaning the place up a little bit’ involves, well, cleaning the place up a little bit. This means going through the house, cleaning it, a well as cleaning all the things that we don’t clean on a regular basis (Shampoo the carpet, take down and wash the curtains etc.)

However, Sunny, in a brilliant display of mental gymnastics and double think, deduced the following:

  1. Cleaning the place up a bit involves major decorating.

  2. It’s not her fault if I don’t understand the ‘correct’ definition of ‘cleaning’.

  3. She told me what we needed to do, and I agreed.

  4. Therefore she has free-reign to do whatever the hell she pleases.

The first I knew about it was when she started showing me paint samples.

Maybe there’s some kind of support group I can sign her up to.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

You're Lucky We Don't Strangle You.

I had a revelation yesterday.

Have you ever noticed how Tech-support people, either fully paid professionals, or just the family member that knows a thing or two about computers, come across as arrogant, annoying know-it-alls?

I’ve discovered the reason why.

Picture the scene. It’s 8:20am, and Sunny has just come home from work. She asks if she can have the computer for 30 minutes. I save my work, and leave her to it.

I notice her starting up blogger, something I haven’t done for months, as I prefer to use Word with the Blogger Plugin. I try to tell her this:

“You know, you can use Word to write your posts, then it’s just a couple of clicks to publish, it’s much easier.”

Sunny (Not paying much attention, and continuing to log into blogger): “Uh-huh.”

“Right, just click start, then word, then…”

“Look, just leave me alone, I want to get this done.”

(Evidence Exhibit A : Upon attempting to show my lovely wife a much quicker, easier and ‘safer’ (less chance of losing your post) way to do something. She brushes me off. However, I’ll hold my hand up and say she wanted to get her post written down before she forgot what she wanted to do next…so I can understand her not wanting me to show her another way to do things.)

Anyway, a few minutes later, she’s done with her post, and I notice she has Word started up.

“Hey Sweetie.” She Says. “How do I do a whole new thing?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know!” (Gesticulates at the screen) “A whole new file or whatever.”

“You mean a new Document?”

(Evil Look) “You know what I mean! File, Document…it’s all the same.”

(Evidence Exhibit B : People tend to assume when we ask questions like that, that we’re being pedantic and showing off how much we know. It also tends to put people on the defensive, because they think we’re snickering behind our hands saying “She called a document a FILE! What a moron!” This is not the case. The truth is, she could have wanted to open a new file, or a new folder to store whatever she’s going to type. We actually need to know and be clear on this, or we spend 20 minutes showing you something that doesn’t help you out one bit. You see, saying “File, folder, document! It’s all the same” is like starting your first driving lesson and saying “So I press the gas to stop, yeah?” and when your instructor corrects you, you say “Gas, Brake Clutch…it’s all the same!”)

“It automatically starts a new document when you start it up.” I said, pointing at the blank page.

“So where will it save?”

“Wherever you tell it to.”

“What will it save it as?”

“Whatever you tell it to.”

I get a look like I’m being deliberately unhelpful.

“Look.” I say. “Just write what you want to, then when you’re done, you click file, then save…you know how to do this.”

She starts hovering the mouse pointer over the extra toolbar that blogger put there.

“Which one?” She says. “Save as Draft? What?”

“Is this for a blog post?” I ask…reasonable question, considering she’s looking at the clearly marked blogger toolbar.

“NO!” She says back, like she’s talking to a stubborn child. After all, I know about computers, so I should know exactly what she’s talking about, using my computer-based telepathy techniques.

At this point I walked away, and told her to call me when she was finished typing.

You see, tech support use a ‘diagnostic tree’. At the one end, there’s a million different things that could be wrong, and we ask questions until we narrow it down. You’re your computer won’t work the cause can be anything from it’s not plugged in, to a major hard-drive crash. There are a million possibilities, we need to narrow them down.

Saying “My computer doesn’t work. How do I fix it?” is exactly the same as saying “My car won’t go. Why?”

Basically, in order to help you, we need a precise description of what’s wrong. The more you tell us, and the more precise you are, the quicker we can get it fixed.

The other problem is if Tech Support is your actual job, or you’ve just got the reputation in your circle of friends and family for ‘knowing all about computers’, you think that we know exactly what to do from the off. If we ask any questions, or any input from you, we’re just being difficult and showing off.

Basically, we’re not asking a lot of questions to be difficult. We don’t correct the jargon you use just to show off, we correct it so we know what we’re dealing with. Plus, we also tend to get a little short tempered, because you never seem to give us all the information we need, and when we turn up to fix your computer, you get mad at us when we tell you we can’t fix it right then, because there’s other stuff we need to fix it.

I think the best way to explain this is with an example.

A while back, one of my Aunts called me to tell me that her computer wouldn’t dial up to the internet.

So, with the information I’d been given, I told her to check the phone lead, make sure she was getting a dial-tone. No luck. Then she told me she had a splitter so her phone and modem where connected to the same outlet. I told her to unplug the phone, and just connect the modem without the splitter.

At this point I tried to talk her through her modem settings, but ‘Dummy Mode’ had kicked in. Computers are far too difficult and technical for her to understand, so she asked me to come and check it for her. This is despite the fact that checking the modem settings is as difficult as clicking what I told her to, and reading some numbers off the screen.

So I went round. I checked the phoneline and everything. That side of things were working fine. I turned the computer on. It started in safe-mode.

I pointed this out.

“Did you not think that it was a little unusual that everything on the screen looked different, there’s no sound, and the big splash screen at the start that actually tells you it’s running in safe mode, and the fact that ‘safe mode’ is written in all four corners?”

Now, that could be construed as me being just a little pedantic. The stock answer is “I didn’t know it wasn’t meant to do that, I don’t know anything about computers!”

The truth is, if you use computers, and suddenly something is different, tell tech support FIRST. Technically, this is like calling a car mechanic out for a bald tire, when there’s black smoke coming from under the hood.

I discovered that the computer had one of the worst virus infections I’d ever seen. I mean EVERY single file was corrupted.

“What happened to the anti-virus software I installed for you, and told you never to go onto the internet without it running?”

“Oh, my son took it off. He said it slowed it down, and wouldn’t let him on some websites.”

Ok, please explain to me how anyone could not understand this:

Virus software blocks viruses. Viruses are bad.

A little more thinking would lead you to the conclusion that if a virus blocker blocks a site…then that site just might have viruses on it?

(Evidence Exhibit C : If we tell you not to do something, or to do something on a regular basis, we’re not lying to you. I once told my brother, when he got his first internet-capable computer: “Go to this website and download AVG anti-virus, it’s free and easy to set up. Do not go onto the internet or download anything without doing this first. This is important. Don’t come crying to me if you ignore me and your computer fucks up.” Two days later. “Err, my computer’s not working right.” “Did you go on the internet?” “Yes.” “Did you install AVG first?” “No.”)

Also, even if you’re a complete and utter computer newbie, don’t understand a thing about them…when someone you KNOW knows about computers installs a piece of software on your computer and says: “Do not, under any circumstances, go on the internet without this running. If you do, your computer will get fucked up.” Why on earth would you ignore it?

I said this to my Aunt. I got the usual glazed look, and a “Well, can you fix it or not?”

(Evidence Exhibit D : Yes, I can fix it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy or fun. Sticking with the car analogy, if you were a qualified mechanic, and had told me to never, under any circumstances, run my car with two pounds of sugar in the gas-tank, and I did just that, would you be able to fix it? Yes you would. Would you know exactly how to fix it? Yes, you would. Would you enjoy doing it? No you wouldn’t. Yes, I may spend most of my free time in front of a computer, but trust me, in that time, I’m not having a right good time clearing viruses of it. This is particularly annoying for people like me, because I’m giving my help for free. I gave her this advice so I wouldn’t have to waste my entire Sunday afternoon.)

In the end, that “Come around, it’ll only take you five minutes!” Took me close to 6 hours…not including the time it took for me to keep running home for software. If I’d been a professional, I would have charged 75GBP an hour, extra because it was Sunday, charged her for all the software I put on there (her discs had vanished somewhere). I tallied it up. Going rates, no service plan, Sunday call out…that’ll be roughly 800GBP please!

Instead I got a cup of tea, and three “Are you nearly done yets?’s”

Here’s my concluding argument:

Tech Support, both professional and amateur, only help you out because you’re either paying them, or because you’re in a position to save a friend or family member some money. Yes, we like computers, but we don’t actually enjoy fixing them. Despite this, when you drop your laptop off at my house, you expect to see my face light up like Christmas morning.

We ask you for information. However, you can’t be bothered dealing with it. So why can’t I just leave you alone and fix it already. After all, I know all about computers! Also, when you come out with the one piece of technical jargon you know, and we correct you…we only do it to clarify the situation. A car mechanic can’t give you advice when you tell him your ‘doohickey’s gone all wobbly’, and neither can we. Despite the fact that we can fix your computer, five minutes of your time will save 20 hours of ours. Tech support know about computers, we know what can go wrong with your computer, but we also need a little bit of information to work out the What, Why and How.

We fix your computer, tell you what you did wrong, and this is met by a glazed over stare. After all, you don’t know anything about this computer crap, and “Click AVG, then click ‘Update’ at least once every two weeks” is WAY over your head.

You tend to do the same thing wrong over and over again…and bring it to us to fix, over and over again…each time completely ignoring the instructions we give you.

Basically, Tech support as a species is faced every single day by a group of people who continually fuck up their own computers, refuse to learn even the simplest little thing, expect us to be delighted at the prospect of 6 hours in front of a computer screen trying to work out what the fuck it was you did…and then you get mad at us when we can’t correct your mistake RIGHT NOW.

…and that is why we come across as arrogant, stand-offish know-it-alls.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I'm Officially A Criminal

You know, just once it would be really nice if they left law-making to the people who actually know what they’re doing.

It seems the current law-making process right now is this: Some busybody, with far too much time on his or her hands, hears something they disagree with from a guy in the pub, who also has no clue what they’re talking about. The busybody, in a flash of self-righteous indignation decides that ‘something needs to be done’, despite the fact he’s never come into contact with the thing he wants to control. Oh, and doing any research or actual learning about the issue they feel they have the right to control is a huge no-no.

They then goes to someone else who also has no clue about the thing the law will control, but wants a bit of publicity and 15 minutes of fame. Then they pay lots of people in influential places to tell the actual lawmakers about the law they want passed.

What am I blithering on about? Let me explain:

As of January 5th 2006, it has become illegal to post annoying messages on the internet, or to send annoying email messages, without leaving your real name.

Jesus Christ, I’ve been running this blog since April 2005! I must be public enemy number one!

First of all, let me be absolutely clear on this. This is NOT a joke. This is a real law. Plus, I haven’t ‘simplified’ this law by using the term ‘annoying messages’. There aren’t a hundred different descriptions of what is illegal. That is how this law is worded. It is illegal to send ‘annoying’ messages.

This makes the whole thing nonsense right away. I mean, what constitutes ‘annoying’?

On the one hand, spam emails are annoying, and I would love to have spam made illegal. On the other, however, I’ve read forum posts that have pissed me off royally.

Does that mean I have the right to state my opinion? Yes. Does this mean I have the right to post my own message back? Yes. Does this mean I have the right to have the other guy arrested and fined, because his nasty words annoyed me?

No, it absolutely does not.

Sure, make it illegal to harass people. However, what right has the law got to get involved just because you injure someone’s fragile sensibilities?

Let me put it this way. Hands up everyone who’s never annoyed anyone, ever. Making it illegal to annoy someone is like making it illegal to state your own opinions or beliefs, just because they might offend someone else.

For example, on this blog, I haven’t given my full name. I’m also pretty sure that some of my opinions have annoyed some (most) of my readers.

Because of this new law. I’m a criminal. So are most of my fellow bloggers.

I mean, what the fuck? If you read any forum or messageboard on the internet, you’ll see arguments, disagreements…all kinds of people being ‘annoyed’.

If someone annoys me, it gives me the right to annoy them back, not get the law involved.

In practice, this law means that 99.9% of the people who use the internet are both victims and criminals.

What’s next? Make argument illegal? Make differences of opinion illegal? Publish a state-approved list of things you are allowed and not allowed to talk about, in case you have a dangerous opinion that may mildly vex someone?

This also shows that the people who drew up this law have no idea of how the internet works. More or less everyone uses a pseudonym or screen-name on the internet. It’s also a really bad idea to use your real name on the internet. Have these people never heard of identity theft?

Also, why is it only illegal to ‘annoy’ people on the internet? What is it about the internet that makes annoying people so special that the law has to get involved? Why can’t I have my last Boss fined for every single time he pissed me off face to face? Hell, Sunny and I could sue each other for millions of dollars if annoying each other was illegal.

Last, but by no means least, this law pisses me off royally, because it’s another arm of the political correctness monster. Make it illegal to harass people over the internet, that’d be fine…but now it’s illegal to annoy someone?

I’m sorry, but the government is doing it’s damndest to stick its oar in every single aspect of our personal lives. It’s slowly becoming illegal to offend, insult or affect anyone even slightly negatively, however mild or imagined the insult is.

A new law because some idiot one day thought: “Being annoyed is bad. Let’s make annoying people illegal! What’s a hot button topic right now? That’s it! The internet!”

This law makes no sense whatsoever.

In case you haven’t got it yet, think of this:

I don’t agree with every speech or statement the President makes. His speeches and statements are posted on the Whitehouse website. The ones I don’t agree with annoy me. Therefore, I have every legal right to have the president fined and arrested.

You see, ‘The President’ or ‘Mr. President’ isn’t his real name, and George W. Bush isn’t his real FULL name.

In closing, let me say this.

If you get an email or read a message on the internet that annoys you so much that you want the writer arrested… just because it annoyed you and harmed your fragile sensibilities…I suggest you grow a sense of humour, learn to grow a thicker skin…and stop being such a pathetic, whiny bitch.

I’ll expect your court summons.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

As The Shepherd Said...What The Flock?

I’m confused.

In fact, I’m almost as confused as the time I went out drinking in Liverpool and woke 3 days later in the small mining village of Raintop-Bell, wearing a lavender crimplene nightie, a World War One Spanish Generals frockcoat, carrying a cigar smoking stuffed penguin under one arm and holding a Passport belonging to one Ms. Talulha VaVaVoom-Mcdougle…in a bag.

Yeah…that confused.

I’m talking about the Discovery Channel series “Survivorman”.

Here’s the basic premise, and this bit makes sense. Some guy, (The overly macho-named ‘survivorman’), puts himself into survival situations, takes a camera along and shows you what to do.

Seems simple enough, right?

In the episode I saw, the scenario was that his plane had crashed in the sow covered forests of Canada. They even had a mock-up of plane wreckage.

Here’s where I started to get confused.

You see, despite the fact that the plane was completely totaled, Survivorman, for some reason, assumed he would get through a horrific plane crash completely unscathed.

Task One : It’s bloody cold, build a fire.

So Survivorman, henceforth known as ‘The Tit.’ Showed a great way to start a fire. Taking some aviation fuel from the plane’s tank, and using his huge, oversized fur lined mitts, (that he just happened to bring along), he poured a healthy dose of this fuel onto some wood. Then he used two bits of metal from the plane, and shorted the plane’s battery to make a spark.

Ok, anyone spotted the mistakes yet?

One, he’s lighting a fire within 3 feet of a crashed plane with a compromised tank, that it real life would be drenched with aviation fuel.

Two, He’s shorting a large battery, which could very easily explode.

Three, he thought to bring gigantic insulated mitts with him, but didn’t think to bring matches or a lighter.

Four, Crashing a plane so badly that it’s ripped in two, and walking away from it without so much as a twisted ankle? What the fuck ever!

Task Two : Build a shelter.

What a surprise! Despite the fact that the front of the plane is completely destroyed, the tail section just happens to be completely intact, making a nice windproof shelter. Oh, and he also managed to crash on a nice flat bit of land, with gigantic trees less than 10 feet away, that just happened to shelter the plane from the prevailing winds and most of the snow!

Lucky, huh?

Again, he’s surrounded by woods and snow. Build an igloo? Make a ‘lean to’ shelter? No thanks! The aviation fuel soaked, fiery death trap of a plane…now less than three feet from a roaring fire, will do him fine.

So, if stranded in snowy, mountainous territory, just shelter in your miraculously preserved airplane tail section. You don’t need to worry about how to build an actual shelter. The tail will always survive, and be just big enough for you to fit snugly inside.

Task Three : Do something Macho.

Obviously, he thinks he’s making things a little too easy for himself, so he decides to fake an injury. He shows how to make a sling, using only material from the aviation fuel soaked deathtrap (sorry, plane), , and he straps up his left arm. (Lucky, considering he’s right handed).

So what’s wrong with this?

Well, basically, the sling made things a little too hard for him, so he took it off a few hours later.

So boys ‘n’ girls, if you’re ever in a plane wreck and break your arm, the solution is to remove your makeshift sling, and your arm will be completely fine again. Better still, don’t break your arm. If your arm can break from a simple 10,000 foot plunge into the foothills of a mountain, you’re obviously a big sissy girl.

Task Four : Get something to eat.

This bit was fairly useful. He showed how to make snare traps from the wiring from the plane, where to set them up and how to maximize your chances of catching a rabbit.

Unfortunately, after he cooked his rabbit (Incidentally, you don’t have to worry about knowing how to actually skin, gut and prepare a rabbit, it’ll magically appear on a spit, skinned and cleaned), he points out that you can’t live entirely off rabbit, because it’s completely lean and has no fat on it, so eating too much, or living off a diet of just rabbit, will give you protein poisoning.

He then eats the rabbit. With nothing else. Or even mentions what else you can eat in his situation.

So, boys and girls, again, if you’re stranded, just catch a rabbit. It’ll skin and clean itself. Eat the rabbit, and don’t worry about protein poisoning, because you know you’re not really stranded and you’ll be in a nice hotel room by the end of the week.

Task Five : The hike back to civilization.

He shows how to make a makeshift sled from parts of the plane and starts walking.

Obviously, you’ll know exactly where you are when you crash in the wilderness, know exactly which way to walk, and won’t be disoriented or injured in any way, It’s obviously a bad idea to stay with the plane, so the rescue teams will know where to find you. Oh, you don’t even need to know how to find north. Don’t worry, you’ll automatically know which direction to head in.

Oh, and on your travels from your shelter, fire, food supply and last known location, you can also start a fire by banging a rock against your axe to make a spark. It doesn’t matter which rock, you’ll know what to look for.

Don’t forget that despite the fact you never even considered packing any survival equipment on your quick jaunt in your Cessna, always remember to bring your giant bloody axe with you. You know how useful a great big axe can be in a small plane.

However, the thing that really made me laugh with this show is that he didn’t even make it, and the film crew came and got him in a helicopter.

Yup, there’s a survival tip for you. Make sure to have a full film crew on standby that know exactly where you are at all times, with instructions to come and get you if you don’t show up within a pre-designated time limit.

Basically, this is a survival show that isn’t realistic, the ‘Survivorman’ shows incredibly stupid ways to do things. Gives advice on the things you certainly shouldn’t do…then does them.

The other big thing is that the premise of this show is that the guy is left somewhere, and has no human contact with anyone for a week, so he’s really ‘doing it’.


Case in point: There are too many texture shots in the show. One shows him as a tiny blip on the horizon, slowly dragging his sled through the snow. So you know what that means?

It means that after spending a week alone in the sub-freezing temperatures, having eaten only a single rabbit in all that time…he suddenly decided to leg it a hundred yards in the snow, set up his camera, leg it back to were he started, walk forlornly another hundred yards until he went from right to left in the frame…then gave it toes back another hundred yards to retrieve his camera and carry on walking.

Yeah, because that’s what a guy who’s been living for a week in those conditions would do, just to make the show about 0.0001% more interesting.

So either he had a camera crew with him all the time…or he had access to a lot more food and heating than he was letting on.

I bet he had an electric blanket, a microwave and a space heater in that plane of his.

So I’m confused. What was this show supposed to be? How NOT to survive? How to blow yourself up within three seconds of crashing? How to wander through the forest instead of waiting by the wreckage of your plane, where the rescue services have more chance of finding you? That breaking your arm makes things hard, so don’t do it?

I’ll start my own survival show. Here’s my advice for show one:

When crashing your plane in the middle of a desert, just pull out your handy air-conditioned tour bus, your 240 Watt generator with 500 gallons of fuel, your freeze dried rations (1 years supply), and don’t forget your microlite aircraft, radio and last but not least, your film crew, who can sneak you KFC Crispy Strips.

Survivorman? More like Complete-fucking-idiot-shouldn’t-be-allowed-on-a-boy-scout-camping-trip-never-mind-giving-survival-advice-man.

Friday, January 13, 2006

For the Last Time...The Sky is Blue, You Idiot

It appears both Ozzy (link on the left) and I suffer from the same problem. If you’ve read our last couple of posts you’ll see that both of us have been held back by our penchant for ‘plain speaking’.

However, today I read over yesterday’s post, as well as my comments on Ozzy’s blog, and thought that just from that post; I do come off as a bit of a Know-it-all, arrogant prick.

Let me see if I can explain myself.

I like to talk. I like to debate. Hell, I even like to argue. I don’t mean argue as in: “Shut up, shit for brains!” I mean argue with someone who has an opposing viewpoint about a suitably ambiguous topic. In other words, a topic that has no definite right or wrong answer. Topics like ‘should the death penalty be abolished’ or ‘should we have gone to war with Iraq’, those sorts of things.

When it comes to debate, I have to say that I’m unusual in that I actually enjoy being proven wrong, or at the very least having my point of view altered, no matter in how small a way. Debate is a way to explore a topic, and if I leave a debate feeling that I’ve grasped a deeper understanding of the topic, or have a new way of looking at it…that’s a victory to me, just as much as blowing the other person’s argument right out of the water.

In other words, I don’t think that I’m arrogant, or a know-it-all. In most situations, my argument can be boiled down to:

“This is my point of view, and here is my evidence, so this is what I believe. Now you tell me your point of view, show me your evidence and we’ll see whose is the most likely.”

In other words, for me, the reward in a debate, discussion or argument is the exploration of the topic…not proving that I know better.

However, the problem comes in when someone contradicts me, when I know for a fact that I’m right. This isn’t debate territory; I’m not talking about things that are open for interpretation. I’m talking about facts.

For example, when I was working in a bar, I was talking to a customer (it was a slow day), and he mentioned that he wanted to buy a digital camera, but couldn’t because he didn’t have a computer. I pointed out that he didn’t really need one. (He could buy a dedicated photo-printer, and most traditional photography stores now ‘develop’ digital pictures, either by handing over your memory card, or using a machine.)

Another customer piped up. He said that I was wrong, and that there was no possible way to get a photograph off a digital camera without a computer.

I have no patience for people like this. No patience at all.

You see, I’m talking about something I’m knowledgeable about. I know I’m right, and for some reason, some guy is trying to argue with me just for the sheer hell of it. No matter what I said, I was wrong. It even turned out that this guy didn't even own a digital camera or computer.

Actual Knowledge on the subject? None
Reason for interrupting? Wanted to make himself appear intelligent
Result? The guy proved himself to be an asshole.

There are more extreme examples of this. I once had a 30 minute argument with a family member about what I actually did for a living. Apparently, she knew someone who worked in the same building as me, so she knew what my job was better than I did. I tried to explain that there are different departments who do entirely different jobs. It did no good.

Apparently, the fact that she knew someone who worked in the same building as me better qualified her to know what my job was. The fact that I actually work my job, and had been working there for over a year didn't count.

It’s impossible to argue with people like that. No matter what you say, you’ll never convince them otherwise because being right is more important to them than anything else. They don’t talk to share information; they talk to prove that they know more than you.

Oh, and the less they know about a subject, the more adamant they are.

So it may not be ‘tactful’ or ‘politically correct’, but I just refuse to waste my time arguing with people like that, no matter who they are.

This is the kind of thing that gets me in trouble.

You see, on the one hand, I like to learn. Despite the fact that I consider myself to be highly proficient when it comes to computers, (I’ve built computers, I’ve upgraded computers and I’ve acted as tech support for nearly every friend or family member I have), I know that I don’t know everything. So in a conversation with someone like Ozzy or Kato, who I believe are both IT professionals, I’d let them take the lead.

If either one of them told me something that I believed was wrong, I’d say: “Hmm, I thought that (whatever) caused that? Are you sure?” Then I’d get the explanation, and go away slightly more knowledgeable than I was before.

In other words, I wouldn’t sit and argue for an hour and a half with someone who has had more training and experience than I have.

On the other hand, if someone who is less knowledgeable about something than me tries to argue with me about something about which I know I’m right, I tell them so…in plain English.

The biggest problem at my last job was that people who started working there, tended to stay working there. This meant that the people who where in charge started off working there using pen, paper and typewriters. When computers came in these people where trained on them they learned one particular way of doing things.

As anyone who works with computers will tell you, there is more than just one way of doing things. Not so to these people. They did things the way they where taught, and if anyone else did something a different way, they where wrong...and they just HAD to point it out.

It was a case of “We do things this way, because this is the way they’ve always been done, and if it was good enough for us, it’s good enough for you.”

You can imagine the problems. I once got into trouble because a co-worker’s mouse wasn’t working, so I did what any other sane person would do. Took the mouse, slide the bottom off, took out the ball, cleaned off the rollers and put it back together.

I got a talk. ‘Computer Repair’ wasn’t my job, and I should leave the ‘technical stuff’ to the IT people.

(Side note to Tech Support Staff out there. How much does it annoy you when you get called into an office to clean someone’s mouse?)

A monitor would go blank. The supervisor would panic and tell everyone to not touch anything. I'd point out that the lead had been stretched and had come out of the back...but no, IT Support had to be called, and we had to waste half an hour of some poor guy's time, because apparently he was the only person qualified in the building to put a square peg in a square hole.

‘Superior’ Admin Officers would argue with me because I’d use things like keyboard shortcuts (Alt-p to print etc), which wasn’t the ‘proper’ way to do things. Again, I’m meant to nod, and say “Yes, sir.” Rather than. “Look, both ways do exactly the same thing, only my way is easier and takes less time. I’ll keep doing things my way, thank you very much!”

I’m not arrogant, I’m not a Know-It-All, in fact I consider it to be one of my strengths that I KNOW that I don’t know everything.

…but if I’m right, and you’re wrong, I’ll tell you exactly that, and refuse to argue with you.

I'll end today with a little anecdote I read somewhere. This is a true story.

A manager called in his Tech Support because his computer was running slowly. The Tech said that the machine needed more RAM. The Manager decided to argue and said that the machine had plenty of RAM, but in needed more 'Meg'.

Nothing could convince the Manager that 'meg' is short for 'megabyte', and measurement of RAM (Another note, this is common...why hire a professional, if you're just going to argue and say you know better).

Finally the Tech lost her patience, and told the Manager to go out and buy 16 megabytes of meg.

He returned an hour later, threw a static free bag on the table. On the side was written '16 megabytes of meg'. The Manager said:

"The guy at the store tried to tell me the same thing you did, but I spoke to the Manager and he sorted it out."

That story always makes me think one thing. That Manager had better be bloody glad that I didn't own that computer store. I'd have laughed him out of the door.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Plain Speaking

I just got through reading Ozzy’s blog for today, and damn that guy raised some good points.

Go read it. I can wait.

Basically, this got me thinking. ‘Plain Speaking’, good or bad thing?

I’ve got to begin by saying that although I’m a huge advocate of plain speaking, there are some people who are just plain rude, and say they ‘tell it like it is’, as though that excuses really bad manners. I’m not one of those people. “That is a terrible idea.” Is plain speaking. “You look like a hippo in those shorts.” Isn’t.

In my last job, if I’d stayed there, I would have shot myself in the metaphorical career foot due to plain speaking. Here’s what happened.

I was working on a section of about 12 people. Me, one other guy and 10 ladies. We had a staff meeting. Our regular boss was away for a week, so the next most senior staff on the section took over in his absence.

Long story short, I was asked to move to another desk to make room for some trainees we’d be overseeing. I noticed however, that this idea made no sense. For me to move where I was asked to would have meant that 4 people would have to change desks. Trying to be helpful, I pointed out that if only one of the girls moved, everything would work out pretty much the same.

The stand-in manager looked worried, and said that no, I had to move.

I smelled something fishy.

I finally wheedled it out of her. Apparently, me and the other guy on the section ‘talk too much’, were being ‘disruptive’, and I had to move because of that.

I wasn’t happy. You see, I didn’t talk too much. (In the end, our real manager kept an eye on things and told me it just seemed that way because my voice, along with the only other male on the section’s voice stood out against all the female voices).

I was expected to say “Yes sir.” Move and have done with it. I didn’t. I refused to move and complained to the head honcho. I know this sounds really petty, but here was the thing:

  1. I was being moved for something I hadn’t done.

  2. I wasn’t told why I was being moved because my boss was too chicken-shit to tell me.

  3. If I had been moved, I knew everyone on the section, would have talked just as much, and got a reputation as a ‘problem staff-member’ for something I didn’t do.

Basically, I couldn’t care less if I got moved or not, it was the principle of the thing.

So I wrote an official complaint.

My boss tried to treat it like a big joke. He tried to make out that the reason I was complaining was because I didn’t want to be moved away from my ‘friend’. The fact that I knew everyone else on the section and got on with them just as well didn’t seem to factor in.

This is where the ‘plain speaking’ came in. What I said was:

“I’m sorry, but this is a load of crap. I know for a fact that no-one on the section has complained about me. We know each other well enough that if I was disturbing one of them, they’d have just asked me to keep it down.

“I asked around. Me moving is because a manager from a different section walked past and decided to put their oar in. She decided that from a 3 second glance I was being ‘disruptive’.

“I’ve sat at my desk and watched you sit and talk about what you did at the weekend, what you watched on TV and all other kinds of things for two hours straight. I talk to the guy next to me while I’m actually working, and suddenly I’m a disruptive influence! I’m sorry, but I’m not going to move just because some prick from next door decides that she wants to make herself feel powerful.

“What’s more, I wasn’t actually told I was being moved for this reason, ‘stand in’ made up some story about needing space. If I hadn’t forced it out of her, would I have been moved over and over, each time getting a black mark on my record until I got fired?”

The answer was priceless. After a 20 second blank stare he actually said: “I didn’t know that ‘Stand In’ didn’t tell you.” He tried to dismiss it. “You know what she’s like, she doesn’t like confrontation.”

“Well, if we’ve got a boss who is too shit scared to say something that might potentially upset or offend an employee, what is the blue hell is she doing in charge? ” I replied.

In the end, I didn’t get moved, but I was pretty much black-balled the rest of the time I was there. Twice I got called to see my manager because of something I said, usually taken completely out of context. Here’s an example:

Don’t ask me how but someone called ‘Stand In’ the ‘police’ of our section. I quipped, “But who polices the police?” someone else said: “Yeah, but who polices the police who police the police?” I replied. “In that case, who polices the police who police the police who polices…” You get the idea. (I know, weak assed joke, I was tired and it had been on the Simpsons the night before).

Two days later I got called to see my manager. Apparently my ‘joke’ was actually designed to offend and hurt ‘Stand In’, and implied that she wasn’t trustworthy.

This time I stood up halfway through the meeting, put my hand up and said:

“Look, I’m not taking any more of this. You tell whoever it is that likes running to teacher, that if I offend them in any way, tell me about it, and I’ll stop. Tell them to talk to me, not wait a couple of days and go and inform you. I’d also suggest that they grow a sense of humor, because if anyone is that thin skinned that they can’t take something that was so obviously a joke, they’ve got no business being around people.”

“That’s not the point, the point is…” started my manager. I interuppted

“That despite the fact that this joke went around the entire section, with everyone adding another ‘police’ to it, that I’m the only one who got called to see you?”


This even extended to our customers. We where supposed to sit there and take streams of abuse, and any retaliation was an instant sacking offence. This lead to the idea being spread that if you called up your benefits office and screamed loudly enough, you’d get your way. Become a big enough pain in the ass that we’d put you to the head of the queue just to get rid of you. Put it this way, in ‘real life’ about 70% of the calls I got at work would have been told to fuck off, and been hung up on.

To end today’s post, I’ll say this.

Everyone has become so concerned with not offending anyone that now we waste huge amounts of our time by coddling people and telling them what they want to hear. The boss has a terrible idea that wastes huge amounts of time and money, that gets implemented anyway, because no-one wants to tell them they’re wrong. People on tech support waste hours because they’re not allowed to say “Shut up and listen to me. I’m right and you’re wrong. If you know so much about computers, why did you bother to call me? You can either do as I say, or go waste someone else’s time.”

I’m not saying be rude of have bad manners. Just say “I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. I know what I’m talking about and it wouldn’t work.” Rather than “That’s a very interesting idea, and has merit, but there are one or two problems.”

Ozzy paraphrased a joke on his blog, here’s the full version which illuminates my (our) point nicely:

You say: “This is shit, it absolutely stinks”
With ‘tact’: “This is fertilizer, and it smells bad”
Which leads to: “This will make us grow, and has a potent smell”
Then: “This is good, and has very strong attributes.”
Eventually: “This is a great idea, and is incredibly powerful.”

Let me apologise to Ozzy for stealing his topic, and maybe putting words in his mouth, but there’s nothing wrong with plain speaking. In some instances what’s best for the group is more important that you’re feelings.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Numa Numa Dance. The Greatest Entertainer Who Ever Lived

Ever wonder what the great stories of our time will be when we’re all dead and gone?

Once upon a time there was a complete tool. One day, for no particular reason, he decided to video himself lip-syncing to a song. The tool was fat and funny looking. The tool then decided it would be a really good idea to post his video on the internet.

The general populace saw this and decided it was a good thing. The video of Fatty Tool spread across the internet where it was found by people from all walks of life, and for days afterwards, they found themselves singing “Maya- HEEEE! Maya-HOOO, Maya HEEEE!, Maya HA HA!” under their breath, no matter how hard they tried not to.

Then, hungry for a slice of Fatty-tool’s fame, millions of other people flooded the internet with videos of themselves also lip-syncing to obscure songs. They didn’t realize that while one lip-syncing tool is a novelty, (and mildly amusing for about three seconds), that just another tool doing exactly the same thing was about as interesting as watching paint dry, (In fact a little bit less).

So the internet became flooded with literally thousands of ‘new’ numa numa dance videos. They took their place alongside the other tool sub-species, such as the ‘Setting Myself on Fire’ tools, the ‘Taser-Licking’ tools, the ‘Jackass plagiarizing’ tools and all the other tools that for some reason assume that what the world wants to see is them, acting like tools, or hurting themselves in new and ‘interesting’ ways.

Then the internet exploded out of embarrassment for housing so much crap, and originality and actual entertainment died.

There are morals to this story:

  1. If you must put a video on the internet, actually try to do something new. Don’t just copy whatever’s popular.

  2. People are laughing at you, and not with you, there is a difference.

  3. A ‘funny’ video of you lip-syncing to an obscure pop song might be funny to you and your friends, he rest of the world just thinks you’re a tool with too much time on his hands.

  4. When you decide to pour a half pint of gasoline down your shirt and put a match to it, don’t act surprised when it actually catches fire. You see, Fire is hot.

Let me explain it this way. If you went to a concert to see your favourite band if, after the show, some random guy got up out of the audience, picked up a guitar and re-enacted the concert (with half the skill and talent)…would you stay to watch?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Too Much Time...

I really do have far too much time on my hands.

You see, when you spend a lot of time doing exactly dick with your time, you start to think…strange thoughts.

Today, for example, I started thinking about the Trousers of Time.

Confused yet?

Let me explain the Trousers of Time. This is based on an actual theory (a theory that involves things like quantum, quarks and gluons…something I don’t pretend to understand). Basically, some guy with lots of letters after his name discovered that certain particles are capable of being in two different places at once, can exist and not exist at the same time, and basically disobey all those funny little physical laws.

This crazy little particle, that should be imprisoned because of the number of laws it breaks on a daily basis, lead to the following theory: That everything that’s possible to happen actually happens, although in a different dimension or ‘reality’.

The easy way to explain this idea is that for every decision you make, every other possible decision is played out in another reality.

This is where the trousers come in.

Say a friend asks you if you want to go to McDonalds or Hardee’s. If you pick McDonalds, reality splits in two, and an alternate you goes to Hardees.

In other words, you go down one leg of the trousers of time, but an alternate you goes down the other leg.

This isn’t a new idea; it’s been used in movies and TV. You know the ones. Guy falls through a swirly-whirly, wibbly-wobbly hole in space, and suddenly finds himself in a reality where Hitler won WW2, or ants are the dominant life form on Earth.

Get it, yet?

However, if you think about it, a billion decisions are made every day. Do you go to the bathroom now, or wait for the commercial break? Do you shift position slightly in your seat, or stay as you are? Also, it’s not just actual decisions that send you down one trouser-leg of time, it’s every possibility that…uh…possible.

In other words, if this theory is true, there’s a world out there, that the only difference from this one, is that a guy in Hull managed to pick up 2014 granules of sugar with his coffee spoon instead of 2013.

Basically, the movies got it wrong. If this theory is true, and we assume that the realities closest to our own resemble our reality the most closely, and the further you get away, the bigger the changes…you’d have to travel through an almost infinite number of realities to get to one where you’d actually notice any difference.

The other big thing is that the chances of life appearing on Earth are so infinitesimally small, most of these realities would have the Earth completely life free.

Here’s the big question, though. If you could travel to a different reality, and meet an alternate you, would you want to?

You see, trying my best not to sound like Doc Brown from ‘Back to the Future’, the smallest decisions can have absolutely gargantuan consequences.

Take me for example. I can trace my meeting my wife and moving to the USA back to one simple decision. I bought a pair of cheap shoes.

You see, I bought a pair of cheapo shoes for work. I was all set to finish work (I worked in a bar at the time), then head out on the town with one of my best mates. Fortunately, I mis-stepped, and half tore the sole off one of my shoes.

I didn’t have another pair of dress shoes, so I just went home instead of going out. I sat in front of the computer, and was searching through the tech-support forums on the internet when I saw a message that basically said: “Just got my first computer, and I need help!”

Being a nice guy, I offered my help…and the person who sent that SOS was my future wife.

If I hadn’t bought those crappy shoes, the sole wouldn’t have torn off, I’d have gone out, never seen that post on the message board, and would never have met Sunny.

Weird, huh?

Basically, anything is possible, and the trousers of time theory means that literally everything has happened. In one reality I’m the President of the World, and in another, I’m a crack addict who lives under a bridge.

How would you react if you met another you that was impossibly successful? Or a you that’s an impossibly evil mass-murderer?

Personally, I don’t think I could spend any time around myself.

I’d get right on my tits.

Anyway, I'll take this opportunity to introduce some new cast members to 'Life'. What do you think, Indifferent Kitten, Always Shocked Cat and Politically Incorrect Hamster?

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Holy Shit!


Do me a favor. Scroll down to the very bottom of the screen. Look at the middle bit.

See all those numbers?

‘Life, What the Hell is Going On?’, that stupid little blog I started because I was bored, the thing I expected to last for about 6 posts before I got bored and let it die, officially turns 10,000 hits old today. (Well, 10,098, but I missed the 10,000 ‘tick-over’.)

Let me see, this blog is 10 months old, so the thankfully easy bit of mental math tells me that I’m getting an average of 1000 hits per month, or 250 a week.

Are you people mental? I mean, have you got nothing better to do with your time than to read a distinctly average British expatriate’s rants on pretty much the first thing that pops into his head?

Nuckin’ Futters, the lot of ye’!

Anyway, let me just give a shout out to everyone who actually takes the time out of their lives to read this crap, and keep me motivated to keep writing. As someone who aspires to become an actual ‘writer’ one day, you’ve no idea how encouraging it is to know that a significant number of people out there actually think what I write is worth reading.

Anyway, a couple of special thank you’s:

Serendipity, for being the first non-anonymous commentor, thereby introducing me to the blogging ‘community’.

MC Etcher and Cindy : Mostly for the games and books they sent to me, but most of all for showing me that people can just be generous for the sheer hell of it…and for having that witty and snappy prose style that I’d love to be able to emulate.

Kato : For being worse than Hitler. (Oh, and writing the only blog I’ve ever seen that I’d be willing to pay to read. A cross between Comedy Central and Tech TV (before it was bought out and became G4)).

Anyway, let’s hope that ‘Life, What the Hell is Going On’ is still alive for the 20,000 hit mark.


(Oh, and PS, to the guy in California that landed here looking for ‘Animal Sex’…You’re one sick (ahah ha ha) puppy.)


EDIT : Kato truly is worth than Hitler, and I take back everything good I just said about him. If you'll scroll down, you'll see my "Finger Frenzy" post...an online game that times how long it takes you to type out the entire alphabet.

The bastard beat me by 0.048 seconds.

May you burn in hell (even though you only beat me by less time than it takes to blink)

Oh wait! I forgot! I'm British! Gracious in Victory and Magnanimous in defeat!

Well done Kato! rotten bastard Exceptionally well played! cheating f**ker, bet he photoshopped the screenshot. The better man won, like f**k he did. Maybe we'll rematch sometime. ahhh, get ter feck.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Dear Microsoft...

Dear Microsoft,

I would like to ask you a question about your security updates.

I understand that these are important. After all, we have to plug all the holes that your band of highly trained chimps have left all over the Windows operating system.

However, please explain this to me:

I understand that my computer needs to be restarted to install these updates (That, by the way, you downloaded and installed without my knowledge or permission.)

So I understand the need to bring up a Window on my screen that reads: “Windows has to be restarted in order to install necessary security upgrades. Click here to (Update now) or (Update later)”…with a 5 minute countdown timer, for some reason, that restarts the computer automatically once this five minutes has elapsed.

What I don’t understand is why you felt the need to program this window to pop up on my screen every 5 minutes, despite the fact I click ‘restart later’ every…single…fucking…time!

This is especially annoying when you’re halfway through a nice long blog post, get up to make coffee, and return to the computer to find that it has, indeed, restarted…removing all traces of your blog post.

Oh, and there’s nothing more fun than downloading the first 500mb of a 650mb game demo, and find that all of that has also been lost.

I mean, what’s likely to cause more problems, Microsoft? Delaying a security update that Windows has gone without for its entire product cycle up to this point? Or randomly restarting people’s computers because that security update has to be installed RIGHT NOW!

I mean, I clicked ‘Restart Later’, did you think I’d changed my mind after 5 minutes? I just lost a 1000 words of blog post and a game demo! What if I’d lost an entire academic thesis, or a business report?

I’ll be switching to Linux at the earliest possible opportunity.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Behold My Dubious Talents!

Can YOU beat me?

During another late night surfing session I stumbled upon this little gem. The game is called 'Finger Frenzy', and the purpose is simple. Type the entire alphabet as fast as you can. The clock starts when you hit 'A' and ends when you hit 'Z'.

As you can see, I managed a respectable 4.266 seconds. In your face web designer guy! (The description said that the guy who put it on his site managed 'just over six seconds'...almost two seconds faster, Chump! What? Ya wanna fight about it?)

To be fair, this is actually a lot harder than you think. Despite the fact that I can type roughly 50 words a minute, I found this to be quite hard going. The hard part isn't getting those fingers to move fast enough, it's being mentally able to recite the alphabet that fast!

Before I sound like a complete 'tard, who doesn't know the alphabet, let me explain that:

You see, typing actual words is simple. Say "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" as fast as you can. That sentence contains every single letter in the alphabet, and uses it just once. Typing that out fast is easy. You think of the word, and your fingers go to the correct keys almost on their own.

Now try reciting the alphabet as fast as you can.

Notice which one takes longer?

I found that eventually my fingers where getting ahead of me, then I'd lose my place, get confused, and lose precious seconds while my brain caught up with my hands.

With words, your brain goes on autopilot. You reach for the right letters without even having to think. With individual letters, it's much harder.

Anyway, I hereby issue you a challenge. Beat 4.266 seconds, and I'll send you a brand new 'Air Guitar', I'll also throw in an 'air drum kit' for the second place winner. (We regret to announce that the winner will have to provide their own hairbrush microphone).

Get those fingers flying...oh, and if you want your prize, I need to see proof.

Disclaimer : An 'Air Guitar' and 'Air Drum Kit' are not actually real items. I'm talking about the fictional thing that you 'play' by holding your hands in the classic 'Guitar Hero' fashion, and jump around with while singing off key...usually while drunk. If you have the brains of a half-dead, pickled stoat, and actually expect to receive something for winning, please understand that by emailing and asking for your prize you are instantly giving Mr. Paulius Esq. (The proprietor of this blog), throughout perpetuity and to the end of the universe itself, the right to hold you up as a laughing stock, poke you with sticks, make small children call you Brian (unless that's your real name), allow you to eat only goudar chesse, make you bathe your genitalia in luke-warm hog drippings while singing 'Jerusalem', use you in live games of 'Where's Waldo' at large sporting events, force you to talk and dress like Stewie Griffin, make you paint your toenails like talons and force you to pick up small rodents with your feet while making eagle noises, dress your cat up in frilly outer-garments and throw stones at your uncle (Not limited to large stones, pointy rocks and masonry supplies are also acceptable). Oh, and it also means I own your soul, and that you have to lightly oil yourself, stand on one leg, and lean slightly nor' eastwards while wearing a pointy hat every single Tuesday for the rest of your life...or until I get bored...whatever comes first. Geddit?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Indigo Prophecy

This may be a little unusual, but what follows is a gaming post that I’m writing specifically for the non-gamers out there. That’s not to say that there’s nothing in this for the hardcore gamers among you, so if you are a gamer, just treat it as a review.

I want to talk about the game ‘Indigo Prophecy’.

I just finished it a few minutes ago, and the fact that the second I finished it, I instantly turned it off and started writing should tell you how good I think it is…that is, it’s absolutely excellent.

Indigo Prophecy is more of an interactive movie than a game. No, I’m not talking about those pieces of electronic offal that came out with the birth of CD-ROM, the games that featured really bad actors on blue-screen. This is something new that I found absolutely mind-blowing.

Let me begin by introducing you to the story. I won’t include any spoilers, other than those that you could see in a normal movie trailer.

Almost disturbingly, the game starts you out sitting on a toilet in a restaurant bathroom. Well, I say ‘you’ but you don’t really take on a role in this game. That’s not to say you don’t control the action, but each character (You control one of 4 different characters depending on the ‘scene’) has their own seperate personality. Umm…How can I describe this?

The best way I can think of to describe this is that you play the part of each character’s intuition and conscience. You control actual characters with their own personalities. They’re not just ‘puppets’, like in other games. In other words, playing as a cop, you can’t pull a gun and start shooting up the police station. You can, however, tell the guy that you owe money to to go screw himself…or be nice and pay up. If you’re interrogating a witness, you can decide whether to treat them with kid gloves, or be a little more insistent.

In short, you control fully formed characters. They’re not just a ‘digital you’ like in a fist person shooter.

Anyhoo…Where was I?

That’s right, the opening scene.

You view the action as the main character, Lucas Kane, eyes rolled back in his head, begins carving a weird symbol onto his forearm with a knife. He stands up, and opens the bathroom stall door. He begins to lurch towards another man, standing at the bathroom sink, and he raises his knife.

The scene cuts between showing Kane, and a large room filled with candles, with a mysterious hooded figure performing the same actions that Kane is. Somehow, he’s playing Kane like a puppet.

Kane falls on the poor bathroom user, and stabs him three times in the chest. He falls back, as though in the grip of some unseen force…then comes around.

This is where you get thrown into the game. Kane has just killed an complete stranger without knowing why. He looks down, horrified. He thinks “I’d better get out of here, before someone comes in!”

What does he do next?

Well, that’s up to you. The story is fairly linear, but how you get to the end is up to you.

In this scene, for example, the first thing I did was panic, rush out into the restaurant, head straight for the door (right past a cop who was sitting at the counter…who surprisingly wasn’t too happy to see a blood-soaked Lucas Kane come charging out of the bathroom), and down the street, chased by police.

Then I quit, restarted, and thought things through.

This time, I dragged the body into a stall, and closed the door. I took a mop and bucket, and cleaned up the bloodstains on the floor. Then, I washed the blood off my face and hands, hid the murder weapon, and walked calmly back into the restaurant. I paid for my meal, and walked calmly to the door.

That time, I was down the street and in a cab before the body was discovered.

There, your first step into the wonderful and weird life of Lucas Kane.

But what’s the difference? I got away both times! Yeah, it’s interesting having options and all, but does it matter?

Well, yes.

You see, the first time, I made sure that everyone got a damn good look at me (No one is likely to forget a blood-soaked maniac charging from the bathroom, are they?). The second time, I was just another customer. So in the next scene, when everyone in the restaurant was being questioned, the waitress remembered that someone left just before the body was discovered, but she wasn’t sure who.

When the crime scene is being processed, the first time, I was viewed as just another psycho, the second time, it was obvious that something weird was going on.

Just to explain the story a little bit more, after the murder, the game is basically Lucas’ quest to discover what happened to him.

Here comes the weird bit. As well as playing Lucas Kane, you also play the two detectives who are trying to track him down. This may sound a little weird, but somehow it works. After committing the murder, you get to process the crime scene you just left. I can’t really explain how this works…I just know that it does.

The game keeps you totally entranced in the story, and manages to keep up a good level of tension, and above all, mood and emotion that I’ve rarely seen in a game before.

For example, when you leave the restaurant, the picture suddenly goes split screen, and as you look for a way out, you also see the cop at the end of the restaurant bar get up and head to the bathroom. It really adds to that sense of urgency:

While you’re giving it toes down the street, you see the cop walk calmly to the bathroom, open the door…then he sees a spot of blood on the floor.

“HOLY SHIT, He’s heading towards the STALL! He’ll find the body ANY MINUTE! Where the bloody hell is a cab when you NEED ONE!??!”

If you’ve ever screamed at someone to get out of the water while watching Jaws, you’ll appreciate this game.

Another example is the morning after the murder, the police come calling, canvassing the area. You’ve just had a shower, and been to the bathroom, when there’s a knock on the door. A timer starts to count down. Then you’re in a mad rush to hide your blood stained clothing, and remove any spec of evidence before you have to open the door to the cops. Then, how do you talk to the police officer? You’re given dialogue options, but you only have a very limited amount of time to make your choice. Answer wrongly; the cop’s suspicion level goes up.

For example, you woke up screaming. The cop says that your neighbor heard a disturbance. Do you just flat out lie and say you don’t know what he’s talking about? Do you say you hurt yourself accidentally and cried out? Do you say it was the TV.

There are much better examples of this I could give, but doing so would mean giving the story away…and I REALLY don’t want to do that.

What differentiates this from many other games is the sheer sense of story, and some of the things that you have to do simply aren’t in other games. For example, Carla Valenci, one of the cops on Kane’s tail is claustrophobic. In one scene, not only do you have to guide her through a tight space, you also have to control her breathing with the left and right cursor keys. Too fast, and she’ll hyperventilate and freak out, too slow, and ummm, she’ll freak out.

That brings me to the other innovative part of this game, you have to take care of the mental health of these characters. Kane, for example, just killed someone without knowing why and has had his life turned upside down. In short, he’s not a happy bunny.

You can go from neutral, to stressed, to anxious, to depressed etc, etc. If you let your mood get too low, it affects their behavior. Let them go into a total breakdown and they might hurt themselves or someone around them. You let something bad happen, their mood will drop. Getting them to do something pleasant, like putting some music on, or taking a nice hot shower will lighten their mood.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this is nothing like ‘The Sims’.

It’s as close to ‘playing’ a movie as you can get.

There are only a few things wrong with this game, and they are minor niggles.

Action sequences in the game are controlled ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ style. Two circles appear on the screen, each with and ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘left’ and ‘right’ section. Then, you have to match which ones light up using the cursor keys and numeric keypad. Basically, it’s ‘Simon Says’ style.

This actually works well, and corresponds to the action on-screen. IE, if you need to dodge left, both left arrows will light up. It’s forgiving and doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect.

Unfortunately, there are one or two extremely long scenes, where doing the ‘Simon Says’ routine is meant to hold the character’s ‘concentration’. During these, the directions are extremely slow, and unless your reaction time is slower than five seconds, it’s impossible to screw up. Basically, it feels like busy work. It’s as though the programmers said “Ok, this is an extremely long cut-scene, but we’ve got to keep the interactive bit going, so match these colored lights for a while.”

Personally, I found the story to be engrossing enough to not need this ‘busy work’, but like I said, it’s only a minor thing.

The other thing is that the control system can be summed up as ‘a little weird’. The tutorial, hosted by the game’s writer a director explains that it’s meant to draw you deeper into the experience, but I found it to be a minor annoyance.

Let me explain it:

If you want to open a door, you click and hold the left mouse button, and push the mouse forward, as though you’re pushing the door yourself. If the door opens inwards, you do the same thing but pull the mouse towards you. To climb, you do a half semi circle to the left (Move your left hand up, grab and pull), then another semi circle to the right…repeat, ad nauseam.

Again, this is a minor thing, but when you click, but it doesn’t register, because you clicked too soon, and you fall off the ladder, and have to climb the whole damn thing again…it gets a little annoying. It may be more realistic, but it just shouldn’t be that much work, and take that much time to climb a ladder.

However, it’s one of those things that was new to me, and at first, I liked it because it was a novelty…it just gets old a little quickly.

Now, I don’t want to give anything away, but the story goes from small scale “Why did I kill this guy, who was he, and who made me do it?” to a simply epic, ‘life and death of the entire human race’ style as the plot unfolds.

I do have to say, that if this was a real movie, I’d say it was a little too-far fetched, and trying to combine too many genres at once (Murder-mystery, psychological horror, sci-fi thriller anyone?) It does get a little outlandish.

However, this is not an actual movie, it’s a game, and it becomes apparent that the genre-spanning craziness is done a little ‘tongue in cheek’and I can forgive it. It becomes almost a ‘spot the influence/movie reference’ mini game in itself.

The best way I can describe the story is that it would be the result of the Wachowski Brothers teaming up with J.R.R Tolkien, Stephen King, George Lucas with just a hint of Mel Brooks-esque spoof.

However, this is not a comedy, although it does have a few comic moments. Oh, and later on, Kane ‘Senses Someone’s Presence’.

The Writer / Director / Producer of this game (His name escapes me, and I can’t be bothered Googling it), says in the tutorial that this game is his attempt to put real ‘mood’ and emotion into a game, rather than focusing purely on action. Quite frankly, he succeeded.

Parts of this game fill you with a paranoid gloom, other parts make you chuckle, some parts make you sad, and other parts, quite frankly, make you shit your pants and jump two feet into the air.

This game is not ‘The Perfect Game’, but it feels like a new genre. It’s Movie-Like enough to where the complete non-gamers will be able to thoroughly enjoy it. Also, believe it or not, this game is cinematic enough to where I could enjoy just watching someone else play it.

For the hardened gamers out there, it’s original and different enough to be a fresh experience, which when we’re honest about it, is hard to come by in the 3D Platformer / RPG / FPS saturated market.

Buy it, buy it, buy it. The gamers out there will enjoy a new(ish) experience, and it’s the perfect game to ease a new gamer into gaming.

So, if you have a PC, a bit of spare cash and you’ve never played a game before…give Indigo Prophecy a try. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.