Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I just thought of something.

Make a film.

Make it about two gay cowboys.

What do you get? A critically acclaimed ‘masterpiece’ with all kinds of Oscar nominations that won’t be watched by the majority of the male 16-25 demographic.

Now, let’s make another film.

Make it about two gay Cowgirls.

What do you get?

A porn movie.

Sexism? You decide.

Good opportunity for daisy-dukes though.

Vicious Circles

Well, I read the comments to yesterday’s post, and started to write a comment back. Then I realized just how much I wanted to say, so I decided to write a new post about it.

First is MC Etcher’s comment:

I can totally sympathize with the whole qualified to do something (like computers) but having no piece of paper that says so. I guess you could pay to get certified in PC maintenance. Pay someone else to give you a piece of paper... Why not print your own Certification? It's not like anyone is going to contest something like that.

During my first full-time job search just after I graduated, I found that the main attitude of my friends and family was: “You’ve got a degree, you’ll just walk into a job.”

This is from the viewpoint of someone who’s been working for years and years, and got started in their career 20 years ago, when very few people went to University. (In England it’s only really my generation that went to college, before that, University was the domain of the rich).

Unfortunately, (or fortunately) times have changed. With government grants and student loans pretty much anyone can go to University now. The current system in England is that you get a loan through the student loan commission, and then after you graduate, your loan is paid back directly from your paycheck. You pay something like 15% of everything you earn over 11,000.

In short, it’s no longer an advantage to have a degree, it’s become a disadvantage to not have one. The playing field has changed from most people not having degrees, and a select few having one…to a playing field where nearly everyone has a degree, and few people don’t.

In short, the same percentage of people who had degrees ten years ago is now the percentage of people who don’t have degrees.

Because of this, all a basic Bachelors degree will do is get your application looked at.

As to why I don’t want to pay someone to give me a piece of paper, or print my own certification…well, there’s a few reasons.

The first is I simply don’t want to go back to college. Not only can I not afford it, I’ve already spent 6 years of my life in further education. If I was going to get certified in computers, I’d want an actual degree. I’m 25 right now, and I don’t want to be pushing 30 by the time I start my career.

It’s the same reason I didn’t stay on and get my Masters degree. In my old college, you didn’t apply to do your Masters Degree, your Bachelors Degree tutor would ask you if you wanted to continue in their Masters Degree course. My English Literature tutor asked me to stay on and do my Masters Degree, but I turned him down. Another 3 years at college? Then, I don’t see the point of spending that extra time to get a masters, if you’re not going to do your doctorate, which takes another 5 years.

Spending another 8 years in education when you’ve just completed 6 long, stressful years? I don’t think so.

The second, and much bigger point, is I simply can’t afford to go back to college.

As for printing my own, or paying some internet site to send me a certificate, employers have become a lot more savvy in that respect. Too many people are applying for jobs with ‘fake’ degrees from unaccredited universities. Even if I managed to hoodwink an employer and actually got the job, faking a resume (and I mean ‘faking’, not ‘embellishing’) is grounds for instant dismissal, and I don’t want to go into work every day wondering if this is the day I’m going to be found out and sacked.

My only other major point on this is the principle of the thing. While I’m in no way qualified to do a job like OzzyC’s (Either officially or practically), I can do standard maintenance standing on my head. I resent being forced back into college to ‘learn’ something I already know and paying for the privilege. I had enough of that when I was in college when I did Information Technology, and I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but I knew more about actual computers than my tutor did. Sure, he knew his way around excel, but I was the one who opened up his computer when his display went dead and seated his graphics card properly.

Now for ‘The Girl’s comment, that really highlights the other big problem I have:

…Are you opposed to admin work? If not, sign up with temp agencies. With a degree in English, you could probably substitute teach or be a teachers assistant. Check at the local community college for their job board as well. Also, law firms would drool for a good typist/ proofreader with proper english skills.

Actually, it’s Admin work I’m looking for. Unfortunately Temp agencies are a big no-no.

One, I need steady, full time work. The second problem won’t last forever, but it stops me from signing on with temp agencies right now.

I’m an immigrant. My British Drivers license was only valid for the first 90 days I was in the country, and I’ve been here for over two years now. Without a Green Card, which I’m still waiting on, I’m not officially a permanent resident yet. (Well, I am, I just don’t have the piece of paper to say I am. I have the piece of paper that says my other bit of paper is on the way, but that I can’t use that as proof). At this point, it’s just a matter of time and paperwork, but the big problem is that until I have proof of permanent residency, I can’t get a drivers license.

Can you see where I’m going with this yet?

We have one car, and I’m 100% dependent on Sunny for transportation. She works nights and only arrives home at 8:30am. This means any job I get has to start at 9am and be within a half hour of my house.

Working as a temp, I’d need to be flexible, and flexibility doesn’t fit with my situation right now. I need a job that has definite set hours at a set place.

In other words, I’m in a bit of a vicious circle. I need a car and a drivers license, but the only way I can get a car and license is to get a job, and my choice of job is severely limited until I get a car and drivers license.

As for the rest of your advice, I’m already doing that. My resume is posted on Monster, Local Jobs and Careerbuilder, and I’ve applied for admin positions in pretty much every field I can think of.

Right now, It’s just a matter of playing the waiting game…and as Homer Simpson said:

"The waiting game sucks…let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos”

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why Can't I Get Paid For Blogging? Oh, That's Right...I Suck.

You know what? Sometimes I just feel like screaming.

My job search has been going on for nearly three weeks now, and I’ve not heard so much as a whisper (Not counting the ‘account manager’ position that translates into ‘door-to-door salesman, and the countless ‘Earn 65 billion a second working from home!’ junk mail).

I mean, I’m not asking for much. I just want an office job with decent pay. I’ve got the experience and qualifications, what more do I need?

As of today, I have about 12 different applications out there doing their thing, but here’s the problem: Very few places even acknowledge the receipt of your resume, and only about one in a thousand actually inform you if you’ve been unsuccessful.

So my point is, I have 12 applications out there. I don’t know if they’re still accepting applications, if my application is in the pile with the others waiting to be reviewed or if the HR guy has already looked at my resume, decided the job wasn’t for me, and dumped my application in the trash.

I’m simply scanning all the job postings on the internet, and if I’m capable of doing a job, and the job is in my general area, I shoot off a copy of my resume.

So what do I do? Play the waiting game and hope one of them eventually contacts me? Or just keep applying?

I mean, it’s not exactly a good first impression when you get a phone call asking you in for an interview for an admin position and you have to say “Errr, you’re one of about 50,000 places I applied at. Which one are you again?”

I think my worst problem is the things I’m qualified for and actually interested in are extremely rare and highly sought-after jobs.

I’m perfectly qualified to be a film critic. Unfortunately, this career path involves at least 5 years writing for a local paper for free, in the hope that you’ll get ‘noticed’.

I can build a computer with my eyes closed, and could do a basic help-desk job standing on my head. Unfortunately I don’t have the bit of paper that says I’m qualified to do so, so it’s a dead end.

Thanks to taking Media Studies, I’m a fairly talented film-editor, can use a range of non-linear editing suites, and can create a fair range of TV quality special effects (Morphing, cloning, rotoscoping, overlaying, compositing etc). However, I might as well head to Hollywood and start sending agencies headshots. The chances of becoming a film-editor are almost as remote as becoming a film actor.

You know, I’m starting to think that going to college and getting a degree was a complete and total waste of time. I mean, what exactly was the point?

I thought the whole point of further education was to get a good job. Unfortunately, you can have all the degrees in the world, but without the experience, you’re going to be starting at entry level anyway.

My last job was a complete pile of crap. The standard conversation was “So, how did you end up lumbered with this job?”

I had a conversation with a former workmate about this, and we both had the same experience, but from opposite sides of the fence:

I said: “Well, I went to college, got my degree, but every place I applied for required at least 5 years experience, so I got stuck here.”

She said: “I didn’t go to college, and went straight to work. I had 15 years experience doing the actual job, but when I left, no one else would hire me because I didn’t have a degree.”

Spot the vicious circle? When you’re starting out, you either have the experience or the qualifications…not both.

I’m reminded of the story about the University Lecturer who started his job with a Bachelors Degree. 20 years later, he’s called in to see the Dean who informs him that from now on all lecturers are required to have at least a Masters Degree and preferably a Doctorate, so he’s forced to go back to school. In his first course, he discovers that the textbook he’ll be learning from is one he actually wrote.

So, can someone please explain to me why I spent three years of my life at University, got myself 10,000GBP in debt through student loans, when it doesn’t even give me the slightest head start?

I think I can best sum up my situation by an event that happened over five years ago:

I was fresh out of university, left my part-time bartending job and went out into the job marketplace. I found an ad for a company that specializes in finding jobs for new graduates. Here’s how that phonecall went:

Me: “Hello? I saw your ad in the paper and was wondering if you could help me. I recently graduated.”
Them : “I’m sure we can. What type and subject of degree did you get?”
Me : “Bachelor of Arts, English Language, Literature and Writing Studies.”
Them : “Fantastic. What sort of position are you thinking of?”
Me: “Anything, really, anything you can get for me. I was thinking maybe something in a library?”
Them : “Ok, and what experience do you have.”
Me : “Experience?”
Them : “Yes, work experience.”
Me: “Well, none really, I was doing a full time 40 hour a week college course, not including study time at home. I didn’t have time to work. All I did was part-time bar-tending.”
Them : “Oh, so nothing we can really go on.”
Me : “So what can you do to help me?”
Them : “Fax us a resume, and we’ll keep it on file, when something comes up, we’ll contact you.”

Guess what? It’s now 5 years later, I’m still registered with them, and they still haven’t contacted me.

Apparently, here are the average school-leaver’s choices:

Leave school, and because of a lack of qualifications, get an entry level job and work your way up.

Leave school, go to college, leave college, and because of a lack of experience, get an entry level job and work your way up.

Why add that extra step for no reason?

Of course, there are some jobs that require a degree, experience or no, such as jobs in the computing field. Unfortunately, whereas working with computers was an excellent career path 5 years ago, today there are far more qualified people than there are jobs. Where a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer could pretty much write their own ticket 10 years ago, today it’s more of a case of “You’ll be doing this job for minimum wage, if you don’t like it, there are a hundred other people behind you who are simply gagging for this job. Take it or leave it.”

My other big problem with the experience versus qualifications thing is with the British school system. You see, the way it works in England is you go to regular school until you’re 16, then you can continue (if you want to) with two years at college doing A-Levels, then after college, you can go to university.

The big problem with this is that you’re expected to have chosen your college courses by age 14, and your college courses effect what university courses you can take. (In other words, if you want to do English Language at University, they’ll require you get at least a ‘B’ grade at A-level.)

Who knows what career they want to do when they’re 14? At 14 I was still watching Power Rangers! I’m supposed to have my whole career path mapped out by then?

You see, as much as education broadens your career choices, it also severely limits them.

I originally wanted to be a journalist. So I took English Language, Media Studies and Information Technology at college. (Information technology was a big let down, and a completely mislabeled course. I was thinking it would be about networking, programming etc…it was essentially ‘Microsoft Office Applications 101’.)

However, I’d based the whole journalism career path on the fact that I liked to write and of course, at 14, I had very little idea what being a journalist actually involved, or how crowded and difficult that job-market is.

So towards the end of college, after doing the in-depth research the British School system expects you to do before your voice has broken, I decided that journalism wasn’t really for me. So, I was left with three choices when it came to University. I could take English, media or Information Technology.

Information Technology was a big no-no. That course required an in-depth knowledge of things like networking, SQL, C++. I could have taken the course, but I would have failed. While everyone else was talking about configuring Unix Servers, I’d be talking about how I can create a kick-ass spreadsheet in Excel.

Media Studies was also a no-no. While I would have passed with flying colors (my college show-reel got an A+, and is still used as an example for new students at my college today…I used to actually get ‘recognized’ by students from my old college 4 years after I left: “Hey! You’re the dude from that video!”), Media Studies would have severely limited what careers I could choose…and limited me to a very crowded field. Think of it, how many people do you know who want to work in broadcasting?

So I chose English. I’d always loved to write, and I figured: “English is a good academic subject and can be used in lots of jobs. If nothing else, it shows I’m intelligent.”

Yep, English can be used in more or less anything. Unfortunately, it doesn’t explicitly qualify me for anything. I can’t even teach it because I don’t have a teaching diploma, and there’s not much call for British English in schools that teach American English.

So, in conclusion. Looking for jobs sucks.

…and to that end, THIS is going to be an advertisement for me. What do you think?

Need some writing doing? I’m your man! Rates on a per-word basis! Special offers on bulk jobs!

Send me your video footage, and I’ll do you an ILM quality Lightsaber, $50 a pop! Amuse your friends with a video of five ‘yous’ having a conversation!

Need some admin work doing? Drop me a line! I’m great!

Computer frozen up? Gimme a call, and I’ll talk you through getting it up and running again, and I’ll charge you a hell of a lot less than most Tech-support lines!

I’m also accepting donations from people wanting to invest in “English Paul’s Gaming Emporium” All your gaming needs, with a touch of European flair!

I’m also a qualified money-tester! Send me cash, I’ll spend it, and and tell you if the money was accepted or not (Unfortunately all money sent to me can not be sent back or refunded in any way.

Oh, and if anyone out there is looking for an 80 inch plasma TV and La-z-boy tester…I’m your man!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Halloween Costume and Special FX

As you can probably tell from my blog posts over the past few days, I’ve been taking advantage of my high-speed connection and have been watching a lot of Star Wars fan films.

There’s an awful lot of them out there, and most of them are quite frankly, awful.

Two or three caught my eye though.

Now, fanfilms tend to get a very bad rap, because as I’ve just stated, the vast majority of them are complete and total crap. They usually consist of a few 15 year olds, in bad Halloween costumes with extremely poor looking lightsabers rotoscoped in.

If you’ve seen the short ‘experiment’ I posted, let’s just say that my uber-crappy effects are in the upper-echelons of most special effects.

One or two I’ve seen, however, rival Industrial Light and Magic in their special effects. In fact, Ryan Webber, a prolific fan-film creator got ‘noticed’ and called in to create a lot of the effects for Star Wars games. He’s also a talented stage-fighter, and his fight-scene only video “Ryan Vs. Dorkman, is actually one of the best light saber battles I’ve seen…and I’m including the actual movies in that.

Forgetting special effects for a moment the number one thing that absolutely ruins most fan-films is that absolutely terrible, ‘scraped through the bottom of the barrel and came out the other side’ acting.

I’ve seen fan films with absolutely spot-on special effects, movie quality 3D models, extravagant sets and locations (IE, there are some fan-films which cost upwards of $50,000). You watch the opening CG scene, a majestic star destroyer orbits a planet, it cuts to the interior, and a guy in a movie-perfect costume comes on screen. Your expectations get high…

And then they open their mouths.

Of course, the worst offenders aren’t the films with bad acting, but good special effects, or above average acting with poor special effects. It’s the ones with awful effects AND acting.

One film was obviously created by three guys still at school.

Picture this. The special effects where directly cut and pasted from the early 90’s PC game, X-wing. Straight polygons, with no texture mapping. It was unintentionally funny. The bad guy character had a double ended Lightsaber, but the prop was obviously a flexible rod, so as he ran, the blades actually bounced up and down. The world’s first bendy Lightsaber blade.

As for the acting, give two four year olds a cardboard box, and tell them to pretend it’s a spaceship. You’d get a much more convincing performance. There’s nothing like watching an ‘actor’ tell a fellow actor that the ‘shields are down and one more hit is going to destroy us’, with all the enthusiasm and emotion of someone saying: “I have a dentists appointment on Wednesday”.

This isn’t just the kids either. I watched a movie called “Reign of the Fallen”, that starred adults, and one or two performances that weren’t ‘terrible’, but they still make soap opera actors look good. The worst thing about that movie, though, was the pacing.

You know that scene in Episode IV, where Luke looks wistfully out at the dune sea, under the twin suns? ‘Reign of the Fallen’ is 99% that scene. There’d be a short bit of inane dialogue, then one character would leave, and the other would look off camera wistfully. I actually timed it. Over one third of the movie is people looking wistfully off camera,

Oh, and the story was crap.

ARGH! Get off my computer, you no-talent fool.

My favorite fan-films, as a result of this, fall into two categories. The straight fight scenes (There’s no actual acting), and the comedic spoofs.

The most famous of these is the one I’ve already mentioned (Ryan Vs Dorkman), which features two people, in non-Star Wars clothes, just going at it with lightsabers and force powers. The special effects are ILM standard, and the choreography is absolutely amazing. Not just for a fan film, but in general. If I was a movie producer, I’d hire those guys to choregraph sword fights for me.

Another one that caught my eye, which had a little bit of bad acting and story, was the short film ‘Contract of Evil’ (basically a guy playing Darth Maul fights two other guys). The costuming, location and 90% of the special effects on this are on a par with the ‘Stargate’ TV series.

The absolute best fan-films, though, are the comedies.

For example, ‘Pink Five’. This movie was actually made by industry professionals, so the effects are great, and the storyline is essentially ‘Valley girl meets Star Wars’.

‘Injured Stormtrooper’ is also worth a watch. It’s a very short (5 minute) film about a Stormtrooper who gets shot, but not killed, and the other Stormtroopers just can’t get their heads around it. “Wooon-ded? I thought these suits where designed to make sure you got killed when you got shot! Why else would we wear them?”

“Troops” is a Star-Wars based ‘Cops’ parody, centering on a report of stolen droids with the Jawas, and a domestic disturbance with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

Finally, “3 o’clock in the Afternoon”, is a short comedy about three flatmates who find three lightsabers left mysteriously outside their door…and they react like any true Star Wars geek would.

All the films I’ve mentioned are either available, or linked to, on

Give them a look. As well as the comedies, there are numerous FX projects, which are interesting, because its amazing what some amateurs can do in their spare time on home computers.

And, if nothing else, even the bad ones are entertaining in a “so-bad-it’s-good” kind of way.

My recommendations:

Contract of Evil : Purely for the effects.
Ryan Vs Dorkman : Special Effects and Choreography
3 O’clock in the Afternoon
The Pink Five series
Injured Stormtrooper.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Insomnia, Annoying Spouses, Racing and Virus Checkers.

As both the frequency of my blog posts and the time stamps on them show, I’m currently right in the middle of one of my bouts of insomnia.

This is when, for a week or two, my body just decides to rebel against me, and make me feel as crappy as possible.

There’s no explanation for it. I can be stressed as hell and sleep like a baby, or I can be at my most relaxed and not get a wink of sleep.

It’s not a fun feeling to be absolutely mentally and physically exhausted and have my mind just refuse to switch off. It’s like someone has left a radio blasting in your head. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t stop thinking.

Movies you’ve seen play themselves over and over, songs you’ve heard play over and over (or more accurately a small snippet will play over and over again).

So I lie in bed, until eventually at about 6am, I give up and get up. Of course, 60 seconds after I get out of bed, I’m hit with a gigantic wave of exhaustion. The only problem is if I go back to bed, the cycle starts all over again.

If I stay up, however, I know that by about noon, one of two things will happen. I’ll crash out completely, wherever I am, or the act of staying conscious for over 30 hours straight will take its toll, and I’ll be hit with a gigantic wave of nausea, and probably throw up.

The worst part is making family understand this. I can’t help it. It’s completely beyond my control, and for most people “I didn’t get any sleep” Isn’t a valid excuse. I may appear to be completely awake and in control of my faculties, but in another hour I’ll either collapse or throw up. Not to mention I feel absolutely terrible right now.

So, a couple of days ago, I missed the family reunion for this very reason. I’d gone to bed at 11, woke up at 25 past, and spent the next eight hours staring at the ceiling. (Many people say they ‘didn’t sleep’, but what they mean is they had a lot of interrupted sleep, where they slept for an hour, woke up for half, slept for an hour, etc. Or they were stuck awake for a couple of hours. I’m talking about no sleep whatsoever).

Today was the same. Marie, my step-daughter in law gave birth last night. Sunny’s gone to the hospital to see the baby. Even though I don’t feel completely terrible right now, I know that within the next hour I’ll either crash, or puke…neither thing is something I’d like to do in public.

Again, the problem is that if Marie or Frank ask me why I didn’t go to the hospital, “I didn’t get any sleep that night so I was sleeping.” Doesn’t seem like much of an excuse. It seems a lot more like “nah, I couldn’t be bothered.”

Did I mention the irritability? I, and pardon my language here, get grouchy as fuck. Something that would normally make me laugh makes me ill as hell.

This morning, for example, I nearly threw the computer out of the window.

(Oh, and this feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that I’d just managed to get to sleep at about 4am, and got woken up by Sunny snoring. Then, when I came into the living room to escape it and laid down on the couch…I’d just managed to drop off again, when Sunny woke me up to ask why I was sleeping on the couch, and was it because she was keeping me awake by snoring again? Sweetie, I love you, but when you suspect someone is sleeping in a different room because you kept them awake snoring, waking them up to ask them this is not a good idea. It’s like rugby tackling a runner inches from setting a new world record…to ask them if they are about to set a new world record…next time, I’m taking your eye, and burning your teddy-bears).


I’d got out of bed at about 5:30am this morning, and turned the computer on. I figured I’d play a game for an hour or so, and see how I felt.

Now, I was playing ‘Need for Speed : Most Wanted’, a racing game. I need to set this up, so give me a minute.

The story is that you have an absolutely shit hot car, you race for pink slips, and your opponent sabotages your ride. It craps out, he wins your car, and then uses it to get to the top of the ‘Black List’, basically the illegal street racing league.

So, you buy a crappy car, start racing, you win races, you soup up your car, and start at the bottom of the Black List, the point of the game being to get to the top and win your car back.

Now, as well as straight racing, before you can challenge a Black List racer, you have to complete a certain number of races, but also get into pursuits with the police. In these pursuits, you have to complete a certain number of ‘milestones’ that once you’ve passed the right amount, you get to challenge a Black List rival.

Now, there ‘milestones’ are things like “Break through 5 roadblocks”, “Dodge 5 spike strips”, “Get 15 separate infractions”.

These get harder and harder as the game progesses. The kicker is that unless you manage to escape, your milestones don’t count. Also, if you get busted, you get an ‘impound strike’ on your car. Get three, and your car is impounded.

I’d been trying to get past the same thing for three days. You see, the longer a chase goes on, the higher your heat level gets. The higher your heat level, the more aggressive the cops are, they use better cars etc. As an example, heat level three calls in the ‘Rhino Units’, basically heavy SUV’s that attempt to crash with you head on. If this happens, you come to a dead stop, get surrounded, and get busted.

There are seven heat levels. In order to complete my milestones, I had to get to at least level five…which calls in helicopters, spike strips, roadblocks and rhinos.

This morning, I finally managed it. I’d got my milestones, evaded the police, and was waiting for the cooldown to finish. (Once you escape, the cops will keep looking for you until the cooldown period finishes. If a single cop car spots you, the chase continues).

I had three seconds left to go, when suddenly, everything freezes. Then the screen goes black. My jaw hits the floor.

What is it?

My virus checker doing a ‘scheduled scan’.

Here’s the problem, I don’t want a scheduled scan, and it’s crashed my game.

Now, the computer savvy among you might just ask why I didn’t turn the scheduled scan off.

I’ll tell you why, because if I do, I get a pop up every hour or so telling me that no scans are scheduled, and that this isn’t recommended, and do I want to schedule a scan now?

No! I don’t want to schedule a fucking scan! I’ve told you that! I’ve checked the fucking box! Why even make it an option if you’re going to warn me about it every 15 minutes!!!!

Now, normally this would piss me off.

This morning, it made me absolutely livid, and not just because it put about 6 hours of gameplay into the toilet. No, it made me mad at the software engineers because those pop-ups assume I’m a moron. It made me mad that no fucking idiot had the brains to insert a little subroutine that checks for running processes and to cancel the check if the user is actually using the computer!

Look, it’s my fucking computer! I think I’ll just scan for viruses when I feel like it, ok? I know it’s better to scan regularly, that’s why I actually do scan for viruses at least three times a week…only I much prefer to do it manually, when I know it’s not going to interrupt anything I’m doing.

That’s not the end of it.

I cancel the scan, and turn my game back on. It takes me another two hours to get back to where I was before the game crashed. I challenged the next blacklist rival.

Ok, this guy wants three races, two sprints and a speed camera race (The course goes past multiple speed cameras, the one with the highest combined recorded speeds at the end wins).

The first two races go ok, and I win them fairly easily. The last one if a real bitch, with plenty of ‘traps’ (That’s my name for courses where if you spin off the track at a corner, you’ll end up in a walled off parking lot or something, so instead of just hitting the wall and getting back into the race, you have to stop, do a three point turn, get back onto the track and start racing again…essentially giving your opponent a good ten seconds to get ahead.)

I replay the race a good 10 times trying to beat this guy. The final time, we’re on the second to final stretch, and I’m right behind him. I’ve saved my nitrous for this very eventuality. I slap the button and virtual nitrous oxide pumps down virtual fuel lines into a virtual engine, and my virtual car leaps forward. I’m not certain if I’m going to make it. With sheer seconds left to go in the race, the nose of my car just pulls ahead. I’ve done it! I’m going to win! There’s one corner left, a nice easy left turn, and I have the inside track. There’s no way this guy can beat me! Take that you virtual driver whore! And your virtual mother! Kiss my ass you…

And it freezes, again.

I hold my breath. Short freezes are not unusual for this game. It streams the tracks (IE, no loading times), and because I only have a half-gig of memory, so I usually get a stutter or a two second freeze, at least once every couple of hours.

Then the screen goes black. I come within an inch of screaming. What the hell could it be this time? I’ve disabled my virus checker. What’s going on now.

My desktop appears.

My virus checker has hijacked my computer to check for updates.

It’s almost as if that thing thinks, and thought “Hmm, I can’t fuck up his game by scanning, what else can I do?”

One thing stops me from screaming. My game hasn’t crashed, it’s still running, but minimized. A glimmer of hope returns.

You see, a lot of PC games support what’s called “Alt-tabbing”, where if you press alt and tab at the same time, you can switch to a different application. When I say games support it, I mean they automatically pause the game until it becomes active again.

You never know, once I switch back to my game, I could start right where I left off.

Can you guess what happened?

That’s right, Need for Speed doesn’t support alt-tabbing, meaning that the game continued to run, even though it wasn’t on the screen. My car had crashed into the wall on that final corner, and the bastard had beaten me.

Now, many of you may be thinking “It’s only a game”, but let me put it to you this way. Imagine you’re watching your favorite TV series. You’re watching the finale, the culmination of about 12 one hour shows. Suddenly, your TV turns off. When you turn it back on, you find your show has restarted from the very first episode of your show…and you have to sit through 11 hours of TV you’ve already seen, in order to get back to the finale to find what happens…and no, you can’t go off and do something else for 11 hours. If you stop watching, your show stops playing.

Now imagine that feeling after no sleep when you’re already grouchy and irritable.

That might be about 1/10th what I was feeling.

"It's all just done on computers."

You know, I really have to hand it to the good people at Industrial Light and Magic, and the other big special effects companies.

One of the many things that bugs me is when you’re watching a good movie, see a really good special effect, and when you comment on it someone says dismissively: “It’s all done on computers.”…usually dismissively.

To me, this always implies that there’s no talent, artisty, skill or effort put into computer-generated special effects.

In fact, it’s the opposite. You see, with CG effects, everything has to be created by the Effects Artist. Take pretty much any scene from the Star Wars prequels, most of those shots where done in front of a chroma-key screen, and the background added later.

Think of those backgrounds. Everything in there was created by someone, from the physical objects, to the shadows, to the sheen on metallic surfaces.

In other words, it’s bloody hard.

What got me thinking about this was the Lightsaber video I posted a while back. Last night, boredom struck again, so I added the sound effects to it.

It took me absolutely ages. Fair enough, I had to scavenge sound effects off the internet, and my result was only ‘quite good’, but it didn’t take nearly as long as the video manipulation required to create the ‘blade’.

Now, someone might say “Well, it’s obviously easy to do stuff like that on a computer! You’re an amateur, and you managed it!”

Well, the truth is, yes, I am an amateur, but I also have three years of Media Studies, including video editing under my belt. Also, my clip was under 10 seconds long, doesn’t come anywhere near true movie quality, and took me about 4 hours to complete.

You see, it ‘all being done on computers’ doesn’t mean that George Lucas said “We need Lightsabers in this scene” and then a tech guy made it happen by pushing a button.

Creating a Lightsaber, and many other effects, are done through a process called Rotoscoping.

What this involves is going through a scene, frame by frame, and drawing directly on top of the frame.

Think about this for a minute. Movies run at approximately 25 frames per second. So, if a Lightsaber fight scene goes on for 5 minutes, that’s 25 frames, multiplied by 60 seconds, multiplied by 5 minutes…or in other words, 7500 frames! (Bear in mind that Episode III had an epic 20 minute fight scene…in other words, a whopping 30,000 frames, with multiple sabers on each.)

So someone has to sit there and draw the Lightsaber blade 30,000 times. Each time it has to be perfectly aligned with the prop blade, they have to make it thinner as it gets farther away, thicker as it gets closer…and if even one or two frames are slightly off, it doesn’t look right.

Can you imagine trying to do that?

Then, of course, you have to go over that with the flashes as Lightsabers clash, digitally alter the lighting so the Lightsaber casts a glow on the surroundings, alter the glow as it moves behind objects, etc.

I suppose my point is that the Lightsabers are probably one of the simplest Star Wars effects. Creating and animating a character, like Yoda (Who was animated frame by frame, stop-motion style), must have taken forever.

It took me close to four hours to make my 10 second shot, not including processor time.

I had to draw the blade 250 times, then make copies, add different levels of Gaussian blur to the copies, layer them to make a ‘glow’ that gets more transparent the further it gets from the blade, add a monochrome filter to give the glow a color, then finally put all the layers together, and create my movie. Later, I put my completed video in another application, and had to time the sound effects to what was appearing on screen.

All in all, about five and a half hours for 10 seconds…and I wasn’t even taking all that much care!

Now imagine animating Yoda, having to lip-sync him with the voice actor, make him walk and move naturally, not to mention getting him to ‘emote’ successfully.

In short, that character was created and animated from scratch, frame by frame. Someone had to sit there, build the computer model, attach ‘handles’ so that animators could animate him, make sure his skin stretched and moved as he talked properly, made sure his robes looked and behaved like real fabric…everything about him was created by someone.

You end up with a complete character, fighting a real person, with a weapon that doesn’t exist…and it looks real.

Of course, ‘it was all just done on computers’.

In a way, saying that making an effect is easy because it’s ‘done on computers’, is like saying that fixing your car is always easy because you have tools, or that building a house is easy because you have blueprints and bricks.

Monday, May 22, 2006

...And That's All I've Got To Say About That.

Well, I re-read yesterday’s post, and there are a couple of things I’d like to clear up.

Believe it or not, I’m not actually anti-religion or anti-christian. I was raised Catholic, and although I decided Catholicism wasn’t for me, I don’t see any reason why people shouldn’t believe what they want to believe.

I’m not anti-religion, I’m anti-idiot.

I believe in freedom of choice. Anyone has the right to believe anything they want. If you want to believe that the Earth was created in 6 days by (a) God, that’s up to you. I’m not going to hold you up to ridicule because of your beliefs.

Now, anyone who read yesterdays post might find that statement a little hard to believe, so let me explain.

What I resent, and what will fight against tooth and nail is the people who ridicule me or others for what I, or they, believe. I don’t storm into a church or go on TV and shout “You’re all idiots! God doesn’t exist!”

All I ask is for the same consideration.

So when I see a guy on TV, calling the Banana the ‘Atheists Nightmare’, or people demanding that religious teachings about ‘intelligent design’ get taught in Science class, it makes my blood boil.

Ok, you don’t believe in Evolution, that’s just great. That’s your choice, you can even teach your own kids that if you like, I won’t attempt to stop you…so don’t you go on TV and say, essentially, “I’m right, you’re wrong, and you’re an idiot if you don’t believe what I believe.”

Something I talked about yesterday, that I want to expand on a little, is the point I made about arguing from ignorance.

There are plenty of holes in the theory of evolution, I’ll admit that, there’s the whole thing about the ‘missing link’ between monkeys and humans.

However, I judge things the same way the legal system does. I look at the evidence and come to a conclusion. Once I’ve made that conclusion, I’m still willing to take new evidence into account.

In other words, if the theory of evolution is ever disproved, I won’t feel defeated, I’ll just be glad I know something today that I didn’t know yesterday. In other words, I argue from knowledge. I put my evidence on the table, and state what I believe depending on what I know at the time. If someone can prove me wrong, great! That’s all part of how science works.

In simplest terms, I look for the truth. I don’t form my theory and then hold up the slightest bit of evidence that backs me up as ultimate proof, or completely ignore evidence to the contrary.

What I know isn’t set in stone. I change what I believe depending on what I learn.

The religious groups, however, argue from ignorance. They think a lack of proof for the opposing argument makes them right. Their argument is essentially “You can’t prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Evolution is the correct point of view. Because you can’t state categorically that you’re right, that makes me right.”

The example I used yesterday was the two people who see a bright light flying over their head. One is a believer in aliens, the other is a skeptic. So the believer turns to the skeptic and says: “Can you explain that?” The skeptic says no, so the believer says “Hah! You can’t explain it, so it must be aliens!”

Evidence that supports your theory proves you right, not a lack of evidence to the contrary.

There’s volumes of evidence that supports the Evolution Theory, a hell of a lot more evidence than there is for intelligent design. Now that doesn’t mean evolution is correct and intelligent design is wrong, it just means that right now, the Theory of Evolution is the more reasonable explanation for the way things are.

The biggest problem with this argument is that the Christians believe they have all the proof they need, the Bible.

Now, I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t labor the argument, but my main point is this:

The Bible is a book. It has more versions that I can count. There are also numerous other Holy Books in the world, ones that are far older than the Bible. Also, the Bible is open to interpretation, how else do you explain the sheer number of churches? Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Church of England, Presbyterian, Church of the Latter Day Saints, Church of God.

Christians can’t agree with each other on what the Bible actually means. Is the Old Testament metaphor or fact? Is God a trinity? It leads to extremely different points of view within the same religion. For example, Jehova’s Witnesses believe that God is not a trinity, and that because of some obscure paragraph in the Bible, that blood transfusions are wrong.

Now, I’m not attempting to disprove the Bible or topple Christianity. My point is simply this: The Bible is open to interpretation and has many different versions, meaning it can’t be called evidence in a scientific argument.

My standard response to someone who says: “It’s in the Bible!” With the manner of someone laying down an ace, is to ask “Which one? The New International Version? The Contemporary English Version? King James Version? The New King James Version? Which?”

Put it this way, there are so many different version of The Bible that people can’t actually agree on how many different versions there are! How can anything like that be called ‘The Truth’?

Of course, religion comes down to faith, and what you as an individual believes. Your average orthodox Christian would be absolutely outraged if I held their beliefs up to ridicule, and told them they where wrong…which apparently seems to be one of the main defining features of Christianity: Believe what I believe or I will ridicule and hurt you.

My whole argument can be summed up in a single sentence:

Believe what you want to believe, don’t try and force your beliefs on me, and if you feel you must force what you believe onto me, you’d better have the evidence to back it up.

Bananas! Proof of the Existence of God!

I saw a video on the internet today, the description stated that the video is of a guy ‘proving’ God exists, and that he proves God exists using only a Banana.

I was intrigued.

I’ll link to the video later (I remember the site, but not the page, and I don’t want to trawl through pages of videos to find it). However, he referred to the banana as the ‘Atheist’s Nightmare’ (Which had me shitting myself, I can tell you).

Anyway, here’s this guys arguments in a nutshell:

The banana has three lines running down the top half, two down the back, making it perfectly ergonomic for the human hand.

The part at the top (where the banana attaches to the bunch) works exactly like a pull-tab for easy opening.

It ‘unzips eloquently’.

The banana actually leans towards you slightly, making for easier eating.

The end comes to a thin point for ‘easier insertion’ (No shit, he actually said that)

It’s the perfect shape to eat, and tastes good!

In short, the Banana is perfectly ‘designed’ for us to eat, and there’s no way something could be so perfect for us ‘by accident’.

Well, here’s my counter argument:

You, sir, are a lunatic, a complete basket case, and the fact you are allowed to walk around without constant supervision, and a keeper packing an elephant tranquilizer gun, honestly scares me.


You want more?


Here’s my counter argument to the Banana thing.

If the banana is the perfect food that was designed purely for human beings, why do they grow high up in trees, where they are very difficult to get at? How come they only grow in hot countries? Why are Brits not naturally able, without the use of boats and world spanning equipment, to taste this God-fruit? Also, if they are made specifically for us, why are they a staple of the simian species, who blow the whole ergonomic thing out of the water, because they eat the whole thing, skin and all?

This is one food, and not a staple of the human species.

I suppose my question is this:

If the Banana is proof of intelligent design, and is ultimate proof of the existence of God, why did he focus on the Banana?

Why did he put meat inside huge horned animals that are a real bugger to kill, butcher and cook? Why can’t I just reach over and grab a hunk of pre-cooked beef off a passing cow? Why do I have to worry that the animal put here for me to eat might take exception to me wanting to munch on it, and express its displeasure with its claws/fangs/sharp pointed beak?

Forgetting meat, what about all the other stuff? If everything on this Earth is intelligently designed for our benefit, you try opening and eating a coconut or a pineapple with your bare hands!

Congrats, you’ve found one fruit, out of the millions of edible plants available on the earth that seems to be ergonomically designed. You’ve not proved God exists, you’ve proven that he got fixated on bananas, and ignored every other foodstuff on the planet.

I mean, you can’t even live of a pure-banana diet. You’d get the shits like crazy!

No, Bananas are the way they are as a result of evolution. They’re eaten by tree dwelling species, to whom climbing a tree is no hardship. They evolved that way because it helped create a natural symbiotic circle with the species in its environment.

Here it is in simple terms:

Baboons need food.
Banana trees need to spread their seeds.
Bananas grow in trees where baboons can get them and eat them.
Baboons swing around, take a big dump, and the banana seeds are dumped (pardon the pun) in the soil, in their own pre-made blob of ‘fertilizer’.

Look, the reason things seem to be ‘perfect’ and ‘intelligently designed’, is because if they weren’t perfect, they’d die out. If bananas tasted like shit, where incredibly hard to get at and eat, Banana trees, over a few hundred thousand years, would die out, and be replaced by fruit trees that produce fruit that is a lot more palatable and easier to get at and eat.

The reason most things seem to be ‘intelligently designed’ is because out of all the random stuff that happened over the past few million years, what we have today was the tiny minority of things that worked. Something that doesn’t work doesn’t survive. The unsuccessful stuff dies, the successful stuff thrives.

I mean, look at camels! They’re ludicrous. They look stupid. Horses are faster, easier to ride and tend not to spit at you. However, if you put a horse in the middle of the desert, it would die within a few days. Camels exist because of all the desert species that started out, they where the ones that where most successful.

Intelligent Design argues from ignorance. They ignore the evidence, and use that lack of evidence as proof that 'God did it'. However, lack of evidence only proves you don't know enough.

It's like two people seeing a bright light fly over their head. One, a believer in UFO's turns to the other and say: "There, can you explain that?" The other says: "No, I can't."

"There!" Replies the other. "You can't explain it! It must be aliens."

In other words, because you choose to be ignorant of the evidence, does not make your point of view correct. That you refuse to acknowledge the evidence for evolution does not make intelligent design right.

As for the final nail in the coffin of your argument, all the stuff you said about the banana can also be ‘interpreted’ another way.

Here’s my ‘theory’:

It has the same proportions of a human male penis.

They come in all sized to fit any personal preference.

It curves upward slightly, for perfect G-Spot stimulation

It has a smooth, flesh like, all natural skin.

It’s tapered for ‘easier insertion’ (You said that yourself).

They are abundant.

They’re yellow, and therefore easy to find in the dark.

You can smear the fruit of one banana onto the skin of another as a lubricant.

Yep, that’s right, Bananas are natures dildo. God made them for women to pleasure themselves…with the added bonus that the skin is non-porous, meaning when you get done, you can peel it and have a nutritious snack, and who doesn’t feel a little puckish after all that G-Spot stimulation?

Bananas as proof God exists?

What the fuck ever.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

An Immigrant on Immigration.

Ok, it’s time for me to throw in my two cents on the current illegal immigrant ‘issue’.

I saw the protests on TV, I’ve listened to the people calling American Immigration laws ‘racist’, and saw the picture of the students who hung the American flag upside down, below the Mexican flag.

Quite frankly, I’m disgusted.

Immigration laws are not racist. Trying to stop people entering the country illegally is not anti-hispanic or anti-latino. It’s the law, and it makes perfect sense.

I believe I have a unique viewpoint on this, as I’m an immigrant myself (albeit a legal one). I went through over 5 years of application procedures to get my visa, I’m still currently waiting on my greencard.

The truth is that all this red-tape, forms, interviews etc are there for a very good reason.

For example, I had to go through a full background check (America, like most countries has enough problems without letting murderers, rapists and other criminals in), a full medical, to show I wasn’t bringing any diseases into the country, and also to ensure that I wasn’t going to become a drain on the American Health-Care system.

I had to sign all sorts of forms that state I won’t attempt to claim any government-funded benefits until I went to the trouble of getting full citizenship.

In a way, I find the whole thing amusing.

On the one hand, the American public screams about the cost of healthcare, demands to be protected from terrorists, are terrified of exotic diseases such as Asian flu, throws a hissy fit about corporations like Walmart hiring illegal immigrants (being able to pay them a pittance, so they’re taking jobs away from American Citizens)…but then complain and march in the street to protest a law that would stop complete strangers from entering the country as they please.

The question you should ask yourself is that there are lots of legal ways to get into America. I’m proof of that. If these illegal immigrants are such paragons of virtue, and simply victims of racism, why don’t they enter the country legally? Why do they choose to sneak into the country, spend their entire time here looking over their shoulders and working under the table for chicken-feed, instead of visiting the American Embassy in their country, and entering completely legally, with all the rights and privileges of American Citizens?

People are treating this whole issue as though it was an anti-immigration law. If a law was passed that banned anyone from outside the country setting up home in the USA, I’d agree and be marching in the streets right now. America is a country that was built on immigration. Unless you’re a native American (and by that I mean a ‘Red Indian’), your family started out in a different country.

However, this is a law that is in place to stop illegal immigration. In other words, it wants to stop people entering the country that don’t go through a comprehensive screening process. America’s borders aren’t patrolled to keep Mexicans out, they’re patrolled to stop people from entering the country who would do the country harm.

I mean, if the price for illegal immigration was a small fine, and no deportation, what do you think Al-Qaeda are going to do? They’re going to land in Mexico, walk across the border…then if they get caught, pay the fine, and you’ve got a terrorist in the country that has every legal right to be here.

American Citizens are up in arms about atrocities like 9/11, with one hand they demand that the Government protect them and keep terrorists out, while with the other demand unrestricted access to the USA for anyone who fancies living here.

It can’t be done. It’s like demanding murderers be locked up, while demanding that prisons should be shut down. You can’t have one without the other.

The whole racism thing is a joke as well. It seems we live in a time where everyone is so shit scared of offending anyone or being branded ‘racist’, that the race card can get anyone anywhere.

If you think American Immigration laws are racist, I advise you to visit an immigration office. I’ve been to the local immigration offices more times than I can count over the past few years, and in there I’ve seen Brits, Germans, Mexicans, Asians, Arabs…pretty much every single race and nationality you can think of.

America doesn’t let people in or keep them out depending on race. They allow people in or keep them out depending on whether they follow the law.

My main point here is that I’m an immigrant. I followed the law, and got into this country. It wasn’t easy, there was a lot of paperwork, but every bit of that paperwork told the American people something they needed to know. I’m not a criminal, I’m not a carrier of some life-threatening disease, and that I’m not going to be a drain on the American people.

I wasn’t born with the right to live and work in the USA. I wasn’t born here, but by following the law, I earned that right, and have Government issued papers to prove it.

The definition of an illegal immigrant is someone, who just through the act of setting foot in America, is proving that they don’t care about American law, and more importantly, are willing to break American law.

These are not people I want living in the same country as me. It hurts the country and the people who have a right to be here.

America needs to wake up. We’re living in dangerous times, and I personally am not willing to put myself in danger, just because someone pulls the race card.

If you want to live in the USA, visit the American Embassy in your country, find out what the application procedure is and follow it.

In the end, hopping across the border because you don’t want to go through the immigration procedure, or because you’re ineligible for residency in the USA does not make you noble, badly done to or the victim of racism. It makes you a criminal who doesn’t care about the laws of the country you’re so desperate to live in.

If the consequences for illegal immigration isn’t deportation, it makes the whole immigration system a complete farce, and America might as well give Osama Bin Laden a VIP pass to the Whitehouse.

If nothing else, if the security of this nation doesn’t interest you, look at it this way. Illegal immigrants do not have the right to live and work in this country. This means they work ‘under the table’, and don’t pay taxes. In essence, your tax dollars, the ones you complain so much about paying, are indirectly subsidizing these people who think they are above the law.

Anti-immigration is something that should be fought against in any country. Anti-illegal immigration just makes good sense.

If you don’t want to follow American law, don’t come to America.

It’s as simple as that.

I'd Have Just Started Swearing

This is absolutely hilarious.

Here's the story. The BBC News was running a report on the Apple Vs Apple legal battle, and was set to interview Tech-expert Guy Kewney.

Unfortunately, a Cab Driver who was in the BBC lobby waiting to pick up a fare, was mistaken for Kewney, whisked onto the set, miced up and the cameras started rolling before anyone realised he wasn't the real Guy Kewney.

The look on his face when he is introduced is hilarious, and the way he tries to answer questions when he obviously has no clue what he's talking about is great. Enjoy!

As seen on

I'd Have Just Started Swearing

This is absolutely hilarious.

Here's the story. The BBC News was running a report on the Apple Vs Apple legal battle, and was set to interview Tech-expert Guy Kewney.

Unfortunately, a Cab Driver who was in the BBC lobby waiting to pick up a fare, was mistaken for Kewney, whisked onto the set, miced up and the cameras started rolling before anyone realised he wasn't the real Guy Kewney.

The look on his face when he is introduced is hilarious, and the way he tries to answer questions when he obviously has no clue what he's talking about is great. Enjoy!

As seen on

The Definition of "Yeah Right!"

Well today I had the unpleasant experience of having the chance of the perfect job land in my lap…only to have its magical promise crumble and turn to dust like a vampire who forgot his sunblock.

I’m an avid reader of the online comic Ctrl-Alt-Del.

Well, the creator of Ctrl-Alt-Del (henceforth known as CAD), Tim Buckley, recently started a sister website called CADmedia, basically a video game review site. He’s currently looking for writers to work as video game reviewers.

That is my perfect job. I’ve got a BA degree in English Language and Writing Studies, A-Levels in media studies. I love to play games and love to write.

(I know plenty of my readers are currently thinking I’m over-estimating my writing skill. For the record, I tend to write this blog as it comes to me, and don’t even read over it any more. If I was being paid to write reviews that would be read by a few million people, instead of about 15…my writing would be a lot more ‘polished’)

But imagine that job. It’s an e-commute, meaning I could write from home. I could play games for most of the day, and it’d be work. Sunny could no longer tell me to get off the computer, because hey! I’m a workin’ man. Me spending 6 hours playing this game is what keeps food on the table! I don’t complain because you go out to work every day, so get in the kitchen and bake me a pie, woman!

Also, as an official video-game journalist, I’d even be eligible for (delighted shudder) a pass to E3!

(Sorry, I just had a nerdgasm).

Then I did the thing that makes all dreams crumble. I read the small print.

Tim Buckley was adamant that people should only apply if they’re completely serious about becoming a video game journalists. In other words, no time-wasters.

Then he goes on to state that not only will successful applicants not get paid, they’ll have to buy their own games to review, and ‘make their own industry contacts’.


Let me get this straight. You want someone to completely and totally devote themselves to this job, go out and buy their own games, spend hours ‘networking’, then actually spend the hours necessary to write a review…and the only ‘pay’ we’d get is out name on the website?

Ok, the only good side I can think there is to this is that if I applied for this job, got a good few reviews posted, it would look great on my CV. Basically, he’s not offering a job, he’s offering an internship.

However, this is the equivalent of getting an internship in an office, and them telling you that you have to supply your own computer, printer, paper, applications for the computer and do absolutely everything out of your own pocket, with no compensation whatsoever.

It’s like getting an internship at a restaurant, and them telling you to bring your own ingredients, and then presenting you will a bill for the electricity and gas you used to cook them.

Ok, I’d understand this a lot more if the ‘offer’ was along the lines of “Played a decent game recently? Write a review and send it to CADmedia! If we like it, we’ll publish it, and you can say that your work has been read by hundreds of thousands of people!”

However, saying you want a dedicated writer, who’s willing to put in all the time and effort of an established video game journalist for free?

Pull your head out of your ass, Mr. Buckley. Welcome to the real world (Although I still love your comic).

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Please Send Me My Portable Walrus Polishing Kit.

Kato recently made a post on the fact that he still likes to use pen and paper, even though he can do the same task on a computer much more quickly and easily.

This got me thinking.

When do we have too many gadgets?

I’ll admit right now that I’m a complete and utter gadgetophile. If it’s shiny and got buttons, I want it.

However, even I sometimes look at things and think; What’s the point?

Take for example one of the pieces of software that came with my graphics pad. It’s a little program that lets you write on a virtual bit of paper, in your own actual handwriting…and then print it out!!

Why? What’s the point? Why don’t I just get a bit of paper and a pen? It’s quicker, easier, and considering the cost of printer ink at the minute, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper!

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, and there have been some truly technological wonders created over the past decade or so. For example, in 1990, digital TV, videophones and in car, voice activated navigation systems where pure science fiction.

However, plenty of times we’ve got things completely and totally ass-backwards. It’s supposed to go like this:

  1. I have a problem.

  2. I create a technology to help with this problem

  3. I make a gadget that uses this technology to solve my problem.

Instead, we seem to go:

  1. Create a technology.

  2. Try to find some application for it.

  3. Create a gadget, even if existing things do the job 100 times easier, quicker and more cheaply.

An example of a good use of technology is email. Regular letters take a long time to reach their destination and can get lost on the way. Some guy realized that you can send messages with computers that get to their destination at the speed of light.

There have, however, been certain technologies that I’ve just had to laugh at.

For example, one ad I saw in readers digest showed a device to help people whose vision was failing. You spend a couple hundred bucks and get an absolutely gigantic rostrum camera that connects to a TV set. You put the thing you want to read under the camera, and it magnifies the image onto the screen.

Umm, hello? There’s a device out there called a ‘magnifying glass’ that will cost you about two dollars, can fit in your pocket and does exactly the same job! You also don’t need a dump truck to move it, and you don’t need a TV, a wall socket, or batteries.

I love technology, I love gadgets…but when it’s just technology for technology’s sake, what’s the point.

I think Lee Evans, a British comedian put it best:

“New palm pilot, yeah? Cost me just nine, ninety nine, ninety nine, ninety nine! With this you can use this actual little pen to actually write on the actual screen in your own actual handwriting!”

“Yeah, well let me just get this actual piece of paper and this actual pen and I’ll write that down! Thousands of dollars worth of technology and we end up with exactly what we had in the first place!”

Open Letter To All Forwarders

Dear people who send me forwards,

While I enjoy the occasional chuckle at the latest viral video, picture, joke or story, and you please make sure that the thing you are sending is something that I might actually enjoy.

If you don’t know if I’ll enjoy it enough, you don’t know me well enough to be flooding my inbox, so please stop.

However, if you’re one of those people who instantly forwards anything even slightly ‘amusing’ to everyone in your address book, I’m sorry, but I must ask you to go fashion yourself a tinfoil hat, and stick your head in a microwave. Also, please bear in mind that I’m also in plenty of other people’s address books, other people who are probably in your address book also. This means that when we get two or three of you together, I end up getting multiple copies of the same thing.

Considering this is usually comic gold such as a fat woman in a thong, or a picture of a startled cat, I can only assume you’ve had a sense-of-humor-ectomy.

However, I do enjoy lowest common denominator entertainment, so the actual ‘funny’ forwards, I can usually excuse.

However, the next person to email me with a forward that does one of the following, will be receiving a visit from a certain employee of mine named ‘Big Samson’, who will come to your house and do all sorts of fun things to your kneecaps with a rusty boat-hook:

  1. Virus alerts with complete instructions on the file you have to look for and remove in order to ‘fix’ your computer.

No, you complete tool. What this email is, is a very poor attempt to fool dumb people into destroying their own computer. Why go to the trouble of actually writing a virus that will be blasted by a free and easy to install virus checker, when you can just tell the terminally stupid to delete a necessary file? So go into your Windows folder if you feel like it, and delete every file ending in dll if you feel like it, you’ll be doing us a favor.

  1. Emails purporting to be a technology test from Microsoft/Apple or some other corporate entity with more money than God, who ask you to forward the email to as many people as you can, in exchange for cash.

Bill Gates will NOT personally send you a check for $10 for every person it gets forwarded to. You can’t ‘track’ emails like that. I don’t care if your brother’s uncle’s sister’s pet dog’s former roommate did it and got a huge check. It isn’t real. If you don’t believe me, do the math. If I forward this email to 10 people, then they forward it to 10 people…10 steps later that email will have reached 100,000,000,000 people. If you can’t be bothered counting the zeros, that’s one hundred billion people. It’s the same reason pyramid schemes don’t work. $10 per email means that Microsoft would have to spend one thousand billion to cover the ‘project’.

An awful lot of money to test a bit of software, eh? Even for Microsoft.

  1. Warnings that amount to really old and recycled urban myths.

I got one of these recently, and it was an email ‘reporting’ the old chestnut of someone going to a party, getting drugged, and waking up in a bathtub with both their kidneys missing. Ask yourself a question, if someone wants your kidneys, are they going to bother using surgical precision and dumping you in a bathtub? Or just kill you outright, so you can’t tell anyone who they look like? Ignore any email that starts “This is 100% completely true, this actually happened.” If they need to convince you, it’s a lie. You don’t see stories in the newspapers that say “This is 100% true! Honest!” do you?

That is all.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006



WHY!?!? I mean, just WHY!?!?

If there’s one thing I absolutely cannot stand, it’s being dicked around!

Remember the ‘Account Manager’ job I wrote about in my last post? I gave them a call back.

I’ll be completely honest, the only reason I even applied for that job was because the advertisement headline was “I believe you stole my stapler?”

I was intrigued, and considering I’m qualified for any kind of admin job, I thought I’d give them a try.

So I called, and told them they’d contacted me to set up an interview. The guy seemed very nice, told me where to go, what the dress code was, and that if I got lost on the way, to not hesitate to call him and he’d “guide me in”.

Great. “Was there anything else?” He asked me.

“Well, your advertisement was a little cryptic.” I said. “Before I actually come for the interview, can you tell me a little about your company, and what the position of Account Manager actually involves?”

I got a few minutes of management-speak about how they’re a ‘top level service provider’ and that the Account Manager position involves ‘working together as a team’, ‘solving problems dynamically’ etc.

Now, what I wanted to say was: “Umm, that’s great, but can you actually make another statement, this time one with actual information in it, and not a load of high-sounding, but ultimately meaningless bollocks?”

He got a little evasive, as said that knowing that wasn’t really his job, and it would all be covered in the interview.

I wasn’t impressed. If you work at a company, you have at the very least, a basic knowledge of what everyone’s jobs entail, especially if you’re working ‘dynamically and synergistically’ in a team.

I did a little research (God Bless Google, and all who sail in her).

What I found was the ultra crappy company website, as well as a few other postings for the same job, obviously the ones that failed to get any interest, before they settled on the ‘Office Space’ quotes.

Now, I’ve heard of jobs that have impressive sounding titles, for example, you’re not a garbage man, you’re a ‘Household Waste Handling and Removal Specialist’, you’re not an Admin, you’re a ‘Data Input/Processing Executive’.

I think this company took it a little too far. In this company, you’re not a door to door salesman, you’re an ‘Account Manager’.

I mean, seriously, WTF?

Very few people want to sell shit door to door, so what do they think? That if they get you in for an interview, you’ll suddenly change your mind? Look, if you want me to work for you, tell me what it is you want me to actually do. Don’t lie to me, and hope it’ll be years before I notice that the prestigious office job you originally offered me actually involves selling shit to people door to door.

The absolute worst thing with this is that I don’t actually have a valid SC drivers license. It’s not a case of me being choosy, I simply can’t do the job. A traveling salesman who can’t travel is at a bit of a disadvantage.

Oh, and that’s the other thing. This company isn’t not offering me a salary, and making me work for commission only, they’re offering me “Amazing Performance Based Compensation”.

It makes me mad as hell. If I hadn’t taken it upon myself to check this place out, and gone on their word, I would have wasted a whole day, the gas to get all the way to Greenville, just to sit in an office while they try to sell me a job that not only do I not want, but can’t actually do.

Look, I need a job. I need to get working as soon as possible. Being dicked around and flat out lied to just wastes time I don’t have.

I feel like pooping in an envelope and sending it to them.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Spam Spam Spam Spam

Well, my job search is going well.

I got an email this morning from a prospective employer informing me that they’re considering me for the position of Account Manager, and could I please call them to arrange an interview.

I was just about to delete it, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, when I noticed the answering machine light was flashing. I checked the messages, and the first one was a call from the Director of Human Resources at the company who had sent me the email I was reading.

This made me feel a little better about the email, so I’ll give them a call tomorrow.

So, why was I just going to delete the email? It was a job offer, and someone in my position can’t really afford to turn down any lead.

Spam, that’s why.

You see, I’ve posted my resume on multiple job search websites.

The way these are supposed to work is I post a resume, and the website finds jobs that are suitable depending on my qualifications and preferences, so every time I log on, I get a new list of possible jobs in my area. Also, my resume is available to employers so if they’re looking for someone to fill a particular post they can search through suitable resumes and contact me if they’re interested in hiring me.

Good, huh?

Well, not really…no.

You see, like pretty much anything on the interweb, this kind of service gets absolutely ruined by spammers. All of the scams and crappy ‘work from home’ businesses simply go onto these kinds of sites and send out millions of emails to pretty much everyone with a resume registered.

These emails have your name cut and pasted in, tell you they’ve looked through your resume and are very interested…and once you email or contact them, you get one of the following:

  1. Work from home! Earn $10,000,000,000,000 a week working just 15 minutes a year!

  2. We’re interested in hiring you for our dynamic, synergistic, proactive and globalised team! Just send us $100 to cover expenses and we’ll send a representative to your home!

  3. Get paid to take online surveys!

Obviously, I’m not falling for a work at home business that suggests you can earn the entire gross domestic product of the USA per week, and anyone with half a brain knows that you never work for anybody ho asks for money for an interview up front…I’m not even going to comment on the ‘online survey’ thing.

Basically, with so much spam, I’m extremely suspicious of any job offer that lands in my inbox, unless I personally wrote or called and asked them for information…and considering I’ve sent off about 25 applications in the past week, it’s a little hard to keep track!

Anyway, I got the Account Manager message a little too late today to get in contact right now. I’ll give them a call tomorrow and see what they have to say.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What Do You Mean, Jedi Don't Exist?

Many of you have probably heard about the furor over the movie adaptation of “The DaVinci Code.”

There are two things I want to comment on about this.

The first is the uproar over the fact that the baddie character is an albino. Numerous people have started their bitching saying that it’s the equivalent of racism, because albinos are always portrayed as creepy murderers, assassins and bad guys.

Here’s my answer:

So what?

Look, I hate to say this to the albinos out there, but you do look a little creepy. So what if albinos tend to get the typecast roles?

My point is that every single race, creed or whatever have been portrayed as the bad guys in the movies at one time or another. In fact, one of the most common bad-guy stereotypes is the British Guy, or The Smoker.

Guess what? I’m both! I’m British, and I smoke! You don’t hear me complaining that all the bad guys in Star Wars had British accents! You don’t hear me complaining that you can always tell who the bad guy is in a movie because he lights up. In fact, it’s become socially acceptable now to make fun of smokers. There are hundreds of restaurants and buildings I’m not allowed to smoke in. I could say that’s discrimination, in fact, in many ways it actually is…If I was a self-important, reactionary asshole, I could say: “how is ‘No Smoking’ any different to ‘No dogs, no Blacks, no Irish’”?

Technically, I’m being discriminated against, but do I bitch about it?


Cry me a river, build me a bridge and get the fuck over it.

Albinos? Get in line behind the ‘Blacks Always Portrayed as Gang Members’, the ‘Hispanics Always Portrayed as Drug Dealers’, the ‘Arab Guys Always Portrayed as Terrorists’ the ‘Italians Always Portrayed as Mafia Guys’ and don’t forget the ‘English Guy Always Portrayed as the Evil Mastermind or Football Hooligan .’

You show me a race or religion, and I’ll show you a negative stereotype.

Of course, the main point here is that I don’t think the Albino population actually gives a damn. It’s the suburban housewives with nothing better to do who become ‘outraged’ by things like this. Albinos are probably saying the same thing I do when the British Bad guy comes on screen:

“Kick ass! We Rule!”

The good guy always wins, but the bad guys are a lot more fun. Case in point, who’s cooler? Yoda or Darth Vader?

I might as well get worked up at the fact that the Geico Gecko has a British Accent. Here that Geico? Geckos aren’t British! You’re reptilizing my race! That’s wrong! I refuse to be represented as a bipedal lizard who says humorous things in order to sell motor insurance! You monsters! I don’t care if everybody does like free pie and chips! My lawyer will be in touch!

The second thing about The DaVinci Code is that the Catholic Church and the rest of the God Botherers™,  are trying to stop people watching the movie as one of the plot elements is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child.

I’ll say the same thing I say to the “Harry Potter Teaches Kids That Witchcraft Is Fun” crowd:

The DaVinci Code is fiction. That’s right, it isn’t real! I’m pretty sure the average church goer can tell the difference between the Bible and an international best seller. Guess what? Interstellar Spaceships aren’t real either, but you don’t hear NASA complaining because Star Wars might make people start asking why the Space Shuttle is so crappy when compared to and Imperial Star Destroyer:

Dear LucasFilm Ltd.

Please stop making movies with spaceships in them. Being able to cross the galaxy in a few hours isn’t realistic, and quite frankly, it’s making us look bad. Also people are turning up for Astronaut Training and saying “Dibs on the Blaster Turret!” and “Can the Space Shuttle complete the Kessel Run in less than eight parsecs?”

We then have to explain that blasters and the Kessel Run don’t exist, to which they answer: “But we saw it in a movie! It has to be real.” Which kinda puts a whole crimp on our day.

As you know, people are stupid and believe everything they see on the TV is real.

Many thanks.


The other thing is; how the hell do you know what happened to Jesus? Yeah, Jesus getting married isn’t in the bible, but there’s also a huge 30 year gap in his history in there.

You don’t know. Just because it’s written down doesn’t mean its cast iron solid fact. I could write a book today about how I can shit solid gold bricks and my farts smell like rose-water…it doesn’t mean it’s true, even if it survives and is being read in 2000 years.

Anyway, I don’t care what the Catholic Church thinks. Any organization with a “Believe what I believe or I will hold you up to ridicule and hurt you” policy isn’t worth my time.

The truth is that here in the West, we don’t actually have any problems. Now, before you comment with all the problems you have, I’m not talking bills or a crappy job. I’m talking real problems, like living under a dictator, who can have the secret police snatch you from your bed in the dead of night. I’m talking not knowing where your next meal is coming from, or if you’ll still be alive next week. I’m talking about torture or life imprisonment for speaking your mind, or simply stating that you don’t agree with government policy.

Nope, in the West we have nothing major to complain about. Yep, we might not agree with everything our government does, but they can’t strap you to a dentist’s chair and apply high voltage to your nipples for stating that fact.

We have all the essentials: freedom, healthcare, enough food to eat and a roof over our heads. If I wanted to, I could walk down the street in a bright purple speedo, carrying a huge penis shaped sign that says “George Bush Has All The Political Talent Of A Half Dead Gorilla With Melted Cheese On Its Balls.”

However, not too long ago in Iraq, a guy was sentenced to death by hanging because he called Saddam Hussein a ‘Son of a Bitch’. Not in public, not on TV, he said it to a friend and was over-heard. Now that’s something to get worked up about, but no, Little Timmy watching The Lord of The Rings and then telling his pet tortoise, Alan, that he ‘Shall Not Pass!’ is a much bigger problem.

Basically, we have absolutely nothing major to bitch about, so we have to invent things to be outraged at.

So, while in parts of the world women can be flogged or stoned to death for wearing lipstick, we complain that a fictional schoolboy wizard (wizards don’t exist) is casting magic spells (magic doesn’t exist) on his friends and family, and it’s going to corrupt our children, and get them into witchcraft (which wouldn’t matter anyway, because magic doesn’t exist)…and demand the book is pulled from the shelves and the movies banned.

That’s right, people actually think a fictional character wielding a fictional power against fictional people is a bad thing. I mean, if Harry Potter had a Colt .45 instead of a wand, I’d at least understand.

Yep, parents want books taken of the shelves because it might lead to their children pointing a short stick at their friends and shouting Rictusempra! Or Wingardium Leviosa!

Oh, the humanity! Can you imagine the aftermath of a stunt like that? Their friend would look at them and say:


Witchcraft’s evil. Yep, those fictional problems are the worst.

My advice to these people is to grow a sense of humor, and understand that whoever you are, movies and fiction are not always going to portray you in the best possible light (if they did, movies would suck, it would just be people of every race and creed holding hands and telling each other how much they respect and admire each other for an hour and forty minutes). Also, what happens in movies is not always going to be reconcilable with your own personal beliefs and ideology.

Now, I know a lot of you might just be thinking “Well, you’re not an albino or a Christian, so you can’t comment on this. Wait until you’re personally attacked, or a movie contradicts something you know to be true, and see how you feel.”

For you people, I give the following examples:

Braveheart : British portrayed as evil…what a surprise.
The Patriot : Apparently during the American War for Independence, the British Army was in the habit of locking women and children up in churches, then setting fire to them. Needless to say, this didn’t happen.
U-571 : The Americans are credited with capturing a German sub to obtain a German Enigma Coding Machine…despite the fact  that it was the British did this, in such secrecy that the Americans weren’t even informed until after it had been captured. Come to think of it, in every single WW2 movie, Americans fought the Germans all on their own.
Star Wars : Everyone in the Evil Galactic Empire was British…need I say more?

Did I bitch, complain, write a letter to everyone I could think of demanding these movies be banned? No, I laughed and enjoyed the movie…because, unlike the suburban housewives with too much time…I can distinguish reality and fiction.

Wingardium Leviosa, Bitches!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Cats Are Furry Demons. Official

I’ve come to a conclusion.

Domestic cats have Demon Souls. I officially believe that they’re the most evil animals on the planet.

Let me tell you what led me to this revelation.

Last night I was sitting at the computer, when from behind me, in the Laundry Room, I heard the following:

Thump! Squeak, squeak, squeak.

That’s right, Padme caught a mouse.

Now, for the record, I’d just like to say we don’t keep a dirty house, and we don’t have a mouse problem. We just live out in the country, surrounded on all sides by fields and woods. There’s nothing you can do, so occasionally, field mice get in the house. Again, for the record, this is the first mouse that’s been in the house in over a year.


Padme darted past me into the hallway, with a tiny mouse hanging from his mouth.

I headed to the kitchen, to get something to drink, and Padme instantly turned feral. He hunkered down and started growling (the only cat I’ve ever seen that can growl like a dog.)

“For God’s sake, Padme!” I said. “I don’t want your damn mouse! I’m trying to get a drink! Anyway, hurry up and eat the damn thing! I don’t want that in my house!”

I got a meow-growl back in reply.

So I get my drink, and walk back into the living room. 15 minutes later I’m still hearing squeaking.

“Padme!” I shout. “haven’t you killed that thing yet?”

RRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrooooooowwwwwwwllll (Translation: My mouse! You can’t have it!)

I positioned myself so I could see Padme, without him seeing me. What I saw convinced me that my cat was, indeed, Lucifer in a slightly less scary costume.

Why are domestic cats evil? They’re the only animal that consistently toy with their prey.

Dogs? Go for the jugular! Crocodiles? Drag ‘em underwater so they drown!

Any other animal tries to kill their food as quickly and easily as possible.

Domestic cats want their pray to suffer.

As I watched, Padme let the mouse go, and just stared. He let it get about 2 feet away…then pounced again. The climax of the performance was when he took the mouse in his mouth, threw it in the air, gave it a fore-hand smash that Andre Agassi would be proud of, bouncing it off the wall, hitting it back towards the wall before it hit the floor, and then caught it as it rebounded. Then he let it go, let it get its breath back, and started all over again.

I mean, why?

There are two main reasons for one animal to attack or kill another. One, for food, which means they want to spend as little energy killing their prey as possible, or Two, to protect territory, which means they either want to kill, or otherwise scare the other animal off their patch as quickly as possible.

So, basically, playing keepie-up with a mouse serves actually no purpose. For food, Padme could just have grabbed hold, bit the thing in two, and eaten it.

There was only one reason for the Soccer Superstar/Matrix Kung-fu moves Padme was pulling.

He enjoys making the mouse suffer…and that goes beyond physical torture, it’s psychological as well.

It’s like someone pointing a gun at your head, saying they’re going to kill you, then saying “Nah, I’ve changed my mind, you can go.” Then as soon as you get 6 feet away, he says “Oi! Where d’you think you’re going?” Then shoots the ground and makes you ‘dance’ for a few minutes…repeat ad nauseum.

Yep, Cats are pure evil…and that’s official.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

And They Say PC Gamers Get Ripped Off?

Well, E3 started today. The Superbowl of the video gaming world.

I want to talk about the Wii, Nintendo’s new console.

Now, believe it or not, I’m not here just to make fun of the name. Yes, Nintendo, it does sound like ‘we’ and the two ‘ii’s in the logo do look like two people standing next to each other…but did no one think to let them in on the fact that ‘wii’ (pronounced ‘wee’) is another name for piss?

That’s going to be fun when it hits the stores:

“Can I have a Wii please?”
“Can’t you read the signs, buddy? No public restrooms!”

Nope, I want to talk about the financial side.

At last years E3 the console gamers started gloating that the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 marked the end of PC gaming. “We can play games that look just as good as the PC, but for cheaper!” they cried.

I hated to be the one to remind them that they said the same about the PS2 and the original Xbox.

You see, PC’s do require a higher initial investment (although with the price points for the new consoles being so high, it’s getting to where a good PC and a new console are the same price), the PC’s upgradeability makes it a better investment.

When Half Life 2 came out, console players gloated that many people needed to buy a $600 graphics card to run it.

Yes, that’s a lot of money, but console players needed to buy a whole new console to play the next-gen games…and what was the price? Around $600 dollars!

You see, you buy a new console, you use it for 4 or 5 years, and then it becomes totally obsolete. You buy a new PC, then for about $100 a year, you can keep it current, if not cutting edge.

For example, less than a year on, I put an ATI X1300 in my machine, and runs Half Life 2 like butter. It’ll play all the newest, latest games as well, and in a year, I might spend another $100, if I need it.

In other words, consoles catch up to PC’s, claim ‘victory’, but then forget that PC’s are improving all the time. There’s no such thing as a PC cycle. For example, the latest thing is the Physics Accelerator card, due out in a few months. Basically a card that takes a huge load off your processor, improves games performance like crazy, meaning better games can be created.

If you bought an Xbox 360, you’ll be waiting another 5 or 6 years until the new Xbox comes out to take advantage of the hardware.

In simplest terms, if you spend about the price of a next gen console on a PC, you’ll get a good starting point, and then for about $100 to a year, your PC will stay on or near the cutting edge. Or, you can buy a new console, be stuck with what you’ve got for 6 years, then end up paying about $1000 dollars for the Playstation 4

However, my main point is the console gamers’ idea that PC gamers get ripped off because they constantly have to upgrade. If we want to, we can leave our PC as it is, let it get obsolete like a console, then spend the cost of the newest console to replace it.

The truth is, we don’t have to upgrade…but we can wait 6 months, and the $600 upgrade drops in price dramatically…and the PC we  already have can run the game anyway…maybe not blisteringly fast, but good enough.

I don’t want to keep harping on about it, but my graphics card was over $500 6 months ago. I got it for $150. In another 6 months, the same card will probably sell for about $60.

Which brings me back to the Wii. The rip off of the century.

Following Microsoft’s example with the 360, they’re offering a 2 tiered console. $499 for the version with a 20 gig hard drive, and $599 for the version with the 80 gig hard drive.

Here’s what I mean by a rip off. You’re going to pay an extra $100 for a measly extra 60 gigs of storage space.

I did a little research. Through Circuit City, I can buy an 80 gig hard drive for sixty bucks. That’s right, What Nintendo are charging $100 for, I can get that, with an extra 20 gigs on top, for just over half price.

However, if you’re an intelligent PC owner, you’d go over the, and there you can buy a whopping 250 gig hard drive, for $89.99.

$100 for an extra 60 gigs on the Wii console. $89.99 with get you a hard drive with over four times the space for the PC.

Now, here’s the thing, with the PC, you get the choice. Nintendo can charge whatever they want because they’re the only vendor you can buy from.

Here’s the deal. If console manufacturers wanted to break even on the newest consoles, they’d have to sell them for double the price. Most consoles take a loss in the first few years of the console cycle, because they charge $600 for a console that probably costs over a grand per unit to make. The idea is that they make the cash back through the sales of the games.

So they do something like this. They know that most console gamers don’t want ‘second best’, so they make a cheap upgrade (If you can get a 250gig hard drive retail, imagine what the wholesale price is), and charge a ridiculous amount for it, and hope that console gamers won’t notice.

In other words, to minimize the loss they’re going to make, they charge you $100 for an upgrade that cost them about $20.

Now, I’ll admit that the cost of a new, top of the range gaming PC can cost much more than a new console, but if you’re like me, you simply find the PC you want, get the specs, and build it yourself, and end up paying about half the retail cost of the machine you copied.

However, when you buy a games console, you get just that, something you can play games on. Most consoles now have basic, cut-down internet access, but they simply can’t match a PC.

With my PC I can surf the web, send email, write this blog, edit and print pictures, download and burn music, design a house…pretty much anything.

Now, console gamers may point out that the newest consoles can do a lot of that, and the consoles in future will be able to do as much as a PC, but that proves my point even more.

As games consoles improve, they’re simply becoming more and more like PCs. Eventually, they’ll be almost indistinguishable, and the only difference will be that with a ‘console PC’, you’ll be stuck paying through the nose for proprietary hardware.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cars? Nah. Horses Are Much Better!

Ok, I’ve been trying to get to sleep since midnight, and considering it’s 4:30am now, I’d just about given up.

Typical, though. As soon as I get up, turn on the TV, and get something to drink…I suddenly feel exhausted. Maybe writing this will tire me out enough to sleep.

Anyway, as you know, there’s nothing on TV at this time of the morning, except for those awful infomercials. This latest one, the Oreck XL vacuum cleaner, the one that’s on now, always makes me laugh.

It’s a standard thing that when a new technology comes along, sellers of the old technology will go out of their way to try and convince us that there’s some big reason why the new technology doesn’t work.

Here’s the deal on this one:

There are new, much better vacuum cleaners out there. Most noticeably the Dyson. I used to have one in England. This thing is amazing, you don’t have to buy new bags for it, and it picks up like nothing you’ve ever seen. We actually vacuumed the carpet with our old vacuum cleaner, then ran the Dyson over the same carpet.

The carpet actually changed color, and the canister that holds the dust had to be emptied three times (and that thing has about a 3 gallon capacity).

Without wanting to come off like a corporate whore, trying to sell you one of these things, you have to admit, pulling 9 ‘gallons’ of dirt from a freshly vacuumed carpet is pretty damn amazing.

But what has Mr. Oreck got to say about this?

If he was like Jim Carrey in the film ‘Liar, Liar.’ He’d say:

“Well, my vacuum doesn’t pick up as well, has filters so it clogs, needs a new expensive bag every few weeks, and I can’t blatantly rip off the Dyson cleaners, because Mr. Dyson was too thorough patenting the new technology.”

What he actually said was:

“Bagless vacuums are crap, because when you empty the canister, all the dust goes back up into the air and into your house! Oh, and my vacuum is lighter, but the fact that you very rarely have to life a vacuum doesn’t count.”

He even goes to far as to turn on a ‘scientific’ black light to show the dust that emptying the canister spills everywhere. Apparently, his bags have all kinds of filters that stop this happening, and you’d be a fool to buy a bagless vacuum.

Erm, Mr. Oreck? Can I point a couple of things out to you?

One, you can actually take the canister off the vacuum, and empty it outside. A weird idea, I know! You also don’t have to empty the canister by turning it upside down a full three feet over the trash can, like the idiot does in the infomercial.

Two, if I have a vacuum that picks up much better than yours, even if it does put a small percentage of the dust back onto the floor, the majority of it goes into the trash can. Considering I vacuum every other day. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t make much difference.

Sorry, Mr. Oreck, the truth is that you’re vacuum is crappy, and we don’t want to be charged an arm and a leg every month or so for new bags.

Like I said, it makes me laugh. It’s the equivalent of saying a typewriter is better than a computer because it will save you cash on your energy bills, doesn’t have a monitor with glare that can hurt your eyes, and is 100% hacker-proof.