Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Snail Mail

My mum recently discovered a little known service currently being offered by the Royal Mail.

It’s called “Asthmatic Tortoise Mail”.

Basically, if you put your package on the back of an asthmatic tortoise, attached a ball and chain to its leg, blindfolded it, spun it around three times then shouted “Go!” The tortoise would arrive at the required destination a good three weeks before the mail could get there.

Now I gotta be clear, I’m not bashing my parents about using this service. They’re sending me all kinds of British goodies you can’t get in the USA, and they’re paying for it out of their own pocket.

What I don’t understand is why it is so much cheaper to send things overland and by boat, than through airmail.

It’s comparison time!

The last time I flew to the USA, it cost me 600 GBP.

Ok, I weigh roughly 250lbs (stop snickering in the back, most of my regular readers have seen pictures of me…I’m big boned, dammit!)

If we figure that in, I’m flying at an approximate cost of $2.40 per pound (Actually, that’s 2.40 GBP per pound, but this stupid American keyboard doesn’t have a pound sign, and I get very bored typing ‘GBP’ over and over.)

Then we factor in my luggage, which was a whopping 70lbs, which now drops the price to $1.87 per pound.

Then we look at the other stuff. My package doesn’t need to eat, sleep, and certainly doesn’t want to buy one of those overpriced set of headphones to enjoy the 3 year old, cut to ribbons movie.

Also, a square box has a much higher packing efficiency than the average human. IE Packages don’t complain about having no leg-room, or have to move around and take asprin to combat deep-vein thrombosis.

Ok, so let’s deduct the cost of the meal, the cost of heating etc from my ticket price. For simplicity, let’s assume that this knocks a dollar off the price.

So, rough cost per pound for airline passengers is 87 cents per pound.

So, in that case, can someone please explain why it costs almost $20 to send two packages of curry paste and a box of British tea, weighing less than two pounds, by air mail?

If we do this in reverse, this means that if I was to fly at the postal rate, it would cost $3250, not counting the cost of the meal, movie, heating, pressurizing the cabin, stewardess’s wages etc.

Let’s just say that the next time my parents use Royal Airmail to send me something, my package damn well better get a complimentary orange juice and a set of pilot wings.


Well the response to yesterday’s post confirmed something I had suspected for a long time.

You people like the funny stuff.

(Hmmm, ‘You people.’ Is that racist? Am I ‘profiling’ you by saying that? Who knows? More importantly, who cares?)

Basically, I’ve discovered my average reader has a lot in common with my mother. After I’ve posted a carefully worded diatribe on copyright law, religion or philosophy, she’ll say “That’s all well and good, but when are you going to write something funny again?”

Now, what I’d like to do is cast myself in the ‘tortured artist’ role. You’re all the ‘uninformed masses’, who swallow my throwaway ‘funny’ posts with great glee, yet fail to truly comprehend my important works.

In other words, I’m Paul Sheldon from Misery. You’re all Annie Wilkes. I’ve written something I’m proud of, and you hobble me with a sledgehammer and drug me until I write another trashy novel.

Basically, I’m great, you’re dumb. I WIN!

Unfortunately, the truth has nothing to do with that.

I’m humorly-challenged.

Here’s the deal. People who know me say I’m funny. If I’m relaxing with a group of friends I’m as funny as a dog on a treadmill... but if I actually try to be funny…I’m about as amusing as the holocaust.

In fact, forget that…it’s much worse.

I’m as unfunny as a circus clown…and almost as creepy.

It’s like I have a bad cruise ship comedian living in my head. If I’m not trying to be funny, he’ll ignore what’s going on. The second I actually try to be funny, he elbows me out of the way and starts ‘cracking wise’.

“Funny? Ya want funny? I’m your guy for that! Take my wife, please! Everyone! ‘There was a young man from Nantucket…”

You know the type of thing I’m talking about. My brain houses the kind of comedian who thinks “I flew in from Denver, and boy are my arms tired!” is actually funny. I don’t even mean my brain-comedian thinks that it’s funny ironically. He just thinks it’s actually funny.

So, what does this mean for you, my readers?

If I sit at my computer and say “Ok, I’m going to write a funny post.” What you actually end up with is the “Christmas Cracker Joke” style of funny.

You want Dave Chappelle funny, and end up with: “What’s green and goes camping? A boy sprout.”

“But yesterday’s post was funny!” I hear you cry.

Well, that wasn’t me trying to be funny. That was me relaying a humorous event. There is a difference. Trying to be funny is a creative thing. With yesterday’s story, the funny has already occurred and I just had to write it down.

The simple truth is that if you can think of a dog trying to eat a too-hot un-shelled boiled egg and not laugh, you have absolutely no sense of humor anyway.

Which brings me to my second handicap:

I’m British. Therefore, I find two things funny:

1) Sarcasm
2) People hurting themselves

So as you can see, I don’t have the chance to simply relay humorous things on a very regular basis. If I did, my posts would be along the lines of:

Today I saw this fat dude fall over! It ruled!

Or I could post a picture of Lindsay Lohan and write a caption that reads “Hey, look at this fat bitch! I think she needs to go on a diet!”

As a classic example of the things I find funny, today I was sitting at my computer, attempting to make a realistic farting noise using only my mouth, without ‘cheating’ by using the standard ‘raspberry’. I did one that sounding like a very wet fart…and giggled for 15 minutes.

Would you find a post centered purely around my attempts at ass-gas audio synthesis? Probably not.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m simply not funny.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stoopid Dog.

I have a question.

Is it possible for animals to be retarded? I mean, with lots of different animals you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference…but is it possible for an animal to be as thick as a submarine door, dumb as a bag of hammers and a couple sandwiches short of a picnic?

Ladies and Gentlemen? I give you my dog, Buddy:

Buddy is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in an enigma (Who coincidentally smells quite a bit like old carpet).

He is capable of acts of extreme intelligence, but is more commonly known for his acts of downright outrageous stupidity.

For example, like Jake, my uber-intelligent dog who still lives with my parents in England, when you tell him to do something, he will check your hands for treats. If there’s not something tasty waiting for him at the end, he ain’t going to the trouble.

On the other hand, he’s the only dog I’ve ever met who can’t grasp the concept of “Fetch”. I mean, he’ll actually chase whatever you throw, but after he races towards it at break-neck speed…he’ll just stand there and look at it. Then he’ll trot back with a look on his face like “That was cool, dude! Throw something else!”

Either that, or he’ll look hurt that you threw his favorite ball away.

Put it this way, he was once enticed by the delicious smells coming from the oven. He got so close trying to locate the delicious emanations he burnt his nose.

Ever heard the expression “Once bitten, twice shy.”?

Neither has Buddy. He not only did exactly the same thing again, he did it three times before he understood the concept “Oven is hot, hot hurts, do not puch nose against the over door.”

Well today, I want to relay a ‘Buddy Story’ that just happened. It involves both his intelligence and his sheer stupidity.

Now Buddy knows he’s not allowed in the kitchen while we’re cooking, which he understands as “No one is allowed in the kitchen while cooking, except under his direct supervision.”

If you spot him in there, he’ll turn his back to you. I think he thinks that if he can’t see you, you can’t see him.

He also knows he’s not allowed to bed for food while people are eating.

He has, however, discovered a loophole in that directive. If something touches the floor, it instantly becomes fair game. (He has in the past “accidentally” knocked food from the table for just this purpose).

Well, today, I was hungry, but wanted something simple. I decided to have a boiled egg.

Now, when you’re cooking in the kitchen, Buddy instantly enters “Sam Fisher” mode. He gets all stealthy.

This means he gets under your feet as much as possible. If you shout at him, he’ll cock his head to one side like: “Dude? Why are you shouting at the cat? He’s not even in here!”…and if pressed will turn his back on you, which from his point of view, makes him as invisible as Harry Potter in the girls’ changing room.

Well, this was the position he was in as I was trying to walk back through to the living room.

Then the egg fell off my plate.

I swear he could hear it falling, because he’d whirled around before it had hit the floor.

Remember how I said he’d discovered the ‘begging loophole’?

Well, he also knows that this isn’t an entirely legal move. So he tries to eat whatever’s been dropped as soon as possible.

In the blink of an eye, he’s scooped up the egg as fast as “The Flash” with diarrhea.

Then his face changed.

It can only be described as the retarded dog version of “Uh-oh”.

Not only was the egg directly from the boiling water…it still had it’s shell. Who knew that something’s are even unpalatable to retarded dogs?

I could see his dilemma.

Not only was the egg burning the crap out of his mouth, he also had a mouthful of eggshell. On the other hand, it was contraband food, a delicacy so rare, that it simply can’t be discarded without careful thought…something that Buddy is incapable of.

So after attempting to chew for another 15 seconds, he finally gave up, dropped what was left on the floor, and ran to get some cold water.

…from the toilet.

The final kicker? I went to get something to clear up the mashed egg-shelly mess from the floor.

When I returned…he’d finished it.


Nurse! I Need EarPlugs, STAT!

Ok, something else from the wonderous interweb that I just had to share.

Here's the back story:

This guy is a music major at a Christian College, and this is his audition tape for a scholarship program. He hoped this tape would win him a scholarship.

Now, I gotta say, this just has to be heard to be beleived. You know those terrible auditions on "American Idol"? Well, this guy makes them sound like legendary stars.

Listen to it all the way through. At first, I thought "Cheesy Karaoke, but not absolutely terrible."

Then I heard him trying to hit the high notes.

So enjoy, no matter how tone deaf you are, this guy will make you beleive you can sing.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall

This is something that I found online and just HAD to share with you all.

Not only because I had a long line of teachers like this, but simply because it’s so outrageous.

I hope that this is fake for one simple reason: If it’s real, I seriously despair for the state of world we live in.


Because this letter simply says:

“Don’t think. Obey anyone in a position of authority without question. Even if we are wrong, you’re wrong to disagree with us, because we’re the ones in charge.”

I know I bitch and rant about a lot of stuff on this blog, but this is exactly the kind of thing that truly pisses me off.

So let me write a short rebuttal to this teacher:

You’re a teacher. Your job is to teach. You are not doing your job, unless your job is to teach children things that are flat out wrong.

Yes, you are in a position of authority, but you are in that position because the world at large believes that you actually know what you’re talking about. Your job should be to teach kids to question, and to think, not to blindly obey and accept everything they hear at face value…especially when they know what they’re hearing is wrong.

Let’s face it. You didn’t give this kid detention because he didn’t blindly accept the ‘facts’ you gave him. You’re giving him detention because he showed that you are an idiot and an incompetent teacher.

Also, for one, he didn’t show a ‘blatant disregard for authority’, he showed a blatant (and justified) disregard for a ‘fact’ he knew to be false. Secondly, a school that allows someone like you to be a teacher, simply doesn’t deserve ‘respect’.

Respect is earned, not taken or demanded.

You, Sir, should not be teaching.

I hope to fuck that this is fake.

Rant over.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Good Luck / Bad Luck

In my lifetime, I’ve experiences a lot of bad luck, a smattering of good luck…but very rarely both at the same time.

In fact, I recently had a bad-luck experience that turned into good luck.

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know all about my new vendor. (This post is Second Life related, but even in SL doesn’t interest you in the slightest, read on anyway…because while this happened in SL, it’s not really about SL)

Well, today I checked up on everything, and discovered that the vendor in my main store wasn’t working. Instead of showing off my amazing creations, it was a blank screen showing “Vendor Offline”.

I went to Sunny’s cottage and reset the server.

While my other (far lower traffic) locations updated perfectly, my main store kept getting to about 95% updated and freezing.

I tried everything. Nothing would make it work. I started swearing.

Then, despite the fact that the server is meant to work with vendors grid-wide, I decided to see if placing the server closer to the vendor would fix it. So I grabbed my server, and tucked it away in a corner of my store.

It worked, but I still wasn’t happy. Only Sunny and I (plus a few trusted friends) have access to her cottage. I didn’t like the idea of my server being out in the open, where people could try to dick with it.

I decided it would have to do, for now…and left it.

I logged out.

A couple of hours later, Sunny logs in to find her cottage, and the entire neighborhood missing. Apparently, the asshole who owns the land had sold it and cleared everything.

This isn’t entirely uncommon in SL, only usually the land owner will give notice, and anything that’s cleared from the land is returned to its owner. (If you leave an item on someone else’s land, it’s usually returned to you at the end of the day).

Sunny hasn’t got back anything she had in the cottage.

Now while I don’t revel in this, simply because Sunny lost one or two expensive custom items, I’ve got to see how good my luck was.

Here’s the thing. My entire inventory was on that server, and without it, my vendors are giant paperweights. Also, thinking I wouldn’t need them, I deleted my old vendors. I thought my clothing line was safe on my shiny new server.

In other words, if that server had gotten deleted, not only would I have had to replace it, I’d have had to upload everything I’d made again (IF I still had the original texture files in photoshop).

Plus, unlike the vendors which are infinitely copyable, the server is a one shot deal. You get one, and they’re expensive to replace…and there’s no way I could convince the guy who sold it to me that I just wanted a replacement for the lost one…and it’s not even his responsibility anyway…he could have turned around and said “Tough shit.”

In other words, if it wasn’t for that one vendor going on the fritz this morning…I’d be officially out of business.

Maybe it wasn’t a bug. Maybe my server just has a sense of self-preservation.

It’s like missing a flight, cursing your bad luck, only to find out later that the plane crashed.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Paulius Designs Goes Hi-Tech!

(Click the picture for a larger view...and yes, that is me standing next to the ad)

(This will be of little interest to many of you, but quite frankly, I just need someone to gloat/brag to).

Until recently, my Second Life business was run using freebie hardware.

Here’s how it worked:

Essentially, I had a box. I put my clothing into this box along with a picture of each item. People would look at the box, click an arrow on it to scroll through the different items, and pay the box, which would give them their item and pay me.

Clunky, you could only see one item at a time, and it meant I had to wander around and update each of my three locations separately.

Today, I got the real shit.

Let me explain this thing…because I’m inexplicably proud of it.

Now, when you walk into my store, you see the equivalent of a gigantic plasma screen, showing up to 16 items at once, tiled on the screen. You click one, and in the blink of an eye, the item dills the whole screen. You can even click a button on the screen, and it’ll give you a notecard explaining the item.

Best thing?


I have a server. I put my new items in it, and at the click of a mouse, every single one of my stores updates at the same time.

Actually, that’s the second best thing. With my old freebie vendor, the only way I could tell if anything had sold is by looking at my cash balance before I logged off, and seeing if it had increased when I logged back in. I could see that someone had bought something, but not where they got it, or what they'd actually bought.

The new vendor not only sends me an instant message, letting me know who bought something, where they bought it, and what they bought…I can also set it to send my an email with that same information.

There is one downside. It’s a minor, petty little thing…but just to take that big business, hi-tech sheen off the whole operation…where am I keeping my server?

In one of the secure server storage facilities dotted around Second Life? In a deep, bomb-proof cellar, beneath one of the malls my store is located in?


It’s sitting on top of Sunny’s fridge, in her Second Life cottage.

Heheheheh…I’m big business now, but I’m still a cottage industy.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Double Dipping

Ok, there’s a subject that I want to throw my two cents in on.

There’s been a lot of hoo-ha recently about software bundled with the game “Battlefield 2142”.

Now, there’s been a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about this.

The problem was the belief that this game came with spyware. It would keep track of your internet browsing habits, and then download targeted advertising that would be put up on billboards and posters in the game.

In other words, if you spent all day looking at sports based websites, while playing the game, you would see billboards and posters for various sporting products.

The gaming community went up in arms. We don’t like to be spied on.

The truth is a little less extreme. All the ‘spyware’ does is send information about how long you looked at the in game advertisements. In other words, it’s to show the people who have paid for advertising just how many people are seeing them.

No personal information, nothing sinister…just the company who paid top dollar for in-game advertising wants to know if it was worth the investment.

However, I have a problem with this, and it’s nothing to do with my right to privacy.

My problem is the whole advertising thing.

Now, you may wonder what the big deal is. Is it really such a problem that while I’m running and gunning down a street I pass a poster advertising the latest graphics card from nVidia? Does it bother me that at the end of a street I see a billboard advertising Adidas sneakers?

No, my problem is this:

Games companies are making a lot of extra money through in-game advertisements, and we, the gamers, aren’t seeing a penny of it.

In game advertising means more revenue for the games studio…but while in-game advertising is steadily on the rise, so is the cost of the games we’re playing.

This should be the other way around. The games companies are slowly filling their games with advertisements. Wouldn’t it be fair for them to use some of that money they’re making from advertising to lower the price of the games a little?

Look at the TV business model. They don’t make money from the actual shows. The shows are just there to make sure we’re sitting in front of a TV when the advertisements start to play.

We’re not asked to pay for network TV, because the advertising pays for it.

If we continue this analogy with the direction videogames are slowly taking, it’s like paying a subscription to a movie channel, and having the movies interrupted with ads every 15 minutes.

Would you pay for that? I know I wouldn’t. Either I pay you, or the advertisers do…not both.

Fight Night: Round 3 costs $60, and that game is like one big Burger King commercial.

I mean, I’m all for games studios making money. The more money they have, the more games we’ll see. I’m not suggesting that if a game company chooses to have advertising in their game that they should deduct all the money they make from advertising from the game price…but why not a percentage?

In short, it’s unfair. Games are costing more and more, while games companies are making larger and larger profits.

In my opinion, It’s one of the downsides of games going mainstream. It’s no longer “By gamers, for gamers”, it’s so some guy in a suit, who has never held a controller in his life, can make more money.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

No, I Haven't Gone Nuts

The eagle eyed among you may have noticed that there's now a "Paypal Donate" button on my profile. (For the non-eagle eyed, it's just over there on the right).

Anyway, I haven't gone nuts, and I certainly don't think people will pay me to read this shit. I just set up a paypal account for other reasons (Ebay, SL etc), and wanted to make sure the button worked without starting up a fake ebay auction.

Anyway, it's there...I just wanted you all to know that haven't turned into a pretentious prick who thinks this blog is worth donating to.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Oh Yeah?"

Everyone has that one story.

I call it the conversation stop-starter, because no matter what the topic of conversation, everyone instantly shuts up, then just has to ask for the details.

It’s the ultimate in one-upmanship. Someone tells you their outrageous story, and you turn to them, and say “Oh yeah? Well, I once did this…

So, today, I’m issuing a challenge to all my blogger buddies out there (You know who you are). I want to hear your outrageous ‘conversation stop-starter’ stories. I can’t offer a prize or anything, but the winner gets bragging rights.

As an example of what I mean, I’ll tell you mine.

Ok, imagine we’re at a dinner party. Someone’s just told their wacky tale of the time they got stuck on the side of a mountain with a goat named Pedro. With the manner of someone laying down an ace, I look at them and say:

“Oh yeah? Well, once, I got pissed on by an Albino Tiger.”

(See what I mean? You just have to know the details…and getting pissed on by a tiger is interesting enough, but the fact it was an albino tiger pushes it right over the edge.)

Ok, here’s the actual story.

During my first visit to the USA, Sunny took me to the Greenville Zoo. I was starting to get bored. It was almost 100 degrees and most of the animals where either hiding or sleeping.

So I walked up to the tiger cage. The notice said that this was a very special tiger, as it was a rare Albino from somewhere I can’t remember.

The cage consisted of a chain-link fence, with a chest high fence about 5 feet away from that.

The tiger was sleeping, like most of the other animals.

However, as I walked up to the fence, the tiger lifted it’s head, looked around as though it was extremely bored…but then it looked at me, and it’s eyes just locked with mine. (As an aside, when a gigantic tiger is staring you down, that cage starts to look awfully flimsy.)

It stood up and started pacing it’s cage, never breaking eye contact with me. It started to edge closer and closer to the front of the cage, until it stood, less than 5 feet away from me…just staring.

I started to fumble for my camera, as it was a great shot.

It was at this point, as I raised my camera, that the tiger turned its back on me, started to walk away…before suddenly backing up and covering me with a fine spray of urine.

Ok, I know this story might be a little disappointing after the build up, with it happening in a zoo and all…but honestly, how many people can say they’ve been pissed on by a rare albino tiger?

I look forward to reading all your stories.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Dirty Pillows"

Ok, this I just had to laugh my ass off at.

Take a look at this picture:

Here’s the story. The above is a class picture of a seven year old girl. Her mother is throwing a major shit-fit and threatening to sue everyone in sight because she believes that this pic was ‘tampered with’ to give her seven year old daughter ‘cleavage’.

Ok, before I get technical, isn’t this the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard? Why would a professional photographer tamper with this picture and send the ‘edited’ version to the family?

What has he got to gain? The reputation of a pervert? A slight chuckle that could effectively close his business?


I’ll tell you what happened. The mother saw the picture, and before anything else, she heard ‘Cha-Ching!’ and decided she could exploit a photographic oddity to grab money from an honest, hard-working photographer.

Ok, now for the technical part. I’ll explain exactly what has happened in this picture.

In short…the ‘fill’ flash didn’t go off.

When you’re taking a portrait shot, you don’t want any hard shadows on the face at all. It looks ugly. What you do is light the subject from both sides (usually above and to the side), and then use a third flash that ‘hits’ the subject head on.

So your subject is lit from both sides, and the front…meaning there’s nowhere for a shadow to be created.

Now look at the picture. The light is striking the girl from the top left and top right, and the collar of her shirt is creating a shadow. In the center, where the two shadows meet, you get an area of deeper shadow.

In short, it looks like cleavage. If the third flash from the front had fired, it would have obliterated the shadow.

There, if you actually look at the picture and think about it, it’s obvious what happened.

Of course, that way the only thing you get out of it is a second picture with the lighting fixed…you don’t get to demand a few million in ‘damages’, because some pervert photographer purposefully gave your daughter boobs.

I look forward to hearing about the court case.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Missed Opportunity?

Today I decided to design a new outfit for my SL store.

Now this usually involves a lot of switching backwards and forwards between avatars. I upload certain textures under my male avatar (So my ‘real’ SL name is listed as the owner), send that to my female avatar, then switch to her to actually create the damn clothes.

Then something weird happened.

I logged out of my female character, then logged back in as my male character. I went to send my female character something…and it still had her listed as ‘online’.

That’s impossible.

Only one person has the password for that character, and that’s me. I’d just logged out of that identity mere moments ago.

So I did what anyone would have done. Put it down to a glitch.

Sure enough, it let me log back in moments later under the female character…no-one had hijacked it.

Then I started to think…Did I just miss a once in a lifetime opportunity?

What if there had been some rip in the time space continuum, meaning that at that precise moment, I was online both as my female character AND my male character? What if I could send myself a message, back through time itself, to five minutes ago…and tell myself all about the future?

Sure, I’d only logged in as my female character 5 minutes ago, and I couldn’t tell myself any earth-shattering revelations.

But it would have been long enough to say:

“In about a minute’s time, you’re going to try to pick up your drink. Not only is the glass not nearly as full as you think, but Sunny brought it to you in a plastic glass rather than a real glass.

So when you pick it up, don’t use the amount of lifting force you think you’ll need for a heavy, full glass…because it’s much lighter than that, and you’ll throw it all over yourself.”

Moral of the Story:

When faced with a rip in the time-space continuum, make sure you use it, and don’t throw red Kool-Aid all over yourself.

What's It Like Over There?

Sometimes I wish I could get by on that fact that here in America I’m somewhat ‘exotic’.

Today I went and registered with a couple of Temp agencies. Now I have my Greencard, and can get my Drivers Licence…it’s actually worth it.

So I walked into the place, walked up to the window.

“Excuse me.” I said. “Can I fill out an application please?”

She looked at me quizzically.

“I need two forms of ID.” She said.

So I handed her my Greencard and British Drivers Licence…she looked them over, before handing them back.

“So where are you from?” She asked.

(Observation One. Right in the middle of my Greencard, in bold letters is ‘Country of Origin : United Kingdom’…My Drivers licence also has ‘United Kingdom’ written on it. Why does she need to see ID if she’s not even looking at it? I could have handed her a card that listed my name as ‘Osama Bin Laden’ and occupation as ‘Worlds Most Wanted Terrorist’, and she wouldn’t have noticed.)

This is usually the part of the conversation where I start to feel like Biff . The same questions over and over. “What’s England like?” “Is it different to here?” “Do you have computers/cars/flushing toilets?”

So after 10 minutes of culture comparision…(Yes, I have seen Friends)…

Anyway, I sit down and start to fill out the forms. To my horror, there’s a Math Test on there.

(Random Paulius Fact #324 : I’m crap at math. I mean, I can do algebra, trigonometry and all that complicated stuff, but the bad part is my brain just can’t get around the concept of numbers. I think I have a mild case of numerical dyslexia (if there is such a thing). Essentially, the only way I can do math is to see numbers as shapes. Shapes that fit together, and make new shapes that represent new numbers.

This is easy for ‘round’ numbers…but when I have to divide 8763 by 38…I might as well be trying to explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to a gerbil.)

So, anyway, I do my best. I consider writing the answer to the ones I can’t get my head around as “Start, Accessories, Calculator”, but think better of it.

Most of it is fairly easy…but I leave a couple unanswered…for the simple reason I’d be working at it for a couple of hours and probably end up with the wrong answers anyway.

I still have a problem though. The form has a huge list of skills that you tick off the ones you have experience in. My problem is that they’re all manufacturing skills. So I’ve not ticked any.

I go back to the window, and this time a different girl comes to collect my forms. I say:

“I’ve not ticked off any skills, I’m qualified for Office and Admin work, and I didn’t see any on there. Do you have a different form for that or something?”

She looked at me for a second and said:

“I like the way you talk.”

“Ummm… ok?” I replied. “But do you have a different form?”

“Where are you from?” She asked, completely ignoring my question.

“(Sigh) England.”

“Oh? Is it nice there?”

So you see, if I could get work over here based on the fact that I have an accent…I’d be rolling in the money.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


A few months ago, my guitar got stolen.

Let me explain just how much that pissed me off.

First of all, it was an expensive guitar. A Gibson SG to be exact. I’d got a really good deal on it (It cost me the equivalent of $500), but to replace, it’ll cost me well over $1000…in fact, closer to $2000

Second, it was the first guitar I’d bought myself. I’d owned others (In a way, still do, but they’re back in England). However, this was my first ‘quality’ guitar. My others where hand-me-down acoustics, and those pressed fiber-board $100 dollar electric jobs.

This was a Gibson SG…solid Rosewood. I’d had it since I was 17.

Then, to ship it to the USA, I had to buy an expensive, special order, full flight-spec case. Not only to make sure that it didn’t get damaged in transport…but because the shipping company refused to insure it with anything less. This, in American Dollars, cost me roughly $400.

Last, and by no means least, this was my guitar. The musicians in the audience will know what I mean. I could get another Gibson, but it wouldn’t be the same. My Gibson is different to all the other Gibsons out there. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if I put my guitar and another of the same model in your hands, but the point is I could.

If you’ll indulge me and allow me to get a little poetic for a moment, when you get a new instrument, you pour a lot of yourself into it. It stops being an object made of wood and metal, it becomes almost like a friend.

Basically, to replace, the whole lot would cost me close to $2500. However, and this is the rub, it’s not something that can actually be replaced.

There’s the analogy I’m looking for. It’s like a beloved family pet dying or running away. You can get another dog, the same breed and everything…but it’s not your pet. It looks the same, but the personality is different.

Anyway, where am I going with this?

Well, my guitar probably found its way into a Pawn shop and was probably bought for less than a hundred dollars. Even if they caught the bastard that took it, it’s doubtful he’d do any jail time.

I think the law should be changed.

Basically, if you go into someone’s house or car, and steal something that belongs to them, you should go to jail…for a minimum of 5 to 10 years.

I don’t care what the monetary value of the object taken is. Whether it’s a valuable family heirloom or a $50 car stereo. If you take something that belongs to someone else, you should be punished…severely.

Now many people will think this is too extreme. That the punishment should fit the crime, and that if someone steals something that’s easy to replace, they shouldn’t be doing so much jail time…if they go to jail at all

Here’s the thing though. I don’t care.

Before I continue, let me be absolutely clear on this. I’m not writing from the point of view of someone who has had a prized possession stolen, and is pissed and wanting revenge. My guitar vanished months ago. The initial shock and anger has long since worn off.

No, I’m writing this from the position of someone who is pissed off because we’re living in a society where someone can walk into someone’s house, take their DVD player, and know that in the highly unlikely event of them actually getting caught…they’ll be out stealing more shit within 24 hours.

Basically, I don’t care if people think 10 years for stealing is too extreme. If you don’t wanna go to jail, stop stealing other people’s stuff. It’s that simple.

People talk about crime like it’s a thing. An unstoppable phenomenon.

It’s not, it’s just a minority group of people who think they’re above the law, and too lazy to actually earn things the right way.

(Before I get hate-mail…When I say minority, I mean a small percentage of the population…I don’t mean ‘minority groups or anything racial)


Does someone who steals someone’s car deserve to go to jail for five to ten years?

But before you answer that, answer this:

Did the person who actually went out to work, earned their money and saved to buy that car deserve to have it taken from them by someone who is too lazy or stupid to buy a car of their own?

It’s something I’m sick to death of; A legal system that protects the ‘rights’ of the criminal more than the victim.

I’m tired of hearing the stories about fathers who punch out a burglar, and then get prosecuted for assault. I’m tired of hearing the stories of burglars who break into people’s houses, slip on a wet floor, and successfully sue the home owners for ‘damages’. I’m tired of hearing of habitual criminals, constantly being let off with what amounts to a slap on the wrist

Here’s the deal. If you openly disobey society’s laws, you have no right to expect them to protect you. If you don’t want to get punished, don’t do the fucking crime in the first place.

I remember reading an interview with a member of a street gang once. I’ll paraphrase, but here’s the gist of what he said:

“Walking around talking on a cell-phone. You might as well be walking around holding two hundred-dollar bills to your ear. It’s how I make a living. What’s my other choice? Go to McDonalds and flip burgers all day for minimum wage? I don’t think so.”

Read that, and if it doesn’t make you angry, it should.

What this guy is essentially saying is that he doesn’t want to earn things legally. Why should he, when he can let everyone else do it, and then just take the things he wants from them?

Basically, this guy is saying “The legal way is too hard and takes too much effort, so I’ll just let everyone else work, and steal from them.”

I mean, is this a “not knowing the value of a dollar” thing? I mean, I look at my possessions, and they mean more to me than their actual cost, because I can remember the amount of work I had to get them. My TV isn’t all that expensive, but it represents a couple of weeks slaving in my cublicle at my old job.

My guitar represents months of work at a job that I hated.

That’s what these people don’t understand.

They may be taking an ‘object’. It might not be very expensive or valuable…but it represents the time it took for the real owner to earn it. Not to mention the incalculable sentimental value.

Put it this way. If I still had my guitar, no one could offer me enough money to give it up. Not only did it take me months of work to earn enough to buy it, it was mine, a highly personal and treasured object…worth much more to me that its intrinsic value.

That’s what these people should be punished for. Not it’s ‘blue-book’ value.

You couldn’t have bought that guitar from me for $100,000. How much prison time would you do for stealing that?

We need a ‘No-Tolerance’ policy right across the board. I don’t care about the sob story that ‘turned’ you to crime. I don’t want to hear “It was only worth $50! It’s not worth prosecuting.”

The truth is, these people are society’s leeches. They get rich off our hard work.

Make the punishment so severe that they’ll think twice.

Even if the deterent theory doesn’t work…I’d rather pay higher taxes to make sure these people are punished. I’d rather lose a few hundred dollars out of my taxes every year and know the scumbags are rotting behind bars, than lose a single possession to them that’s worth a single dollar.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ow. My Ears Hurt.

This post will probably be boring as hell to most of you, but I’m writing it anyway, because when I read the article this post is about, it was a real “Ah-ha!” moment for me.

I was reading an article on audio engineering.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a CD. I liked the band, I liked the songs, but about three tracks in, I had to turn it off. For some reason the music was irritating me. I’d heard the songs numberous times before, and liked them.

So why did it feel like fingernails down a blackboard? Why had a LOT of songs recently started to make my hair ache?

Well, this article explained it. It’s compression and ‘loudness’.

Basically, when a CD is being recorded, bands have taken to over-compressing their music and upping the loudness to an amazing degree.

The reason for this is simple. It makes the sound fuller and more vivid.

But it also comes with problems. It ‘flattens’ out the range of sounds.

If you’re listening to live music, or an older music CD, you’re exposed to a wide range of sounds at different volumes. You have the lead vocals up front, the guitars slightly behind etc.

When songs have been compressed to the level of ‘modern’ music CD’s, all sounds are perceived by the ear at the same volume. In other words, if you put an older CD into your player, and slowly turn down the volume, you’ll find certain sounds become inaudible before others. With many ‘modern’ CD’s, you’ll find you can hear all the sounds at the same level as you turn down the volume.

So, why is this a problem?

Simple answer. Fatigue. Your ears just can’t handle sounds with no dynamic range for very long. You get tired, the music starts to irritate you…and you don’t know why. You heard the song on the radio and loved it, but listening to it on a CD on a decent sound system, and we get fingernails down the blackboard.

Basically, they’re engineering sounds to where they have the same characteristics as a car alarm. Notice how a car alarm or an alarm clock is irritating to listen to, even if it’s off in the distance and not at a loud volume?

Well, bands have started to do this, because in many ways, the car alarm is ‘good’ for music. It’s very noticeable, it’s ‘full’ and ‘in your face’…unfortunately, you can’t listen to it for very long.

Like I said, this is probably boring to most of you, but for me, it was finally an explanation as to why certain songs, even though I liked them, have started to irritate me to the point where I can’t listen to them.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

There Might Be Something In This...

Ok, ok, I know I'm boring you all to death with Second Life posts, but this one is actually worth mentioning.

As many of you know (and are tired of hearing of), I've set up shop in Second Life, and surprise, surprise, 'Paulius Designs' has actually become a viable business.

I know. I'm as shocked as you are.

I set up shop with a few freebie vendors, rented some wall space...but what I didn't know until today is that you can track all you in-game transactions from the Second Life website. Because I use freebie vendors, I don't have access to this information in-game.

In other words, I had no idea if my stuff was selling or not. Unless I'm actually playing when someone buys something, I'm not notified of the sale...and remembering exactly how much money I have between log ins is something I didn't really keep track of.

Well today I looked through my finances.

In the two short weeks I've been in business, I've made 1125 Lindens, which comes out to roughly four and a half real dollars.

Of course, when you take rent into account, I've only made about 25 lindens (about eight cents), but that's not my point.

My point is, I've broken even in two weeks, which is incredible, considering the only advertising I have is 'word of mouth'. It also turns out that nearly all of my sales have been at one of my three locations...which means I'll be dropping the other two when my lease expires on them.

That brings my rent down to roughly 500 Lindens a month...meaning I'll be in profit roughly 1750 Lindens a month (that's 7 real dollars).

Now, by now you're probably wondering why I'm so excited over such a small amount of money.

Well, the thing is, sales can only really go up. People buy. Other people ask those people where they got that outfit, the first people tell the second people, and the second people go buy.

I know the people who are buying this stuff like it, because my records show I'm getting repeat sales.

Then the progression is simple. I sell more stuff, make more money, and from there can afford to place my stores at much higher-traffic areas...sell yet more clothes.

Now, I'm a realist. I know I'll never make an actual living off of Second Life, but here's the way I look at it:

However small the amount of money, I'm essentially getting paid to play a game. I enjoy art and messing around in photoshop, and that's what I'm doing to create these clothes.

One of my friends from Second Life put it best. Second Life money is like money out of thin air.

Even if I just make enough to take Sunny to see a movie once a month...who cares? It's like a free movie.

Oh, and if you play SL, buy my stuff. Search for "Paulius Designs"...half price to anyone who sends me a notecard stating the name of this blog.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Well THAT makes sense...

Flicking through the TV today, I came across a Quizno's ad.

Your usual advertisment stuff, showing you a sandwich that looks absolutely nothing like the sandwich you get at the restaurant.

Finally, at the end of the ad, the voice-over guy (The one who always describes things like sandwiches or wiper blades like you or I would describe a cure for cancer) says:

"...and if you're not 100% satisfied, we'll give you a free sub!"

Now is it just me, or does that make no sense whatsoever?

You buy a sandwich, it tastes like ass, so you make up for it they give you a second 'Ass Sandwich' free of charge?

"This sandwich tastes like donkey balls."
"Oh, I'm sorry you don't like it sir. Would you like another free of charge?"
"But it tastes like donkey balls."
"I know, sir, that's why I'm offering you another one for free."
"But if I can't eat the first one, why would I want a second?"
"Because it's free."
"So why can't I just have my money back?"
"We don't do refunds."
"But you're offering me a second ass-sandwich for free, so by returning my money you'll be out by exactly the same amount you would be for a refund."
"But this way, you get two sandwiches!"

Repeat ad nauseum

Because We've All Been There...

A Businessman is walking through a strange city, totally lost. Finally, he stops someone and asks for help.

"Excuse me," asks the Businessman, "can you tell me where I am?"

"On a sidewalk." Replies the stranger.

"Ah, you must work in IT."

"That's right, how did you know?"

"What you've told me is technically correct, but gives me no new information and is absolutely no use to anyone."

The stranger thinks for a moment, before replying "Well, you must be in management."

"How did you know?" Asks the Businessman.

"Because you have no idea where you are or where you're going, but you expect me to help. You're also in exactly the same situation you where before we met, only know it's all my fault."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sigh...Part II

Well, today’s post is kinda a follow on from yesterday’s, but more on the subject of censorship than anything else.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, scandal and outrage equal fame and fortune. Making mountains out of mole-hills has become a genuine business model. Basically, you pick out something that has the potential to be slightly controversial, blow it out of all proportion, then set yourself up as the lone crusader, fighting against this ‘evil’.

This is why parents are suing schools for taking their children to art galleries and showing them classical statues of naked people; Why McDonalds is an evil corporation by ‘hiding’ the fact that eating fast food every day will make you fat…and why games companies have suddenly become criminal conspiracists, trying to force sex and violence on children.

Now, is there an argument to be made that some games are unsuitable for children? Absolutely. While I don’t believe that playing a violent video game will turn a normal kid into a rapist ormurderer in a million years, I accept that some material is simply unsuitable for minors.

I wouldn’t allow a five year old to watch ‘Goodfellas’, and I wouldn’t allow a five year old to play ‘Grand Theft Auto’.

I’m also willing to hold up my hands and admit that Rockstar Games was completely in the wrong over the whole ‘Hot Coffee’ thing. They should have either removed the offending material from the game completely, instead of making it innaccessable, or informed the ESRB that even though the content couldn’t be accessed without a non-official mod, that it was there.

Rockstar screwed up because they simply under-estimated their audience. It was like cutting a scene from a DVD by simply changing the scene menu. The content is still there, but under normal conditions, the viewer can’t access it

But, and this is my big point, GTA San Andreas was always rated for ages 17 and over. The whole uproar was about a very tame ‘sex’ scene (Fully clothed and no actual genitals) in a game rated for people over the legal age of consent.

Then, the upshot of this was that rating was changed from M for Mature, to AO for adults only. In other words, changing the rating from 17 years old and up, to 18 years old and up. The difference of a single year.

The uproar was that a game ‘appropriate’ for 18 year olds was rated as being appropriate for 17 year olds.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was just as capable of ‘handling’ violent and sexual material at 17 as I was a year later at 18.

The other point is that the only real reason the games industry doesn’t want to get that Adults Only rating is because many major retailers simply refuse to stock Adults Only titles.

It’s ridiculous. Places like Wal-Mart and EB Games are essentially saying “We’re a family place, we’re willing to stock games where you can chainsaw people’s heads off….but we won’t show nipples! That’s obscene!

Extreme violence is fine. Consensual ‘sex’ between what are essentially are two cartoon characters is wrong.

Personally, I find it weird that we’re in a culture where its perfectly acceptable for a 17 year old to play a game where you remove bad-guy’s heads with a shotgun, but seeing a nipple is completely unacceptable

The overall problem, however, is the common mistake that games are for children. People automatically assume that any video game is for kids. This is simply not true. It was true back in the early 80’s…but today the average gamer is between 21 and 35 years old.

So people are suddenly made aware that some games contain violent and sexual images, and the games companies instantly become evil corporations peddling ‘filth’ to kids.

Like I said at the start of this post, it quickly becomes an over-reaction based on a faulty premise:

Games = Sex + Violence.

Games are for kids.

Games = Bad Thing.

Of course, you can turn around and say “Look, these games aren’t for kids, it says so right on the box.”

You can say that, but you’ll just be ignored by idiots like Jack Thompson who are desperate to make a name for themselves. (Apparently, Thompson believes that ESRB ratings are there to ‘market’ inappropriate content to kids…something so illogical that I’m not even going to bother trying to argue against it).

Basically, this ESRB bill is essentially saying one thing. The games companies can’t be trusted. They’re going to ‘hide’ inappropriate content, in order to get filth into the hands of children.

In the end, my solution to this problem is simple:

Any game that has an M rating should be ‘upgraded’ to an Adults Only rating. Considering this describes the vast majority of games, it would force games retailers to stock them, or they’d find themselves out of business.

Then, simply make it illegal to sell games to people not in the appropriate age range.

There, you have a cast iron defense.

If a child ends up playing an age-inappropriate game, it’s the fault of one of two people. The retailer, who would face legal action, or the parent who bought it, who should have checked the rating on the box before buying.

It is not the job of the government to say what adults can or can’t see, and it certainly isn’t their job to parent and supervise people’s children for them.

Any TV or video game system is ‘safe’ for children, as long as the parent controls what appears on it.


Ok, I’ve come up with new rule for government that is so common-sense, that it’s hard to believe that it’s not in practice today.

When you put someone in charge of something, they should have at least a basic understanding of how that thing works.

In fact… No. Screw that.

If someone is in charge of making laws and policies, they should have a complete and total understanding of the thing under their control.

I’m talking about people like United States Senator, Ted ‘Series of Tubes’ Stevens, who not so long ago, informed us all that the internet is not a ‘Big Truck’. The same guy who went off on a quite frankly wacky diatribe on how he didn’t receive an ‘internet’ from his secretary because of people streaming movies, completely missing the point of Net Neutrality.

It was perfectly obvious that Mr. Stevens had no clue what he was talking about, and had to have the issue explained to him, using pictures, puppets and not too many big words.

(As an aside, Mr. Stevens, I think what you meant to say is that bandwidth is finite and people who use most of that bandwidth should be charged for it. Of course, you completely missed the point that they already pay for it, we the consumers also pay for it and that the telecom companies basically want a big fat share of the profits because someone else was making too much money.)

The latest thing in this long line of madness is the bill challenging the ESRB.

First of all, here’s the thing no-one takes into account. The ESRB was set up voluntarily with no outside pressure. Before there where any laws restricting underage kids from buying inappropriate games, the video games industry took it upon themselves to create a rating system.

Well, anyway, the latest thing is that soon the ESRB may be required to play games all the way through in order to give them a fair rating, rather than the video of ‘applicable content’ they view today.

Now, this doesn’t sound too bad. It seems to make sense…unless you understand anything about games.

First of all, there’s the feasibility of this practice. For example, I played Oblivion for over 20 hours before even touching the main quest. From my save screen, I can see that I’ve put over 50 hours into that game, and I’m still pretty sure I’ve not seen everything.

Sure, the current way is basically on the ‘honor system’, but how can you expect the ESRB to spend anywhere from 20 – 60 hours per game?

The other big problem is a simple question.

What exactly constitutes ‘playing all the way through’?

If we look at the controversial games like Grand Theft Auto, you can play that game until the end credits roll, but chances are you’ve not seen everything in the game. Chances are you’ve not even seen 70% of the game.

Also look at Resident Evil 4.

20 minutes of that game tells you everything you need to know about the violence and gore level of it…but do they really expect the ESRB to play the game through (approx 20 hours), then play the unlockable mini-games (another few hours), then play through again on the higher difficulty level? Technically, you’ve not ‘played a game through’, until you’ve done everything you can and used every option you can.

So that’s exactly what they’re asking the ESRB to do.

It’s impossible. Games aren’t like movies or books where if you read it through once you’ve seen everything.

The best way I can describe this problem to a non-gamer is to imagine getting a very long book, tearing out the pages and then reading about half of them randomly. Then, when you’re done, shuffle the pages and read half of them again…and keep doing that until you’ve read every page…while not being allowed to keep track of what pages you’ve read and what pages you haven’t.

Every time though you’re going to get a lot of the same pages, and keep missing one or two…and you’ll never be certain you’ve read every single page.

Of course, the games companies could be required to give a detailed run down of everything the ESRB needs to see…but isn’t that the system already in place, only without requiring 50+ hours of donkey work?

However, the most ridiculous thing about this is that they’re holding the game publishers responsible for user created content.

Let me put this into perspective. Imagine you’ve written a book, then one day, I read it and decide it could do with a little spicing up. I write in a few sex scenes and tape my new pages into your book. Then, a child gets hold of it, and you’re held responsible, because the ‘questionable material’ is in your book.

For example, Oblivion found itself receiving a higher rating after release because someone released a ‘nude’ patch.

Previously, in the game, if you removed your clothes (which was necessary to change armor, etc), your character would be wearing underwear. Someone simply wrote a mod that replaced the underwear with bare skin.

Despite the fact that there is no nudity in the release version of the game, and the user has to download and install a non-official patch to see a cartoon nipple, it still received a higher rating.

Think about that, a piece of media is given a higher rating because of what can be done to it when the consumer gets it home.

It’s like demanding that Baby Einstein videos be given an R-rating, because the viewer can tape over the original show with porn…or that the Bible only be sold to people over 18 because someone might glue a playboy centerfold on one of the pages.

In conclusion, my point is this. People in charge should know what they’re talking about.

Also, it is not the government’s job, or their right, to decide what we can and can’t see.

If you’ll indulge me a moment, the one thing that makes me laugh about all this is that the game that started this whole band-wagon jump-fest was Grand Theft Auto…an extremely violent game that got barely a whisper of bad press until the sexual content came to light.

GTA has always been rated M, which is 17 years or older. The whole thing is a moral panic uproar about people old enough to actually legally have sex, seeing an extremely tame cartoon version of it in a game.

The whole “save the children” thing doesn’t apply. If your child has an M-rated game in the house, I wouldn’t ask how the ‘Evil Games Industry’ allowed it to happen, I’d ask why you, as a parent, are buying M-rated games for your kids and allowing them to play them.

In the end, the Government never had to stop me from playing an inappropriate game, or watching and inappropriate movie…my parents did it all by themselves.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

More From the Sunny Files

This evening, I sat down at the computer (as is my habit of an evening) and Sunny walked over to tell me something.

As she was talking, I noticed something on her T-Shirt.

A tag where no tag should be.

"Umm, sweetie?" I asked. "Do you realise that not only is your T-shirt back to front, it's also inside out?"

"I know!" She said. "I told you that a couple of hours ago. You never pay attention or notice anything!"

The fact that she noticed her T-shirt was on as wrong as it could possibly be, and then did nothing to correct it aside...how can someone wearing a T-shirt that's both back to front and inside out berate me for not noticing things?