Thursday, August 30, 2007


Whenever a tragedy strikes your family, you feel compelled to warn others to prevent it from happening to them, and to give advice about what’s ‘really important’. The only problem with this is that it’s really hard to do without sounding like one of those ultra-cheesy ‘inspirational’ email forwards, or like a ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ reject.

Here’s my attempt, and I’m just going to try to tell the truth, k?

They say that human beings are the only creatures on the planet that know they’re going to die. In a way, this is true, but the real truth is that we all secretly believe we’re going to live forever.

People my age complain about old people, safe in the knowledge that we’re never going to get old… and accidents? They happen to other people. Teenagers? Forget about it, they’re indestructible.

Unfortunately, the truth is that every time you get out of bed, it’s literally a coin-toss as to whether you’ll still be alive at the end of the day. You could slip in the shower, set the house on fire cooking breakfast, electrocute yourself on a faulty appliance or crash the car on the way to work.

I’m not saying this to be dramatic, nor am I being fatalistic. If we thought of every single danger we face during the day, we’d never get anything done. We’d exist and forget to actually live.

If you’ll allow me to get philosophical for a moment; We’re incredibly fragile beings, but the only way we can function as a species is to be willfully ignorant of that fragility.

Think about that for a second. We have bodies that have evolved to survive a fall or collision at top speed of less than 15mph… yet we’re happy to put ourselves into a situation where we’re traveling at over 60mph surrounded by a few tons of steel. Not only that, we’ll zone out, listen to music, or talk on a phone while we’re doing it.

We put ourselves in a situation where a momentary lapse in concentration can literally kill us…but we treat it like we’re doing nothing more dangerous than strolling through a meadow.

But why am I saying all this? We have to drive, we have to do all these dangerous things…so there’s nothing we can do, right? So why worry?

Well my point here is that life is short.

We take so much for granted and assume we’ll always have more time. We don’t consider that those things we take for granted can be gone in an instant.

A tragedy puts things into perspective, and when you see life like that, the first thing you want to do is share that perspective with others. Unfortunately, you tend to get ignored. We hear about these tragedies every day, but those are things that happen to other people, not me! I’m indestructible! No one in my family will ever get in an accident, or be diagnosed with some horrible disease! That sort of thing just doesn’t happen to me!

Yep, and that’s exactly what I thought until my Step-son died in a car crash just a few weeks after the doctors found a cancerous tumor in my Mum’s bowel. But what do you care? I am other people.

Well, let me try to give you a little of this perspective:

Last week, Sunny and I had a stupid little argument. Nothing major, just one of the normal day to day arguments that couples have. No raised voices, just lots of crossed arms and pointed silences. She left for work and instead of giving her a hug, kiss and an “I love you.” like I usually do…I just kept watching TV and said “Yeah, bye.”

Today, I wonder how I’d feel if someone had come to the door a couple hours later to tell me that my wife had died in a car accident on the way to work.

Would that stupid little argument, an argument I can’t even remember the cause of, be worth not getting to tell my wife that I loved her one last time? Would proving that I was ‘right’ over some insignificant little detail be worth me wasting those last few hours with her?

We always assume there’ll be more time. We assume we’ll have time to tell the people we love that we love them. We can sit there, today, with our arms folded, pissed because our husband or wife didn’t do the dishes or mow the grass like we asked them, because we can always make up tomorrow, right?

Well sometimes, that tomorrow just doesn’t come.

My advice to everyone who reads this is simple:

Treat every goodbye like it’s your last. Never be afraid to tell someone you love how you feel and don’t sweat the small stuff. No-one lies on their death-bed wishing they’d had one more argument, proved one more pissy, insignificant point or done that overtime instead of spending time with their family.

I know that this is hard and pretty much impossible to do in daily life. I know you can’t let your kids get away with murder or ignore every annoyance that comes your way… but ask yourself a question, do you really want the last conversation you have with your kids be about how they stained the carpet with Kool-aid?

Just how important would that stain be if you got a call a few hours later to come identify your child’s body?

It’s amazing how quickly those ‘important’ things become insignificant when you realize you’re never going to see someone you love again.

If you take nothing else away from this post, take this:

Think of the last time you had a blazing row with a friend or family member. Now imagine having to bury them…

How important was the thing you were arguing about, really?

To close today, I want to give one very important piece of advice:

Wear your f**king seatbelt.

I’ve heard every argument against seatbelts. They’re uncomfortable, you’re a good enough driver to not need it etc, etc.

Well, let me ask you a question: What’s worse, being a little bit uncomfortable while driving? (something I don’t even agree with, I don’t even notice my seatbelt)…or being dead?

Secondly, you can be the best driver in the world, but it doesn’t mean the guy who hits you is going to be. Some day you might be faced with a choice…do you hit that car that just pulled out in front of you head on, swerve into oncoming traffic or swerve into a wall? Put it this way, as you bounce around your car like a pinball, or fly through the windshield at 60mph, I’m sure your last though is certainly not going to be “Well, at least the ride up to this point was as comfortable as possible.”

If you’re not concerned for yourself, if you think you have the right to take that risk if you want to…think of the people you’re going to leave behind. Bravado and excuses are not going to comfort your parents, kids or your widow when they have to bury you.

I’m sure Sunny won’t mind me sharing a few details, especially if it saves another mother from going through what she’s going through, but Clay wasn’t wearing his seatbelt.

We think he swerved to avoid a deer.

What we know is that his car came off the road, fell into a ditch and got caught in a barbed wire fence before flipping end over end. Clay was found over 150 yards away from where his car came to rest. If he’d worn his seatbelt, there’s a chance I’d be have been speaking to him today, instead of speaking at his funeral.

Clay was an excellent driver, but something happened on the road that he didn’t have time to react to. As bad as his accident was, chances are he wouldn’t have survived anyway, but wearing his seatbelt would have at least given him more of a chance to survive.

If I could give you a 0% chance of seeing your family again, or a 2% chance…which would you take?

Let me put this as simply as possible:

If you wear a seatbelt, you are twenty-two­ times more likely to survive an accident than without.

In other words, wearing a seatbelt in your car makes you 22 times more likely to see your family and friends again. A seatbelt is the difference between your family visiting you at the hospital, or visiting you at the funeral home.

Car accidents are the leading cause of accidental death in the USA, with over 74% of those deaths being in the 17-24 year old age group. Last year alone over 50,000 families buried a family member due to an accident on the road.

It doesn’t just happen to other people. Buckle up, if not for yourself, then for the people who will have to bury you if you don’t.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Clay : The Brother I Never Had

As regular readers of Sunny’s blog will already know, her youngest son, my step-son, was killed in a car crash in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It feels strange to call Clayton my step-son. He was 23 years old, three years younger than me and although by law he is my step-son, I’ll always think of him as a brother…and Clay was everything a brother should be. He was also everything a son should be, a friend should be, and I’m certain he would have been everything a father should be.

Look up the word ‘Family’ in the dictionary, and you’ll see a picture of Clayton with a huge grin on his face.

The deepest tragedy in his passing is that he left behind his wife and his unborn child. I do, however, take comfort in the fact that his baby will certainly know his father. His family will see to that.

It was hard to know Clay for any length of time and not be deeply impressed by him. As a teenager, he managed to get himself into some trouble, and his life could easily have taken a sharp downward turn. However, never one to take the easy way out, and with the help of his wife and family he fought to set things right and managed to climb higher than I would have ever thought possible. In the end, Clay became as example to us all, and despite being both younger than me and my step-son, he became someone I looked up to.

Clay was the kind of person who didn’t use his troubles and problems as excuses for why he couldn’t make it, but instead used them as reasons for why he had to make it. Clay could easily have become a cautionary tale, but his pure will and strength of character turned him into an inspiration, an example to us all that no matter how deep a hole you find yourself in, you can always find your way out.

I think the thing we can all take comfort in, is that Clay wore his heart on his sleeve and never left anything unsaid. He took every opportunity to tell the people he loved that he loved them, and how much he cared for them. If more people were like Clay, there’d be far fewer regrets in the world. If we learn nothing else from Clay, we should learn this: Tell the people you love that you love them. You never know when it’ll be the last time, and that’s what Clay did. Treat every goodbye as if it was his last.

I only knew Clay for three short years, but one of Clay’s greatest strengths is that you didn’t have to know him for very long to know the type of person he was, even if you didn’t actually know him personally. Clay was the type of person who could always make you laugh, was fiercely loyal to his friends and family, loved them deeply and was never afraid to say so. He’d gladly put himself out to help others and would never see a family member or friend in trouble without doing something to help them out.

Clay, I didn’t know you for very long, but I thought of you as a brother. You managed to fit a lifetime of laughs into the few years I knew you, and while I’ll never be able to say I was as close to you as you were to Frank or Julie or your blood family, we were family.

I feel privileged to have known you for the short time I did and I’ll always remember you with a smile. The Fourth of July will never pass without reminding me of you throwing a fire-cracker and shouting “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

As I said at the time, “Hey, The British are already here.” I don’t know what was funnier, the look on your face, or how mortified you were that you ‘offended’ me.

I wasn’t offended Clay, and that was one of the first times out of million you made me laugh. That’s how I’ll remember you Clay, through laughter.

I miss you, Clay, we all do.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Race Card

You know, I hate writing anything like this, because it’s incredibly difficult to do without being branded a racist. That being said, I’m going to go ahead anyway.

You’ve probably heard by now of the NFL player Michael Vick’s dog-fighting charge.

Now, can someone please explain to me why this is suddenly a race issue?

Listening to local radio yesterday, I heard a comment from Vick’s Lawyer, who when asked about the case, went on for 5 minutes about the legal system, how a disproportionate number of prison inmates are black, etc, etc.

You know, these are all valid points. They deserve investigation and discussion…but doesn’t it kinda dull the point a little bit when the guy you’re holding up as a victim of racism actually did what he is accused of?

Do a google search on Vick, and you’ll find a ton of articles and webpages discussing the whole thing like a race issue. For me it’s just simple: Authorities find a ton of incriminating evidence at a football player’s home and charge him. It doesn’t matter what race he is.

The long and the short of it is this:

If you do something illegal and get caught, it’s not a race issue.

If you’re a suspect and get questioned, it isn’t a race issue.

It’s only a race issue when you’re accused of something you didn’t do, without evidence or reasonable suspicion, because of your race.

The reason I get so pissed off at this is simply because it’s bad for race relations. Every time there’s an arrest, or some kind of natural disaster, people jump on their soap box and try and twist it into a race issue. All this does is hand ammunition to both sides. The problem is that if you look for racism you’ll find it.

Turning Vick’s case into a race issue has done two things. The racist rednecks talk about how yet another black guy is trying to play the race card to get away with something he did…while the other side is calling harassment and racism because another black guy got arrested.

If you think I’m wrong, let me end with a question:

If Michael Vick was a white guy, would the word ‘race’ have entered into it? Would anyone see it as anything other than it was, a football player arrested because of a crime?

I’m not saying there aren’t problems with our legal system…but confine racial discussions to where race is a factor.

Friday, August 24, 2007

EC4A Will Return Next Week

As you've probably already seen, my blogging frequency plummeted this past week. The reason for this is simple...I was as sick as a dog.

As such, it's now 1.30am on Friday morning and I haven't even started this week's EC4A. I know this is the second week without an episode, but you're just going to have to bear with me. I could just go ahead and write something (which would be the equivalent of trying to piss a golfball right now)...but all you'd end up with is something that's rushed and just not very good. So I'm making an executive decision and leaving it until next Friday.

Speaking of which, remember how I told you during the week that I lost all my Linden Dollars?

Well, just so you know, I lost pretty much exactly 90 bucks worth. Then, last night during some random web-surfing, what do I see online? A Podcast kit, consisting of a really good USB microphone, a desk mic-stand, a hardware mixer and recording software complete with a ton of royalty free music and sounds.

The price of this little marvel? 89.95.

I was as mad as a lorry.

Anyway, to tide you over to next week, I thought I'd share this with you:

If business meetings were like internet comments

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The boat's a metaphor for relationships, geddit?

So Sunny read a ‘Relationship Self Evaluation’ on a blog, and decided it was a good idea.

She then mentioned how interesting it would be for me to write a ‘relationship evaluation’ of her.

I have a simple answer to this: No Fucking Way. In fact, let me rephrase that ABSOLUTELY no fucking way.

Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to openly and publicly ‘judge’ my missus. When I’m done with that, maybe I can carve out my eyeballs with a rusty, dull knife and smear my testicles with gravy and walk naked through a pack of half-starved attack dogs.

This is the ‘Does this dress make my butt look fat?” or the “Do you think she’s pretty?” question blown up to a whole new level.

You see, ladies, this is your problem. You want to know too much, and you love to fix things that aren’t broken.

Take your average guy in a relationship. If things are going well, do you know what he’s going to do? He’s going to shut the fuck up is what he’s going to do.

What do women like to do? Rock that boat. You’re not happy that the boat is comfortable, floating and cruising along at a nice pace. You want to smack the bottom of that boat with a hammer to see how strong it is, you want to steer the boat towards that storm to see if the rigging can handle it…and you also want to know if the first mate secretly wants to serve on a different boat.

You have a boat, you and your partner are happy with it, but you want to test it. The only problem is testing it is likely to either sink it or damage it.

Guys on the other hand are happy in their boats, because if they weren’t they’d go swimming for a while until they found another.

This is the main difference between men and women. Men are happy in their boats, and will conduct repairs as and when they are needed. They’ll keep the boat in working condition, might try to spruce the thing up a little when he has the opportunity…but he won’t look for a fault if there’s no indication of one, and pilot the thing into a reef just to see if the hull needs strengthening.

The truth is that both people who built the boat will probably see things they think could be improved or could be nicer, but by pointing these things out, all they’re going to do is piss each other off:

“What do you mean the sails could be stronger? I picked out that material myself! It was good enough for you when we set off on the trip! Yeah? Well that decking you put in looks like ass!

Ladies, long story short, you ask for criticism with the assurance that you ‘won’t get mad’. To be honest, we’re not worried about you getting mad, we’re worried about hurting your feelings. You might ‘already know’, but having someone you care about confirming your insecurities just isn’t good for anyone.

Leave well enough alone and fix the boat when it needs fixing. Don’t look for problems or create them just to see how well you can fix them.


Ever had one of those weeks?

A couple days ago I got up after having literally zero sleep due to the heat. Seriously, I took the digital thermometer into the bedroom when I got up and it was 110 degrees….I’d heard the expressing “It’s like an oven in here” before…but the fact I could actually cook in the bedroom was a new one on me.

Then, just to really set off the morning, on the way from the bedroom I stubbed my toe…which really helped the heat-induced/no-sleep headache I had going.

So, I get into the living room and realize that my mouth feels like the bottom of a birdcage, so before I brush my teeth I decide to get a can of delicious orange soda.

About 15 minutes later, I’m lying on the couch, enjoying the air-conditioning. I stretch and feel my hand knock over the can of delicious orange soda. Worse, it fell towards me.

Now, I didn’t jump up and try to grab the thing, because I’d actually finished my delicious orange soda. The way I looked at it was I’d let it fall, pick it up and put it back.

What I didn’t know was that Sunny likes delicious orange soda as much as me, and had got herself a can of it while I was brushing my teeth. Her can was right next to mine on the end table.

Can you see where this is going yet?

Long story short, I got about ¾ of a can of delicious orange soda dumped on my head. As well as being sticky and required me to go and take another shower…imagine sitting in a sauna for an hour or so, then jumping in a snow drift.

I don’t mind admitting, I squealed like a little girl.

So later that day I get hungry and Sunny makes one of her delicious home-made deep-pan chicken bacon and mushroom pizzas. I finish my slice and take a sip of my drink.

Actually, that’s not 100% true. What actually happened was I inhaled a sip of my drink which set me off on a coughing fit. The coughing fit was so bad that I swallowed my own bodyweight in air. If this has ever happened to you, you know what happens. You end up with a huge air bubble in your stomach that wants to get out…and it doesn’t care what it pushes out of the way to get out.

Yep, I made it to the bathroom just in time to regurgitate delicious orange soda and delicious home-made deep-pan pizza. While incredibly enjoyable the right way around…it’s not so enjoyable in reverse.

Then, just to put the cap on my day, I clean my teeth again, (and use lots of mouthwash), return to the living room…and just as I get comfortable…the dog sneezes in my face.

Add to that the fact that I realized at 9pm on Friday night that I hadn’t written a damn thing for EC4A (and still haven’t)…and find out this morning that my hard-earned linden dollars have all gone bye-bye.

Then, just to put the icing on the cake, I realize this afternoon that will all my linden dollars gone, I won’t have enough lindens to pay rent on my SL stores this week. So I do the intelligent thing and knock my prices down to 50% and advertise a sale.

I log in this afternoon to check on things to find I’ve made enough to stay above water, and not only that but a couple people actually just ‘donated’ some cash to keep my SL business afloat (thanks Saffy and Beej!)

So just as I start to feel things are looking up, I see I’ve gotten a couple of complaint from people that ordered stuff that never arrived. It turns out one of my web-vendors ‘updated’ and didn’t tell me….which meant I had to re-submit and re-list every damn thing I sell.

That’s a fun way to spend a couple hours.

Anyway, I’m going to sleep…someone wake me up when 2008 gets here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ok, Now I'm pissed.

Ok, I think I'm officially done with Second Life.

To be completely honest, I've not been playing SL for a good long while now. However, it was a good source of extra income.

As you know, I have a clothing store in SL, and used to run a 'photography' service.

I closed the photography store, because I was tired of dealing with assholes. What happened today completely takes the cake.

Someone told me a while ago about an SL bank. You pay your lindens into it, and you get interest on your account. I started off carefully. I put a few thousand lindens in there (a couple of bucks) to see what would happen.

Everything was fine, and stayed that way for about 6 months. I was making a few dollars a week on interest along.

Then linden labs completely pussed out and put a stop to gambling in SL.

What does this have to do with me? Well picture the scene from "It's a Wonderful Life", only the good people of SL weren't nice enough to just take enough to tide them over. Long story short, everyone shit a gold brick, started withdrawing money and the bank folded.

So what the bank did was issue shares on the SL stock exchange, and give everyone the same amount of shares that they had in lindens. Apparently the 'face value' was one linden dollar each.

Of course, that lasted roughly two seconds, so now my 15,000 linden dollars (worth around a hundred dollars), is now 1400l worth of shares.

A hundred bucks to about 5 dollars in the time it takes to blink.

Nice, huh?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bloody Women.

So this morning Sunny comes in from work.

As is her usual habit, she reads the blogs before she goes to bed. She reads Kato's latest She calls me over so I can read the comment she left. Then she turns to me and says:

“You men and your tempers! Punching a monitor screen!” (In my comment I’d mentioned how in the past I’d got so frustrated at a computer I’d punched it ‘in the face’ as it were).

Now, I could have taken a cheap shot. Believe it or not, Sunny isn’t the mild-mannered ‘delicate flower’ she pretends to be. I’ve seen more than one household object take a one-way trip to the floor or wall when she gets really wound up. So instead, I took the more diplomatic approach. Knowing she’s worked on cars a lot, I say:

“Are you telling me that you’ve never been working on a car for hours, nothing’s working, and you get so frustrated you’ve kicked it?”

“No.” She says, sweetly.

I give her my “Yeah, right” look…before she continues:

“Well, I have thrown a couple of wrenches at one, but that’s different.”

Typical female thinking. If a guy does it, he’s being childish and throwing a temper tantrum. When a woman does it, she’s ‘handing out justice’.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Follow up from yesterday.

Firstly, big thanks to Kato for his suggestions.

The problem is, I've either tried, or actually use all of them... and while they help, they don't eliminate the problem.

From start to finish, here's what I do:

1) I record the podcast.

I try to get this in one take (and always fail) for pretty much one reason. As I've said before, my microphone is absolutely terrible. I can't stress this enough. If the microphone moves or changes the angle from my mouth by a single inch, you get a noticeable change in the audio.

As well as volume issues, I've noticed that even a slight change to that angle can make it capture a lot less bass, or make it sound tinny.

So I try to get it in as few takes as possible because if I'm reading continually I can minimize the amount that the microphone moves. Even if it does, you get a 'smooth' progression from one type of sound quality to another.

If I recorded each paragraph seperately (which is what I started doing) you'd hear me speak, then the next sentence would be a lot lower, followed by one much louder, followed by one that's tinny.

Like I said in yesterday's post, the sound dropped by over 10 decibels (I know, I checked) when I moved my head to the right by a half inch to look at the next page of the script. The mic really is that sensitive to movement.

Basically, I'd rather have the sound quality go up and down smoothly than change jarringly with each new paragraph.

The only real solution I see to this problem is sucking it up and buying a decent microphone.

2) Edit.

I go through my recording and edit as needed. Cutting out silences where I paused to clear my throat or cough, cutting the paragraphs where I flubbed my lines or stumbled over a word and generally making sure I have a coherent podcast where it at least sounds like I just talked from start to finish.

3) Mix down.

At this point, I've usually got anywhere from 4 to 10 different audio files in the timeline from where I cut the main file into pieces. (I'm using Adobe Audition, in case you're interested). So I mix down the vocal audio to a big sized, no compression .wav file.

4) Filters, filters, filters.

With the vocal for the podcast recorded, I run it through a bunch of different filters. I use a hiss reducer, pop and click eliminator, a slight bass boost and a normalize filter. The normalize filter helps, but the volume and sound quality can vary by so much, the distortion in the quiet parts can more noticeable and more annoying after normalizing than before. Basically, I get the vocal as clean and polished as I can before:

5) Add the music.

I've said this before, but the music I use (chosen for the cheesy 1940's 'educational film' quality and the fact it's public domain), is only about two and a half minutes long. I used to start with the original file, cut and paste to lengthen it and then go through the whole podcast adjusting its volume so it doesn't get distracting or inaudible at places.

That's the other drawback of this music. It has some nice loud sections and other very soft sections. I have to adjust the volume as it goes along, otherwise we end up with parts drowning out the vocal and other parts where you can't hear it at all.

Eventually, I had a 'duh!' moment, when I cut and paste the audio to make it about 10 minutes long and adjusted the dynamic volume for it. That way, I just drop this file into the timeline and cut it to size (using the quiet parts so you don't notice the join).

6) Listen through.

Inside Audition, I listen to the podcast all the way through, making sure I didn't leave in a mistake or accidentally cut out part of the script, and to make sure the music levels are working.

7) Downmix and upload.

This time, I mix down the music and vocal to a high-quality, but mono mp3 file. Then I go ahead and upload it to my hosting service.

So, long story short, you can't make a silk purse out of a pig's ear. While the sound quality basically sucks, it's the best I can do with the equipment I have.

I need to whine at SOMEBODY!

It’s time for a few more ‘production notes’ about the podcast, basically because I need someone to whine to.

My first minor gripe is that I really need to stop being in the room while Sunny listens to the podcast. You see, Sunny has a very weird sense of humor. Sometimes I can tell a joke that I’m absolutely certain she will find funny…and she looks at me like I just murdered a puppy. Other times I’ll tell a joke that I’m certain she won’t laugh at…only to have her doubled over and crying laughing.

Put it this way, she’s the only person I know, who not only got the following joke, but still laughs at it whenever I tell it (and this is after three years):

A horse walks into a bar, and the barman says “What’s with the long face?”

If you get it, you might chuckle. Sunny cracks up every time, and I know she’s not faking it (ugh…but how many men have said that before).

So, long story short, there’s nothing quite like watching someone listen to your comedy podcast…and not crack a smile once…to really boost that confidence.

My second minor gripe is that I’ve never managed to get the whole thing in one take. I can rehearse the thing when I’m checking the time and not make a single mistake…but once that microphone is turned on, I’m lucky to get through a single paragraph without tripping over the words.

My microphone is another huge problem. If I use the headset, I either get way to quiet, or normal volume level filled with hiss and pops.

My ‘real’ mic gives much better sound quality, but in some ways it’s far to sensitive, and in others not sensitive enough.

What I mean is, while I’m holding the microphone, if the lead hits the desk, or I move my fingers a tiny amount, it comes out it the audio as a massive pop or creak. The only sound it’s not particularly good at is capturing my voice.

For example, today I decided to print out the script, rather than read it directly from the screen (if I read directly from word, scrolling with the cursor keys, it sometimes ‘jumps’ at the end of the page, which throws me right off).

Anyway, I put the sheets of paper on my keyboard in front of me, turned on the mic and started recording. If you listen to this weeks podcast, there’s a part near the middle where my voice suddenly drops noticeably. Why? Because I moved my head an inch and a half to the right to read the other page.

The biggest thing that fought me today, however, was putting the link to Etch-a-Sketch Attention Span in the show description.

Firstly, I misspelled it. Writing ‘blogpot’ instead of ‘Blogspot’. This meant that after I published, rather than linking to Etcher’s page, it went to a weird Christian bible-thumping page. (I enjoyed the irony of that, you get to that page if you put in any Blogspot address and accidentally drop the ‘s’. Nothing like a Christian site that gets the bulk of its traffic through deception).

Anyway, then the link wouldn’t work with ‘www’ at the start instead of just ‘http://’. Then it wouldn’t work without the slash at the end…and so on and so forth. Let’s just say it took 5 re-postings before the link would actually work.

Anyway, to close today, let me just give a big thank you to everyone who listens. As of right now, I’m getting close to 60 downloads per episode…which is quite frankly a lot more than I was expecting at this early stage.

As for where I’d like to go with EC4A…to be honest I don’t really care if it ever becomes successful or not, and I doubt I’ll ever make a penny from it. All I really want from it is to walk past someone I don’t know one day, and hear them listening to it, or overhear someone giving the URL to someone to check it out.

As the great Ze Frank would say: That would be ass-slapping awesome.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Something to think about

About a month and a half ago I stopped reading

Well, that’s not exactly true, I read user pages (such as Kato’s) because I know I’m interested in a lot of the same things as Kato. I just refuse to check out the first few pages every day like I used to.


Because it’s just not good for my stress level.

Every day it’s just more of the same. Corrupt politicians and over-zealous government agencies going too far.

I looked at the front page for the first time in over a month today, and came across a story of a British journalist. This journalist once lived in America, is currently married to an American citizen and has a New York born daughter. Despite this, she was detained at LAX, interrogated for hours, locked up overnight and deported back to Britain the next day.

Why? Because she was in America to do a story for a British newspaper, and had neglected to obtain a new ‘journalists’ Visa. (If you don’t know, non-journalist Brits can enter America and stay for 90 days without any Visa).

In other words, a massive over-reaction, and an illogical step. If she’d not being there to interview someone, she could have entered legally. Plus, the Journalism Visa is a brand new security measure, and few journalist knew about it. The other thing is; what does America have to fear from journalists?

Ok, here’s the deal. Take this from someone from a country that has had to deal with terrorism for decades, long before Al-Queda came along:

Calm the fuck down. The planes hit the twin towers and, as a nation, everyone just freaked the fuck out. It’s an understandable reaction, but the way to fight terrorism isn’t to pick fights, alienate your allies and become so paranoid that you see everything as a threat.

The problem with terrorism is there is no easy way to stop it. “The War on Terror” is an oxymoron. You can’t fight terrorists the same way you fight someone in open warfare. In fact, it’s totally counter productive.

The thing to remember is that you’re fighting a small number of psychopathic zealots, not an opposing army. You fight terrorism with a sustained police action, not by sending a few hundred thousand troops somewhere.

If you attack a country in response to a terrorist attack, all you’re doing is filling their heads with more misguided reasons to keep blowing shit up.

This is the problem I think America in general needs to understand more than anything else:

America is the most powerful country in the world…but having the biggest army with the most advanced weapons and technology means precisely dick when the enemy you’re fighting is an anonymous psycho with a rucksack filled with dynamite or a phial of nitro-glycerin in hidden in their shoes.

Basically, since 9/11, America went from feeling invincible to downright vulnerable. Unfortunately, overreacting and getting paranoid is just handing terrorists more weapons and playing into their hands. Do you think the terrorists aren’t clapping their hands with glee about all the disruption and mistrust they’ve created?

The absolute biggest problem with terrorism is that by going overboard in your efforts to catch them, you’re destroying the very thing you’re trying to protect. It’s easy to say that ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’…but the truth is we’re currently living in a country where the government can tap our phone lines without obtaining a warrant, where you can be detained without charge indefinately for being a ‘suspected terrorist’.

In other words, you can be legally spied on, and arrested without charge and held at the governments pleasure. Isn’t that one of the things that everyone got so outraged about when it was happening in Iraq?

I’m not saying it’s a case of “Oh well, we’re gonna get bombed anyway! Open the ports!” All I’m saying is that paranoia doesn’t help anyone.

Of course, it helps you feel like you’re doing something when you can say you made a ton of arrests and spy on your own people for ‘their own safety’, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

I’m sure Joseph McCarthy thought he was acting in America’s best interests during the ‘Red Scare’, when he pulled in American citizens with little or no evidence of being ‘suspected communists’

From Wikipedia:

It is difficult to estimate the number of victims of McCarthyism. The number imprisoned is in the hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs. In many cases, simply being subpoenaed by HUAC or one of the other committees was sufficient cause to be fired. Many of those who were imprisoned, lost their jobs or were questioned by committees did in fact have a past or present connection of some kind with the Communist Party. But for the vast majority, both the potential for them to do harm to the nation and the nature of their communist affiliation were tenuous. Suspected homosexuality was also a common cause for being targeted by McCarthyism. According to some scholars, this resulted in more persecutions than did alleged connection with Communism.

In the film industry, over 300 actors, authors and directors were denied work in the U.S. through the unofficial Hollywood blacklist. Blacklists were at work throughout the entertainment industry, in universities and schools at all levels, in the legal profession, and in many other fields. A port security program initiated by the Coast Guard shortly after the start of the Korean War required a review of every maritime worker who loaded or worked aboard any American ship, regardless of cargo or destination. As with other loyalty-security reviews of McCarthyism, the identities of any accusers and even the nature of any accusations were typically kept secret from the accused. Nearly 3,000 seamen and longshoremen lost their jobs due to this program alone.

Does this sound in any way familiar?

My point is, the current attitude seems to be the same as the teacher who punishes an entire class for a transgression, because the actual offender won’t own up to it. Sure, you’ll probably capture the guilty, but at what cost?

I think the most disturbing thing is that as an immigrant myself, I honesty gave serious thought to not publishing this post, because I’m a little afraid it could be construed as “Anti-American”.

Sure, the chances of the FBI turning up at my door and taking me in for questioning are probably one in a few billion…but my point is that when I first arrived in America, I never thought I’d see the day where I’d even hesitate to express my opinion.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Strongbad would kick their asses anyway...

Ok, I’m totally late with this ‘news’, but I was pleased to hear that the good people behind Homestar Runner turned down offers from both Comedy Central and The Cartoon Network to stay on the web.

I’m not pleased because it’s ‘sticking it to the man’, but because I’m incredibly pleased to see the people behind one of my favorite websites actually have some sense.

Here’s what that meeting would go like if everyone was forced to tell the truth:

TV Exec : Welcome guys! We love Homestar Runner and want to dazzle you with the promise of getting you into ‘real’ media so we make a butt-load of money from you!

Homestar People : ‘Real’ media? You mean, ‘fast becoming obsolete’ real-time TV broadcasts? Anyway, we figured as much, but we gotta say right now, we’re not selling.

TVE : Ah, but we can go digital and eventually offer your show on ‘On Demand’. People will be able to watch your stuff any time they want… for a small fee.

HSP : You mean like they can already do right now over the internet, for free? I don’t see the attraction.

TVE :But think about it, you’ll get on TV and get hundreds of thousands of viewers!

HSP : But we already get millions of viewers every week, and our viewers don’t have to put up with ads interrupting the show every five minutes.

TVE : Ok, but think of this. We’ll buy your cartoons from you, so you won’t own them anymore, but we’ll probably keep you on to make new content…at least for a while.

HSP : Well, we enjoy being our own bosses, thanks, and we like that we own our own work.

TVE : But you’re not seeing the big picture! Think of it, we’ll have a dedicated team of people who’ve never even heard of you or your cartoons, who will make broad sweeping changes to your content and format! They’ll turn your stuff into boring vanilla entertainment that has none of the genius or ‘flavor’ that attracted people to Homestar Runner in the first place! Think about it! Why be interesting and unique when you can make mediocre crap that people can see anywhere!

HSP : Well, that sounds absolutely awful to be honest!

TVE : Think about it! We can do a TechTV on you. We’ll take all the stuff that your fans actually like out of your show, and replace it with what we think your target audience should like! We’ll turn ‘The Cheat’ into a sexy babe, get rid of Strongbad’s boxing gloves to make him a wrestler (which is way hotter than boxing right now) and he can be a street-racing dude with attitude.

HSP : You people are idiots.

TVE : Ok, well how about this. We’ll offer you a large amount of money for the rights, but make sure you never see another penny after that while we try get rich off your work! We’ll change your stuff so much that new people won’t like it, your existing fans will leave you and then we’ll take it off the air, blaming you for making a poor product. Then we’ll refuse to sell you back your rights so you can’t even set things right.

HSP : So what you’re basically saying is you want to buy the rights to our stuff, change it so no one will like it, fire us and then sit on Homestar Runner forever, despite the fact you know you’ll never use it?

TVE : Right.

HSP : So, can you explain to me why we’d want to do that, when we have one of the most popular sites on the web, a site that we not only have complete and total control over, but makes us more money than we’ll ever see from you?

TVE : Well….no.

HSP : Goodbye.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Ok, someone explain something to me.

Why is it that on every popular and established website that allows comments, some douchebag feels it’s an achievement to get in the ‘first post’.

I don’t mean someone sits there and expresses their opinion or viewpoint first, I mean they actually post something like “w00t! First Post!” In fact, they don’t actually bother commenting on what’s just been posted, because while they’re wasting their time expressing an interesting opinion that someone might actually read, some other bastard will swoop in and take the coveted first spot.

In fact, and this is something that makes my already low estimation of the human race sink even lower, there can be five or six different comments that all say “Yay! First post!”

You know what that means? It means that a group of people have sat in front of their monitors, hitting ‘refresh’ over and over again, probably for hours…just so they can have the honor of posting ‘Woot! First Post!” first.

It’s like last minute snipe-bidding on eBay, only you don’t actually get anything.

I mean, what’s the big deal? First of all, your awesome first post is just viewed by everyone else as internet ‘white noise’ to be complete and totally ignored and scrolled past to get to the first ‘real’ comment.

Isn’t ‘first post’ the equivalent of just proclaiming “I have waaaay too much time on my hands and probably the most boring life ever!” It’s like getting out of bed at 4am and going to work on your day off, just so you can brag get the parking space closest to the door.

Well, congrats pal, you’ve just proven you’re better than me at clicking refresh over and over. I just wasted that time talking to my wife or doing something constructive, but I agree, that first post obviously means you’re way ‘radder’ than I am.

Oh, and I know that someone is going to be funny and put a ‘first post!’ in the comments, so allow me to call you on it here and spoil your fun…MC Etcher.

Like Being On Drugs...Without The Fun.

Pretty much since I moved here, Sunny has worked nights.

To keep our schedules sort of similar (so I wasn't going to bed when she's getting up and vice versa), I altered my sleeping pattern to match hers.

This meant that for the past three years, my normal hours have been going to bed between 8 and 9am, and getting up mid-afternoon. It's a really tough habit to break. Since college, I've always held semi-nocturnal hours.

Then Sunny's shift changed, and she started going to work at around three in the afternoon, and coming home at midnight. It was tough to readjust, but I'd almost managed it when her shift changed yet again, and suddenly she's leaving for work at 8pm and arriving home at about 6am.

Right now, it's about two thirty in the morning, and my internal clock is thoroughly confused.

Part of my brain is telling me that it's really late and that I should go to bed, another part is telling me it's the equivalent of early morning, and another part is telling me it's mid-afternoon.

Who knew that confusion could be a 'normal' ground state of being?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Things That Will Be Capital Crimes When I Rule The World #1

People who put audio clips of that girl saying "Congratulations! You've been selected to receive a free ipod nano/iphone/PS3/Xbox 360" onto their webpages.

Also, people who believe they have actually just won a free ipod etc will be tracked down and shot under the 'Being Bloody Stupid Act'.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sci-Fi Channel Official Needs a New Plot Wheel.

Just in case you don't know what a plot-wheel is, it's a tool used by really bad writers. You spin the discs and it spits out a plot by filling in the blanks, like:

(Blank) is a (Blank) who needs to fight (blank) to stop the (blank) from (blank).

Oh, and in the SciFi channel's case, this is usually followed by "...and stars Stephen Baldwin."

I think it's time that the SciFi Channel retired theirs and either bought a new one, or actually hired some decent writers.

You see, today I was watching Stargate Atlantis, and the ads came on...including one for the latest SciFi original movie, "Mammoth".

I really wish I was kidding about this, but in between the really bad effects and shots of people running, one of the characters said:

"There's an alien-possessed mammoth out there, and unless we take it down, the government will kill us all."

You know, I could spend the next thousand words just making fun of that, but I just can't make it sound more ridiculous that it already does.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Anniversary! Woohoo!

Ok, let me start by saying that EC4A Episode 6 has just been posted.

I think I've finally 'arrived', new episodes aren't so much 'eagerly awaited' as 'impatiently demanded'. Unfortunately, the only person eagerly awaiting or impatiently demanding is MC Etcher...but who cares? If you can pick your battles, you can pick your victories as well.

Anyway, this is a very special blog post today.

I completely and totally missed my second year bloggerversary, and by the time I noticed I'd been blogging for two years, it was too far past to bring it up.

Today, however, is my 600th blog post.

That works out roughly to a post every two days, and I average around 1500 words per post. That means this blog contains roughly nine hundred thousand words!

No wonder I'm so fecking knackered.

Anyway, shout out time to everyone who kept me interested in blogging and gave me the motivation to keep writing. In no particular order:

MC Etcher
Ozzy C
Cindy (who 's blog we all miss...HINT HINT!)

There's probably someone I've missed, but the truth is I've felt like crap all day, spent the last two hours recording the latest EC4A (which fought me all the way), so if I've missed you out, cut a blogga some slack.

To close this very special blog post, and in the finest tradition of "Life, What the Hell is Going On", I'm going to blatantly rip off someone's idea. (Sorry Kato).

EC4A needs you! (Imagine a dude in a top hat pointing at you next to that last sentence).

Ideas are coming slower and slower, so if you have any ideas for topics to cover, send them to me at

Anyone who gives me an idea I use gets their blog mentioned on the show, which is advertising to literally TENS of people!

Well, thanks all for reading, and hopefully I'll someday I'll be celebrating my 1000th post.

Keep on bloggin'

"The Paulius"

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Spoiler Free Review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"

The Hallows could be a touch more Deathly.

The End.



Ok, in all seriousness, it's pretty damn impossible to write a review of the new HP without at least some minor spoilers. Everything I want to write, while not giving anything away explicitly, at least hints at the events.

It's like me saying "Empire Strikes Back? Well, it turns out that one character is actually another character's close relative." It doesn't take a genius to work it out. Even if you are really "There's an awesome twist in 'The Sixth Sense'" it's no where near as satisfying if you're expecting a twist and guessing what it might be.

Basically, I think it's a little early to write a comprehensive review because too many people haven't read it yet, and I really don't wanna spoil any off it.

In other words, Sunny hasn't finished it yet, and if I give anything away, she'll cut off my balls with a pair of rusty nail clippers.

All I will say is that it's by far the best of the series, and is firmly in my Top Five Books Of All Time Ever. In fact, it even made me like "The Half-Blood Prince" even more, because the things in that book that I thought didn't make sense or were stupid make a lot more sense.

Long story short, it's ass-slapping awesome. I particularly liked the ending (but I'm not saying why).