Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Today Just Keeps Getting Better

I wrote a rather excited post earlier today because Actor/Writer Wil Wheaton linked to my blog.

I thought that was awesome at the time, despite the fact it was just a link and I wasn't mentioned by name. Wil just mentioned his new auidobook and said 'so far, it's getting really good reviews'…with the word 'reviews' linking here.

Well, it turns out that Wil actually wrote three posts today…well, take a look at this post of his that he posted earlier in the day.

Tell me that's not awesome.

The Internet really IS weird.

Wil Wheaton linked to my blog!

How awesome is that?

I'll tell you.

It's crazy awesome. It's Jim Darkmagic (of the Newhampshire Darkmagics) awesome.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Remind Anyone of Anything?

Today while I was clicking the Stumble button, I found this little gem.

I laughed pretty hard that anyone could be so stupid, then I felt a little sad for the state of the human race.

The above link will take you to a propaganda comic book released during the 80's during the height of the 'Satanic Panic'. It's hilarious in a lot of ways…but scary in others, and not scary in the way it's intended.

During the 80's the general public (read: People who have never played, seen or even glanced at a Dungeons and Dragons game) decided that D&D was Satanic, evil and was going to destroy the world's youth. They took a game that involves creative thought, teamwork, problem solving, math skills and teamwork and decided it was evil for no reason other than that there was a picture of a dragon or a demon on the box.

Of course, if you've ever played the game, you know it's about as satanic as a care-bear. 99.9% of D&D campaigns have the players fighting against the demons and evil entities…but why let common sense get in the way of a good moral panic.

The comic makes for hilarious reading. For example, a new player's terrified reaction when their character gets killed.

Here's what happens when your character gets killed in a D&D game. If your DM's pretty relaxed you just erase the name at the top of your character sheet, write in a new one and re-join the rest of the adventurers as a new character. Worst case scenario, the DM makes you roll a whole new character from scratch.

How does the comic-book character react to the death of her fictional character? She screams like she's being eaten by a shark and hangs herself…because 'it was her fault' her character died and she 'can't face life alone'.

Of course, unbalanced kids aside, things get much more interesting later on when it turns out that D&D is really just a 'Satanic Training Program' and your DM can teach you real magic spells.

That's all D&D is people! So Devil-worshippers can get their hands on your kids and groom them for WITCHCRAFT!

That's the part that gets me. That in the internet age the whole country can still freak out that their kids are learning 'Dark Magic'. To be completely honest, if I had a kid that chose to hang around with his friends performing 'spells' I'd just laugh at his overactive imagination and be happy he wasn't doing drugs or joining gangs. Let's just say watching Sunny's grandkids pointing sticks at things and shouting "Wingardium Leviosa" are the least of their parent's worries.

Of course, the most laughable element is that your average D&D Dungeon Master is actually a powerful dark wizard. I've played a few D&D games in my time, and let's just say if the last DM I played with was able to use a 'Mind Bondage' spell like in the comic to make people do whatever he wants…he'd probably have been a lot more popular with the ladies and a whole lot richer.

It's almost 2009 people. I know we can't agree on much, but can we at least agree that magic isn't real?

I mean…even the pixies don't believe in magic.

Happiest Days Of Our Lives – Audiobook Review

Firstly, if you don't have the time to read this whole review, I'll sum it up for you in a single sentence:

If you've ever rolled a D20, stayed up all night mapping out Zelda on the NES or just happen to have heard of Wil Wheaton…buy The Happiest Days of Our Lives audiobook, it's more than worth it.

Listening to the book was an almost eerie experience. At times I felt like some of Wil's stories were lifted directly from my own childhood, only with the names and locations changed. I think this is what makes this book so charming…that despite the fact that, like me, you may have grown up a decade and a few thousand miles away from the author…you instantly feel have a lot in common through sheer geek-cameraderie.

I remember standing in a toy store, determined not to leave without a Star Wars action figure like in 'Blue Light Special'. I remember being 'taught' by little-Hitler teachers who were far more interested in petty, selfish power-trips than actual teaching like in 'The Butterfly Tree'…and sadly, the loss of a beloved family pet almost exactly like "Let go – A requiem for Felix the Bear."

In fact, to me, that's almost exactly what this book is. A memoir of the experiences that 'growing up geek' brings. The discovery that the things you love deny you entry into the mainstream social circles, the feeling that you have to constantly defend your choice of hobbies, and the joy when you find someone else who feels the same way. After listening to the whole thing, I almost can't help but think of Wil's childhood recollections as 'Geek-Seed Moments'...those formative childhood experiences that steer you down the road towards geekhood.

Basically, THDOOL is a book that really hit home with me. Funny in places, serious in others and heart-wrenchingly sad in a spot or two.

One of the things I particularly liked about THDOOL is that it's not exactly your usual audiobook. It's a lot like having Wil in the same room telling you stories. He also occasionally moves away from the written text to deliver an aside about the story he's currently telling. He also delivers these stories with enthusiasm and an awful lot of emotion. Having listened to a lot of very bored, robotic sounding audiobooks, Wil's style is a real breath of fresh air.

The only real negative I have with THDOOL is that it feels a little short, clocking in at about three and a half hours. That being said, this is also reflected in the price, with THDOOL being almost half the price of "Just a Geek".

Basically, if you're a Wil Wheaton fan or just consider yourself to be a bit geeky, you'll find something you like in The Happiest Days of Our Lives. I highly recommend it.

You can find The Happiest Days of Our Lives here

Saturday, December 27, 2008

No Sir, I Don’t Like It

If I'm completely and totally honest, my first reaction to Call of Duty: World at War was one of disappointment. After the success of COD: Modern Warfare, I just couldn't believe that the franchise had voluntarily gone back to a World War 2 setting.

Please don't get me wrong, it's an absolutely outstanding game if judged purely on its own merits. The single player campaign, while short, is a lot of fun and the multiplayer is great. The problem is that it doesn't matter how good a steak is if that's all you've had to eat for months on end…and that's what COD: World at War feels like.

Basically, the game itself is extremely good…it's just an extremely good game in a very tired and overdone genre. If this is your very first WW2 shooter, you'll probably think it's one of the best games you've ever played. If, however, you haven't been living under a rock for the past decade, you'll have fun, but in a 'been there, done that' kinda way.

However, there's one part of the multiplayer that
I really don't like.

Normally I'm all for anything that makes a game a deeper, more involved experience, and in many ways the RPG elements introduced to the multiplayer part of the game do just that. As you play you earn experience points just like you would in a normal RPG and those experience points unlock weapons and bonuses you can use in the game. You can earn anything from more powerful weapons to upgrades and add-ons that make you tougher, your weapons more accurate, etc, etc.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a bad idea in a multiplayer setting?

In a single player setting it would be awesome…but think of it this way. The longer you play this game, the more of an advantage you're going to have. Playing better also lets you earn these advantages more quickly. This is just flat out awesome when you're the guy who's been playing for a while, knows the maps inside out and has all the best weapons, gadgets and upgrades.

However, when you're the new player…this just plain sucks.

I played a ton of games where I'd open up on another player with a machine gun at close range, put six or seven rounds into him…only to have him shrug that off and kill me with a single shot from a rifle I won't get my hands on for at least another few day's worth of gameplay.

Long story short, when you start out on World at War multiplayer, it's little more than a grind. There is a 'newbie zone', but that becomes locked to you when you get above level 8…which is just a handful of matches. After that you get thrown to the dogs.

Basically, until you've invested some serious time into this game, you're playing against people who know the terrain better than you, have better weapons than you and can take more damage than you.

It's sad because this really is a very, very fun game and it just sucks that the games I'm playing online now feel like work so I can have some real fun later.

Friday, December 26, 2008

It’s almost better this way around

For those who didn't read yesterday's post, I had a fairly miserable Christmas day. Sunny and I both only managed a couple of hours sleep on Christmas eve…and not because we were so excited waiting for santa, but because we were literally up all night cooking.

To be absolutely clear here, that's not meant to guilt-trip any of our dinner guests. Sunny and I actually had a blast on Christmas Eve…and we were expecting our usual fun Christmas day, followed by a movie on the couch and an early night when everyone went home.

Instead, by 6am on Christmas day I was feeling like crap. When everyone else was eating I was silently praying my stomach would calm down because I honestly felt like one more burp might kill me.

Again, this may be too much info, but imagine someone farting directly into your mouth every few minutes and you can imagine how pleasant my Christmas day was.

Well, after everyone went home, I fell asleep on the couch at about 4pm, and got up and went to bed at about 6pm.

I felt really terrible, both physically and emotionally. On the one hand I was sick, and on the other I felt like I was ruining Sunny's Christmas. This was the first Christmas since we've been married where Sunny had both Christmas Eve and Christmas day off…and I get sick and end up wasting half of it by going to bed early.

Luckily I have the best wife ever who understands that sometimes you just don't feel well.

Well, I woke up feeling a better this morning. The fart-burps were gone, although I still didn't feel like eating anything.

Then, over the course of the day I got better and better, and then about an hour ago my apetite came back with a vengeance after not eating in almost 48 hours.

I wonder what we have to eat? I thought.

The answer was, of course…everything.

So I went into the kitchen and loaded my plate with turkey, ham, rolls, broccoli casserole, chipolatas and smothered the lot with gravy.

It…was…awesome. Broccoli casserole is always better the next day, and the rest of the food's 'leftover status' is more than made up for by the fact I haven't eaten hardly anything in two days.

Seriously, it was almost worth getting sick.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

This is Horrible

I was really looking forward to Christmas Dinner this year. My parents even sent some stuff that you just can't find over here, and I was looking forward to my first traditionally British Christmas Dinner since I moved to the US

Then, last night while Sunny and I were cooking, because we didn't have the time or space to cook anything for ourselves, I decided to eat some fast food leftovers we had in the fridge. For the record it was a couple of garlic parmesan bread-sticks and marinara dipping sauce.

A few hours later and my stomach decided to rebel. Now, this is probably venturing so deep into TMI territory that I've come out the other side, but the situation is this:

Everyone else has finished eating a delicious Christmas dinner I helped make. My condition right now, however, can only be described as 'Extreme nausea accompanied by continually and persistently farting out of my mouth'.

Yup, my burps smell worse than anything that's come out of my other end ever…and they taste absolutely horrible.

Now I've put everyone else off their Christmas dinner, how's your day going?

Merry Christmas and a Mouth-Fart New Year!

A Christmas Poem

As recited by Paulius' Dad:

T'was Christmas Day in the workhouse,
By far the happiest day of the year.
The men's hearts where full of Christmas joy,
Their bellies full of beer
And as the workhouse master strode through those lofty halls,
He said "We wish you a Merry Christmas!"
…And someone shouted "BALLS!"

The workhouse master grew angry and swore by all his Gods:
"You'll get no Christmas Puddin', you dirty rotten sods!"
Then up strode one young worker, his face as bold as brass:
"We don't want yer Christmas puddin'! Shove it up your ass"

Note: For the official 'reciting to a young child version' swap 'BALLS!' for 'Zip it!" and "Shove it up your ass" for "Roll 'em on the grass". That was the

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Best… Surprise… Ever.

It all started about a week and a half ago. My Mother-in-Law, Nancy, needed help with her Christmas shopping, so Sunny and I volunteered to go along with her. This being South Carolina, at one point, we ended up at Walmart.

I took a few minutes to go off on my own in order to buy one of Sunny's stocking-fillers, and when I got back, I noticed that Nancy had loaded a Guitar on top of her buggy. I couldn't resist taking a look. I read the box and found myself getting impressed.

You see, back when I got my first guitar, a hundred dollars wouldn't buy you a musical instrument, especially not from a department store… all a department store could offer you for a hundred bucks was a poorly made toy. This one, however, was actually much better than my first 'real' guitar. Obviously, it wasn't in the same league as my old Gibson SG, but it was a genuine instrument. Real rosewood fretboard and bridge, spruce top…all in all, a very, very decent guitar.

I felt my fingers start to itch.

Let me take a moment here to reveal a couple things that are little weird about myself. Firstly, Musical instruments are the only thing in my life that even approach spiritual or religious status. I think this is something that all musicians feel, and something that's almost impossible to explain to non-musicians.

Ever seen a kid playing with a guitar and hitting the strings way too hard, letting out dischord after dischord? To me, that sounds like that guitar is screaming in pain. Honestly. I can't stand it.

The second thing is that I believe every musician forms a very real bond with their instrument. This is why I won't own a second hand guitar without knowing its history. For example a guitar changing owners through an inheritance or a gift is fine…but a guitar getting separated from its owner through theft or a forced sale just fills the guitar with bad mojo.

Bearing all this in mind, I hope this makes it easier to understand that when my last guitar was stolen, it was a genuine bereavement. It was like losing a family member and part of myself all at the same time. The best way I can explain it is that it doesn't feel like my guitar was stolen…it feels like my guitar was kidnapped.

So while I really, really, really miss playing the guitar, I didn't want to buy a second hand one…and after playing a genuine Gibson SG for so long, I couldn't imagine buying a hundred dollar 'toy'. It would be like spending ten years behind the wheel of a Lamborghini then switching to a golf cart.

Anyway, as I looked at the guitar on top of the buggy, I knew I wanted to play the guitar again…and I found I honestly didn't care who the was made by as long as it was new, had six strings and would hold a tune. I felt like a widower who suddenly found himself able to date again.

Fast forward to the beginning of this week:

Because we'd spent so much money on fixing our bedroom roof, money was extremely tight. Given that my parents had already bought me the Xbox 360 a couple of months ago, I'd told Sunny not to buy me anything for Christmas.

However, I remembered that this was Sunny I was talking about, Mrs. Christmas herself. Telling her not to buy me a Christmas gift had about as much chance of success as trying to explain the point of the Constitution to George Dubya. So, aetting a new guitar had been playing on my mind and I'd had an idea:

"Hey Sweetie?" I said. "You know my birthday's in January… so for Christmas, how about you just put whatever you were going to spend on me back so I can put it towards a new guitar for my birthday?"

"I've already bought you your Christmas present." She said. "But we'll see what we can do when your birthday gets here."

Rats. I thought.

Fast forward one more time to yesterday afternoon:

Nancy had come over to the house so Sunny could help her wrap her Christmas presents. While she was over, she asked if I could tune the guitar for her. Obviously, I agreed.

I took the guitar out of the box and set to tuning it. I found myself getting more impressed. It felt good, it sounded good, and once its new owner had played it for a week or so and worn it in a little, it would be a very nice guitar. I even liked the way it looked. Once it was tuned and I'd 'tested' it by playing a couple of tunes, I reluctantly put it back in its box.

A little while later, Sunny was wrapping the gifts, Nancy left and I spent a few hours with Sunny using every bit of self-control I have to stop myself from taking the guitar out of the box and playing it.

Happily, I did manage to stop myself. Firstly, it was someone else's Christmas present, and I didn't want to mess up the instrument's mojo for whoever it was destined for.

Later that night, Nancy came back over to the house to pick up the newly wrapped gifts and after I showed her into the living room, she opened her purse, took out a couple of guitar picks and handed them to me.

"There you go." She said. "Merry Christmas."

I looked down at the picks. One was blue-black pearl. The light caught it as I turned it over in my hand.


You see, it wouldn't be completely beyond believability that Nancy had forgotten that my SG had been stolen…or that she'd mistaken the strat-shaped Rock Band controller standing in the corner for a real guitar. I wasn't sure what to say.

"Thanks!" I finally managed and made myself smile. I turned and put the picks up on the shelf where I keep my old SG's strap. "Now I just need to get a guitar to go with them."

"No you don't" Said Nancy, sounding a little puzzled.

I was right…she'd forgotten my guitar had been stolen or thought the Rock Band controller was a real one.

I turned to explain and saw both Nancy and Sunny just beaming at me. She pointed at the guitar I'd tuned earlier that day "You've got one right there."

It took a few moments for what she was saying to sink in. Nancy had bought the guitar for me. I just hugged her and did my best not to cry.

It's honestly one of the best and most thoughtful gifts I've ever received.

…and if I catch anyone trying to steal this one, I will shoot them in the face. That is not a joke.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dear Santa…

I've been thinking a lot about Christmas this year, and I've decided that this year I don't actually want anything for Christmas. Seriously, I have more than enough. I've been very lucky over the past few months and think asking for anything more for Christmas would be nothing more than selfish. Therefore, take anything you have for me and give it to charity or something.

But failing that, I'd like a new Gibson SG, an 80" Plasma TV, a brand new top of the line PC and a copy of Mass Effect and Fallout 3 for the 360. Oh, and a new house and an Aston-Martin DB9 and a Yacht (at least a 150 footer, not one of those pissy little ones that don't even have their own Helipad).




Thursday, December 18, 2008

I’m Almost Beginning to Enjoy This

So, after fixing the roof, a couple of nights ago we had some major rainfall…and by 'major rainfall' I mean 'It pissed down all night long and well into the morning'.

This, of course, led to a completely sleepless night for me because every drip, every sound I heard, made me jolt awake:

DRIP…Was that the sound of a raindrop falling from the tree and hitting the deck outside? Or was it the sound of water dripping onto the hallway carpet?...DRIP… Is the patch of water damage on the ceiling getting bigger, or is it just my imagination?...DRIP…Was that an outside, leafy-sounding drip or more of and inside, carpet-sounding drip?

When I finally got out of bed the next day I was ecstatic to see the main leak in the hallway was still absolutely bone dry, and the second, smaller leak above the bed hadn't got any bigger and was still drying out. (I dried the main leak by pointing a fan heater at it…to do the same in the bedroom would mean balancing a heater on the bed…which would probably set it on fire…so I decided to let that leak dry naturally)


I relaxed properly for the first time in weeks. Again, a minor roof leak isn't normally something that makes me panic, but here's how my thought process usually goes:

What if it can't be fixed and the whole roof needs replacing? We can't afford that! I really need a job. Crap, I've been out of work for over four years now! Who's gonna hire me when they see I haven't held a job since 2004? If I can't get a job and pay that fucking medical bill soon, that'll go on my credit and my chances of ever getting a decent house are fucked. That reminds me, I need to finally get my drivers license sorted out…but what's the point if we can't afford another car? It's Christmas day when?

Etcetera, etcetera.

Well, two days passed and the leaks didn't reappear and I was actually starting to feel good again. After all, 2009 was a whole new year. The economy can only get better and I'll find a job somehow…and if someone as useless as me can fix a roof leak, even if 99.999% of the actual work was done by my stepson…I can do anything!

Then, last night I went to get into bed…and I noticed an odd shadow on the ceiling near the foot of the bed. Gingerly, I reached out and touched it…it was damp.

It was a…new…fucking…leak.

Apparently, as I clambered around on the roof fixing the last two leaks, my fat ass obviously damaged a seam in the aluminum which was letting water in again. Considering it took two days after the rainfall to show up, it's obviously a tiny, slow leak…but it still needed fixing.

So today I got to climb onto my roof again and go over every seam on one side of the roof with 'Leak Stopper'…the stuff that gets everywhere, glues your hand to the trowel and means a few hours in the shower with soap and WD-40 to get the stuff off your hands. I believe it's made of asphalt, liquid rubber, gasoline, minced devil assholes, napalm, superglue and freshly-burnt ass-hair.

Luckily the sun was out today and the temperature was in the mid 60's, meaning it was actually quite comfortable up on the roof as I spent an hour with an old towel, dropping it in the areas the water had ponded before wringing it out over the edge of the roof over and over again. Also lucky is that leak-stopper is usable all year round and can be used when the roof is still wet.

Anyway, I soaked up the water on one side of the roof (the side where the leak was), let it dry in the sun for an hour, then slathered leak-stopper along the seams of the roof.

Now, the thing is, I only went over the seams on the half of the roof above the leak as the other side was still so wet that it would have taken hours to dry it off…and I didn't really see the point of spending another two or three hours drying out the roof, possibly doing damage to the already waterproof seams in the process… to cover a seam I was 99.9999% sure was already waterproof.

It was only after getting back inside and spending an hour cleaning the goop off my hands that something hit me:

Sure, the water was ponded more or less directly above the leak. Sure I dried up that water and covered the seams in that same spot…but that doesn't mean the water wasn't getting in at another spot and then running along a beam or something before getting into the house in an area not directly below where the actual leak is.

Well, the simple truth is after a couple hours on the roof I'm not getting back up there to fix a leak that may or may not exist. I still have a fresh, unopened bucket of Leak Stopper, which means I'll be back on the roof if the leak's still there the next time it rains.

But please, everyone cross your fingers that I won't need to.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hopefully It’s Fixed

Well, my stepson and I took another crack at fixing the roof again today.

Right now I'm rooting that I'm as incompetent as I think I am.

What I mean by that is I'm hoping my previous repair attempt failures were down to me messing up and doing something wrong, rather than the problem being the roof itself or the materials we used to fix it.

If it was just me being crap, there's a good chance the repair will actually hold this time.

This time around, I went online and read up on the stuff we were using to waterproof the roof. The first thing I noticed was that it says to apply the stuff on a bright clear day when the weather forecast says it won't rain for 24 hours. Both times we put it on before, it rained within 12 hours of laying the stuff…and when I say rain I mean it rained hard for days.

Then I read that it said "For best results apply roofing cement over cracks before applying"

Can you guess what we didn't do the first and second time?

Finally, the thing we really screwed up on was the second time we tried to repair the roof. We thought we were being clever and put down a layer of tar paper first. It turns out that the rubber-coat we were laying wasn't 'compatible' with tar paper which, along with the heavy rainfall within hours of laying it, meant the rubber coat didn't cure and let the rain through it like a sponge

Basically, this stuff needs to be applied to a bare, dry roof on a clear day when there's no rain forecasted for a 24 hours. We were applying it on a cloudy, overcast day, on a sorta dry roof on top of old tar paper a couple of hours before a rain storm.

To be completely honest, when I put it like that, I'm surprised I even thought there was a chance it would work.

From what I can tell, this time we did everything right. It's not going to rain until Sunday (according to the forecast), we went over every seam and crack we could find in the roof with roofing cement before laying the rubber coat and this time around it should have plenty of time to set up before it rains.

I certainly hope so.

Yesterday, when I walked through the hallway and was greeted by the sight of water literally pouring onto the carpet, I honestly came within inches of a panic attack.

In fact, I tell a lie. I had a panic attack. A full blown one. My first ever. My chest suddenly felt like it was in a vice and it took ten minutes sitting with my head between my knees before I could breath properly again.

Now, a leaky roof might not sound like a panic-attack inducing problem to most people…and usually it isn't for me. If I'd heard about someone having a reaction like that to a simple home repair problem, I'd probably have laughed. This time was a little different.

Firstly was the simple matter that I'd tried to fix it twice before…and was at a total loss as to why it wasn't working. We'd already spent close to two hundred dollars we couldn't afford on fixing the problem, which was suddenly money down the drain…and for all I could tell, anything else we spent would be a total waste as well.

Secondly, this has come within weeks of us having to borrow money and spend most of our Christmas savings on getting my teeth fixed.

Add that to the fact I still don't have a job…and it just makes me feel like I'm a huge part of the problem. Money is extremely tight, we really need to move some time in the near future and I feel like a huge financial burden on Sunny.

I know being short of money is nothing new for anyone who has more than a passing relationship with the real world, and I can honestly say that if both of us were working and found ourselves in a similar position, it wouldn't affect me nearly this much…but when you're not working and not earning and all the financial problems are squarely on your spouse's shoulders…it makes you feel totally useless and totally helpless at the same time.

You see, regardless of what one or two of my shit-stirring in-laws like to think (and say, but only behind my back)…I'm not lazy. I don't enjoy being supported by my wife and the one thing I want more than anything is a job.

I got my first part-time job at 14, and until I moved to the USA, I was never out of work. The truth is I'm pretty old fashioned. I feel that I should be working and working should be purely optional for Sunny.

Basically, sitting on my ass and watching my wife going out to work isn't a fun experience for me. I'm not sitting there thinking how great it is that I get to stay home and watch TV instead of going out to work. I'm sitting there worrying about what'll happen if the house needs a major repair, or Sunny's car dies or she needs another hospital stay.

The roof basically became a symbol of everything that's fucked up right now that I'm powerless to fix.

Luckily, I realize that wallowing in self-pity isn't going to help and sitting on my ass thinking of how bad I have it isn't going to make things any better. All I can do is keep plugging away, keep applying for those jobs and hope that pretty soon one of those bastards will hire me.

On the upside, at least I have a roof…and an awesome stepson who actually gives two shits about helping people when they need it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Clean House Sucks Balls.

When I got up this morning Sunny was watching ‘Clean House’ on HGTV.

I despise this show.

The premise doesn’t sound too bad. They come to your house, clean out all the clutter and junk you’ve accumulated, sell it in a yard sale, then use the proceeds to decorate your house.

In practice it’s a little different. For one, all the presenters are self important assholes with delusions of grandeur. Secondly, they’re always way too optimistic in their budgets. “Ok, we’re going to sell a bunch of standard household junk, and we need to raise five grand to do your bedroom!”

The thing that really annoys me, however, is the way they get around this budget problem. They pick a couple of valuable items (that absolutely do not come under the heading of ‘clutter’) and then guilt the home owners into selling them. I’ve honestly watched them spend ages trying to guilt the homeowners into selling a single book or lamp. It’s not cluttering up the house, it’s not getting in the way…but it’s expensive as hell, and the presenters want the money.

The episode today made me want to hunt the presenters down and kill them.

The father from this week’s family had a custom chopper than he’d built from scratch himself. They guilted the crap out of him until he agreed to sell his eight thousand dollar bike for just a thousand.

That’s pretty bad, right? Well, I’ve not even got started.

At the actual sale, someone walks up and shows some slight interest…and the stupid bitch presenter drops the price to $500 in ten seconds.

So she calls the Dad of the family over and asks him if it’s okay to sell his bike for $500. Like any normal rational person who spent eight thousand dollars on building a chopper with his own two hands, he says no. They guilt him some more. He says no. They guilt him some more. He points out that he spent $500 just on the springs for the front end suspension…and they keep guilting him. Guy puts his foot down and says no.

So the presenters bring his kids over who all start acting heartbroken that their daddy is being so selfish and won’t sell his bike so they can decorate their house. The Dad starts to break, because for some reason he doesn’t like all his kids asking him why he doesn’t love them enough to part with a stupid bike.

If Sunny hadn’t been sitting next to me, I’d have been screaming at the screen for the guy to grow some balls.

I’m sorry, but I’d have told the presenters that there was no way I was taking a seven thousand five hundred dollar loss by selling something with massive sentimental value because the basic premise of their show doesn’t work. If they can’t decorate my house for what they can get from selling my household clutter, that’s their problem, not mine.

Secondly, I’d tell my kids to fuck off. Sure, they might want a shiny new bedroom, but it’d be a great opportunity to let them learn the value of money, that life isn’t fair and that you don’t always get what you want.

But of course, this is a reality show, so common sense doesn’t come into it.

The Dad finally breaks because the presenters have his kids crying all over him…and he ends up selling his eight thousand dollar, hand-made, completely custom chopper for two hundred fucking dollars.

Then, just to add insult to injury, they’re still five hundred dollars short of their budget, and once the family have gone somewhere else, the head presenter says

“Well, we can’t afford to do everything, so I say we leave something out of the Dad’s room, because he cost his family some money today.

I couldn’t stand it. Firstly they were making the guy sell his bike, not because it was taking up space, but because they needed the money for their decorating budget. When guilting him themselves didn’t work, they got his kids involved…and now they were acting like he was incredibly selfish and an all-round bad person because he wouldn’t sell his bike for a sixteenth of it’s value…without even factoring in sentimental value.

Just to put the icing on the cake, during the reveal, they actually rubbed it in. They drew attention to the other stuff they’d have done if the dad had parted with his bike, asked him if he regretted not selling it right away and what his kids would think.


Don’t watch this show. Don’t call them to your house. In fact, write to HGTV and complain about what an awful shitty show it is. Nothing would make me happier than if this shit got cancelled.

My Two Cents

It’s been a while since I’ve riffed of another blogger’s post, but I really wanted to have my say on Evanesce’s latest.

Mr. Evan wrote about a recent Associated Press article that says that more people are getting away with murder.

Of course, the article is just another example of typical mainstream journalism. It follows the usual formula: Here’s something new to be afraid of, here’s why it’s so terrible, here’s why it’s going to affect you personally, and here’s why you can’t do a damn thing about it.

The article, in simplest terms, was all about how more people are getting away with murder…which of course means every person you see in the street is a potential murderer.

Our friend Evan is sensibly skeptical about the whole thing and says that the article is (shock, horror!) sloppily written and the conclusions drawn don’t necessarily reflect the raw data. As Evan points out, more unsolved murders doesn’t necessarily mean more people are getting away with murder. I’ll quote him directly here:

“This doesn't truly say that more people are getting away with murder, because it's equally possible -- and equally likely --that we have the same number of killers, who are harvesting more victims.”

After reading through the article myself, I noticed the proposed reason for more people getting away with murder:

“Law enforcement officials say the chief reason is a rise in drug- and gang-related killings, which are often impersonal and anonymous, and thus harder to solve than slayings among family members or friends. As a result, police departments are carrying an ever-growing number of "cold-case" murders on their books…Many slayings nowadays are gang- and drug-related killings — often, drive-by shootings that involve a burst of gunfire so indiscriminate that killer and victim don't know each other.”

This led me to another conclusion.

That conclusion is: Who cares?

What they’re saying is that gang members are shooting each other competing over territory they use to deal drugs.

You know what I call that? I call that a self-solving problem. Don’t bother spending taxpayer money tracking them down and locking them up…just let them kill each other off.

When one gang does a drive-by shooting on another, to me that just means a few less gang members selling drugs on our streets. I also don’t care if the shooters get caught by the police, because chances are they’ll end up dead when the gang they shot at decides to get some revenge.

Basically, according to all available data, you only have a higher chance of getting killed (and your killer getting away with it) if you’re a gang member or drug dealer.

…and if you are a gang member or drug dealer, that’s your own fault and I honestly don’t give a shit if you get killed or not.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

We're back!

If I ever mention that I want to completely wipe my PC again, please hit me about the head with a stout 2x4.

I started at two this afternoon and I’ve just got finished now at quarter past ten. That’s a whole eight freaking hours staring at this effing screen.

If I’m completely honest, it wasn’t that bad. A lot of the time was taken up by having to re-download a ton of drivers and apps like Skype, iTunes etc. Going from formatting the bastard to having an actual working computer took maybe three or four hours. It took another four hours to get my PC back.

It was particularly bad this time because I’ve never done a total start-over with this machine and was using my self-burned, never-before-used recovery disks. That’s something that really pisses me off. I’m not allowed to get a professionally made DVD with my bought and paid for OS on it in case I start making copies.

I can understand wanting to fight piracy…but not allowing your genuine customers to own a copy of the software they’ve bought isn’t the answer.

The other big annoying thing is I always forget something when I have to wipe a PC. There’s always a file somewhere that I forgot to back up, or a little piece of critical info I forget to write down.

This time? All my email contacts and browser bookmarks.

On the upside, almost everything’s back the way it was and the PC is running like butter.

Going Dark

Well, my PC is officially running like mud and no amount of virus checks, registry cleanings or HD defrags is helping.

It's finally got bad enough where something has to be done. I'm tired of trying to do something as simple as play a video and have it take five minutes to start and then lock up shortly after it does.

A quick check shows that while this PC apparently has no viruses or adware on it, it also has almost 1000 running processes.

Unfortunately it's time for a format and restart. Something I haven't done on this machine yet.

Anyway, this means I get to spend the next few hours backing up anything I absolutely, positively can't lose (like my iTunes library)...followed by a full format.

So....if you don't hear from me for a few days, something's gone wrong.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Ancient Secrets

I was just flicking through a Reader’s Digest and saw yet another article on a ‘miracle diet’. This one proudly proclaimed that it was based on five thousand year old teachings from India.

Can someone explain to me how five thousand year old nutritional information is a selling point?

I mean, science wasn’t exactly at its peak in 3000BC.

If you think about it, five hundred years ago we thought leeches were a general cure all, that many health problems could be fixed by drilling holes in our heads and that conditions such as epilepsy were actually caused by demonic possession.

So, today, I don’t think there’d be many people who’d stick a leech to their head to cure a migraine…but five thousand year old views on diet and nutrition are just fine.

I don’t know how it happened but it appears that the Western world has been conditioned into thinking that true wisdom always comes from a very long time and from some place very far away. People traveling all the way to places like Tibet to find themselves or ‘achieve enlightenment’.

I’m sorry, but I just find it hilarious that people will flat out ignore a diet created in a nutritional research lab two towns over, but will flat out lose their shit over a diet based on ‘ancient knowledge’ from the other side of the planet.

Another Day, Another Dumbass

I was just watching this weeks episode of ‘Top Gear’ when I saw something so profoundly stupid, I had to repeat it for my American readers.

You know Sarah Ferguson? Fergie? The Duchess of York?

Well it turns out this week that she sold her car and it ended up in the hands of a cab driver. The big twist in the tale is that she didn’t clean out her Sat Nav’s address history and the cabbie went to the press with it.

So what was in there? Something scandal-worthy? Did it turn out that the Duchess of York had been frequenting S&M clubs or known crack houses?


Here is the reason this gigantic dumbass thought this was news worthy. Quoted directly from the Daily Mail:

"What if I'd been a terrorist? This car is a suicide bomber's dream…He would just have to fire up the sat nav and it would take him to the front doors of some of the biggest targets in Britain…The royals can thank their lucky stars the car was bought by me. I'll just delete the addresses."


He’ll just ‘delete those addresses’…right after he goes to the press with them.

Ok, in case you don’t get it yet, two of these ‘top-secret high profile Royal addresses’ were Windsor Castle and Buckingham palace. Something tells me that even an incredibly dense terrorist can find Buckingham Palace without a Sat Nav.

I’ll give you a clue, Mr. Terrorist. Buckingham Palace is the really big place with the red-uniformed guards in the two foot tall bearskin hats standing outside. That’s right, the ones that aren’t allowed to move or react to you. It’s the huge building surrounded by tourists. If Windsor Castle is more your thing, Windsor Castle is the…well, castley looking place in freaking Windsor.

Whew! Lucky escape there, Duchess. The cabbie got your car, instead of those wacky terrorists who are just known for their constant purchasing of prestige vehicles.

That really is an interesting question. How many terrorist cells in England do you think are out shopping for prestige motor vehicles? When was the last time you heard of a suicide bomber rigging a mint-condition Jaguar XJ6 to blow?

“Hell, Achmed, if I’m going to die for the cause, I’m going to meet Allah in comfort! No, the Lexus won’t do! They handle like crap and they don’t have heated cup-holders, dammit! I don’t care if it’s fifteen grand cheaper! Oh, and this ass touches nothing but soft, blemish free leather!”

Ok, in all seriousness, this shit really has to stop. It really is becoming a case of ‘another day, another dumbass’.

“What if I’d been a terrorist?” For fuck’s sake.

Look. Terrorists are not hiding around every fucking corner! Let me set this straight once and for all:

You have more chance of dying from a brain aneurism brought on by having a massive dump than you have of being involved in a terrorist attack. I think it’s safe to stop looking at everything in terms of how vulnerable it makes you to terrorists.

Here’s the deal, for the past few years our leaders have been playing up the terrorist threat because if we believe death is around every corner, we’ll let them get away with shit we normally wouldn’t in the name of security.

Long story short…don’t be a dumbass, reactionary asshole.

It’s like, the other day I got out of bed and saw Sunny had left a sock on the floor.

“It’s a good job I found it and picked it up.” I said. “What if a terrorist had found it? They could have picked it up and filled it with pennies or rocks or something and made a pretty damn lethal cudgel out of it. See? You leave socks on the floor and you’re potentially arming a terrorist.

Don’t even get me started on the sharp knives and forks she leaves just lying around in kitchen drawers were just anyone can find them. I’ve tried telling her. Even the spoons are lethal with just a few minutes with an angle-grinder.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


During a little random websurfing I stumbled across some of the CNN footage of Obama’s acceptance speech.

I watched it again, remembering how powerful it was the first time I watched it. How I sat in my living room, silently rejoicing that by January we’d no longer have a semi-retarded, warmongering, barely-literate idiot in charge.

I thought about how much respect I had for the man, simply because he didn’t promise quick and easy fixes in his speech, but the idea that if we all work hard enough we can get things back on track.

I also had a lot of respect for Obama because during his entire campaign, I didn’t once see him playing the race card.

This time, however, my overriding thought was:

Man, Jesse Jackson is a gigantic douche.

You see, I despise Jesse Jackson. I despise him because he’s quite frankly one of the most racist people alive today. He’s also one of those gigantic racists under the mistaken belief that they can’t be racist because they’re black.

In reality, racism works both ways. A black guy can be just as racist as any white guy.

Here’s why Jackson’s a douchebag.

Near the start of Obama’s campaign, Jesse Jackson very publicly announced that Obama ‘wasn’t black enough’ and pretty much trashed him whenever he got the chance.

For those keeping score, this is a massively racist thing to say. I always through the difference between black and white was just skin pigmentation, yet here’s a guy claiming that you’re not really black unless you act a certain way.

According to Jesse Jackson, being a highly educated and eloquent politician just isn’t ‘black enough’.

Yeah…Jesse Jackson apparently thought that Obama wasn’t a good candidate because he didn’t make race the main issue in his campaign. According to Jackson, a black President shouldn’t be elected because he’s the best candidate, he should be voted in for being as black as possible.

If whitey isn’t terrified of the new black President, it doesn’t count.

Anyway, the main thing that had me really pissed off was the shot of Jesse Jackson at Obama’s acceptance speech.

There was the guy who accused Obama of not being black enough. A guy who made it clear he didn’t support Obama’s candidacy…Standing in the middle of the crowd with two perfectly formed tears running down his face.

Oh, fuck OFF Jackson! You’re not fooling anyone.

He was so happy, it brought him to tears. I mean, he wasn’t actually crying like a lot of the crowd. He didn’t look excited or happy…He just stood stock still with two perfectly choreographed tears on his cheeks making sure the cameras could get a shot.

He didn’t give a shit about Obama. All he was after was a bit of reflected glory…so when the books are written about America’s black President, in there somewhere will be an iconic picture of Jesse Jackson with tears rolling down his cheeks.

Mr. Jackson? Iconic photographs aren’t premeditated or choreographed. They just happen. You attended that speech not because you believed in Obama’s candidacy or even to show a grudging support for the first black President. You turned up because you wanted to attach yourself, parasite like, to that historic moment.

Anyway, long story short…Go Obama! And Jesse Jackson is a massive douche.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Official PauliusCo Recommendation.

This afternoon I discovered a little service called TVersity.

It's a free media server for your home network and will push content to just about any media extender device you can think of including, of course, Xbox360s.

Now the good thing about TVersity is that as well as sharing the music and movies you have saved to your PC, it'll also push internet video to your 360.

There are a ton of TV networks that offer their shows for free online now, while TVersity doesn't support them all it lets you take a lot of these feeds and push them to your TV. As I type this now, Sunny's sitting on the couch watching an episode of MacGuyver.

It's also honestly a breeze to set up. I just downloaded it, gave it a double click and let the install wizard do its thing. It doesn't come much easier than that.

Big Bowl O' Awesome

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that fellow blogger Evanesce pointed out to me that just because I own a wireless router doesn’t mean I have to spend a hundred bucks on a wireless adapter for the 360 when a ten dollar Ethernet cable will do.

Well, today we were Christmas shopping in Wally-world and I found and bought me an Ethernet cable.

I bought the thing for two main reasons:

1) It’s a huge pain in the ass having to rewire my living room every time I want to take the 360 online.

2) Not only did playing the 360 online tie up the TV, it also tied up the internet connection, meaning that if I wanted to play online Sunny couldn’t even use the internet while I was playing.

Basically, it was a pure convenience/utility purchase.

However, there was a third reason I didn’t really think about…and that reason is absolutely awesome.

Two words: Media Extender.

What does that mean? In a nutshell it means I can play all the videos and music I have on my PC through the TV.

This is a big deal for me, because the internet is how I keep up with all the British TV shows that I can’t get over here.

Now, before networking the PC and the 360 if I wanted to watch the show on our TV from the couch, I had to download the show, convert the show to DVD format, burn the show to a DVD then slap the DVD in the DVD player. Bear in mind that it could easily take over an hour to convert the file, and it also meant using up a DVDr which was a gigantic pain in the ass.

Now? I download the show, turn on the 360 and pick it from a list. Two seconds later it starts playing on my TV.

The other thing that’s really cool is because the 360 looks in your “My Videos”, “My Pictures” and “My Music’ folders…just by enabling media sharing on my PC, my 360 found my entire iTunes music library…and it’s pre-organised and I can create playlists right on the 360.

Given that the 360’s connected to our surround sound system, that’s going to be just awesome for parties, etc.

The best bit was that it was honestly scary easy to set up. I just rebooted my PC, started up Media Player 11, clicked on ‘library’ and clicked ‘enable media sharing’.

Then, it just took a minute or so for the 360 and PC to find each other, I clicked ‘allow’ when my firewall flagged the connection and I was away.

It’s crazy awesome. If you have a PC and a 360 on the same network and haven’t set up media sharing, you really are missing a trick.

Try it. It’s awesome.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Brain Fart.

Today's post is little more than a thank you to Evanesce.

We were playing a little online Halo today (and I think I totally interrupted his COD4 session by spamming him with game invites. I rather arrogantly assumed the reason he wasn't answering was because he was away from his console...and not just waiting for me to shut up so he could keep playing COD....if that was the case, sorry dude.)

Anyway, I suddenly remembered I wanted to ask him about the wireless adapter he was using for his 360 and the conversation went something like this:

"Hey, you've got your 360 hooked up wirelessly, right?" I said.

"Nope." He replied

"Oh, never mind then..." I said. "I just found a cheap wireless adapter I was thinking of getting for the 360. It's sixty bucks versus a hundred for the official one. I just wondered if you knew anything about it."

"That's still too much money." He said. "I'd just get a really long ethernet cable and do it that way."

I got ready to explain why that wouldn't work...but then I realised there was no reason why it couldn't work. For some unknown reason I'd just never considered running a cable instead of buying a wireless adapter, despite the fact the 360 is less than five paces from where my modem usually resides.

All I'd have to do is lay the new ethernet cable along the same path as the main modem cable and 99.9% of it would be hidden behind bookshelves, the entertainment center, etc.

I just checked the prices of ethernet cable online. I can get a 50 foot cable for less than eight dollars.

I've no idea why it never occured to me before. I think I'd just internally classified my router as a 'wireless device' so I'd just never considered just running a cable.

Well, the long at the short of it is that Evan just unwittingly saved me 50-90 dollars.

The moral of the story:

It doesn't matter if you're as thick as pigshit as long as you have intelligent and patient friends.

Brain Block

I don't know what's going on recently.

Over the past month or so I've been sitting down to write a blog post, getting halfway through and then stopping because I just can't seem to get it right. I have good ideas but I just can't get them out of my head and onto my blog without them turning to garbage.

Is it wrong to feel like you need a good long vacation when you haven't actually done anything for almost four years? Because that's exactly what I feel like.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

You Know What's Awesome?


That's what awesome.

Good News....Kinda.

Well, ding dong the bitch is dead.

Yup, I finally had that asshole wisdom tooth pulled today. Apparently most of the price I was originally quoted was for anesthesia, and because I opted to have a local instead of general, we just managed to scrape affording it.

Of course, it was a bit of a shallow victory, because getting the son of a bitch removed was, I think, the second most painful experience of my life. (The first involved my left testicle and a cricket ball that was moving at roughly four times the speed of sound…you can use your imagination on that one).

At first I wasn’t all that nervous. I had two wisdom teeth removed just under two weeks ago…and yeah, it was painful, but not spectacularly so.

Well it turns out that the first dentist was an amateur. The oral surgeon was a Gestapo-trained interrogator.

I knew I was in trouble when I realized a Christian Rock station was being piped through the whole surgery. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with Christians…but Christian Rock freaks me out a little bit. I don’t know why. It’s just every time I see one of those ads on TV that shows the Christian Rock concerts, it looks like they’re all getting ready to hand out the Kool-Aid.


The surgeon tells me to open wide and starts injecting my gums with the world's biggest, shiniest needle. It hurts, it’s a very short, sharp but fairly low intensity pain. To be honest, after putting up with the toothache itself since mid-October, it’s an absolute walk in the park.

“Ok, we’ll give that a good long while to work while I go do something else.”

That’s something else that’s really weird. In England, if you go to see a dentist he’s in the room with you from start to finish. In America, there’s a really production-line mentality. From what I could tell he was working on at least three other patients besides me.

Anyway, he left me alone in the room, nervously eyeing the defibrillator machine in the corner for about twenty, maybe twenty-five minutes. While my toothache barely dimmed from the anesthetic, the entire right side of my tongue went numb. Then, just for some extra added awesomeness, because I couldn’t feel my tongue, but the back of my throat wasn’t numb, every time my tongue moved, even slightly, it would kick off my gag reflex.

I nearly threw up five times.

Finally, the bastard…I mean the ‘Oral Surgeon’ returned.

“How’s that working for ya?” He asked. “Numb yet?”

“My tongue is.” I replied. “But I can still feel the toothache.”

“Oh, I’m gonna give you some more anyway.” He said.

He went to it with his needle, apparently safe in the knowledge that I was numb enough not to feel it so he could be a little less careful.

He was wrong.

The next part was so horrifying I’m half convinced it’s a false memory. Maybe I saw it on a ‘Saw’ movie and the drugs they gave me are messing with my head.

Ok, picture this. Put your tongue on one of your back wisdom teeth. If your wisdom teeth are gone, put your tongue on your back molar. Now imagine that the front half of that tooth is almost completely gone (the half closest to the front of your mouth).

Now imagine a dentist injecting you through the decayed front half of that tooth, directly into the root. If you’re having trouble imagining that, imagine that the bottom right of your jaw is one great big papercut, and someone’s giving you a lemon juice, vinegar and salt mouthwash.

Basically, the part of my tooth that could make me yelp with pain from nothing more than a cold breath across it was stabbed with a gigantic needle.

I almost managed to force my entire body backwards through the chair. I actually pierced the leather of the chair with my fingernails. I'm not saying that as a joke. I checked when I was done...the arm rests where my hands where had three fingernail=shaped puncture marks on the right hand side

Now, did the dentist hear my gauze-muffled scream and wait a moment to let the anesthetic do its work?

Did he fuck, he injected me again in the same spot…THREE TIMES!

If I ever have to go back to that fucker I’m going to get in the chair, wait for him to get close and grab a handful of his testicles. Then, I’m going to look him in the eye and say “Now…we’re not going to hurt each other…are we?”

Then things just got nuts.

He pulled out what looked (and sounded) like an oversized Dremel rotary tool and, stopping occasionally to go at my tooth with what looked like a chisel, he started grinding on my tooth.

No shit, may I burn in hell if I’m exaggerating…but at one point, he shoved, and something went ‘ping’ out of my mouth. It bounced off my shoulder, hit the assistant in the forehead and then hit the floor with a very light thunk.

The dentist looked at me, looked at my shoulder, looked at his assistant, then looked at the floor…and then went back to punching me in the face.

Finally, he said he was ‘almost done’ and told me I just needed a ‘couple of stitches’.

Stitches…for a tooth extraction.

After that was done I sat up in my chair and put my hand to my jaw.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way, Doc.” I said. “But I really don’t like you very much.”

He laughed. “Don’t worry.” He said. “I get that a lot.”

“But I’m serious.” I said. “And one day I’ll have my vengeance upon you.”

Seriously, the dude was an asshole. What little kid wants to be a dentist? The kind that pull the legs of insects and go after an ant-hill with a magnifying glass, that’s who.

Anyway, when I had the last two removed, I was going to write a post about how if you needed a wisdom tooth extracted to not be too worried because it really isn't all that bad or painful.

After this one, I'd consider telling you to get a pair of pliers, chug a bottle of vodka and pull the bastard thing yourself because it would probably be less painful.

I suppose the moral to this story, if their is one, is that if you notice a cavity in a wisdom tooth, or part of it breaks off, go get it seen to, even if it's not hurting. It's going to be a LOT cheaper and a lot less painful that way.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Fucking OW

If the oral surgeon lets me keep that bastard tooth when I can finally afford to get it extracted, I'm going to bring it home, set it on fire and then shoot it.

Damn thing's caused me enough pain...once the fucker's out of my head it's time for some payback.

Oh, and did I mention that the dentists office actually tried to charge me for this? This is the exact same X-ray I paid a hundred bucks for last week. Apparently taking my file off a shelf, opening it up and handing it to me costs another hundred dollars.

I can see that, can't you? Wear and tear on the carpet, the receptionist's shoe leather, the training to took to teach her to look for something alphabetically, the light she used to look for my file...I mean that adds up to at least a hundred bucks.

When I said there was no fucking way I was handing over a hundred bucks for an X-ray I'd already paid for... and kicked up a medium-sized stink about it...it turned out there was a 'mistake' and X-ray copies were indeed free.

I wonder just how many people at that office have been charged twice. I also wonder if it's an official-unofficial policy to try and bleed their customers as much as possible.


It took every bit of self control I had not to spit on the dentist's brand new Mustang on the way out.

Anyway, 8am tommorrow morning I get to get pay another money grubbing bastard $25 just so he can quote me another ridiculously over-inflated price.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you installed the American healthcare system in England tonight, there would be riots in the streets by this time tomorrow...and that's not an exaggeration.

Happy Bunny

So this morning I was woken up by my darling wife snoring like a buzz saw. I nudged her and told her to stop. She sounded pissed, she always does when I wake her to get her to stop snoring.

Within thirty seconds a low dull ache settled into my wisdom tooth. That’s going to be there until I get to sleep tonight, interspersed with moments of sharp intense pain. I won’t be getting back to sleep.

From the hallway outside our bedroom door I hear a low dripping sound. It’s rained here for the past three days and it appears the leak in the roof that Frank and I ‘fixed’ didn’t stay fixed. Maybe it’s a good thing I woke up, I’ll have to empty the bucket catching the drips soon.

A sharp pain in my tooth suddenly reminds me that I’ve got to go to the dentists today to pick up my X-Ray to take to the oral surgeon. I mean, they only charged me close to two hundred dollars to yank two teeth…I can’t expect them to swallow the cost of a single first-class stamp to mail the X-Ray to me. The poor bastards are only just managing to scrape by as it is. The Porche 911 turbo I saw in the employees only parking space was last year’s model for fuck’s sake.

I said it originally as a joke, but every time I have a run in with the American healthcare system my ‘joke’ turns out to be absolutely true. I could have flown back to England, had all my wisdom teeth removed, spent a week with my family and then flown back here for significantly less than a single doctor’s visit.

I turn onto my back as Sunny starts to snore again. I look upwards and something makes me freeze. There’s just the slightest hint of discoloration on the ceiling directly above my side of the bed. I stand up and press the back of my hand against it.

It’s slightly damp.

Well, this is just the big fat cherry on top of the fucking cake.

My tooth hurts, but I can put up with it. The roof leaking in the hallway is really annoying, but as long as it doesn’t rain too much, that can be put off for a week or two. The leaky pipe under the kitchen sink is also annoying, but not hurting anything as long as I remember to empty the bowl under the leaky joint once or twice a day.

A leak in the roof directly over my bed? That’s not something you can put off.

So I do some mental arithmetic. Last time we fixed the roof we needed one bucket of tar. This time, we’ll need at least two, so that’s at least $80…add to that a couple rolls of tar paper…

…and we arrive at a figure that means my tooth is going to be hurting for a good long while.

And people wonder why I’ve not been much of a happy bunny lately.

Oh well, at least I’m not smoking.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hello, Internet? Your Meme's Escaped


The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade totally got Rickrolled:


This evening, after everyone had left, Sunny was napping on the couch while I was sitting at the computer doing a little light web surfing. As I picked up my coffee mug my elbow knocked a pen off the corner of the desk, and as I reached down to pick it up, I noticed something on the shelf next to me.

A copy of Halo : Combat Evolved on the bookcase.

I honestly had forgotten I had a copy. It was something I’d picked up out of the pre-owned bargain bin at Gamestop when we bought our current computer about three years ago.

Having played an awful lot of Halo 3 recently I decided to install it and take a look for nostalgia’s sake.

I really wish I hadn’t. Oh God, I wish I hadn’t.

The game started up and for a split second I thought something had gone wrong with my computer. You know how when you’re playing some games and there’s a bit of a delay between the environment loading and the textures popping in? It was like that, only the textures never actually popped in. Then I realized there was nothing wrong. This was just what the first Halo game looked like.

It’s amazing just how bad it looks. The Jackal’s shields were laughable. Instead of the subtly animated, faintly glowing, ultra-soft, variable transparency effects you’ll see in Halo 3…we have a static painted texture that looks like finger-paints on Perspex. There are no shadows, no glossy sheen on the Elite’s armor, no glow effects… If I had to sum it up in a single word, that word would be ‘crude’.

Basically with current gen hardware, if you want your bad guys to have glossy metallic armor, they have glossy metallic armor. At the time of Halo 1, the best you could do was to just paint a couple of white dots in strategic points on the texture to represent reflections

In all seriousness, it looked like something I’d expect to see on a cellphone game today. Really muddy low-rez textures, pathetic lighting effects…and the first time I fired my rifle and saw the muzzle-flash effect I was honestly shocked.

Did I ever really play this game? You see, I play games mostly for their story, and while I always thought the gameplay of the Halo series was wildly overrated, I always liked the actual story that Halo was built on.

How did I manage to get emotionally invested in the story of the Master Chief and Cortana if this was what I was seeing? It would be like trying to get seriously and honestly emotionally invested in a play performed completely by sock puppets.

Then I looked in the manual and regretted that as well.

Halo 1 was released in 2001.


Given that we’re at the very end of 2008, that means that Halo is almost ten years old. I was still a freaking teenager when it came out. I was 19. nine-goddamned-teen.

So, I suppose the moral of this story is that if you get the chance to play Halo 1 again…don’t. Because not only will the crude 2001 visuals punch through your rose-colored nostalgia glasses like a 30.06 round through damp tissue paper…it’ll make you feel really, really old.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What's the point?

After going to bed at 11pm last night I’ve had almost zero sleep because my wisdom tooth is hurting so badly it feels like the right side of my face has been dipped in acid.

This coming Tuesday I get to go to the oral surgeon and pay him $25 dollars just for the privilege of being quoted a price I won’t be able to afford for at least two or three months, meaning I get to put up with this pain until around march.

The pipes under our Kitchen sink have been leaking for about the past month, meaning the wood underneath has become a rotten, moldy mess…and I have neither the money or expertise to fix it.

I was awoken this morning by the unmistakable sound of water dripping in the hallway outside our bedroom. This means the repair job on the roof didn’t hold and I get to spend more money I don’t have and spend yet more time up on the near roof in the near future.

Winter is here with a vengeance, meaning it’s impossible to keep this piece of shit house about 60 degrees.

I’m 27 years old. I’ve been out of work for four years. I have no job, no money, no car, no drivers license and no friends. I live in a house that’s falling apart. I have the equivalent of three Associates Degrees and a Bachelors Degree, but not even the local Walmart will hire me, and every single goddamned day I apply for every job I can…all the while knowing I won’t even get a ‘Thanks but no thanks’ in return.

Why the fuck am I even bothering getting out of bed in the morning?

Sunday, November 23, 2008


A little while ago a game entitled “Left 4 Dead” was released.

On paper, this game could have been created specifically for me. A game that casts you and three of your friends as survivors of a zombie apocalypse. A game that follows a simple formula: Get from Point A to Point B through various creepy environments while coming under constant zombie attack.

I played through the demo on single player and the experience was nothing short of awesome. Walking through an eerily dark and silent subway tunnel, running low on ammo when a flood of zombies suddenly bursts through a door…or seeing one of your fellow survivors get grabbed and dragged off into the darkness, while you make the split second decision to shoot or not shoot because your bullets can kill your friends as easily as your enemies.

Unfortunately, I will never buy this game.

You see, playing this game singleplayer only gives you about 10% of the experience. Most of the enjoyment of this game comes from the people you play it with rather than the game itself. Think of the game as a playground. It doesn’t really matter how good the playground is if the only people you can play with are gigantic gaping assholes.

That’s the big problem with co-op multiplayer. It only takes a single player to ruin the game for everyone else. For example, if you’re playing a shooter where you’re playing against other players, it doesn’t really matter if the other players are all gigantic douchebags. In a co-op environment you’re put in the position where you have to work with and rely on those other players…so one idiot can easily ruin the whole thing.

Let me give you an example.

The first time I played the Left 4 Dead demo online, I got really lucky and the game was an absolute pleasure. You see, Left 4 Dead is a game that requires teamwork and tactical thinking and flat-out punishes poor teamwork.

So in that first game, we got to the subway part, when at the other end of the tunnel we saw a hundred-zombie ambush running towards us.

“Quick.” Said one of the other players. “Get in the subway car!”

It was a sound plan. The doors to the subway car would act as a bottle-neck, stopping us from getting surrounded and allowing us to concentrate our fire and save ammo.

I was the last to get to the subway car because I was in the lead when we got ambushed and I was pleased to see that one of my teammates, rather than just running inside with the others, had waited by the door and was covering me as I made my way towards the car.

It was directly out of a movie. He was standing on the ground next to the subway car, firing burst after burst of SMG fire at the advancing horde behind me while I ran past him and leapt into the subway car.

“Come on!” I shouted as soon as I got through the door. “I got you covered.”

I started firing my shotgun into the rapidly closing crowd as my teammate stopped firing long enough to leap up into the subway car

“Shotguns in front!” I shouted, figuring two shotguns trained on the door would hold the zombies back easier than the sub-machine guns. Again, I was delighted to see the other shotgun-holding player on the team get into place next to me as we opened up…the bottleneck was working beautifully. A few seconds later I heard an SMG start firing behind me.

“Wait!” Said another voice. “Save your ammo until the shotguns need to reload.”

Again, another excellent decision. The zombies would have to get through a single door to get to us, so two shotguns was more than enough to hold them back. The downside was that shotguns take ages to reload and only have 8 shots each. A few seconds later my shotgun had run dry.

“Reloading!” I shouted, and like a well oiled machine, the same player who’d covered me on my run to the car took a step forward and put himself between me and the zombies. As soon as I reloaded I took a step forward again and we managed to finish the last of the ambush.

It was awesome.

Well, let’s just say my second game wasn’t quite up to the same standard, or the third, or the fourth…

The next game I played started as usual. We started on the roof of a building next to a table loaded with weapons, ammo and first aid kits.

“Hey everyone.” I said into my headset. “How…”

The sound of shotgun blasts split the air, and before I knew what was going on, another player had shot me in the back of the head before turning on the other team members. Before I knew it, my headset was filled with squeaky-voiced racist epithets.

The game after that? One player insisted on running as fast as he could through the whole level, inevitably getting ambushed and killed…which of course made him start screaming ‘NOOBS’ at the rest of us because we ‘obviously didn’t know how to play’.

The next game? I quit after spending ten minutes listening to two other players bitch, moan and argue at each other. What ever one suggested, the other suggested the opposite. There’s almost nothing that’s less fun that getting killed in a game because two of your team mates would rather bitch at each other than actually shoot at the bad guys.

That was the average experience from then on in.

So, the problem is that I don’t have four friends that have Xbox 360’s, and even if I did, convincing them to spend $60 each on a game that would only be fun on the rare occasions we could all play at the same time would be a pretty tough proposition.

This leads us to an already known conclusion. Douchebags are destroying the internet.

I wonder how many people who, like me, are not going to buy this game for exactly that reason? I wonder how many people leave their consoles off line for that reason too?

We really do need a douchebag-free channel on Xbox Live.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Well, it turns out that as well as being a humorless sadist, my dentist was also a liar.

When I was told yesterday that they couldn’t remove my problem wisdom tooth and they’d have to refer me to someone else, my first question was one you’d expect from someone with no dental insurance.

“What will it cost?”

Oh, Mr. Dentist was suddenly Mr. Happy Optimist. Probably $150 for the extraction and about another $100 for sedation.

I mentioned how $250 was kinda out of my price range. I’d originally borrowed $300 from my parents to get the three teeth extracted at his office. Luckily, the two I needed extracting only cost $150…but that still left me with a hundred bucks to come up with out of thin air.

“Well, this ‘oral surgeon’ is a really nice guy.” Said the Dentist. “He does payment plans.”

Well, I called this nice-guy dentist this morning:

“Hello.” I said. “I was referred to you by Piedmont Dental about a wisdom tooth extraction. I was wondering if you could tell me approximately what it would cost to have my lower right wisdom tooth removed. Piedmont said they couldn’t extract it because it had turned sideways slightly.”

“Wisdom teeth are anything from $150 to $350.” Said the receptionist.

Shit. I thought A hundred bucks more than I was told.

“And another $250 for sedation.” Continued the receptionist. “although it could be more depending on whether you need a local or general anaesthetic.”

That’s right, kids. Four hundred bucks minimum…possibly $600…of which I have $150.

“Uhhhhh.” I said. “Piedmont said something about the possibility of a payment plan?”

“Well, all he’ll let you do is pay for half on the day of your visit, and then he’ll hold a check for the other half for thirty days.”

Did I mention it's also going to cost $25 just for a consultation to work out exactly how much this will cost?

The sad truth is I just don’t have four hundred bucks, and with Christmas coming up, I’m not going to have it any time soon.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

I really do hate that man.

So today, I went to the dentist.

Have I mentioned I hate the dentist?

Have I mentioned I’d rather break my collarbone than let one of those freaks near my mouth with a pair of pliers?

Well, things didn’t start out too well. You see, despite the fact I was getting three removed, and all three needed extracting…only one of them was actually causing me any pain. Hefty chunks of both my top wisdom teeth and my bottom right wisdom tooth had broken off, but it was my bottom right that was actually hurting. The bottom right was the one that had actually made me visit a dentist.

Well, it turns out the roots of one of my wisdom teeth had turned sideways in my jaw, meaning the dentist couldn’t remove it, meaning I’d have to visit a nice expensive dental surgeon.

Can you guess which one it was?

Yup, the one that was causing all the trouble in the first place. I sit here typing this minus two broken, but otherwise problem-free teeth. Now I’ve got the pain of my toothache, plus the pain of two empty sockets.

So after being told they wouldn’t be able to remove the problem tooth, the dentist assistant asked if I still wanted to get the other two removed there, or wait until I saw the surgeon and get all three removed at once.

You can guess what I chose to do. After dreading this all week and having to be physically dragged from the car into the dentists office by Sunny, I wasn’t going to wait even longer and draw it out.

“Relax.” Said the dentist as he put the world’s biggest needle into my mouth. “This will be a little uncomfortable.”

He was right, two injections into the roof of your mouth is uncomfortable, if by ‘uncomfortable’ you mean ‘absolute, white-hot searing pain’.

“Ok, I give in.” I said to the dentist after he was finished torturing me. “I’ll talk…just put the needle away! I hid the microfilm in the ambassador’s briefcase!”

His assistant laughed while the dentist just gave me a very puzzled look. Turns out that as well as being a sadist, he had absolutely zero sense of humor. His wife must be thrilled.

He left the room while I waited the for anesthetic to work.

“I hate that man.” I said to the assistant. “I hope he accidentally sits on his own needle.”

All too soon the dentist was back. Suddenly my chair was laid as far back as it would go and the fucking bastard was working me over with a pair of pliers.

“You’ll feel some pressure and you may hear a scraping noise. It might be a little uncomfortable.” He said.

Five seconds later I was devising a training program for the dentist.

First of all, I’d sit him on a hard wooden bench for an hour, and then write ‘Uncomfortable’ in big letters in a whiteboard. Then, I’d stab the fucker in the groin and while he was writhing in agony, I’d write “Pain” on the board. Then I’d punch him in the face and tell him to learn the difference.

“Doc.” I said, shortly after the assistant had pushed half a pound of gauze into my mouth and the dentist was heading to the door. “You won’t be heading outside to the parking lot any time soon, will you?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Said the Dentist, again looking puzzled.

“Probably for the best.” I said. “Because if I see you out there as I’m leaving, I’ll probably run you over…on purpose.”

Again, the assistant laughed, but the dentist just looked confused again.

He was a real barrel of laughs that guy.

Anyway, the numbness is really starting to wear off and my sockets are starting to wake up.

Isn’t it awesome that I get to go through all this again when I get the remaining tooth removed?