Thursday, January 31, 2008


Yup, got G-Mod and decided to start a webcomic. Here it is, notes to follow.

Click the image to see full size:

Ok, let me start by saying posing models in G-Mod is an absolute bitch, because all the models have 'gravity' as you're trying to pose them. More than once I got everything just where I needed it and accidentally 'unlocked' the torso...meaning the model would just flop hanging from where I'd locked it's hands.

I need practice, what can I say?

Ok, 'behind the scenes' info for my fellow geeks.

1) Because posing was such a bitch, the pose in panel 1 and panel 6 is exactly the same pose, but viewed from different angles, with a different facial expression and a shotgun added.

2) In panel 3 you'll see there's a shotgun and an SMG on the table. I was originally going to have 'nine' ask how a gigantic grenade makes it out of that tiny second barrel (as well as how they come from nowhere) but realised I'd end up adding three or four more panels for what is essentially the same joke. I Re-shot the close-up but forgot to remove the SMG from the long shot.

3) The close up in panel 5 is a total cheat. Rather than pose a ragdoll and spend a couple hours trying to get the hands to look right, I just spawned a 'live' model, walked towards her so she backed up, lifting the shotgun, and then turned the AI off, freezing her in place.

4) Eagle-eyed readers might notice that one of the doors on the lockers behind 'Nine' mysteriously vanishes in the last panel. This is because when I moved the ragdoll from its original position, I accidentally slammed her into the locker, knocking the door off. I had a choice of leaving the door off, or starting again from scratch. You can see what option I took.

Anyway, depending on the response, I'm going to try to shoot for maybe one or two comics a week.

Hope you enjoy!

[edit] For some reason, blogger is re-scaling the comic, even when you click to see 'full size'. It's about half as big as it's supposed to be. Hopefully it's still big enough to read clearly.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Doom 3 Sucked

Considering that the process of designing video games these days seems to be “Find out something that’s selling well and copy it or make a sequel”, I thought I’d give my thoughts, as a lifelong gamer, as to how to make a great First Person Shooter.

Notice I say ‘great’ FPS, because today, they’re very rare. There’s lots of ‘good’ FPS’s out there, but very few make me go back and play them again once I’ve beaten them.

Anyway, are you sitting comfortably, game designers? Then I’ll begin.

1) Story

Story is something that’s continually overlooked. Every game should have a good story, because a good story keeps you playing because you want to see what happens next. To be precise here, by ‘story’ I mean a fairly complex plot, well written and rounded characters, lots of conflict and a few twists thrown in for good measure. For example, I’ll definitely be buying ‘Half-Life : Episode 3’ just to see how the story turns out.

To often the ‘story’ in a First Person Shooter is nothing more than a rationale for why you’re killing all that stuff. ‘You’re a space marine and your ship has been attacked by aliens’ or ‘It’s World War 2 and you have to kill Nazis’.

If your story synopsis is just a sentence long, you don’t have a story, you just have an idea that has to be made into a story.

2) We want to play a cool character.

Half-Life? Gordon Freeman, MIT graduate turned world-renowned badass. The ‘Right Man in the Wrong Place’. Big bowl of awesome.

Halo? The Master Chief… Say no more, except ‘Hell yes!’.

Doom 3? Uhhhh…ummm… a nameless, faceless marine with zero backstory and no distinguishing features?

You know when you’re playing Half-Life, walk into an area and see all the friendly NPC’s have a ‘Holy shit! It’s Gordon Freeman!’ moment? That’s awesome. Playing a character who’s nothing more than a vehicle to walk around and shoot things in…it’s not as much fun.

3) Give our character a ‘personal’ stake.

Saving the world is always fun, but you get a much more intense, visceral experience when your character has more of a personal stake in the proceedings.

Fighting a faceless two-dimensional bad guy isn’t nearly as interesting as fighting a fleshed out bad guy who’s personally ‘wronged you’ in some way. Dr. Breem’s self-serving attitude and smugness make it so you can’t wait to finally get him alone. Watching Alyx Vance get stabbed by hunters makes you want to slaughter them.

Again, Doom 3? Oh, it’s the Devil. A great big scary monster who wants to take over the universe…yawn.

4) Weapons.

By now, weapons should be a no-brainer, but it’s amazing just how often this gets fucked up (I’m looking at you again, Doom 3).

The shotgun in Doom 3 looked fairly good, but it was too weak, the shot spread out like it had a half-inch barrel and fired with a very weak ‘pop’. The pistol was useless. The plasma gun sounded weak. The BFG was so overpowered that you only ever had enough ammo to fire it a handful of times…apart from the final boss-battle which made it seem like just a regular weapon.

The only weapon I didn’t particularly like in Half-Life was the crossbow, for the simple reason it didn’t make sense as a long range sniping weapon.

Here’s the thing. Too many FPS’s fall into the trap of supplying the player with a weak weapon and then parceling out more and more powerful ones as the game goes on. You start with a pistol and never touch it again when you get a shotgun. You never touch the shotgun again when you get a machine gun and so on and so on.

Instead the player should have a selection of weapons that remain useful throughout the whole game depending on the situation. You still use the pistol in Half-Life for headcrabs. It’s still useful as a backup against combine soldiers later in the game. The shotgun is a great all-round weapon. The SMG is good for medium distance shooting. Rockets for gunships, etc, etc.

Lastly, if I’m firing a semi-auto weapon, I should be able to fire it as fast as I can click my mouse.

5) Give us something new.

Basically, all FPS’s follow the same formula. You run around a maze and shoot bad guys. This can get old really, really quickly, no matter how pretty the graphics are.

Again, Half-Life had the gravity gun and physics puzzles. Bioshock had ‘plasmids’ that added a whole new dimension of gameplay (Set a bad guy on fire, they’d run and dive into the nearest water, which would allow you to electrocute them).

Doom 3 had…pretty graphics?

It doesn’t have to be anything really major. Just give us something (or even a slight twist on something) that we can’t get anywhere else.

6) Keep it logical.

For years, limited technology meant that certain things just weren’t possible. You couldn’t pick up a table and throw it at your enemy, you couldn’t lob a grenade to flush the bad guys out from behind cover.

There have been huge leaps and strides to make games more realistic, but games designers are still using old techniques that just don’t make sense anymore.

Put simply, I can stack boxes to get onto a roof. I can catapult myself up onto a ledge by making a see-saw out of a barrel, plank of wood and something heavy, I can shoot a padlock off a locked gate with ease…so why am I completely stopped by a locked internal door or a chest-high wall.

It makes no sense. I have a huge selection of weapons, including grenades, C4 explosives and a rocket launcher. In real life that door would open with a medium strength kick, so why is it stopping me in the game?

7) Graphics do not make the game.

I’ve ragged on Doom 3 a lot so far, and I’m going to continue to do so.

Doom 3 only sold well because it had absolute bleeding edge graphics and was part of an extremely famous franchise. Now let me ask you a question. If Doom 3 came out today with current-gen graphics under a different name…how well do you think it would do?

The answer is: Not very well. Other than the graphics it was mediocre in pretty much every sense, and sub-standard in plenty more.

Long story short, amazing visuals will enhance a game a lot, but a gold plated turd is still a turd.

8) Playtest, playtest, playtest.

Farcry had cutting edge technology, cutting edge AI and was about a good looking as a First Person Shooter could be. Unfortunately, it also had severe balancing issues and in some places was just too damn hard. I had a hard time believing anyone actually tried actually playing this game before shipping it.

After a few levels of enjoyable gameplay, we’re suddenly introduced to mutant enemies that can leap from nowhere and kill you in two swipes. Later we’re introduced to invisible enemies that can only be seen with special goggles, but you only realize you need to wear the goggles after one of them has killed you. The final boss battle has you fighting about 10 incredibly powerful and tough enemies that all attack you at once and can kill you with a single shot. A boss battle should be about skill and working out the Boss’s weak points…not just plain perseverance.

Getting killed in a game is inevitable, but it should be fair. Walking through the woods and suddenly getting blind-sided just isn’t fun.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Developer Commentary

Last week I bought “The Orange Box” as a birthday present to myself. Since then, I’ve probably written close to 10,000 words on in various unpublished blog posts. It’s been out for a while now, and after writing, I realized not too many people would be interested in reviews here when they can hop over to IGN or a ‘professional’ site.

One thing I really do want to write about it the ‘Developer Commentary’ feature. What I want to know is why all games don’t have this.

I’m a huge movie geek, and most of the time I’ll watch a movie just to get it out of the way so I can watch it again with the commentary. The ability to do a similar thing in a video game is just a total nerdgasm.

So, over the past few days I played ‘Half-Life : Episode 1’, ‘Half-Life : Episode 2’ and ‘Portal’ with the developer commentary turned on. (I’m not going to talk much about Portal here, because I feel that deserves its own post).

All I can say is that the commentary is amazingly interesting.

Fair enough, there are a few parts that went totally over my head, and would probably only interest people who are into the really technical details of how a game is made. (Some parts reminded me of the scene in Batman Begins where Fox explains how he made the antidote and Bruce Wayne says “Am I supposed to understand any of that?” and Fox replies “No, I just wanted you to know how difficult it was”)

What I really enjoyed, however, was the commentary from the voice actors, insights into how the designers ‘subliminally’ guide a player through an area and the problems of trying to put movie-like elements into a game.

Basically, in a game, the camera view isn’t ‘fixed’. Whereas a movie director can make sure the camera is pointed in the right direction, in a game, it’s comes down to where the player is looking at the time. Right at the start of Episode 1, there’s a spectacular scene of the Citadel beginning to collapse. I clicked one of the commentary nodes and the developer put it best:

“We can have an effect that took five people two months to get just right, and if the player isn’t looking in exactly the right direction, they totally miss it. In this scene, we had Alyx refer to the citadel multiple times and actually point at it just before the effect. We had to make this starting area fairly small and featureless so the player’s attention would be focused entirely on Alyx, so they wouldn’t miss the explosion.”

What the commentary in the Half-Life games really pointed out to me was how the attention to detail makes the difference between a good game and a great game.

In Episode 1, you spend the entire game with Alyx in tow. The commentary pointed out that if the player didn’t like Alyx, they just wouldn’t like the game so they had to go to extreme lengths to make the player sympathetic to the character.

This is very true. In Half-Life 2, I hated the co-op ‘squad’ style missions. The AI characters just got in the way, got you killed… and the way they ‘reminded’ you to reload every five goddamned seconds was nothing short of maddening. I don’t think I was the only person to play HL2 and actively try to get my squad mates killed.

The commentary pointed out just what a tightrope it was to ‘tune’ the Alyx character. Make her too weak, and you have one long escort mission where you’ll fail a lot through no fault of your own. Make her too powerful and it takes away a lot of the fun for the player (basically imagine playing HL2 and having to rush to get a shot in before an AI character finishes the bad guy off).

Plus, the biggest (and in my opinion) hardest thing to do is actually make the player care about the character. Not only do events in Episode 2 depend on it, if you’re playing through the game and don’t care whether she lives or dies…or even actively dislike her…the game just isn’t going to be fun.

The commentary shows the extreme lengths they went to in order to accomplish this. I mean, there’s the basic stuff that you’d expect, like they wanted Alyx to help reinforce the sense of urgency during the first part of the game, but found that play testers started to dislike her because she ‘nagged’. However, one of the commentary sections pointed out that everything, even down to the lighting was considered.

In one section you’re introduced to a new monster. A combine soldier that’s been zombified by a headcrab. In that section, Alyx makes a joke that it’s a ‘Zombine’. The commentary about this part said:

“Originally in this section, the light was red, which we felt really added to the oppressive, dangerous atmosphere. However, under red light, Alyx’s self-depreciating smile and facial expression after her joke looked more like a smirk at the player for not getting it. We felt that this harmed the sense of camaraderie that we’d spent all this time building, so we went through a ton of different lighting options until we found the one that looked right.”

That’s what I mean. It’s this incredible attention to detail that turns a good game into a great game. When I first started playing Episode One, I was extremely wary about having an AI character following me around. However, after the first half hour, I found myself wishing that Alyx had been around through all of Half-Life 2.

One of the other things that took me by surprise was the concept of ‘training’.

For example, it’s something I’ve never noticed, but when it was pointed out, it was obvious. The player will be given a problem to solve under stress free conditions so he can work out a particular gameplay mechanic, so the player will know what to do later.

For example, in the Citadel you use the gravity gun to fire an energy ball into some machinery to power up a bridge. Later, you have to bounce an energy ball off a wall in order to take out a bad guy you can’t take out directly. These simple puzzles make sure the player knows everything he needs to know for the climax of the first act where you have to shut down the Citadel’s core.

Basically, even though you don’t realize it, the game is filled with hundreds of mini-tutorials.

Anyway, I could go on and on, and go over pretty much all the cool stuff I found out through the commentary in all three games, but I’ll let you find out the rest for yourself…or I’ll end up with a 10,000 word post.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Great Beer Brewing Experiment Results

Well, friends, my great beer-brewing experiment has come to a successful end…eventually.

About two days ago, I took out on of the bottles out of the cupboard I was storing them in and held it up to the light and saw nothing but crystal clear beery-goodness. Then I made the mistake of opening it.

You see, instead of a crisp, refreshing beer, instead I got a ‘beer volcano’ as the contents of the bottle exited its glassy prison at a considerable fraction of the speed of light. Out of a one liter bottle, I was left with maybe a quarter-pint of beer.

Of course, during the brewing process, the yeast settles at the base of the bottle. A raging torrent of carbon dioxide made sure that this was stirred up, leaving me with a quarter pint of beer that looked like dishwater.

On the upside, it tasted good.

So I went back to the destructi…I mean, instructions to see where I went wrong. Apparently I’m supposed to leave the beer in the fridge for at least two days before opening. I assumed this was to make sure the beer was cold. Apparently, it’s to make the yeast solidify on the bottom of the bottle, and the cold stops the carbon dioxide from expanding so quickly when the bottle was opened.

The other thing I realized is that I probably added too much sugar to the bottles. (You add sugar when bottling to give the left over yeast something to feed on, so they produce CO2 and make the beer fizzy).

I hadn’t taken into account how cold it was, meaning the fermentation process was slower than usual, meaning there was a large amount of sugar present during the bottling phase anyway. In the fermenter, the gas is allowed to escape, in the bottle, unfortunately, it has nowhere to go.

So I put a couple bottles in the fridge and left it for two days, which by a rather devious design on my part, meant they’d be ready for drinking today…my birthday!

So, with fingers crossed, I took out a bottle and opened it. It went ‘psssst’ and stopped. It did fizz over after a few minutes, but it was a gentle fizz, instead of the explosion I got last time.

The result was I got to keep the entire contents of the bottle, and only a small amount of the left over yeast got stirred up in it. It did throw the clarity and color off a little…but apparently, yeast is just loaded with Vitamin B, so it’s beneficial rather than harmful, and for a first try, my beer being a little cloudy is a small price to pay.

Well, I know you’re all wondering “How does it taste?”….well, I’ll tell you.

It tastes great, to tell you the truth. I’d actually rather drink my homebrew that Budweiser or a lot of the other beers I’ve tried over here (although that’s not saying much). If I had to compare it to something, it tastes a lot like Sam Adams Boston Lager.

The best way I can describe it is that I’ve tasted other homebrews, and I’ve tasted bad commercial beers. In a taste test, I doubt anyone would guess this is homebrew, and I like it a lot better than a lot of commercial beers I’ve tried.

Long story short, it tastes like beer…good beer. Plus, it's pretty strong. I was about a buzzed after drinking it as I was after three bottles of Sam Adam's best.

Long story short, if you happen to see a Mr. Beer brewing kit at the store, I’d recommend getting it. The actual process is so easy a monkey can do it, and once you’ve bought the kit, refills for a ton of other beers only cost about 15 bucks.

That’s 15 bucks for 8 liters (that’s 2.1 gallons) of good quality beer. Oh, and 15 bucks is probably the most expensive ingredients you can buy for this system. The ingredient pack I used for this batch was less than ten.

Yay…Go Beer!!!!

'Tis My Birthday!!

Yep, I turn 27 today. Thank you for the outpouring of generosity, the paypal birthday gift donations through this blog were...non-existent, ya cheap bastards! I see how y'are, you expect me to write this shit for free???

Oh, you actually do. Don't blame ya. I wouldn't pay to read this crap either.

Well, January 23rd is obviously a great day in history, as it gave the world ME. Here are some other (although less important) things that happened on this great day:

1983 : The 'A' Team made its TV debut.

1973 : Richard Nixon announced that an accord had been reached to end the Vietnam War

1985 : Proceedings in the House of Lords were televised for the first time.

That's pretty much all the interesting stuff that happened. At least I got The 'A' Team.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Missus is Awesome

Well, in less that five hours, I officially turn 27.

I think this is the first birthday that I’m not 100% looking forward to. You see, 26 was great, still in my prime…I mean, 26 is basically the same as 21, right?

Well, this year I can’t deny any more that I’m pushing 30. Of course, once you hit 30, 40’s just around the corner and once you’re 40 you’re halfway to 80!

Is there such a thing as a ‘quarter and a bit’ life crisis?

Well, anyway, trust my fantastic missus to know exactly the right thing to do to put me in the right frame of mind.

Last year she bought me a birthday cake, which is pretty much like Hendrix coming to your birthday party and playing a tape of someone else playing ‘Happy Birthday’ on guitar. This year she asked me what kind of cake I wanted, meaning chocolate, vanilla etc…

I of course said “I want a cake that looks like Optimus Prime kicking the crap out of Megatron”.

Later I wanted a Fantastic Four cake, but only if she could get Jessica Alba’s cleavage just right. (I got smacked upside the head for that one). Then a Thundercats cake, or a Spiderman cake…there were many more, but I won’t bore you with them here.

So this morning we went out for breakfast and to get some last minute ingredients for my birthday cake. (We also had a run in with a half psycho, half OCD ‘self checkout’, but that’s another story). We came home and went to bed.

Well, I got up this afternoon to find Sunny had got up early and made me this:

I think you’ll agree it’s ass-slappin’ awesome.

Do I have the best missus ever, or what?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Definately NOT about me....Understand???

Ok, I’m not going to say exactly how I know this…just take my word for it, k?

If you ever find yourself in the midst of a ‘toilet paper situation’ (IE, there isn’t any) and you just happen to spot a box of Kleenex on the bathroom counter…make sure it isn’t that stuff that’s been impregnated with mentholated oil before using it to ‘take care of business’.

You see, it starts with a slightly cool tingle that is, quite frankly, ‘refreshing’. Pretty soon you’ll start to think of the possibilities of marketing mentholated toilet paper. That unbeatable clean, fresh feeling. Its cooling properties after last nights chilli…or the slim possibility of ‘minty-fresh’ farts.

Unfortunately, within a couple of minutes, it goes from ‘minty fresh’ to a feeling that can only be described as walking around with an extremely cold ice-cube stuffed up your brown eye.

Not that this happened to me or anything…it was a friend of mine who told me about it…uhhhh, yeah…a friend…that’s it.

Ubisoft Sucks Balls

So today I was playing “CSI : Hard Evidence”. This game made me certain I never want to play a Ubisoft game again.

Don’t get me wrong, the game was fairly fun and interesting…it’s just that Ubisoft pretty much wrote the book on intrusive advertising. Anyone who’s played “Splinter Cell : Chaos Theory” can tell you that. You couldn’t play that game for five minutes without getting hit over the head with advertisements for ‘Airwaves’ gum and Nokia cell phones.

Anyway, CSI was obviously sponsored by Visa.

The first case you have to solve is a guy that someone set fire to in a taxicab. Slapped right on the roof of the cab is a HUGE advertisement for Visa. Later on, you’re having to reconstruct a glass panel that got shot out in a store…right there in the corner is another HUGE visa logo. You go to a store…another fuck-ton of Visa logos.

Put it this way, playing this game very quickly turns into nothing more than a ‘spot the Visa logo’ game. In fact, scrub that, that makes it sound like you have to actively look for them to find them. They’re not discrete…they punch you in the face.

Now, on the face of it, this doesn’t sound to bad. It’s a ‘real world’ environment, and it’s pretty likely you’d see ads for Visa just going out shopping. Product placement has been around since the invention of the movie camera…so why am I making such a big deal about CSI?

Well, the last straw for me was when I had to check up on a guy’s credit card history. Can you guess what credit card the guy had? Yup, a Visa card.

I shit you not, I went to Captain Brass’ office, asked him if he’d had any luck running the card for fraudulent purchases, and this is what he said:

“Yeah, well I called Visa, great people over there, and thanks to their amazing fraud protection service, they picked up the suspicious purchases immediately.”

I was waiting for him to start giving me a rundown of Visa’s services and tell me how to apply for one.

You see, I’ve no problem with a bit of advertising in a game… but when I’ve parted with hard earned money for a game and get advertising repeatedly thrown in my face, and in such a way that it totally throws me out of the game…I don’t enjoy it. For Captain Brass to take time out of a murder investigation to tell me how awesome Visa cards are, it’s just not in character and doesn’t belong in the game.

An ad on in-game billboard or store…fine…getting a five minute diatribe about how awesome Visa is when I’m asking a game character a question just isn’t right.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you put advertising in a game, I shouldn’t be paying full price for it, and when advertising is this intrusive, I shouldn’t pay anything for it.

I won’t pay to watch or play a glorified advertisment. It’s that simple.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Spoke too soon....

Well, after thinking I had finally dealt with the evil, squirrel turns out I was wrong.

There's not one squirrel that's made my bedroom roof its home...there's a whole fricking colony.

How do I know this? Because not five minutes after I laid down today, I was jolted awake by the sound of a bowling ball hitting the roof. You wouldn't think a half-pound animal could make that much noise.

Well, later that day, I decided a walk might loosen up my back a little, so I went for a walk around the property. I stopped for a while at the fishing pond in the middle of the woods behind the house. Can you guess what I saw?

Squirrels, squirrels everywhere.

Of course, because I didn't have my rifle with me, I counted no less than six or seven incredibly easy (and above all safe) shots I could have taken. Normally you'll only spot a squirrel at least 50-60 yards away, where they'll only stand still for incredibly brief periods of time before darting off. While I was out there today, I saw squirrels just chilling out, rock still, on branches that were only 20-30 yards away.

Seriously, I'd have had to go instantly blind to miss them. .

So I do what anyone who's been woken by squirrels every morning for the past two months would do...I went back to the house, grabbed my rifle and went back to the woods.

I waited there, absolutely perfectly still, at the foot of a tree for over an hour. Apparently, in the five minutes it took me to get back to the house and get my rifle...the squirrels had all changed their names, disguised themselves as housecats, moved out of state and joined the Squirrel Protection Program.

All except one...that little barsteward decided to put in an appearance right after I'd unloaded my rifle for the walk back to the house. Then, as I tried to reload as quickly and silently as possible, it ran through the trees like spiderman, stopping only when it was to the south of me...the one direction I can't safely shoot in.

Over the next few weeks, I expect a 'Caddyshack' situation to develop.

Anyway, just to answer Saffy's comment about how I must be a good shot to hit a squirrel...well, not really.

You see, the hardest part of rifle shooting is sighting in the rifle (making sure the bullets actually land at the crosshair at a given distance) and being able to judge your distance to the target and windage.

For example, I know my rifle and ammo combo will hit dead on at 25 yards, hit half an inch low at 50 yards, two inches at 75 and 6 inches low at a hundred yards. I also know that a 10-20mph crosswind will knock my point of impact off by about an inch and a half.

In other words, all I have to do is put the crosshair on the target out to 50 yards and aim a little higher at 75, which is my self-imposed limit on distance. Basically, with a squirrel, you have a 2" by 3" target to hit, which really isn't all that hard with a decent scope and a steady hand.

From the prone position, using a sandbag as a rest, I can hit a quarter-sized target at 75 yards. A squirrel isn't a big problem, especially considering they're pretty fragile. Hit them pretty much anywhere from the top of the head to the base of their ribcage and you've got an instant kill.

I think if I can get three or four this week, I'm going to earn my redneck blackbelt and make some squirrel chilli. I'll let you know how it goes.

Frigging OWWWW!!!!

I've had back problems for as long as I can remember. I think I did myself an injury when I was about five years old. I was running along and my foot went down a hole. All I remember is a searing pain, a loud clicking noise, and not being able to stand up for 5 minutes.

So I've had a weak back pretty much all my life. I have a constant dull ache at the base of my spine that never goes away. Add to that the lack of activity and weight gain that comes from not having a job, and you can probably guess my back is getting worse.

Well, last night, Sunny left for work and I decided to watch a movie. Then I made the mistake of falling asleep on the couch.

I woke up this morning and the entire lower left side of my back is just on freaking fire. Worst thing is that in certain sitting positions the pain goes back to it's normal dull ache and I forget about it...right up to the point where I stand up, or lean or bend to pick something up.

Not a happy bunny.

In other (good) news, yesterday morning, I finally got the frigging squirrel that likes to eat holes in the roof above out bedroom and jump up and down on it. In all seriousness, with no exaggeration, it sounds like someone is dropping a bowling ball on the rooftop.

After lying in bed for an hour, constantly being woken up by the booming noise, I got up, got dressed and went outside with my rifle.

The damn thing saw me, and ran across the treetops into the woods behind my house. I followed it, lost track of it, so just decided to hunker down, remain perfectly still and wait. I was just about to give up, when I noticed a branch about 60 yards in front of me sway. Then the little bastard ran out onto the limb.

So I pumped up the power on my scope to 9x, flicked off the safety and lined up on it's head. One shot and it dropped like a rock from the tree.

Well, I recovered it, came back to the house, dropped it by the front door and went inside to ask Sunny if any of her relatives like to eat squirrel. (Apparently, it's a southern delicacy, and country-bred squirrels are meant to have a really nice, rich, nutty flavor). Then, too late, I remembered I'd let Buddy out as I'd come in.

By the time I'd gotten outside, he'd eaten the thing whole.

Well, at least it didn't go to waste and someone got a good meal out of it. I guess that's why Buddy gets so excited every time he sees me go outside with my rifle:

"Dude, whatcha shootin' at that paper for? Ya can't eat it! You wanna head over to those woods and bring me back some tasty, tasty squirrels."

-Footnote : If you're feeling sorry for the squirrel, let me put it this way to you. If a giant rat was eating numerous holes in your roof and was scrabbling about every time you tried to get some sleep...would you have any problem laying a trap for it? Probably not. In my book, the 'cuteness factor' doesn't make it any less of a destructive pest. Apparently, they're good eating too!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Practice, man. Practice

So I sighted in my new rifle scope today. Have to say I was impressed. Nothing like actually being able to clearly see what you’re shooting at.

However, what today’s short shooting session really pointed out to me was just how out of practice I am. Last year at this time (when it finally gets cool enough to spend any kind of time outside), it seemed that shooting at a distant target was about as hard as pushing a doorbell.

However, it’s been so long since I’ve gone shooting on a regular basis, it’s like learning all over again. Where my rifle used to snap into my shoulder and fit like it was part of my body…this time it feels more obtrusive.

I sighted in the scope for 25 yards. For me, this is the best sighting in distance because it keeps the point of impact at plus or minus less than an inch out to about 70 yards.

Sighting in went well, and I was shooting about half inch groups at 25 yards. It was when I moved my target out to 50 yards that everything went all to hell. I doubled the distance but quadrupled my group size.

Just under 2” at 50 yards. Not very impressive at all…especially compared to the sub 1” groups I was shooting last year.

Luckily, I can salve my ego a little by pointing out that it was windy, I was shooting from the sitting position instead of from a rest and that I was using very cheap bulk ammo. On a calm day, using ammo that costs more than ten bucks for 550 rounds I probably could have got those groups a lot tighter…but I still can’t deny I need practice.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I’m a cursed man.

Every time something good happens to me, or I get something I really want…some tiny and almost insignificant detail goes wrong which screws up the whole thing…or at the very least makes things about a hundred times more complicated than they should be.

Take today for instance.

I decided to finally trade in my awful $15 Tasco rifle scope for something that, you know, actually works. I mean my tasco scope has a tiny objective lens (meaning a very dark image), parallax errors, tiny field of view and tons of distortion.

So Sunny and I were going shopping anyway, so we stopped off at Wally World and I headed to sporting goods.

Now, rifle scopes can cost thousands of dollars, so I wasn’t expecting to get anything really good, just better. However, it turned out they had a ton of scopes on sale (it coming up to hunting season and all), and I managed to score a Simmons 3-9 X 50. Basically, I got about a hundred bucks worth of scope for $40.

Great right? Good day so far.

Then I realized that there was no way in hell that the new scope would fit in the rings I already have. So I talk to the girl behind the counter.

“Hey, this is a long shot, but I need a Weaver rail to fit a Remington 597. Have any in stock?”

So she rummages around for a few minutes and hands me a selection of rings.

“No, I need the base. The actual rail.”

(There was no point looking at rings yet. If they didn’t have a Weaver Rail, they might have a Leopold rail, which would need totally different rings).

So she hands me a selection of rails. Apparently, it was too much trouble for her to look through her own stock. She just piled every different type she had on the counter and let me sift through them.

Anyway, she had every type of rail apart from the one I needed.

So Sunny and I jump back in the car, and we ride over to J&S, the local gun store. The people there were much more helpful.

“Hey.” I said. “I need a Weaver rail and rings for a Rem 597. Do you have any in stock?”

“We should have, let me check.”

So she vanishes for a few moments, and returns with the exact rail I need and rings to fit it. These are also a lot cheaper than I expected. About 16 bucks for the rail and 6 for the rings. I thank her and leave the store.

So I get home and go to work with my screwdriver. The rail fits like a dream. The ring saddles fit like a dream. I put the scope on top…and hit a snag.

The objective lens on the front of the scope is just way to big to fit. It hits the rear iron sight. This is very bad news. If I tried to mount the scope as is, not only would the recoil knock the scope out of alignment every time I fired, there’s a good chance I’d bend it, rendering it useless.

So I figure I don’t need the iron sights with a scope, so I try to remove the rear sight. I unfasten the screw…and manage to drop it. It goes to the same place that socks and car keys go when you really need them. For the time being (at least until I can hunt down a replacement screw) my rifle has no iron sights…period.

Then I realize to get to the second screw, I need to remove the rear posts…and that requires a teeny-weeny allen wrench that I don’t actually own. Cursing loudly, I measure the scope, and realize that it’s not even going to fit if I completely remove the sight. I check the packaging, and there in writing almost as tiny as the screw, it points out that the rings are only good for scopes with a 40mm or less objective lens.

Balls. I think. There’s no way J&S will take the rings back for me to swap them out. They’re not defective…I was just too dumb to check I’d bought the right ones. Plus, arguing with a bunch of heavily armed gun store owners in their gun store is probably not very good for your health. So, using my best puppy-dog look, I ask Sunny to drive me back to J&S so I can buy the rings I need.

J&S isn’t exactly next door. It’s at least a 20 minute drive…but we go anyway. You can probably guess the next bit.

Yup, the store was closed.

So, getting more and more frustrated, I again ask Sunny to drive me over the Wally World again. They probably have the rings I need if not the rail. So I talk to the Wally World monkey:

“Hey, I need a set of 1 inch weaver rings to fit a 50mm objective scope.”

She points over my shoulder.

“All the rings we have are over there.” She says.

There I see the worlds largest collection of scope rings. 20mm or less, 30mm or less, 40mm or less.

Now, you’re probably expecting me to say they didn’t have the rings I need. In fact they most certainly did.

The problem was, all the scope rings I couldn’t use were between five and seven dollars. The ones I need? Twenty bucks. Don’t ask me why. For some reason that extra half inch of steel is worth an extra fifteen dollars.

Anyway, I get home, and start installing them. I won’t bother you with the details. Let’s just say it involved two more dropped screws and half an hour on my hands and knees with a flashlight.

In other words, all the things I should have been able to get in one place resulted in 2 unscheduled extra store visits, a set of rings I can’t use, and an extra 20 bucks.

On the upside, I have an absolutely awesome wife who’s willing to chauffeur me around the get things right.

Oh, and a half-inch group, from the sitting position at 50 yards. Yay!

Friday, January 11, 2008

More chance of dying from a cold...

Ok ladies, I have a question for all of you out there in blogland.

Imagine that you're some sort of hero. At some point in the near future, you're going to be battling anything from Orcs to Elves to Space Aliens to 15 story tall killer robots.

Here's my question. What exactly would you wear for something like that. Take a moment to think about it.

Ok, back? Thought about it? Yes?

How many of you thought: "Hmmm, I'd wear a thong and some thigh-high boots and a top that consists of four shoelaces and 2 square inches of light gauze"?

I'm guessing very, very few of you.

Now what I need you to do is give a call to the videogame companies, the comic book companies and the people who do the cover art to 'Fantasy' novels. Tell them you are not amused and that they seriously, seriously need to find themselves girlfriends.

Begin Rant...

I was watching some hunting videos on Youtube, and it seemed every video had a comment from someone threatening to ‘call the police’ for ‘animal cruelty’.

These people just have no idea.

First of all, hunting plays a major role in wildlife management. Let me try to put this as simply as possible:

If we stopped hunting deer, their population would explode. Then we’d have far too many deer in a particular area, which would mean too much competition for food, resulting in thousands of deer starving to death. Hunting is set up to keep the numbers at a manageable level. You don’t just walk into the woods and start shooting. You have a strict limit on the number and species of animals you can hunt. If there are ‘x’ number of animals in an area, you can hunt ‘y’ number of them. This keeps the population controlled and not too big or too small.

Secondly, varmint hunting targets vermin. Groundhogs, ground squirrels etc. These are the animals that damage property and tear up crop fields. It’s basically pest control. There’s no difference going out and shooting ground squirrels and setting a mousetrap in your home.

The problem is that too many people have a ‘Disney Movie’ viewpoint of wildlife. Hunters going out and killing poor defenseless animals for the pure joy of killing.

The truth is that most hunters eat what they kill, or at least give their game away to someone who will eat it. All I’m going to say on this topic is that if you’re a meat eater, criticizing hunting is just plain hypocritical. If you’re a meat-eating anti-hunter, I suggest you go visit a commercial chicken farm or slaughterhouse and look at the conditions there.

In simplest terms, hunting is simply ‘free range’ farming. Rather than an animal spending its entire life under florescent lights, being injected with growth hormones and chemical-laced food before being led up a ramp and shot in the head with a bolt-gun…it lives in the wild in its natural environment before being harvested.

Unfortunately too many people are under the delusion that meat comes in vacuum packed boxes from the supermarket. All meat comes from an animal, and just because you buy yours instead of killing it yourself, does not entitle you to the moral high-ground.

Going back to the ‘Disney Movie’ viewpoint, people also think that without hunting people and animals would ‘live in harmony’ while the birds tweet and the squirrels play. They don’t realize that the prices of vegetables would sky rocket because most of the crops would get eaten by vermin, or that their nicely manicured lawns would be torn up while cattle get infected by any number of diseases. Not to mention deer jumping into the road and causing traffic accidents.

What it all comes down to is this: All animals kill other animals to survive. As humans, we’re also animals and part of nature. You or I killing a deer for food is no different than a hawk swooping down and killing a rabbit.

In essence, hunters are nothing but environmentalists. We don’t want our woodland areas spoiled, we don’t want game species wiped out. We just want them controlled.

Finally, just to address the people who do just kill for fun…your average hunter hates those people just as much (if not more) than you do. They’re the minority by which the majority is judged. Comparing an average hunter to someone who blasts away at anything that moves is like comparing a vegetarian to the people who firebomb animal research labs.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Breaking My Silence.

At any time playing WoW, if you have the General Chat channel open, you're bound to see something like this:

"OMG I am teh roxxors! U are all teh SUX!!!!"

Normally, in that kind of situation, that person gets a spot on my handy ignore list, or I just leave that channel. Today I tried something different.

A guy logged in who's first message was a very witty:

"U all suck, bitches! ur all gay fags!"

So here guy who was playing WoW purely to insult people and get something started. Now ignoring hardly ever works because there's always someone who'll bite. Reason certainly doesn't work and throwing threats back is like trying to fistfight a guy in a tank...totally pointless. These people are out to get a reaction, plain and simple.

Someone will always react in a way to spur them on, so I tried something different:

"Isn't a 'gay fag' a straight person?" I asked.

"OMFG LOL WUT???" He replied.

"Well, a 'fag' is a derogatory term for a homosexual. If a gay heterosexual is a 'fag', as you so eloquently put it, wouldn't a gay homosexual actually be a straight person? Double negative, dude. You know...grammar?"

"OMG ur GAY!" Was the witty comeback.

(Like I said, reason doesn't work.)

"Look pal." I said. "Just because you have some real self esteem issues that require you to make yourself feel big by insulting people anonymously over the internet, that doesn't mean you should work out your misplaced aggression on strangers in WoW. Tell you what, log out, come back when you have a girlfriend whose name doesn't end in .jpg and we'll talk then, K?"

(At this point he was getting laughed at by more than a handful of people...I'll admit that I wasn't being amazingly witty, but I really didn't have to be.)

"OMG, you must be a real nurd to know a comeback like that!!!" he said.

"If you understood it, doesn't that mean you're as big a nerd as me?"

"STFU fag!"

(It was definately working. This guy had stopped having fun pissing everyone off and was getting annoyed himself)

"Look dude, honestly, I feel your pain... but just because your birth certificate was an apology letter from Durex doesn't mean you need to take it out on everyone else."

"I said STFU!"

(I knew I had him. People like this absolutely adore dishing it out, but absolutely hate taking it. The whole chat channel was laughing at him now.)

"Sigh, look pal, I refuse to have a battle of wits with someone who's obviously unarmed. Go google a few Chuck Norris jokes that you can twist into something approaching a witty comeback and we'll go from there."

(Silence, glorious silence. I click his name and he's logged out).

Ladies and gentlemen, that's the secret for dealing with the douchebags who love to spam racist, homophobic insults... Threats don't work (and online, they're totally pointless)and ignoring them doesn't work. Next time you're faced with a douchebag, just get everyone else laughing at them. It's not exactly difficult if you have an IQ about 25. Really, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Oh, and use grammar...grammar scares them.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I totally stole this idea from Etcher

True life conversation. Me in blue, Sunny in Red.

“Hey, did you record the payment for the new toilet seat in the checkbook?”


“How much was it?”

“Fourteen dollars.”

“Hmm, cheaper than I thought it was going to be.”

“Well, they had some there for four dollars but they were so freaking thin it’d be like *crack* the first time anyone sat down.”

“Uhhh, ok.”

“Seriously, it was so thin I could have wiped my ass with it.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, the romance is dead.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


It’s Saturday night and I’m in bed. I’ve been staring at the insides of my eyelids for the better part of an hour and a half.

You see, my brain hates me. It’s the one consistent factor in my on again, off again fight with insomnia. When I need to sleep, or just particularly want to sleep, my brain decides to bombard me with every stressful memory I have, or replays every situation where I should have done one thing, but did another.

You know, like the time that dude pulled a knife on me in Liverpool train station. The time my (literally) psychopathic third grade teacher marched me around the entire school so every class could see what a ‘baby’ I was for crying after I finally broke down from months of her constant verbal abuse. All the times my douchebag brother destroyed what little confidence my teacher hadn’t managed to stamp out by demonstrating just what a soulless, self absorbed sociopath he is.

Miss Jennifer and Kathy knocking on the door at 3.44am to tell Sunny and I that Clay had been killed. I miss you, Clay. I still find myself getting a new gadget or something and looking forward to you coming over to show it off…then I remember…miss you, dude.

Oh, and the time my drink got spiked on the Millennium New Years Eve. My brain just loves replaying that one. On that night I was laughing and having a good time and suddenly it was like someone flipped a switch. I found myself instantly filled with an inexplicable white-hot rage that came from absolutely nowhere; like a furious, captive animal that had found that someone had left the cage door unlocked.

There’s nothing quite like waking up on New Years Day and realizing you’d went on the rampage, hurting pretty much everyone you care about…and having absolutely no idea why.

I hate that memory. What I hate even more is what a spineless pussy I used to be. I still shudder when I think what my life would be like had I stayed that way. Those are the memories that haunt me the most. Not the tragedies I couldn’t avoid. The ones I could easily have avoided but didn’t because I didn’t have the balls to stand up for myself.

Hey! I’m a changed man! I tell my brain. I don’t take shit from anybody anymore. Sure, I used to have zero confidence and self esteem, but if someone tried to take advantage of me like that today, I’d tell them to go fuck themselves!

I know. Replies my brain. But you didn’t then, did you? And guess what, no matter how much you’d like to go back and re-do things, you can’t and you’ll never be able to! Now, how about a repeat showing of when Mrs. Bibby deliberately made you piss your pants in class? Remember? You asked her at least 12 times but she wouldn’t let you go to the bathroom? I’ll even run the special features on that one, where she openly made fun of you about it for the rest of the week.

I really hated that teacher. Still do. They eventually fired her when they found her alone in the school library, reading a “Janet and John” book to herself out loud. Most people can talk about a psycho teacher they had at school. I think mine actually got committed. Four years I had to put up with her. No one ever believes the six year old when they say a teacher is picking on them.

Yeah, all those things happened, I tell my brain, but you know what? Nothing like that’s going to happen again! I had a college tutor who tried the ‘Humiliation Approach To Teaching’ once. Remember that?

I sure do! Says my brain. He was the teacher for that History course you had to take because the admin fucked up and put you in the wrong class. Degree level work when you hadn’t done history since you were 14.

That’s the one. I say. Hadn’t done history for seven years, and they told me it was too late to change. It was take the course or wave goodbye to my degree.

I remember. My brain says. He said your essay looked like it was written by a 10 year old, called you stupid and tried to make you read it out in front of the class. He got right in your face and asked you why you where there when you were obviously too stupid to be in college.

I know that. I said. Remember what I did about it?

Sure! Says my brain. You stood up and told him you wanted a private word with him outside. He laughed in your face and said ‘sit’ like you were a dog. You asked him again and he squared up to you like Billy Badass, and told you to sit down like he has talking to a retarded child.

Yeah, yeah. I say. You love the bad stuff, but what happened next?

Ok. Says my brain, reluctantly. He squared up to you, had his nose about an inch from your face and tried to push you back into your chair. You grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, pinned him against the wall and asked him who the fuck he thought he was talking to. Told him that unless he started treating you with some respect that maybe he’d like to come with the whole class to see the Principal to discuss his attitude...or if he wanted to continue getting physical, you’d be happy to step outside with him and oblige.

Yep. I said. I still can’t believe the fucker squared up to me and got right in my face, but he left me the fuck alone after that. So you can see, I’m a changed man, and I don’t care about that shit that happened in the past. It’s who you are that’s important. Not who you were.

Fair enough. Says my brain. After a few minutes of glorious mental silence, it pipes up again.

Hey, imagine if Sunny was killed in a car crash.

Shut up, brain.

It happened to Clay, you know, it could happen to her just as easily. She drives a lot and the roads are icy as hell this time of year.

I said Shut up, brain.

Imagine getting a call and having to go to the morgue to identify her body. She’d be there, almost unrecognizable from the crash, but you’d see the wedding ring on her finger and…

Ok, I’m getting the fuck out of bed.

I hate it when I can’t sleep. Whenever I’m alone in the dark, that little voice in my head that absolutely hates me comes out to play.

So I decide to get up. I glance at the clock. It’s just before 5am.

Silently as I can, I try to get out of the bed, grab my clothes and glasses, and get out of the room without waking Sunny. This is a pointless exercise. As a mother, she has hearing like a bat. She could hear a mouse fart three rooms away. I’m almost at the door when I hear:

“Where are you going?”

“I can’t sleep.” I reply. “I’m getting up.”

“Nooooo!” She says. She hates it when I get up in the middle of the night. “Why are you getting up?”

“Too much coffee, I think.” I reply. It’s much easier than saying “I can’t sleep and my brain is playing the extended cut of ‘every time I fucked up’ and ‘These are your greatest fears’”

I’m almost out the door when I hear:

“Sweetie, if you’re going to be up anyway…”

“Uh huh?” I say.

“Do the dishes. We’ve got company coming over at 12.”

I sigh. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Strange Internet Phenomena #000342

If you ever manually type in a web address that is watermarked on an image, that website will either:

Have been taken down
Have nothing to do with the original image that piqued your interest
Have never existed

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Inevitable Zombie Holocaust

Sometimes when I’m home alone late at night, I’ll hear a strange noise outside and the first thing that’ll pop into my head is “Zombies!”

Then, of course, I remember that Zombies aren’t real…but then I remember that that’s what all those people in the movies think, just before getting their throat ripped out by an undead ex-loved one.

Let’s face it, a Zombie Holocaust is going to happen.

Genetically modified crops, biological and chemical warfare and all those damn space-probes bringing back who knows what from who knows where. I’m surprised we’re not up to our necks in shambling brain-eaters already.

Now, zombies don’t scare me. A lifetime of bad B-movies has given me all the knowledge I need to at least be the last one standing. However, if you’ve neglected your ‘zombie training’, you’re royally screwed.

Therefore, I’ve decided it’s my place…nay, my responsibility… to tell you everything you need to know to survive the impending Zombie Apocolypse. Here we go:

1) Arming yourself.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the movies, it’s keep it simple. When you start taping TNT to radio controlled cars or making home-made rocket launchers from fireworks and plumbing fixtures…all you’re going to do is blow yourself up. Those slits you put in the sides of your van to poke chainsaws through to remove the zombie’s legs sound good until you hit that first bump, fall over and cut your own arm off.

Everyone knows that the only way to kill a zombie is to destroy their heads. Therefore, I recommend the following ‘Survival Armament’:

  • 12 Gauge Shotgun and as many shells as you can get your hands on (preferably semi-auto with a collapsible stock).
  • At least two 9mm handguns as a backup for when your shotgun inevitably jams or runs out of ammo at the most inopportune moment possible
  • Baseball bat in case your shotgun and pistols get lost or jam.

Basically, there’s nothing like a shotgun for removing zombie heads. Multiple pistols save time reloading and a baseball bat is handy in a pinch when you’re out of ammo.

The one type of weapon you want to avoid is anything to do with flame. Molotov Cocktails, Super-soakers filled with gasoline etc. The reason for this is simple. You have to destroy their heads! Think about getting cornered by a group of brain-hungry undead. Now imagine the same situation, but imagine that they’re on fire. Setting a zombie on fire will eventually kill them…but the key word is ‘eventually’. They don’t run around going “OMGWTF PANCAKES!!!” like you or I would if we were suddenly immolated. They won’t even notice until enough of their muscle has burned away that they can’t move.

Like I said, simple is better.

2) Travel

You’re definitely going to want to get out of your home and travel elsewhere (for reasons that will be explained later).

The first (and most counter intuitive) idea here is that foot travel is plausible and sometimes preferable.

Zombies are slow creatures. If you’re in an area that isn’t completely overrun yet, you won’t even have to jog to get away. Just walk calmly around them. The only big thing to avoid is stopping for a rest and leaning against a window or flimsy wood wall. Doing so will guarantee an undetected zombie will punch through that window or wall and grab you. Best case, you’ll need a new set of underwear and lose a lot of leadership credibility when you squeal like a little girl. Worst case you get bitten and go on the all-brain diet.

If you do decide on motorized transport you want the biggest, most rugged vehicle (with a full tank of gas) available. A 4x4 truck is a good idea. You want a vehicle that can run into a thick crowd of zombies or travel across rough terrain and not tip over, get stuck or stall.

Also, If you’re driving to your destination and see a horde of zombies ahead, turn the car around and find a different route. Don’t try and drive straight through them. In fact, if you can’t go forward or go back, abandon the vehicle and escape on foot. Trying to ‘mow them down’ will only get you stuck…and then you’re dead. You’ve gone from mobile survivor to ‘Handy Nutritious Brain in a Can’.

Finally, if you happen to accidentally run someone down, or see a bloodstained, panicked survivor jump into the middle of the road trying to flag you down, under no circumstances stop. The guy you accidentally ran down might still be human, but chances are he’s one of them and going to spring to life and bite you when you check on him. This is about survival, even if he’s still human, all he’s going to do is use your resources and slow you down.

Anyone who wants to join your group should be evaluated by how useful they’re going to be. If they can shoot, have a radio, some knowledge you need or some other useful talent, bite-check them and let them join. If not, leave them behind.

Secondly, the blood soaked, panicked survivor might not have been bitten, but picking up a survivor on the side of the road means one of three things:

1) They’ve been bitten and will hide it from you, meaning they’ll turn the instant you barricade yourself into a small area.

2) They’re going to accidentally attract the zombies attention/unlock the doors/forget the truck keys at some point in the future.

3) They’re actually the ‘star’, which means you’re just a ‘supporting character’…which cuts your survivability in half in a single stroke. Refusing any interaction (and that includes acknowledging their existence) keeps your star status and keeps your survivability chances at above 50%.

Nb : Rule three goes double if the stranded survivor is a half naked female, and triple if any of her clothes have a college insignia on them. If you are a half naked, female college student, you may pick up anyone you wish…apart from another half naked female college student.

3) ‘Holing Up’

There is only one way to survive a zombie holocaust, and that’s to find a safe place, barricade yourself in and wait for the Army to arrive. I’ll be honest, chances are the Army are going to nuke your town to ‘solve’ the problem, but waiting for rescue gives you the best chance of survival. Over 50% of the people who adopt the sit and wait approach survive (or at least survive the longest), those attempting ‘self rescue’ have an over 90% mortality rate.

Basically, the Zombies might only have taken over your town, but they also might have taken over the whole world. Staying put is your best bet.

Well, if staying put gives you the best chance of survival, why the section on travel?

Basically, you stay put…but choosing where to hole up can be the difference between surviving and joining the Zombie horde.

Here’s the deal. Zombies are only dangerous in large numbers, and even then they’re only dangerous if they have you cornered. If you round a corner and find yourself face to face with a hundred thousand Zombies…safety is just a light jog back in the direction you came.

Therefore, the absolute last thing you’re going to want to do is stay in your home. Hiding in your attic or basement is just plain suicide. You’re essentially cornering yourself when you have no need to. So where should you go?

Simple answer : Walmart

Walmart was almost designed as a Zombie apocalypse bunker. You have a few month’s supply of food, guns and ammo, changes of clothes, security cameras, generators for when the power goes out...along with heavy metal shutters to lock yourself in. Plus, they also have a cavernous interior with multiple exits. While this makes it more difficult to secure, you also have all kinds of alarms to set and you’d have to try really hard to get cornered. They come in the front, you get out the back.

Plus, there’s always a Walmart within a few miles of where anyone lives.

Miscellaneous Hints:

All it takes to get infected is a single bite. If you get bitten, save your friends the trouble and blow your own head off.

Never take anyone’s word for it that they haven’t been bitten. Pulling down their sweater a little to expose their neck proves nothing. If they want to stay with you, they have to get naked and let you inspect every inch of their body. If there’s any doubt, lock them up in a very secure location for a couple of days.

Forget sentimentality. If someone turns, they’re no longer the person you know, and just another zombie. Grabbing them and trying to get them to recognize you is guaranteed to get you bitten.

As in all horror scenarios, ‘doing the nasty’ with another survivor is signing your own death warrant.

Keep the religious nuts happy. They’re the ones that lose it, call the Holocaust ‘Judgement Day’, open the doors or try to take on 10,000 zombies armed only with a Bible. Regardless of your own beliefs, ask them to pray for the group and put them in charge of a non-critical task. It keeps them out of the way and stops them turning on you. Under no circumstances arm them.

In every Zombie movie there is a battle for leadership of the group, usually ending in a death. When the leadership challenger insists that going for help is the best course of action, agree with them, walk behind them up to the front door…and as soon as they go through it, lock it behind them.

You’re going to spend a lot of time surrounded by extremely scared, jumpy and armed people. Give everyone a refresher course on gun safety…making sure the location of their weapon’s safety is high on the agenda.

You will definitely run into someone who will refuse to take a weapon. They’ll usually give a speech on how they ‘don’t like guns’ as, for some reason, they think carrying a gun is somehow more dangerous that the Zombie Horde outside the doors. These people are useful as bait when you need to sacrifice someone in order to get away.

Don’t rely on mechanical or electronic devices, including your weapons. In a Zombie Holocaust, everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Always have a backup… and a backup for your backup.

In any group of survivors it’s a certainty that at least one-third are going to die. As such, you’re better off with strangers than friends and family. If you’re a couple, one of you is guaranteed to die. Your best bet is to split up, over 60% of couples that get split up reunite at the end. 99% of couples who stick together find themselves in a situation where one has to sacrifice themselves for the other.

Finally…bring pie. The reason for this is simple. No one has ever said “Crap, all we have is pie!” Everything is better with pie, and that includes zombie holocausts.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Like we needed more proof...

It's not unusual for Buddy to start barking at something when he's let out at night.

Normally I just open the front door, call his name and he comes charging in, desperate to be let off his leash so he can go see off the interlopers. (I never do that of course...I'd hate to see what would be left of him if he started snapping at a buck's heels or decided to take on a whole family of racoons).

Anyway, today he started barking, and wanting to see exactly what it is he was barking at, I take out the flashlight. What do I see?

There, right at the very edge of where Buddy's leash will stop him, there's a stray cat calmly cleaning itself, looking totally unconcerned while Buddy barks and growls his head off...mere inches away.

Yup, that's a cat for you. It knows it's mere presence is pissing Buddy right off, but also knows exactly how far buddy can go before he runs out of slack on his leash. It knows it's safe and gets sadistic pleasure from pissing off the dog.

If it wouldn't have meant a 30 minute chase around the property to get him back in, I SO would have unhooked his leash from the porch.

Stoopid cat.