Sunday, May 31, 2009

Who cares if they save lives?

I read today that the Pope has again attacked the practice of using condoms, claiming condoms 'exacerbate the AIDS crisis'.

I'd really like to know exactly how much double-think and indoctrination it takes to be able to come out with such complete and utter bullshit and be able to sleep at night.

While you're at it, don't teach your teens about seatbelts or road safety, it'll only encourage them to take risks behind the wheel.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Prepare to Know Me Better.

I found this questionnaire on the internet and thought it was interesting, prepare to know a little more about me:

(My answers in red.)

1. Let us assume you met a rudimentary magician. Let us assume he can do five simple tricks--he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, he can make a coin disappear, he can turn the ace of spades into the Joker card, and two others in a similar vein. These are his only tricks and he can't learn any more; he can only do these five. HOWEVER, it turns out he's doing these five tricks with real magic. It's not an illusion; he can actually conjure the bunny out of the ether and he can move the coin through space. He's legitimately magical, but extremely limited in scope and influence.

Would this person be more impressive than Albert Einstein?

It really depends on what you mean by impressive. I would find proof of the existence of magic to be more impressive than the general theory of relativity…but as actual people, Einstein is the more impressive. Einstein's feat was one he worked at and earned, the magician can just do magic.

2. Let us assume a fully grown, completely healthy Clydesdale horse has his hooves shackled to the ground while his head is held in place with thick rope. He is conscious and standing upright, but completely immobile. And let us assume that--for some reason--every political prisoner on earth (as cited by Amnesty International) will be released from captivity if you can kick this horse to death in less than twenty minutes. You are allowed to wear steel-toed boots.

Would you attempt to do this?


3. Let us assume there are two boxes on a table. In one box, there is a relatively normal turtle; in the other, Adolf Hitler's skull. You have to select one of these items for your home. If you select the turtle, you can't give it away and you have to keep it alive for two years; if either of these parameters are not met, you will be fined $999 by the state. If you select Hitler's skull, you are required to display it in a semi-prominent location in your living room for the same amount of time, although you will be paid a stipend of $120 per month for doing so. Display of the skull must be apolitical.

Which option do you select?

The skull, obviously. Displaying a skull doesn't make me a Nazi.

4. Genetic engineers at Johns Hopkins University announce that they have developed a so-called "super gorilla." Though the animal cannot speak, it has a sign language lexicon of over twelve thousand words, an I.Q. of almost 85, and--most notably--a vague sense of self-awareness. Oddly, the creature (who weighs seven hundred pounds) becomes fascinated by football. The gorilla aspires to play the game at its highest level and quickly develops the rudimentary skills of a defensive end. ESPN analyst Tom Jackson speculates that this gorilla would be "borderline unblockable" and would likely average six sacks a game (although Jackson concedes the beast might be susceptible to counters and misdirection plays). Meanwhile, the gorilla has made it clear he would never intentionally injure any opponent.

You are commissioner of the NFL: Would you allow this gorilla to sign with the Oakland Raiders?

No. It's a fucking gorilla. Why not let a cheetah take part in the 100m sprint or let a dolphin compete in the 400m freestyle.

5. You meet your soul mate. However, there is a catch: Every three years, someone will break both of your soul mate's collarbones with a Crescent wrench, and there is only one way you can stop this from happening: You must swallow a pill that will make every song you hear--for the rest of your life--sound as if it's being performed by the band Alice in Chains. When you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio, it will sound (to your ears) like it's being played by Alice in Chains. If you see Radiohead live, every one of their tunes will sound like it's being covered by Alice in Chains. When you hear a commercial jingle on TV, it will sound like Alice in Chains; if you sing to yourself in the shower, your voice will sound like deceased Alice vocalist Layne Staley performing a capella (but it will only sound this way to you).

Would you swallow the pill?

Yes, I don't listen to much music anyway.

6. At long last, someone invents "the dream VCR." This machine allows you to tape an entire evening's worth of your own dreams, which you can then watch at your leisure. However, the inventor of the dream VCR will only allow you to use this device of you agree to a strange caveat: When you watch your dreams, you must do so with your family and your closest friends in the same room. They get to watch your dreams along with you. And if you don't agree to this, you can't use the dream VCR.

Would you still do this?

Probably not, I have no interest in watching my own dreams. "This is the part where I was eating breakfast but then suddenly found myself on a plane where my cousin announced she was marrying the cookie monster while beating Paula Deen to death with a pink bicycle chain."

7. Defying all expectation, a group of Scottish marine biologists capture a live Loch Ness Monster. In an almost unbelievable coincidence, a bear hunter in the Pacific Northwest shoots a Sasquatch in the thigh, thereby allowing zoologists to take the furry monster into captivity. These events happen on the same afternoon. That evening, the president announces he may have thyroid cancer and will undergo a biopsy later that week.

You are the front page editor of The New York Times: What do you play as the biggest story?

I'd probably combine Nessie and Bigfoot into one story. I'm sorry, but the discovery of a sea-monster and the missing link on the same day trumps the fact the president 'may' have thyroid cancer.

8. You meet the perfect person. Romantically, this person is ideal: You find them physically attractive, intellectually stimulating, consistently funny, and deeply compassionate. However, they have one quirk: This individual is obsessed with Jim Henson's gothic puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal. Beyond watching it on DVD at least once a month, he/she peppers casual conversation with Dark Crystal references, uses Dark Crystal analogies to explain everyday events, and occasionally likes to talk intensely about the film's "deeper philosophy."

Would this be enough to stop you from marrying this individual?

No. But then I'd just start peppering my conversation with bad sci-fi references until she realized how annoying it was and toned it down.

9. A novel titled Interior Mirror is released to mammoth commerical success (despite middling reviews). However, a curious social trend emerges: Though no one can prove a direct scientific link, it appears that almost 30 percent of the people who read this book immediately become homosexual. Many of these newfound homosexuals credit the book for helping them reach this conclusion about their orientation, despite the fact that Interior Mirror is ostensibly a crime novel with no homoerotic content (and was written by a straight man).

Would this phenomenon increase (or decrease) the likliehood of you reading this book?

Increase. I'm comfortable enough in my own sexuality to know a book isn't going to change my mind and I'd like to see why it was convincing so many gay men to come out of the closet.

10. This is the opening line of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City: "You are not the kind of guy who would be in a place like this at this time of the morning." Think about that line in the context of the novel (assuming you've read it). Now go to your CD collection and find Heart's Little Queen album (assuming you own it). Listen to the opening riff to "Barracuda."

Which of these two introductions is a higher form of art?

The opening line of Bright Lights, Big City. That's one awesome hook and could mean so many things.

11. You are watching a movie in a crowded theater. Though the plot is mediocre, you find yourself dazzled by the special effects. But with twenty minutes left in the film, you are struck with an undeniable feeling of doom: You are suddenly certain your mother has just died. There is no logical reason for this to be true, but you are certain of it. You are overtaken with the irrational metaphysical sense that--somewhere--your mom has just perished. But this is only an intuitive, amorphous feeling; there is no evidence for this, and your mother has not been ill.

Would you immediately exit the theater, or would you finish watching the movie?

I'd exit the theater and make a phone call.

12. You meet a wizard in downtown Chicago. The wizard tells you he can make you more attractive if you pay him money. When you ask how this process works, the wizard points to a random person on the street. You look at this random stranger. The wizard says, "I will now make them a dollar more attractive." He waves his magic wand. Ostensibly, this person does not change at all; as far as you can tell, nothing is different. But--somehow--this person is suddenly a little more appealing. The tangible difference is invisible to the naked eye, but you can't deny that this person is vaguely sexier. This wizard has a weird rule, though--you can only pay him once. You can't keep giving him money until you're satisfied. You can only pay him one lump sum up front.

How much cash do you give the wizard?

However much my missus wants to spend on me.

13. Every person you have ever slept with is invited to a banquet where you are the guest of honor. No one will be in attendance except you, the collection of your former lovers, and the catering service. After the meal, you are asked to give a fifteen-minute speech to the assembly.

What do you talk about?

"I'm glad you could both come."

14. For reasons that cannot be explained, cats can suddenly read at a twelfth-grade level. They can't talk and they can't write, but they can read silently and understand the text. Many cats love this new skill, because they now have something to do all day while they lay around the house; however, a few cats become depressed, because reading forces them to realize the limitations of their existence (not to mention the utter frustration of being unable to express themselves).

This being the case, do you think the average cat would enjoy Garfield, or would cats find this cartoon to be an insulting caricature?

This is a fucking stupid question. It depends. Can cats understand the deeper meanings of literature? Do they have a sense of humor about themselves? Do they really hate Mondays?

15. You have a brain tumor. Though there is no discomfort at the moment, this tumor would unquestionably kill you in six months. However, your life can (and will) be saved by an operation; the only downside is that there will be a brutal incision to your frontal lobe. After the surgery, you will be significantly less intelligent. You will still be a fully functioning adult, but you will be less logical, you will have a terrible memory, and you will have little ability to understand complex concepts or difficult ideas. The surgery is in two weeks.

How do you spend the next fourteen days?

Writing down all my 'big ideas'.

16. Someone builds and optical portal that allows you to see a vision of your own life in the future (it's essentially a crystal ball that shows a randomly selected image of what your life will be like in twenty years). You can only see into this portal for thirty seconds. When you finally peer into the crystal, you see yourself in a living room, two decades older than you are today. You are watching a Canadian football game, and you are extremely happy. You are wearing a CFL jersey. Your chair is surrounded by books and magazines that promote the Canadian Football League, and there are CFL pennants covering your walls. You are alone in the room, but you are gleefully muttering about historical moments in Canadian football history. It becomes clear that—for some unknown reason—you have become obsessed with Canadian football. And this future is static and absolute; no matter what you do, this future will happen. The optical portal is never wrong. This destiny cannot be changed.

The next day, you are flipping through television channels and randomly come across a pre-season CFL game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Knowing your inevitable future, do you now watch it?

No. I can't stand football, let alone Canadian football. That 'vision' could mean anything. Maybe I'm looking at myself acting on a movie set or something.

17. You are sitting in an empty bar (in a town you've never before visited), drinking Bacardi with a soft-spoken acquaintance you barely know. After an hour, a third individual walks into the tavern and sits by himself, and you ask your acquaintance who the new man is. "Be careful of that guy," you are told. "He is a man with a past." A few minutes later, a fourth person enters the bar; he also sits alone. You ask your acquaintance who this new individual is. "Be careful of that guy, too," he says. "He is a man with no past."

Which of these two people do you trust less?

It depends on what the 'man with a past' past is. If he's a multiple rapist and murderer, I'll probably trust him less than the guy I know nothing about.

18. You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both). The first option is a year in Europe with a monthly stipend of $2,000. The second option is ten minutes on the moon.

Which option do you select?

The moon, without a second's hesitation.

19. Your best friend is taking a nap on the floor of your living room. Suddenly, you are faced with a bizarre existential problem: This friend is going to die unless you kick them (as hard as you can) in the rib cage. If you don't kick them while they slumber, they will never wake up. However, you can never explain this to your friend; if you later inform them that you did this to save their life, they will also die from that. So you have to kick a sleeping friend in the ribs, and you can't tell them why.

Since you cannot tell your friend the truth, what excuse will you fabricate to explain this (seemingly inexplicable) attack?

"Shit! What are you lying in the middle of the floor for? I nearly tripped and broke my fucking neck!"

20. For whatever the reason, two unauthorized movies are made about your life. The first is an independently released documentary, primarily comprised of interviews with people who know you and bootleg footage from your actual life. Critics are describing the documentary as "brutally honest and relentlessly fair." Meanwhile, Columbia Tri-Star has produced a big-budget biopic of your life, casting major Hollywood stars as you and all your acquaintances; though the movie is based on actual events, screenwriters have taken some liberties with the facts. Critics are split on the artistic merits of this fictionalized account, but audiences love it.

Which film would you be most interested in seeing?

The big budget, obviously…I already know the facts presented in the documentary, I'd want to see the fiction in the movie.

21. Imagine you could go back to the age of five and relive the rest of your life, knowing everything that you know now. You will reexperience your entire adolescence with both the cognitive ability of an adult and the memories of everything you've learned form having lived your life previously.

Would you lose your virginity earlier or later than you did the first time around (and by how many years)?

I'd probably leave it the same. I lost my virginity late enough to where I knew what I was doing, but not so late that I'd be embarrassed to say.

22. You work in an office. Generally, you are popular with your coworkers. However, you discover that there are currently two rumors circulating the office gossip mill, and both involve you. The first rumor is that you got drunk at the office holiday party and had sex with one of your married coworkers. This rumor is completely true, but most people don't believe it. The second rumor is that you have been stealing hundreds of dollars of office supplies (and then selling them to cover a gambling debt). This rumor is completely false, but virtually everyone assumes it is factual.

Which of these two rumors is most troubling to you?

Obviously, the second one. Firstly, I didn't do it, and secondly it could get me fired.

23. Consider this possibility:

a. Think about deceased TV star John Ritter.

b. Now, pretend Ritter had never become famous. Pretend he was never affected by the trappings of fame, and try to imagine what his personality would have been like.

c. Now, imagine that this person—the unfamous John Ritter—is a character in a situation comedy.

d. Now, you are also a character in this sitcom, and the unfamous John Ritter character is your sitcom father.

e. However, this sitcom is actually your real life. In other words, you are living inside a sitcom: Everything about our life is a construction, featuring the unfamous John Ritter playing himself (in the role of your TV father). But this is not a sitcom. This is your real life.

How would you feel about this?

I feel that someone was on crack while writing this question.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Son of a BITCH!

A couple of weeks ago I caught my reflection in a shop window and instantly realized that 'stocky' or 'well built' didn't accurately describe me anymore. A much more accurate description would be "Great Big Fat Bastard."

So, I do what I always do when I notice I'm getting fat. I don't go on a diet, I just start to watch what I eat and make sure I'm eating because I'm hungry, and not just because I'm bored or because Tom's 'Hot Fries' are crazy delicious. It's amazing how much weight you can lose just by stopping eating when you're full and not carrying on until you plate is empty.

However, this time I thought I'd be a little cleverer. You see, I absolutely despise drinking water so I tend to drink a lot of soda or tea or coffee loaded with sugar. I realized that I drink the majority of the calories I take in. Four or five cans of sodas on a hot day add up to over a thousand calories. Considering that's the equivalent of eating two big macs, it all adds up.

So this week, when we went to the grocery store, I decided not to buy any sodas but replace them with things like natural fruit juice. I figured that would be cutting back on some calories while adding a lot more vitamins and anti-oxidants and all that other good stuff. I bought a gallon of orange juice, and sunny bought some cranberry juice.

So today got incredibly hot and I was drinking my second glass of orange juice for the day, feeling good about myself and the vitamin C that was obviously doing me the world of good…when I decided, on a whim, to see exactly how many calories were in a saving of orange juice.

I checked the label…130 calories per serving.

How much was a serving?

1 cup…about half a normal sized glass.

I fished an empty can of orange soda out of the trash and checked the label on that. 170 calories per serving…but a serving of orange soda was double what a serving of pure orange juice was.

So, what this actually means is that I'd actually be better off with the soda. Basically ounce for ounce, orange juice has almost 100 more calories than orange soda. Sure, it doesn't have all the other good stuff in it…but when your original objective is to lose weight, it's a bit of a pisser.

Thanks to the wonders of the pre-owned section of my local gamestop, I was able to give 'Dead Space' a test-drive this week, something I've been wanting to do since it was first released.

I'm only about an hour into it, so I can't give a full review, but I have to say that my first impression is that Dead Space is what Doom 3 should have felt like. A tense, creepy experience that makes you feel vulnerable instead of, you know, just running around in the dark. In terms of atmosphere, art direction and sound design, Dead Space is a masterpiece.

This may sound strange but one of my absolute favorite things about Dead Space is the navigation system. You see, being lost just isn't a fun experience for me. There's nothing more frustrating than playing a game where you spend a significant amount of time running around in circles like a rat in a maze. The navigation system in Dead Space is amazingly well implemented because it works in the context of the game, will always point you directly to where you need to go, but doesn't make you feel like your hand's being held the whole time or make you feel like the game's on rails.

It's actually incredibly simple. While you can pull up a full 3D map with the usual 'You Are Here' markings, just click the right stick and your character points a device at the ground and a laser beam traces out a path to your next objective. It works because it's a believable bit of technology in the context of the game and lets you explore without having to worry about getting lost.

However, despite this awesome bit of innovative design, Dead Space has a holdover from previous survival horror games that I've always despised…save points instead of being able to save anywhere.

I completely understand the thinking on this. The whole point of survival horror is to make the player feel vulnerable. You play a normal guy in an extraordinary situation, you're supposed to be scared every time you open a door or move into a new area. If you can save your progress at any point, much of that sense of vulnerability is lost.

I can understand the thinking, but they always miss one critical point: Having to repeat things over and over isn't fun. Sure, that alien sneaking up on you and ambushing you is a pulse pounding experience the first time, but fighting off that same group of monsters for the fourth or fifth time is boring and frustrating as hell. Secondly, I think most people need the ability to save and stop playing at any moment. When visitors turn up or the kids need help with their homework, I shouldn't be forced to either play for another twenty minutes until I find a save point or throw away my last twenty minutes worth of progress.

In today's world the ability to save anywhere isn't a gameplay choice, it's the same as having a pause button on your DVD player. It's like watching a movie, stopping it while you answer the phone, and then being forced to start the whole movie over from scratch.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Technology Is Your Friend

'Sexting'…are your kids doing it?

I've gotten to the point where nothing surprises me anymore. It's just become another fact of life to me that common sense isn't all that common.

In the past five years we've blamed pretty much every part of popular culture and every new technology for…well…everything.

We develop these elaborate fantasies about how everything is dangerous and everything is ultimately a tool of the terrorists, the pedophiles, muslims or whoever we don't like that particular week. The worst part is that it doesn't matter how ridiculous or implausible the 'threat' is, even if five seconds of actual thought can disprove every part of it, we don't care because we love being terrified.

The latest thing is 'sexting'. Basically kids sending dirty messages to each other. Sexting is following hot on the heels of e-bullying, or how kids are vandalizing each other's myspace pages and sending bullying text messages to the unpopular kids.

I'm getting to the point where I feel like the only sane person left in the nuthouse.

How can people not get that teens sending sexy messages to each other or bullying each other is nothing new?

Here's the deal. Some dumbass parent finds a message on his son's phone from a girl in his class that uses some fairly explicit language. What does he do? Have a talk with his son? Call the girl's parents?

No…He blames it on the phone. This devil-technology that's leading his son astray.

Of course, teens have sent each other dirty messages for as long as teenage boys and girls have found themselves in the same place. They certainly did when I was at school. The only difference is that we wrote them on slips of paper and passed them in class or shoved them through the gap into each other's lockers. Bullying certainly isn't a new thing.

Ah, but with 'sexting', these teens can send dirty pictures to each other. That's totally new!

Ok, they have me on that one. Kids sending pictures of their dicks and boobs to each other is totally new. When I was a teen we just got together and said "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

Here's the deal. Think. It's not that hard.

Brain No Work


I don't know why but every time I sit down to write a blog post it feels like I'm swimming in glue against the tide. I have some good ideas in my head that turn to pure garbage between my brain and my fingers. Either that or I'll get a few hundred words in and then instantly lose every last bit of interest in the idea.

I was just really inspired by today's news post over at Starslip, I have a fuck ton to say on the subject, but what sounds like Shakespeare in my head turns to monkeys throwing their poop at each other on the page.

Long story short, I'm going to spare you my inane, meaningless, meandering drivel until my brain starts working again.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Now That’s Science!

For some unknown reason, Sunny and I found ourselves watching the Hisory channel today. Just like MTV no longer shows music videos, it appears that The History Channel no longer broadcasts shows about History.

Today's show was about cattle mutilation, and it was one of the most unintentionally funny things ever.

You see, there's a formula to shows like this. You have a voice over guy who announces everything like he's describing the end of the world, a batshit crazy 'scientist' who's qualifications tend to be that they bought a $50 USB microscope from eBay, a bunch of people making shit up so they can get paid a few hundred bucks for their story…and one token sane scientist who refutes everything everyone else says.

At one point in the show, a farmer dude claims that aliens/Satanists/communists killed his bull and that he now feels ill whenever he goes to where the bull was found or where he buried it. So they went to the spot and right on cue, the farmer starts saying that he's feeling ill…only he stands there for about fifteen seconds, pretending to have difficulty breathing…and then looks up, makes to walk out of shot, then realizes the camera is still on him and goes straight back to feeling ill again.

Weird, huh?

So they send a few soil samples to the 'scientist' (who talks about her total lack of qualifications like it's a good thing because she's not limited to 'stiff, orthodox approaches to science') who analyses the soil samples by looking at the soil hrough a cheap USB microscope that gives less magnification than a good magnifying glass.

Her scientific conclusion? "The soil from where the bull was found is 'good' because it has roots in…but the soil from where they buried the bull has no roots and is 'kinda bland'"

Oh really? That's your scientific analysis is it? I thought the way you analysed soil was running a whole battery of tests on it, not just looking at it under a 20x microscope and proclaiming it 'kinda bland'.

I got incredibly funny from then on because you'd see these lunatics backed up by this same batshit insane, self-proclaimed 'scientist' explain how the wound on a mutilated cow could not possibly have been caused by an animal and was most likely caused by a super-powerful laser burn…then the camera would cut to an actual professor who would blow their theories out of the water over and over. They'd come out with all kinda of outlandish theories such as aliens, cultists or the chupacabra…then they'd give the real scientist fifteen seconds to show that a coyote's teeth can and will make sharp, clean looking cuts.

It's a weird format for a show. You give the majority of the time to the whackos, have a voice over guy who makes everything sound so serious and deadly, then cut in every ten minutes with someone who's actually qualified to point out that everyone else is a couple sandwiches short of a picnic.

However, the best part was when they got to the idea that Satanists were behind it.

A horse had got killed and ripped apart by coyotes or wolves, and two weeks later someone found some graffiti that said "Dead Horse" next to a pentagram. The clip from the local news network (that just so happened to be a Fox affiliate) claimed that his was 'proof of a Satanist cult in the area'.

As a sane human being, I thought that because the graffiti also consisted of a couple of pot leaves, a skull and 'Korn Rules!'…the graffiti was probably done by a bunch of bored, stupid teenagers…and not a satanist cult out to eat people's babies.

It was ridiculous. It's getting to the point where there's no point satirizing or spoofing anything anymore because it's impossible to make things like this any more ridiculous.

I think History should go back to documentaries about actual history instead of shows about alien abductions, area 51 and ghosts.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Weekly Advice Column

This week's question was asked in the Reader's Digest 'Ask Laskas' column. As usual, Laskas got it dead wrong. As always, if you have a question and would like some advice, post it in the comments section of this post.

This week's question:

I introduced my new friend 'Bev' to my old friend 'Janet' recently. They did not hit it off. Now each talks bad about the other to me. How am I supposed to deal with this?



Dear 'Diplomat',

This is your 'problem'? Seriously? Two of your friends don't get on and you think it's big enough of a deal to write to a problem page? Christ, I wish I had your problems, lady. Exactly how dumb are you to not be able to figure this out for yourself?

Firstly, I suggest you grow the fuck up. Secondly, I suggest you stop acting like you're still in highschool.

Basically, tell friend A to stop badmouthing friend B and vice versa. If you want to be diplomatic about it, try saying something like "Hey Friend A, friend B is my friend too and it makes me uncomfortable when you bitch about her behind her back. I wouldn't let her badmouth you, so I'd appreciate it if you'd stop it."

To be completely honest, however, I wouldn't want to be friends with anyone who is immature and petty enough to spend all their time bitching about whichever friend isn't there. I'd tell 'Bev' and 'Janet' to go screw themselves and make some friends who realize they're not thirteen years old any more.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Five Hour ‘Energy’

Ok, this is something that's really annoying me.

Have you seen those ads for those 'Five Hour Energy' drinks?

There's a new one where they show a bunch of other energy drinks and say "These energy drinks have around twelve spoons of sugar and over 200 calories per serving! Five hour Energy has no sugar and just four calories!"

They know what a calorie is, right? I mean, that it's a unit of energy?

Exactly how is that a selling point? They're selling an energy drink that provides you with almost zero energy, while pointing out that all their competitor's drinks give you fifty times more energy. That's like saying "Our chocolate chip cookies don't have any chocolate chips in them at all, while our competitors are simply packed with delicious chocolaty goodness!"

Then again, we live in a world where you can buy 'fitness water', water that's more watery than water.

Not to be confused with a nice day - Epilogue

Just to cap off my awesome day that started with me being attacked by a gigantic spider and ended with my cash card being stolen, something else awesome happened.

Remember how last week I sold a piece of artwork? Well, I heard from the buyer today and found that it had arrived…folded in half.

I can't really complain because the buyer is being totally awesome about it. She's not asking for a replacement or refund and has just said it will probably be okay once it's framed and behind glass… she even left positive feedback on my store going on about how much she loved the piece and how quick the shipping was. But in all seriousness, exactly how hard is it to understand the words 'do not bend'?

It pisses me off because that drawing was one of the best I've ever done and the first I've ever actually sold. That it arrived damaged after I was specifically talked out of other shipping options is really annoying.

You see, I had planned putting the drawing in an envelope and sealing it in between a couple of sheets of thick, heavy gauge cardboard. The guy at the store assured me that it wouldn't be necessary. "We can stamp it 'Do Not Bend'." He said, before finishing with a derisive snort: "Our drivers don't ignore stuff like that…we're not the post office!"

So I told him it was the first sale from my online store and it was absolutely necessary that it arrive in perfect condition (a store with one sale and 100% negative feedback isn't going to do much for future sales), so I didn't mind a bit of overkill, and he assured me again and again that I would just be wasting my money.

Then the driver decides that 'Do Not Bend' stamped six times on each side of the envelope in scarlet ink is just a 'suggestion' and folds the thing in half and jams it in a mail box.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Not to be confused with a nice day

Today has not been a very good day.

This morning I got into bed at around 5am as I'd slept in until about 2pm the previous afternoon. As I was lying in bed and listening to my iPod (I listen to music or a podcast to help me fall asleep), when I feel something moving along my arm. Thinking the cat has got on the bed and I'm feeling his nose or tail, I ignore it. The 'thing' then moves to my chest and I suddenly realize that it can't be the cat. I open an eye getting ready to brush a fly off my chest.

It was a fucking huge huntsman spider.

Have I mentioned that I'm a severe arachnophobe? Put it this way, you know how most people say they 'hate' spiders when they really mean that they're afraid of them? I don't hate spiders…I'm fucking terrified of them.

So I jump out of bed, do the "my hair is on fire dance' and squeal like a little girl. If you're having a hard time picturing this, just imagine a naked fat guy getting zapped by a hundred tasers at once.

Anyway, the spider ends up as little more than a smear on the floor, and I walk into the living room with my heart rate at about 70,000bpm. Sunny arrives home to find me sitting in the living room looking like a patient at a hospital for shell-shocked veterans.

We then decide that while we're both home and awake we might as well drive to the dump to take the trash off, something we'd been putting off for a week, and then we could stop for breakfast on the way home.

So we drop off the trash and decide on Cracker Barrel.

Ok, at this point you have to understand that we were both a little dingy. It was about 9am and we'd been up all the previous day and the previous night as well. Let's just say I was so dingy, I got out to the car after breakfast when it suddenly occurred to me that I couldn't remember the cashier giving me my cash card back. Instead of doing the normal thing and opening my wallet and checking, I just assumed she'd swiped it and handed it straight back, and that was why I didn't remember her giving it back to me after I signed the receipt.

Like I said, I was dingy.

So we get home and go to bed…and I don't sleep for more than fifteen minutes at a stretch. My body was just rebelling against me, until I woke up for about the fiftieth time and found our bedroom had turned into a furnace. I pulled a sheet off the bed and went into the living room where I flipped on the air conditioning and settled onto the couch. I finally fell asleep.

For about half an hour before Sunny woke me asking where the cash card was.

Of course, then it's pure panic time. I search my wallet, the jeans I was wearing, the car, the whole time remembering that I couldn't actually remember the cashier giving me my card back…so as I search the car for the fifth time, I ask Sunny to call the Cracker Barrel. They claim no one has seen it or found it.

I call my bank and tell them I've lost the card, only to discover it has indeed been stolen. There's a charge on it for four dollars to an online store that sells IDs. It's the one bit of luck I have all day that the asshole that stole my card is an idiot and probably decided the best thing to do with a stolen credit card is order an ID with my name on it instead of heading to the nearest Best Buy and buying a five grand TV.

However, as you can probably imagine, I'm still pretty pissed off, but mostly I was just relieved that the person who stole it only charged four dollars, which the guy from my bank said I could dispute and get back. I'm just hoping they're stupid enough to try that now that my card has a stop put on it and has been flagged as stolen.

The one thing that's really pissing me off is that I'm 99.9% certain that the bitch who took my card this morning when I paid for my breakfast is the one who stole it. However, I can't prove anything and I could be wrong. I seriously considered calling the Cracker Barrel back, asking to speak to a manager and telling them that they probably have a thief working for them…but as I said, I can't prove anything and they'd just say I could have dropped it in the parking lot or whatever.

Anyway, let's just say we won't be eating at that particular Cracker Barrel ever again.

Finally, there was a little good news/bad news.

A few days ago I ordered some crow quill nibs from an online art supplier. After I'd sorted everything out with the bank and Sunny had left for work, she turned back up at the house five minutes later with the package. That bit was awesome because it had arrived a lot earlier than expected. He downside was that the art supply store charges ridiculous amounts for shipping. It cost over ten dollars to ship fifteen pen nibs, and it was basic FedEx Ground shipping where they ship the package to your local post office and let the USPS take it the rest of the way.

When I saw the package, I realized why they charged so much.

They shipped fifteen pen nibs, each about half an inch long and less than a tenth of an inch wide, in a box that's at least a foot wide by a foot tall.

Anyway, the moral of today's post:

Get enough sleep, spiders are evil, don't eat at cracker barrel and Dick Blick art materials will screw you on shipping.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I’ll Explain This Slowly…

Today I was walking into the local Dollar General to pick up some coffee creamer when I heard a guy on the opposite side of a shelf say "…Pfffttt! People go on about how much better he is than Bush, but the economy's gone to shit since Obama took over."

I didn't say anything to the guy, but I thought I'd explain it here:

If you go out and max all your credit cards, borrow money from everyone you know and spend like there's no tomorrow, it will appear that you're doing really well to the casual observer. Unfortunately, once the bills start showing up, it's an entirely different story.

Long story short, Bush maxed the credit cards and left office just as the bill showed up.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

So after yesterday's bit of good fortune, I decided to use the cash to buy some more art supplies that I need (Mostly nibs and Bristol Board), and discovered I had enough left for a trip to the pre-owned section at my local Gamestop.

I bought Tom Clancy's Endwar…and it's awesome.

I haven't invested any time into a real time strategy since the first Command and Conquer game on the PC. I loved C&C but then things just started getting way too complicated. You see, in real life you have a whole hierarchy of people in charge of a military campaign and your actual units won't just stand there and allow themselves to be shot at if they don't receive any orders. Basically, I got bored of my very expensive units getting slaughtered because I was too busy deciding which technology to research next, while establishing a trade route with one ally, while telling my resource harvesters which processing center to go to and so on and so on.

Now the first really awesome thing about Endwar is that it's almost entirely voice controlled, and better still, the voice control actually works. I was a little worried that it'd have problems with my English accent, its accuracy is astonishing. It probably misses about one order out of a hundred…and I don't even really consider that a problem given that at a stressful moment during a traditional RTS, it's really easy to click the wrong unit or something.

Even giving the orders themselves is simple. You pull the right trigger like a push-to-talk walkie-talkie and give your order in the format 'Who, what, where.' For example "Unit five attack hostile three" or "Unit four secure uplink Alpha". You can also issue orders to all your units or all of a particular unit type like "Calling all units, move to bravo" or "Calling all gunships, attack hostile 4". The game also recognized a few synonyms like 'engage' or 'destroy' instead of attack.

Now, as well as this being a fun bit of technology, it also completely sidesteps the usual console RTS control problems and has the side effect of making the game much more fun and realistic. It's a very simple thing but it's amazing just how much of a difference it makes tell a unit what to do instead of just clicking and pointing. Given that your units are also 'persistent', in that they increase in rank and you use them mission after mission…you find yourself becoming strangely attatched to them. I'd managed to get a group of engineers through a good few missions and I didn't realize how much I'd come to rely on them until they got pinned down and I couldn't evacuate them. I found myself almost resenting their replacements. It's like "Gah, Thunder battalion would have had that uplink hacked twenty minutes ago…Arrowhead battalion is useless."

This is also helped by the fact that when a unit can't comply with your order, they reply through your headset instead of your speakers. While this is a great way to just make sure you know that the unit can't comply (which is important, if the gunship support you were counting on doesn't show up it can mean game over for that mission), it also adds to the illusion that you're talking to a person and not a game…it gives them personality…meaning you really think about sending that unit somewhere dangerous, because it's not just 'tank unit 3', it's 'Mastadon Group', the guys that totally saved the day in the last mission.

As I mentioned above, I hate over-complicated RTS's. I want to control soldiers on a battlefield, not micromanage an economy. Endwar does a masterful job in that this game is complex, but not complicated.

Actual combat works a lot like playing a game of 'rock, paper, scissors'. Helicopters beat tanks, tanks beat transports and transports beat helicopters. Infantry beats all three, is the only unit that can capture buildings, but gets slaughtered easily by any unit type
when not in cover. Basically, the more powerful a unit is, the bigger its weakness. For example, Artillery can make short work of most units, but is absolutely useless and vulnerable up close. Infantry are basically the most powerful units, but they get destroyed in seconds when not in cover.

It's deceptively simple. This game isn't about building a massive army and throwing them at your opponent, it's about having the right unit in the right place at the right time. There's really no such thing as the 'strongest unit' or 'overwhelming force'. You can send a massive force of tanks at your enemy, but they can be held back by just a couple of helicopters. In essence, it works a lot like chess and a single unit can really turn the tide of a whole battle if used correctly.

Basically, depending on the situation, you might be able to capture an objective with a single unit, or you might throw the bulk of your forces at it and get turned back.

It really is an awesome game that I can highly recommend.


Anniversaries and Unexpected Riches

Today was an absolutely awesome day, one of the first in a long time that I've ended in a genuinely good mood.

Firstly, it was our fifth wedding anniversary today , the first real milestone one. We went out for an awesome dinner, went window shopping for a while, and just to prove I haven't mentally aged a day since I was six years old, I bought a kite. (It's awesome, it looks like an eagle and everything…I can't wait until the wind gets up a bit.)

I have to say the best bit, though, is the surprise I got immediately after getting up this morning. I came into the living room, checked my email as usual…and found that one of the pieces of artwork from my online store had sold. I'd completely given up on the idea and almost forgotten I even had an online store, but discovered this morning that I'd been favorited by a good few people… and someone had actually bought one of my drawings.

Remember the Queen of Hearts drawing I posted about a few weeks ago? Someone parted with forty smackers for it. Ok, fair enough, ten of those forty dollars were for shipping, but it's a massive boost to the old ego and it feels almost exactly the same as it did the first time I sold a short story. You can put your work up for others to critique, you can critique yourself, but there's just something about someone parting with cold hard cash for something you created that makes you feel…well…validated.

It's like… the sheet of Bristol works out at forty cents, the ink works out at a couple of cents worth…which means I put 39 dollars and fifty cents worth of talent onto the page. Of course, it's also perfectly possible that the buyer is half blind and has absolutely no taste whatsoever…but even that's okay, because even if it turns out I have no talent at all, I still have forty bucks to spend to cheer myself up.

Of course, my favorite part is using this to annoy Sunny:

"Paulius? Can you vacuum the living room please?"

"What? You want me to us my artist's hands on menial labor? Are you quite mad?"

You get the idea.

Anyway, I have to go now, all this typing is putting wear and tear on my artist's fingers.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New Feature!!!

One of the things I really hate about magazines' 'problem pages' is that they never give out realistic advice. To fix this, I've decided I'm going to start my own advice column right here on this blog.

If you want advice, ask your question in the comments.

However, until I get an actual question (which we all know will probably never happen), every Thursday I'm going to re-answer a question from 'Ask Laskas' in Reader's Digest, as that dumb bitch never gets it right. Without further ado, here's today's question:

My stepdaughter is getting married and has asked her father to provide the music. My Husband has decided to go one step further: He wants to play drums with the band…all night. Am I wrong in thinking the father of the bride should act like the father of the bride and not the hired help?

Dear Partnerless,

In my experience, only snobs use the term 'hired help' and only the worst kind of snob would refer to a professional musician as that. Let's face it, the real reason you're upset is simply because you're not the center of attention for once and it's burning you up inside. Not only is your stepdaughter getting the limelight for once, your husband is focusing on what she wants instead of what you want for a change.

Get over yourself and get it through your head that not everything is about you and what you want. This isn't your wedding and what your daughter and her father decide to do has absolutely fuck all to do with you. The world doesn't revolve around you so cry me a river, build me a bridge and get the fuck over it.




Tune in next Thursday for another awesome question answered honestly (for once)

I love comments!

Hitting the stumble button today I landed on this page filled with pictures of giant 'optical illusion style' murals.

The pictures were interesting, but the comments provided much more entertainment. First up is some well deserved civic pride:

Chris said...

Wow, those are amazing. I live close to Massillon and see these when I drive by.

This is shortly followed by more civic pride, (albeit slightly snooty pride).

Anonymous said...

How nice to see my beautiful hometown of Massillon, OH (Pronounced: MASS-LIN) on the web. The murals really are well done and very beautiful! They have also stood up to the elements very well and show little sign of wear!

Massillon is a great place to live and the murals just make it a little better!

Then comes the kicker…the comment that reminds you that you're on the internet:

Anonymous said...

Fuck Ohio!

Yay! Gotta love the trolls! However, the best thing about this comment thread is not only does it highlight the trolls, it also highlights the 'instant expert know-it-alls'. Check this comment out from a user who obviously just finished his first term at community art college:

Norm Loman said...

The painter obviously has lots of technical skill. No question there. But his subject bothers me. These pictures idealize the past. They make one nostalgic for a world that never existed... and If spectators aren't able to take the murals with a grain of salt, this amounts to sheer propaganda.

Now, if I was talking to Norm, I'd probably go into detail about how he was wrong, that very few people would be likely to treat a hundred foot mural as historically accurate and that realism wouldn't have nearly the same effect as a more idealized vision of the past. Actually that's wrong. If he came out with that statement at a dinner party, I'd just glass him in the face with my champagne flute. However, another anonymous poster puts it much better than I can:

Anonymous said...

Norm Loman is talking out of his ass.

Then, after the deep art debate we have one of the other comment thread staples…the guy using the meme that fell out of fashion months ago:

Anonymous said...

Photoshopped. The pixels are all wrong

This is what I love about the internet. You take a relatively innocuous photoset and it brings all the nutters out of the woodwork. The only thing this comment thread is missing (and this can happen with any subject)…the eventual fall into an argument about the environment, racism or whether the moon landing was real or faked.





Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Interwebs: Please Take Note:


[hi-lair-ee-uhs, -lar-, hahy-]



arousing great merriment; extremely funny: a hilarious story; a hilarious old movie.


boisterously merry or cheerful: a hilarious celebration.

Hilarious: Arousing great merriment, extremely funny. In other words, when something is hilarious you laugh out loud until your fucking sides hurt.

Unforunately, most of you seem to have 'hilarious' mixed up with 'mildy amusing' or 'not funny at all' IE: Hilarious Cat Video!!!1!!!

For my sanity (and your own safety)
can you please stop labeling everything
that you consider to be slightly amusing as 'hilarious', because it's invariably not funny, it devalues the word and it really fucking annoys me.

For example:

Lolcats = Mildly Amusing.

Jokes that started being passed around in the 80's by fax machine = Kinda funny if you've been living under a rock for thirty years.

All those annoying people who set up websites that consist of nothing but 'humorous' content they've stolen from other sites that have also stolen their content from other sites being attacked by a pack of incredibly angry gorillas = Hilarious.

Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dear Waiters…

I just read a blog post by a waiter (or server, whatever you want to call them) where he outlined the sheer amount of shit they go through.

I've worked in the service industry myself and I agreed with 99.9% of what he said. Far too many people think bossing around the waiter like a slave is part of the dining experience, or that the server is only having to wait on them.

Long story short, I can sympathize with waiters. Far too many times I've had some asshole walk up to a bar that is four people deep all the way around, wave some money at me and then get royally pissed off and snooty when I don't drop everything and serve them before the hundred or so other people who got their before them…or really freak out when I leave the bar to re-stock or switch out a keg and have them act like I've just dropped trou and shat on their shoes.

However, one thing that jumped out at me in the dude's blog was this:

"Even if the service was bad, you should always tip something.
It doesn't matter if it's only a dollar or something on a fifty dollar check, tips are how we make our living."

This is where I call shenanigans. Yes, I understand that there a plenty of people out there who want to make you jump through hoops for a lousy few bucks, who think that a 15% tip is like handing you a fistful of diamonds…but here's the thing. A tip is a voluntary gratuity for service…and if I get shit service, I ain't tipping.

Now, I need to be clear here. I understand what 'service' means. For example, I know that if my food takes ages to arrive, it's the kitchen's fault, not the servers. If my food arrives cold or not the way I ordered it, ditto. Basically, if my food arrives half an hour late, cold and with fried shrimp instead of the grilled shrimp, as long as you take it back with a smile, the tip isn't effected. Hell, I'm the kinda guy where if you spill a drink down my back by mistake, I'll laugh and tell you not to worry about it…I worked in a bar for almost five years, I know that accidents happen.

However, if I walk into a restaurant and my server is rude and acts like I've asked them to carry the One Ring into Mordor when I ask for a refill on my coke…explain to me exactly why I should give that person any money?

For example, I went to a Waffle House one morning and not only did the waitress fuck up my order, she actually argued with me when I told her she'd brought the wrong thing. Then she sat down near the line cooks at chatted away and flat out ignored me when I tried to get her attention. When I actually got up, walked across the restaurant and asked for more coffee, she rolled her eyes, tutted and said, exasperated: "In a minute." Then she went back to her conversation.

Then she had the balls to shout across the restaurant that I'd 'forgotten' to tip her when I left. I just barely managed to stop myself from telling her to fuck off.

So here's the deal. Like I said above, I've worked in the service industry and I know that a large percentage of customers are arrogant, self-centered assholes who think buying a drink and a starter makes them fucking Emperor of the Restaurant, but the truth is I've encountered a number of waiters, waitresses, bartenders and other service staff who are just as bad as the customers they serve.

Basically, I'll tip for adequate service. I'll tip well for really good service…but I sure as hell aren't going to leave you any cash if you treat me like shit.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I Cut Grass Today

This afternoon, the forecast storm never made it to our little corner of the world, so we went and bought some gas so I could try out the lawnmower.

I didn't mention in yesterday's post, but the lawnmower we bought was a 'Bolens'. It's a 158cc gas powered push-mower. If I'm completely honest, it's totally inadequate for our needs, but it's all we could afford at $160.

You see, Sunny and I live on her parent's property, about 8 acres of land. We share this property with Sunny's mom, and her brother and his wife. The amount of land that we consider 'ours' to take care of covers around an acre.

As I partially explained yesterday, when Sunny's Dad was alive, it was no problem keeping the grass cut. Sunny's parents had everything up to and including a full size tractor for yard work (they used to keep cows and chickens on the property), and Sunny's dad never turned down an offer to help keep his land looking it's best. Of course, this meant you got a half-hour safety lecture every time...but as an ex-suburban guy, I probably needed it, and he never made me feel like he was doing me a massive favor for letting me borrow a mower...because after all, it was his land I was taking care of.

Today, I don't want to get into it, but let's just say I don't appreciate being made to feel like the world's most untrustworthy person for no reason when I ask to borrow a lawnmower...especially when most of that shit comes from a person who doesn't actually own the equipment I'm asking to borrow.

Anyway, as difficult as the push mower was to put together, it actually operated a hell of a lot better than I expected. It started on the first pull of the cord, and although it ran too slowly and the engine cut out once or twice in the tall grass to begin with, once it had been running for fifteen minutes or so, the engine warmed up and it worked beautifully.

The only real problem, like I said above, is that it's not really well suited to what we need it for. I'm not sure what exact species of grass we have here, but it's the type that goes from ankle-high to waist high in less than a week once summer gets here. Forcing a heavy push-mower uphill through waist high grass, having to go slow enough that you don't choke the mower and stall the engine is not a hell of a lot of fun. I'm sure once the really tall grass is dealt with and mowing is just a matter of keeping the grass in check instead of waging war on it, things will get easier.

As I pointed out to the mower itself, and engine that was 58cc's smaller used to get me to and from work at 65 miles per hour...surely it could manage to cut some thick tall grass at about 1 mile per day.

The really good side is that for someone as out of shape as I am, pushing that mower through really tall grass is one hell of a workout. It was extremely bright and sunny today and by the time I'd done as much as I'd set out to do, my legs and arms were on fire and I'd completely drenched my T-shirt. I must have burnt a thousand calories and lost ten pounds in water-weight alone.

Hmmm, now there's an idea.

Want to lose weight fast? Need to fit into your favorite shorts by the time your vacation gets here? Come to Le Spa de Paulius! Our cellulose laceration training program helps the pounds just melt away while you help beautify a small corner of our planet! With full entertainment facilities (I'll loan you my iPod and you can watch TV for a bit when you're done) you'll be slim and trim in no time and best of all...le Spa de Paulius is completely free!!!

So come cut my grass...Uh, I mean partake of our cellulose laceration training program today!

if you act today, you also qualify for our canine-motivated sprint class (But only if Buddy takes a dislike to you and slips his collar)

I’m not good at this stuff

Yesterday I took my most definitive step into adulthood.

I bought my first lawnmower.

Yup, you really know you're not a teenager any more when you not only acknowledge the grass in front of and behind your house, you actually start to show concern about how it looks.

Actually, that's a little bit of a lie. I've always liked a well-kept lawn and I'd keep our grass manicured if I had the option. My problem is that the portion of grass on the property designated as 'ours' covers about an acre and a half, we didn't own a lawnmower…and the family members that do own one act like I'm going to deliberately destroy it if I borrow it, or run away with it and sell it for crack the minute their back's turned.

Yeah, when you borrow a riding lawnmower a couple of times, cut your own grass, their grass and return the thing in mint condition with a full tank of gas, it gets old really quick when you ask to borrow it again and they act like you're asking them to co-sign for a mortgage.

So, we decided to stretch our finances and buy our own lawnmower. Obviously, we couldn't afford one of those nice riding lawnmowers, but we could just scrape a gas powered push mower (An electric one would be less than useless).

Anyway, when we went to Lowes, we looked at the selection on offer and bought the cheapest for about a hundred and fifty bucks, but alarm bells started to ring almost immediately. Why was this one only a hundred and fifty bucks when the one at the other end of the aisle was almost six hundred. I asked Sunny as she's the 'country' half of our relationship and she looked at me wisely and said "With those, you're just paying for the name."

We got it home and Sunny forbid me from putting it together as it was her night off. Today, when she left for work, I got bored and decided to leaf through the instructions. I won't lie to you here, if putting the thing together required almost any 'real' engineering, I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole and call my stepson to do it for me. You see, my stepson is great with engines and fixing things, whereas if I start trying to build anything with the word 'engine', 'gasoline' and 'spinning blades'…let's face it, it's going to end in carnage.

The instructions were actually, for once, incredibly simple. All you really have to do is put the wheels on, adjust the handle to your preferred height and bolt it into place. I grabbed my adjustable wrench and set to work.

Now, you know how sometimes you'll handle a gadget or piece of machinery and I just oozes quality? That you can tell it was made by experts using only the absolute best of raw materials to an almost impossibly high standard?

Well, this was the opposite of that.

Putting the wheels on consisted of pushing a long bolt through a plastic wheel, slipping on a washer, threading the bolt through the body of the mower and fastening it in place with a nut on the other side. This should have been simple, but the holes in the mower's casing were just slightly too small for the bolt, meaning it took forever to convince them to go through. The back wheels wouldn't go on at all because the bolt has to go through the mower body and the plate where the handle fits to the main chassis…and that plate had been bolted into place with the holes just slightly out of alignment…and the bolts were so tight that they were impossible to remove without shearing the bolt or rounding the head. I had to go at it with a hammer to get the holes to line up, which made mincemeat out of the paintwork.

Also, you needed the forearm strength of a gorilla to adjust the handle.

Basically, by the time I'd gotten four wheels on and attached the handle, an hour had passed, I was drenched with sweat and my forearms felt like they were on fire. Then I discovered something interesting. While the instructions claim that the mower has 'three different cutting positions', changing between them requires taking all the wheels off and putting them back on again using different holes!

Yeah, whatever cutting height it's at now, it's staying that way.

Anyway, it's put together, filled with oil and just needs to be gassed up in order to be ready to go. I hope it's easier to cut grass with the thing than it is to put together, although the way it's gone so far, I'm likely to pull the starter and end up with half my fingers gone and a blade embedded in my head.

Wish me luck.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Day The Movie Sucked…

Sunny and I watched the remake of 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' last night, and I can honestly say I've never seen a remake that was less true to the original. In fact, when the movie ended I couldn't help but wonder if they deliberately tried to destroy and pervert the message of the first film. It was like the writer of the original personally wronged the writer of the remake in some way.

The first movie is about how humankind is so quick to jump to violence, so slow to trust and so self-destructive.

The human race discovers that we're not alone and greet the first representative of an alien race by shooting him the second he steps off his ship. We refuse to listen to the message he arrived to give us… and then we hunt down and kill this intelligent, advanced being who has shown himself to be completely harmless and benign. It's an alien offering the secrets of the cosmos and we want to kill him for it.

For me, this is an incredibly powerful message. It's an indictment of the human race that shows that we're literally killing ourselves and holding ourselves back because we're so small-minded and quick to lash out. In the 1950's and even today, that message has special importance. The message is simple:

We're killing ourselves…change or die.

The new movie completely ignores all of that and instead is almost a perfect example of what the first movie was arguing against.

In the remake Klatu is little more than a stereotypical invading alien. Apparently there are only a few planets that are capable of supporting complex life and we're killing our planet, so Klatu is here to save planet Earth from the human race.

So we start with a wishy-washy environmental message that isn't even plausible. We could pump so much carbon into the air that we choke to death, launch every nuke on the planet at each other… and we'd die, but in a few hundred thousand years, which is nothing more than a couple of seconds in a planet's life cycle, we'd be fossils and the planet would be thriving.

The rest of the movie is about trying to stop the alien destroying the planet, with the government trying to capture and kill him and a handful of people trying to convince him not to.

The movie ends with Klatu seeing that there's hope for the human race after all and saving us.

How's that for a message? We're destructive, murderous and untrusting…but we're also special and worth saving.

Is anyone else actually pissed off at this?

You take a classic movie with an important message and turn it into a piece of absolute garbage in which the human race is as monstrous as ever, but still has a happy ending and a message about how special.

Bullshit, plain and simple.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Rebuttal

Sunny wrote a post recently about how a few of her work friends decided to give themselves makeovers, which resulted in a few jealous boyfriends and husbands thinking they were having affairs.

My response when Sunny told me this was "Well, you can't really blame them." Then Sunny looked at me like I'd grown an extra head and instantly went to the question "So, if I suddenly started getting more dressed up to go to work, would you assume I was having an affair?"

We had a discussion about how men's minds work differently to women's but after thinking about it, I'm not even sure that's true, so let me make my case for the men:

Here's essentially what happens. You and your group of friends get together and for whatever reason, decide to get in shape and start taking better care of yourselves. Maybe one of your friends went on a spectacular diet and inspired you, or maybe you all watched the same episode of Celebrity Fit Club or The Biggest Loser and decided that if those people could get in shape, so could you. Everyone wants to look better, so you and your friends form an impromptu 'support group'.

Here's the first point. You don't bother telling your significant other any of this. Why would you? It's just one of a million things that people do on a regular basis that they don't feel the need to tell your partner about. So you start taking better care of yourself, spending more time grooming and because you can see a difference as you lose weight and get a new hairstyle, you start feeling good about yourself.

Now think about what your husband is seeing with none of the prior knowledge that you have:

You've spent years getting up in the morning, just tying your hair into a pony tail, not bothering with makeup or perfume, throwing on some clothes and heading to work.

Suddenly, you're getting up in the morning, spending some real time styling your hair, putting on makeup, wearing perfume, buying new clothes and because you're feeling good about yourself, you have a whole new spring in your step and walk through the door with a huge smile on your face.

Your significant other has one question. Why? Why are you suddenly making yourself more attractive and why are you bouncing out the door in the morning when you used to jus barely drag yourself over the threshold. What exactly has changed?

Then we come to the biggest problem.

I have no idea why, (although I have some theories), but when your significant other asks why you're suddenly going to all this effort, you never tell him. You give answers like "I just feel like it". So, from your significant other's point of view, you're going to a lot more effort to make yourself as attractive as possible and being evasive about it when your boyfriend or husband asks why.

Maybe you're mad it took him so long to notice. Maybe the reason you're going to all that effort is because he hasn't commented on how beautiful you are in a while. Whatever the reason, you avoid the question.

Here's the thing, you put yourself 'in the right' because you're not really hiding anything and you're not doing anything wrong, and because you're in the right and your husband is being a jealous, untrusting asshole, you don't clear anything up or explain why you've given yourself a makeover. You keep being evasive and secretive which just adds more fuel to the fire.

For example, your husband might have got sprayed with perfume because he went to the mall for his lunch and the perfume counter lady had really bad aim. It might have been his boss' birthday at work and he got glitter stuck to his skin and clothes from the card he signed. The guy at the gas station might have only had singles for change when he topped off his tank with a fifty…but what are you going to think when he arrives home smelling of perfume, covered in glitter and has thirty bucks in singles in his wallet? What are you going to think when you ask him about it, and peeved because you 'don't trust him', he refuses to tell you anything?

Now here's the deal, if your husband or boyfriend asked why you were going to all that effort and you said "Me and the girls at work have all decided to get in shape and give ourselves makeovers for summer." Or "I was just feeling a little down and getting a little dressed up makes me feel good." That would be the start and end of the issue.

You see, no husband will ever get annoyed or upset at his wife or girlfriend making herself more attractive. What we don't like is the idea that you're making yourself attractive for someone else.

The other big stumbling block is that men tend not to change their appearance just to feel good about themselves. When a man starts putting a lot of effort into his appearance, he's trying to impress someone. Women are pretty much the only reason that men shave. If every female on the planet vanished tomorrow, we'd all look like ZZ Top within a few years.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

This is Why I Love Sci-Fi

As a card carrying geek, I'm almost ashamed to admit that I read Ender's Game for the first time a few days ago. Apparently, reading Ender's Game is a Geek right of passage, right up there with writing your first text-adventure in BASIC, getting picked last for any team and arguing Kirk vs. Picard.

Anyway, better late than never, I read it and I liked it. I don't exactly like all of Card's politics, but when taken just as a story, Ender's Game is entertaining, interesting and asks some fairly deep philosophical questions.

However, one of the things I absolutely adore about 'vintage' sci-fi (by my definition, any sci fi over 15 years old is 'vintage') are the predictions of the future. Sometimes these predictions are scarily accurate, others are just plain wrong, some are hopelessly naïve and others are just slightly skewed.

For example, Ender's Game very accurately predicted wireless laptops (in the book they're known as simply as 'desks'), but Card's vision of what wireless internet technology would mean was comically naïve.

One of my favorite bits of the book is when Peter and Valentine, Ender's genius siblings, decide to take advantage of the current political situation to try and take over the world. How do they do it?

Blogging and posting to forums.

Of course, in the book it's not referred to as blogging, the two kids adopt fake personas and post articles to forums which are then picked up by the 'news nets'. It's unintentionally really funny because Peter talks about his plan like a true evil genius, that no-one would ever think about pretending to be someone else on the internet. The bigger misunderstanding is that it's possible to convince anyone of anything that they don't want to believe.

Had Ender's Game taken place in real life 2009, Peter Wiggins' master-plan would have ended right after he wrote his first blog post. He'd have written a long, well thought out article on the political climate and instead of people thinking "Hey, this guy's making a lot of sense, let's listen to him!" It would have ended with a fourteen year old kid responding with 'OMG! U R A F4GG0T!'

If you haven't read Ender's Game, I'd recommend it. It's one of those books that a twelve year old would enjoy as a 'cool adventure story' while adults can enjoy it for the questions it raises.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Soapbox Time

You know what? I'm all for government and laws.

You see, I understand that in order to function as a society we can't all just do what we want. I understand why there's a law that says I can't drive at a hundred and fifty miles an hour through a school zone, I understand why I'm not allowed to hit a random stranger over the head with a rock and take his stuff…hell, I even understand why we have to pay taxes.

What I don't like are 'moral' laws. Laws that aren't in place for everyone's safety and protection, but are in place because one group of people don't like something and think they have the right to tell everyone else to live their lives.

Let's talk about gay marriage for a moment, shall we?

Firstly, here's the part people seem to miss about this issue. I've heard a ton of people just say "What's the difference? It's just a ceremony. Why don't they just live together?" Well, unfortunately, it isn't 'just a ceremony'. Marriage formalizes a relationship and establishes your partner as next of kin. I want you to think about that for a second. Imagine getting involved with someone and spending your entire life with them.

Now imagine that person dying and discovering you have zero say in how they are buried, what happens to their possessions, the home you lived in…and then you find that their death benefits and life insurance go to your partner's brother or sister instead of you.

The thing that really pisses me off about this isn't the actual law…but the reasons behind it. My favorite one is the idea that by allowing gay people to marry we'll 'destroy the sanctity of marriage'.

Excuse me?

We live in a country where over half of all marriages end in divorce. You can go to Vegas be married by an Elvis impersonator to someone you've only just met without ever leaving your car. There are 'dating' services set up for the sole purpose of helping married people have affairs…and then we have celebrities like Britney Spears whose marriages literally don't last the weekend.

Exactly what are we protecting here? I hate to say it, but we don't have to worry about 'the gays' destroying the sanctity of marriage because we straight folk have done a pretty good job of doing that ourselves.

However, the one reason I hear a lot that really sets my teeth on edge is this one:

"If we allow gay marriage in this country, that's as good as condoning it."

You know what? Fuck you. Fuck you and your ridiculously archaic world view. Who said that in order for something to happen, you have to give your pious, holier-than-thou stamp of approval? Who says you get to tell anyone what to do?

We get it, you disapprove, but your disapproval doesn't automatically make it law.

For me, the gay marriage issue is simple because it's mostly a religious issue…and in this country we're supposed to have separation of church and state.

All these people want is to stand up in front of their friends and declare their love for each other, while getting legal recognition of their relationship. On that level, God doesn't enter into it. So, to all you religious nutcases, feel free to live in the dark ages and refuse to allow same-sex couples to get married in your church…but just because you feel that same sex marriage doesn't belong in your church doesn't mean same sex couples don't belong in their local registrar's office.





Saturday, May 02, 2009

Name That Cat

We're still no closer to a name and every time I come up with one I really like, Sunny hates it and Vice-Versa.

I like 'Radar' because his ears are constantly moving at any sound and I think is sounds cute…Sunny hates it.

Sunny likes 'Oreo' because he's black and white…and I hate it.

The only one we've come close to agreeing on is 'Twitch' because his tail is always twitching…but it just doesn't feel right when I say it.

So, I'm putting it out there to blogland…any ideas?

Friday, May 01, 2009

There's a rather awesome VG Cats comic this week that's an homage to Stephen Colbert's 'The Word'

The word for this comic? Gamers.

The funny thing is that less than a year ago, this comic summed up my feelings exactly. That we 'true' gamers spent decades being made fun of for our love of gaming then suddenly gaming becomes all fashionable and mainstream… and the next thing we know, people who've never held a controller in their lives are paying movie stars (who've also never held a controller in their lives) to give made up awards to the makers of crappy derivative games.

Ok, if I'm honest, that bit still needles me a little. Watching someone like Samuel L. Jackson giving Halo an award for originality gives me a little twinge…One, because Halo isn't original, the first one was mediocre to say the least…and how exactly are the producers at Spike TV qualified to hand out awards?

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't have any real interest in 'gamer elitism' any more. Sure, I still find it annoying when a clueless celebrity goes on TV and claims Halo was 'groundbreaking', but I think that's understandable. I had the same reaction when I heard a teenage kid claim that Lord of the Rings 'totally ripped off Harry Potter'. It's just a reaction to someone clueless claiming to be an authority on something I care about.

However, the idea of looking down my nose at someone just because they cut their teeth on a Nintendo DS just doesn't sit right any more. I mean, during an online Halo session I had some idiot teen trying to tell me he was 'more of a gamer' than I was because he'd looked at my gamer-tag and saw that he had a higher gamer score than me. At the time I laughed my ass off and pointed out that I was playing games before he was born, and the fact he bought a 360 before I did and had bought more games for it did not make him 'more of a gamer'. Now, I have to ask the question…does it really matter?

I call myself a 'gamer' because I enjoy playing games. Winning and losing is secondary because the fun of the experience is why I play. I couldn't care less about my win-loss record in online Gears, I couldn't care less about my 'Gamer Score'. Gaming is something I do for fun and I don't feel the need to define myself by my hobby, or prove I somehow rank higher than another person who has the same hobby I do.

The thing is, I can't work out whether this is just me finally growing up and being 'mature', or whether it's the exact opposite and I feel this way these young whippersnappers and posers have turned the gaming community into something I don't want to be a part of any more.

On the one hand, I'd like to believe I'm finally getting a soupcon of maturity at 28…but part of me believes that it's more to do with the kids who spend ten hours at a stretch doing the same thing over and over so they can get that last achievement and prove they are 'Teh Hardcorez', or go online, not to have fun, but just to beat people.

In fact, I think I've just worked out exactly why it is.

VG Cats makes the case that by going mainstream, gaming has 'softened' and everything's too easy and based around marketing to kids who not only play Halo, but also want the Halo hoodie, sports drink and lunchbox. I claim the opposite is true.

Basically, I feel that the gaming community has joined the mainstream and has moved away from its 'fun for fun's sake' roots and has switched to the same hyper-competitive, win-at-all-costs mentality that turned me away from sports and towards gaming in the first place.

When my friends and I used to get online for a bit of multiplayer Doom or Duke Nukem 3D, we did it because it was extremely cool and insanely fun. We enjoyed the experience, and when someone snapped off a last minute, desperate grenade launcher shot, bounced it off a wall and took out the entire opposing team, we laughed our asses off…we didn't scream racial epithets.

Don't get me wrong. Winning is a lot of fun, but when winning is the only reason you play, you might as well put down your game with it's awesome story, beautiful environments and innovative gameplay mechanics and pull out a deck of cards and play snap.

In closing, let me use my missus as an example. Sunny loves playing Zelda, but she has little interest in the actual story or going on quests. She just likes the fishing mini-game. She doesn't go and fight monsters and progress the story because that's not as much fun to her as the fishing. At first, I laughed at her about doing that…but then I realized that she was playing a game for fun and was simply refusing to play the parts that weren't fun to her.

Having just spent an hour that morning trying to beat a particularly difficult and frustrating boss (and having no fun at all while doing so), after watching Sunny play for the sheer fun of it, I couldn't help but feel a little like a monkey pulling a lever. I was spending time on something that wasn't fun because that's what you're supposed to do.

In that context, how can I claim that I am 'more of a gamer' than Sunny? Sure, I play a hell of a lot more games and I'm better at beating them…but given that the main purpose of gaming is to have fun, who really is the 'better gamer'?