Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fun with a Boomstick and Jerry Seinfeld (With Pictures!)

A few weeks ago I was looking for a skeet shooting club online when I stumbled across a forum post where some scary survivalist types where having a blazing row about the use of birdshot for self defense.

"It's useless." One camp said. "You shoot someone with birdshot and they'll just laugh at you!"

Said the other. "At close range it'll incapacitate anyone."

"In other news..."
said an uninterested third party "...a Katana can cut through a Humvee and cable boxes scan your brain."

I decided only one person could solve this argument once and for all. However, Spider-Man wasn't available, so I decided to have a crack at it.

My first idea was to pull out my calculator and pocket protector and work out the physics, taking into account mass, velocity and each individual pellet's ballistic coefficient to work out a No. 8 birdshot shell's 'stopping power'.

I hen realised that would be really boring and decided to take my shotgun outside and shoot at stuff (In a safe a responsible manner, of course.)

(Seriously, don't dick around with firearms.)

Ok, so we already know that 00 Buckshot is effing powerful. It's not quite 'blast a charging man 20 feet into the air' movie powerful...but it's designed to take down deer and can reduce a concrete cinderblock to dust in a single shot. We already know that it could easily take down an intruder/terrorist/zombie, so i decided to test No. 8 birdshot.

Now the pellets in a birdshot shogun shell are tiny. As in about a milimeter across tiny. Their lack of weight means they're going to slow down and lose their energy pretty damn quickly, but my hypothesis was that wouldn't really matter if you were 'up close and personal' with Osama Bin Laden. After all, they may be small, but getting hit by over 400 of them traveling at over 1200 feet per second is probably going to smart a bit.

However, the first thing I needed was a 'terrorist analogue' something to stand if for a crazed suicide bomber who has inexplicably tried to break into my house at 2am.

After long and careful thought I decided on the hard back version of 'Sein Language' by Jerry Seinfeld. This was because:

a) It's relative density would give me an idea of penetrative power.
b) It would give me a fairly accurate idea of wound size.
c) It's a fucking awful book.
d) No, seriously, it's really, really bad.

So I set up me terrorist zombie stand in against a safe backdrop and loaded an 'Estate' brand 'Game and Target' No. 8 Birshot load into my Mossberg 500. I decided to shoot from about 15 feet back from the target...a likely distance if you're shooting a zombie that's made it past your improvised barricade and into your house.

I expected to see a lot of surface damage, but didn't expect any of the pellets to get all the way through. I didn't think they had the necessary mass to make it through 200 tightly packed pages and Jerry Seinfeld's shitty 'jokes'.

I think the results speak for themselves:

As you can see, the shot made a 2"-3" hole in the front of the book and just removed over half of the back of the book.

So, after this incredibly scientific and exhaustive testing I think we can be sure of the result:

At around 15 feet away, if you shoot a zombie/intruder/terrorist (or even an intruding terrorist who is a zombie, it's highly unlikely he'll laugh at you. He's far more likely to say "AAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!! Half my FUCKING FACE is GONE! OWWWWWWWWW!!!!"

Result: No. 8 birdshot is a pretty damn useful defense round at close range.

Oh, and a lot of people you'll meet on forums are usually full of shit.

“It’s for you.”

Yesterday, I was standing in line at the gas station when one of those assholes walked in. You know the type. The guy who talks too loudly, constantly cracks bad jokes and thinks he's just hilarious…despite the fact he's just really, really annoying. The guy everyone avoids eye-contact with when they see him coming. He thinks he's the life of the party…while everyone else is having angry, whispered conversations about which fucking idiot invited him to the party in the first place.

When I got to the front of the line and started to pay for my diet Dr. Pepper, I heard the asshole's voice from behind me say "Who? The guy in the blue shirt?"

My Spider-sense started tingling. I was wearing a blue shirt. The voice spoke again "Yeah, he's standing right in front of me."

So I turned, wondering who the hell this guy was talking to, and saw he was holding a banana to his ear like a phone. "It's for you." He said, holding it out to me.

Wow, asshole. I thought. The old 'banana as a phone' joke…you honestly think that's funny?

So I reached out, took the bananat from him, put it to my ear and said "Hello?...Yeah… I know. I don't think he's funny either. Someone should really let him know that he's not funny and everyone thinks he's a loud, annoying annoying twat and not the 'comedian' he thinks he is….Do you want to tell him or shall I?...Ok." Then I handed the phone back and said: "Here, he's got something to tell you."

Actually…I just gave a half laugh and turned my back on the guy. I thought of the above just as I got to the car.

Damn I wish I was a little bit quicker, because that shit would have been hilarious.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stoopid Blood-sugar

Before I found out I was diabetic, I'd eat maybe once or twice a day, tops.

I hadn't eaten breakfast since I was about 10, and I'd just get up, eat one normal sized meal seven or eight hours later and maybe have a snack later on.

You can't do that with diabetes. I have to take my meds twice a day, once with breakfast and once with dinner. I also have to eat lunch because on my meds my blood sugar plummets if I don't (letting your blood sugar get down to 50 isn't a pleasant experience, trust me).

At first I could barely handle it. I never felt like eating in the mornings, and to eat breakfast at 9am and be eating lunch just four hours later…and then dinner about five hours after that, I just didn't understand how people could eat that much food that often. I was absolutely miserable. I never actually felt hungry because my body didn't get a chance to, so I was forcing down this food that I just didn't want to eat.

Now, those were the good old days.

My body has adapted to this new regimen and now I feel like I'm always hungry. I eat breakfast at 9am and by 11am I'm counting down until lunch. Within an hour of finishing lunch I want dinner. This isn't just "I could eat" hunger, I feel the same way two hours after eating that I used to feel if I didn't eat for 24 hours or more. The worst part is that I have to carefully plan and monitor what I eat. I can't just snack because if I make a quick sandwich mid afternoon, that raises my blood sugar which means it's high before I eat dinner which means it's really high after dinner and I get to spend the rest of the day feeling like crap.

Basically I'm used to eating when I'm hungry, not having to force myself to eat when I really don't feel like it and not being able to eat when I feel like I'm starving.

Oh well, on the upside, cutting out all the sugar in my diet has started to show in my waistline, so I may be miserable, but at least I'm sexy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

One of the things I've always wanted to try ever since seeing it demonstrated at a country fair when I was about five is skeet shooting.

Now that I actually own a shotgun, I found myself thinking "Why Not?"

Unfortunately, shotguns come in all shapes and sizes and I had no idea if my Mossberg would work for shooting skeet. You see, my shotgun is essentially a riot gun. A short 20" barrel with no choke whatsoever. It's a shotgun designed for defense, meaning it's set up to hit a man-sized target at no further than 25-30 yards. There's no point going to a shotgun range and shooting at skeet if the shot is going to have spread out too much by the time it gets to the clay.

I did a lot of research and found myself more confused than ever. In the end I bit the bullet and registered for a shooting forum and just asked whether my shotgun set up the way it is would be any use for a beginner wanting to try out the sport.

I'll be completely honest and say that I didn't expect much.

You see, over my lifetime I've joined probably well over a hundred forums on various topics from computers to antique books. Every single time I've asked a question I've gotten one or more of the following replies:

  1. A reponse basically laughing at me for asking such a 'stupid' question.
  2. A flame telling me to use the search function, despite the fact I spent an hour doing just that and didn't find anything.
  3. A 'my dick's bigger than your dick' response (OMG, you're running an X100? ROFL Get a real doohickey like my X9000, it only costs infinity dollars).
  4. Some anal retentive asshole telling me my post should be in a different forum, because my question about Shakespeare should be in Old English Playwrights, not Old English Authors or Old English Writers.
  5. Multiple responses from idiots who have no clue what they're talking about and only write posts because everyone in their real lives learned to ignore them long ago. (A Katana can cut through a freaking tank, I saw it on Inuyasha!)
  6. A response from the local drama queen who takes every single post, no matter how simple and innocuous they are, and claims they're racist, sexist, ageist or a personal attack on him or her.

Anyway, I went to the forums, put in my question, said I understood that my Mossberg isn't the perfect skeet gun, or even a very good skeet gun. I just asked whether it would 'do' for a newbie wanting to try out skeet shooting to see if I like it before spending any real money on a good skeet gun.

A day later I braced myself and logged back in.

I was honestly shocked. I'd gotten six responses and they were all intelligently written, polite, informative and useful.

Aren't hunters and gun owners supposed to be violent redneck racists? It honestly makes me laugh a little that a group of people who are so vilified by so many people are polite and helpful, when so many other groups that are supposed to be intelligent and open minded turn everything into a pissing contest.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Toothpaste Trick

Yesterday afternoon I was playing a game on the Xbox when Sunny, that most graceful of creatures, walked past and accidentally kicked the console over. (The shelf in the entertainment center has zero airflow so to prevent overheating I put the 360 on the floor in front of the entertainment center when I use it).

The console made a noise like it was in pain, and fearing the worst, I stopped my game and took out the disc. There were three separate circular scratches on the surface of the disc…deep scratches. The surface of the disc had obviously had come into contact with part of the drive while spinning at full speed. I put the disc back in the console and, sure enough, I got a read error.

I took the disc out and cleaned it, but it was no use. After ten or more attempts to get the disc to read, the scratches were simply too severe. It was sixty bucks down the drain.

It was then I remembered a trick someone told me about it college. Put some toothpaste on the surface of the disc and buff it with a cloth for a few minutes. This made sense, after all toothpaste is a very mild abrasive…and I figured I had nothing to lose. The disc was already a coaster, the worst that could happen would be that I'd end up with a coaster that smelled minty fresh.

So I grabbed the toothpaste from the bathroom, put on about as much as I brush my teeth with and started buffing. I didn't hold out much hope, the scratches were deep and wide and looked almost opaque instead of clear and shiny like. About five minutes later I finished buffing, rinsed off the excess toothpaste…and looked at the surface of a disc that looked like it had been dragged behind a car. It looked much, much worse. I figured all I'd done was scuff up the rest of the disc to match the scratched portion.

Rather than throw the disc in the trash, I decided to give it one more try, even though I was certain I'd ruined it. So I put it in the console, started it up…and the disc read fine the first time. I played the game completely through from beginning to end with zero problems.

So who knew? The Toothpaste Trick actually works. As badly damaged as my disc was, as long as the scratch isn't clear through the plastic, I'd give it a 90% chance of fixing just about any scratched up disc.

Home Defense

Ok, this is going to be a bit of a weird post. I'm going to talk about firearms in a home defense capacity, so before I begin I'd like to clear a few things up:

It's really hard to write a post like this without sounding like one of those survivalist nutcases who talk and act like Al-Queda are planning to personally take them out. The truth is that despite the fact I own both a shotgun and pistol, I honestly don't expect to ever have to use them in self defense. I own them primarily because I love target shooing…and having a weapon for home defense is like carrying a condom. It's better to have it and not need it that need it and not have it.

Long story short, we don't expect our homes to burst into flames either, but we still install smoke detectors. Yes, we can always call the police, but if a crackhead does kick your door down at 3am, he can do an awful lot of damage in the ten minutes it takes the police to arrive.


Today I want to talk primarily about shotguns because after having a look around online, there are a few myths that people are taking as fact.

The first is the idea that a shogun doesn't have to be aimed. Thanks to the movies, people have got it into their heads that you just point a shotgun in the bad guy's general direction, and not only will it blast him off his feet, it'll take out the two other bad guys standing next to him.


Let's assume you're shooting 00 Buckshot, probably the most popular home defense shotgun round. At around ten yards from a unchoked shotgun, each pellet is going to hit inside an approximately 6" circle. If you pull out a ruler and see exactly how big that is, you'll see it's not just possible to miss, it's easy to miss if you just point and shoot.

The real advantage of a shotgun isn't that multiple projectiles make your target easier to hit, It's the immense 'stopping power' of multiple projectiles. Basically, a 00 buck shell delivers the same force in a single shot as a nine round burst from a 9mm SMG.

Basically, a shotgun, just like any other weapon, has to be carefully aimed for home defense purposes. Shooting at skeet with birdshot at 30 yards (where the shot will spread out over a much wider area) is completely different to firing buckshot at indoor self-defense distances.

The second myth is about ammo selection.

The first fallacy seems to be that 'bigger is always better', whether we're talking about shoguns, pistols or rifles.

For the most part it's true that the bigger the projectile the more damage will be done to the target, but from a home defense standpoint, this isn't always the most important aspect of your choice of weapon and ammo.

Firstly, choice of ammo comes down to a trade-off between stopping power and controllability. If you're a tiny 80 year old grandma, a .357 Magnum is only going to be of use if your objective is to knock yourself out with the barrel of your own weapon. On the other hand, a .22 pistol can be fired easily by a four year old, but that weapon has almost zero stopping power and unless you're very, very lucky, it's more likely to just anger your attacker than stopping him.

Secondly, for a home defense scenario, there are other factors to consider. For example, if you live in an apartment building, shooting a large caliber rifle or pistol round could easily go through a wall and into a neighbor's bedroom. Firing a large caliber weapon indoors (especially if you've just been awoken by an attacker) is going to have the same effect as a flashbang grenade, disorientating you.

For a pistol or rifle, there's not much choice once you've bought the weapon (for the record, my recommendation is a 9mm semi-auto loaded with hollow points. At close range, the 9mm has plenty of stopping power and is also easily controllable for most people) With shotguns, however, things are a little different.

With a shotgun you have possibly hundreds of different choices from basic buckshot and birdshot to 'exotic' rounds like flechette or explosive rounds.

My advice is to stay away from exotic shotgun ammunition. Not only are they sometimes ridiculously expensive, they can also be extremely dangerous and unpredictable. You want to point your gun at your attacker, pull the trigger and knock him down... not worry about your 'Dragon's Breath' ammo setting the house alight. Plus, the expense makes them impractical to practice with…and practicing with your home defense weapon is the most important thing you can do. There's no point owning a weapon if you don' know how to use it and use it well.

I would also advise against the use of deer slugs unless nothing else is available. At indoor ranges they're almost certainly going to over penetrate and the massive recoil isn't desirable either.

The main argument when it comes to shotgun ammunition for self defense comes down mainly to buckshot versus birdshot.

The main argument for birdshot is that it tends to spread further than buckshot, making it easier to hit your target. The recoil is easier to control and the pellets are unlikely to 'over-penetrate' through walls and doors putting neighbors and family members in danger. The main argument for buckshot is simply its immense stopping power.

Here's the part I think most people get confused about: Stopping power and killing power are two entirely different things. Don't get me wrong, in a home defense situation you should be absolutely willing to kill your assailant. It's one of the first rules of self defense: Don't draw a weapon unless you're willing to use it. Drawing a weapon just to scare an assailant is an excellent way to get it taken from you and used against you. It's not a nice thought, but if someone breaks into your house in the middle of the night armed with a weapon, they're highly unlikely to be as concerned about the value of human life as you are.

Now, a standard 'sport' load for your shotgun (say No. 8 birdshot) is unlikely to penetrate enough to be fatal, but the aim is to incapacitate your assailant, to remove his ability to harm you, not necessarily to kill him.

As I mentioned above, if an armed intruder breaks into my home, his welfare is not going to be on the top of my list of priorities. If I have a choice, I'm loading my shotgun with buckshot and aiming for his center mass. However, a load of No.8 buckshot delivered to the chest or face is more likely to leave that intruder alive, but very unhappy and in need of urgent medical attention. No. 8 shot to the face is possibly fatal, and will almost certainly blind your attacker and put him on the floor. Also, if the first shot doesn't incapacitate him, you have at least three more in the tube.

Basically, for me, Buckshot will always be the 'round of choice' for home defense, but birdshot is not a useless round for self defense at ten yards or under.

Lastly, I read a bit of an old chestnut about the sound of a shotgun being cocked being likely to scare off an attacker. Some people believe this almost as guaranteed fact, and other people think it's just a really stupid way to let your attacker know exactly where you are.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

There is definitely a real psychological effect on the people at both ends of the shotgun. A shotgun, with its relatively huge barrel and muzzle, is terrifying for the person it's pointed at and does a lot for the bravery of the person looking down it. However, the strength of that effect depends entirely on who your assailant is.

If your intruder is an unarmed teenager who broke into your house on a dare, the sound of you cocking your shotgun or the sight of you aiming it at him is likely to make him shit in his pants and do whatever you say…or run like hell. On the other hand, if your intruder is an armed crackhead who's high as a kite, just pointing your weapon at him will probably have zero effect.

It all comes back to what I said earlier. Never draw a weapon unless you're willing to use it. In the vast majority of cases an unarmed assailant will surrender or run from an armed home owner…but in case they're armed and don't run…you have to be willing to shoot.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why don’t you just STFU?

Since discovering I have diabetes, and taking the necessary lifestyle changes that go with it, I've noticed a resurgence in that particular personality type that really fucking annoys me.

I'm talking about the people who insist that every change you make isn't good enough and is 'The worst thing you can do!'

For example, when I decided to quit smoking I switched from my regular cigarettes to lights and tried to cut back. Cue the assholes:

"What? You're smoking Lights? Those are the WORST things you can smoke!"

"You know you smoke those harder because they don't have the same amount of nicotine and that does you a hundred times more damage, right?"

"Oh, if you smoke those, you just smoke more."

You know what? When I want your opinion I'll ask for it. I just figured that as I was quitting anyway, getting used to less nicotine first might help. Even if I was completely and totally wrong, I'd smoked regular cigarettes for over a decade, I'm sure smoking lights for a month or so before quitting, even if they are 'the worst things you can smoke', isn't going to matter much in the long run.

Well, the same thing has started again, only this time it's with diet and sugar-free products. People seem to be falling over themselves to tell me how bad everything is for me…and for the life of me, I don't remember asking them for their motherfucking opinion.

"Diet soda? that's FULL of Aspertame! That's the WORST THING FOR YOU!"

No. Wrong. You know what the WORST THING for me is? Regular fucking soda. You see, drinking regular soda will cause me to go blind, fall into a coma and die. Diet soda just contains Aspertame, which at worst can be described as a 'little sketchy' and chugging an entire two liter bottle will make my blood sugar rise by about two points instead of the two hundred a single can of regular coke will do.

But you know what really pisses me off? That part that really makes me want to introduce the sole of my shoe to these people's faces? Most of the time this subject comes up when I'm eating or drinking, and there's nothing quite like being told how bad everything is for me and how I'm doing everything wrong by an overweight asshole chomping on fast food while drinking a 128oz regular soda. When I was quitting smoking, you wouldn't believe the number of people who told me I was going about quitting the entirely wrong way with a cigarette hanging out the corner of their mouths

Having 'quit' smoking five or six times in the past doesn't make you an expert on the subject, it just shows you're really, really shit at quitting smoking. I tried to quit smoking once and haven't smoked in almost a year…I guess my way, which was the 'totally wrong way' worked after all.

Here's the deal. I get my information on Diabetes from the American Diabetes Association. I get my information on what I can and can't eat from docor-approved meal plans. They know more than you. I know more than you. Keep your stupid, retarded opinions to yourself. Above all, don't try and lecture me on healthy living when you're eating your fifth Big Mac. Go for a run and eat a green salad before you decide to lecture me on the small diet soda I'm drinking.

Winchester Limbsaver Recoil Pads

Recently Sunny and I bought our first shotgun (a Mossberg 500 12 gauge if you're interested). The shotgun itself is awesome, but what I'd like to review is the Winchester Limbsaver recoil pad we bought today.

Up until now, my primary shooting interest has been small-caliber rifles. A .22 rifle can be pin-point accurate, cheap as chips to shoot (500 rounds for about twenty dollars) and because a .22 long rifle cartridge has no significant kick, you can shoot them all day with no problems.

A 12 gauge shotgun is just a little bit different. Load one with 00 Buckshot and even a big, heavy gun can kick like a mule. I'll be completely honest and say that the first times I fired my shotgun, just six rounds of number 8 birdshot was enough to leave me feeling a little sore the next day. Scale that up to buckshot and it's just a few rounds before you're done.

When I bought the recoil pad I was a little dubious about the claim on the box that said it can reduce up to 70% recoil…but after trying it out, I'm a believer. I don't know about 70%, but it definitely made the gun a hell of a lot more comfortable to shoot.

Installation is easy in that there's really no 'installation'. You simply stretch the rubberized pad over the end of your rifle or shotgun's stock. The pads come in three sizes, but luckily the back of the packaging has a list of every major gun and rifle that size of pad it will fit. It was a tight fit with my Mossberg, not so tight I had trouble getting it on, but it was definitely tight enough that you don't have to worry about it falling off.

After shooting a few shells I can honestly say there was a significant difference.

Starting with No.8 birdshot, the difference was amazing. No.8 doesn't exactly 'kick' without a pad, but considering you might fire fifty or more of them in a day's skeet shooting, it adds up. Without a pad, six shots was enough to make me 'feel it', with the pad I honestly feel I could shoot them all day. It doesn't exactly turn your 12 gauge into a .22…but it makes it almost as comfortable to shoot.

Stepping it up to 00 buck I was even more impressed. The first time I ever fired 00 buck, I didn't pull the shotgun into my shoulder quite enough and ended up with a really sore shoulder and a bruise that took over a week to fade. Even when holding the shotgun properly, 00 buck is not a round you fire for fun. With the recoil pad, it makes the 00 buck feel slightly softer than the No.8 without the pad.

It's a little hard to explain, because the pad doesn't 'eliminate' recoil exactly. The best way I can describe it is that it's the difference between a punch and a push. Without the pad firing buckshot is like a punch in the shoulder. With the pad it's like a flat-handed push with slightly less force. However, whatever way you look at it, it's a lot more comfortable. Previously, two or three rounds of buckshot and I was done for the day. With the recoil pad I could easily fire ten or twenty before any real fatigue would set in.

Basically, if you own a shotgun or hunting rifle I don't understand why anyone would not own one of these. At around twenty bucks they're as cheap as they are effective. Personally, I don't ever want to fire a shotgun without one again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

1 Vs. 100

Ok, let me start this post by saying 1 vs. 100 on xbox live is absolutely awesome. It's totally free if you have a gold account and if you haven't tried it yet, I suggest you go do so, right now.

Oh, but make sure you play a live show first, there's two every weekend.

Here's how it works. It's a massively multiplayer quiz game that works just like a quiz show. One player is selected at random to be 'The One', a hundred others are selected to play in the mob and everyone else plays from the crowd.

Basically, the one plays against the mob. A question gets asked and everyone who gets it wrong gets eliminated. The more players The One can eliminate from the mob, the bigger the prize. After each question The One decides whether to take the winnings and run, or go on to another round. If The One gets a question wrong, he gets eliminated, wins nothing and the prize money gets split between the remaining members of the mob.

If you don't get into the mob or get to play as the one, you play from the crowd. You can only win a prize if you're one of the top three scorers (which is unlikely as I've seen around 20,000 people playing at once), but it keeps the game fun and 'trust the crowd' is one of The One's lifelines (If they don't know, they automatically choose the most popular answer from the crowd).

It's insanely fun.

The only thing I'm not sure of is how they pick The Mob and The One. During the week when there's not a live show, there's regular 1 vs. 100 'Extended Play' games which is just a straight quiz without real world prizes. It says that your performance on those shows plays a big part in whether you get selected or not.

Now, I can understand why they do this. A two hour live show would get frustrating really fast if the players chosen to be The One or play from the mob all turned out to be clueless tweens. The extended play games are essentially the audition.

However, as with every online game, you always get the hardcore players who treat the game like a second job. IE, I play a lot…at least an hour or so a day, get around 90% of the questions right and my lifetime score is around two million points. However, there are people with scores around the twenty or thirty million mark…meaning they must play almost every extended play session…about eight hours per day.

I can't really complain about this because I don't know whether they pick The One and The Mob from the top 1%, 10% or 25%...but I hope it's the top 25%

It's just one of the unavoidable downsides to online gaming, with such a large pool of players, there will always be the people who play like machines. For example, in 1 Vs. 100 to prevent a massive 5000 person tie every game, as well as getting the questions right, you also score points for how fast you answer and for maintaining a streak of right answers.

Every single game there is a handful of players who get every question right and have an average answer time of zero seconds.

They probably need to get out more.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


With everyone going so apeshit over 'Twilight', including my darling wife, I finally decided to read the first book.

I didn't really know what to expect. You see, I laughed at all the adults who read Harry Potter and made fun of my dad mercilessly when he bought Goblet of Fire to see what all the fuss was about. Then, I gave it a go and before I knew it, it was 3am and I was going to read 'just one more chapter' before going to bed.

Twilight…wasn't like that.

I got to the end of the first book and realized something:

I'd just read an unpopular teenage girl's masturbation fantasy.

Now, there's not really anything wrong with that…we all love a bit of escapism now and again…but I don't understand how a book that is, at best, a teenager's guilty pleasure could become such a worldwide phenomenon.

Oh, and vampires don't sparkle in the sun. Period.


With everyone going so apeshit over 'Twilight', including my darling wife, I finally decided to read the first book.

I didn't really know what to expect. You see, I laughed at all the adults who read Harry Potter and made fun of my dad mercilessly when he bought Goblet of Fire to see what all the fuss was about. Then, I gave it a go and before I knew it, it was 3am and I was going to read 'just one more chapter' before going to bed.

Twilight…wasn't like that.

I got to the end of the first book and realized something:

I'd just read an unpopular teenage girl's masturbation fantasy.

Now, there's not really anything wrong with that…we all love a bit of escapism now and again…but I don't understand how a book that is, at best, a teenager's guilty pleasure could become such a worldwide phenomenon.

Oh, and vampires don't sparkle in the sun. Period.

Friday, July 10, 2009

In which I call Shenanigans

I've spent the past couple of days reading the nutrition information on food labels very carefully.

It is now time to call shenanigans on a massive scale.

I mean, the food and drink industry has always tried to fool us to make their stuff seem more attractive. For example, if you're feeling good about yourself because you're eating a fat free yoghurt, I suggest you take a look at the sugar content. Basically anything labeled as 'fat free' is loaded with sugar and anything labeled 'sugar free' is probably loaded with fat.

Well, I noticed something else. They use serving size so they can lie on the nutritional information.

Basically, if you have a candy bar that's 500 calories, you just say that the single, small candy bar is actually five servings… which means you can put 'Just 100 calories!" right on the label.

For example, today I bought a Coca Cola Zero, the main selling point of which is that it supposedly has zero calories, sugar, fat and everything else. I checked the label while waiting in line and found that a 16 ounce bottle of Coke Zero is supposed to be two servings. There's only about four or five decent-sized mouthfuls in the whole bottle!

Now, while I don't really think this is something to be outraged about…it's be nice if food companies weren't allowed to manipulate the nutrition info like that, especially considering it can be a little dangerous.

I wonder how many diabetics have eaten something thinking there was a safe amount of sugar or starches in something only to discover later that the two cookies they ate actually constituted five or six 'servings'?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Splenda is the devil

So, yesterday I got diagnosed with diabetes.

Obviously, with something like that I'm going to have to make a few changes in my lifestyle, but as I sat and thought about it today, there's not really anything that's going to be all that hard.

Basically, I've never been a fan of sweet stuff. I can easily live without chocolate or candy and the things I do like I just have to cut back on, not cut out completely.

I thought about it and there are only three things that are going to be even close to difficult. I loves me some bread and potatoes, but that is something I can still eat, just not as much. I drank a hell of a lot of soda, but that just means a switch to diet instead of regular…

Tea, on the other hand, is a different story.

I'm a dyed in the wool Brit. I drink my tea hot with plenty of milk and sugar... I also drink a hell of a lot of it. I've drank tea with three heaped teaspoons of sugar at least four or five times a day since I was old enough to hold a cup.

Last night I grabbed my mug and said to Sunny "Oh well, now I get to see if I can convince myself to like unsweetened tea."

"There's some Splenda in the cupboard." Sunny said, helpfully. "Try that."


In the ads the slogan is "It tastes like sugar because it's made from sugar!"

If Splenda tastes like sugar, a dirty hobo's underpant scrapin's taste like chocolate sprinkles.

The first thing that shocks you is just the way it looks. On the ads it looks just like sugar…in real life, however, it looks like shredded packing peanuts mixed with bleached belly-button fluff. Also, you know the way when you drop a spoonful of sugar into a hot drink it just kinda sinks and dissolves? Well Splenda doesn't do that. If you want to see what it actually does, go watch any film where a femme fatale tips a powder from a hidden compartment in her ring into the hero's drink. I wish I was joking. The stuff fizzles the second it comes into contact with the liquid and vanishes instantly.

As for the taste, let me describe it this way.

One and a half spoons in a normal sized cup of tea applies so little sweetness you won't know it's there. Exactly one and a half spoons plus one extra granule is like getting force-fed a fifty pound bag of sugar dissolved in maple syrup…which is then washed down with industrial strength pool-cleaner. Go mix one part sugar with two parts power-steering fluid to get a sense of how chemically nasty it tastes.

So, I guess I take tea without sweetner now.


I talked in my last post about how the past three or so years haven't exactly gone well for me and Sunny, and I answered Evan's post explaining why we tend to 'keep our guard up' because things keep going wrong.

Well, in the week or so running up to the writing of that post I wasn't feeling too good and had a constant thirst that wouldn't go away. Shortly after writing that post my vision started to go blurry and I started getting headaches. With Sunny being diagnosed with diabetes last year I recognized the symptoms. Unfortunately ignoring the symptoms didn't make them go away, denial didn't work and my eyes were getting progressively worse instead of better.

Last night I bit the bullet and tested my blood sugar with Sunny's meter. It almost 300 despite the fact I hadn't eaten for over eight hours. Normal is around 100 two hours after eating.

I went to the Doctor's this morning and, long story short, I have type 2 diabetes.

The thing that makes me honestly sad is just how ridiculously relieved I was when I got the news and discovered the meds were actually affordable.

I do my best to be as positive as possible, but I think this made my point better than my last post ever could. With all the health scares and things that have gone wrong over the past few years I'm actually at the point where being told I have diabetes and being put on meds for the foreseeable future actually makes me feel more relieved instead of scared.

Basically, I have diabetes, but it could have been something much, much worse.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Easier said than done

Evan wrote a very good post on dealing with stress in response to Sunny's post today.

I have to say I agree with everything he says, but saying and doing are two completely different things.

Here's the thing. I used to have the attitude that there was no point worrying over things you couldn't control and unless a problem would leave you dead, homeless or in jail, it probably wasn't worth worrying about too much anyway. I was the person who would see someone going ballistic with the veins popping out on their foreheads over a spilt drink and wonder just how someone could get worked up over something so trivial.

That was me. I was the guy they based the 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' T-Shirt on.

Unfortunately, though, the past three years have literally been one major disaster after another. A few of these we wrote about, most we didn't. A few are still ongoing…but, basically, when you're rushing to the emergency room at 3am for the fourth time in as many months, it's really, really hard to say 'Que sera sera'…especially when you know that even if it's just something minor, you can't afford the time off work and it's going to mean another massive hospital bill you can't pay.

To be completely honest, it's not a case of keeping your guard up because bad things happen when you don't… it just bracing yourself for the bad news when it inevitably comes.

Ok, we don't spend all our time worrying about what's going to happen next, but the past few years have turned both of us from optimists to pessimists, simply because it's easier to deal with the rain when you were expecting a flood.

The simplest way I can put it is once you've had multiple untimely deaths in the family, then had your two remaining children rushed to the hospital with life-threatening conditions over the following year, then being rushed to hospital yourself four times, each time when you can't afford time off work or the hospital bill itself…then the day to day stuff like being out of work and the roof starts leaking…when a car pulls into the drive after 11pm the first thing you think isn't "Hey, someone's come for a visit!"

Long story short, when you've spent a long time getting punched in the face it takes a lot to lower that guard even when you know you're not being attacked and even when you know it's totally counter-productive.


I finally caught a couple of episodes of 'America's Got Talent' this week…and I really wish I hadn't.

Don't worry, this isn't my usual anti-reality TV rant, it's something completely different.

You see, a major part of the attraction of these shows for me is watching the flat-out talentless and deluded people perform. The ones who walk into the audition talking about how awesomely talented they are and invariably fall flat on their face.

Well, it seems to me that the whole idea behind America's Got Talent is to showcase all the crappy acts that are so bad they don't make it on air from all the other TV talent shows…and unfortunately, this means lunatics of a very special caliber…which is where everything goes wrong for me.

You see, I can laugh at the teen girl who storms out of the audition when she's told she sounds like a foghorn, I can laugh at the guy who babbles about how he's taking dancing to 'the next level' then face-plants immediately after starting his audition. When it comes to America's Got Talent it appears that the vast majority of the acts are genuinely disturbed people being paraded in front of a camera for our amusement.

Basically, watching American Idol is like watching a runner fall down. Watching America's Got Talent is like watching a runner fall down at the Special Olympics. Sure, it's funny and you want to laugh…but you feel way too guilty about it to actually do so.

If you don't get what I mean watch this youtube clip from the British version and try not to squirm at how seriously the performer takes it…especially when he's talking to the judges at the end. If you're wondering what the hell is going on, he's supposed to be 'the human saxophone'.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Is anyone else starting to get really annoyed by those '' advertisements about how evil the tobacco industry is?

Let me just say that as an ex-smoker who smoked for well over ten years, those advertisements impress only one type of person, and that's people who have never smoked and have no plan to.

You see, I believe that the way we choose to educate kids about smoking is all wrong and very similar to 'abstinence only' sex education. Put it this way, I took my first puff on my first cigarette to prove to a smoker that smoking was absolutely awful, wasn't pleasant in any way and people only smoked to look cool. Of course, I inhaled that first lungful of cigarette smoke and instead of coughing and hacking, my head started to buzz and I felt like I was floating.

Basically, all the anti-smoking propaganda I'd been exposed to never told me about how good it felt…which is an important point, because in that very instant I was convinced that everyone who'd ever told me smoking was bad was full of shit. Smoking had been demonized way too much, so when I experienced smoking for myself and enjoyed it, it called into question everything I'd ever been taught.

Which is why these 'Truth' ads piss me off so much. What they say is that the tobacco industry is evil and everyone who smokes is a victim who has been manipulated into smoking. The real 'truth' is I knew for a fact that every one of the hundreds of thousands of cigarettes I smoked was doing me damage…but I chose to smoke because I liked it.

Here's the bit these people miss: 99.9% of people who smoke know smoking is killing them but choose to smoke anyway. Now, before you call these people stupid, bear in mind that heart disease is America's biggest killer, not lung cancer…but over 14 billion burgers are eaten in the USA every year...and the weird thing is no-one is going on TV making ads about how evil the beef industry is.

The truth is, people smoke because it's just possible that they could get lung cancer in some vague and distant future in the same way people who eat fast food every day don't worry too much about having a heart attack ten years from now.

Long story short, all this propaganda, all this talk of how evil smoking was didn't stop me from smoking. As I mentioned above, everything I'd ever been told about smoking told me that I'd take a puff of a cigarette, it would taste horrible, make my breath smell and I'd cough like crazy…when that didn't happen it made everything I'd ever heard invalid.

You know what would have stopped me from ever smoking? If someone had said this:

"Smoking is absolutely awesome when you first start. Nicotine is a real and very powerful drug and for a while you'll feel totally buzzed while you smoke. Even when that stops happening, a cigarette can take you from totally stressed out to completely relaxed with just a few puffs. The bad part is that this 'stage' doesn't last very long at all. Every cigarette you smoke has less of an effect than the last one you smoked as your body gets used to it… until it actually goes the other way and you feel bad pretty much all the time and smoke just to feel normal again. If you want to know what that's like, imagine the hungriest you've ever felt, imagine that feeling in your lungs, and imagine that smoking a cigarette is the only way to make that feeling go away…but it only goes away for about ten minutes before it starts again. Oh and on top of all that, you'll be coughing all the time, have much higher blood pressure and get out of breathe as easily as a 90 year old."

Basically, smoking isn't horrible, smoking is awesome…it's just the price you pay for it is way too high.