Saturday, January 30, 2010

Failure is not experience.

There's been something that's been bothering me for quite a while.

As I've mentioned in my past couple of posts, I'm currently getting back into shape.

Now, I'm not going to mention any names, but there are a couple of people I know who have been on a diet or dieting for as long as I've known them. I'm talking decades here. You know the kind of person I'm talking about. There's probably someone (or multiple someones) in your life like this too.

Now here's the thing: My whole big, intricate plan to get back into shape has been "Don't eat crap and get regular exercise." I should also point out that it's actually working. I'm a good ten pounds lighter than I was a month ago and my resting heart rate is significantly slower.

However, every time this subject comes up, these particular people feel the need to show their extensive knowledge and tell me I'm doing just about everything wrong. One told me that the two slices of wheat toast and cup of unsweetened coffee I have for breakfast (versus the fried bacon and eggs and sugary coffee I used to have) is completely wrong, because that's carbs and I should be avoiding carbs all together.

You know, the same old pseudo-scientific complete and total bollocks spouted by people caught up in the latest weight loss miracle.

Now, here's the part that actually bothers me:

These people have tried every diet under the sun. They've been dieting for decades…and they somehow think that this makes them experts and their opinions worth listening to.

Now, in other fields of expertise, decades of 'experience' would make you an expert… but the kicker here is the only reason you diet for decades is because you're consistently failing to lose any weight.

Basically, it's not ten years of experience they have to share, it's ten years of failure.

I don't know about you, but if someone had been a salesman for ten years and had never managed to sell a damn thing, that's not someone I'd want to take advice on my sales pitch from.

Basically, I wouldn't take running advice from an athlete who'd never won a race, I wouldn't driving advice from someone who'd had hundreds of wrecks…so why in the blue hell would I want advice on diet and weight loss from someone who's been dieting for years and hasn't lost a pound?

What I don't get is how these people don't realize that the very fact they're still overweight automatically proves that they don't know what they're talking about.

The truth is that if you go up to someone who's in great shape and ask them how they stay so healthy, the answer is usually really simple: They get to the gym a few times a week and watch what they eat. Only the career dieters babble on about carbs and body chemistry.

Sorry...

Dear Readers,

For the past few days I've been getting massive amounts of spam comments (I got more than 20 just today)...so from now on, I'm no longer allowing anonymous comments.

Thanks.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I want to ride my bicycle….

Remember riding bikes as a kid?

I do. I remember being about fifteen, off school for the summer, and regularly getting on my bike and riding about ten miles to my girlfriends house on an almost daily basis.

As far as I remember, the technique was to stand up on the pedals, pump them as hard as you could for about twenty to thirty seconds and then a quick gear change meant you could keep up a decent pace for miles without much effort.

I remember going on a fifteen mile bike ride, and arriving barely out of breath…with plenty of energy left for the ride home as well.

Well, after a month or two of actually getting off my ass and exercising, I realized this week that my heart rate wasn't getting quite high enough and my exercise regime was starting to feel a little too easy. While this is absolutely great in one respect (that I'm actually getting fitter), in another it's not so good…meaning I'm going to have to start working harder or longer if I want to keep seeing results.

So, last night I pulled my bike out of the storage building (which, to be honest, was a bit of a workout in itself).

This morning I got up and checked the bike over, making sure nothing had come loose, re-inflating the tires, making sure it was road worthy and I set off.

I may have over estimated my fitness level just slightly.

You see, I figured two or three miles would be a good start. I was still thinking about how effortless riding a bike seemed when I was in my teens…and completely forgot that I'm a good 70lbs heavier than I was in my teens, about a million times less fit than I was in my teens…and that I was asking muscles to do a lot of work that I hadn't actually used since I was in my teens.

I figured I ride a three or four mile round trip, which meant I could easily make another circuit if I wanted to.

Within four hundred yards of setting off, the idea of 'another circuit' went completely out of the window…although 'calling the missus to come get me in the car' became a definite possibility.

The road leading from my house goes very slightly uphill. By the time I'd gone four hundred yards my thigh muscles were on fire, my heart was beating out of my chest and I felt like I was dying. I can walk two miles in about 45 minutes without breaking a sweat or even getting slightly out of breath…but I can't go 400 yards uphill on a bike without stopping for a rest.

In the end, I used the bike in a way that was never intended. According to the bike computer, I actually covered just over four miles…but that was pushing the bike uphill, and only getting on it when the road was perfectly level or actually went downhill so I could coast and have a rest.

I think I'm going back to my old routine for another month or so…I'll just double the distance instead.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Go For A Walk.

Ok, it's time to bring more angry comments down on myself.

So, since getting diabetes, I had to radically change my diet, but realized recently that just changing my diet wasn't going to be enough.

Yeah, in an amazing shock, it turns out that sitting on your ass and not exercising for over five years leaves you dangerously unfit and out of shape.

So as well as getting a little stricter in my diet, a few weeks ago I decided I really needed to start exercising. Since then, I've been getting up in the morning, eating a couple of slices of toast for breakfast and then going for a two mile fast-walk.

After a few weeks of this I'm really happy to say that I'm slowly and steadily losing weight…but even better, my resting heart rate is a full 15-20 beats per minute slower than it used to be. I figure that within another month or so I'll trade in my daily walks for daily jogs and just keep building up from there.

Well, I was thinking today, and I've come up with a theory as to why people find it so hard to lose weight.

I was sitting watching the TV when an infomercial for a 'diet product' came on TV, and at the same time Sunny was putting everything she'd eaten that day into some kind of application that keeps track of your calories.

Now, I think a lot of people decide they're going to get into shape and lose some weight, so they work up some enthusiasm, go out, buy a diet book and exercise video and then spends an afternoon reading the book and going online to work out a specialized diet and exercise plan. Then, they fill their cupboards with things like 'green tea' and 'weight loss supplements' and all other kinds of snake oil that supposedly help the pounds just melt away.

Then, because they're spent all day working in 'diet stuff' go to bed that night with a real feeling of achievement and progress…when in reality, they've not done a damn thing.

Basically, that's what a lot of the diet industry is based around, providing ways for people to feel like they're doing something when they're not really doing anything.

If you get up in the morning, spend an hour reading a diet book, then take a 'healthy herbal fat-burner' with some green tea while posting in a forum about how you're really going to get into shape this year…you're basically tricking yourself into thinking you've spent that morning 'working on your weight problem'…when all you've really done is got out of bed, spent an hour reading, then drank some tea while sitting in front of the computer.

My advice is you really want to get into shape?

Throw out all your diet and exercise books, tip all the supplements in the trash and go for a walk and actually exercise. Then, just read the nutritional information on the food you eat, use your common sense and limit the amount of obvious junk you eat.

Oh, but keep drinking green tea if you like it. It tastes good and it really is good for you. It's just not going to magically make you thinner and healthier.

The Old Ones Are The Best

So Sunny and I were sitting on the couch when Lucy (our cat) starts to clean herself.

"Lucy." Said Sunny. "That's not very ladylike."

I look up to see Lucy has her head buried between her own back legs.

"You're just jealous that you can't do that." I said to Sunny.

"I could do that if I wanted to." She replied.

"Nah." I said. "She'd scratch the hell out of your face if you tried."

BAD-UM TSHH!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What More Can You Possibly Want???

So I read the IGN review of 'Prototype' today. They gave in a 7 out of ten and spent the vast majority of the review focusing on the game's bad points.

After playing it today, here's my review. You'll find it's a lot shorter than IGN's but also a lot more accurate:

Prototype is a game in which you can sprint up the side of a skyscraper, leap off the top to karate-kick a helicopter, then use the thousand foot fall to land a sweet-ass elbow drop on a fucking tank.

What else do you fucking want??? If you don't think that's made of pure awesome, I don't want to know you.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Ironic Purchase

So today, Sunny and I found ourselves at a local store trying to purchase a particular item.

Unfortunately, while in the store, I found myself in the middle of a major blood sugar crash (damn diabeetus).

So, that is why a few minutes later I found myself at the checkout, paying for a brand new Pedometer…and a king-sized snickers bar.

Just for the look on the cashier's face, I'm seriously considering going back tomorrow to purchase an exercise video and a deep fat fryer.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Batting the Eyelashes.

So a few days ago, I found myself standing in the checkout line of my local Gamestop with a pre-owned copy of Resident Evil 5 in my hands.

"Resident Evil 5!" Said the way too enthusiastic check out girl. "Raaaarrrr!"

I gave a polite laugh. Sunny was waiting in the car. I just wanted to pay and leave.

"Would you like to buy a protection plan for your game?" She asked, smiling at me like a maniac. "In case it gets scratched up? It's only seven bucks."

"Nah." I said. "It's not worth it a twenty dollar game."

"Awwww." She said, acting like I'd told her she couldn't have the pony I'd promised her. After pouting for a few seconds she snapped back to her massive grin and said "…Well, would you like to pre-order anything?"

"No thanks." I said, trying to project total disinterest. Come on you dozy bint! I'm in a hurry and just want to go, can't you sense that?

"Oh, come on!" She said with a giggle. "You just have to put a few bucks down and you're guaranteed a copy on release day!"

"No thanks." I said, pointing to the copy of Resident Evil 5. "There's a reason I only buy pre-owned games."

"Ah!" She said, putting the heels of her hands on the counter and leaning forward…basically putting her cleavage into 'turbo' mode. "Then can I interest you in a discount card?"

At this point the one and one that had been vaguely floating around in my head clicked together and came up with a big, bright neon 2.

After just barely managing to suppress a laugh, I leaned in and whispered:

"Sweetheart, I know that you're probably this stores top salesperson with a routine like that, but if you'd taken a glance at the ring finger on my left hand, you wouldn't have had to waste your time."

She smiled and shrugged. "You should see my pre-order figures." She said.

I'm still not sure whether to be disgusted or impressed.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sleepy Cat Is Sleepy

Yeah, so Logan sleeps pretty damn heavy:

video

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ow.

With the diabetes and all, I finally decided enough was enough and that I was going to get back into shape. Considering no-one in my family has ever had diabetes before, there's a very good chance that my diabetes is solely caused by fat infiltrating my liver and pancreas…meaning if I lose some weight and get back into shape, my diabetes could go away completely.

So, for the past week or so, I've been getting up in the morning, eating a very light breakfast and then going for a 1-2 mile walk.

I know that may not sound like an awful lot, but bear in mind that since I moved to the USA five years ago, my usual amount of exercise consisted of walking from the bedroom to the living room….with maybe one or two trips to the fridge to break up the day.

Well, after a week or so of walking I made a big mistake:

I was about halfway through my walk when I realized I was actually feeling good, and despite the fact I'd been walking for about a mile at a very brisk pace (about as fast as you can walk normally without breaking into a jog), I wasn't even slightly out of breath and my heart-rate was only very slightly elevated.

Suddenly, I remembered how I used to take my dog for about a five mile walk every single day, usually after getting home from an 8 hour shift bartending (which not only meant I was on my feet for 8 hours, but that at least twice an hour I was carrying cases of bottles up three flights of stairs.) I thought of my short walk and thought:

"This is nothing. I doubt it's even doing me any good. I know! I'll run from here!"

…and that's what I did.

As my calf muscles caught fire, I realized that not only had I not been for a run in over five years, I was at least fifty to sixty pounds heavier than the last time I got above walking pace. Yeah, just because you heart and lungs are healthy enough to sustain a short run doesn't mean your atrophied leg muscles and joints can take the impact of your fat ass running for the first time in five years.

I was honestly surprised that every time my feet hit the floor it felt like a hard, almost painful impact instead of the effortless 'bounce' I remembered. The really stupid part was that instead of stopping and walking again, suddenly realizing how much of an out-of-shape fat bastard I am caused what little ego I have left to step in and tell me to keep running.

I got home with my calf muscles feeling like they'd been replaced with jagged blocks of iron. I found myself sitting at the couch, praying to the exercise Gods to not let my calves cramp up like they were threatening to do.

Then, I got up this morning, ate my two slices of unbuttered wheat toast and set out on my walk again.

This time I was less than a quarter mile in when my right calf muscle decided it was going to seize up and become incredible painful for the rest of the walk.

I think I'll be taking a day off walking tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Props for service.

A few days ago I was trying to copy a photograph for someone when my Kodak ESP3 printer suddenly stopped laying down any red ink.

I checked the status monitor and saw that the color cartridge was nearly out, so I figured it just needed replacing, so I went to Walmart and bought a 2 pack of color cartridges for $25.

However, replacing the cartridge did nothing to fix the problem and I started getting an error message telling me the print head was missing or not installed correctly.

So, I hopped on line and found that the print head is a massive problem with the new Kodak printers. You see, most printers don't have permanent print heads. Usually, the print head is part of the print cartridge.

Well, it turns out that by separating the cartridge from the print head is why ink for Kodak printers is so much cheaper (fifteen bucks instead of more than sixty)…but the problem is that a permanent print head is far more likely to gum up, reduce image quality or break than one that is replaced every time you replace the ink cartridges.

Now, I read a lot of scathing reviews for Kodak printers and I have to say the vast majority of them are totally unfair.

First of all, I have to assume that most of these reviews were written by people who'd never owned another printer. For example, lots of people complained that the ESP series used a lot of ink, and that it wouldn't print black and white when the color cartridge was empty. Sure, all that's true, but that's also been true of every printer I've owned since daisy-wheel and dot matrix printers were replaced with inkjets.

Also, I didn't notice that my ESP3 went through an inordinate amount of ink. They don't exactly last forever, but they last as long (if not longer) than the Epson, HP and Brother printers I've owned.

I'll tell you something my ESP3 didn't do, however, that my last three printers did do: My ESP3 doesn't waste a ton of ink by 'cleaning' itself every 12 hours whether you want it to or not (even when it's turned off). My ESP3 doesn't claim a cartridge is empty when it's clearly still a quarter full…and the cartridges don't have hidden, undocumented 'expiry dates' that automatically claim to be empty after a set time limit even if they've never been used.

A few people even complained about image quality…but after using Epson, HP and Brother brand printers, I can say that the Kodak ESP3 has the best image quality out of any printer I've ever used.

However, the main reason I wanted to write this post is because of the tendency for people to buy a defective product and instantly go online, find every review site they can and post scathing reviews.

Yeah, one guy referred to Kodak as KoCRAP throughout his 1500 word rant of a review.

I don't write bad reviews based on a defective product. I only write a bad review if I buy a defective product and the company's customer service is crappy and doesn't correct the problem.

Kodak's customer service was an absolute dream.

I contacted an agent through their online chat system. I told the tech support guy about the error message, and how I'd uninstalled and reinstalled the printhead multiple times without success.

In return he asked a couple of questions, told me the print head on my model was a known issue and that they'd designed new ones…then asked for my address so they could ship me a replacement absolutely free of charge. He also said I should have it within 3-5 business days.

Long story short, I don't blame a company if something slips by quality control unless they refuse to fix the problem. If Kodak's tech support made me jump through hoops or told me I'd have to buy a new print-head or ship my printer to them at my own cost, then I'd get online and start posting scathing reviews.

As it stands I bought a hundred dollar printer/scanner combo that worked flawlessly for 12 months. Then the print head breaks and it takes me five minutes online with Kodak tech support to get them to ship me a replacement absolutely free of charge.

That's service and that's how to earn my loyalty.

Oh, and I'd also like to point out that if I had to pay for a new print head every 12 months, with the savings on ink, I'd still be saving a ton more money than I would if I bought an HP or Epson.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Scene It: BOS

About a year or two ago, Sunny and I bought the 'Scene It' DVD board game. We liked it, so when we saw the Xbox 360 version, we bought it.

I was surprised when I saw the box, because for just $30, you get the game itself and four wireless 'big button' controllers.

I honestly didn't know what to expect, especially considering a normal wireless controller costs around 60 bucks. To be clear, the controllers that come with 'Scene It!' are not normal Xbox controllers, they have one big button that doubles as a buzzer and D-pad, the usual A, B, X and Y buttons to select your answers as well as a 'start', 'select' and Xbox Guide button on the bottom.

Opening the box explained the price difference. Normal wireless controllers connect to your Xbox using a 2.4ghz radio signal. The 'Scene It!' controllers work just like a normal TV remote. You get an infra-red sensor that you connect to your 360 via one of the USB ports on the front of your 360 and then set the sensor near your TV.

Because of the price, I was expecting the controllers to feel cheap, and when I discovered that they worked like TV remotes, I was a little worried that they would miss button presses if they weren't pointed directly at the TV, etc.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. The controllers feel really well made, they're very ergonomic and pretty soon I totally forgot about the sensor and discovered the controller would work no matter which direction I pointed it. They also come 'batteries included', which I really appreciated.

In fact, the only thing I didn't like about the controllers is that player 1, 2, 3 and 4 are 'hard wired' to each controller. IE, Player 1 is always green, Player 2 is always blue, etc. It's a tiny little complaint and makes absolutely no difference to gameplay whatsoever, but it would be nice to be able to pick which color you wanted to use.

Now, I'd read some pretty poor reviews of Scene It, and I have to say that these were completely unfair.

The reviews for Scene It are just another case of the gaming media not really understanding what the game is about. They did the same with the karaoke game 'Lips'. Most of the reviews talk about shallow gameplay, little attraction to 'hardcore' gamers and overall lack of depth.

Well, this game isn't meant for hardcore gamers…and it's not meant to be deep. You're not supposed to turn it on and play it for hours and hours on end, alone, without getting bored.

The whole point of this game is to provide an hour or so of fun at a time to people who may have never touched a videogame before. In fact, I wouldn't even call it a 'video game' in the traditional sense of the word. It's basically a quiz game that's using a gaming console to take over the 'work' side of the game.

It's the perfect game for when you have people over, because even if your guests have never even seen a videogame before, you hand them the controller and they know what to do. You press the big button to buzz in, and then press one of the other four to pick your answer.

There are a number of varied question types, all of which are a lot of fun and offer enough variation to stop you getting bored for at least two or three half hour games at a time.

In fact, the only real problem I had with this game is that while it can be entertaining on your own and a lot of fun with two people it can feel a little unbalanced without the full four players.

For example, in between rounds points are awarded for things like the fastest answer, most correct answers etc, etc. Now, to keep things interesting for, shall we say, the 'less talented' players, points are also awarded for the fewest correct answers, slowest answers etc, etc. While in a four player game this just gives the worst player a fighting chance to catch up…it can really unbalance a two player game. For example, you can finish a round and your opponent can potentially gain an extra 5000 points just because they got more questions wrong and answered more slowly than you.

Also, I found the final round a little frustrating. With all the questions in the game you score more points by answering faster (as the time ticks down, so do the amount of points for answering the question so the quicker you answer the better). In the final round you get asked four questions, but each correct answer adds a multiplier to the points won. 1x, 2x, 5x and 10x. This means that in a game where you usually reach the final round with around 60,000 – 80,000 points, the final round is potentially worth 35,000 points…which means that unless you're 35,000 points ahead by the time you reach the final round, the game is still potentially anyone's.

Of course, this could technically be considered a good thing considering that this is intended to be a party game. People quickly lose interest in a game if they realize they have almost zero chance of winning after the first round.

Long story short, for 30 bucks you get a fun party game and four controllers to play it with. It's more than worth the money and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants something fun to do when you have family or friends over.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ummm…soo…yeah.

A few nights ago, Sunny and I were sitting in front of the TV when that terrible ad for the 'Snuggie' came on. If you don't know what a Snuggie is, it's "The blanket with sleeves!"

Well, more accurately, it's a robe you wear backwards. The idea is that it's a blanket you can get under, but the sleeves leave your hands free to read a book or use the TV remote.

The ad actually shows people wearing them to football games or out shopping. I only suggest you do that if you want to look like an escaped mental patient or a cult member.

As usual, Sunny and I laughed at how stupid they are. Then, in a case of delicious, delicious irony I realized that I wanted to change the channel, but I was toasty warm under my blanket (it was well below freezing outside) and didn't want my arms to get cold. I told Sunny this. She pointed and laughed at me.

Later on that night, I was struggling to work the 360 controller under the blanket when I said to Sunny:

"I'm freezing. We need to get a couple of Snuggies."

I expected a laugh and a 'Yeah, right." Instead I got a rather bright and cheerful "Ok!"

What followed as a three day game of 'retail chicken'. We talked about going to buy Snuggies on payday. We planned where we'd go to get them and at what time. Every conversation was strained as both of us expected the other at any moment to crack, burst out laughing, point out how stupid Snuggies where and how we weren't really going to lower ourselves by buying them.

Sunny even suggested we go buy one last night when her check went into the bank. I was in some old PJ's and a bathrobe at the time and said I didn't want to get dressed. Sunny looked at me and said "It's Wal-mart…who'd notice?"

I actually considered it for a whole minute, but realized that shopping at Walmart at 3am in my bathrobe was a white-trash trifecta I never want to actually 'achieve'.

So after dealing with the DMV for a few hours this morning (that's a whole other blog post in itself), we found ourselves at the gates of Walmart, barely able to make eye contact with each other, both trying to will the other into cracking first.

I nearly cracked when we found them on the shelves and I thought they only had pink ones left. I thought: Ok, I'm definitely not getting one if they only have pink.

Yeah, came a very sarcastic little voice in my head, because if I'm wearing a pink fleece blanket with sleeves instead of a blue one, I might look stupid.

Then, I got a little extra strength by noticing on the box that they come with a free book-light. I've wanted a book light for ages and for fifteen bucks, I could convince myself that I wasn't buying a Snuggie with a free book light…I was buying a book light that came with a free Snuggie.

We put them in the buggy…both waiting for the other to crack, but neither of us did.

It was only when we reached the checkout and I swiped the card that I actually believed that we were actually buying Snuggies…a momentous lifestyle step equivalent to buying a Slap-Chop unironically… when I suddenly realized that I'd much rather be caught buying Chinese-dwarf-amputee-beastiality porn by everyone I know than being caught buying a Snuggie by a casual aquaintance. Then, to make matters worse, the check out girl started making conversation with us.

It was like being 15 and buying condoms for the first time all over again. She mentioned that they made Snuggies for dogs now. I think my side of the conversation went something like this.

"HA. HA. HA. YES. I KNOW. THESE THINGS ARE REALLY STUPID AND WE'RE BUYING THEM AS A JOKE. HA. HA. HA. I AM NOT BUYING A SNUGGIE UNIRONICALLY AT ALL. HA. HA. HA."

Even when we got them home, Sunny took hers out of the box to try it on (I don't know how you 'try on' something that is literally a rectangular piece of fleece with two over-sized sleeves on the front…forget 'one size fits all', it's 'one size fits most species both known and unknown'. Both Jabba the Hutt and Salacious Crumb could wear this thing comfortably.)

Anyway, she got it unwrapped, held it up…then looked at me.

"Where's your camera?" She asked.

"Why?" I asked…thinking she might want to document this momentous occasion.

"Because I don't want you taking a picture of me and putting it online." She replied.

Now there's a tag-line for the infomercial: "The Snuggie! The blanket with sleeves you'll only ever wear when you're 100% certain you're alone in case someone gets photographic evidence that you own one."

But you know what? I finally worked up the courage to try mine on….and God DAMN that thing was warm and convenient.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go lay on my couch, watch TV in my Snuggie and do the 'raise the roof' hand motions for no good reason.


 


 

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Don’t Waste It.

With 2010 now being in full swing, it suddenly struck me that kids being born in this decade would grow up and never experience some of the things that were just plain ordinary and every day for me and the rest of my generation.

It was always our destiny to roll our eyes when our parents tell us how easy we have it, then repeat those same speeches to our own kids… but my generation were kids when the internet came into being…an invention that is as critical and culture-changing as fire, the wheel or the airplane. Things have really changed since I was a kid…so I thought I'd list some of these things that the next generation will never see:

  1. Loading a program from an audio cassette.

Think those Blu-ray discs take a long time to start? Think your Xbox360 or PS3 game has long load times? Try loading a game from an audio cassette. Kids in the future will never know what it's like to have to grab a good book to read while their computer screeches and shows a psychedelic light show while an achingly slow tape deck arthritically loads 'Bubble Bobble'.

Just to put this into perspective, a C64 tape deck could get data to the computer at a rate of 300 bits per second…that's around 2 kilobytes per minute…meaning it would take almost eight hours to load 1 megabyte…luckily, a whole megabyte of memory was almost unthinkable in a home computer back then. The '64' in Commodore 64 meant 64 kilobytes of memory…one fifteenth of a megabyte.

  1. Film Cameras.

Get this kids: When we went on vacation, we didn't have a phone or a tiny pocket camera that could take thousands of 12 megapixel images. We had bulky cameras that used a thing called film. We'd go away for a couple of weeks with maybe sixty shots, and we wouldn't be able to see them until weeks later when they came back from the chemists. In fact, sometimes it could be months if you'd only used half a roll of film and your parents insisted on waiting until the whole roll was finished (and finished properly dammit…stop taking pictures of the dog sleeping in front of the fire!)

Just think about this: At one point having to use an entire roll of film, then driving into town and dropping it off at a place that could develop it in just an hour was considered the height of convenience. Think of that the next time you upload a picture directly to Facebook from your phone.

  1. Being out of touch.

Today, it doesn't matter where in the world you are, you can speak to just about anyone at any time. Email, cell phones, text messaging and wireless internet mean you're never out of touch. It wasn't so long ago when you had to wait until you got home to call someone.

  1. Hand Written Letters

Living in the USA, I can write to my parents or friends back in England safe in the knowledge that my missive will arrive instantly and I can expect a reply later that day. It wasn't so long ago that I'd have had to write a letter by hand on paper, and pay to have it physically taken somewhere. A letter to a foreign country could take weeks to get their.

Hmm, maybe that's why when I was a kid, people only contacted each other when they actually had something to say.

  1. Limited Information

You've grown up in a world where Google has always existed. If you don't know something, it takes two seconds to look it up. Not so long ago, if you wanted to know something a little more obscure and no-one around you knew… You just had to get used to not knowing.

Maybe now you'll understand why we have no sympathy for you when you're complaining about a research project because it means you'll have to spend 15 minutes with Wikipedia, because when we were kids, research for homework meant…

  1. Visiting a Library.

So you complain because you're going to have to search through a few Wikipedia articles and Google results.

When we were kids, we had to take the bus into town, go into the library, look up a book we needed on a card catalogue (That's a set of actual drawers filled with alphabetically organized cards), then go to the shelf, get the book and actually read it. Not type the subject into Wikipedia, auto-search the article for keywords and then cut and paste it into a Word document. Speaking of word documents…

  1. Writing homework assignments by hand.

So you think it's a real bitch when you have to write a 2000 word essay. Now imagine writing that 2000 words by hand, without the use of a spellchecker. Think about that. How many times have you finished typing and thought that maybe this paragraph would go better there…or maybe you want to get rid of that sentence or suddenly realize you've been spelling the same word wrong for the entire essay.

Now imagine being in that same situation, and your only way to correct your mistakes is to write the whole thing.

  1. Just 3 or 4 TV channels.

Yup. No specialty TV stations. No Food Network or Movie Channels…just three or four general entertainment channels, all of which stop broadcasting at midnight.

Think about that kids. It's 1am, you turn on the TV and there's nothing on. Literally. I don't mean just crappy shows and infomercials…I mean nothing but static.

  1. Print anything.

There used to be this thing called a 'Newspaper'. What would happen is journalists would discover some news, write about it, and then this news would be printed on paper and sold for money the next day.

  1. Not having a voice.

Ok kids…I've been pretty tongue in cheek and deliberately curmudgeonly so far, but this one is important. I know you damn kids never listen to anything us grown-ups say because you're far too busy with your iPods, Pokemon and hula-hoops, but try to listen.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an author, and for aspiring writers back then, the chances of getting your work in front of any significant audience was tiny. At best, you could hope to work for a local newspaper or maybe get a short story published in a local magazine.

The thing you're using to read this post is just about the most fantastic, amazing and unique tool the human race has ever devised. This is something no generation in the history of the human race has ever had access to. With the computer sitting in front of you, you can write something, record a piece of music, create an animation, edit a movie or do one of a million creative things…and with that same tool put it out there on the web for the whole world to see.

I know that, for you, the internet is just 'ordinary', but do me a huge favor:

For the first time in human history, anyone can have their say and have their words available to everyone all over the world.

The internet is a gift. Don't waste it.


 


 

No Thank You.

Back in the days when 'Doom' was the state of the art and you played 'online' by literally dialing your friend's computer… or explaining to your mom for the tenth goddamn time not to answer the phone because it was your friend dialing in… I came up with the idea for the 'Battlefront' line of games.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming ownership of them. I 'invented' them in the same way a guy would invent the airplane by looking up at the sky and thinking "It'd be cool if we had a machine you could fly in."

It was the stuff of dreams. Properlly tactical, objective based battles. Not just running around a maze and shooting at people. You'd send in some stealthy characters to sneak in and take out the anti-air defenses opening the way for your pilots and foot soldiers. Better yet, I envisioned playing as an X-wing pilot… escorting a transport filled with troops so they can board an Imperial space platform.

Then, supposedly, that day arrived, only it didn't turn out like it was supposed to.

I remember playing Battlefront: 1942 for the first time. I was in a concrete bunker, I'd killed a Nazi with my very last shot…then as I went to take his ammo a fellow 'team mate' with a name like 'SP00G3 0N U' came walking through the room backwards, firing at the ceiling, took my ammo, called me a fag then we both got blown up because he was still shooting at the light fixtures and I had no ammo to take out the bad guy who came storming in.

Then, this week the preview for 'MAG' came out, announcing itself as a tactical online shooter for up to 256 players at once.

I thought, 'That's interesting' and at that moment decided I would never touch that game with a 100 foot pole.

You see, when you play a 'tactical' team game, IE: One that requires you to communicate and work as a team…unless you've managed to populate an 8 or 16 man team with people you actually know, you're going to lose. Play with strangers and that 8 man team is going to consist of four people trying to be in charge, two people screaming about how useless everyone else is and two who will quit two minutes in because they're not instantly winning.

A good game goes something like this:

"Watch out there's two guys on the roof near 'A'"

"Ok, I see them. Throw a stun grenade to get their attention and I can snipe them."

"Awesome. I have an airstrike, where do we want it?"

"Use it on 'B' and we can take that next."

On the other hand and average game of Domination goes like this:

"Watch out, there's two guys on the roof near 'A'"

"Fuck you, faggot."

"Fuck you, bitch!""

"Their entire team is guarding C, Grab B."

"Shut the fuck up, homo."

Yeah, in my last game of MW2 the whitest guy in the world was trying to rap down his mic, and when I told him to knock it off, he challenged me to a 'freestyle rap battle'.

These are your team-mates. These are your opponents.

As you can see, for me, the optimal game is to play a game with 2 teams of people you actually know. Then you know it's going to be fun with actual teamwork and opponents who aren't going to cheat or use exploits and glitches.

This is impossible.

As you can imagine, the idea of playing a tactical shooter with 128 people per side…that sounds like a whole new level of hell I have no interest in even dipping my toe into.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Being Open Minded

I really wish this was required viewing for everyone.

Taken ten minutes to watch it. It's very interesting:

(Edit : I just realised from the thumbnail this looks like an anti-religion video or something like that...trust me, it's not)

Monday, January 04, 2010

It never rains…

So, this morning I was out of bed at around 9am, and I was having what can only be described as a really good day.

While Sunny was sleeping in I played an hour or so of Modern Warfare 2 when I thought I heard the sound of rain. I looked out of the window…but the sky was clear blue and the sun was shining. I shrugged. Sometimes when it's windy, the sound of the wind going through the trees and the dead leaves blowing around can sound like rain.

Later, when Sunny got up, we curled up on the couch and watched a few episodes of Doctor Who. After a while, I went to make coffee and noticed the water pressure was a little low. I thought nothing of it.

Then, at around 4pm, just as the sun was beginning to set and the temperature dropped from f**king freezing, to 'Jesus-Christ-Bananas-it's-cold', Sunny came back from the bathroom and said:

"I think a water pipe's broken. I can hear water running under the house."

I went outside to find the yard on one entire side of the house completely waterlogged, and a glance under the skirting showed a water pipe literally gushing everywhere.

Bollocks.

It appears that fate has heard me mention on numerous occasions that I know nothing about home maintenance (especially plumbing) and decided I was going to have a crash course.

My heart sank. I don't know if you've ever been underneath your house, but it's not a pleasant place. What's even worse is an old house that's out in the country. In the summer time I know for a fact that not only is the underside of our house unpleasant and dirty, it's also home to spiders, snakes and more recently, a couple of groundhogs.

So I counted my lucky stars when I pulled aside the skirting and saw that the pipe was not a main water pipe and easily fixable. We used to have an outside spigot for a garden hose that had broken off and had been capped. It was that pipe that had burst and it was only about six feet from the edge of the house…and from when the spigot broke off, I had a rough idea of how to fix it.

The repair, it turned out, was actually very easy. I just cut off the damaged portion of the pipe, primed the end and the cap and cemented it into place.

The downside, of course, was that I was doing all this while lying on my stomach in a very cramped, dirty and all together unpleasant space. Just to make things a little more awesome, I was doing this with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees and I was lying in about an inch of freezing cold muddy water.

Oh, and a little hint for you… if you ever have to work with PVC pipe cement, don't open the bottle and leave it open while you work when the floor joists and cramped conditions mean you're essentially working in a 2 foot by 2 foot by 1 foot high box. After 30 seconds I was a little light headed. By the time I was finished I was high as a kite and had a splitting headache.

So, of course, I come back into the house and I'm freezing cold, soaking wet and covered in crap from under the house. I couldn't wait to get out of my clothes and into a nice hot shower…and that's when I remembered that we had to turn the hot water heater off so it wouldn't burn out…and it wouldn't do me any good anyway because the PVC cement takes two hours to set up. So I just had to dry myself off as best I could and sit covered in crap until we could turn the water back on.

Then, just after we'd turned the water on, and I'd convinced myself the cap wasn't going to fail, I walked into the bathroom when I heard the unmistakable sound of a cap bursting off the end of a pipe. I felt my insides freeze, ran back to the living room…

…to see the noise I'd heard was Sunny dropping something on the living room floor.

Yeah…I could've slapped her for that.