Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I hate people.

Last night I was bored to tears so I downloaded a free Texas Hold 'em game for my iPod Touch.

At first I was impressed. It looked slick and played well…but then I came to the fly in the ointment: the people you play against.

Yup, this game is multiplayer, and I'm finding that it's almost impossible to overestimate people's ability and desire to ruin cool things.

You see, people are idiots. They have no idea how to play Texas Hold 'em, and because no-one's playing with real money they ruin the game pretty quick.

I played about five different games on five different 'tables' and the set up was the same on each. Six or so players who have some idea how to play, and at least two idiots who think that watching 'Casino Royale' made them experts and seem to be playing purely to ruin everyone else's fun.

Basically, here's how it would play out:

Everyone would be dealt the first two cards, and then, on every damn hand, one of the ass-hats would go all in…either because they got one high card, or because they thought they were being cool and 'bluffing'. (Note: It isn't a bluff when it's obvious to everyone that you're lying)

Now in five card stud, these players go out pretty quick because it's pretty obvious that they don't have anything in their hand. However, in hold 'em before the flop (before the first three 'community cards' are dealt), everyone only has two cards and no idea what the next five are going to be…so at that point, unless you've been dealt a high pair, you've no real idea whether you're going to have a decent hand or not…and no player with half a brain wants to risk the vast majority of their chips on the first hand when they're not holding anything…so they fold.

Now, this wouldn't be much of a problem in the real world because this type of player would keep going all in, winning nothing but the blinds…right up to the point where one of the other players would get something, relieve the idiot of all his chips on a single hand, and then the idiot would be busted out and would have learned a lesson.

Unfortunately, in the game where the money isn't real, where you're not really losing anything, they don't learn their lesson, and when they get busted out, they just buy straight back in.

The most annoying thing is this is just a really stupid way to play poker anyway. Bluffing isn't just about making everyone think you've got an awesome hand when you haven't so they'll fold. Bluffing is mostly about convincing people you have a weak or so-so hand when your hand is strong. The point is to make them think their hand is better than yours so they'll bet heavily.

Basically, it doesn't matter if you have a Royal Flush if you bet so heavily that everyone folds before filling the pot. The point is to have a royal flush, but make everyone else think you have maybe a decent pair so they'll bet heavily on their three of a kind.

I'm going back to my single player game on the PC.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Talk about one sided.

I'm sitting here, listening to 'Pawn Stars' on the History channel (one of the few 'reality' shows I actually like) and I've just noticed something:

In case you've never seen the show, it's about an upscale pawn shop in Las Vegas. It's basically a lot of people coming into the store with a lot of interesting things.

At least three or four times per show, some guy will come into the store with something really cool and when the owner asks why he's wanting to sell it, the guy'll say:

"Well, I just got/am getting married, so…"

Now, what I've just noticed is that while men come into the store three or four times per show to sell their motorcycles, pinball machines and other cool (and typically male) stuff because they're getting married…in the fifteen or more shows I've seen, I've never once seen a woman come into the store to sell anything for the same reason.

Why is it, ladies, that when we guys marry you, we have to sell all our stuff… but the massive Barbie collection from your childhood gets to stay?

Guys, if you're getting ready to get married, don't sell your stuff just because she says so. In fact, when she starts talking about how you need to get rid of your collection of classic NES games because you desperately need the space, make her this deal: You'll ditch your treasures, but for everything you get rid of, she has to get rid of something too.

That's fair, right ladies? I mean, if you're just doing it for the space and not just because you don't like our collection of classic movie posters…you won't mind throwing away a few of those Stuffed Animals and that sewing machine you never use as well, right?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It’s quite safe, really.

I've just watched back to back TV ads, one about a background check service which features a bunch of idiots babbling about not going on a date without a background check or 'finding out who your new neighbors are'…and another featuring an application that lets you track the exact location of your kids at all times using the GPS in their cell phones.

Anyone else sick of the fact that paranoia has become the national pastime?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

So I'm watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC, and the longer I watch it, the angrier and more disgusted I'm getting.

Let me ask the parents out there a question:

Say a chef came to your kids' school and said he wanted to change your kids' school dinners so they'd stop eating high-fat, unhealthy processed crap and start eating good healthy food. How would you react?

Personally, I'd be happy. Anything that makes your kids healthier is a good thing, right?

Apparently not in Huntington West Virginia, where it appears everyone is dead set against their kids eating anything but fat and preservatives.

Not only are the school dinner ladies and school board throwing every obstacle they can in Jamie's path, the town's local newpaper and radio station are writing stories about how Jamie is doing nothing but badmouthing the town and causing trouble.

Well, you know what, Huntington?…I really think you should be fucking ashamed of yourselves.

What really sold it for me was when Jamie walked into a class full of eight year olds with a table full of vegetables to see what the kids could identify. I could understand some kids not knowing what an egg-plant or a cauliflower looks like… but when not a single kid can identify something as simple as a tomato, potato or an onion in its natural state…something is seriously wrong.

This isn't some over-the-top health nut walking into your school and saying your kids should be vegan and should eat nothing but tofu and green salads… or even that they should never visit McDonalds or KFC…this is just a guy saying that maybe your kids should be eating freshly prepared real food most of the time instead of always eating processed, high-fat crap.

Basically, from what I've seen, none of the staff from this school give a shit about the kids at all. The kitchen staff don't want to actually cook because it's easier to just dump a box of frozen chicken nuggets into a fryer… basically, everyone appears to be thinking 'this is slightly more work, so let's not bother'.

It just cracks me up that every other day there's some news story of the obesity epidemic in America, the massive rise in type-2 diabetes…but when someone comes along and says 'let's do something about it', everyone turns round and gives him a big 'fuck you', because eating healthy is slightly more work.

Personally, Huntington, if I was Jamie Olvier, I'd have left in disgust after the first few days.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I need a break.

I got up this morning to find Sunny clearing off some of the bookshelves in the living room.

As I walked in she handed me a foreign banknote that she's found in one of the books. It was a mint-condition 1000 Cruzado note from Brazil.

On the off chance it was worth something, I hopped online to look up how much it was worth in US dollars. I figured it wouldn't be worth much, but looking it up online costs nothing, and five minutes effort could either net me nothing, or it could be worth fifty or even a hundred dollars.

My jaw hit the floor when I found that 1000 Cruzados is worth approximately $660 US dollars. I didn't exactly start mentally spending the money, but I visited a few more sites to confirm the exchange rate.

Just when I was starting to convince myself that we'd had a nice windfall, the other shoe dropped. 1000 Cruzados was, indeed, worth $660 dollars, but brazil changed from the Cruzado to the 'real' in 1994, meaning the banknote was obsolete and completely worthless.

Figuring that a mint-condition bill that went out of circulation 16 years ago might be worth something to a collector, I looked up the current worth to a collector.

A mint condition 1000 Cruzado note, formerly worth $660 face value is currently values at one… dollar.

Then, this afternoon, I discovered our hot water heater is leaking, That if it can't be fixed is going to cost around 300 dollars we don't have to fix.

So I started today up $660, then found myself only up by $1…and end in the evening with a leaking hot water heater that's ruining the floor that we can't afford to replace for a least a month.

How was your day?

[Edit] Just went into the bathroom to the sound of running water. The TP Valve is jammed open, and after an unsuccessful attempt to flush it, I had to turn it off and the water going to it...which means no hot water until at least april...and that's only if my stepson and I can work out how to install the damn thing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Say Cheese

Well, today was cold and rainy, and after yesterdays two mile run/walk, I decided to halve the distance and walk the whole way. I figured some exercise was better than none, and running while my knees and legs are still sore would be just plain stupid.

I got home, took off my coat (which I'd managed to forget isn't even close to waterproof, again)…and Sunny brought me dinner.

Lasagna with lots of mozzarella and ricotta cheese.

I ate it, then looked at the nutritional information on the ricotta cheese and nearly had a heart attack. Half from the shock of the numbers, and half from the twenty-seven tons of saturated fat and cholesterol that the lasagna dumped in my ateries.

It was then I noticed a pattern. On Sunny's days of, when she cooks…the whole healthy eating thing seems to go out the window. For example, yesterday I cooked a curry, which was lean ground turkey, fresh mushrooms, onion and bell peppers, chicken stock a can of tomatoes and curry powder.

Today it was the rest of the ground turkey, pasta, tomatoes…which is great except for the metric ton of cheese.

I think the problem is that Sunny is an old-fashioned southern girl. Her first concern with any food is how it tastes. Today's lasagna wouldn't have been nearly as unhealthy without the whole package of Ricotta cheese in it…but it wouldn't have tasted as good without it, so it went in anyway.

I guess from now on I'll be doing ALL the cooking. It just seems to be a huge waste of time to exercise all week and have 99% of it undone with a single meal.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yesterday Morning, In Pictures.

So, yesterday morning I got up and decided to do a little target practice with my air rifle.

About five minutes in I heard a distinctive scratching from behind me, I turned to see...


Yup, one of the little rodent terrorists that like to chew through my roof and cause untold damage. I politely asked it to leave and stop destroying my property. Instead, it walked right up to me and said...

and proceeded to tell me how it could do whatever it wanted because, and I quote 'It be a squirrel an' shit, yo.' At this point I cocked my rifle and aimed it at the little bastards head, and suddenly it changed its mind about eating my roof...

and it ran back into the woods, never to be heard from again.

...unless it wants to get shot in its fucking smug squirrel face.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ka-Boom!

Yesterday, I was sitting on the couch reading 'Dr. No.' while Sunny was watching TV. I tend to try to occupy myself with something else whenever Sunny watches TV, because the things she watches tend to drive me into a blind rage.

This time it was the new show on the History channel called 'Addiction'.

So, there's this thirty-something alcoholic heroin addict who's living with her parents while her kids are being brought up by someone else because she can't take care of them. Cue lots of scenes of this woman screaming at her parents for treating her like a child, not trusting her, blah, blah, blah.

Then, we cut to the so-called expert who gets on camera…and basically blames everything on the addict's parents:

"This is a hostile environment. There's no trust. It doesn't matter if she's right or if she's telling the truth, her parents don't trust her. They're driving her towards the drugs."

This was the point my head exploded.

You see, less than five minutes earlier, we heard this heroin addict talk about how she likes to hustle her parents and anyone around her for money. Then we saw her call her granddad, tell him that she needs twenty bucks for groceries, take the money from him on camera…and then start laughing her ass off about how she tricked him the second the door closed. I mean, literally holding the money up to the camera and laughing about how she was going to spend it on heroin. Next cut, she's shooting up in her bedroom, bragging about how easily she can con her family into giving her money.

It's not a 'hostile environment' because her parents don't trust her. It's a hostile environment because she lies through her teeth, cons her family into giving her money for drugs and doesn't like being caught. Exactly what are her parents supposed to do? Take her word for everything, not check up on her and turn a blind eye when they find drugs in her room because it's 'not her fault'?

Then again, I'm not exactly surprised. We live in a zero-responsibility culture where nothing is ever our fault and there's always someone or something else to blame.

I want to know how these so-called 'experts' can sleep at night. Here we have someone who chose to drink, chose to start taking heroin decided getting high meant more to her than her kids…and somehow she's a victim while the real villains are her parents who took her and are trying to stop her taking drugs.

Then again, this is a culture where you can eat junk food every single day until you're too fat to get out of bed, and then sue McDonalds as though they put a gun to your head and forced you to eat like a moron.

Seriously, America…WTF? Where does this end?

Can I shoot a stranger in the street, sue the gun maker for putting the gun in my hand, the movie industry for desensitizing me to violence and finally the victim's family because seeing the dude's head explode scarred me mentally and walk completely free as a 'victim'?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Excuses, excuses.

I can honestly say that getting diabetes was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.

I realized today that if I'd carried on the way I was going, I'd probably have been lucky to see my 40th birthday. Up until a year ago I was smoking about 30 cigarettes a day, my activity level was absolutely zero and I was eating almost nothing but junk.

My problem was that, like most people, I was full of excuses and simple self-delusion. Sure, I was smoking a lot, but I was always going to quit next year, for sure. Sure, I ate a lot of junk, but that didn't matter because I never ate breakfast. Anyway, McDonalds wasn't that unhealthy…it's more unhealthy than a nice green salad, but so are a lot of things.

Let's just say that changing your lifestyle and getting in shape because you'd like to be a little thinner isn't quite the motivator that waking up almost blind is. When you suddenly work out that the choice isn't 'look like I do now or get a bit thinner' but instead it's 'get healthy or die'…it's amazing how motivated you get.

The thing is, I don't think I'd have needed that sort of motivation if I'd realized just how easy it is to change. It's like quitting smoking. Six weeks after I quit, I realized I'd have quit much sooner had I known that it wasn't going to be nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

Basically, I thought diet and exercise was going to be really, really hard work for a really, really small change. It isn't.

First of all, exercising isn't hard. If you're like me, you'll start to lose weight and feel better if you just go for a walk for a mile or two every day. That sounds like a lot when you're used to sitting on the couch, but that's basically twenty to thirty minutes at an easy pace. Take an MP3 player with you and listen to an audiobook while you walk and you'll be done before you realize it.

The surprising thing is that it was only about two weeks of doing this before I actually felt a hell of a lot better and my resting heart rate dropped noticeably... and after a month of this I'd dropped almost ten pounds. It really is that easy. Of course, when you start to get fitter you'll need to start increasing your workout a little to get the same effect, but that's a good thing, you're getting fitter.

This, of course, is when people start with the usual excuses. All together now: "But I just don't have the time and after a long day at work I just don't feel like it."

Bollocks. Everyone can spare half an hour a day, what you really mean is you'd rather spend that half an hour doing something else. Get up half an hour earlier and walk before you go to work, or go at night after the kids have gone to bed. Not feeling like it and 'not having the energy' isn't an excuse either. Getting fit is your body adapting to what's being asked of it, meaning the more you exercise, the more energy you actually have.

My first week of walking I'd walk for a mile and come back feeling like I had a workout. A month later I was walking two miles easily. Yesterday I walked three miles, ran for one, felt absolutely great and after half an hour at home I was still feeling restless so I walked another mile to test the calibration on my Nike+ sensor.

Basically, not exercising because you don't have the energy is like not filling your car with gas because you want to take a long trip.

Sure, I know a lot of you have a hundred other excuses, but here's the thing…I made exactly the same excuses six months ago and I know they're all just so much bullshit. Don't get me wrong, I know you actually believe them 100%...but just because you believe them doesn't mean they're not bullshit.

Secondly, I don't think people really know how to eat healthily and I don't mean just learning what's good for you and what isn't. I mean working out how to eat so you still enjoy it.

I think people tend to get over-motivated and go too far when they start dieting and make massive changes they're never going to be able to keep up. It's really easy to go completely off all your favorites and eat nothing but salads for a few days, but within a week, you're back at the McDonalds Drive-through.

Let me put it to you this way: There's a huge difference between a piece of fried chicken from KFC and a straight chicken breast that you put under a broiler yourself. The dry chicken breast may be much healthier than the fried chicken, but it tastes of nothing and it's definitely not something you'll look forward to eating..

However, take that same chicken breast, sprinkle it with some garlic powder, onion powder, fresh black pepper and a little teriyaki sauce and then put it under the broiler, as a very wise man once said: "That shit be delicious."

The other big thing is it's amazing how quickly and easily you can get used to things. When I first had to give up sugar, I drank some sugar-free coke and literally reeled after tasting it. I thought there was no way I would ever be able to drink it. Two weeks later I was ordering diet coke in restaurants and having to get Sunny to taste it to make sure it was diet because I couldn't tell…then when I took a sip of her regular coke, it was so ridiculously sweet and sugary I couldn't believe she could actually drink it…and this is coming from a guy who used to have six spoonfuls of sugar in his coffee.

Basically, what the past six months have proven to me is that being overweight and unhealthy is a choice, plain and simple. Getting fit is simply making the decision to stop making excuses and the willingness to put in a little bit of effort.

I look forward to your comments telling me why I'm wrong.

Simple, really.

I was watching TV when an advert for another reality show about people with addictions came on.

It suddenly struck me… Why do people feel the need to make everything more complicated than it is?

If you have an addiction, just stop. It's that simple. Accept that it's going to be hard and that quitting is going to suck… and if you slip up, accept that you slipped up and try again…then keep trying again until you succeed.

I think the reason we make things complicated is pretty obvious. The more complicated something is, the easier it is to make excuses.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Son of a…

So today I went out for my usual morning walk, and spurred on by my gadgetry I decided I was going to add an extra mile to the distance and up the speed a little bit.

Then, I don't know if it was the bright sunshine or just the idea of leveling up (I figure leveling from a yellow runner to an orange is +1 Str and at least +2 Con), I decided to run the last mile. I was walking fast, My heart rate was up, but I wasn't out of breath and the 'runner's high' (which until a month ago I always thought was a myth) was starting to kick in and I was generally feeling good.

I made it about a half mile before I had to slow down and walk for a minute or so, but then I took the last half mile at a steady jog.

Yeah, I know, running a mile is no big deal, but I was pleased with myself. As I've said before, I used to get a little out of breath just strolling the quarter mile to the mailbox and back…actually running a mile, even with a break, especially when I'd just fast-walked 2.5 miles is a major achievement for me.

Then I got home and made a horrific discovery. While the sensor works perfectly at a walking pace in my home-made 'duct-taped to my insole' configuration, it doesn't work very well at all when I'm actually running. I looked at the graph, and even though I'd covered about 3.5 miles in less than an hour, it was showing I'd only covered about 2.6 miles…which means it registered a shorter distance and a slower time than the shorter, slower walk I did yesterday.

So, now I guess I've got no choice but to spring $60 on a pair of Nike+ shoes…which sucks because it's going to be a month before I can afford them.

Anyone feel like donating to the 'Stop Paulius Being a Lard-Ass Fund'?

No?

Draw your DnD character for five bucks then?

No?

Oh well, worth a try.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

This is Just Downright Awesome.

I'll admit that when I first started exercising, it definitely came under the heading of ''necessary evil". If I had a choice of being out walking or sitting on my ass in front of the TV, the TV won by a huge margin.

Then I actually started to 'feel the benefit' as they say and started to enjoy exercise, for the benefits at least, if not the exercise itself.

Then came the gadgets.

As most of you know, I'm a huge geek and quite a big nerd. Just buying a watch that uses EKG technology to give me instant feedback on my heart rate and calories burned motivated me a lot, and once I had the 'duh' moment where I could make exercising a lot more fun if I listened to my favorite podcasts while I walked motivated me even more.

Then Nike+ came along and turned exercise into a goddamned RPG…and that's a very good thing.

Ok, walking and running to get fit is one thing. Walking and running so you can fill bars on a computer screen and literally 'level up' as a runner is right up my alley. Before I'd go for a walk because I had to, now I'm going for a walk because once I've gone another 27 miles I level up from a yellow level runner to an orange level runner….and every mile I run not only goes towards my '210 miles in 2010' challenge, but banks miles in the Europe Vs. America 'Most Miles in 2010' challenge. (I'm running for Europe…in your FACE Americans!)

Did I mention that as well as leveling up, you can join any number of challenges and win trophies and medals?

Basically, it's a huge motivator because it's one thing to get up and head out in the rain for some exercise, but it's something completely different to get up and go out in the rain because that day's session will put you over the top on a challenge.

As a geek and a nerd, I can highly recommend Nike+, as well as recommend it for serious athletes who want to track some fairly detailed stats.

Redneck ingenuity

Regular readers will know that I'm trying to get back into shape because I have the diabeetus.

Regular readers will also know that a few weeks ago, I bought an iPod touch.

Well, today, Sunny and I went out for a drive and stopped at a local sports store to stretch our legs a little. While we were in there, I noticed they had the Nike+ sensor on sale for just under $30 bucks.

In case you're wondering what the sensor is, it's a wireless sensor you put in your shoe that measures speed, distance and generally keeps track of a lot of stats while you walk or run. As well as giving you instant feedback on your iPod, you can also register with Nike.com, so whenever you connect your iPod to your computer, it will upload all the details so you can see graphs of your distance and speed...as well as setting up a coaching programs with fitness goals, etc, etc.

Sure, maybe it's pure gadget porn, but I'm a gadget pervert and anything that keeps me motivated to keep exercising is a good idea, right?

Well, when I first heard of the Nike+ Sensor, I was defintely intrigued as the sensor cost less than a good quality pedometer... but I quickly dismissed the idea when I heard you need a pair of Nike+ shoes for it to work. While I can afford a thirty dollar gadget to keep me motivated, I certainly can't afford $150 for running shoes...especially as I'm walking, not running.

Then, while I was at the store, I discovered something... The only difference between a regular running shoe and a 'Nike+' shoe is that Nike+ shoes have a little cut-out under the insole for the sensor to fit in.

Figuring I could bypass the $150 running shoe problem, I bought the sensor.

When I got home I took my $20 sneaker, duct-taped the sensor to the middle of the insole and slapped a Dr. Scholl's insole over the top.

When I have the sneakers on I can just barely feel the sensor and it works perfectly.

I think I'm finally starting to feel like I fit in here in the south. Instead of buying a $150 pair of Nike sneakers I got the same effect using my $20 sneakers and some duct tape.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Maybe the FDA should hire a Warlock.

Sunny and I were sitting watching TV when one of those bloody awful 'ghost-hunting' shows came on.

These things almost always send me into a rage because it pisses me off that these people call themselves 'investigators' and claim to be scientists. They're not 'scientific' at all. These are so-called 'investigators' who go into someone's house, fill it with a fuck-ton of cameras, audio equipment and various other electronics, and then walk around looking for ghosts with EM detectors.

Hey, you know what's a more reasonable explanation for the tiny fluctuations on your home-made EM meter than ghosts? The shit load of electronic devices you loaded the house with!

About fifteen minutes in Sunny turned to me and told me to stop taking it so seriously. She said that, yeah, it's obviously stupid, but it's something to laugh at, not get wound up over.

At that precise moment came the part that tipped me over the edge:

After these assholes had just spent 15 minutes jerking themselves off over how amazingly scientific and skeptical they were, and how they only performed thorough, serious investigations… in walked a fat 40 year old woman wearing what looked like a home-made crown/tiara and a red velvet cape who referred to herself as 'Lady Snake'. Then, this woman who looked like a 1980's Doctor Who villain explained that she was a witch and started performing a 'ritual' in which she held up her hands and talked bollocks about 'dark goddesses' for five minutes.

I pointed at the screen:

"That's why these shows piss me off." I said to Sunny. "It's 2010 and there are still idiots like her playing dress-up and pretending they have magical powers… and that way too many people taking people like her seriously… and think about this: that crazy deluded bitch can vote! She has the same say in running the country that you or I have…probably more because if anyone points out that she's a deluded freak who needs to grow up and join the real world, suddenly we're discriminating against her because of her beliefs."

The thing is, I'm not even saying the paranormal isn't a valid field of study. I'm not saying a show where they honestly investigated a so-called haunted house wouldn't be extremely interesting…I'm just sick to death of watching idiots do it.


 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Effing typical

So, it's three am, I'm just about to get into bed when I decide to just check to see if there's any new podcast episodes available.

I'm pressing the stumble button as I'm waiting for the download to finish...one page takes longer than it should to download and then...Bam! Freaking browser hijack.

Now I've got a fake 'windows defender' box popping up every thirty seconds telling me to buy and download something to clear a billion viruses.

So, in other words, someone has infected my PC so they can charge me for a 'cure' that'll make things worse.

Kinda like me throwing shit at your car's windshield, then charging you to let me clean it off with diareah.

Oh, did I mention it effed up my registry and won't let me start up any of my anti-malware stuff.

So, yeah. I get to spend the next hour or so trying to fix this crap.

Now I feel bad for bitching about the iPod Touch. That's what I'm writing this on while my fecking PC scans away in safe mode.

...too bad I was watching the Nostalgia Critic, you need flash to watch his videos.

Doesn’t make much sense…

Something I completely forgot to mention on here is that a few weeks ago, I upgraded from my iPod Nano to an iPod Touch.

I haven't bothered to review it because I think reviewing it at this point would be a complete waste of time… it's basically an iPhone without the phone part, and everyone either wants one or they don't, so an in-depth review would be just about pointless. There are a couple things I'd like to mention, however.

Apple have somehow gotten themselves this reputation for producing amazing, flawless products, and they're constantly surrounded by legions of fanboys who fly into a rage if you so much as suggest that something with the Apple logo on it isn't absolutely perfect.

Well, I have two major gripes with the iPod Touch and here they are:

First of all, why in the blue hell can't I sync wirelessly?

I mean, that's a glaring omission right there. On a device full of super-ergonomic features to make your life easier, like the '.com' button in the web-browser, and a 'download more episodes' button right in your podcast menu…why can't I sync wirelessly? Given that I can buy from iTunes over wi-fi and have my purchases sent directly to the device, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Now, this is a huge gripe, but as you have to hook your iPod to your computer to charge it anyway, it's forgivable…but what's really not forgivable is how Safari isn't compatible with flash.

This is something I really don't get. Flash is used on so many websites that having a browser that doesn't support it almost completely cripples it. If it was 2003, it would be a nuisance, but in 2010, a browser that doesn't support flash might as well not support pictures or hyperlinks.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Got it.

You know what? I think I've finally figured it out.

Ok, I think it's pretty clear that Edward whatisname from Twilight is pretty much the predominant female fantasy right now…and for a very long time I couldn't figure out why.

Oh, I know that Stephanie Meyer describes him as 'perfect' at least a hundred times a page, but that's nothing new. You can find that in any trashy romance novel. The real question is: What's so sexy about him being a vampire?

But here's the thing. Edward isn't a vampire. I know this. My thesis for my English-Lit Bachelor's degree was on 'Vampires in Literature and Folklore'. Vampires are alien, amoral killers driven by a need to control. They certainly don't have families. If Edward wanted Mary-Sue… sorry… I mean Bella, he'd just take her, use her and enslave or kill her afterwards.

…and that is exactly why Edward is such a huge fantasy. It's actually a huge insight into the female psyche when you work it out.

The attraction of Edward isn't that he's a vampire, it's that he's a vampire that decides not to be a vampire for the sake of a woman.

Here's a real world example: I absolutely despise reality TV, so a woman telling me that she also hates reality TV instantly makes her more attractive to me…but that's not the way it works with women.

Say a woman hates watching football. You'd think that what she'd want in a partner is someone who also doesn't like football so she never has to watch it… but that's not true. What she really wants is a an absolutely massive football fan who'll miss the Superbowl to listen to her talk about her day.

Basically, the fantasy of Edward Cullen (I just looked his surname up) isn't that he's the perfect man, it's the fact he's bending over backwards and going through hell to please a woman.

It makes so much sense. Women don't want perfect men…they just want men who are willing to suffer for them.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Making Sense Not Necessary.

I was reading something today about a proposed plan in England to do away with road tax and start charging people per mile based on the car they drive, the roads they drive on and the times of day they drive.

It's yet another bullshit scheme to supposedly help the environment and ease congestion. For example, if you're driving on an empty back road in the middle of the night, you'll get charged a couple of pennies a mile…but driving on a main road during rush hour could cost as much as 2GBP (almost four dollars a mile).

I love the way these people's minds work. The whole idea is to price us out of being able to drive…but they don't seem to understand that there's a reason the main roads are congested at 7-8am in the morning, because that's the time everyone's heading to work or taking the kids to school. We can't exactly drop the kids off at school at 3am or wander into work at 11 to avoid the peak time charges. Our entire infrastructure is based around the automobile. Not only is public transport just not available to a lot of people, it can't actually handle the volume of passengers it has now.

The funny thing is that all the supposed 'solutions' to transport problems seem to do nothing to ease the problem and just cost everyone a fuck ton of money. Speed cameras aren't doing anything to prevent accidents, the congestion charge in London has done nothing to ease congestion…but what these schemes are doing is making millions for the government.

Now, what I have to ask is that if the government is really serious about lowering congestion and helping the environment, why are they trying to discourage driving instead of encouraging alternatives?

As I said above, most people have no alternative but to drive, and even people that could take public transport don't want to because buses are over-crowded, filthy and stink of piss.

Why not take the opposite tack. Instead of charging people the equivalent of $17 a day to drive in London, why not offer free or cheap gas to people who car pool? Very few people will take the bus when their car is still an option, but I know lots of people who would pick up a couple of co-workers or take the neighbors' kids to school if they got a free tank of gas out of it. Or instead of making it so expensive to drive, make public transport more attractive. Dropping fare prices and stopping the buses and trains from stinking of human excrement would be a start.

Of course, it'll never happen. It's the same reason the tax on cigarettes is so high. The government claim it's because they want to discourage people from smoking, but the real reason is because smokers are addicted to cigarettes and are going to buy them at almost any price.


 

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Clearing a few things up.

I've been reading the comments that I got for my 'People are people' post, and I feel I have a little more to say:

My overall point is that people in America, the UK and all over the developed world seem to answer every call for aid with 'We should help our own people first'…and This is perfectly right and I agree with this view completely, except for one thing…we're not helping our own.

What it boils down to is that there is enough wealth, knowledge and manpower in America (and most countries of the developed world) to make sure everyone has a place to live, enough to eat and the medical attention they need…but that's never going to happen…and here's why:

We're human beings, we love to divide the world into 'Us' and 'Them'. When there's a disaster in some far off country, people ask why we should help them when so many of us need help.

But the problem is that 'domestic homeless' people are only 'us' in that particular context. When someone turns up on TV asking for help for our homeless, they suddenly stop being 'us' and start being 'them' again. The poor homeless that are going without while we throw money at those damn foreigners are suddenly back to being the people we ignore or tell to get a job when they ask for spare change.

Then we hear about the kids who are starving through no fault of their own, and we're sad and all, but we can't really help them when we have our own kids to take care of.

Then, especially in America, when someone or something comes along that will help people, suddenly it's socialism and we're not interested.

RayRay's original posting of the Facebook meme commented on how so many people in America are going without the medical attention they need. Then, when the President starts talking about health care reform which will get everyone the basic level of healthcare they need, everyone starts fighting against it tooth and nail… basically because socialized healthcare means 'we' will have to pay for 'them'.

Anyway, my whole point isn't that we should help everyone who asks for it, or that solving another country's problems should take precendence over solving our own… it's that the majority of people who scream and shout that we should 'help our own first' really mean is 'I don't want to help anyone but myself because, at my core, I'm a selfish asshole.'

I'm going to quote fellow blogger Evan here, someone that recently donated a lot of his own time and energy helping remodel flood-damaged homes with his church:

"if you're not giving to anyone -- and taxes don't count -- you don't really belong in this discussion."

Crosman Storm XT Review

Rather oddly, this is my fourth attempt to write an in-depth review of the Storm.. Mainly this is because my opinion of this rifle has constantly swung back and forth between 'the best $110 I ever spent' and 'so frustratingly bad I can barely resist smashing it against the wall'.

Well, after nearly a month of back and forth, I've finally made my mind up…so here's my review:

My first impression of this gun was a pleasant one. When I took it out of the box I was honestly surprised at just how good it looked and felt. I've owned various BB guns and air-rifles in the past and they've all felt very plasticy and toy-like. This was the first air-rifle I've ever held that looks and feels like a 'real' rifle. It's actually slightly bigger and heavier than my Remington 597 .22LR and even just a bit longer than my Mossberg 500 12 gauge.

Even better, the gun feels well made and solid…which unfortunately is more than I can say for the iron sights and scope rings.

The iron sights are very plasticy and very flimsy and (on a completely calm day) I found I had to adjust the rear sight all the way to the left just to get it to shoot straight. The scope rings you get with this rifle are almost as bad. In all honesty, the iron sights and scope rings feel like something you get from one of those novelty machines you see in grocery stores.

I just don't understand Crosman's thinking. This is a gun that retails for $110 dollars. I'd much rather have paid $140 or $150 and got a decent set of scope rings and some actual iron iron sights.

Fortunately, the iron sights stop being an issue when you mount a scope, but I'd suggest you buy some decent rings at the same time you buy the rifle (just make sure to also buy a scope stop or get some rings with a vertical stop pin).

On the other end of the spectrum, the included scope (a Centerpoint 3-9X40 mil-dot model) is absolutely outstanding for the price. I'd say it's just as good quality (if not slightly better) than the $80 Simmons scope I have mounted on my .22LR. For a total package price of $110, this is amazing value.

My first real disappointment came the first time I actually shot the rifle for the first time. The scope was almost impossible to sight in simply because the gun was so inaccurate. I was shooting 5"+ groups at 20 yards…which is hardly pin point accuracy.

Luckily, I'd done some research ahead of time and knew that spring piston guns need to be broken in before you can expect decent accuracy… and you need to almost completely re-learn how to shoot to get good accuracy out of one. Rifle Shooting 101 says you grasp the front stock firmly and pull the stock tightly into your shoulder…spring piston rifles, on the other hand, require a really light touch. It takes a lot of getting used to, but using the 'Artillery Hold' (google it) can easily take a couple of inches off your group size.

It was during this breaking in period that my opinion of the rifle started to swing regularly between the two extremes. I'd shoot one nice tight group (my record was 0.2" at 20 yards), finally think the rifle was behaving…and the next group would leave the target looking like I'd fired at it from a mile away with an unchoked shotgun. This wasn't helped by the trigger which is absolutely awful. The pull is long, heavy and vague and you just never know when the gun's going to fire.

Then, something amazing happened.

I can't stress enough just how important the proper hold and technique is for getting the best out of any spring piston rifle, but while the Storm was getting slowly better over time, at around the 1000 shot mark…it got a lot better very quickly.

In all seriousness, I shot one group which was my then average 2"-3" at about 35 yards…and then the next was less than half an inch at the same distance…and although I was expecting that groups to spread again, they never did.

I talked to a few guys from an airgun forum and found quite a few had had similar experiences with this rifle. You shoot and shoot and get a very gradual improvement, and then the gun finds its sweet spot and starts driving tacks over a fifty to a hundred shots.

Your mileage may (and probably will) vary, but my first hundred shots were extremely erratic, then for the next seven or eight hundred it was 'sort of' accurate, then over the next hundred it turned into a gun capable of sub half-inch groups at 40 yards.

The other main point I should make (as one of my previous posts illustrated) is you really have to experiment with the pellets you put through this rifle. It's not about shaving hundredths of an inch off your group…. I can get 0.25" groups with Gamo Hunters, but get nearly 6" groups with Gamo Magnums at the same distance. Basically, get your hands on as many brands and types of pellets that you can find and see how your gun shoots them. It really does make a massive difference.

The final thing was impressed with was the actual power of this gun.

Now, the box claims the Storm is capable of 1200fps, which is completely true…as long as you're using the ultra-light PBA pellets. With regular lead pellets you can realistically expect speeds of around 950-1000fps…which to be honest is plenty.

To put this into perspective, 950fps means that an 8 grain lead pellet is going to leave the barrel at around 650 miles per hour. If you're going to be using this gun for target shooting, you're going to get better accuracy with a sub-sonic pellet…and if you're buying this gun for pest control or hunting, you have more than enough power for anything up to rabbit size…an 8 grain lead pellet travelling at around 1000fps is going to deliver the same amount of energy to the target (if not slightly more) than a 5 grain PBA pellet travelling at 1200fps.

In fact, let me take a moment here to say something important: This isn't an airsoft gun and it certainly isn't a toy… it's a dangerous weapon capable of serious damage. I've read some pretty disturbing 'user reviews' written by kids who were obviously bought this gun by parents who had no idea what it was capable of.

When I was testing this gun I fired a pointed pellet at an old paperback at 10 yards, and not only did the pellet make it clear through the book… it still had enough energy left on the other side to seriously dent the 1/8" steel plate of my pellet trap.

Long story short, this is a rifle. Don't buy it for your kids unless you're planning on supervising them when they use it.

So, at the end of the day, do I recommend this gun?

In a word, absolutely.

Again, I really can't stress how important it is let this gun break in and to learn how to shoot it properly…but the end result is definitely worth the effort involved.

Basically, don't expect to take it out of the box and expect to start driving tacks. In fact, my advice is to put at least 500 rounds through it before you even bother mounting the scope and then spend another 500 rounds just shooting at tin cans before you even consider taking it hunting.

Again, your mileage will vary, but it really is a case of the longer you shoot this rifle, the better it gets.

In conclusion, for 110 dollars you get a rifle that will put the pellets where you want them, and for small game hunting or pest control out to around 50 yards, you may as well be shooting a legally silenced .22LR.

As long as you're willing to persevere, put the time into breaking it in and learning to shoot it…you won't be disappointed.



 

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Son of a...

Yesterday, I got up, went for my walk and officially said goodbye to winter. We'd had three or four days of uninterrupted sunshine, and yesterday I went for my morning walk in just my jeans and a T-shirt...it was a balmy 75 degrees and I actually managed a touch of sunburn on my forehead.

This morning I get up, go for my walk and I get this:

video

The worst part is that the day before yesterday I shaved my head and on the way back from my walk I was walking into the wind, and a train came adding a 25mph slipstream to the mix.

I don't know if you've ever had snow melting on your bald head while a 25mph icy wind blasts away at it, but I believe the correct term for this is 'fucking painful'

People are People. Period.

I read fellow blogger Rayray's most recent post where he said this:

"So, there's a statement circulating on Facebook about the situation in Haiti. It goes as follows:
"JUST FOR AMERICA: Shame on you America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment - yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations. 99% of people won't have the guts to copy and repost this"

I'm going to have to agree.
Too long has the U.S. come to the aid of others all the while overlooking the plights on our own soil."

I was going to comment but quickly discovered I have too much to say.

Firstly, I'd just like to point out that there's a massive difference between a country's ongoing problems and a sudden, intense natural disaster. Yes, we have a lot of problems in America…but we also have homeless shelters, food banks, medicare, etc in place to help deal with them. Sure, these problems aren't going away, but we're taking steps to help.

Comparing an ongoing homeless problem to an event like the Haiti earthquake is like comparing the current homeless situation in New York City to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Speaking of Hurricane Katrina, I'd like to point out that while people complain about the amount of aid America sends overseas, they tend overlook the aid coming the other way. When Hurricane Katrina hit, the USA received almost a billion dollars in foreign aid ($854 million to be exact) as well as numerous volunteers, food and other materiel. More importantly in this context, a significant amount of that aid came from 'non-allied' countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Cuba.

I want you to really think about that. While here in America we're complaining about sending aid abroad when our own people are suffering, over eighty countries sent aid after Katrina. When Bangladesh a country where the average yearly income is around $500 willingly sends a million dollars, it puts the whole 'Americans suffering' thing under an entirely new light.

From a purely practical standpoint I want to ask another question: If America, one of the richest nations in the world, had a policy of ignoring requests for aid from foreign powers in their time of need…what would the response have been when America officially asked the EU for aid after Katrina? If you're mercenary enough to believe that stopping children from starving isn't a reward in itself, the one thing all those aid dollars do buy is a hell of a lot of good will.

The part that honestly sickens me is that the majority of people complaining about 'sending aid to foreigners when Americans are in trouble' aren't donating money to American Charities either. Basically, if you're not helping anyone, why the fuck are you complaining about who other people choose to help?

Personally, if me donating the change in my wallet to a charity will keep a baby in milk for another week, I honestly don't give a flying fuck where that baby lives.

Secondly, I have to comment on blogger Evan's comment:

"…Furthermore, the BEST that we can hope for is that the Hatians' suffering will return to pre-quake levels. I'm not exactly sure that's helping anyone in the long run."

Sorry Evan, but that's a classic case of the Utopia Paradox: Defaulting to inaction because helping won't immediately fix the whole situation… and as a result, nothing gets fixed. Sending humanitarian aid to Haiti may be like putting a band aid on a broken arm, but the simple truth is that unless we help, there won't be a long run.

Returning the Haitians to their 'pre-quake levels of suffering', also means that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children won't die of starvation. Helping won't completely 'fix' Haiti, but at least it's a start.

I'm not saying it's our duty to help anyone and everyone…but as I said above (and I should be clear I'm not talking about Evan or RayRay), it sickens me that people who aren't helping anyone are complaining and getting jingoistic about other people helping people who need it.

In the end, my point is this: If you feel that we should be helping Americans before foreigners, feel absolutely free to donate your time or money to the American charity of your choice. If you're not helping anyone, then the whole issue is none of your business.