Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Opening a Can of Worms

Well, it appears my last post touched a nerve. So it's time to clear some things up and deal with the bumper family-sized can of worms it opened.

Twice, fellow blogger Saffy commented with this point: "How can you say whether or not
it (childbirth) is amazing or an achievement if it's something you will NEVER do because you're a bloke."

Saffy, you completely missed my point in the post and then completely missed it again in my comment. I'm not denying that childbirth is a wonderful, miraculous thing….from a biological point of view. My point is that the physical act of having a child is neither an achievement or anything to be proud of.

Do you understand? Yes, childbirth is amazing…but then so is the cell-phone network that lets me talk to anyone in the world with a tiny device I can carry in my pocket… but that doesn't mean it's an achievement for me to make a phonecall. It's like the internet is amazing… but I don't take credit for its invention when I send an email.

Basically, if you have a kid, all it means is that you had sex nine months ago. That's not an achievement. As I mentioned in the original post, if you actually raise that child properly and turn them into a sane, well-adjusted adult, that's an actual feat that I'm willing to applaud.

Now for the can of worms.

Saffy said: "It's a bit like when men get their noses in the abortion debate - you don't have the ability to be pregnant so it shouldn't be your business."

I have to admit, when I read that, my monocle popped clear off my fucking face.

I'm sorry, Saffy, but that's one of the most ridiculously sexist, bullshit thing I've ever read.

In the past, I've said that my point of view on abortion is that it's none of my business, because I agree that it's not my place to tell a stranger what to do. I won't lie, I have my own views on the subject, but those views are superceded by one of the main tenets I live my life by: Morals and values are personal things that no-one should force on anyone else.

Basically, if a woman wants an abortion, that's none of my business…but saying men in general shouldn't have a say is total horseshit. A random female I've never met wanting a abortion is none of my business, but when it comes to their partners and husbands? You're damn fucking right it's their business.

As fellow blogger Evan said:

"(1) A man and woman have sex, and a child is conceived. Heck, to further the argument, let's say that he wore a condom and it broke. She becomes pregnant and decides to have the child. The man has NO say in this, and also is on the hook for child support. This, by the way, is the status quo.

(2) A man and a woman have sex, and a child is conceived. She becomes pregnant and decides to terminate the pregnancy, despite HIS willingness to raise the child.

I understand that in the end it's the woman's body, but how can any woman worth her salt claim that it's "not the man's business?""

Let me take this a little further and expand on what Evan said.

If a child is conceived, by law, the man is required to care for that child, even if he's not 'in the picture'. The thinking there is that the man is 50% responsible for the creation of that child, so he's 50% responsible to raise that child to adulthood. That's perfectly fine and I agree with it…even though the laws governing custody basically treat fatherhood as a joke.

However, you're saying that if a woman wants an abortion, it's none of the father's business, even though the law (and conventional wisdom) states that the father is 50% responsible for the child. In other words, if you choose to have the baby, the father should be forced to support the child because it's his baby as well. However, if you choose to have an abortion, it's none of the father's business because 'it's your body'.

Let me illustrate this further and hopefully make you see this a different way.

In our society, motherhood is all but worshipped, while fatherhood is diminished to the point where the only real 'right' of fatherhood is the legal obligation to financially support the child and mother.

If a couple get pregnant and the woman chooses to have the child against the wishes of the father, that's exactly the same as a woman getting pregnant and being forced to have the child whether she wants it or not. If the woman chooses to have an abortion against the wishes of the father, that is also exactly the same as a woman wanting a child and being forced to have an abortion.

As simply as I can put it, if a woman was forced to abort her child that's a human rights violation and a crime against nature…if a man is forced to abort his child, it's no big deal. If a woman wants to abort her child because she wants to stay in school or keep her career, that's her right as well. If the man wants that, tough shit, he shouldn't have dipped his dick if he didn't want a child.

Are you spotting a double standard here? I'll give you a hint: Motherhood is sacred, Fatherhood is meaningless.

Now, okay, I'll admit that the fact the woman has to carry the child is a factor…but when we're talking about sexual equality, this is one area where the sexes are absolutely not equal and everything is entirely in the female's favor.

Basically, I want you to imagine getting pregnant, wanting to keep the child, and being forced against your will to have an abortion…or vice versa… because that's what millions of men are forced to go through every day.

Put simply, if Sunny got pregnant, she would be pregnant with my child…and the very idea that you can say that I have absolutely no right to any sort of say in what happens to my child is just downright fucking offensive.

In other words, the things you claim as a basic human rights don't apply to men. Your argument, in the same breath, says that men are completely responsible and obligated to the children they produce…but also don't matter at all.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Because I haven’t slept and have a headache.

Clicking the Stumble button, I found this:

"Modern Family actress Julie Bowen recently showed off this photo of herself nursing her infant twin sons in the "football hold" on the late-night show Lopez Tonight. What surprised us most? Bowen's admission that The View had allegedly declined to let her show the same photo.

Bowen is obviously proud of her accomplishment of nursing her sons, as she should be, and wants to encourage other moms. Her photo, showing that breastfeeding twins is indeed possible, would have been educational and inspirational to other moms."

Ok, in case you're wondering, this isn't going to be about censorship…it's going to be about parenting and this ridiculous attitude that having a child is some kind of massive achievement.

I mean, I says it in the excerpt right there. "Bowen is obviously proud of her accomplishment of nursing her sons."

I'm asking you seriously… Am I going crazy? Am I wrong to believe that the feat of holding a baby up to your nipple isn't exactly an 'accomplishment'?

But it's the next bit that totally blew my mind: "Her photo, showing that breastfeeding twins is indeed possible, would have been educational and inspirational to other moms."

... Seriously? Are you telling me that there are women out there who thought it was impossible to nurse two babies at once? Who are these women? Who in the blue hell gives birth to twins and doesn't at some point realize that they have two nipples? Where there women a home watching the show and it suddenly dawns on them:

Oh…my…God! Two babies…two boobies…I could feed both at once!

To be honest, the thing that really bothers me about that article is the attitude that seems to be very common in our society where people think giving birth is some massive achievement and something to be insanely proud of.

I hate to say this, but all having a child says about you is you did the nasty 9 months ago. It's like "Congratulations! You've managed to do what billions of people in the world have managed before you! Way to rub your genitals together!"

If you'll allow me a small tangent for a minute…it's like those massive smacktards who post pictures of their babies as their profile pictures on social networking sites. It's not impressive, no one but yourself and maybe your immediate family give a shit that you managed to pop out a sprog…and way to completely miss the point of a profile picture, asshole. If I'm trying to track down an old friend, am I supposed to work out it's you from the family resemblance of the two month old (who is frankly indistinguishable from ever other two month old in the world) in the picture you posted where your own should be?

What's next? Gonna send your fucking ultra-sound scan in when you apply for your passport?

Here's the deal. Having a baby isn't impressive. It's not even special.

What is an achievement is being a good parent.

Don't act like you're something special because you stuck your penis in a vagina… I'm not going to applaud your 'achievement' of having sex without protection.

I'll wait until your kid's eight or nine and comes over to my house with you and is polite, well-mannered and knows how to behave. That I will applaud.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Okay, this is driving me mad…

Allow me a moment to talk about HD. That's HD as in 'High Definition'. It's amazing how long it's been around and how so few people still understand what 'HD' means.

For example, last night, I was perusing the interwebs when I found a review of my Netbook where the owner complained that it chugged a little when he tried to watch a HD movie.

My question was this: Why in the blue hell would you try to watch a 1080p movie on a 1024x600 screen?

Ok, let me start with a little primer. You know how some HDTVs are 720p and others are 1080p? What that number refers to is the number of horizontal rows of pixels (dots) that make up the picture. A 1080p TV simply has more pixels to make up the picture, so given a constant screen size, a 1080p picture will be sharper and more detailed than a 720p picture.

Think of it this way: Imagine trying to draw a picture on graph paper, but you have to draw the picture by completely filling in the squares on the paper. If you have a large sized piece of paper, and that paper has 720 rows of squares, you won't be able to draw as detailed a picture on that as you would on a same piece of paper with 1080 rows of smaller squares.

Put simply, the more pixels/dots you have, the sharper the image.

However, and this is the part people miss: screen size is a huge factor. It's actually possible to have a sharper picture on a 720p set than it is on a 1080p set.

Okay, most people are at least vaguely aware of the term 'Dots per Inch' or DPI. You know when you print something, if you print a picture at 100 DPI it's not going to be as sharp as if you print at 300DPI. That's common sense. If we go back to our graph paper analogy, if you can fit 300 dots in an inch, it's going to make up a sharper image than if you can only fit 100 dots in an inch.

So let's imagine you have a huge-ass 50" 1080p HDTV with a screen that's around three feet tall. With those 1080 rows of pixels spread over three feet, that's 30 pixels per inch. For all intents and purposes you have a '30 DPI TV'.

Now imagine you have a smaller 720p TV with a screen that's only a foot tall. When you divide those 720 rows over a single foot, that works out to 60 pixels per inch, meaning you have a 60 DPI TV, which means even though there aren't as many pixels, the picture is going to appear twice as sharp as the big 1080p TV.

In fact, that was the whole point of HD. Screens were getting bigger, and when you stretch a standard definition picture (320p) across a fifty inch screen, it looked like crap. As screens got bigger, the number of pixels per inch fell, so you needed the higher resolution to just to keep the original picture quality. Basically, you need a 1080p screen just so the picture on a big 50 inch screen will look as good as a standard definition picture will look on an old 20" screen.

The easiest way to understand this is to go watch a youtube video and see just how much the picture quality falls between watching it in a widow and watching it full screen. There's the same number of pixels making up the movie in both cases, but in full screen mode, those pixels are having to stretch over a much larger space. The number of pixels isn't nearly as important to picture quality as pixel density is…the number of pixels per inch.

So back to the guy complaining about a 10" netbook not being able to show Hi-Def video without chugging…there's no point. You're watching a 1080p video downsized to 600p…and that 1080p video isn't going to look any sharper on the netbook screen than a video that's 'natively' 600p.

Basically, the netbook screen is only 5" tall, meaning that at its max resolution of 600p, the screen has a resolution of 120 pixels per inch. When you compare this to even a smaller 32" 1080p screen, which is approximately 16" tall…that works out at 67 pixels per inch, just over half the pixel density, and therefore 'sharpness', of the netbook.

Yes, we like to get hung up in the numbers, and we want a 1080p screen because 1080 is a bigger number than 720…but the math is simple. A 600p movie on a netbook's 10" screen is actually going to be significantly sharper than 1080p movie on a 32" 1080p screen.

Long story short, your netbook doesn't need to be able to run HD movies, because a 600p movie will appear to be just as sharp (and in many cases sharper) on a 10" screen than a 1080p movie will appear on even a 32" screen.

I know that to a lot of people this is blasphemy…but from a picture clarity and quality point of view, that 10" netbook screen is actually higher definition than your 1080p TV set. The higher the number of pixels per inch, the sharper the final image.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Ultimatum Game

I was reading an article on economics when I made an amazing discovery.

Economists may have a firm grasp on economics, but they have almost no idea about human nature.

I'm talking about 'The Ultimatum Game' experiment. Here's how it goes.

You take two strangers and give one of them ten one-dollar bills. Then you tell Person A that they have to offer Person B (who is in another room and anonymous) some of that money. If Person B accepts the offer, they both keep the money however they divided it, but if Person B rejects the offer, both of them get nothing.

Now, the economists running the experiment expected the following outcome:

Person A would always offer Person B a single dollar, and Person B would accept. The thinking is that Person A would want to keep as much as possible for themselves, and Person B is being offered the choice between a dollar and no money at all, so should logically accept the dollar.

What they found was most people offered around three or four dollars, and if it was less than that, most of the time Person B would actually reject the offer. According to the article, this was totally mystifying to the economists. If someone is offering you two dollars, why would you turn it down?

Me, I'm not an economist, and because of that, the results were exactly what I expected.

Okay, let's imagine I'm Person A in this experiment. Yes, it's true, I want as much money for myself as possible. However, what over-rides that is the desire to not look like a selfish dick. Basically, appearing to be a 'good person' and not a selfish asshole is worth the three or four dollars I'm going to lose.

Now let's imagine I'm Person B. If the guy running the experiment comes through the door and says Person A has offered me the absolute minimum…sure, the choice is a single dollar or no dollar, but I have an instant dislike for Person A because, as I mentioned above, he's being a selfish asshole. From that point of view, it's not a case of one dollar or no dollars… it's a case of keeping a dollar, or spending it on the satisfaction of knowing that I'm depriving the selfish douche who just tried to screw me out of nine.

To be honest, after reading about this experiment, and how the economists who ran it were so mystified by the results…it doesn't surprise me the whole economy fell into the toilet. Apparently, these are people who see the world in profit and loss only. Maybe if they'd stopped for a moment and considered how the real world works instead of just trying to get numbers on screens as high as possible, the whole sub-prime mortgage debacle would never have happened.

Basically, I think the can be boiled down to the fact that these economists just don't understand wha motivates people outside of making the most amount of money. The main 'real world' motivation in the Ultimatum Game wasn't making the most possible (especially as it was such a relatively small amount of money), it was the motivation to not appear selfish and punish people who obviously were.

Another example of this was the daycare center who decided to try to discourage parents from picking their kids up late by charging a nominal fine (around five dollars) if parents were late collecting their kids.

Within days, the amount of parents arriving late had skyrocketed because, previously, parents made the effort to arrive exactly on time in orderto not put out the staff. By instituting the fine, it allowed parents to buy their way out of that guilt. It didn't matter that they were keeping the staff late, because they were paying them to do so.

Without wanting to tack on a heavy-handed moral point, it's these people who can't see these motivations and think everything works on making the most possible who run our economy. It's the reason we have people shorting stocks and making whole businesses go under in order to make a bundle just for themselves.

The economy crashed because people were only concerned with making the most money immediately, without considering how the real world works. Our economy is based on killing the geese that lay the golden eggs...then being honestly surprised when there are no geese left.

Because I Enjoy Arguing

In response to my last post, Capri said:

"Actually getting rid of all that vulgarity would make more room for real original content as well. It didn't make sense in the joke that the woman would object to words that weren't vulgar, but the point of it was she was the cause of the 2-hour delay, and while the joke made me laugh just this once, it sure wouldn't if I saw it again in a chain letter. And if I got a chain letter full of f-bombs besides, that would seriously annoy me. So I basically agree with what you're saying, but don't agree with you wanting a keep-out policy for those who want the content without the obscene crap it originally came with. Us non-obscene people have a right to appreciate content too, whatever it is.., and without the vulgar junk. But yes, chain letters should die. Every one of them."

Ok, first I'd like to point out that 'getting rid of vulgarity' wouldn't 'make room' for anything. The internet is an almost infinite canvas, and what the real problem is, vulgarity or no, is that the majority of the internet is made up of content taken from other sites. My objection was that, as well as the internet being only about 10% original content, a large portion of that content has had all the humor wrung out of it by people trying to make 'offensive humor' family friendly.

What you're doing here is applying your own morals to a situation that doesn't call for them. You've taken my post and twisted its meaning in order to talk about your dislike of 'vulgar humor' and chain letters. My post was about cut and paste content sanitized to the point where it doesn't even make sense any more.

In fact, it appears you didn't even get the joke. The mother causing a two hour delay is not the punch. Humor is based on forcing the audience to make an incorrect assumption, which is revealed in a humorous way, along with a building of tension that's released at the end.

The joke was about swearing. It's about a kid who gets caught swearing, we're made to assume he's learned his lesson, and the twist is that he obviously hasn't learned his lesson when he calls his mother 'the bitch in the kitchen'. However, in the sanitized version, he doesn't swear, gets punished for no reason and then just folds his punishment into his role-playing a train announcer. It takes a funny joke and turns it into a boring story about an oversensitive parent.

I'm not saying that humor has to be 'vulgar' in order to be funny. All I'm saying is when the whole joke is based around vulgarity, trying to make it clean and PC just destroys all the humor and makes an existing problem worse. Not only is the same content being copied over and over, it's been made less and less funny the longer it hangs around.

So, on the one hand, I'll completely agree with you and say I never intended a 'keep-out' policy for people who don't appreciate 'offensive' humor…in fact it appears you've twisted the whole meaning of my post in order to express your own views on vulgarity.

However, there is one point that I will argue with you to the death about, and that's when you said "Us non-obscene people have a right to appreciate content too, whatever it is."

Sorry, but no…No you don't.

You have the right to appreciate content that appeals to you. There is nothing anywhere that says you have a right to have everything 'cleaned up' to where you can appreciate it. You've taken my original point which was a commentary on the quality of internet content and turned it into a question of morality and values.

I was arguing that a 'dirty joke' that's been cleaned to the point where it makes no sense is a bad thing. The important part being 'to where it makes no sense." You're arguing that 'vulgar humor' is itself a bad thing…and that you have a 'right' to a cleaned up version.

My point is that I seriously doubt that Richard Pryor or George Carlin wrote their work with a family audience in mind. Taking their jokes and trying to make them 'safe' takes all the humor away from them. You have the right to not listen to or read that material…you don't have the right to demand its exclusion from the internet because it offends you.

To put it another way, you demanding that all 'vulgar' humor should be cleaned up or removed is like me demanding that all family humor should be 'dirtied up' or removed.

This Is What’s Wrong With The Internet.

First a few statistics:

The internet has been estimated to hold roughly five million terabytes of data. That's 5,120,000,000 gigabytes. For comparison, you can fit the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in roughly half a gigabyte (and that's with pictures). The internet is gargantuan.

So why are we seeing the same thing over and over and over?

Here's why: Because I'd estimate the internet is only about 10% original content. 90% of the internet is just copies of that first ten percent. Think of all the videos that show up on hundreds of sites, all the cut and paste articles, the email forwards, etc, etc.

However, the part that really gets me is when content is lifted from another site, but is then sanitized to the point where it doesn't even make sense any more. Basically, that email forward that you thought was mildly amusing in 1996 finally got on your parent's radar…was changed so it wouldn't offend grandma…and went through so many censorship cycles that the punchline doesn't even make sense any more.

For example, take this joke I found during some random web-surfing:

"A mother was working in the kitchen listening to her son playing with his new electric train in the living room.

She heard the train stop and her son say, "All of you fools who want to get off, get off now, cause this the last stop! And all you fools, who are returning and want to get on, get your tails on the train now, cause we're going down the tracks!"

The mother went into the living room and told her son, " We don't use that kind of language in this house. Now go to your room and stay there for TWO HOURS. When you come out, you may go back and play with your train, but only if you use nice language.

Two hours later the boy came out of the bedroom and resumed playing with his train.

Soon the train stopped and the mother heard her son say "All passengers who are disembarking, please remember to take all of your belongings with you. We thank you for riding with us today and hope your trip was a pleasant one. We hope you will ride with us again.

She hears the little boy continue: "For those of you just boarding we ask you to stow your hand luggage in the racks over your head, or under your seat. Remember, there is no smoking on this train. We hope you will have a pleasant and relaxing journey with us today."

Then the child added, "And for those of you who are annoyed about the TWO HOUR delay, see the annoying woman in the kitchen!"

Didn't you feel your sense of humor die just a little bit?

Originally, the kids used words like 'fucker' instead of fools, and the punch line was "And for those of you pissed off about the delay, see the fucking bitch in the kitchen.

It's humor. A joke is supposed to force you to make an assumption that's then humorously shown to be false. A building of tension followed by a release.

Thanks to about fifteen years of cutting, pasting and sanitizing for grandma, this isn't so much a joke as just a really boring story.

Save the Internet. Make New Content. Stop Cutting and Pasting.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I Have Officially Stopped Caring

Over the past three months I have gotten entirely sick of having this conversation with people:

Them : "Wow! You look great! Have you lost weight?"

Me : "Yeah, a bit."

Them : "You have to tell me, what's your secret?"

Me : "No secret. I just started eating more healthily and exercising every day."

Them : "… No, really…What's your secret?"


Why do people seem to have such a hard time accepting that something as simple and as logical as eating better and getting more exercise is the big secret to losing weight?

Not a single person has believed me when I've told them that's how I've lost weight…but I absolutely guarantee you that if I looked at them and said, conspiratorially: "Oranges…just eat an orange before every meal and the weight just drops off." They'd take me entirely at my word and be at the store stocking up on oranges within the hour.

The other thing I've noticed a lot is that someone talks to me, gets super-motivated about getting into shape…and their motivation will last for about a week. Then, they're back to making the same old excuses I've heard a hundred times: It's too hot, it's too cold, it's too rainy, I'm too tired, I had a really hard day, I worked extra hard yesterday, I don't have the time…

So I would like to announce to the world that I have officially stopped caring. Believe what you like, jump from fad-diet to fad diet, lie to yourself, make excuses…it's completely up to you.

Be healthy and slim or be fat and unhealthy… the choice is yours and I'm tired of repeating myself.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Star Trek

So, last night, Sunny and I finally got around to watching the new Star Trek movie. Personally, I thought it was awesome…but I wouldn't be a proper geek if I didn't have a few complaints.

First of all, the original series of Star Trek was never what you'd call 'hard sci-fi', but halfway through the movie I couldn't stop myself from calling the 'Red Matter' 'Black Hole Plot Device Juice'. I mean, what is it? A little explanation? I don't mean devote fifteen minutes to the pseudo-science of it, but at least hand wave it a little.

Now, I've written before about how people who say 'as if!' while watching a sci-fi or fantasy movie have sorta missed the point… but I've also written about how movies should be internally consistent. In other words, they can make up their own rules, but once they've done that, they have to stick to them. So what the hell is the deal with this movie's black holes?

So, you inject a tiny drop of 'Black Hole Plot Device Juice' into a planet's core, where it forms a black hole and completely destroys the planet by crushing it. That I get…what I don't get is how a space ship can then fly through that very same black hole and come out the other side without a scratch. Does it destroy things, or send them backwards in time?

However, the one major thing that jumps out at me in this movie is the really, really, really bad writing in places…where characters do ridiculous, totally out of character things that result in billion to one chances that jus so happen to move the plot forward.

So, in this movie we've already discovered that young Spock is all about the rules and regulations. Then, in the middle of the movie, instead of sending Kirk to the Brig for starting a fight on the bridge, he decides to stuff him in an escape pod and maroon him on a planet…a snow planet…filled with monsters…where he just so happens to find 'Spock Prime' in a cave.

It's not just young Spock deciding to maroon Kirk, it's the idea that with an entire fucking planet Kirk lands within walking distance of Original Spock. That's like throwing a dart at a map of the world while blindfolded and managing to hit the exact location of your house.

Last but not least, what was the deal with all the lens flares? Every two seconds… Spaceship flies past the camera, lens flare, Spock stands on the bridge, lens flare, someone scratches their nose, lens flare.

Seriously, it was like they finished the movie and then handed it over to a Myspace kid with their first copy of photoshop.

Overall, though, I thought it was a good movie. As a life-long Trek fan, even I was willing to admit that Star Trek had become far too preachy and took itself way too seriously. It was a good summer movie, I just hope that the plot is a little more thought out in the next one and they don't have as much obvious Deus Ex Machina in the story.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stealing is not a right.

Last night, I was absolutely delighted to see the free Doctor Who PC game I've been waiting for was released.

I was equally horrified when I saw it wasn't available to people outside the UK. So I did what any amoral geek would do and found it on bitorrent.

However, what surprised me was his comment I read under the torrent:

"…what has been delivered here is a great service. This is what the internet is for. We should not tolerate digital bigotry from any source, be it any country on this planet. Thank you for sharing this."

Bigotry? Really? It's bigotry to only want people who actually pay the TV license fee that funds the BBC to play a BBC game? That's like saying it's bigotry for HBO or Starz to only allow subscribers to watch their programming.

This is an attitude I'm noticing more and more. I won't lie, back in my teens, I pirated the shit out of games, music and movies. Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, Bittorrent. In fact, between the ages of 15 and 18, I don't think I paid for a single game or piece of music. Of course, I used all the excuses…if it wasn't free, I wouldn't buy it, so technically I wasn't actually costing anyone anything. However, I was never under the impression that pirating stuff wasn't actually wrong.

It's weird today because if you look around bittorrent, you'll find a lot of people who somehow think piracy is some sort of right. It's really weird watching people trying to take the moral high ground over stealing people's work. Take the above comment. There's a guy on his moral high horse spouting off about 'digital bigotry' because a corporation wants to give content to its paying customers and not people who want it.

I don't like that attitude because pirating content is something I assumed people just grew out off. When I was a teen, I downloaded pirated games because I had no money and couldn't afford them. As an adult, I pay for my content because I can afford it now and I want to support the industry. Sure, there are some ways you can take the moral high ground, for example, I dislike games that have a ton of advertising in them. For example, in Mercenaries 2, the game world is filled with billboards that have advertisements downloaded to them over Xbox live. If I've paid $60 for a game, I shouldn't have to put up with ads too. I stopped buying Ubisoft games when Sam Fisher started making a point of chewing 'Airwaves' gum, complete with close-up of the package and the game world was covered in Sony and Nokia ads.

However, this new attitude that pirating content is a 'right' and that by doing so you're taking the moral high ground by 'sticking it to the man' isn't something you grow out of. I just find it totally unfathomable. In essence, it's like me calling Apple 'bigots' because they won't let me walk out of an Apple store with an iPad under my arm without paying.

Yes, piracy will always exist and it's been going on since long before the internet… but that doesn't mean doing so isn't wrong. I've said before that piracy doesn't hurt the industry as much as they think, simply because 1000 downloads doesn't mean 1000 copies would have been sold…for example, I bought the grand total of two CD's in my life before Napster came along and if the music hadn't been free, I wouldn't have bought it…but that doesn't mean I thought it was my 'right' to pirate it.

Piracy isn't the heinous crime it's represented as being, and the reaction of organizations like the RIAA is way out of line…but be under no illusions, kids, you're stealing content that people spent a lot of time and money creating…you absolutely do not have the moral high ground.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Time Travel Sucks.

So, last night I dreamt that I woke up and I was back in England in the 1970's.

Of course, this being a dream, I just accepted the fact I'd travelled back in time 40 years like it was completely normal.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was in a position to be the richest, most powerful man in the world. I could invent the DVD player, HD-TV's, Games consoles, Hybrid cars…everything. I had every major invention of the next forty years.

Then, just as suddenly, it occurred to me that I have no idea how to actually make a DVD player, HD-TV, Games Console or Hybrid Car. I mean, I could explain how a DVD player worked…but not exactly how we'd make a practical product when the amount of processing power (and not to mention the laser) necessary to make a DVD player would take up half a room with 1970's tech.

Never mind! I thought…the knowledge I did have was going to make me a very rich man. All I had to do is buy a ton of Microsoft, Nintendo and Apple stock…and I'm set for life!

Then I realized the problem with that. My bank account didn't exist. My cash card was worthless, and the few bucks in my wallet were not only American currency, but currency that wouldn't be legal tender for at least 35 years.

Never mind, I can still just go get a job and earn some cash to invest. There's no rush. Even if I miss Microsoft blowing up, I could wait until the 90's, buy a TON of Nintendo stock for next to nothing right after the Gamecube fails, and once the Wii gets released I'll be set.

Then I realized the second problem. I'm not due to be born for another eleven years. My ID isn't valid, I don't have a social security number or exist in the system in any way. How do I get a job with no address or identity?

So, anyway…time travel. I thought it would be my gateway to easy riches. Instead it made me into a hobo.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Apple…you suck.

Fellow 'Computer Guys' out there will know that when you buy a new hard drive or other mass storage device, you're going to get a little less space than you expect.

This is mostly down to the fact that we say a megabyte is 1000 bytes for convenience when it's really 1024. In the early days, when storage devices were relatively small, that extra 24 bytes per megabyte didn't mean much. (It meant a 500 megabyte hard drive really only held 489 megabytes, hardly noticeable)…but as hard drives got bigger, it started making a hell of a difference. This didn't stop manufacturers from still 'rounding up' on the packaging though.

So, I was expecting my 8gig iPod touch to be a little less (about 250 megabytes less), but I was surprised when I discovered my '8gig' iPod was actually a 7.1 gig iPod.

I was missing almost three quarters of a gigabyte.

Later I worked out that not only were Apple rounding up, but that they didn't count the space taken up by the iPod's OS.

Sorry, but when I buy something that says it can store 8 gigabytes of music, I expect around eight…not seven.

Well, today iTunes informed me that there was a new version of iTunes and new iPod software available.

Regular readers will know that less than a month ago, my iPod bricked when I tried to restore it from my Netbook. Installing the new OS meant doing basically the same thing again…so I wasn't looking forward to it, even though I'd be doing it from my Desktop, which has never had any problems. I figured I had to update sooner or later, so I might as well do it sooner while the iPod was still under warranty.

Well, I didn't brick the iPod, but it didn't restore properly either…meaning I had to reinstall all my apps and music manually. This may not seem like a big deal, but that's months of save games and data lost in the blink of an eye. When you've spent weeks unlocking challenges and getting your score nice and high in 'Brain Challenge', starting from scratch is a bit of a pisser.

However, the real kick in the teeth was when I looked at the available space in iTunes.

Apparently, the new OS is a real space hog, because my 8gig iPod that was really a 7.1gig iPod is now officially a 6.8 gig iPod. That's space for 75 songs up in smoke for the ability to put apps in folders and an 'airplane' button in the settings menu. Oh, and some of my apps that previously worked fine now chug like hell.

Yup, that’ll fix it.

"While cleanup crews and technical teams continue efforts to stop crude gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana lawmakers are proposing a different approach: prayer.

State senators designated Sunday as a day for citizens to ask for God's help dealing with the oil disaster.

"Thus far efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail," state Sen. Robert Adley said in a statement released after last week's unanimous vote for the day of prayer. "It is clearly time for a miracle for us."

The resolution names Sunday as a statewide day of prayer in Louisiana and calls on people of all religions throughout the Gulf Coast "to pray for an end to this environmental emergency, sparing us all from the destruction of both culture and livelihood."

Yup. That's how we stop 60,000 barrels of crude oil per day gushing into the ocean. We all wish really, really hard that it'll go away.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What ‘Kinect’ Is Good For.

After this year's E3, Xbox owners are asking: "Kinect is interesting and all, but how will I play Halo/Gears of War with it?"

This is the wrong question. Just from the demo videos I can tell you that Kinect would be a horrible controller for an FPS. Kinect is a 'casual' controller, plain and simple. 'Hardcore games' require a level of accuracy and fidelity that Kinect just can't provide.

However, I think I differ from most people when I say: this is not a bad thing.

I think the basic thought process of most people is this: "Motion controls are great for casual players, but the Xbox install base is made up of 'hardcore' gamers. Xbox players want Halo, Call of Duty or Gears of War. They don't want to use their consoles to play jump-rope with virtual tigers."

That's perfectly reasonable, but it's missing one key point.

Most gamers are above 25 now. They have wives, girlfriends and young children.

I have tried to get my wife into gaming for as long as I've known her, but up to now, standard controllers have been a huge stumbling block.

My Missus likes the idea of a first-person-shooter, but to get to the point where she could actually have fun with one requires a hefty investment of time and effort she's not willing to put in. As the Nintendo Generation, we got 'eased in' over our whole lives. We started in 2D with a d-pad and two buttons as kids, then stepped up to six buttons…until we arrived at today where we're playing 3D games with a D-Pad, two analog sticks, four face buttons, two shoulder buttons and two analog triggers.

Put simply, when you've never touched a controller before, games aren't fun…they're work. Trying to convince my wife to learn how to play an FPS is like my Dad trying to convince me to learn golf: It's going to involve a lot of time, be frustrating as hell…and I'm not convinced I'd find it fun even when I got good at it.

That's why the Wii was so successful. They let first time gamers jump straight to the fun we're having without the learning curve…and for the record, before Motion Plus came out last year, the Wii-mote wasn't all that precise either.

Now, to be completely honest, watching movies, listening to music and playing games on a device that I can control with my voice and hand gestures is something I've been waiting for since I was six years old watching Star Trek. That's right in my wheel house and almost worth the price of admission alone…but what's worth much more is the ability to play some games with my non-gamer wife and make gaming something we do together instead of something I do when I could be spending time with her.

I'm not just talking about casual games either, which I why I think Kinect is so worthwhile.

I could go out tomorrow and buy a Wii, and I'm sure my wife would enjoy playing it…but all that would happen is the Wii would become her console and the Xbox would be my console. She wouldn't want to touch the Xbox because in her mind Xbox games are frustrating and hard.

However, Kinect puts casual gaming on a 'hardcore' console. It breaks down that mental barrier…which means that when we've played a lot of casual games together and she's realized just how much fun that is…maybe she'll watch me playing Call of Duty and decide she wants to play that too.

For most married gamers, the Xbox is something their partner would, quite frankly, like to see gone from the house. It's something we do when we could be spending more time with them. Adding Kinect to a 360 instantly makes it more accessible and more fun to more members of the family.


For the Love of GOD, Disney.

Can someone please hit Disney on the nose with a rolled up newspaper?

According to a trailer I've just seen, they're making a live-action sequel to The Sorcerer's Apprentice with Nicholas Cage.

Disney, you've been around for, what? About sixty years?

How about, just for a change, you create some new IP instead of still riding the coat tails of the stuff you created half a century ago?

I knew things were going downhill when I started seeing things like sequels based on classics like Cinderella and Peter Pan…but the Sorcerer's Apprentice? Are you serious?

The Sorcerer's Apprentice was an absolute masterpiece. It was one of the first cartoons that showed animation could be actual, honest-to-God art and not just doodle's for kids…and you're making a live action sequel starring Nicholas fucking Cage? Don't you realize that's like writing 'Macbeth 2' starring Jim Carey as a wise-talking CG Racoon?

How about you actually try creating something instead of whoring out your classics with multiple crappy sequels for once.

Then again, you are the company who fired John Lassiter. What was it your exec said when he showed them the first CGI short? "There's only one reason to use computers for animation, and that's if it makes things faster or cheaper."

It's obvious you have no vision or creativity left.

Well, here's hoping you go bankrupt before you get around to destroying all your predecessor's work… you know, from when Disney was a collection of creators, and not just stuffed suits.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Just pointing a few things out…

In reply to Saffy's comment on yesterday's post:

"Let me start by saying that I have a MAJOR issue with illegal immigration. After having to go through the process legally, it infuriates me that these people SNEAK over the US border and then start having their 'anchor babies' and claiming food stamps and a host of benefits whilst someone else in their household brings in wads of cash from being paid (a low wage) under the table in cash with no taxes paid."

Ok, I never mentioned anything about illegals, but the fact that the people you are talking about have food stamps show they have a social security number and are here legally. Illegal Immigrants do not get food stamps.

But let me put this to you in a different way: Who are the people employing illegal immigrants 'under the table'? Americans. The reason there are illegals here is because Americans have created a 'demand' for them. If Americans refused to employ anyone without a valid work permit or proof of status, there would be no illegal immigrant problem. Why would there be? They wouldn't be able to claim any benefits and they wouldn't be able to get a job. There would be no reason for them to come here.

I also have to point out that America has shared a border with Mexico for hundreds of years. It's entirely possible (and probable) that a high percentage of 'Mexicans' you see are actually second or third generation citizens. Asuming all Hispanic people are Mexican is like assuming all red head in England are Scottish.

I also worked for the benefits agency in England, and I know that for every foreign benefit cheat, there were at least a hundred 'domestic' ones. I'd also like to give you something else to think about: Maybe some of these people are on benefits because no one will hire a Mexican to do anything other than yard work at two bucks an hour. My immigration status is what has stopped me from finding work in the US, and I'm a white male.

Think about it, you've deduced, just by looking at a Hispanic family, that they are:

  1. Immigrants
  2. Arrived in America Illegally.
  3. Are benefit cheats.
  4. Don't pay taxes.

If that's not profiling, I don't know what is. Maybe you should consider that they may be born American citizens who are on benefits because no-one's going to employ a 'spick' unless they want to rake leaves or clean houses for two-fifty an hour with no benefits. They can't go 'back to Mexico' because they're not Mexican citizens.

"The whole time, they are babbling at each other in F*CKING SPANISH! They can't even be bothered to learn the language of the country they so desperately want to live in. I understand a few words of Spanish, but I REFUSE to make it easy for them when they tell me 'No Habla Inglese'....Hell no, i'm as awkward as I can be.

I loathe and detest having to be polite to them when they best they can usually manage is a grunt whilst they wave their benefits card at me."

Question: If America's official language was French, would you be able to become fluent quickly and easily? What if you couldn't afford language classes because the only work you could get was below minimum wage? More importantly, if you were walking around a store with your family, would you speak French to each other, or English?

Sure, you'd make the effort, but learning a new language as an adult is no easy task. Especially when having the time and money to go back to school to learn it is out of the question.

I'd also like to point out one other thing. There's a massive English community in Spain, very few of them speak Spanish.

"Now, I am in a position to state for a FACT that 75% of the users of EBT cards I see in Wal Mart are Hispanic, they also usually have a minimum of 3 kids with them."

Well, I can state for a FACT that 99% of Walmart shoppers are from low-income families period. Given that people automatically assume that Mexicans are illegal benefit cheats who will work for two bucks an hour under the table…it's hardly surprising that a high percentage of them are on benefits and choose to shop at Wal-Mart.

Just one final thought…You're a foreigner yourself. You're just 'lucky' in the fact that you're white and speak English.

Imagine if you'd come from Mexico or Spain…even though you came to America legally, people would look at you as just another goddamn Spick taking their jobs.

…except, if you were from Mexico, you probably wouldn't even have your job at Walmart.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Damn Mexicans and their Shopping.

A few weeks ago, Sunny and I were out grocery shopping when some completely random dude walked up to us and, completely out of the blue, said:

"Huh! Finally! I found a store that the Mexicans haven't found yet."

I was instantly furious. This wasn't an overheard comment, this was a guy who actually went out of his way to make sure a couple of strangers knew what a retarded bigot he was. Think about that for a second. The store wasn't full of Mexican people, he didn't come up to us to us to complain about how many Mexicans there where…he came up to us to comment on how awesome it was that there weren't any Mexicans in the store.

I didn't say anything, mostly because I didn't want to get involved in a screaming match in the middle of the 'special purchase' aisle…but I really wanted to.

I wanted to turn to this guy and say: "Hey, I'm an immigrant too, but I guess you're okay with that because I'm white. So, do you want to admit you're just a retarded racist? Or should I go overdose on fake tan and speak Spanish so you can carry on pretending you're just against illegal immigration?"

I just don't understand the problem. I mean, it's really ignorant, but there's actual logic behind complaining that illegal immigrants are 'taking American jobs'…but what possible problem can you have with immigrants buying groceries?

"These damn Mexicans, driving to our grocery stores and…uhhh…filling their carts with groceries! Yeah, then…waiting in line….and paying for their stuff before packing it into their car and driving home!"

Those bastards.

I mean, a packed grocery store is a packed grocery store. Personally, I don't give a shit what nationality or race the other shoppers are. I'm not pathetic or insecure enough to have to divide the world into 'Us vs. Them'.

Oh, but the best part? The guy so hell bent on not having to share a supermarket with a Mexican?

Top of his cart?

Taco shells.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


In the past, the coverage of E3 was something I really looked forward to. After this year, I can honestly say I'm not even remotely interested any more.

Take Microsoft's Press Conference for example. Last year I got excited when they showed off 'Project Natal', a new form of motion control based around a 3D camera.

This year, what was their big reveal? Exactly the same damn thing. Only now they showed how you could navigate the Dashboard and control the playback of your movies and music with gestures and your voice.

That's awesome and everything, but E3 used to be based around "Here's something cool you can buy and play with sometime in the next six to twelve months", and now it appears to be based around "Here's something cool you may be able to buy and play with at some point."

Sony did exactly the same thing with their new motion control…and it wouldn't surprise me if neither were released before the next E3 either.

I wouldn't mind so much if they actually used these press conferences to answer some obvious questions about the products. These are supposed to be press conferences not just live ads.

I mean, I'm still excited to play with Microsoft's offering (now called 'Kinect'), but I have some fairly obvious questions Microsoft didn't even attempt to answer.

For example, their tech works using a 3D camera. I can see that it works perfectly on a brightly lit stage, but how does it work in a dimly lit living room at night…you know, in the place 90% of us actually play games. How far from the camera do you need to be for it to work?

Most importantly, during the entire demo, I noticed the guy was really careful to keep his arms by his sides and his hands below his waist unless he was interacting with the Xbox. They didn't show or mention any obvious way to turn the gesture tracking off. Does that mean if I'm watching a movie and I reach for a drink, I'm going to fast forward the movie? If I'm playing a driving game without a controller like they showed last year, am I suddenly going to spear off the road if someone walks behind me?

Sure, these seem like pretty obvious things, and I'd like to assume there's a voice command or something to stop the cameras looking for commands…but it wouldn't be the first time that I've bought some really cool technology only to discover a fatal flaw that absolutely shouldn't have been there.

The only conference that wasn't too bad was Nintendo's, considering that last year their presentation appeared to be based around "We're rich as fuck and here's a ton of bollocks no gamer is going to be even remotely interested in." This year, tey revealed a lot of new games…but I have a question:

Nintendo, isn't it about time you released some new IP? There wasn't a single game you announced that wasn't a sequel. Don't get complacent. Zelda and Mario are only going to carry you so far.

Greener Grass

Yesterday was an example of what can only be described as "Holy Fuckballs" kinda weather.

Yahoo weather claimed it was 99 degrees here in Easley, but our weatherstation/thermometer thingy showed it to be a balmy 106 outside with the humidity close to 100%

Put it this way, Sunny and I had bought a sirloin tip roast to cook in the smoker for dinner yesterday, and when I took the cover off the smoker, the temperature gauge showed it was already 180 degrees inside. It hardly felt worth lighting the charcoal just to get that extra forty. Considering that an internal temperature of 150 degrees results in a 'medium' roast, I could have just chucked the roast in the unlit smoker and let the sunlight do its work.

It really was the unholy kind of hot, made even worse by SC's characteristic high humidity. It's really hot, so you're sweating in seconds, but because the humidity is so high, the sweat doesn't evaporate, meaning it doesn't do anything to cool you down...and within a few minutes you look like you've just been swimming and you can't actually see because of the sweat stinging the crap out of your eyes.

Now, a few times over the past few days, Sunny has been talking about how much she's looking forward to the weather in England. For example, in my home town yesterday, it was sunny and had a high of just 64 degrees.

The thing is, I know Sunny's going to hate British weather, no matter what she says...but she's having none of it.

You see, before I moved to America, I was (obviously) completely used to British weather. I couldn't wait to move over here to get away from it. In England, roughly 70%of our days are completely overcast, it rains most of the time, and even mid-summer temperatures struggle to get past 70 degrees.

Basically, cold, dark and rainy is how you describe British weather. Other countries go on vacation to see new places and explore new cultures. In England, we go on vacation to get away from the crappy weather.

I couldn't wait to move over here, to a country where bright, sunny skies and warm days were the norm. Six months after moving here when I found myself taking my fourth cold shower of the day, I suddenly found myself really wishing for a cold, overcast rainy day.

That's what I can't get across to Sunny. She's lived in SC all her life, and as much as she complains about the the heat, that's what she's used to. While she's sitting there talking about how much she's looking forward to the nice, cool weather...I know that six months after moving, when she hasn't seen the sun or a speck of blue sky for two months, and it's raining again and she's wearing a sweater and jeans in July...she'll sit there and wish for just one nice, hot sunny day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Counter Counter-point

In response to my 'New Ideas' Post, fellow blogger Evan wrote a counterpoint, where he got entirely the wrong end of the stick. In fact, I don't think he could have got it more wrong. However, after re-reading my post, I saw that this was mostly was due to my bad writing and not being clear… I had another post in mind anyway, so I thought I'd use that to clear things up.

Not to say there won't be misunderstanding here probably. This is, quite franky, a massive topic I could probably write a book on…so think of this as cliff notes.

Evan said:

"There seems to be an undercurrent in Paul's post that assumes home schooling parents are right-wing, fundamentalist, religious nut jobs who don't want their children exposed to the evil teachings of evolution, contraception and so forth…it's no longer reasonable to assume that public school is adequately producing the critical thinkers that Paulius seeks."

That's almost the exact opposite of what I was getting at. I certainly don't think all parents who home school there kids are 'right-wing, fundamentalist nutjobs', if I did, I'd think my wife was a right-wing, fundamentalist nutjob… because Sunny home schooled both her sons…and for many of the reasons Evan touched on in his post.

The truth is, I don't think home-schooling is bad and public schools are good. I actually think the entire education system is broken. It's the fact that our public schools aren't producing critical thinkers that's the big problem.

I've always said that doing well in school is more about having a great memory than actually being intelligent. It doesn't matter if the kids understand what they're taught, just so long as they memorize the material and can parrot it back on a test. Not to mention with academic league tables meaning that school funding (and in many cases, the teachers' jobs) being dependent on as many kids as possible passing, schools aren't challenging our kids anymore, because they just can't risk too many failing.

Basically, teachers want kids to just learn what's on the syllabus. Why take half an hour out of a class to answer questions and talk about different points of view when it's not going to come up on the test?

In fact, one of the lasting impressions I got from high school was that questioning the syllabus was a bad thing. For example, in English Literature I failed a paper because my interpretation of 'The Lord of the Rings' wasn't the one we'd been spoon-fed in class. Apparently, there's only one possible interpretation of a piece of literature, and I'd got it 'wrong'.

Basically, when a kid asks a question or offers a different point of view to the syllabus, instead of being rewarded they're treated as 'disruptive'. All we do is teach kids to pass tests. The one question kids never get asked in school is "What do you think and why?"

"As for teaching our kids about other religions... well, that's good, but only to a point. We can teach our kids about Islam, but that doesn't mean that Muslims will teach their children about Christianity. And to add a practical note to this.... when would we squeeze this in? The kids are already too busy preparing for their No Child Left Behind test."

Firstly, I don't see why Muslims not educating their kids about Christianity is a reason for us to do the same. Ok, I know I'm being idealistic here (which is strange, because I'm usually so cynical), but I just don't see why Islamic schools keeping their kids ignorant of any other religions is a reason for us not to give our kids as broad a view of religion as possible.

As for where to squeeze this in…well, I wasn't just talking about American schools. In England, I went to a Catholic school where we had 'Religious Education' three times a week. My point was that I feel these classes would be better if they were actually 'Religious Education', teaching kids about lots of different religions rather than the 'Catholic Indoctrination' classes that they really were.

Evan went on to say:

"I will say that I firmly agree with Paulius' final point. Raising our children to think critically is a good thing. They should be able to see both sides of any issue and come to their own conclusion, based on their own thoughts and experiences, rather than inheriting opinions from others. But it's a fallacy to think that home-schooling automatically breeds narrow-mindedness. It's incorrect to expect that a public education will produce freethinkers, and it's simplistic to say that understanding eliminates conflict."

I absolutely agree that homeschooling doesn't automatically breed narrow mindedness, and I absolutely agree that public education doesn't produce free thinkers…in fact, the whole point of my last post on this subject was that public schools absolutely don't produce free-thinkers…and while I agree that it is simplistic to say that understanding eliminates conflict. What I will say, however, is that while understanding doesn't eliminate conflict, it certainly alleviates conflict.

Two people who understand the other's point of view are far more likely to reach a compromise than two people who don't. What is bigotry and prejudice if not ignorance based on a single viewpoint and a black and white world view that doesn't allow for shades of grey?

If I'm going to switch back to my old cynical self, even if understanding other points of view isn't going to eliminate conflict, it's at least a case of 'Know your enemy'.

I Invented a Word


Yeah, that's a thing now.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Ideas

On my first day of Media Studies at college, my tutor did a little exercise. He asked us all what newspapers we read.

At the time, I read the Daily Mirror, a middle of the road paper somewhere between a broadsheet and a tabloid. When I mentioned this, one of the 'trust fund' kids snorted. The tutor asked him what was funny and the guy made some comment about how the Daily Mirror wasn't 'real news'.

At this point, the tutor told us the whole point of the exercise. That we tended to be dismissive… and avoided or preferred certain media based on political affiliation and class. Then he said something that has stuck with me ever since: If you go through college and come out the other side with the same ideas and preconceptions, or not looking at things in a different way…you've kinda missed the point.

Now, what inspired me to write this post was a conversation Sunny and I had in the car today. Basically, it was about the parents who homeschool their kids because they don't agree with the religious or political viewpoints taught in schools (Intelligent Design in Science Class, President Obama's address to students, etc, etc).

For me, the whole point of education is to expose our kids to new ideas. New ways of looking at things.

However, today, it appears that parents want schools to teach their kids only their values and points of view. Education isn't about producing independent adults capable of reason and rational thought… but instead to create kids that are basically clones of their parents.

If you'll allow me to wax philosophical for a moment, ignorance breeds fear and fear, more than anything, breeds hate. Just look at the number of people who assume Muslim = Terrorist today. Maybe we should teach kids about world religions, what their beliefs are and how they work in an academic sense, rather than 'This is why our religion is correct and all other religions are pointless because they're wrong" there wouldn't be so many hate groups or people walking into crowded places with bombs attached to their chests.

It's the same with politics. We have generations of people who are liberals or republicans because that's what their parents and grandparents were. It begs the question, if we're so sure that our points of view are the correct ones, why are we so afraid of our kids learning about the other point of view?

What we're doing is teaching our kids that the world is black and white with no shades of grey. We are right, everyone else is wrong and anyone who suggests otherwise is evil, misguided or just trying to deceive you.

Imagine trying to negotiate something important with someone when both of you have that point of view.

As a perfect example of this, look at healthcare reform. There are upsides and there are downsides to both ideas, but the vast majority of people just immediately reacted to the word 'socialism'. Basically, Socialism = Communism = Bad. I even saw one protest sign that said "Don't steal from Medicare to fund Socialised healthcare". These people were so set in their point of view, that they didn't even realize that Medicare IS socialized healthcare for the elderly.

Basically, it's dangerous. When we teach kids that this is the way things are, this is the correct way to think and this is the wrong way to think, we just stop.

It just amazes me that no-one has realized that all the revolutionary, visionary thinkers of the past hundred years tended to be people who went against the norm, against conventional wisdom and were revolutionaries in their field because they challenged the accepted way of thinking about things.

When we only teach our kids our ideas, what we're really doing is making sure they're not learning anything new.

In closing, what's better? Having a kid believing in something because of total ignorance of the alternative…or believing in something because they learned both sides and decided for themselves what's best?

Personally, I'd rather have a child grow up with beliefs totally opposite to mine that they arrived at independently after weighing their options…rather than have a kid who parrots my beliefs because I told him to.

New Header Image

Ok, I don't care what you Photoshop snobs say, it's not a proper image unless it has a drop shadow and a lens flare.

I just wish I had space for a 'swoosh'.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, yes that is me. Tried for 'Che Guevara', instead got 'Overexposed picture of a dude smelling something bad.'

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Next year, for sure…

I think that just about everyone in the world has that one 'big idea'. It doesn't matter if it's an idea for a novel, a screenplay, a painting or anything…everyone has that 'big idea' and everyone thinks it's going to be absolutely awesome.

…when they, you know, eventually get around to making it.

I know, you can't be expected to just start on an idea like that… after all, you're really busy right now, or maybe you don't have the equipment or resources necessary. Even then there's probably too much going on in your life right now to give it the attention it deserves. Maybe next year when things have calmed down a little.

Ze Frank called it 'Brain Crack'.

Basically, as long as your idea only exists in your head, it's going to be perfect forever. You can dream about the day you finally create it and how everyone will be absolutely blown away. The problem is that, in reality, your idea will only ever be absolutely perfect in your head… so you want it to stay there.

The simple truth is that the first time you try and do anything, you're going to suck at it. In Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Outliers', he said that all 'genius level' creators had one thing in common: roughly 10,000 hours worth of practice. So the idea that your first attempt and writing or painting, or even your tenth or twentieth is going to be perfect is pretty doubtful, to say the least.

So as a result we sit on our ideas. It's better the hold onto the fantasy that, when we get around to it, we're going to write the world's greatest novel rather than actually try and prove ourselves wrong. We don't create in order to protect the idea, which to my mind is like trying to become the world's greatest parent by never having children.

Here's the thing: The writer who actually writes and turns out five mediocre short stories has exactly five times the experience of writing than the guy still sitting on his perfect idea…and no matter how terrible those short stories are, they're still a million times better than your 'big idea', because they actually exist. They may not be great to read, but the act of writing them and the feedback the writer got from them has made him a better writer.

But you still don't want to, right? That big idea is your 'baby' and you don't want to make it until you can do it justice.

Well, here's the big thing you don't realize. 'Big ideas' are ten a penny. The only reason you haven't realized his yet is because your 'big idea' has been stopping you from coming up with any others. Your idea is so 'perfect' that you ignore any other ideas or inspiration because the new idea is never going to be as good as your original 'Big Idea'.

Think of it this way. Imagine if Stephen King had sat on the idea for 'Carrie' for his whole life, waiting until he felt he could do it justice…or more precisely, had sat on the thousands of crappy short stories he wrote before he was successful that he never managed to sell. Ideas are free…you don't get just one…and your favorite artists in any category didn't write their big successes on their first try. 'Overnight successes' take decades to happen.

When you have an idea, the trick is to make it and put it out there as quickly as possible because what you're doing is learning from the experience and making room for the next idea. Also, never tell anyone about your big idea. It's natural to want to share it, but use that drive to share your idea to motivate you into actually making it.

If you have a 'Big Idea', I have some advice:

Just accept that your first attempt is going to suck, or at least not live up to your original expectations…then go ahead, make your idea, accept it for what it is and move on. There's nothing to stop you from going back and trying again when you've got more experience.

As simply as I can put it, it's better to be a terrible (but improving) creator than to be someone who's never made a single thing, but likes to sit back and imagine the applause.

I'm a novice writer, a novice musician and, quite frankly, an absolutely awful painter. However, I'm far better than I was last year…and I'm a million times better than the person who's going to write a short story, is going to learn guitar next year for sure and the guy who's putting off creating his masterpiece oil painting until he can afford the really good brushes.

Friday, June 11, 2010

One Half of One Percent

Today I read a news story that really pissed me off.

According to the Associated Press, federal regulators are considered a ban on peanuts on planes in order to 'ease fears and potential harm to an estimated 1.8 million Americans with peanut allergies'.

I've heard some bullshit in my time, but this takes the cake. If your allergy to peanuts is bad enough that someone eating them two rows over causes you problems, you should probably get back in your hermetically sealed bubble and not be flying anyway.

The article continued:

"A few limited studies on airline passengers with peanut allergies found a number of people reporting symptoms while flying, but few were severe or life-threatening, said Dr. Scott Sicherer, who studies food allergies at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

"But there's discomfort," Sicherer said. "It's sort of like if you were allergic to dogs and all of a sudden they brought 50 dogs onto the plane."

So, basically, regulators want a peanut ban because 'a number' of people (love those weasel words) experience mild discomfort when on planes from peanut dust.

Let me put this into perspective:

According to the 2009 census, there are approximately 307,000,000 people in America. 1.8 million have peanut allergies…so what this proposed ban is going to do is put out approximately 99.4% of air travelers in order to save the other 0.6% some mild discomfort.

Does that sound even remotely fair or reasonable to anyone?

The main thing that pisses me off about this is the implications. The list of perfectly harmless things you can't take on a plane is already ridiculous, and if they ban peanuts because of allergies, what's next? You can't get on a plane if you own a cat because you might have traces of cat hair on your clothes?

I hate to be the one to say it, but if you have an allergy or disability, you can't expect the entire fucking world to bend over backwards just to accommodate you at the expense of everyone else. I mean, if forty or even twenty percent of people had peanut allergies, I'd consider a peanut ban to be more reasonable, but peanut allergy sufferers make up one half of one percent of air travelers. That means on a 747, there's a maximum of two people with peanut allergies….and because of that, the other 338 people have to go without.

Now, I understand that some people have really, really severe peanut allergies. Here's a quote from Torrie Vader, the head of a 'Food Allergy Support Group'

"This is what kind of infuriates me, is that people don't understand the consequences...they can say, 'Well, a peanut's a peanut.' Well, a peanut does not have the same value as my child's life…When an allergic reaction happens, she takes 50 miligrams of Benadryl with water and waits a half an hour. If that doesn't work, she takes another 50 milligrams and waits. If that's not enough, Alexis must administer the EpiPen and take a trip to the emergency room."

Yes, Ms. Vader, you're right, a peanut doesn't have the same value as your child's life…but you need to understand that your child is only representative of the 0.6% of the population with peanut allergies…in fact, that's not quite right. Out of the 0.6%, only a small minority are actually deathly allergic…your child is actually representative of about 0.02% of the population.

I sympathize, Ms. Vader, I really do. It sucks…but you can't expect the world to change for the sake of your daughter and the 0.02% of the population that she represents. To put this into perspective, I'm diabetic. Regular soda can literally put me in a coma and kill me…but I don't expect a complete ban on soda in case the waiter forgets to bring me diet.


New Look.... Kinda

Ok, so the eagle eyed readers may notice a few changed here at LWTHIGO.

I decided to upgrade from the old, chugging HTML template and go for one of Blogger's new CSS and PHP based templates, guaranteed to work half as well and break down twice as often!

Anyway, after about two hours of fiddling (including having to edit and re-upload my header image because Blogger didn't see fit to add a 'center image' option and made it impossible to just add an 'arrange: center' tag in the HTML code), I ended up with a design that's almost identical to my old one.

That's a lot of work for a slightly different post title font and color, let me tell you.

The only real major change I made was changing the width from 768 pixels wide to 900 because I think it looks better and it saves you from getting scroll-cramp on your scrollin' finger while reading on one of my overly long and verbose posts. (like this one...I only started writing to say, "Hey look, new template!"

If the new format is too wide for your monitor...well...tough. It's 2010 people. If you're on a computer that can't even manage 1024x768, it's time to upgrade anyway. In fact, if your computer can only manage 800x600, you'll be too tired to read anyway from shoveling all the coal into your PC's boiler...(Because your PC is steam powered, I'm making a joke because it's really fucking old, get it?)

Anyway, I figured it was time for a change...especially considering my little bio said I'd been in the US for' over a year' when I've been here for over six. Yeah, I've been pumping this crap out for over six years now.

Wow, that's a lot of drivel.

Anyway, hope you like the newish look and I hope you all keep reading for another six years...unless you're on a really crappy computer that can't handle the new blog's massive that case... fuck you...seriously.

A little research goes a long way

Late last year I ordered some memory for the desktop only to discover I'd ordered the wrong type when it arrived. Because there was nothing actually wrong with the memory (PICNIC : Problem In Chair, Not In Computer), the online store wouldn't take it back, so it languished in my desk drawer until last week when I finally found a non-nutcase, non-scammer to buy it from me on Craigslist.

Yeah, I know I'm saving for the move, but thinking of it as an 'ultra delayed exchange', I spent the money I got from selling the desktop memory on some laptop memory for my netbook. The netbook only came with 1gig of RAM, which caused it to chug quite a bit, and considering this will be my only computer for a while, I figured it was worth the investment.

However, the reason I'm writing this post is because of a thought that occurred to me after I installed it.

You see, I've always built my own computers, so installing something as simple as memory didn't give me pause…but actually opening the computer case is obviously too scary for a lot of people, especially considering the guy at the computer store actually acted a little shocked that I was willing to install it myself instead of have someone at the store do it for me.

Installing the memory was as simple as unscrewing a single screw on the underside of the netbook, opening the panel, popping out the old memory chip and popping the new one into place. It took me the grand total of three minutes.

Installing memory is a service the computer store charges seventy five dollars for…almost twice what the memory itself cost.

Long story short, when it's time to upgrade your computer, do a little research online, open up a manual and give it a try yourself. Upgrading most components is literally as simple as putting a square peg in a square hole…and it can save you exactly one fuck-ton of money.

Also, if you have a computer guy friend, it's a million times more likely he'll be willing to come over and show you how to do it, rather than just do it for you…simply because it means you're willing to learn…and won't call him every time your computer makes a funny noise.

That's the things with us computer guys… we have friends and relatives who always seem to call for computer help when we're suddenly and inexplicably busy… and weirdly are also the friends and relatives who have break their computer multiple times in exactly the same way and refuse to even contemplate sitting down and watching what we do because 'they don't understand any of this computer shit'.

It's weird how we always seem to have time for the people who call and say they're performing an upgrade themselves and just need some help with it.

Replacing a motherboard might be beyond you, but replacing a DVD-ROM, some memory or installing a new hard drive is actually really simple…and not 'computer guy simple' but 'plug in two leads and screw it down' simple.

Give it a try. It'll save you money…and more importantly, you won't bother me so often. (insert passive-aggressive smiley face here)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Oh, Hollywood.

So, today, I sat and watched Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds".

Personally, I absolutely loved it, but I could completely understand why it got so many bad reviews and why so many people thought it sucked…and it's for a reason that's becoming far too common:

The trailer has almost nothing to do with the movie.

If you watch the Inglourius Basterds trailer, you expect an absolutely action-packed, riotous comedy. You think you're going to be watching Brad Pitt wandering around the French countryside, blowing up Nazis in more and more outrageous ways.

Instead, 90% of the movie is dialogue. That's it. People just talking to each other. There are a couple of action sequences, but they take up maybe ten minutes out of the whole two and a half hour movie. Now, don't get me wrong, a movie made up mostly of conversations may sound boring, but it's a work of art. It's pure storytelling and absolutely fantastic…but if you paid for this movie expecting an outrageous action/comedy…I can understand why you'd leave the theatre a little pissed off.

The other big example of this was 'Jarhead'. I saw the trailer and went to see the movie expecting an action-packed war movie…and instead I spent two hours watching a movie that was an examination of indoctrination, isolation and boredom in the armed forces. Again, I really liked the movie, but it wasn't the movie I paid to see.

It seems that Hollywood has made a policy out of underestimating its audience. I know Hollywood has never been known for its intellectualism, but it appears that unless a movie fits perfectly into either the Action, Horror, Comedy or Romance genres, it either doesn't get made, gets dumbed down or is released as-is with a misleading trailer.

A perfect example of dumbing down was "I am Legend".

You see, the whole point of that movie is that, at the end, it turns out that the 'evil' mutants are all perfectly sane and rational beings, and are only attacking Robert Neville because he's been killing them. The clue is in the title. Without realizing it, Neville became the monster, the 'legendary' boogeyman the mutant creatures are afraid of… but that concept was considered far too complicated for the average audience, so they took the remake of The Omega Man, and turned it into just another action flick. Instead of a movie giving us a message about prejudice that completely flips our pre-conceived ideas and expectations… we get "Will Smith Shoots Zombies For About An Hour And A Half".

The same is true of 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'. The original movie was a cautionary tale about how our fear and mistrust would be our downfall (not surprising, considering it was released during the Cold War). Klaatu arrived on Earth to offer us this amazing gift, and we responded with violence because of fear and mistrust.

The remake? A bog standard alien invasion tale with a bullshit environmental message shoehorned in. Klaatu turns up to destroy the human race because we're killing the planet, and then changes his mind at the last minute because he decides we're actually really special and awesome.

In 2008, a time when the original movie's message is as important as ever, the movie doesn't say "Fear and mistrust will make us destroy ourselves" …it says "If someone is different or you don't understand something, it's probably evil…but don't worry because we're awesome. PS buy a hybrid."

Movies are the art of the 21st century. It's what people in two hundred years will watch to learn about us. It just makes me really sad that unless it fits into a pre-formed mold and doesn't require you to think, Hollywood won't touch it.

I mean, not fitting into an established mold and requiring thought is what art is.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Someone Showed me a Printing Press Once…So I Burned Him as a Witch.

Living in the USA can be really weird, mainly because of the way the average American sees England.

You people watch way too much Robin Hood or The Tudors.

I've been asked if we have concrete buildings or if it's 'all thatched cottages', if we have supermarkets, computers, planes…basically name any post 18th century technology and I'll show you an American who's surprised we have that in England.

Today's example beat all, however. I went for my walk and on the way back I was ambushed by my mother-in-law who wanted me to play cards with her.

We finished playing and she asked, and I quote: "Can you get cards in England? If you can't you should take a pack home and teach your parents to play."

Now, I love my mother-in-law. Like all mothers-in-law, she's batshit crazy at times…and it was only how much I love that crazy lady that stopped me from cranking my sarcasm dial all the way to eleven.

What I actually said was "Yeah, we can get playing cards in England"…but what I really, really wanted to say was : "Playing cards? No, we can't get them in England, we don't have the printing technology. We usually just pass the time by banging a couple of rocks together."

Monday, June 07, 2010


So, I think everyone is getting a little sick of the whole BP pipeline fiasco by now.

If I'm completely honest, the thing I'm most sick of is the hypocrisy.

You see, America loves a bogeyman. We like it when a rich, powerful corporation gets caught with its pants down. We like someone or something we can point and cluck our tongues at.

The part I don't like is that the vast majority of the people currently calling BP 'evil' and blaming them for destroying the planet are exactly the same people who went ballistic when gas prices went above $2.50 a couple of years ago.

That's the part I don't like. We all own cars, we all like to drive and when there's a gas shortage we all go batshit crazy… but it's perfectly okay for us to burn gasoline in our cars, because it's the people selling us the gasoline who are at fault.

Anyone else feel this is like an alcoholic blaming the liquor store that sells him the booze? Or the fat guy who blames McDonalds for his waistline?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not calling BP innocent or saying that the leaking pipeline isn't their fault…I'm just pointing out that this ecological disaster is the result of a breakdown in the infrastructure that we demanded.

BP didn't just build a pipeline to pump oil around just for the hell of it. They built it because their customers demanded oil.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Ok people, I'm sorry but it needs to be said. If you:

  1. 'Wear' your cellphone on a belt clip, or:
  2. Walk around with a Bluetooth headset in your ear in public

You look like a massive, massive tool.

You see, back in the 90's cell phones were the size and weight of bricks. You couldn't comfortably carry one in a pocket, so a belt clip was a necessity. Today, phones are tiny, light and have lockable keypads (or clamshell designs) so you can't accidentally call someone if you mash the keypad while it's in your pocket.

There is only one reason to carry a phone on a belt clip, and that's because you want to show the world that you own a cell phone.

The problem with that is that, back in the 90's, cell phones were really expensive so owning one was a status symbol. Today? I can go to the dollar general and get a cell phone for fifteen bucks. Freaking hobos own cell phones today. They're not a status symbol. Showing off that you own a cell phone is like showing off that you're wearing socks.

As for the Bluetooth headset…walk around with one of those and you're a whole new level of smacktard.

Ok, if you're behind the wheel and expecting a call, fair enough…but just wearing one as a matter of course?

You're doing one of two things. You're either trying to show off the fact that you have a Bluetooth headset (which again, isn't all that impressive when they come free with forty dollar phones)…or you're trying to say to the world that you're so busy, so important, that you physically don't have the time to take a phone out of your pocket when it rings.


Hey everyone, I'm so important I'm not even willing to hold a phone to my ear during a conversation!

Even worse is the people who will get a call, then take the phone out of their pocket, unclip the headset from the back of the phone, turn it on, disck around for thirty seconds adjusting it…then they press the answer button on the phone. They spend longer dicking with the headset than they actually spend talking when they finally get around to answering. Some labor saving device, huh?

Long story short, Unless you're working in a call center, driving or physically doing something with your hands that prevents you from holding the phone to your ear, leave the Bluetooth alone.

Oh, and your phone is the size of a fucking credit card, you don't need a special pouch attached to your belt to carry it.

Thank you for your time.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

It's 'Tell Me To Draw Something Day'!

Yeah, I'm really really bored.

So here's what we're going to do. You tell me to draw something, and I draw it! It's that simple. It can be anything. The last time I did this, through twitter, fellow blogger and Evil Genius Kato told me to draw Optimus Prime in a Mariachi band and this was the result.

Submit your ideas in the comments and I'll do my best.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

If I get famous, leave my sketchbooks alone.

I was reading a 'Cracked' Article today entitled '6 Famous Geniuses You Didn't Know Were Perverts'.

The article mentioned the personal correspondence of James Joyce, a lot of which were extremely 'dirty' letters to his wife, that were published after his death.

My first thought was this: Why the hell did they publish Joyce's personal correspondence? Did they think that when he wrote private, personal letters to his wife he'd want them published? Did they think that letters to his friends would be in the same vein as Ulysses?

It's like J.R.R Tolkien's family. His son in particular seems absolutely hell bent of gathering up, publishing and selling every single word his dad ever scribbled down, from rejected story ideas to old shopping lists.

You see, there's a reason some things remain private and unshared. It's because the author doesn't want to share that material because it's either highly personal or it's just not very good. I would be very, very interested in reading Terry Pratchett latest work…but I have absolutely no interest in reading his shopping list, or the note he left for his wife saying he was going to be late in and could she pick up some milk if she happened to go to the store?

I personally have more than a few short stories on an old memory stick that I've never showed anyone or wanted to share…simply because they were crap. I have stuff that I wrote in highschool that I literally can't read without cringing because they're not only objectively bad, they're badly written from both a technical and storytelling standpoint.

… and if I somehow became the next Joanne Rowling or Stephen King, the absolute last thing I'd want is for someone to discover those old stories after I die and publish them.

What exactly do these people think? Did they think at some point in their lives people like Tolkien wrote a short story and thought "Hell, this is the best thing I've ever written! This is too good for other people, I'm keeping it in the junk drawer in my desk just for me!"


I think it's mostly because most people don't understand the creative process. They don't understand that their favorite artist doesn't just crank out masterpiece after masterpiece. As any creative person will tell you, as an artist, what you mostly produce is an awful lot of mediocre shit. Authors don't just sit down at desks and write best sellers…first they fill a few hundred notebooks with a bunch of really crappy ideas or concepts in the hope they come up with something they can work with first. Then they write a bunch of stories that aren't very good and just don't work…then once in a while everything lines up and they end up with something decent. This they publish, the crap they don't.

Ah…wait a sec. I'm completely wrong. The real reason people do this is they know that a previously undiscovered Beatles recording or a previous unpublished short story by Raymond Chandler is going to sell like hotcakes and make someone a fuck-ton of money… even if the Beatles recording is John Lennon tuning a guitar while talking about what he had for dinner, and the Raymond Chandler story is two pages long and ends halfway through a sentence with '…fuck it, this is a shitty idea for a story'.