Bright Light… bright light…

The main reason for this blog was that I wouldn’t bring gaming into it. Gaming is to be blogged elsewhere, or at least that was the plan until today. Because today is the day of the Rickets Revelation.

Yup, rickets is all the rage these days and it’s being blamed, you guessed it, on videogames. The theory is, you see, that you play videogames so you don’t see daylight and therefore don’t get the rickets banishing vitamin D you need to live a normal, healthy existence. It’s quite funny that the media has, for the most part, latched onto the videogames aspect of this report when just the general increase in computer use was also listed as a cause. But hey, when things mention videogames then the first thing that flashes through everyone’s mind is evil.

Games get a lot of bad press. They make us violent. They make us anti-social. They strip us of social skills. They make us fat. They make us pale. They make us, I noticed on an advert earlier, not clean our teeth properly. So, for all the Daily Mail readers out there, you’re quite likely to be attacked by a pale, fat, wheezing person with bad teeth and bow legs. Keep an eye out. You never know when they’ll strike. And they won’t be able to tell you because they’re socially inept. Mind you, there’s also a good chance that all their bones will explode when they hit you, so you’ll probably be alright.

The violence in videogames issue  is an ongoing thing. As long as there are advances in technology bringing us better graphics, better sounds and better gameplay people will point the finger of blame at the games. Games are notorious for leading people astray. God, don’t you remember in the ’80s, when everyone played Super Mario and then ran out into the street and tried to knock turtles out of their shells with their arses and climb into pipes. I remember, as a child, insisting the my dad suspended my pocket money in mid-air so I could jump up and collect it with a little “ting” noise.

A poor workman blames his tools though, and people are often quick to judge videogames as the root of all evil. Maybe, just maybe (pay attention Daily Mail et al), you should look past the videogame and look at the circumstances that have led to that person playing the games. As adults we’re responsible for our behaviours – the buck stops with us. I’m a 32 year old gamer. I’ve been playing games for something close to 25 years – I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve never felt the need to act out a videogame. But I also know that, when I was younger, if I’d tried to kill anyone my parents would have stopped me – although there is a slight chance that depending on the target, I may have been encouraged with my dad chipping in things he’d learnt in the Marines. If I had killed anyone I don’t think that, back then, the finger of blame would have been pointed at the games I was playing. The finger of blame would have been pointed at my parents. Why didn’t they stop me? Why hadn’t they noticed that I was dabbling in the dark arts?

These days very little blame is attributed to the parents. When I see a divvy parent buying games for their blatantly under-age child I do bubble with a little hint of rage. I often say that I wish I could go up behind the parent and slam their head into the shelf. There are two reasons I don’t do this, however. Firstly the attack would be blamed on videogames – earning them more bad press but actually, for the first time ever, being kind of right. Secondly, I’ve never played a game where I’ve had to ram a parent’s head into a shelf so wouldn’t be able to do it. The rage is genuine though. I’m not a parent, but it surely can’t be that hard to show a bit of interest in what your child is doing or to put a bit of effort into researching their hobbies a little so that you at least have a basic grasp of what the hell you’re letting them spend countless hours doing. Especially if you’re going to fork over £40 on something you’re just going to blame for them being a twat later in life.

As for the rickets, it turns out that you can get vitamin D from brazil nuts, so if you’ll excuse me I’m going to pull the curtains, grab some nuts and have a quick play…

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Baa-con

We’re often told that kids today are rubbish. Most of the media carries a heavy message that the youth of today are responsible for everything that is wrong about the country. And then the youth of today go and get loads of A marks in their exams and rather than praise them we say that the exams are much easier than they used to be and that the kids are actually all thick. And then they don’t like that and go on a rampage and are responsible for everything that is wrong with the country today. It’s a bit like the circle of life in Lion King except I’m holding a hoodie out for the masses, rather than a lion cub.

Then you come across things like this, and you have no option but to agree with the fact that a proportion of the younger generation are a bit clueless. Either that or this survey was only conducted amongst the people they found licking the windows.

So, a team from some sort of farming group or somesuch have done a survey. Amongst the topics in question were the ingredients of bread, where oat comes from and the source of bacon. While many people answered these correctly, a group of people didn’t. And now we get to point and laugh at them. Get your fingers ready.

When asked where bacon comes from a sizeable chunk of “children and young adults under 30” managed to give the answer “sheep”. Yup, you read that correctly – bacon, the traditional breakfast foodstuff is thought, by quite a few people, to be sourced from Larry the Lamb and his brethren. It’s scary, to be honest, that people think this. And then it gets a bit better.

Oat is thought to grow on trees. On trees. Rather than in a field, on stalks. The only thing I can think of here is that people misheard or misread the question. I’m giving the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure people who answered wrongly are reading the results and going “oh, they said oat? I thought they said oak.” It must be that. From the little acorn the mighty oak doth grow, but if you’ve misheard you could think they mean oat. Point and laugh at the stupid children everybody. But don’t do it too much, or they’ll resort to reminding people that they all believed that spaghetti grows on trees when Panorama spoofed the nation in 1957.

Which reminds me, actually, that during my time at University, I managed to convince someone in a chat-room that you could apply for a pasta grant while at University and the government would send you vouchers to buy pasta with as they didn’t want any students to starve to death during their studies. Coupled with the fact that all students love pasta (in the same way that all students feel the need for josticks) this was a finely crafted jape created on the fly and kept up for some considerable time. The last time we talked he was all set to go to his student union and request his vouchers. I can only apologise for my actions. It was funny though.

The bread ingredients one, is a little different. People were asked to name the ingredients used to make bread. Flour – check. Water – check. Yeast – check. Egg? No check. People strongly believe that egg is an essential ingredient in bread. This fact had bread manufacturers stamping their feet and sulking, so much so that some of them forgot what they were doing and, more importantly, where they’d left their equipment.

A woman in, I seem to remember, County Tyrone bought a loaf of bread and set to making herself some nice, tasty, beautiful smelling toast. It was only during the actual toasting process that she noticed her bread contained half an oven glove. I can’t imagine she was massively thrilled with this but, on the plus side, she’d be able to take her toast out of the toaster without burning herself…

So, the next time anyone asks you about the ingredients of bread don’t forget to mention your kitchen clothware.

Shelf Life

Shopping is not the most exciting thing in the world, is it? Doing the supermarket shop is often a source of friction amongst couples as they begin to bicker and argue about the products they’re buying. This is more prevalent the longer you’re shopping as each one of you holds the other completely responsible for the amount of time you’ve been shopping, as you feel your will to live slowly slipping away. There are a few things you can do to liven up the shopping process. One of them, I discovered tonight, is to wreck the supermarket.

As members of my family and friends will atest, I am not the most graceful of people. I’m quite clumsy or, as I prefer to think of it, I’m cursed. A few years ago Carole and I went to London. We love London. It’s an awesome place to go. What makes it more awesome, albeit in a geeky way, is that when we went to London together I started to guide us through the night-time streets by the knowledge I had built up racing those very streets in Project Gotham Racing 3. There’s really nothing better than being able to pull the directions to Buckingham Palace out of nowhere because your brain has just gone “You know these streets. You’ve raced these streets.”

What my brain didn’t do, as we went on a walk to talk night-time photos of the sights of the Capital, was alert me to the fact that in front of Westminster Abbey was a trip hazard. There were barriers around the pavement around the Abbey, and these barriers were held upright by a block. A black block. A black block which was completely invisible in the dark. A stealth block, if you will. I can imagine that there was nothing better for Carole to see than me happily walking along and then suddenly pitch forward like a large-build Frank Spencer as I fell over this bloody block. And it’s something that’s brought up from time to time.

When I was at University, during the third year, I was nearly killed by a cupboard. While happily in the kitchen of our rented home, I stood and opened the cupboard door and the entire cupboard lept off the wall and assaulted me. I don’t know if you’ve tried to hold up a falling cupboard (complete with contents) but it’s bloody hard work. Especially when  you’re slighty in pain from the attack, laughing and crying out for your housemate to come to your aid knowing full well that he can’t because he’s laughing so much he’s almost collapsed. Incidentally, so you get an idea of this housemate, during the first year of Uni he is reponsible for making up the contents of a spilt packet of instant mash with flour (to be honest, we’d not noticed and had he not confessed to this flour-for-potato drop we’d never have know). He also, and this is an awesome thing, thought he’d lost the use of his legs one day.

On face value that doesn’t sound like an awesome thing but I’ll recount the story for you. Having come in from a night of merriment, he took to the kitchen as he often did and started rummaging for something to cure the munchies. Normally he would plump for a packet of pasta and sauce (or ‘n’ sauce, more likely) which often resulted in burnt toes as he boiled a kettle and spilt most of the water on the floor. This particular night, however, took him in search of more elaborate foodstuffs and so he took to looking in the freezer. No-one, to this day, is quite sure how but he managed to fall asleep, crouched down, leaning against the wall which would be fine. In this instance he fell asleep with the freezer door open and a bag of chips in his lap. He woke up and couldn’t feel his legs.

So, back to the supermarket. We’ve been on the lookout for some of those flexi buckets for a while. Tonight, as we did our shopping, we came across a pile of blue flexi buckets at Asda. Having decided we’d get one, Carole left me to extricate a bucket from the pile. Stacked flexi buckets are quite hard to seperate. I shook the buckets. Hard. So hard, in fact, that I basically disloged an entire shelf from the aisle and was left holding the now-loosened bucket and the entire weight of the shelf above (holding a huge stack of smaller pink buckets). In a similar situation to the day the cupboard tried to kill me I was left supporting a stupid amount of weight while the only person close enough to save me was busily laughing.

Once the laughing died down I was rescued, and we rebuilt the shelf by resting it upon two equal-ish high stacks of buckets. And then we ran away.

Looks like it’s back to online shopping next week.

Sky oh why?

There are times when a Sky TV subscription almost pays for itself in the sheer amount of entertainment you get from watching other people do stuff for ludicrous amounts of money. Whether you’re a fan of NCIS, House, Lie To Me, Lost or, god bless ‘im, Jack Bauer and his crazy days the Sky package is there for you (and not just when the rain starts to fall).

Sometime last year our Sky went a bit doolally and lost all Sky+ functionality. For anyone this has never happened to it’s hard to describe but it’s a bit like losing a limb. But it doesn’t have as much of an impact on the cut of your trousers. What it does mean, however, is that you have to reset your Sky box. Which effectively wipes your planner and everything you’ve taped and couldn’t be arsed to watch just yet. For us, we lost countless episodes of Fringe, Dollhouse, NCIS LA and some other stuff that will occasionally bob to the surface of our memory. I didn’t know how to reset the Sky box when this occured, so I had to call the technical support team. On this occasion the woman I spoke with was very helpful. Yup, that’s right, I had a positive call centre experience. She solved my problem with the minimum of fuss, even running through a fix which (had it been successful) would have saved our precious recordings. To be fair, I think she did this because I was wailing “my shows! I don’t want to lose my beautiful shows!” for a good five minutes and she took pity on me. I suspect she even knew it wouldn’t work, and was smiling slightly when I wiped all trace of the last few months of TV non-viewing from existence. So, yes, all in all it was a pleasant experience.

They haven’t all been this good. The first time I had to phone Sky was because the remote control didn’t work. You pressed the button and nothing happened. Not a thing. Replace the batteries. Press the button. Nothing. Press the Sky button incase you’ve been trying to control the TV for the past however long. Nothing. The remote control was broken. I phoned Sky. I told them our remote control was broken. The guy at the end of the phone took my explanation and fired back the best opening question I have ever heard from a call centre.

“When you look at the remote control, are the buttons on the top?”  Yup, he was asking me if I was holding the remote control the right way up. He hadn’t finished though. “The word Sky on the remote control, is that the right way round?” Seriously. Do people phone Sky to complain their remote control doesn’t work and the cause of their problem, the source of their woe, is the fact that they have the bloody thing pointing at themselves rather than the Sky box? Do people really do that? I was a few minutes into my Sky conversation and the guy at the end of the phone was establishing if I actually knew how to hold a remote control.

“Press the buttons, does the light go on?” No. The light doesn’t go on. The remote control is broken.

“Have you tried new batteries?” I’ve tried new batteries, old batteries, battery hens. I’ve tried rubbing them, licking them, reversing the polarity, crossing the streams. Nothing works.

“If you press the buttons on the front of the Sky box, does that work” Yes, the buttons on the Sky box (they’re on the front and the word Sky is the right way round, by the way) do work. The channels change and everything. The Sky box itself is fine.

“Yeah, sounds like your remote control is broken.”

There was once an incident with BT Internet. It broke. It wouldn’t connect. We phoned up and spoke to a string of people I can only assume were making Primark jumpers in between phone calls. Shortly before we cancelled the interweb we were told that the reason we couldn’t connect to the internet was because we’d tried to connect to the internet too many times in the last forty minutes. So, not all call centres are as in-depth as Sky – they didn’t even ask us if we have stuff the right way up. Amateurs.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Sky TV being worth it’s money. Tonight I have experienced a new joy. Something which has captured my imagination, but which I have forgotten to series link (gutted). I know many people rave about America’s Next Top Model (or ANTM if you’re in the know. I’m not in the know, I had to Google ANTM to find out what it was) but I have found something better. Oh yes. Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to watch Nigeria’s Next Super Model. I’d urge you stronger if I knew what channel I’d seen it on, but I can’t find the channel again. I found it through general flicking. There’s a chance, a slim chance, that it’s not even a regular channel. It’s like those shops in fairy stories that are there one day and when the hero returns the shop has gone, as though it was never there in the first place. So, yes, this channel which may or may not have appeared from nowhere just to show me this awesome show – henceforth known as NNSM – is a mystery to me, but my time watching NNSM will stay with me forever. I shall paint you a picture using words, so you all know what you missed.

Imagine a community centre. Fill it with chairs. Now fill each chair with an uninterested looking person. Now imagine an aisle, if you will, running between these chairs filled with the uninterested. Through double doors at the head of this aisle a string of stern faced girls emerge, wearing swimming costumes. They walk to the end of the aisle, turn and walk back. Some turn again, in the doorway, blocking the passage of the next model, the craft so-and-sos. Throughout it all people clap with so little enthusiasm it hurts. Stern-faced woman after stern-faced woman traverse the aisle. A commentary you can’t hear or understand presumably gives the girl’s stories and details.

What they never explain, however, is why each model appears to be carrying a supermarket bag for life. It’s a mystery. Swimwear and a bag for life. The two things, for me, immediately go together – like water and chip-pan fires. When each lady got to the end of the aisle they’d hold up their bag for life, as though proud that their shopping habits wouldn’t damage the environment – despite them being dressed for global warming.

It was a mixed message and, as I can’t find the channel again, one I’ll never understand…

Bus Fuss

Those of you who read my Facebook statuses (and more recently, my Twitter feed) will have seen many, many references to my adventures on public transport. As someone who travels to and from work on the bus, I’m often inserted into a world of wonder. In days gone by I used to travel on at least four buses a day, nowadays it’s just the two – one there and one back – but they still hold a special place in my heart, provide entertainment and, occasionally, threaten to end my life.

I tend to come across mental people on my travels. It’s a gift and a curse in equal measures. You know how, in Murder She Wrote, Angela Lansbury is basically friends with everyone who is murdered or accused of murder? I’m a little bit like that with mental people. I’m not their friends, but they’re everywhere I go. There is a school of thought, amongst Carole and myself, that literally everywhere we go a higher power will send someone to test us.

I was once on a bus, a few years ago, when a couple of women were discussing the design of a 50p coin. Through some in depth chat, and calling on a knowledge only know to the elderly, they worked out that the design was in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of DNA. Not discovery. Oh no, Watson and Crick didn’t just discover DNA, they actually invented it. I’m not sure what cells used to contain before this historic landmark – my guess would be cotton wool, and that DNA was invented purely to stop the annoying squeaking noise you occasionally get from cotton wool. The whole of the animal kingdom walking, crawling and flying around squeaking due to their cotton wool filling. God bless the invention of DNA.

To be fair, this was not an unusual occurence in Halifax, as I once walked behind a few oldies as they went past a Private Shop. They turned and looked at the window, showing a manner of leather underwear and various other bits and bobs and one of the old dears piped up. “I wonder what they sell in there?” Believe me when I say this. It was all I could do to not walk right up behind them and shout “dildos!”

But occasionally the bus journeys take a darker turn. One where you suspect you may not make it to the end of the trip. Today was one such day. Having started out normally, I set off for the bus stop with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. Not really of course, as I was on my way to work it was more a dragging of feet and misery in my veins. Anyway, once at the bus stop I waited with a couple of people for the glorious transporter of passengers to arrive.

When it finally appeared, and the first of my fellow passengers got on the bus, I had my first notion that today may not be an average trip into town. The lady in question asked for day ticket. The driver issued her a return. The lady in question apologised and asked, once more, for a day ticket. This is where the first signs of trouble flared. The driver, on discovering his error, started banging his head with his hands, pulling at his woolly hat and screwing his face up as though it was the worst thing that could possibly happen. As someone waiting to get on this crazy bus, I was less than thrilled to face up to the driver with my ticket choice. I asked for a return and, luckily, got my ticket without any self-harm on the part of the driver.

If you were watching Facebook this morning you’ll have seen I posted a message asking if buses were supposed to go that fast. The driver drove like a bat out of hell, with or without Meatloaf. He sped through the estate and then we headed in a direction best described as sideways towards a wood at the side of the road, having managed to hit the only patch of ice on the entire route. This was, as you can imagine, just a little bit scary. What’s heartening to know, though, is that this skid did not seem to dent the driver’s enthusiasm for speed one iota. I think it was the fastest I have ever gotten to work in the morning – there’s even a slight chance that I arrived at work before I’d actually left home. It was that fast.

It’s the public part of public transport that makes it fun. Without that it’d just be transport. And that wouldn’t be as good.