Tag Archives: life

Guinness QR glass

Guinness QR

This is genius/awful. I love Guinness, it’s a tasty pint of health and alcohol. I also love gadgets, so you can see while this really appeals to me. Basically it’s a glass that has a QR code on it that is only visible when filled with ‘the black stuff’. It doesn’t work with normal lagers or other inferior drinks (except stouts obviously).

When I first saw it I immediately thought what an absolutely genius idea. But then I read an article about it on Boing Boing (great site if you don’t know it). Apparently it then: ‘tweets about your pint, updates your facebook status, checks you in via 4 square, downloads coupons and promotions, invites your friends to join, and even launches exclusive Guiness content.’

I don’t know if this is true (hopefully it is a zeitgeist joke) but if it is then the idea has been downgraded from genius to ‘leave me the fuck alone’. I recently wrote how annoyed I was that every app or programme wants to ‘share’ everything I do with facebook. Now my beer wants to grass me up. Thanks technology.

(Thanks Boing Boing for the image http://boingboing.net/2012/05/18/hidden-pint-glass-qr-code-is-o.html )

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Retirement in two years!

Hooray! Back to work!

Boohoo I’m back. Not just back in London but back at work. The first day of our return it predictably rained. To cap it all off, our heating is still broken so it was cold too. The following day was sunny – which sounds nice but actually sucked as I had to sleep due to my starting the first of five twelve hour nightshifts. To sum up the situation, it was all bollocks and might have lead to undignified self pity.

Fortunately I am a cheerful sort. Despite all the introspective, snivelling, spoilt, cry-baby-ness of my opening paragraph, I am in fact feeling refreshed and inspired! Even the teensiest bit of perspective helps me to realise what a selfish prick I would be if I wallowed in gloom – just look at what the majority of the rest of the planet put up with each day and here I am whingeing about my return after a 5 week holiday. That perspective and the fact that I have a huge TV rarely fail to provide an emotional lift when I feel a bit fed up. Nil carborundum illegitimi! Currently however, my (apparently mildly annoying) chirpyness comes from having a superb plan.

I turn 40 in a couple of months and apart from the uncontrolled and unmanly weeping I intend to do on the fateful day of the digit change, the rest of my year and those that follow will be epic. My wife said that we can go back and live in Thailand once I can prove that I can earn £1000 a year off the internet. You can live well out there for that amount and the money will only increase. I know that sounds like the opening premise of a sitcom where I go on to try whacky, yet hilarious things to hit my target but it is possible. My plan is fourfold:

1/ Write more. My eBook The Uneven Passage of Time (BUY IT IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY!) has had over 600 downloads and will hopefully continue to earn me money until I die or the internet does – and I intend to live until I’m 400 thanks to advances in science. So the more I write, the more money I will make. I will also write a lot more entries on my websites until they become huge and I get pissed of with the fame and pressure. (Most of these entries will be more interesting and less self absorbed than this one, I promise.) I also intend to write a fiction book before I hit 41.

2/ Keep trading. I am getting the hang of this buying and selling shares malarkey and am finally starting to make money off it. Big tip – when the stock market has a timidity spasm and drops massively, don’t shit yourself and sell everything. Hang in there.

3/ Poker. I am now consistently winning at online poker. Granted I am only taking part in games that cost $1 where most of the players are crap, but a year of constant play has honed my skills and I am now ready for the big time. The $3 game. Even if I just win £10 a day, I will be almost a third of the way toward my £1000 target. I confidently predict that within 2 years I will be able to call myself by a cool poker nickname. A decade or so after that, people may even call me by it.

4/ Write what I have just written. According to Professor Richard Wiseman in his book 59 Seconds
(great book by the way), one method to help improve your chances of hitting self imposed targets is to tell people about them. This obviously doesn’t include drunkenly telling people that you are going to quit smoking and write a book while in the pub because I have been trying that for years. I feel that if I write my plan down somewhere more permanent for others to see – like a flickering group of pixels on a screen – then I am more likely to succeed. See, it has already worked. Part four of my plan is done already.

I won’t be tracking my progress in some lame girly way such as found in Bridget Jones’s Diary either. Oh no. I have gone for the more manly option of a spreadsheet on my iPad. It looks pretty awesome.

The target I have set myself is to have all this done by the age of 42. It is my lucky number (thank you Douglas Adams) and a good age to retire from the workplace. So in just over 2 years I should be writing, trading, and playing poker on my laptop in the warm tropics. It won’t be retirement as such, but I will be very happy indeed to spend the rest of my days avoiding the office and doing the things that I love.

Laptop on a lilo. I can't see anything wrong with plan.

 

 

My next gripping entries will all be about Thailand and Laos. Tropical adventure! Uncomfortable travel! Sweat! Similarly self-absorbed waffling as above but it will be informative, interesting, and will have pretty pictures. Probably.

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What happened in 2011?

I hope all my lovely readers had a superbly indulgent and alcoholic Christmas. And will do likewise for the New Year. Unless you don’t drink or celebrate Christmas, in which case I hope you are simply having a superb end of December.

Every TV and radio show is now poised to launch its end of year review show. Some will be funny, most will be depressing. It has been quite a momentous year all things considered. Charlie Brooker mentioned that if 2011 was an episode of a TV show, then it would have been an end of season finale. Good luck topping this 2012! Unfortunately it would be a fairly depressing and gritty show that not many people would want to watch.

Let’s look briefly at some of the bigger events:

Arab Spring

Arab Spring

Someone in the Middle East watched the original Star Wars or Flash Gordon or something and realised that dictators and oppressive regimes suck. So things kicked off and for the first half of the year one mental bastard after another was toppled from power. Thousands and thousands of secret police are now out of work. The whole thing has generally been seen as positive, obviously no one wants to be tortured at random by despots after all. It just remains to be seen how good the new fellows are and if they will sell us oil so we can fuck up the planet for less cash. So fingers crossed.

Osama bin Laden finally found and shot a lot

Keeping with the Middle East, the Americans finally killed Bin Laden! There was no, ‘Unfortunately, he put up a fight and we reluctantly shot him’ bollocks. I guess Obama just thought that as no one would buy that, just shoot the prick and be honest. I think this was a good decision. Why spend a fortune on putting him on trial and eventually hanging him, when everyone for once thinks the bad guy should definitely die. All over the World tedious boring people in pubs where hurriedly denying that they ever said things like ‘You mark my words – he’s dead already,’ or ‘They’ll never find him.’ Hah! Sussed!

Sad loner in Norway kills lots of innocent people because he is worried about increased Muslim… er… was fighting a crusade against… er… was a colossal fuckwit that should be ignored

In Norway an horrendous loser blew up a bit of Oslo then killed a load of teenagers on an island. He was complaining that his country was under attack from extremists or something. He wanted to draw attention to his moronic belief by the massacre of innocents. The press obliged and went on about it for weeks, thereby assuring any copycats that this technique works. Sadly they didn’t just shoot him and cover it up. Or publicly ridicule him until he becomes a twisted laughing stock putting fellows nutters off. Sad.

Disasters. Sadly there were lots

There were also plenty of disasters around the world. It was all very depressing and tragic. Flooding and mudslides in Rio killed 903 in January. More flooding killed 434 in Pakistan in September, Cambodia lost 207 in flash flooding in September, but the worst hit was Thailand (my past and probably future home) with floods killing 657 people. The biggest disaster of the year was of course the tsunami  off Japan. An estimated 15,840 were killed and 3,926 are missing. Other disasters included an earthquake in Turkey (604 dead), famine in Somalia and 1,249 killed in the Philippines by a storm. I could go on but I am getting down thinking about it.

The West’s economy gets fucked over by Europe. That doesn’t include Britain, we’re just next to Europe and join in occasionally.

Invest in 'defensives': gold, tobacco, and beer.

Economically the entire planet stayed pretty fucked. Even China’s rapid growth has shrunk to being very slightly less rapid. Although every country on the planet would probably dream of having this new reduced rate of 8.8%, so it’s hard to be that sympathetic. In Europe tons of things happened economically, with France and Germany doing the bare minimum to keep the EU going but without doing enough to actually fix anything. They did the maximum bleating about it though. Annoyingly I have to agree with Cameron using his veto. People argue that it might diminish our power and influence in Europe but as Cameron said he would go along with Merkozy et al if they agreed a few small concessions and they flatly refused, just how much say do we have anyway? Bollocks to them. Anyway, to conclude, Europe’s dicking about has caused chaos and misery.

Bombs

There were a lot of people blowing themselves and others up all over the place. I don’t know if this has been an increase or if it just seems that way when I look at news sites and statistics. Like all the above, it’s very depressing.

The Iraq war ended

Hooray! The Iraq war ended and happiness and peace spread throughout the land. Unfortunately the people who live there haven’t realised they are at peace and continue to have a horrible time. Afghanistan still has coalition forces in it though. Not sure why Iraq was a huge success but Afghanistan still needs work. I have been fairly disgusted with the whole thing for years now so won’t write more about it. One thought comes to mind though… if the West had just left Iraq alone and the Arab Spring had kicked off there too, would it be in a better or worse situation than now?

Science has cheered me up.

Science has had a good year. Which is a relief because having read all the above I want to be injected with longevity drugs, put in a spaceship and escape. The sad news was that the Space Shuttle project ended. On the plus side, this may open the way for others to leap into the inky (hopefully sexy-alien-filled) void of space. I wrote about these exciting new things here. In other science stuff:

The world’s first artificial organ transplant was done successfully. It was an artificial windpipe make from stem cells and is giving hope to smokers everywhere.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took photos of what looks suspiciously like proof there may be liquid water during the balmy summers on Mars. Liquid water means that there was highly likely to be life on Mars at some point. Religions around the world are hurriedly rewriting their beliefs to make it look like this somehow fits in with what they have said all along.

Juno, the first solar powered spacecraft is launched and is on its way to Jupiter. Also launched is the ‘Curiosity’ – the most advanced Martian exploration vehicle ever (due to land in August 2012).

Finally, the Large Hadron Collider dudes discovered a new particle. Those whacked out scientists captured the public’s imagination by naming it chi-b(3P). Awesome. It has something to do with matter apparently and will help scientists understand things most of us never will.

Conclusion

Apart from science things seemed pretty dire. Of course lots of great things happened too. They just don’t get mentioned. Things like the worldwide launch of www.scifiward.com. Other things like the Word of Ward getting 1 million hits from 50,000 unique visitors!

But most important of all. I published a book called The Uneven Passage of Time
on Amazon kindle. I know for a fact that not all the 50,000 visitors bought one so let’s change that shall we? Buy my trilogy of short stories and I may be less self absorbed next year. Think of it as a Christmas present. Click here to buy and support the arts this New Year. Or the tab at the top of the page that says ‘my books’.

If I’m happier, then maybe next year I will write about all the good things that happen in 2012. Stories like: The Mayans were wrong and world doesn’t end (although they didn’t predict that but who cares), or Everyone is still broke but triple dip recession is unlikely, or aliens are discovered but only want to enslave us, not destroy us. Or something.

Anyway, enough blathering.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE WORD OF WARD AND SCIFI WARD! (AND MRS WORD OF WARD)!!!!!

 

 

 

 

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Too much TV causes Death!

I read an alarming article the other day. According to a recent study by the University of Queensland, every hour spent watching TV reduces a viewer’s life expectancy by 22 minutes. I then read another comment in the paper that 6 hours of TV a day massively reduces lifespan. It’s possible that the latter read the former…

My desk

When I’m not living in Asia working as a brilliant yet shallow journalist, I am in London working in the incredibly shallow TV industry. What’s worse, is that my job consists of being the final person to check the TV channels before they are beamed to your lovely houses. I literally watch TV for a living. I describe it here: My Futuristic Job.

It is alarming when I consider that I am, for example, doing a 60 hour week right now. That means 22 hours less life just this week. The only time at work when I’m not staring at a screen is when I’m having a cigarette break which cuts off  even more lifetime. I’m fucking doomed! I’ve worked in TV for over 20 years. If you then factor in my time-off spent watching TV or playing games or staring at a computer monitor and you can only come to the conclusion that I’m remarkable for still being able to walk around.

Another few hours and this is me.

Fortunately this is more to do with the associated slobby lifestyle rather than the number of screens you watch or the actual number of hours spent watching them. If you eat a salad and have the occasional walk, you’ll be fine. I’m sure you are aware of that or you wouldn’t have read this far on your lifesucking monitor and would have run screaming for the park. Presumably the people who did the study were aware of that too as they sat hunched over laptop screens staring at pointless data and coming to nonsensical conclusions.

So what’s my point? My point here is that these sorts of studies are pointless. Saying that the sort of person who watches TV is likely to eat more shite and excercise less and is therefore likely to die younger is stupid. Sure some people will barely move for days and live off butter but their life expectancy does not equate to all TV viewers. If some people get drunk, go home and beat up their partners, you shouldn’t conclude that based on statistics, drinking alcohol leads to a 10% increased chance you will hit your wife. Some people are just wife-beating dicks who can’t hold their liquor.

I don’t know why reading this study pissed me off so much. It could be the panic it caused me when I read the headline while at work watching TV. As it happens, I do think people watch too much TV but the main damage done is to their spelling and literacy. (In case you read my site regularly, there is a difference between a typo and an inability to tell the difference between your and you’re, so get off my case). Balance your entertainment. This is purely about being sedentary and having a bad diet. Lazy arsed researchers have just gone for an easy target – TV. Their conclusions could just as easily be that reading a book for an hour takes 22 minutes off your life. Or every hour working in an office or writing life altering philosophy. Or even researching stuff.  

So feel free to watch TV. Just eat a carrot for every hour that goes by. Read books and go for a walk. Perhaps to the pub for a lovely iron-rich Guinness. Just ignore time wasting studies that foresee your death. Certainly don’t read these studies while eating pies on your couch or you’re going to die really soon.

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New iPhone case with fake hand

How weird is this? Very.

I’m sure you first read the title of this post and thought, ‘Huh?’ Then you looked at the photo and went, ‘Oh I see’. This was probably rapidly followed by something like, ‘Well that’s just a bit weird’.

Either that, or your brain works differently from mine and you thought it was quite cool. In which case I’m afraid, you are weird. And not in a cool kooky way either.

I just came across a link to this picture on twitter and thought I would share. Apparently you can get versions with a woman’s hand or a small child’s hand. Just in case you weren’t weirded out enough.

The only way this would be cool is if it were a demon hand. Or a wookie hand. Or a cylon hand. Or a skeleton’s hand. Or…

You get my point.

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It’s Almost Christmas!

Apparently we are already in the run up to Christmas. At least we are according to Harrods and Selfridges, who started selling Christmas tat on July 28th this year. I know the weather has been pretty crap, but this is taking it a bit far.

As a general rule of thumb, I don’t think you should be able to buy Christmas things in England while wearing shorts. Unless you are an American tourist – they seem to wear shorts all year round. In fact the reasoning behind this early start is to cater for these Americans. According to Geraldine James, who is in charge of buying at the Christmas department at Selfridges: “[M]ost of our customers are international visitors, from China, the Middle East, America – the Americans love Christmas – and the Christmas shop attracts tourists.”

I’ve been to China and America and I distinctly remember seeing shops there that sold Christmas items. It just doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s because Selfridges has an actual Christmas department. They must have just gotten bored and needed to justify their existence. I’m sure the Easter department are pretty excited by all this. They’re next. There will be an Easter egg department in Harrods by Boxing day.

I always find it a bit sad when you see people in documentaries who start to celebrate Christmas months before December and get all excited for months. They are usually a bit lonely. I think I am a bit sad that Harrods and Selfridges are doing this in July because it just shows how desperate and out of ideas they are in the recession. You can imagine the meeting:

“People aren’t buying enough things. What can we do?”

“Everyone loves Christmas! Why don’t we just start selling baubles and plastic holly and things?”

“But it’s July! People won’t… we should sell… yeah, sod it, go on then. Americans like Christmas don’t they?Yeah!  Woohoo Christmas!”

These people make lots more money than most of us.

Just a wee Christmas drinkee...

On the other hand I am tempted to think fuck it. In London, for the entire month of December, people are drunk pretty much all the time. You’re allowed to drink from lunchtime onward and everyone just thinks you are a fun Christmas-loving kind of guy. Why am I complaining like some kind of Scrooge that Christmas cheer starts earlier every year? Maybe the shops aren’t desperate to cash in on the one proven thing that nets them lots of money, maybe they just love Santa!

So happy Christmas everyone! Mine’s a Guinness!

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The Last Space Shuttle and the Future

The last ever Space Shuttle, the Atlantis, touched down yesterday marking the end of the 30 year old NASA project. My initial thought was, ‘Well, that’s another giant leap backward for Mankind’ and felt vaguely depressed by direction humanity has decided to return to – inward looking, money-obsessed, war-mongering, looking after our own, seeing only the short term, small minded, barely evolved primates that we are. We suck. Or so I thought.

Never again. Good work people.

There have been those who have criticized the program claiming that it didn’t really achieve all that much and cost too much money. I disagree. The program pretty much built the International Space Station for a start. This has allowed for the study of various things, including the biological feasability of long-term space travel. Essential if we want to go to Mars. It has also launched the Hubble Telescope which has led to countless breakthroughs and discoveries. Plus some awesomely beautiful pictures.

If the human race wants to survive, we need to get off this planet. There are too many of us and there is no way to stop the increase. If you disagree, you’re bascically condemning future billions to horrible deaths from rising sea levels or famine or an eventual killer virus or asteroid or triffid attack. Nice thinking.

How can you not feel awed by this kind of achievement?

So did the Space Shuttle program end this inevitable threat of impending overpopulation? No. But it has helped pave the way by taking a few small practical steps in the right direction.

Most importantly though, it allowed mankind to dream. Man walking on the moon has always topped any poll of Mankind’s Greatest Moments. It is the quest to explore boundaries and achievements of projects like the Space Shuttle that lift humans above the animals and News of the World investigators (sorry – cheap shot). It inspires us to look to the stars. To think on a bigger scale. To look forward beyond a generation or two for a change.

Otherwise what has been the point? Eventually a huge meteor will hit and our civilisation will end. If you cynically think that perhaps that is a good thing as humanity not a nice beast, then you can piss off as it is unlikely that you will be the one suffering or dying – it will be your great grandkids. Along with us will go all our art, literature, movies, the lot. There will be literally no point in our having struggled against the odds to get to where we are if we just turn inwards and obsess over credit crunches and who has the most natural resources. We need to escape this petty ape-like tribal mentality.

Luckily it isn’t all going to end. Even though tons of NASA staff have been fired, things go on. India, China, Europe and Russia for example are still plugging away. Trips to the Space Station are still leaving from Russia. China hopes to be on the moon by 2022, and Japan and India plan on a moon base by 2030. (With the latter three countries there will at least be some decent food up there.)

Also, excitingly, individual companies are entering the fray. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are offering flights into space for £200,000, which is very cool. The futuristic-sounding ‘SpaceX’ seems to be taking over where NASA has left off. SpaceX was founded by a Paypal co-founder with the awesome name Elon Musk who paid $100million of his own money. Funnily enough, he states that it was the bureaucracy of space agencies that made it so expensive and the end of the Shuttle will make space travel cheaper and quicker. I love the idea of billionaires with passion getting us in space.

So while it is sad to see the Shuttle program end, the quest for space seems to be gathering momentum. Ironically, it is being driven by the same urges I complained about at the start. There are a lot of resources out there and there are a lot of millionaires who will pay to be in space down here. It can all be very lucrative. Whoever colonizes the moon first will have a strong position to exploit this situation. It is likely there will be similar disputes over moon ownership as there currently is over who is allowed on Antarctic. But at least the tribal humans will be squabbling on another planetary body. It’s a start.

No matter what the motives though, I don’t really care. As long as we are boldy going somewhere, I will be happy.

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Game of Death and myself

I grew up in Hong Kong in the 1970s. It was a glorious time and place for a young lad. Skyscrapers, jungles, beaches, and all the latest gadgets. Also, as you can tell from Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies (the old ones), everyone was Kung Fu fighting all the time and had brilliant haircuts. In fact, when I was sent to Britain in the 80s I managed to convince my fellow classmates that in Hong Kong we learnt Kung Fu instead of gym or PE. I was believed for a few months until I got into a fight with an older kid and got my ass kicked. Happy days…

Battle of the Planets

Battle of the Planets

Up until 1978, I thought all Western TV shows and movies were pretty lame. Star Wars changed that a lot, then soon after there was Battlestar Galactica on TV. Until these came along though I was obsessed with cool Oriental fighting stuff. One of these was Battle of the Planets (G Force) – a cartoon set in the future where some orphan kids in weird outfits fought huge metal creatures and armies controlled by what seems to be an evil hermaphrodite. Awesome! My favorite show though was Kamen Rider V3. (It had to be the V3 one.) A guy dressed as a sort of bug man who kicked the crap out of various odd rubbery monsters. It was really gory at times. Here’s the trailer:
http://youtu.be/YuABHZqSYJQ

Pretty cool huh? ‘But why this utterly self centred post about what you watched as a kid?’ I hear you ask. Obviously it will be fascinating for future historians to get a glimpse of the formation of one of the greatest minds of the 21st century, but there is another reason. I have to warn you it is still self obsessed though.

I’m basically establishing character. I was a kid who loved kung fu, gadgets, motorbikes and weird outfits. One of my earliest memories, when I was a mere 7 year old bowl-cutted nipper, was being at the Star Ferry in Hong Kong just after school. A man in a yellow jumpsuit suddenly pulled up on a cool motorbike. He looked like an action hero. I remember being shouted at by a film crew but I wouldn’t go away and they were only able to get a couple of takes as there was a lot of traffic. I never knew what film it was and went on my happy way with my eager young brain filled with action stories and yellow jumpsuits.

I had forgotten about this until a few nights ago when I watchedBruce Lee’s ‘Game of Death’. Imagine my surprise when I saw his character pull up to the Star Ferry in a yellow jumpsuit on the back of a motorbike. Imagine my further surprise when an annoying 7 year old Western kid with a 70s bowl cut wanders up to the bike. The memories flooded back and I felt nostalgic. Hence this post. I apologise but when all is said and done, it’s my website.

I should also point out that most of the movie was filmed after Brucie had died. That’s why there are so many long shots like this one. This scene was filmed in 1978, five years after his death. So the guy in the suit was either zombie Bruce or a double (he had a few for scenes after he died). Obviously a zombie would be ridiculous as they can’t ride motorbikes.

Here is the clip. Skip to about 4:53 and maximize. What a cute kid!
http://youtu.be/CZH6YTnM4AA

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A real LA cop plays LA Noir

L.A. Noir

L.A. Noir

I am currently obsessed with the uber awesome game LA Noir. It really is as groundbreaking as all the reviews have said. I don’t normally write about games until I have finished playing them but I came across a video on twitter that has a real modern day LA cop playing the game and giving his opinion on it. I was worried that I might forget where the video was, so I might as well post about it now.

Detective Cole Phelps

You play Cole Phelps, a man who has just returned from the war and becomes a policeman in L.A. in 1947. Think L.A. confidential and you pretty much have the look and feel of the game. And that is no bad thing. In fact, the whole game feels like an interactive movie. This is enhanced by the new facial recognition system that really allows actors to act. For the first time, characters in a game don’t look odd. They really look and act like real people. You can actually recognize the actors playing the parts, so it really feels like an interactive detective show. Phelps is played by a guy from Mad Men and at one point you interview a the psychic guy from Heroes. In the clip below with the cop, you interview the secretary from Mad Men. And so on.

This realism makes it possible to interview suspects and from their expressions, you can try and work out if they are lying or not. I’m getting better at it but it’s harder than it sounds. Annoyingly, in the clip with the real LA cop, he gets all the questions right and generally reads the suspects a lot better. I’m either too trusting or too suspicious. I hate moderation!

At first the game feels a bit repetitive but then you start to get promoted, have some shoot outs and a few chases across roof tops and in cars and things just get better and better. It truly is a brilliant game. First up, here’s a trailer:
http://youtu.be/GRwnJ0EX9Ko

If you don’t think that looks pretty cool, you have a faulty brain. Next up, if you can spare 10 minutes, you can watch the LA cop play a case. He is better at investigating than I am, but his control of Phelps is a bit wonky. I guess he is busier than I am and hasn’t mastered his PS3 controller. Anyway. Enjoy.

Thanks to www.g4tv.com for the video

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The Wimbledon Weather effect

It’s the first day of summer and the longest day of the year today. Shame it’s so shite outside. As I look out the window of my flat at all the poor saps huddled against the wind and drizzle, it’s mildly depressing to think that it is usually a lot worse for the rest of the year. I blame Wimbledon. I read somewhere, (in a SCIENCE magazine so you can’t dispute it – or maybe it was on QI), that weather patterns are affected by the mass movements of people. Vast amounts of people commuting during the week somehow affects the weather with the result that there’s an increased chance of rain at the weekend.

Glorious WimbledonIgnoring the fact that it is a Tuesday and has just rained, this seems pretty convincing. Maybe Wimbledon causes a similar effect. For two weeks, slightly demented people descend on Wimbledon and act slightly zany in hats and face paint and so on. Or maybe the weather is influenced by all the hopes and dreams of Britain willing that this year a British player will win. (Ten years ago we were hoping an Englishman would win, but now it’s a Scot we are all British. Hurrah for Britain!) Our hopes get up due to initial success and this collective intake of breath sucks in cloud from the Atlantic. Then, when the British player is knocked out near the end the weather clears up allowing some Europeans to fight for the title. The same happens with the World Cup every year.

It’s a tradition that nearly always occurs. Champagne, strawberries, rain interruptions and disappointment. Enjoy.

 

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Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown

Derren Brown is as near to a Jedi as you can get. The mental attributes, not the physical ones. If he ever decides to become an Ultimate Fighter, he will be unstoppable. I’m sure he could just say, ‘Go to sleep’ and his opponent would collapse and he could then just put the boot in. So maybe training to fight is unnecessary.

Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown teaches you, the Padawan, some awesome tricks. It also has quite a broad scope and touched on lots of things I am genuinely fascinated by. When it comes to mind powers I am now at least 10% more superior than most of you. It astounds me that I am still broke.

The book begins with how he got into magic and became a world re-nowned ‘mentalist’. Which is quite a cool job title in itself. He then goes on to teach you about the importance of perception and shows a couple of cool tricks.

In part three he talks about memory. Mr Brown is banned from casinos in Britain as he has the ability to count cards. Four decks of cards. Not just cards but pretty much anything. He states that apart from people with an eidetic memory, nearly all other memory gurus use a variety of systems. This includes himself. He then teaches you these systems and they really work. Some of the things you find yourself recalling are astounding. Especially as I had a misspent youth where I smoked weed and thought I had permanently damaged my short-term brain circuits.

He then talks about hypnosis and Neuro-linguistic programming and how to achieve personal gain in a non-hippy way.

The next section I need to read again. He teaches you how to read people and spot if they are lying. This will be very helpful in the upcoming L.A. Noir game (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry, you are just massively out of touch).

The final section is all about Anti-science, Pseudo-science, and Bad thinking. Derren worries about how science is under attack from dickheads, and why people believe in ghosts. There is an examination of things like Alternative medicine and mediums and psychics. Essentially they are all shite, but he explains why. It’s like a million rants I have already had on this site.

For example, if there is an alternative medicine that seems to work, scientists will look at it and test it. They will then conduct a load of experiments on huge groups of people to see if it works. Years ago lots of people used to suck on willow bark and spiraea to help with pain. Scientists then tested this and found that it did help with pain and found the active ingredients. They called it aspirin. When these tests don’t work, they end up in Health Food shops at a ridiculous price. Here’s a joke that doesn’t come from the book, but from a magazine I read. ‘What do you call an alternative medicine that works? Answer: Medicine.’

Ok. Not very funny, but the bit before was fairly interesting.

Other cool bits include how cold reading is done, how superstitions arise, and how placebos work.

I loved Tricks of the Mind. It is humorously written and covers a lot of fascinating ground. There is also a bibliography at the back in case a particular subject interests you. A lot interested me.

I would highly recommend Derren Brown’s book if you are interested in how the mind works and topics that surround it. I can now remember my PIN code and everything. Just try and resist the Dark Side, even if they do get cooler lightsabers.

 

 

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Aliens please abduct me!

This website now gets over 100,000 hits a month. (I know! Why? I just talk shit.) That still makes me a speck on the arse of the interweb, but it’s a start. If aliens are monitoring our planet, it is just possible that some low level alien civil servant might just read this. If you are reading this Zarg, I henceforth volunteer to be taken aboard your spaceship as an ambassador for my planet. It is an ancient Earth tradition that you get to go first if you ask first. Please respect this and forward it on to your Emperor or Galactic equivalent.

I firmly believe aliens are out there. The Universe is massive and there are a quintogigllion stars and even more planets. Surely only Creationists and medieval Catholics can manage to be blinkered enough to think there is just us. That God created all those stars and galaxies just a bit of scenery to make night-time more fun and provide work for astrologers. Conversely though, I don’t believe in UFOs. Or at least the ones that yokels glimpse or that crash near American experimental airforce bases.

Why do I, allegedly one of the greaters thinkers of the 21st century (self alleged, granted), think this?

UFO crashes

The number of planes in the air, right now, is erm a lot. Famously, they are one of the safest means of travel. They get safer each day. It would be logical to assume aliens are even more advanced than us. So if you just work out the percentages and assume that aliens have crashed into the planet, even if just once a decade, there must be billions of the bastards up there. (Sorry Zarg.) It just isn’t likely.

Crop circles, cow slicing, UFOs generally.

Crop Circle Proof

Just because something can’t be explained, doesn’t mean we should make something up and present it as fact. Unless you are an idiot. In which case go ahead and I will snigger at you in a really patronizing way. People have recreated crop circles, the cow thing can be explained, and UFOs are explained 99% of the time. The final 1% isn’t proof of anything. It could just as easily be a flock of ghosts or some flying glow-yetis or a round God in a magic chair. If a UFO wants to be seen, I’m sure they’d just appear. If they want to be hidden, they could (even we have that technology).

Alien abduction

Lots of cultures throughout history have myths of being held down and probed. Some might like the idea but most didn’t. It olden days in Europe (the period of Yore), people reported waking up, being unable to move and witnessed demons sitting on their chests and doing unpleasant things to them. After that, it was common for people to be held in place by witches’ magic while the witches likewise probed and fiddled. From the 1950s onward, it has been aliens. Specifically the ‘Greys’, who were coincidentally a popular alien design in Scifi movies created by people who just made shit up. The bulbous head and big eyes can actually be traced back to people like H.G. Wells and several Astounding Tales stories. None of the writers claimed to have been abducted.

The vast majority of abductions happen at night and there is ridiculous amounts of evidence pointing to sleep paralysis. Sorry but there you go. As for people ‘losing time’ but later remembering stuff… Really? Aliens abduct someone but can’t quite blank memories. Then they just do it again and again? Just how much can you learn from ‘probing’ anyway? 50 years they’ve been doing this. The only logical explanation is that it is either sleep paralysis or aliens have a weird sense of fun.

Please Zarg!

So that is why I don’t think aliens have interacted with us. I am convinced of my own logic but then I am very self obsessed and sure of myself. If you disagree based on solid evidence then fair play to you. I’m sure you have valid, well researched reasons from a variety of sources on both sides in order to reach your conclusion. If you also believe there is a conspiracy about the moon landings, JFK and 9/11 then you have my pity. You actually believe in Conspiracy Theories rather than a particular topic and are probably single or feel like you have lost control of your life a little bit. (It’s a psychological thing apparently.)

It is possible that they are monitoring us. It is what we would do in reverse. Our own satellites can watch us already, I’m sure aliens could do the same. If so, feel free to drop me a line.

Anyway, feel free to complain. With a bit of luck, my wife and I will be on a Galactic tour and will get back to you shortly.

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The future of storytelling

Do you like movies? Do you consider yourself to be open minded? If yes, watch these trailers I implore you. A new storytelling medium has arrived and only a complete dullard thicko luddite could not view these and grudgingly admit that a new way for telling a ripping tale has arrived. If you dismiss these out of hand because you they are ‘just games’ then you don’t deserve to be on the internet. Go read a parchment and bore people with how cultured you apparently are. (You aren’t, you are pretentious and probably read magazines more than books but keep that a secret.) These will not replace books or films but are an additional and different way of presenting a story and are just as valid.

I saw a trailer for the new Deus Ex game in December and almost had a ‘crisis’. I have only just calmed down. For those of you that don’t like computer games but think that movies are a good way to tell a story then you are missing out. Games have become an incredible new medium for telling a good tale. They often use famous actors, characterisation can be achieved just as effectively, and the narrative can twist as much as any convoluted twisty thriller. If there’s a good director, then the visuals can be just as pant wettingly compelling as any film. Particularly as we now live in an era of powerful new consoles and  life affirmingly large high-def TVs. The only difference is that you aren’t a passive sap – you actively have a stake in what is going on which leads to you feeling more involved. Especially when your controller shakes when you get shot in the face.  

So get over yourself. The next generation of entertainment and storytelling is here. Watch these three great examples of what can be achieved in a narrative sense and if you don’t they look at least slightly intriguing, then you are dead inside. You might as well watch Eastenders, read the Daily Mail and drink high strength lager while waiting for death. The review for the superb Uncharted 2 is here: http://thewordofward.co.uk/?p=634. The game plays like an interactive Indiana Jones film. With chapters and hot women and magic stones and chases and everything. It’s fucking awesome. Here’s the trailer:

The next trailer for a game set in L.A. in the gritty ‘noir’ period full of sexy dames and violent but well dressed men in hats. Rather aptly, it is called L.A. Noir and shows a completely different type of tale to that found in Uncharted. Although you still get to shoot people.

The final trailer in this trio of awesomeness is Deus Ex: Human Evolution. Deus Ex hasn’t come out yet so it may be crap. In its favour is the fact that it is the third game in the franchise and the first two were genuis and no part 3 of anything has ever been bad. (Don’t question that statement too closely, it may be flawed.) Anyway, check out the trailer. It’s like Bladerunner crossed with the news.

Ok I’m done. I will stop repeating myself. I find myself increasingly enjoying games as my disappointment with most new films increases. Next week: a review of Transformers 2. Just kidding.

Riots in London

Two days ago I narrowly missed a load of riots in good old London. In the morning I had to get a visa for my upcoming trip to Thailand. I then got the tube to Leicester Square and wandered into Soho for a bit of lunch at Wahaca (which was awesome if you are interested). I then meandered around Soho before going to my eye laser people on Tottenham Court road to have a check up on my eyes (which are also awesome). I then walked down Charing Cross road to look at books then down Bond street where I had a coffee and met my wife for a bit of shoe shopping (not quite so awesome). From there we walked around the area before having a quick pint at Green Park where I got on the tube to go to work. I even saw Bob Geldoff out for a bit of Christmas shopping. A very pleasant day. Except for the work bit at the end. 

I find this very depressing

I somehow missed all the riots just a few minutes down the road. I knew there were protests that day but the police usually surround them. If things kick off or the rioters smash stuff then the cops either club them and get accused of being heavy handed, or let them smash a few things and get accused of not being prepared. All fairly normal. 

I knew things might not be going to plan when vans of police kept belting around every corner. If I looked south, I could see helicopters. In shops I could hear the radio warning that rioters were heading our way. On twitter and the internet there were reports that they had burnt the Christmas tree in Trafalgar square (a few minutes walk from Leicester square). They then smashed shops on Oxford street where I had just been then shouted their way up Regent street and attacked Prince Charles’s car – a road I had just crossed. 

I wasn’t particularly worried about the rioters as I haven’t cut my hair in a while and was unshaven and scruffy, so would probably be mistaken for one of their own. I was mildly concerned about being ‘kettled’ by the police and trapped for hours but not that bothered really. London has a lot of alleys and twisty back streets and I know a lot of them as they tend to have late night bars on them so I was confident I could escape. I was mostly concerned that the tube station I needed to get to would be shut and I would be late for work because of some dickhead rioters or overzealous plod. I am freelance and charge by the hour after all. 

At first I was all for the protests. How does making a student take out a massive loan, that will eventually be paid back decades later, help our economy right now? Will this mean even bigger rises for foreign students? They pay almost triple the fees of local students – apparently so that fees for locals can be kept low. Cameron said last month: “foreign students will still pay a significant amount of money – but we should be able to keep that growth under control”. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11724431) Well that’s ok then. We are already one of the most expensive places to study outside of the US but as Cameron should be able to keep things under control then they probably won’t all go somewhere else and lose universities pots of cash from people who pay a lot in advance. 

Of course there millions of arguments, some very good, for both sides. I can’t be bothered to go on any more about it. The point was that I was all for the supposedly peaceful protest. My image of students remained a mixture of: 

Students protest!

and: 

and just a bit of: 

i know it's gratuitous but it's my site

Unfortunately, the protest got hijacked by a load of twats. As usual. This has caused a lot of people to think less ‘Yeah! Stick it to the establishment’ and more ‘you pointless bunch of pricks, why smash windows on Oxford street during the shopping season and burn down the Christmas tree’. It was as if they were attacking Christmas, the joyless scum. 

Is this man a student protester, or a dick?

Most of the rioters (as opposed to the protesters) looked suspiciously like the sort of non-student who just like a fight and hates capitalism and the royal family and blah blah blah. In fact they look a lot like the sort of people who hang out around the bridge in Camden down the hill from my flat. 

Quite frankly it’s all very sad. The next time the students protest, they should casually ask others in the crowd if they are up for smashing a few shops. If they answer is yes, they should beat them up with truncheons in a powerful ironic statement of some kind. Then they can still have a protest, people will like them, and I can shop in peace. 

It won’t change anything anyway. I can say that because I’m a cynical grown up well versed in the frustrations and pointlessness of real life. The only way they could really get stuff done is through spreading embarrassing secrets about the government on the internet then hacking into websites and stuff. They’ll have to wait their turn though.

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Eye Lasik Surgery

Perfect eyes

I got my eyes lasered recently and it has been awesome! I can now see for thousands of miles. I could see pretty astoundingly with my contact lenses, but now I can see at an almost superhuman level. I spend my evenings staring into the night sky discovering new planets. I joked to a friend that I practically had X-ray vision, but then realised that would probably be a curse. How many people do you see on the street that you would actually want to see naked? Less than 10% at least. Ugly bastards.

In case you are thinking of having it done – go for it. It is truly life changing. Don’t quote me if your eyeballs fall out though.

The procedure was laughably simple. On the actual day, you are asked to sign a form that scares the crap out of you. ‘I won’t blame anyone if I go blind or my eyes explode in flames.’ That sort of thing. You are then taken to a room where a charming nurse will put anesthetic drops in your eyes. After about ten minutes of explaining after-care, you are given incredibly sexy coverings for your hair and shoes. You lie back in a bed and your head is strapped down and eyelids clamped back. Like in Clockwork Orange but without the stirring music. Some device is then pushed against your eye. This is the most uncomfortable part. Imagine someone pressing on your eyeball with their thumb for about 5 seconds. This is when they cut a circle around your iris.

You then stare at a laser which flashes a few times and is pleasantly accompanied by a loud series of crackles and the smell of your own flesh burning. Or the smell of burning hair to be precise (don’t ask me why). Nice. There then follows some drops in your eye and what seems to be a doctor painting the flap of eye skin back into place.

Then repeat.

The whole procedure took about ten minutes.

For the next few hours my eyes stung like buggery and my vision was a bit hazy. The following morning was a lot better although my eyes still felt a bit sore. A bit like someone had cut them and fried them with lasers to precise. It wasn’t too bad though. If you wear lenses then imagine wearing them for a 12 hour flight. You can feel the edges around your pupils.

Every day your eyes feel better. The vision was superb (for me at least) from the second or third day. After about a week or so, your eyes feel superb. In as much as you can judge these things.

My main worry now is that I will get drunk and forget I no longer wear lenses. Trying to pull out non-existent pieces of plastic would be painful.

In summary then: it’s one of the best things I have ever done. It’s actually in third place behind losing my virginity and getting married (not necessarily in that order). Which is pretty high ranking.

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Planned Engineering Work

If you live in London and have to be travel by tube at the weekend ‘Planned Engineering Work’ is a phrase you will have heard about a billion times. Probably more. I’m only writing about it now because I heard it all evening on my way in to work and the words have become an angry mantra in my brain that I can’t seem to dislodge.

The Underground, when it’s not on strike, seems to think it is ok to shut half the transport system every weekend if they just tack these words on the end. You will hear announcements like: ‘London Underground is currently operating a good service across the entire network. The following lines are shut due to planned engineering work…’ There then follows a list that takes about 5 minutes to read out. Apparently this is because they are ‘transforming your tube’. This is being done in ways that are sadly invisible to users, so we just have to take their word for it.

Am I being cynical in remembering that the increase in weekend closures happened around the same time as the tube staff protests over no longer being paid overtime for working weekends? Boohoo. It is currently 4am on Saturday night and I’m at work being paid the same as if it was a Monday day. All I have to look forward to is a lengthy series of bus journeys in the morning because the District, Overland, and Piccadilly lines are all shut. So is the circle line, but that is closed so often it has almost attained mythical status. Are the closures occurring to do a tiny amount of work while cutting back on costs?

Sorry if this sounds like a huge whinge but I work in West London and every weekend it is like a Krypton Factor test just working out how I can cross the city. I assumed that it was all a rush to be ready for the Olympics. It makes sense that they are panicking as the system can barely cope now, let alone with lots of extra tourists. If you look at their website though, it says this is going to continue for the next ten years.

All right I’ll stop bitching. It just feels very cathartic. By the way, apologies for not having written for a while. My brain was down for planned engineering work.

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Cyborg controlled by rat brain

Robot revolution

Continuing with my ‘robots will take over the world’ theme, here is something even cooler and scarier than the Aggressive Quadrotor I wrote about recently. It is a robot controlled by a rat brain. Which is pretty awesome unless you’re a rat. Presumably the robot currently heads for the nearest bin and hangs out there. Like in the Simpsons when Mr Burns puts Homer’s brain in a giant robot and all it does is eat doughnuts and nap.

I now have a dilemma about what to do when I die a couple of hundred years from now. I was going to get frozen and then reawakened when they have the technology to make me live forever and all the women wear nothing but spandex. Now I’m toying with being Robocop. Unlike Robocop though, I’d like my private parts to still work or there isn’t much point in survivng.

So without further ado, here is a very cool video of ‘Ratbot’. They should have had a clear perspex dome so you can see the brain but I’m just being picky. Maybe in Ratbot 2.0

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The Pope is in the UK and is worried about our holidays

The pope is finally here! God bless us every one! As you may have guessed from reading this site, I’m not particularly religious. I have nothing against those who are (although I think you’re wrong), I just don’t like it when I have to pay for other’s beliefs (As I have written elsewhere.). Officially the pope’s visit is a state visit but this is hardly like a visit from the a foreign president. The Vatican is a city state and to be a citizen you have to work for the church. 74% of the citizenship is clergy, the rest are Swiss guards and so on. It’s not a normal country we can hopefully increase trade with or anything beneficial like that.

But he’s here, I’ve paid and it’s done. Traffic disruptions aside, why should I care anymore? Once he’s gone past on his popemobile, and things return to normal, the impact on me will be none.

All that will be left will be my memory of finding some of the comments and opinions both humerous and worrying. This is a man who speaks to third world countries and tells them using condoms is a sin. Mind you, one of his minions thought Britain was a third world country, so he must be pleased that we have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Europe. It’s a shame most aren’t married, but it’s a start. This and all the kid-fiddling that has been covered up are the worrying bits.

The funnier aspects of his pronunciations are his alarm over things like the marginalisation of religion. People still believe in all sorts of ridiculous things – healing crystals, ghosts, moon landing conspiracies, mediums, homeopathy, UFOs, alien abduction, psychics, the loch ness monster, and tons more. There are also lots more religions that are relatively new to the West. What he means is the reduction in his particular branch of those who worship the one true god. The same god that’s worshipped by Jews, Protestants, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the rest but in slightly different ways.

He has specifically mentioned those who have voiced opinions about not celebrating Christian holidays. ‘I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity,’ he has said. (http://www.metro.co.uk/news/841305-pope-fears-religion-is-being-marginalised). He skirts around the fact that this has largely been because people don’t want to offend other religions, as opposed to an increase in atheism. I have to agree with him on this though. People should be able to celebrate what they want. I love Santa and the Easter Bunny. It just feels a bit weird to have the Church speak against suppressing other religions.

I think it is too late. When most people think of Christmas, they think of this:

Traditional Christmas

Or in my case this:

Sexy Santa

Now let me just state that I have nothing against religion. I have lived in a lot of places and have numerous friends from various faiths. We all respect each other’s views. To some extent anyway. I just don’t like it when religions behave in dumb ways or say stupid things and I consequently read about it. I like living in multi-cultural societies just as long as no one clings to ideas that are massively outdated and are actually harmful.

Basically my point is this Mr Pope your worshipfulness. Say what you like about God and angels and harps and demons and pitchforks and singed pubic hair and so on – that’s fine with me. Tell a country that is in the middle of an AIDS epidemic not to wear condoms, then I am forced to disagree. Converting people and then persuading them to breed is not the answer any more. Just be sensible. I know that the majority of Catholics agree with me, they’ve said so in the papers and on forums. Use the internet and advertising and viral videos to reach new converts – they are much more effective and millions needn’t catch STDs.

As for Christmas and Easter holidays. I’m afraid the pagans have taken them back.

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Giant Rats in Bradford

Ratzilla shot on a Bradford estate!

This is some scary assed stuff.

The Rats are coming!

Apparently some local yokels were out ‘ratting’ when a small group of huge rats ran out. The inbred humans were basically doing what I always suspected they do in that part of the world. When they aren’t having race riots, they hang around dump-sites and shoot rats with air-guns. Nice. Just a shame the rats didn’t turn on them and mete out some karma.

Experts say it might be a breed of super rat from South America. Why are all the creepy crawlies down there so damned big? If it is a rat and not a coypu or something, then it is pretty worrying. I wrote just the other day about how we needed something genuine and cool to worry about in Blighty and now it looks like it might happen. James Herbert predicted this years ago in his superb ‘Rats’ trilogy. If, like in Domain there is also a nuclear war, we’re doomed. God I love those books.

Anyway, if it is a mega-super-giga-killa-rat from South America then lock up your cats. Check out this slightly unpleasant photo:

Unhappy cat

It’s like Tom and Jerry after Jerry has eaten some radioactive cheese.

Just imagine if the rats breed and spread to areas where the locals don’t shoot rats for fun. Where I live for example. They say you are never more than 10 feet from a rat in London but at least they wouldn’t make off with your leg.

Here’s the news, where the killjoys show it could actually be some other big rodent. Sadly quite a cute one with little hands and twitchy noses.

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Freedom of speech

As you may or may not have noticed, this website was down for a week. Basically, I said a few things about someone that I was perfectly justified to say. Unfortunately, some of the comments by readers may have overstepped the mark. As a result my old hosts got a warning from some lawyers and rather than give me a chance to remove the comments, simply shut me down. I won’t be mentioning the individual again because I didn’t really give a shit about him in the first place. I mentioned him in annoyance and everything spiralled out of control.

I won’t mention my old hosts either as they suck and will probably sue too. You can guess who they are by looking at any web-host review site and looking at who is rated bottom.

What have I learnt from all this?

1) Don’t use my old hosts. Whoever they are…

2) Don’t slag off anyone who probably has good lawyers.

3) If you are going to write about people, and keep it purely factual, beware of what people write in the comments section.

4) Don’t back up your website with just your hosts. Especially if they suck.

5) Don’t naively assume you have freedom of speech unless you are a celebrity or writing for the press – when you can just write an apology on page 10.

So I’ll be disabling the comments from now on. Sorry about that but I got a ton of spam every day and I can’t be bothered to go through everyone’s comments in case some jumped up prick in the future takes offence at what some innocent but frustrated reader has written. Not that the guy I wrote about was a jumped up prick. He is a wonderful, wonderful man and everyone who wrote bad comments is obviously mental.

I feel saddened that I can’t write what I want. I didn’t slander anyone but fear of legal action seems to turn everyone into pussies. So you win lawyers and spammers! Well done! Balls to freedom!

Still, at least I’m back. Next entry I will be more cheerful. I should also thank Host Gator – my new host – for being so awesome and sorting everything out. They are so much better than my previous host. Who hate freedom.

Photos from:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/unnamed/47093936/sizes/m/

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