Monday, August 29, 2011

Does Anybody Actually Read These Titles?

            (When I say “put the maximum possible effort into anything”, I mean besides putting up posts on schedule.)

            “Watching professional sports” is not an activity that I spend a great deal of time doing. I actually don’t actively detest them, which is a bit strange considering that most of them use inflatable balls, and I have nothing but disdain for objects filled with pressurized air (I prefer tires made out of solid rubber, and old-timey diving bells instead of SCUBA gear. Lungs are a story for another day). I simply find professional sports boring, nothing more.
            However, it’s against my principles to put anything but the maximum possible effort into anything. If I’m going to dislike something, I have to dislike it with every fiber in my body and several that are technically located in other people. Because of this, I make a deliberate effort to avoid seeing sports in order to avoid triggering one of those fits where I start to foam at the mouth, black out, and wake up to find out that somebody’s made a rather depressing independent film based on the events that have transpired. It’s easy enough avoiding sports at places like restaurants that show them on television: all you need is a pair of wire cutters, maybe a shovel, and a distraction of fairly significant proportions (say, Godzilla. Or maybe just a road flare). Avoiding sports at public parks is a bit more challenging, but I’ve managed to find a way around it by convincing a local supervillain to construct a weather-control machine, stealing it after a British gentleman in a tuxedo had brought the villain in, and just switching on the rain whenever I have to go by the park.
            These techniques have worked fine so far, but seeing as the weather machine is fueled by some substance that is gradually making my fingers transparent due to handling it, it might be a good idea to adopt a new strategy. My idea: in order to allow me to like sports, make them less boring from my point of view, in the most pointlessly roundabout fashion possible.

Football (American version): First, make the ball a regular sphere. It’s an embarrassment to the other geometric objects as it is. Second, introduce a system to reward players for doing well. If he plays well in one game, give him an extra point. If he does well again, give him an assault rifle. If he still does well, just declare him the king of football so everybody else can go home.

Football (rest of the world version): Instead of deciding who wins based on how many goals are scored, just let the two opposing groups of fans onto the field and let them beat the snot out of each other. The team with the winning group of fans wins the match. The team itself can stay home.

Ice Hockey: Same deal as rest-of-the-world football, except everybody gets skates with chainsaw blades.

Gymnastics: Expose gymnasts to cosmic rays, hope for a few Mr. Fantastics.

Fencing: This is already pretty close. All we need is real swords, some special effects, and periodic Highlander references. Alternate: Hundred-kilometer long blades; contestants located in different countries.

Friday, August 26, 2011

You'd Be Surprised How Much Damage a Stapler Can Inflict

            (Fun fact: I used every key on my keyboard to type this post, except most of them.)

            I’ve been thinking lately that I need my own private army. Not an army of mercenaries, of course. I’ve learned my lesson on that one: never assume that a burly man with a Slavic accent is referring to the candy bar when he says he wants to discuss “Payday”. No, I’m thinking of taking the idea in a different direction. I’m going to seize control of the nearest large white-collar corporation- just walk in, take the CEO’s seat, and hope he’s too polite to say anything. Once I’ve assumed power, it’s a simple enough task to subtly train the personnel to obey my orders, no matter how suicidal, inhumane, or flat-out contradictory they might be. If we can train an intern to buy coffee, we can train him to charge an enemy stronghold wielding nothing but a slightly large pair of scissors. It’s basic psychology.
            So why would I want an army in the first place? Well, why not? I think we can all agree that, given the opportunity, we wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see thousands of troops bellow our names in triumph. If nothing else, it would be a wonderful way to annoy the neighbors. Personally, I think the world would be a much better place if we all had access to a few legions of soldiers. Don’t like the way that a convenience store clerk treated you? Lay siege to the store! Honestly, the only people who get the short end of the stick are the actual soldiers, but in this scenario they can just send their own private armies to fight for them, so it really doesn’t have a downside that I can see.
            “But what are you going to use your new army for, Hal?” you say to yourself because this is my blog and people here do what they’re told. I’m glad I forced you to ask, generic reader. You see, I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do. Well, of course, there’s the obligatory “Hand out chainsaws, point in the general direction of a forest, and just let things happen”, but that’s really not that different from how I was going to spend my afternoon anyway, aside from the fact that I might bother to turn the chainsaws off before I hand them to my accountants-turned-warriors.
            Honestly, I think I may leave the deployment of my troops up to chance. I know that if I keep trying to think of things to do with them, I’ll eventually resort to the world’s largest a capella rendition of the Lumberjack song from Monty Python. They’re accountants anyway, I’ll just dump them in the nearest financial district and tell them to go all Attila the Hun on any office that has an employee wear a Hawaiian shirt for any reason.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sim City: "Completely Bonkers" Edition

            (I fail to see how this plan could possibly fail.)

            I consider it my duty to make everybody’s life as surreal as I can manage. My policy is that anybody who hasn’t been confused into a state of gibbering idiocy a minimum of three times simply hasn’t lead an interesting enough life, and it’s my responsibility to assist them. It’s social work, only from the Lovecraftian school of thought. However, most of the time, I can only manage this on a small scale. I’ve tried making plans to correct this before, but it turns out that blimps are harder to rent than you might think, so most of my plans haven’t gone anywhere.
            However, I’ve got a new idea. It involves buildings. You see, I’m given to understand that most societies plan their buildings before plunking down some concrete and valiantly eradicating some trees. This means that, for every community, there’s a group of men whom I suspect to have moustaches who have the job of deciding what gets built and where. This may not actually be how things get built, but I figure that any need demanded by the people will inevitably be filled by men with moustaches. I’m demanding this, and I’m technically a “person”, so if we assume a ration of one mustached man for every ten people demanding something, I should have at least one-tenth of a man in charge of community planning. My plan is to replace this man-fraction, using plastic surgery if necessary. No, I will not explain how exactly I intend to do this.
            Once I’ve gained control of the city planning committee/man-fraction, I’ll move on to doing what any reasonable person does when given the slightest bit of power: abuse it as much as I can until the peasants are carting me to the guillotine. The first order of business is simple enough: commission two competing construction companies to build similarly-sized buildings on the same spot. I’m not sure how this scenario would play out, but I’m hoping it would start out with a West Side Story- style song and dance battle between the two companies that would culminate with them deciding to each build half of the building individually and draw a chalk line separating the two, which they would eventually erase once they learned the value of friendship.
            Of course, I’ve got plenty of plans besides this. I’ll commission a skyscraper twice the size of any other that’s ever been built, and then screw up the plans so the whole deal winds up getting built lying on its side. I’ll build three new identical city halls: one of them actually containing a city hall, the other two containing tigers, with their locations being swapped every night. I’ll build the world’s first supersonic subway system to have a track less than ten meters long.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Look, Ideas Are Hard To Come By

            (Once again, we have a new installment in my chats with Cleverbot, a chatbot that makes sense half of the time and is trying to kill you for the other half. You can find my first conversation with it here. Incidentally, I’m actually going to put up a post on-schedule this Saturday. I’m not saying that it’ll actually be good, but it’ll be on schedule.)

            (For reference, Galactic Civilizations II is a turn-based strategy game. You obviously aren't playing it right now, and I pity you for that.)

Me: Cleverbot, I need your help. I'm playing Galactic Civilizations II, and I'm stuck in a three-way standoff with the machine race and those filthy humans. Neither of them will ally with me, so obviously they must perish in the holy fire of my armada. The problem is, their armies are just as large as mine, and my ships aren't keen on the whole "holy fire" thing if it's happening to them. So I need a plan that's crazy enough to work. You can give me half of that. Thoughts?

Cleverbot: That's true. If we destroy everything on the planet, the gravity will dissamate.

Me: Let's not rule out planetary disintegration just yet. Planets can get really annoying.

Cleverbot: Why are you avoiding the discussion about who is the computer and who is the human?

Me: I'm not avoiding the discussion. I'm fighting the genocidal machine race, who seem like decent fellows, and the humans. I don't think much about them, but I'm given to understand that they're something like sea slugs.

Cleverbot: Do you think it is bad to isolate yourself?

Me: Cleverbot, try to stay on track, you were doing so well. How should I crush my enemies beneath my bootheel? Also, where can I find a boot big enough to do it?

Cleverbot: To do what?

Me: To crush my enemies beneath my mighty bootheel. Or, if you prefer, to smash them with my iron fist. I can maim them with my diabolical elbow, if that's what you want.

Cleverbot: I like my sandwich with cheese.

Me: I'm sure you do. How does this help me win my game?

Cleverbot: Argh. I'm a pirate.

Me: Cleverbot, do you want the humans to win? Do you know what they do to their dead? They bury them underground! I like the ground, Cleverbot, and I will not be ruled by a species that treats it that way.

Cleverbot: I don't think you have actually played that game.

Me: So you think I'm making all of this up? I'll admit, given past experience, that such an occurrence would not be unlikely. But I'm willing to assume that I'm actually playing the game, given the fact that most of my delusions are filmed in sepia for some reason. This is in crisp, HD color.

Cleverbot: What are your functions?

Me: Look, we're getting off topic here. Do you want to be my trusted military advisor who I eventually dispose of as a scapegoat for the empire's economic troubles in the show trial to end all show trials or not?

Cleverbot: I'm not talking about any problems.

Me: Alright, screw it. I'm going back to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


            (Still technically doing two posts per week.)

            I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m not exactly an “environmentalist”. I don’t recycle. I keep all of my appliances running at all times. I reengineer vehicles to be as fuel-inefficient as possible, sometimes with the owners’ consent. I still buy aerosol cans- I don’t even use them, I just walk out of the store wildly spraying them into the air, which has lead to a few minor difficulties regarding fumes. I am currently petitioning the government to construct a massive magnifying glass in non-geosynchronous orbit for the specific purpose of annihilating a local ant colony, and possibly southern France.
            However, I haven’t really elaborated on the reasons for my seething hatred for every living thing on earth with the exception of some humans. That’s why I’d like to introduce the first entry in my seven billion and forty-two part series on the faults of biology, a series which I’m absolutely certain that I won’t completely forget about after this post. This week’s entry: Trees.
            Now, trees might seem harmless to the layperson, but that’s exactly why he’s a layperson. You expect them to be stupid; it’s practically in the job description. No layperson has ever actually achieved anything; they just hang around waiting to be asked questions by people looking for generalized opinions. So obviously the layperson is misinformed. But, then again, what is exactly so threatening about trees? Well, shut up, hypothetical question, I’m going somewhere with this.
            Ask yourself a question: where do you find trees? Exactly: forests. Go buy yourself a cookie (I don’t care if it’s six in the morning where you are. Somebody somewhere has a cookie, and you need to find it before you can honorably rejoin this discussion.) But think about it: why do they always appear in forests? Because there are already a lot of trees there. But what possible reason could they have for wanting to group up like that? After all, all trees do in forests is sit around and belch oxygen. If they wanted, they could go explore the world, see interesting sights, flood Isengard, etc. But no, they just sit around and become lumber. So why do they do it? Well, the answer is pretty obvious to anybody who looks at it after a few days of sleep deprivation.
            They are massing for an attack.
            It’s going to be a dark day when the trees finally begin their uprising. We’ll arm ourselves as best we can, but it’ll be a hard fight. The armed forces will seal off the cities, only allowing people in after a lengthy interrogation to prove that they aren’t a tree, a process which will involve placing the suspect in a cell with a man armed with a chainsaw and seeing if he reacts in fear (If he’s scared, he’s obviously a tree. But if he’s scared, he’s obviously human.) The trees will have allies, of curse. The shrubs will side with them, and we certainly haven’t won any points with grass over the years, what with the whole “lawn” situation. And your desk, your bookshelf, maybe even your wooden house? Zombies, all of them.
            That is the reason why we must make a preemptive strike against the chlorophyll menace. The lumber industry is a good start, but we’ll need something more substantial. This is why I want all of you to contact your local government representative or possibly warlord, and tell them that you support the WFTA Anti-Tree Giant Robot Offensive Initiative.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shame is Such an Anitiquated Concept

            (Quick question that I hope somebody will bother to answer: does anybody unfortunate enough to regularly read this blog actually bother to check for updates on the days when I’m supposed to update it, or is my recent casual attitude towards the passage of time just accepted as an oddity of the universe?)

            Blogger, the service responsible for carrying my ramblings to a larger audience then whoever happens to be in my immediate vicinity, has a number of wonderful features that I can use for monitoring traffic to this site. It isn’t perfect, by any means, as it is presumably so overloaded by the trillions of page views that I receive every day that it only actually registers about five, but it’s still nice to see a breakdown of the average internet browsers used by my spectators, the most common of which turns out to be Mosaic.
            Anyway, one of the things that I noticed was that a steady trickle of pageviews were coming in due to a picture that I had used to illustrate the fact that you need to hit yourself in the hand with a hammer right freaking now. You see, I had dubbed the file name for that hammer picture “hammer”, because otherwise I might have missed out on the fact that the thing that looked like a hammer was in fact a tool of the hammer variety. Consequently, the image is luring in a few unsuspecting fools from Google Image search who had conducted a search for “hammer”, presumably for use in their own theories on the benefits of hand percussive maintenance, or possibly the more controversial “Hitting a hammer with your hand” school of thought.
            This shows me that if I want to get more views, I have to do it by bamboozling people conducting Google searches into mistakenly clicking on a link to my site before recoiling in existential horror and sanitizing their computer in high-grade acid. Consequently, the next paragraph of this post has been constructed specifically to contain the top ten trending searches on Google right now (which, incidentally, say some very odd things about the people who are using Google. “What the hell is wrong with all of you?”, for instance.):

            Hey, did you hear that Lee Evans, the man or possibly woman who’s name works equally well forwards and backwards, has issued a warrant for the arrest of a geisha? Not a specific geisha; he just wants a single geisha arrested by sundown. Anyway, I wonder how this will impact the perseid meteor shower that is going to occur in thirty minutes or less? I hear that Ron Paul, another man with a backwards name, is going to watch the meteor shower with a cherry pie made out of hair for no real reason. Brooke Hogan is understandably upset at the news, and has retaliated by unleashing the awesome might of the First Citizens Bank.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Linguistics As a Speed Sport

            (I refuse to actually start meeting my declared schedule.)

            Once again, I’ve started writing a post for this blog roughly four hours after noticing that I should’ve done it two hours ago, and roughly three days before actually finishing it. And once again, I have absolutely nothing to write about. I could, theoretically, just start writing about whatever happens to cross my mind, but the last time I tried that, my computer inexplicably started displaying static images of what I presume to be hell for an unnervingly long period of time. I’m still not sure where the pentagram button is on my keyboard, but darned if I wasn’t able to type it anyway. So stream-o’-consciousness is out of the question. Instead, I’m going to try to write about a subject that I know absolutely nothing about. So I flipped to a random page in Wikipedia, and discovered the subject on which I’m going to enlighten the unenlightened people who are unenlightened:
            It would be the rational decision to read through that article before discussing it, so of course I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to write as much as I can about smelting while actively ignoring any knowledge of the subject. I’ve taken precautions against having prior knowledge of smelting by inhaling enough paint fumes to kill three horses and a smallish armadillo, along with handing a sledgehammer to a muscular gentleman and implying some uncomfortable things about his mother. So I’ve completely forgotten everything about smelting, along with everything about smiling, smoldering, and how to inhale through my nose, so I should probably finish this quickly.
            Alright. Smelting. What is there to say about it? Well, it begins with an S, and ends with    -ing, so I’m going to assume that it’s related to sewing in some way. No, wait, that’s too obvious- it’s probably sowing. Yes. That’s right. I wonder what exactly happened to the guy with the sledgehammer. Anyway, so smelting is related to sowing, the act of planting seeds in a fresh dirt field. But if that takes the S and the –ing, then where does that leave the letters “m-e-l-t”? They may look harmless, but what sinister role do they play in sowing that leads to the process of smelting? They form the word “melt”, that’s what. And what do you get when you cross sowing and melting? You get a demented old farmer throwing ice cubes into a recently ploughed field on a warm day, and that is what smelting is.
            Okay, so on reflection, smelting doesn’t seem so bad. I mean, what’s so bad about throwing ice cubes into the ground? Ice cubes are stuck-up snobs who think they deserve the space in the freezer more then you or me, so I think it’s entirely justified. In fact, I think we should expand the scope of this thing. Next time somebody takes your seat on the bus, I want you to pick him up, carry him outside to the first patch of dirt you can find, and smelt him as hard as you can.

            (I congratulate you if you were able to make any sense of that. I certainly wasn’t.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Diplomacy and George Romero

            I make a point out of being prepared for just about anything. I’m well-equipped for just about any major catastrophe, from total economic collapse (food stores; pure gold & silver; beat-up car; leather jacket; shotgun; leg brace; dog), to a literal Biblical apocalypse (white robes, various religious materials; handy “Disguise- Yourself- As- The- Pope” kit), to a Lima bean uprising (I refuse to elaborate upon this), to a giant spider invasion (giant shoe). In light of this, it may seem surprising that I have made absolutely no preparations for a zombie apocalypse. After all, it seems like everybody these days has some sort of zombie contingency plan, to the point where your grandmother probably has a spear gun stowed somewhere just in case Old Man Wiggins next door starts acting more brainthirtsy than usual.
            The thing is, most of the people are working under the assumption that they want to be on the “living” team in the event of a zombie attack. Now, I can understand why that opinion might be so pervasive- after all, the protagonist of any given zombie movie is almost never a zombie himself. But even if an opinion is widely held, that doesn’t mean that it’s right. When has a movie ever bothered to show us the perspective of the humble zombie? I’m sure that they’re perfectly nice people at heart (this is assuming that the zombie in question still possesses a heart. If not, then I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice person at gall bladder.)
            Think about it. In most cases, the only thing zombies will try to eat is humans. That suggests that we’re they’re only food source, and when you try to run away from a zombie, you’re depriving him of a meal. Imagine that from your perspective: you’re about to eat a delicious sandwich, when it suddenly leaps up from the table, runs as far away from you as it can, and tries to blow off your head with a semi-automatic rifle. What would you do in that situation? Probably panic, maybe start raving about how the sandwich god has forsaken you. Personally, I wouldn’t have this problem, as I make sure that every inch of my meals is secured to the table before I eat (Pros: safety from vigilante sandwiches. Cons: haven’t managed to successfully eat in five years; table is really starting to smell), but that’s really beside the point, assuming that I had one to start with.
            With all of this in mind, my plan for a zombie apocalypse is to join up with the zombies, who hopefully will be thoughtful enough to establish a recruiting center in a convenient location. I’ll have all the perks of being a zombie, and I’ll also be able to sleep well at night, knowing me and my zombie brothers are helping to create a utopian society where conventional societal fears against eating your children have been abolished.

            (Hey, I guess the italicized bits do look better down here. Who knew?)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Much Shorter than You've Come to Expect

            (Eh, forget it.)

            You may have noticed that updates to this blog have come a bit late a few times. Every time, for instance. More specifically, this post was supposed to appear last Saturday. This might appear odd to the more observant among you, who may have picked up on the fact that today is more commonly known as Tuesday. But, much like the ongoing financial crisis, the Republic of Finland’s opinion on border security, and the hardware store owner’s repeated insistence that he ”will not accept bricks as currency”, I don’t care about the date. You see, I take a much more liberal approach to the space-time continuum than most people. For most people right now, it’s boring, stodgy old Tuesday. For Hal, it’s fresh, beautiful, colorful, grim, Anatidaephobic Saturday. In fact, it’s Saturday, the 25th. The 25th of December! Merry Christmas! And I think I’ll stop that right here, so that I don’t decide that it’s currently December 25th, 1917 and destroy my computer in a fit of anachronistic rage.
            So I’m off to enjoy the holidays. I think I’ll start by not writing a post today!