Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interviewing Kato

Yes, dear readers, I've scored another interview. Today, I'm posting an interview with the renowned Kato... blogger, gamer and computer programmer. My words are in bold print.


Thanks for doing the interview, Kato!


Where did you come up with the name for your blog (WITFITS)?
Ahh, 2005. I remember it like it was 4 years ago. Perhaps the most difficult thing about starting a blog for the first time was coming up with a name. I wanted it to be generally representative of the type of content one might find on my blog, but be succinct enough to serve as a good Blogspot address. Memorable, witty, etc. I mulled a few computer and programmer-related terms ("core dump", "deadbeef", "null exception"), but finally settled upon the lesser known internet acronym: WITFITS. I have often wondered how many of my readers were even aware that it was an acronym for "What In The Fuck Is This Shit?" I felt it accurately described my purpose for blogging early on: ranting about odd stuff I'd come across (my first real post was about a guy dying from alcohol enemas) or just weird observations in general. It holds a double meaning, though, describing my own feelings about how my creative energies seem to come in bursts, as if I'm having "fits of wit" or "wit fits" which I would then document.

I remember that enema story. My best friend and I laughed about it for hours… until he asked me to give him one. I told him to ask his wife.
You know what they say, "What's an enema between you and a friend?" Wait, no one says that.

Where did you come up with your online name?
"Kato" is actually my real-life nickname, one used so commonly by a certain group of my friends that to them it IS my real name. The origin isn't terribly interesting and somewhat muddled now in my memory, but essentially it was bestowed upon me in college. A comment was made that a friend of mine and I were like a superhero and his sidekick (particularly since he stands about a half foot taller than me). He suggested that I was the Kato to his Green Hornet, and it just sorta stuck.
I started using the "Katonian" surname that sometimes follows my nickname online as a result of often needing a more unique name than "Kato" to identify myself with various services. It is an obviously ridiculous play on my nickname that ostensibly means "of or pertaining to Kato".

I wondered if it was a reference to Kato Kaelin… however O.J.’s buddy spelled his name.
People tend to assume that, but we both in fact get our name from the Green Hornet's sidekick, played famously by Bruce Lee.

Since you mentioned the Green Hornet, who’s your favorite comic book hero?
I think Batman has always been my favorite. I like that he is just a "regular" guy (albeit one who works out all the time and has a seemingly endless budget for high-tech gadgetry). The darker aspects of the character appeal to me as well. Superman is too "goody two-shoes" and how interesting is a guy who has so many super powers?

Oh, and if it counts, my favorite super villain (besides Dr. Katonian) is The Monarch from The Venture Bros.

My guess is that you're single, but you've cut way back on the blogging because you found a girl. Am I right? If so, tell me about her.
I'm unmarried, but I met a wonderful woman a little over two years ago who has blissfully ended my bachelorhood. She is, in many ways, perfect for me, a fellow geek who, much to my surprise loves me for my geekiness, not in spite of it. She also laughs at my jokes, which is really the true litmus test. Although focusing on my relationship with her has certainly contributed to my almost abandonment of regular blogging, it is not the only factor. I bought a house about a year ago and have discovered how much of a time-sink it is, albeit a mostly enjoyable one. I also have any number of unfinished personal side projects going on that take my time and attention, such as iHaloStats.com, my Halo 3 stats webapp for the iPhone. And then there's videogaming.

I can relate to “loves me for my geekiness, not in spite of it.” How did you meet? Did you buy the house together, or were you already planning to buy when you and the …. Ummm…. Little miss?? … met? What are you doing to the house? Is it a fixer-upper? Simple stuff like paint? Remodeling just to make the place your own? I’m asking cuz I kind of enjoy working on my house too.
The house is actually in really good shape--the people who have lived there over the years have taken pretty good care of it. It's my first house, and the majority of my projects tend to be aesthetic or practical, like painting and cleaning, or wiring network cable to every room, or grounding as many of the electrical outlets as possible (a task I honestly put little personal work into--my dad and a good friend of mine who are both way more versed kindly helped me out). I've got a wonderful large yard that requires its fair share of upkeep, too, and dabbled in some flower garden planting this summer. As for your other questions... for now I'm going to decline to answer in the interest of privacy :)

Is your iHaloStats.com something you’re doing for its own sake, or do you see yourself making money from the app someday? If you get famous, can I say “I knew him when…?”
It is totally something that I've done for its own sake, and for my own education. I did it to both fulfill a community need (a way to view Bungie.net's Halo stats on the iPhone in a sleeker, easier way) and as a way to learn more about a variety of programming topics, including web app development for the iPhone. iHaloStats is not something that would ever likely be for profit, both for legal reasons (my application relies solely on Intellectual Property that belongs to someone else) and for the simple fact that I wrote the site for people to use as a tool, not as a way to get rich. As for saying "I knew him when...", the whole process of developing iHaloStats has set me down the road of iPhone native app development, so maybe someday you'll be able to claim that you "know that guy who made that app that does that thing!"


I also understand that you like spending time on XBox LIVE. What's your favorite game, and why?
I could talk for hours about gaming, and there's probably no way I could single out a specific game that's my favorite (of all time). As a kid I was a big fan of the myriad Sierra games (such as Space Quest) and Baseball sims. In MicroLeague Baseball I would sit down and play "seasons" of games that I would schedule and actually keep a scorecard of the whole game, recording every out. Somewhere in there was a golden age of "flight sim" type games, and I gleefully blasted Imperial Tie Fighters and Rebel X-Wings with my trusty joystick in the games bearing their names. These were preceded by my tour of duty as a WWI flying ace in Red Baron. I was enamored with the flying machines and the "romance" of dogfighting, and I even kept a written flight log of my missions and promotions.
I used to be a PC gaming snob, and for a good span there I was really heavily into EA and DICE's Battlefield series, which has spawned probably a dozen titles/expansions by now. Consoles finally proved that they were capable of producing games on par visually with PCs, and I have been almost exclusively an Xbox 360 gamer for the past year and a half or so. The convenience of sitting on my couch, playing on a big screen, on a console that doesn't have driver issues or the other idiosyncrasies of PC-gaming, finally converted me.
I'm a fan of the Halo series of games and hop into Halo 3 now and again when I feel like getting my ass beat by pre-teens hopped up on Mountain Dew. I'm still playing Fallout 3 (and its many expansions) into which I've sunk an ungodly amount of time exploring the ruins of post-apocalypse D.C.
Currently, I'm playing the hell out of Red Faction: Guerilla, which leverages a mostly-destructible world for some really fun gameplay, both in single and multi player. The fact that you can deal with an adversary by opting to take out the building from under him is awesome (if not revolutionary). Also, it has jetpacks. JETPACKS.

I love Halo3 too, but kind of got tired of the sh!+ talking kids. And then there are the kids who just have an obscene amount of talent. My 16-year-old daughter has a friend who’s so good that he can no-scope snipe someone, while running, from half a screen away, virtually flawlessly. The guy is insanely skilled… I’ve never seen the likes of it! My brother-in-law turned me on to Fallout 3. He lent me the game and I finished it. I’m tempted to buy it and play it again as an ‘evil’ character. Are you interested in the new Halo 3: ODST?
In some ways I've always had a love/hate relationship with Halo multiplayer. It is a very refined, very well-developed experience. It is fun as hell, and it can call me back into its clutches quite easily. It has a huge community, and that's where the love/hate sort of expresses itself. I love that I can always find a game--that there are countless people playing at any given time. I hate that there are people that just do nothing but play ALL THE TIME and, of course, I seem to always get stuck in a game against them. I eventually stopped playing Halo 2 online because I thought the matchmaking was so bad--I would hop on with friends and it would be mismatch after mismatch. It just wasn't fun. I think Halo 3 has improved on that a great deal, but every multiplayer title suffers from the problem of how to accurately match up players so that it's fun and fair. Fortunately, early on I introduced the girlfriend to the Halo series, and she's always willing to team up with me and take on the shit-talking "kids" and no-scope fiends.
As for Fallout 3, at this point with the time I've invested in the game, I probably could have a Ph.D. by now, or have written 10 killer apps for the iPhone. But, what can I say, I love me some Nuka Cola.
I'm looking forward to Halo 3: ODST. The Halo Universe is an interesting one, and I welcome new stories that take place within. Plus, it has the voice talents of Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin (Mal and Jayne, from Firefly) as well as Tricia Helfer (Six, Battlestar Galactica).

What are some of your hobbies in the real world?
I'm the kind of person who always has a dozen just started or half-finish personal projects that will probably never see the light of day, so if you can call "multitasking" a hobby, then that would be one. I obviously enjoy videogames a great deal, but I'm a gamer in general, too. Put down just about any board, card, or strategy game in front of me, and I'll play it. I keep saying I'm going to start a 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons campaign for some friends but I never get around to it. I've had an on-and-off-again hobby of painting miniatures for several years now. I think it's really interesting and enjoyable, even relaxing at times, but I tend to do it in spurts (like most of my other hobbies), geeking out over it for awhile and then burning out and turning to other things. Blogging is still a hobby, and I've been leveraging my frequent game-playing by writing a weekly faux news column called "Katonian Press" at HawtyMcBloggy.com, a well-known gaming blog. Programming is perhaps my oldest hobby, and in spite of it being the crux of my career, I still enjoy doing it in my free time. Currently I'm supporting my webapp and learning to write applications for the iPhone. I've also become somewhat of an amateur birder along with my girlfriend. We live in a nice area that gets a lot of backyard birds and have spent the summer putting up feeders and houses, watching them come and go, learning to identify a bunch of different birds, and generally being entertained by them.

Dude! I could have written that paragraph! I originally thought that you might be hooked up with Hawty McBloggy. I suspect I’m wrong, but feel free to confirm or deny my suspicion.
Ha, no, she and I only know each other through the Internets and the Halo community. I've been a regular commenter on her blog for some time and after reading some of my stuff she thought my sense of humor and writing style might be a good fit for a weekly piece on HawtyMcbloggy. Also, she is happily married with kids in the Pacific Northwest, and I'm happily in a relationship (with pets) in Ohio.

Dungeons and Dragons… Tell me about your favorite role playing character. This must be a character that YOU played. Tell me about your favorite character that someone from your group played.
For all my interest in the game, my actual playing experience has been somewhat limited, games wedged in here and there, half-finished campaigns and one-off adventures. Years back I played an Elven Ranger in 3rd Edition who I sort of loosely modeled after Aragorn and Legolas from Lord of the Rings. He was calm and concise in action and speech, cool without being cocky, mysterious without being dark and broody. He saw himself as the protector of the party, particularly the "weaker" (i.e. magic-using) members. His devotion to the others and the party as a whole put him somewhat at odds with the rogue in the group who was brash and a risk-taker. I've always enjoy the concept of the ranger class, being particularly fond of the rangers found in Tolkien's writings (Aragorn, the rangers of the north, Faramir and the rangers of Ithilien, etc.) Also, he duel wielded (longsword/shortsword) which is just cool.
As for favorite characters from a group, I don't have any so much as I have memories for some specific roleplaying moments or exploits. There was the oft-picked on mage who had taken his name from the official random name generator and wound up with "Ashram" which our DM continually referred to as "Ass-Ram". There was a monk who took off in a full sprint and leapt up to grab a second-story balcony ledge to pull himself up and get the upper hand on an unsuspecting archer. Then there was the half-elven fighter who, in an attempt to ingratiate himself with some suspicious strangers in a tavern, sat himself on a barstool and opened with: "So, an Elf, a Dwarf, and a Halfling walk into a bar..."

Favorite board game? I love Axis and Allies.
Of all time I couldn't say (though I like anything sufficiently complex and intricate, like Axis and Allies and the like). I am currently really enjoying the excellent Battlestar Galactica game by Fantasy Flight Games.

We haven't heard from Dr. Katonian lately... is he hatching another master evil plan?
I always planned for Dr. Katonian to make more appearances, but it never quite worked out. He, like many good ideas, was conceived in the midst of a terrible fever I was running. He is still around, though. In fact, like everyone else, he's on Twitter! I would love to do more with him, and there is a plot hatching in the back of my mind, but whether or not it would ever reach fruition is tough to say.

Holy Balls! I never saw the original emergence of your evil counterpart. That’s hysterical. Homey don’t twitter though. But then again, I just got a Facebook account a couple of days ago. Kind of lame for a fellow computer geek, eh?
I'm a big fan of Twitter. It allows me to exercise my wit in a concise, constrained way. I can comment on all the little things that I never had time to blog about before. It also lets me track the exploits and thoughts of a lot of interesting people at one time. As for Facebook... I only recently myself joined and use it mostly to let people from high school know I haven't died yet.

Your blog says that you're a computer programmer. How do you like being a computer geek? Is it what you wanted to do growing up? If not, what did you want to do as a kid?
I've been a computer geek almost my whole life. My dad brought home our first computer when I was just a kid--an IBM PC clone made by the now defunct Leading Edge. I started learning to program almost right away, dabbling in BASIC on both the PC and pre-Mac era Apples. My dad was the one who got me interested in computers, sharing his own interest in them with me, and we spent time programming and building machines together. But I never really considered a career in computers. Honestly, I didn't really know what I wanted to go into until I was looking at colleges my senior year of High School. I discovered that the university I was most likely going to attend had a degree in "Computer Science", a term I didn't really understand at the time, but it was what was suggested to me based on my interest in programming. Once the courses really hit their stride midway through my college career, I knew that it was a good fit for me.
I have always enjoyed being a computer geek, although sometimes it wasn't easy. I learned to use a word processor (WordStar, in my case) early on, and my peers and teachers were very pro-computer/computer friendly. When I changed schools for middle school, I got hazed a bit for doing my homework on the computer. The other kids couldn't understand why I would "put all the work" into typing it up and making it look neat when I could do it "much faster" by hand on looseleaf. I never saw it that way--to me, using the computer was faster and easier. Oh how times have changed.
Being a programmer can be frustrating at times, but it's rewarding in its own right. A painter expresses himself through canvas, a writer through words, a programmer through his code. You have an incredible power to create and control when you're a programmer. I joke with coder buddies that all programmers have some degree of a God Complex: it is our utmost desire to make this machine bend to our will.

Wow! You’re O.G. (Original Geek or Original God-Complex… take your pick.)
As the talented and nerdy singer/songwriter Marian Call says, "I'll still be a geek after nobody thinks it's chic" Or to quote Weird Al: "Look at me I'm white and nerdy."

What kind of kid were you? Nerd? Jock? Student? Musician?
Not surprisingly, I was a nerd and a student. I started off as a pretty athletic kid (what kid doesn't run around a lot?) and really loved baseball. I probably even dreamed of being a Pro Baseball Player some day. But I was a small, scrawny lad, and so I never got too heavily into playing sports, becoming pretty bookish by middle-school. But I was, at least, a social nerd, and somewhat outgoing, going so far as to appear in a supporting role in our high school's senior musical. I dabbled a bit in music, learning some basic piano. In college I wanted to form my own hip hop group. I was nerdcore before it had a name.

Have you made peace with all of the swirlies you received as a child?
For the most part. Geeks rule the world. It is now we who administer the swirlies. Digitally. With our brains.

Has anyone ever seen you without your mask?
Yes, but there's just another mask behind the mask. (They were buy one get one free).

What question did you think I’d ask that I never got around asking you? What question do you want to ask me?
In terms of questions that you never got around to asking: "You used to blog regularly but you now seem to rarely update. Do you miss it? Is this the end of WITFITS?" I definitely miss writing regularly, it was a wonderful creative outlet. I had a great deal of fun relating amusing stories or odd things I had come across, and reveled in the occasional short story or fiction post. I miss the community of readers, however small, I managed to build around the site. There were a few of you out there who were dedicated commenters and I thank you for that--the comments were what made it all worthwhile. As for the end of WITFITS? I don't know. It feels like I once had mountains of free time during which I could while away hours crafting the perfect post, but now my attention is drawn in a dozen different directions. I will probably always have a tiny voice on the Internet, it may simply manifest itself in different ways at different times (blog, Twitter, direct brain interface, ...)
It’s interesting that you’re referring to blogging in the past tense.

A question for you: "Why did blogging appeal to you and what role has it served in your life?" And a selfish one, "Do you remember how in the hell you ever stumbled across my humble ramblings?"
I started blogging because I like writing. It’s given me a method of improving my technique and refining my style. Blogging has given me a way to tell myself that, to some extent, I AM a creative writer, without having to deal with all of the rejection that comes with being published in print. It’s also expanded my circle of friends somewhat. I’m a computer geek, but I’m also very firmly grounded in the physical world. While it’s difficult for me to say that someone I’ve never met is a friend, there are a few cases where this has happened. As for how I came across WITFITS, I discovered Paulius, Sunny and you within a few days of one another. I think that I ran into Sunny with the “Next Blog” button, she recommended Paulius, and he recommended you, but my exact sequence may be off.

If there was one blog you could recommend to my readers, what would it be?
Geeze, put me on the spot. Failblog.org is my current guilty pleasure, in spite of the Internet's overuse of the term "fail" and the fact that I think many of them are in fact "wins". I've also just recently discovered finslippy.com, which makes me question why I even bother to put words on paper when clearly there are others out there way more talented than me.

Chocolate or Vanilla?
Pistachio.

Monday, August 24, 2009

(Insert Item Here) Improvement

It's the season of maintenance and improvement...

For the last two weeks or so, I've been tinting the windows on my house. This is in an effort to increase the energy efficiency (the stuff I'm buying allegedly reflects heat in the summer and retains heat in the winter), reduce glare, and increase privacy. It's been kind of a long project, partially because I'm rather particular with the results, partially because it's difficult to do the job alone, and a bit because I'm doing one or two windows as time allows. I'm happy with the windows I've finished so far, but haven't completed the main windows in the living room, which is really where I want the glare reduction. I figure that if I'm going to make a mistake, that I don't want it to be on these windows.

I'm also painting my windowsills. The old paint is flaking off pretty badly. This is another slow job... mainly because I'm being anal about scraping the old paint, but again, I'm stretched a bit thin. I realized yesterday that there's no way I'll get the painting done before winter. But I'm going to try anyway.

I got a new roof put on as well. Today I'm supposed to get new soffits and fascia, and tomorrow, new gutters. When the guys tore off the old shingles, they said that it was a difficult tear-off because my roof was twice as thick as a normal roof. For some odd reason, I took that as a compliment.

Greg and I got his jeep running again yesterday too. We put a new fuel sending unit into the gas tank... and the gas gauge still doesn't work. But that's okay... the main reason for dropping the tank was to get the crap out of it. After getting the tank remounted, we picked up my younger daughter for some off-road fun. I really love that Jeep. Too bad I can't afford it. On second thought, it's probably a good thing that I can't afford it. I think I'd get into a lot of trouble with it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy Anniversary Baby


Yesterday was my fourth wedding anniversary. We had a nice quiet evening at home, watching a sappy movie and eating steak.

The traditional fourth anniversary gift is fruit and flowers. I purchased some mango, which has some good associations for us, four red roses to commemorate our four years of marriage, one orange spider mum to represent my sweetie, and a white carnation to represent my pure love for her. To top it off, I got her favorite flower of all... cauliflower.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Interview With a Vampire Paulius

Since I've been having a lull in my blogging lately, I figured I'd do something totally different. It's a small circle of people who read my blog -- especially after having moved. That said though, most of my readers don't really know each other that well.... and some of them I don't know that well. So, in the spirit of helping us get to know one another, I thought I'd do an interview with Paulius. If this works out well, I may do interviews with other people as well. My questions will be in blue, his answers in red. My after-the-fact, smart-ass comments will remain in black.

First off, thanks for agreeing to do the interview. I’ve been following your blog for quite a while… something like four years. And we’ve also done a couple of xbox live sessions, but there’s definitely more I DON’T know about you than there is that I DO know about you.

Most of your readers know that you’re a Brit who moved to the States to be with your wife. It’s also widely known that a lot of people said “You’re nuts!” Was anyone supportive of your decision?

I think most of my family where more concerned about our age difference than the physical distance, Sunny is almost 20 years older than me…which of course caused a little friction with her family as well (I think a lot of them thought I was just marrying her for a greencard). Unfortunately, NONE of my family were supportive of my decision and in my parent’s case, actively tried to stop me from moving here. Most of my friends where supportive though. Luckily, after five years of marriage, my parents have come around.

Is there anyone who still hasn’t come around?
The only person I still don’t speak with is my brother, but that’s more to do with my brother being the worst human being I’ve ever had the misfortune to come into contact with, rather than over my marriage to Sunny. In fact my brother has at one point claimed to be the ‘only person to support me all along’ when he wanted something from me…and calling Sunny an ‘ugly fat inbred bitch’ when I’ve pissed him off…like the time he called when I was in the middle of remodeling the living room, literally with a wall half down, and asked him to call back later. (I remember him blogging about that one.)

In fact, it’s one of the things I laugh about. My brother was living in Australia for a year when I told my parents I was moving to America, and my mother actually called him and tried to convince him to come home so he could talk me out of moving. Why she thought I’d listen to him is anyone’s guess. She might as well have asked Hitler to come talk at a racial tolerance rally.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I really don’t give a shit about what people think of me, so my extended family’s opinion was never really important to me in the first place. Why would I give a shit if an Aunt who lives on the other side of the planet disapproves?

What’s your favorite thing about the U.S. so far? What do you like least?
It’s hard to come up with a favorite, because there’s a million little things that I’d really miss. For example, I love getting up in the morning and seeing a Deer in front of the house or a hawk soaring overhead, I love the free soft-drink refills in restaurants and I love being able to own a gun…the list is endless. What I like least is America’s healthcare system.

They don’t do free refills in Britian?!? What are they, savages?
We have a completely different type of capitalism in the UK. In America, generally speaking, you give the customer as much as you can so they’ll keep coming back. Britain’s form of capitalism is more about getting as much out of the customer in a single visit. You don’t even get free refills at McDonalds.

However, it’s just like the high gas prices…when you’ve never known any different it’s not a hardship. (Now he knows better though.)

What do you miss most about home? What do you miss least?
This may sound a bit odd, but the thing I miss the most is Jake, my pet dog. (Yeah that is a bit odd, but please continue.) I’d had him since I was 12 and unfortunately he died about a month ago. People have commented on me missing my dog more than my parents or friends…but the difference is I can fire up skype, turn on the webcam and talk to my family and friends whenever I want. You can’t have a phone conversation with a dog…and while Jake is ‘just an animal’, he is a major cast member in a LOT of my best childhood memories. As for what I miss least, that one’s simple…I don’t miss the constant cold and rainy weather.

Tell us about your childhood. If I remember correctly, you said your family was relatively poor, but the key term is “relatively.” How many people in your hometown? How far did you have to drive to the nearest big city? What was that city?
My family wasn’t poor, we just didn’t have a ton of disposable income. I never went without, It was more like that while my friends got a new pair of Nike or Reebok sneakers, I’d get a pair off off-brand, no-name sneakers. The best way I can describe it is that we were comfortable, but not so comfortable we didn’t have to budget. We were a pretty average working-class family.

As for my hometown, I was actually born in Liverpool which has a population of about half a million people, but we moved when I was three to a small town just outside Liverpool because most of my Mum’s family lived there. Haydock was much smaller (population of around 10,000 people). If you look on a map, Haydock is right in the middle between Liverpool and Manchester. It’d take maybe an hour to get there by car.

Do you consider yourself a city boy or a country boy?
Neither, I’m a ‘suburban’ boy. Where I lived had the big cities on one side and rolling green hills on the other. I’m just as comfortable in the country as I am in the city. For example, where I live now I really miss being able to just walk to a corner shop or grab a bus into the city center…bu I love the clean air and seeing real wildlife out of my living room window.

Anyone who’s followed your blog knows that you’ve had absolutely no luck at finding a job in the US. If you could have your dream job, what would it be? How do you keep yourself busy while you’re not working?
My dream job? That’s a hard one because I have so many interests. I’d love to work in TV and Movie special effects and I’d love to try my hand at voice acting. I’d also like to be able to make a living off writing or cartooning…but like most of my ‘dream job’ ideas what I have in enthusiasm I lack in talent.

As for how I keep myself busy, over the past five years I’ve:

Started 2 blogs,
Started 2 webcomics
Run a weekly podcast
Built countless models out of wood
Taken up archery
Gotten into drawing in a big way
Started to learn piano
Written about a million words in short stories
Got back into playing guitar
Wrote an interactive fiction game (then lost it when my hard drive failed)
I play an awful lot of Xbox

…and I could probably go on for five or six pages.

One deeply-ingrained trait of Americans is that the husband brings home the bacon. Even in two-income households, men stereotypically feel less of a man if the Mrs. brings home more money. Does it bother you that you’re the ‘woman’ in your marriage? (Realize, of course, that I’m the woman in my marriage too.) Is this marriage dynamic prevalent in GB?
Sort of, I think in most cultures the idea is that the man is the bread winner, but oddly It doesn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it would. When my savings first ran out and I realized that my wife was supporting me, I couldn’t stand it…but when you’ve just fixed the faucet in the bathroom, vacuumed the entire house and then cut four acres of grass with a push-mower and then top it off by cooking dinner, you feel a lot more like you’re ‘earning your keep’. Basically, Sunny is supporting me, and although I could probably do a lot more around the house, I do enough to where I don’t feel like a leech.

My understanding is that “Great Britain” includes England, Scotland and Ireland, right? You grew up in England. So do you prefer to be called English or British? Does it matter to you? How about Scots? How about Irish?
The way I explain this to people when I get asked is to think of Britain as the USA and England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as ‘States’. I’m both British and English in the same way that someone from over here can be both an American and a Texan’. I don’t care which I’m called because they’re both accurate. Some people might get offended if you call them by the wrong nationality, because like everywhere else in the world we have our rivalries…basically imagine calling a New Yorker a Californian.

Basically, Britain has almost exactly the same setup that you have over here, just with different names. You have a Senate and Senators, we have Parliament and MP’s…England is a Monarchy in name only. The Queen has almost zero power and, in all seriousness, the only reason we keep the Queen as a figurehead is because its good for tourism. Basically, we promise to do whatever the Queen says as long as she promises never to tell us to do anything.

What “stupid little difference” is the toughest for you to get used to… something like driving on the opposite side of the road?
I don’t know if this really answers your question, but it’s some of the weird, contradictory and almost puritanical ideas people have towards certain things. For example, I have to an ID every time I want to buy an R-Rated game or movie... but I can buy ammo over the counter with ease.

Just yesterday I went to my local Wal-Mart, bought an M-rated Xbox game…and even though I’m 28, have a full beard and rapidly graying hair…they wouldn’t sell me the game without seeing a state issued ID. I then went to the sporting goods section and bought a box of 100 shotgun shells, which they sold to me without batting an eyelid or asking to see any ID at all.

Basically, an obviously foreign guy can buy a box of shotgun shells with no difficulty, but he can’t buy a game without two forms of ID…them games is dangerous!

Now that you’ve been in the south for a long time, do people in South Carolina still seem to you like they have an accent? Have your friends and family back home commented that you are picking up an American accent?
This is a difficult one to answer. Most South Carolinians just sound ‘normal’ to me now…but certain members of my family swear that I ‘talk like an American’ while others claim my accent hasn’t changed a bit. To my own ear, my accent has definitely softened a little bit and I occasionally catch myself pronouncing something in a particular way. For example, I used to say ‘Accent’ as ‘Ack-sunt’ and now I say ‘Ax-Ent’. Basically, people over here definitely know I’m not American…but I think people back home would be able to tell instantly that I’ve spent a lot of time in another country.

The strangest thing about accents is just discovering people don’t know very many. Most Americans assume I’m Scottish or Irish even though my accent isn’t even close to Scottish or Irish. (I've experienced the same thing. Aussies have told me they can't tell the difference between my accent and a British one, and Irishmen have said they can't differentiate between me and an Aussie.)

What type of kid were you? Nerd? Jock? Student? Musician?
Yes.

I was definitely a nerd when I started school, and having just moved from Liverpool, a place that has a VERY distinct accent I was picked on a lot. The fact I was a fat kid with big thick glasses didn’t help either. Because when I started school I didn’t have very many friends, this just meant I concentrated on schoolwork while in school and became one of the ‘clever’ kids…which didn’t help my popularity either. I was bullied mercilessly.

However, I was also 6”1 by the time I was 12 and the ability to knock someone out with a single punch (and demonstrating that ability after getting pushed just a little too far) put an end to that and once I got to highschool, my Physical Education teacher talked me into trying out for the Rugby team where I wasn’t a star player but did fairly well and around the same time I started playing guitar.

So, yes…I was a Nerd, Jock, Student, Musician…oh, and a massive geek on top of that.

Have you noticed that your twitter picture looks a little like RayRay’s? Are you related? (That’s a joke, but I still want you to answer it.)
I’ve not seen RayRay’s twitter pick, but as…shall I say…’larger’… gentlemen with glasses and a penchant for shaving our heads…I guess we do look a little similar. They say everyone’s related if you go back eight generations so, who knows?
(RayRay isn't large, he's kind of stout. He's gonna be pissed.)

As a Brit, what annoys you most about Americans in general? What to you like most about us?
If I had to pick one thing, it’s the assumption that America is the best country on the planet…which isn’t so bad until you realize that the average American seems to think the rest of the world thinks that too. It comes across as complete and total arrogance. The thing I like best is that you tend to be a lot friendlier to strangers. (You mean we aren't!?!)

After my first visit to America, I went home and the first time I went grocery shopping, I struck up a conversation with the check-out girl. She looked at me like I’d grown an extra head and I could see her trying to work out whether she knew me, whether I was hitting on her or if I was just a nutter. In SC you’re more likely to get a ‘look’ if you don’t share some small talk or banter with the person on the other side of the counter. I honestly thought it was my accent getting attention until I noticed people did the same to Sunny.

How much did you travel before moving to America? How much of America have you seen?
I’ve been everywhere in Britain except Ireland and I’ve been all over Europe, but I’ve mostly visited France and Spain which where regular vacation destinations when I was a kid. It was actually quite funny. The first time I visited the US, I got talking about travelling with some of Sunny’s family, and they thought I was showing off with all the ‘exotic’ places I’ve been to, like Paris and Barcelona. I had to point out that while Paris might be a ‘vacation of a lifetime’ to someone in America, back in England, Paris is about seventy dollars and two hours on a train away.

As for America, I’ve visited SC (obviously) North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. I absolutely love the state parks, but it honestly surpised me how similar most of America is. Obviously I can only talk about the four states I’ve visited, but it feels like once you’ve seen one main street you’ve seen them all….but then again, that comes from America being a relatively ‘young’ country. (I's disagree with the assertion that all of America looks the same... I'd say that every region has a lot of similarities.)

One of my favorite things about you is that you tell it like it is. I can’t count the times I’ve thought “HELL YEAH!” when reading your blog entries. Who do you credit for your lack of tact and political correctness?
Ok, this may be a bit of a long story:

When I was a kid I was painfully shy. I was terrified of speaking up for myself and was a poster-child for peer-pressure. I liked the things my friends liked, hated the same things my friends hated and would bend over backwards to not offend anyone and just craved acceptance.

Then, at 16, I ended up with a teacher who thought he was teaching five year olds in the 1800’s. I mean he was really disrespectful and talked to the whole class like they were shit on his shoe. Well, one day one of the girls (Kelly) in the class hadn’t done an assignment because her sister had got rushed to hospital. Well, this asshole teacher decided he would stand her up in the middle of the class and go on for about twenty minutes about how she was wasting his and everyone’s time blah. Blah, blah…and because she was just as shy as me, she didn’t speak up for herself.

Then she started crying and the teacher’s face lit up like it was Christmas. He was on her like a pack of dogs on a three legged cat.

Before I knew what I was doing I’d stood up and told him I wanted to talk to him outside. He sneered and told me to sit down.

Then, it was like I was watching myself from the outside. I walked up to him, got in his face and told him, calmly, that he was going to apologise to Kelly and then he was going to start treating the class like human beings or I’d be going directly to the Principal’s office to discuss his poor attitude… and that I was sure that, if asked, the rest of the class would have a few choice words about his teaching style. Or, if he really did think he was a Billy Badass, I was more than willing to escort him outside to the parking lot where he could prove it.

He damn near shit his pants. He was a classic ‘Little Hitler’ who got off on upsetting people…but was all talk and no trousers.

(I may have to tell you about a similar event that I experienced growing up.)

Now for the clich├ęd Hallmark Movie moment: It was at that point in my life that I realized I honestly didn’t give a shit about what people thought about me. I stopped agreeing with people just to fit in and realized that just because someone was in a position of authority, that didn’t necessarily mean they knew better than me or were worthy of my respect. The fact that I also became a legend for the next few weeks as the guy who told Mr. McDonnell to go fuck himself didn’t hurt either.

I can still be tactful when the moment calls for it, but I’m not afraid of calling a spade a spade, even if it does hurt someone’s fragile sensibilities.

Who is your favorite musician and why?
Jonathan Coulton. It’s geek-rock…nuff said.

Politically speaking, what’s better about the British system of government, and what’s better about the American system… yeah, yeah, I know they’re similar.
If I’m completely honest, there’s not much in it. Who was it who said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except that all other methods have been tried”. I suppose if I’m pushed, I like how it’s the party that’s voted into power rather than its leader in England. If a particular leader is doing a bad job, he can step down or be replaced and if a leader is doing a particularly good job, he can serve as Prime Minister for as long as his party is in power.

What’s your favorite American food (diabetes notwithstanding)? British dish?
My favorite British dish is a Curry (It’s a common misconception that curry is Indian…it’s just an English dish made with Indian ingredients…in the same way Chow Mein is entirely American). As for American food, I like good, old fashioned soul food…fried chicken, black-eye peas, collard greens and mashed potatoes.

If you could give Sunny any one thing she currently doesn’t have, what would it be?
A twin sister who’s totally into me who Sunny doesn’t mind sharing with.

Nah, I’d like to give her a proper big house that’s bought and paid for.

Where did you come up with your online name of Paulius?
In all honesty, I don’t remember. All I know is I’ve gone by Paulius for so long that most people, even in real life, know me as Paulius.

What question did you expect me to ask you that I haven’t asked yet, and what’s the answer to that question?
I honestly didn’t know what to expect…but hopefully I’ve given you enough info ... This was fun.

If anyone in our studio audience has questions for Paulius, please feel free to ask in the comments section of today's entry. He may or may not answer them, but there's no harm in asking.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Throwing Paulius a Softball

Here's one for Paulius. (The Link.)

Dude, I'd love you to see you take this story and run with it. I really like the "Land of the Fee" comment. Have Fun

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rendering a Word Insignificant

Over the last couple of days, I've repeatedly run across an article on the internet whose title is "Dog hailed as hero for guiding rescuers to owner's body." The title of the article was so lame that there was no way I was going to read it. (I will not link to the original article for the same reason.) In fact, the more I saw the title, the more irritated I became. This morning I realized that I've got to write about it. Unfortunately, this also meant that I had to read the article, which was just as bad as I thought it would be; Somehow it still classified as news.

Here's what happened... some dude in Australia was killed in a car wreck. The guy's dog was in the vehicle when the accident occurred. According to the article, the dog stayed with the car for two days, barking incessantly, until somebody went to investigate the noise. The crashed vehicle was hidden by brush and trees, which is why the accident wasn't found earlier.

How is the dog a hero? My understanding of heroism requires an exceptional amount of personal sacrifice and courage. Once upon a time, I ran across a guy who was having a stroke. I am the one who told someone to call 911 and then stayed with him until paramedics arrived. His family called me a hero. I could not (and can not) accept that title because neither courage nor sacrifice was required on my part. With that said, there's no way that a dog can be a hero for staying with his dead master. Furthermore, I believe that a certain amount of self-awareness is required for the tag hero. You have to understand that you're sacrificing yourself for something greater, and a dog doesn't meet that criteria.

And how is anyone a rescuer? My understanding of rescue is removing someone from great danger. When I say "great danger," I mean danger that has a significant chance of causing loss of life or limb, or causing permanent disability. If someone is killed before being removed from said danger, then there can be no rescue, because the consequence of that danger has already occurred.

In short, whoever thought this article was worthy of worldwide attention was an absolute idiot. Yeah, we need more good news in the world, but the word "news" is an integral part of good news. But the person who wrote the title is even worse! The dog is not self-aware, and did not successfully prevent his master's death. The dog is NOT a hero. Similarly, the guy who stumbled on the scene a couple of days later did not rescue anyone, because the consequence of the danger had already played out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Little Vindication Goes a Long Way

You may recall that I left my last job under less-than-ideal circumstances.

Yesterday, I ran into someone from the H.R. department of that company. She said that she and many others missed me... specifically my quick response to their needs and my willingness to help out when they had problems.

She then asked if I had heard that a co-worker of mine had just left the company. I told her that I don't keep in touch with this guy, because he was instrumental in my less-than-ideal departure. I also said that I knew that he was badmouthing me after I left. She said something to the effect of "Yeah, but he trash talks everyone after they leave."

She said that she had long suspected that I was railroaded out, and reiterated that people missed me because I was "one of the good ones." I left that conversation feeling kind of vindicated, and a little vindication goes a long way. And even better, I had a perfect chance to trash-talk that former co-worker, and I felt good about passing up the chance.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This Rebuild May be Tougher than I Thought

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that my church got a home to rebuild. The other project leaders and I met at the house to see where it was at, and to determine how to proceed. I had no idea what to expect, but I imagined a house that hadn't been touched, and an owner who knew exactly what she wanted. I got the exact opposite.

The place had already been pretty well cleaned out, the drywall and insulation had been hauled away, some of the electrical wiring had been run, the limestone basement had been reinforced (though it's not quite finished) and sagging fame pieces had been reinforced. In short, the house was pretty much ready for reconstruction.

I found out that professional electricians and plumbers were going to run the wiring and pipes. If it was my house, I'd probably run the stuff myself, but then again, I'm having professionals do my roof. Different strokes for different folks.

The owner of the house seemed... a little off. Picture someone who was just starting to come down from a three-day cocaine binge. That would begin to describe her. She talked a little fast, but seemed slow to understand. She wanted to show us lots of things, but couldn't make a decision on how to move forward. Very outgoing, and a little paranoid. On the outside she had a lot of energy, on the inside, she seemed tired. Not just sleepy, but that bone-deep exhaustion.

I guess none of this really matters much yet, because I also found out that she doesn't have any money. I heard (not directly from her) that she got a pittance of FEMA money, but that's gone. She applied for a grant from one organization and was denied. She applied at a second one and should hear back tomorrow.

Long story short, I think we may have been given an impossible task. Okay, maybe not impossible, but certainly more difficult than I expected.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Construction Time Again

I hope you'll pardon the Depeche Mode reference... I couldn't resist. Today's post has nothing to do with music, and everything to do with construction.

As you all know, my town was hit hard by flooding last summer. The town has come a long way in recovering, but there's still a lot to do. Early on I helped here and there with the recovery efforts, but I haven't done much for a long time.

Recently, my church decided to help with the recovery efforts by adopting a home. I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but I ended up as one of the project leaders on this yet-to-be-adopted home. I found out today that we've got a house to fix up. I can't wait to get my hands on the place.