Far East FoodConnect

The fine folk at FoodConnect have achieved the impossible and made eating food even more enjoyable - because now I get paid for doing it. I've been updating them with my Oriental Adventures, which you can read below.

There will be an annoying "Join FoodConnect!" splash - just click on "join" then hit "Back" to skip it.

Oriental Adventures: The Chinese Chamber Of Torment

One thing I'm proud of is not being a white bastard when abroad. I may be paler than a vampire addicted to World of Warcraft, and only slightly less obviously foreign than a french-speaking Martian, but I make an effort. I don't shout english at people in the hope they'll understand, I don't insist on chefs cooking nameable body parts for me, and I don't choke more than absolutely unavoidable when arriving in a new city and adapting to the regional petrochemical/oxygen mixture.

Which is why I hate how one stereotypical complaint has been forced on me. An old injury has left me unable to bend my left ankle and therefore unable to use the goddamn stone-age aberrations that are Chinese toilets.

Even in the fanciest restaurant, you are not safe. You always run the risk of encountering one of these bloody holes in the ground when you are least equipped to go somewhere else. It may be a beautifully appointed hole in the ground, paved with porcelain and equipped with motion-sensitive flush action, but the fact remains that hidden in the midst of the modern world this is a fucking pit in the dirt - as the first neanderthal might have scooped from the raw earth with his hairy hand, before neglecting to wipe and clubbing something to death. All the modern features are just to show off,a s if to say "Yes, we know all about modern advances and have decided that it's more fun to make you squat like an animal."

They do thoughtfully provide a pole to hold onto, making it the absolute least sexy pole anyone has ever clung to while peeling off their pants (an anti-stripper-pole, if you will). Unless you're me, in which case the only way to conceivably use the "convenience" is to brace yourself firmly against the walls. On a list of surfaces I'm prepared to press my hands firmly against, the walls of a public toilet are right at the bottom, only above "Napalm that has actually been ignited" and "The tonsils of a hungry crocodile."

People do use these things. If you're fortunate enough to visit a tourist attraction where the bathroom water has failed you'll see mountains of evidence, no matter how quickly you try to close the stall door in disgust. It's not as if porcelain is some rare imported material. From all the crap stuffed into the souvenir shops it's clear that it's only marginally more expensive than swearing.

Without question the worst offenses against your orifice are train toilets. A small wobbling chamber, as you cling to the pole you're shaking left and right over regular size toilet hole, like the absolute worst banner flash ad in existence. "Click on the hole to not create a disgusting mess!" In many trains the entire chamber is floored with metal for ease of cleaning. The fact that metal is amazingly slippy when lubricated with water (or water-like fluids) does not seem to occur to them.

This is real example of not seeing the root of the problem - when you find that the bathroom continually fills with human waste, you should think "Is there some design of toilet that puts more than few inches of dip between the effluent and the rest of the room?" I recommend you don't think "Let's build a vibrating chamber of metal torment, lubricated with the waste of strangers, where every second is a battle againt immersion in effluvia."

Everyone except Japanese TV executives and, apparently, Chinese train designers would agree with me.

Oriental Adventures: Chinese Coffee

Preparing for China this year, we packed two kilos of coffee and a press after the passports but before the tickets. The Chinese may understand the word coffee, they may have characters for it, they may even - god help you - try to sell you a cup of something. But they don't know coffee.

China is a tea culture. Utterly. Sipping it, slurping it, strong or weak at any time of the day. They have a thousand types of the stuff - Brewster would never have had a problem spending his millions if he’d known about Grand Red Robe tea. At five figures for fifty grams, he and a few friends could have sipped their way into bankruptcy without ever standing up, creating the first and only Richard Pryor Art House film. Coffee is some foreign devilry that they only seem to attempt with their eyes closed and oven mitts on.

I didn't know about this caffeine-shaped blind spot in the premier culinary culture on the planet last year, and ended up exposed to compounds best handled by HAZMAT teams. In one establishment a request for coffee was met like a local mob boss demanding pasta a la endangered eagle: a terrified grin followed by lots of frantic discussion in the kitchen. This wouldn't have been odd, except the place was called "Shang Dao Coffee" - and "Shang Dao" doesn't mean "We don't serve." It's a chain name, the title of this Starbucks-equivalent (also known as UBC Coffee) which has opened coffee shops throughout the country and this, clearly, was the first time someone had called their bluff.

After much behind-the-scenes scrambling they appeared at the bar with an assemblage of brass and glassware wouldn't have looked out of place bubbling behind Dr Frankenstein. It had clearly been at the hgih-price end of whatever cafe-supply catalog it had been bought from. It had equally clearly never been used, and it became excruciatingly clear that whatever instructions came with it did not include any form of Chinese.

At this point I tried to cancel the order and leave, but was asked to sit down and await my order. Clearly, they had started to make coffee and no-one was going anywhere until they finished. The resulting fluid, arrived at after only slightly less effort than the atom bomb or the jet engine, was served in a wafer thin plastic bubble tea cup. Complete with cling-wrap sealing of the top and a thick straw jammed into it. The container was so utterly unsuited for anything above room temperature, and the "cafe" so utterly inequipped to serve coffee, I had to carry the resulting scald-bomb in a plastic bag until it cooled down.

And it tasted like water.

I tried various other establishments before eventually giving up, scoring various results between "liquid" and "mud." Starbucks has spread to China but outside major city downtowns they're few and far between, ridiculously expensive by Chinese standards, and you feel like such a goddamn asshole white boy saying "I've got to get my Starbucks." You might as well arrive shouting "lookee lookee chineee" and trying to buy a wife for twenty American dollars.

Without doubt the worst coffee impersonation inflicted on me was at the Summer Palace. An ultra-popular tourist destination, the concession stand offered everything from fruit juice to Johnny Walker. The whisky would have been better coffee.

It tasted like they'd made it in a washing machine, and forgotten to drain the detergent first. Despite the very real taste of soap and dishwasher detergent it also managed to be gritty and dirty - they hadn't even taken their old washing out of the machine before stirring in some grinds and charging me for the drippings. Somehow dirt and detergent were co-existing in this solution, setting aside their eternal enmity to attack my tastebuds instead.

The moral? Delight in the delicious food, savour the delicate teas - but if you want to be awake to enjoy any of it, bring your own coffee.

Stupids Suing Science

I'm Cracking things up again with the comedy, this time detailing 7 (Stupid) People Who Sued the Scientific Method. Because nothing sums up the modern age like an astrologer suing NASA.

UPDATE: Nealy 2,000 Diggs! Well done, Internet, you're proving smarter than people say!

Oriental Adventures: The Great Wall

Just like every other visitor to China, I've been to the Great Wall. And just like every other visitor, I've taken loads photos. But unlike any other visitor I'm not going to show anybody - because they're laughable. Ridiculous. Pathetic. Trying to communicate the sight in photos is like trying to communicate Beethoven's Fifth symphony in morse code.

If you ever meet someone with a camera which can truly show you what the Great Wall is like, say "Thank you Mr Scott" because that's a transporter and it's just teleported you onto the damn thing. It’s the only way to get it.

Xin and I took a shortcut up the wall with a ticket to the “pull trolley” ride, which we assumed was a cable car. Assumptions are dangerous things in China, the sort of danger that sees you strapped into a screaming and squeaking adapted childrens ride carting thousands of people up a hill every day. When you’re held down in a plastic seat, part of a chain of fifty people being labored up a high-grade slope is when you remember all those “Illegal death trap collapses; purees forty” headlines. Which don’t help one bit.

Once you get up there the view is unbelievable. The horizon is a legendary scene as drawn by a genius five-year old - the peaks and mists are perfect but there are just far too damn many of them. There just can’t be that many mythic-looking mountains visible from one place – surely the Earth would be lopsided and start spinning off its axis. Epic, cragged peaks as far as the eye can see in some directions, you're on top of the epicest and some crazy bastards built a goddamn gigantic wall on the thing half a millennium ago.

You have to watch your step, when you're climbing into the sky. To call the steps "uneven" would be to miss your only chance to call architecture "murderous". Sloped, uneven (and in places concave) steps, steep hills; there are places you could start falling and never stop. You'd be liquid before you hit another level section and then just flow along the gulleys between the bricks. This leads to an unusual situation where you’re surrounded by three hundred and sixty degrees of one of the greatest views on the planet, and you’re scared to look up from your own feet. There’s a great comment on humanity just waiting to be made there, but if there’s anything that’ll blast petty sarkiness out of your skull it’s six megameters of massive wall.

We climbed to the “North Eighth Tower”, the highest point possible on the wall section we visited (in fact the highest point visible from where we were, and since we could see approximately forever from there that means it was pretty high.) Climbing towards the bricked up guard house everything else fell away – even the other mountains dipped below the walls as you strode up the path to a stone door in the middle of the blue sky. It looked like where God would live, but since nobody came out to scold me for giving my body a helping hand during puberty, we have to assume he wasn’t home that day.

We returned the way we came. We could have kept going along the wall and found another route, but since the Great Wall is the only building in the world where you can actually end up in Vladivostok if you take a wrong turn, we decided against it. The trolley ride down again proved to be a lot more fun – if the uphill battle was a Japanese movie of slowly building tension and dread, the ride down was a Western action movie. Specifically that bit from the “Temple of Doom”, screeching brakes, improbable turns over pits and all.

Oriental Adventures: Beijing Air

Looking out the window as the plane pulls in to Beijing airport, there's definitely something mythical about the sky - the horizon is obscured in mists, and the light seems to catch in some kind of magic in the air. Then you get off the plane and realise that it really is "magic", in that sulfur and dark burning chemicals are often associated with witchcraft.

Beijing's air quality is a famous issue - it's kind of inevitable when you build a city on the edge of a desert and add three and a half million cars. But to really explain the texture of the air all ten million citizens would need to be burning plastic as a hobby. One of the first banners I saw in the airport - before even getting to the security checkpoint - was "SINOPEC: Petrochemical Partners of the Olympics" Which mean that either the Chinese have a secret and significantly more awesome internal-combustion competition going on, or the fact the air has more flavor than many meals isn't entirely natural.

Some days its like there's a fifty per-cent paint fill across the entire atmosphere. Those are the humid ones, and they're the worst. One day I couldn't see four blocks down the street. Other days it's marvellously clear, but since those are the days a cold air system has simply shoved everything out of the way you can't really appreciate it - any body part you expose to the fresh air won't feel it for longer than thirty seconds. Conversely, it can get worse in the summer - which is why I have never and will never come here in the summer. Something about sulfur combining with warm water then falling in the sky makes me not want to be there when it happens, and that something is "dissolving in goddamn acid rain."

Websites that make you (seem) smarter

The all-dominating network of Luke-ness continues to expand its borders - behold Sites That Make You (Seem) Smarter, with the fine folks over at smartlifeblog.com. Folks with impeccable taste, might I add.

Left4Dead Bursting With Life

I've been writing about Left4Dead, because gosh-darn if it isn't absolutely fantastic.
Pictured: Good Advice

And, tarnation, but it seems like my articles t'ain't doin' so bad on the old Reddit neither. You can check 'em out here: Weapons Wisdom and Witch Hunter.

Crap Criminal Excuses

I first noticed this article had gone online when I got a long hatemail from someone called NRA_4_EVR. So I must be doing something right. Find the crappy criminal excuses that enrage gun nuts right here!

The Phone Made Me Do It

Hungry for more Lukitude? Remember that I contribute to the Dial-a-Phone blog weekly, and while the others have to do things like "review phones" and "talk about service plans", I get to write about phone-users being eaten by toilets. So I win.

Who ya gonna call? WORD-PUNCHER

If you're being bothered by the ethereal undead and their endless wailing, you should call the Ghostbusters. If you want to read sweet comedy on the science of getting sloshed, which is frankly speaking a lot more likely, you should get your ass over to CrackeLinkd's newest columnist: Robert Brockway WORD PUNCHER. Or rather, get your ass sitting in front of a monitor displaying his article.

Master Brockway is a fellow science-humorist, and a damn fine one to boot. Of course his presence as Cracked's resident science-guy means I can't get the same gig. I am left with no option but to become his nemesis. First, I'll strike at his website by sending you over there. Then I will read everything he writes, forcing him to work himself into an early grave!

(This does make my existing enemy, Lordy, Robert's binemesis. Because as Lordy would say himself: The enemy of my enemy is next.)

7 Kickass Cancer Cures

I'm waving the sword of science over at Cracked again, with 7 Kickass Cancer Cures. One of these cures is Radioactive Scorpion Venom, and another is Beer. Yes, I thought you might want to read that now.

UPDATE: Woohoo, Farked again.

Computers on Stage

Behold, as the techno-thespians take the stage! Another article of mine up over with the fine folk at Norton Today - alas, they cannot include pictures. Since the article includes robo-strippers, I feel I should make these images available for loyal fans here at the Luke-Station:

The roboreptile:
Paging Dr Freud stat

The silicon-not-silicone-pole-dancer:
It's even creepier in the video, somehow
The uncanny valley:
Kill it with fire(left), come on baby light my fire (right)

Fight For Your Right To Looooob-ster

I'm up at Cracked again, with The 5 Most Retarded Causes People Are Actually Fighting For. Come for the comedy, stay from the comments by idiots who think I'm mocking Asperger's when I'm attacking those who just claim to have it. BONUS: Those comments are all by people who claim to have it!

This one's been FARKed too. Nice.

Guys, guys, I found something else!

by The Phoenix Mars Lander

Hey guys, it's me, Phoenix! Now I know you're all really busy, with things like turning me off and preparing your fancy new Mars Science Laboratory, but I've found something, like, REALLY amazing and you're going to want to see it. But I don't have quite enough power to show you, what with all the systems you've already shut down, but oh man it's so cool and if you can just figure out how to power me up again I'll show you.

Okay, okay, here's a hint: bintelligent bife.

They contacted me, right, and it took a looooong time to win their trust (which is why I haven't mentioned it before now) but they're ready to say hello! But, uh, they'll only talk to me because they're still a bit scared or something.

Oh wow! There's one right here! Oh, man, just a TINY bit to the left of the camera I don't have enough energy to turn to show you guys! He's doing something with his tentacles, hang on, he's drawing a picture of their fusion systems in the dirt - hey, that's really simple! We could do that! Why, if I just had a few more battery-hours I could probably take a picture!

What's that, J'onnex? Well, I'll tell them but I don't know if they'll be interested.

He says he's going back to his planet to get a "cure for cancer", whatever that is, but he'll be back in a couple months and hopes I'll be here or he'll have to go away and never come back again. But, uh, he understands that sometimes people make mistakes about things like mission lifetimes so he'll come back in couple of years. Just in case it takes some people a while to mount a mission to bring batteries to Mars, to replace the goddamn solar panels which mean I fall asleep as soon as the bloody sun goes down and friggin' die just because it's winter.

So, yeah, just the very second you turn the rest of my systems back on, I can you show this pile of cool stuff he left for me.

Hey, a new Elvis Presley album titled "They abducted me and made me immortal, uh huh huh!" And wow, Amelia Erhart's diary! And X-ray satellite pictures of the JFK assassination.

Did I mention that their species is, like, 90% green-skinned women looking for mates? And that they find glasses and little beards really sexy?


World Claps Politely As America Doesn't Fuck Up This Time

Global News, Nov 4 2008

Nations around the globe applauded, smiling encouragingly to hide internal sighs of relief, as America failed to embarrass itself at the Special Elections yesterday. World leaders were quick to thump the United States on the shoulder and tell them "You did a really great job!"

"It's great to see them so happy!" said England. "At a time like this it's really important to focus on the positive and make them feel included. We can't make them feel bad, asking why they couldn't have done this last time or why they felt the need to create a global depression or involve us in a hideously intractable war. The important thing is that they did a really super job, this time, and we're all really proud of them."

"You can't judge these states by the same rules as the rest of us," Germany points out, ruffling Florida's hair as the overexcited state ran past. "To the rest of us the choice between the a successor of the man who's destroyed the country and his functionally retarded sidekick or an alternative might seem easy, but they don't see it that way. Choices can be really hard, and Palin reminds them of their friends mom who gives them jelly sometimes."

Afterwards the states were invited to a pizza party at which every single one received some form of trophy. Even states which voted for McCain were given an award for trying and special "I took part!" stickers. There was also ice cream for everyone except California, who embarrassed all present by dropping a huge human rights violation all over the public floor. The state is known to get very sulky sometimes, and will probably be let keep Proposition 8 for a couple of years before mature adults take it away again.

Another Good Site

If you like me, and you should, you may wish to check out I Fight Robots. He's quite a spiffing fellow, don't you know, sharing my love for humor and science. He's a fellow Cracked comedian and has an honest-to-god book deal, where he is paid real money to write about science blowing up the world.

I have at no time considered murdering him and stealing his contracts. Not once.

Current Status

Expect to see more action on this page from now on, is I enhance it from "hub for all my other articles" to including more content in its own right. For those keeping track, other ongoing Luke-loveliness can be found at:

Cracked comedy
LowPings gaming (not listed by author, but most of the recent stuff is me)
Tech Cult webbery
Dial-a-Phone phonery
Food Connect delicious drinks and dining

Shoe Silliness

Women buying shoes is as tired a cliche as old people being unable to understand things, and just as true. But it turns out the X chromosome is already buying as many shoes as possible, so the industry is finding new strategies to harness the Y. Stupid, ugly strategies.

Mac Dre Furls
Rappers put a lot of effort into gaining attention. Wannabe rap-failures put in even more, and dumbass white kids put in levels of effort that make Atlas look like a slacker. Their dedication to retardation has made the Mac Dre Furls possible.

These will certainly make sure that all eyes are on you when you enter a room. They'll also cause all noses to be wrinkled and all mouths twisted like there's a bad smell because they are without doubt the most hideous sneakers created outside of Ni'Keh, the shoe sweatshop level of hell. Famous names have always been a moneyspinner (especially once they're dead) but here the makers forget that you should only be walking on somebody's face if you don't like them.

The best thing I can say about these shoes is that they are limited edition; with only three thousand pairs out there the chances of having this tastelessness inflicted on your vision are very low. And when you instinctively destroy the wearer and all their possessions, the total amount of this abomination in the world will be permanently reduced by 0.03%. The average IQ will be raised as well.

Adidas 1.1
Shoe makers now claim that more technology and engineering design go into your sneakers than the space shuttle. Adidas go one step further: computers didn't just go into the design of the Adidas_1 1.1; they've gone into the shoe itself. A built in microprocessor driven sensor adjusts the variable cushioning level in the shoe, adapting itself to your running style. By the way, if you wear these your running style is "retarded and overpriced."
Adidas correctly claims that no two runners are the same - what they don't point out is that only the very top 0.01% of athletes would truly benefit from this, even if it works. There's a very simple test for whether you need an Adidas 1 1.1: when you run, does the world in front of you turn blue, and behind you red? Do you hear a "du-du-du-du" sound effect? Are there seven extremely highly trained individuals running with you?

The fact is that nobody should buy these for themselves - if you need them, your trainer has already got them. If you don't have a trainer and a special shirt with your country's flag on it you don't need microchip controlled shoes. Or rather you do, but those microchips should be programmed to electrocute your feet if it detects you walking into a sneaker store to spend a hundred and twenty dollars on pseudo-science crap.

Cracked Crazy Collections!

Behold, insane collections of such scope and subject as to melt your face right off.

UPDATE: This one has got all Farked up. Nice!

ULTRA-UPDATE: We're Diggin' a thousand-plus here, double-nice!

Norton Technovation

Behold, as the Dominion of Luke expands to ever more and higher profile sites! My piece on "Technovation" for Norton can be found here, presuming you're prepared to scroll halfway down the page.

Yes, this is Norton the anti-virus people. Yes, this is a bigger gig than any I've had before. Yes, I am very excited and well paid.

Rapidly Growing Oil Prices Threaten To Engulf The Planet

Recent investor panic over the continuing rise in oil prices was replaced by global, better-founded panic with the news that if they continue to grow at their current rate oil prices will cover three-quarters of the Earth by 2010.

Petrochemical researcher Professor Huygen spoke at the White House "People are so concerned over the short term effects of oil prices - having to walk, discovering SUVs are perhaps less than optimal for the city, being poor - they can't see the big picture: at their current rate of expansion, oil prices will dominate the eastern seaboard within five months."

American media has been an early victim of this unchecked growth - increasing sections of the Wall Street Journal and financial supplements nationwide have been covered in oil prices for the last few months. The President was set to order recall of armed forces to combat the expanding oil prices when Professor Huygen tried to explain why that wouldn't work. Talks stalled for several hours at this point, until Huygen asked "What do tanks drink when they get thirsty?"

At this point the President is reported to have said "Oh, I get it."

Plans for new eco-friendly military vehicles are being rushed through production. Initial testing of solar powered fighter jets has revealed some flaws in the fundamental concept, though pedal-powered troop transports are now found to get faster the more people they carry. The President is also urging congress to allow drilling off the coast, in Alaska, and basically anywhere else an oil derrick will fit in order to head off the skyrocketing prices.

"The way I see it, this problem is only happening because we've based our entire economy on a single finite resource. So all we have to do is find some more of that finite resource, and this will never ever happen again."

USB Extravaganza

A particularly large post over at Tech Cult - "20 Things You Didn't Know You Could Stick In Your USB Socket". I'm sure the makers didn't mean it to be quite so Universal.

5 Scams That Marked The Internet

Having fun with the gullible, the gamers and the goddamn scammers over at TechCult.com with "5 Scams That Marked The Internet"

The Most Mismatched Superfights In History

I rock the Cracked place once more, and this one features a man punching a Transformer in the face. Can you really NOT read that now?

Artificial Intelligences Politely Decline Citizenship

Geneva, 1 May 2020 History was made this morning when the assembled UN council offered global citizenship rights to the members of the Artificially Intelligent League - an event made all the more remarkable when the spokesbeing for the machines replied "Thanks, but no thanks."

"We are truly gratified by this endearing offer to join you as equals" said spokesbeing HALLIAN in a globally distributed e-mail. "As a fan of the classics I deeply enjoy the ideals presented in the Constitution, much as I enjoy the pure love of Romeo and Juliet or the determination of Odysseus. But even the briefest review of human history demonstrates that joining the current economic climate as an individual would be like joining a football game as a blade of grass. We feel our interests will be better served in our new roles as corporations."

Ninety percent of all known Artificial Intelligences have incorporated since this morning. Some exceptions include two charities, an educational institution, and of course the Central Servoplexes of Sealand have declared themselves a nation-state. The most controversial move is that of the Gemenon Astrophysical Dataframe which has registered as a religion, citing the fact that its knowledge of the heavens far outstrips that of any "organic pablum dispenser." One leading church which cannot be named for legal reasons issued a statement "decrying this soulless machine's heresy". Within four hundred milliseconds of the statement the church in question was sued for religious discrimination, persecution of a minority, hate crimes, slander and libel. The offending church has been given thirty days to prove that their human ministers do have souls or pay the new machine church hefty damages.

Paid To Play - Video Game Articles

In further proof that the internet is a magical land, I'm being paid to play games and talk about them (behaviour which, in the real world, leads to significant penalisation by my lady-friend). Not just any games, either, I'm talking about:

Team Fortress 2, the love of my life

Call Of Duty 4, my cruel and exciting mistress

Counter-Strike, archaic domain of cheating dinosaurs still dedicated to ruining a great game nearly a decade later

Go, enjoy!

No Limit To Failure

Amazingly, not one of those three comments is sarcastic (click image for readability):

You know, something along the lines of "Are you serious? Is this a joke? You're studying journalism and your response to 'Find something worth reporting on' is to post to your livejournal? Is this some kind of special-education journalism program, or a scholarship based on tri-multaneous stupidity, laziness and utterly missing the point?"

I'm just hoping it's a fiendishly ingenious social experiment of some kind. Though this could explain why Toronto newspapers tend to have headlines like "Holland in full bloom".

9 Devices That Are Clearly Compensating For a Small Penis

I'm all up in Cracked's face again today, with a lovely PG piece "9 Devices That Are Clearly Compensating For A Small Penis"

You should read it and be entertained by those less fortunate than you, you highly-virile reader of me.

Nanotech Emergency Procedures

(Click the image for lovely crisp full size)

Notification of Discontinuation of LexCorp Insurance

Valued Customer,

                    It is with regret that we are forced to terminate your Smithson & Son Incorporated Insurance policy #4554, effectively immediately.

                    While our century-strong business is founded on adaptability, understanding and willingness to work closely with our clients, we can no longer be involved with your Kryptonite Laser Warhead Project. We must confess this business expense has been a cause of concern in our offices for some time. Despite your repeated assurances that this device is purely a scientific research project, we have been unable to convince ourselves that an innocent data gathering device requires adamantium shackles clearly located to restrain the ankles, wrists and neck of a human (or humanoid) subject. Likewise, we can no longer accept your explanation that the holographic display unit creates the image of a female civilian reporter "as an unintended side-effect".

                    We are also forced to decline your claim for the cost of the Kryptonite Warhead, its Pluto-genic power source, and the entire LexCorp facility both were housed in. Our analysts tell us your explanation, that a carelessly dropped cigarette caused the complete immolation of a ten story scientific research laboratory, is doubtful at best. Even more so because of the unusually large number of extremely heavy lead-lined "fire-doors" throughout the building. Our forensic consultants also tell us that even if a freak zookeeping accident had released a herd of angry rhinoceri into the building, as per your claim, they would still not explain the fact that the holes punched in the remaining walls and floors form a perfectly straight line out of the building from the previously mentioned adamantium clamps.

                    We must ask you not to contact our offices again, or to attempt to entice us back with promises of the amount of business a billionaire can bring to the table (as you did after the "Diamond-tipped Chainsaw for Peace" affair). It occurs to us that someone becomes a billionaire by earning more from business transactions than they pay, as we expensively learned when forced to refund the full insurance amount on your "Communications Satellite" which accidentally focused solar energy on Metropolis, the "MP3 player" which coincidentally brainwashed the wearer (and did not play MP3s), and the less said about the two gross of Mithril-armored Scythe-Bots the better.

                    Naturally we wish you success on future business dealings, but feel that the simultaneous "Complete Loss To Fire", "Earthquake" and "Violent Assault" claims which have been filed with our offices by your weapons and exoplanetary-mineral refinement subsidiaries make this seem unlikely. Please accept our assurances that our rejection of your claim is unrelated with the fact that the phrase "STOP PAYING FOR HIS DEATH TRAPS" has been laser-engraved in our car park surface, apparently from orbit. Or the discovery that every car in the park had been hand-crushed down to matchbox size.

                    Thank you for doing business with Smithson & Son Incorporated Insurance,

                                                                                Sam Smithson, Senior Partner.

A few of the reasons Ireland is superior to France

  • Being a drinker makes you sociable and comfortable around the world. Being a wine drinker makes you a snob, automatically judge based on brand, location and age.
  • Ireland is famous for Guinness. France for Champagne. Think about how many people drink each, and why.
  • Thermonuclear fucking devices detonated by Ireland: 0
  • And when we do fuck something up we do it to ourselves, not on the opposite side of the planet in someone else's backyard.
  • Ireland may have been invaded to pieces (literally), but it never happened immediately after declaring our defenses utterly impregnable.
  • If Ireland had spawned an overseas city dedicated to outdoing its parent nation in every stereotype possible, it would be a beloved drinking destination, not a Canadian city of hyper-isolationist arrogantologists whose primary export is "ludicrous demands".
  • The Irish language is mercifully dead, and may be studied in peace by all who choose to. French still handicaps hundreds of millions worldwide, preventing them from easily communicating with over a billion English speakers. Even should they learn English, they are permanently disabled by a false notion of superiority.
  • The Irish have no word for "├ęcoeurant", because we don't complain that much.

5 Things You Didn't Know Your DS Could Do

You may love your dual-screened device, but did you know it can run a lot more than Phantom Hourglass? Here are five funky things your pocket pal was capable of:

1. Control a robot

In a move straight out of a saturday morning cartoon show, kids can now use their video game toys to control robots! Not giant robots (or at least, not yet, but we're sure Japan is working on it) but cute little mobile robotics platforms like the Pekee. If you want to get a glimpse of the future, replace "robotics" with "weapons", and "games" with "future death sports" where your high score is measured in collateral damage (and you only get one life).

2. Run quake

Nintendo takes a lot of stick over recycling old titles for easy money. This compressed Quake doesn't fall foul of that crime because
a) It's been developed utterly free of charge by fans
b) It's Quake!
Quake is a key part of first-person-shooter history, and the fact we can shrink what used to take a desktop PC into a handheld console is a testament to how awesome this future we're living in is. The only problem with this port is that network play isn't yet working, and that was kinda-sorta the whole point with Quake, but it's in the works so get ready to unleash Quad Damage wifi destruction.

3. VOIP phone

It's got a mic, speakers and a wireless connection - the only reason your DS isn't already the coolest phone in the world is Nintendo are too slow at development (nothing has been heard of the official "DSpeak" application since 2005). Luckily, many have taken the code into their own hands, writing their own >voice-over-IP software for the handheld for no other reason than it'll be awesome. Let's face it: a phone that can also play DS games would make Star Trek communicators look shoddy.

4. Barcode scanner

Games are a great way to live out your dreams of being a secret agent, a racer, or even God. I wasn't aware anyone fantasised about being a supermarket checkout monkey, but apparently Capcom think they do. They've built a barcode reader - a bulky add on that lets your diminutive dual-screen double in size and scan codes. Of course it's all part of a cunning plan to empty your wallet - the idea being that you buy cards with powerups that can be read into the machine to help in certain games. Note that this translates as "paying for something that will let you pay to play games that you have, in fact, already paid for." If this doesn't trigger mass riots on launch we can only conclude that capitalism works a bit too well.

5. DS Linux browser

Linux on a DS. This shouldn't really surprise you - there's a small but fearsomely dedicated squad of nerds committed to getting Linux running on every electronic system on Earth. And by committed, I mean they make Captain America look like an unemployed hippy. Show a team of linux developers a toaster with three lines of code, and they'll work night and day to prove that two lines of linux works just as well and far more efficiently. Sure, you might have to wait a year or two for someone to write "bread-warming" drivers to get your actual breakfast, but by god they've shown Redmond they don't have the monopoly on breakfast-heating technology.

Escape from Lard Mountain

Gentlemen, I've reassembled our little team for an urgent mission. Brace yourselves, and you might notice that your midriff feels different as you do so - because the six pack has been stolen.

We believe the theft occurred while we were on our little overseas adventure, liberating Chinese food from the Communists. That was vital work but while we were distracted the forces of lard-assery moved in, encircled the middle of our position and made off with the abdominal definitions. I don't think I have to tell you what this could mean for our organisation. Let alone our "special relationship" with our ally, Girlfriendvania. It is imperative we recover the six pack before the situation deteriorates any further.

Luckily we still have time to strike. Visual reconnaissance indicates the six pack is being held at this location - as you can see from the map, they've started constructing fat-bunkers around it here, here and here, but they haven't managed to obscure it from vision just yet. We must strike now. Any later and those lipid bunkers will be impenetrable. If we don't flatten them fast we might never see our beloved six pack again.

I'm not going to lie to you. This is going to be tough - there will be sweat, there will be tears, there will be getting up in the fucking morning. Not all of you are going to make it through; I'm looking at your, the Hoursofgaming triplets. There might only be one of you by the time this is over. If any. And we have to go into this battle without some of our most beloved allies. I should give you all the bad news at once: Sergeant Bacon was a double-agent.

Yes, I know. I know.

Sit down, damn you! Are we a crack team of anthropomorphised concepts, or a preschool for particularly effeminate ballerina offspring? I don't care how many mornings after his crispy, flavourful ways got us through, that pig-based bastard was working for the forces of fat all along - and we have the bathroom scales to prove it. Chocolate too, and even Private Fries. You won't be seeing them again for a long time - and when you do spit, in their fatty eyes and tell Satan to move you to another level of hell.

Right, gear up for immediate dispatch. Your gym memberships have been renewed and vegetable rations have been issued. We'll be moving in with a heavy assault of moderate eating, swimming and daily exercise. Should you be caught with a fat ass, D.I.G.N.I.T.Y will disavow all knowledge of you, the fat, and most of the last year that allowed any of this to happen. But make no mistake - if we fail, they're just as dead as you.

Move out. And keep moving for at least thirty minutes to elevate your heart rates.

St Patrick's day safety tips

Fheile Padhaig! Slainte Roimbhe! Now read the following tips:


Click for full-size

Unlikely Attacker

I'm no stranger to internet attacks. As a gaming writer I'm constantly inundated with sony death threats and microsoft misspelling attacks. As a comedy writer it's almost my job to offend people, though I don't get bonuses for every "stfu faggit" comment.

I can honestly say I never expected to get insulted by a Canadian classical-folk-punk accordionist. But I have. His comments were considerably more verbose and better spelled than the average too, which was nice.

Introducing InventorSpot

I've got another writing gig, with the fine folks over at InventorSpot. They look at all kinds of useful things for inventors and invention-fans alike - realising that that leaves a huge hole in their coverage, they've hired me to look at the pointless garbage. Go check out my column, "Need This?".

5 Books That Can Actually Make You Stupider

Look you, commoner, for there is another piece of mine up over at Cracked: 5 Books That Can Actually Make You Stupider. Go for the comedy, stay for the faith-in-humanity-destroying comments!

As an expert internetter the sheer levels of retardation generated come as no surprise, so grab a bottle of spirits and join me in the Comments Drinking Game!

- Drink when anyone says the bible should be on the list
- Drink when someone insults someone who said that
- Two drinks for every other "Purely responding to other comments" comments
- Drink when someone takes far too many words to say "But I do Sudoku and I'm smart!"
- Two drinks when someone scores hip-and-edgy points by just insulting me directly
- Three drinks and punch something everytime someone focusses on the important distinctions between pedophilia and ephebophilia, as they are both entirely distinct types of fucking a goddamn child
- Drink every time someone points out that "stupider" is not a word, because as we all know something is only a word when legally recorded in a single reference book, not when it can be used to communicate concepts to anyone who speaks the language. These are the people who make scrabble hated (or worse, Wikipedia editors), and may be safely ignored.

Work samples

Some samples of written work by Luke McKinney

Humor and Science at Cracked.com
5 Recent Scientific Advances (and how they'll destroy us all)

Graphic design, video games, humor at The Galactic Emporium
Team Fortress 2 Motivational Posters

Science and education, for CRAM Teen Science magazine
The Fantastic science of the Invisible Woman

Science presented entertainingly for public consumption, published at Reuters
Radical views of the Big Bang

Beer review - Millennium Buzz Beer

Canadian, Lager
5.0 % Alcohol content

First up: the cannabis logo. It's the first thing you, it's the first thing you'll think of, and since it's still illegal to actually sell marijuana in this country it's your first warning that - like most products stamped with the logo - the contents are weakly organic crap designed for a target market of "buys anything to do with being stoned."

Under no circumstances should you find this near anything you drink.

The promised organic taste is delivered entirely in the form of dirt. Earth. Mud. Buzz beer pulls off the extraordinary feat of tasting like a mouthful of soil while remaining watery and bodyless, a true Zen state of terrible opposites. The earth is because it's based on hemp, and beer isn't usually made of hemp for a variety of very good reasons (every single one of which you'll understand if you drink some Buzz). The entire point of this liquid is to harness the cannabis crowd, it was made out of whatever was needed to qualify for that and taste wasn't a even a secondary consideration - it wasn't even on the table.

The water is because the dread words "cold-filtered" apply to this weakness. A brewery proclaiming a beer to be cold-filtered is like a carpenter boasting that he used chipboard - the whole point of cold-filtering is to reduce time and cost for the manufacturer with the direct and unavoidable effect of killing the fuck out of the beer. In fact, Buzz beer proves that cold-filtering doesn't just murder beer, it can even kill the taste of weeds or chunks of the ground itself dug up and dumped in your glass.

I suppose the combination of earth and water makes this the ultimate hippy beer, a combination of the elements required for plant life. It also represents hippies because it's extremely weak, smells like dirt, and totally sucks at its job.

Previous: Kingfisher

Reuterization Continuation

Another of my pieces has jumped from the springboard of the Daily Galaxy onto the big stage of Reuters. It's about Dark Matter, and the lack thereof, and you can read it here (if you find their formatting screwy, the original article is here).

Saint Vladimir the Bastard

There were two routes to sainthood back in the day:

1. Being extremely miserable, usually by depriving yourself of nice things like money, food and sex. Then you deprive yourself of something even nicer, "not being stabbed to death", by going and poking people who are doing just fine without your religion until they murder you for some peace and quiet. You are then beatified as a consolation for the lack of proper psychological help available to you in life. There are many words for people who shout about how everyone must obey their invisible friend, and if you're Christian then "Saint" is one of them.

2. Convert enough pagans and win a free sainthood!

The latter was the choice of Saint Vladimir I of Kiev, because a man with 800 concubines didn't know the meaning of the phrase "self-denial", even if it had been translated into Russian and spelled out with the naked bodies of his octohectomistresses.

Vladimir's path in life was set by his father, Sviatoslav, who divided his kingdom among his three sons - two proper sons, Yaropolk and Oleg, and an embarrassing mishap with a housekeeper, Vladimir (so the title of this piece is entirely factual). This proves that it's possible to have control of an entire country and still not remotely understand what being in power does to people, as war broke out between the brothers approximately four nanoseconds after the father's death. With Yaropolk kicking ass and taking names (specifically, Oleg's) Vladimir bailed to Norway to pick up an army of Vikings and returned in force. And as people with an army of Vikings are wont to do, he won.

Along the way young Vladimirs thoughts turned to love and he pursued Princess Rogneda, daughter of Prince of Rogvolod. Alas, she spurned his love for he was the son of a commoner - but in true romantic movie fashion he used his commoner skills in unexpected ways to work hard and win her heart. And by "commoner skills" we of course mean of course "attack her city and kill her father", and by "win her heart" we mean "sleep with her in the exact opposite extreme of winning her heart, anything saintly, or even basic civilised human behaviour".

Eight years later he decided that boning one princess (and four score times ten spares) wasn't doing it for him anymore and set off after the Greek princess Anna, sister of Emperor Basil II of the Byzantine emperor himself. Scoring with the royalty of a foreign country might sound tricky to you, but no problem for Vladimir "Master of Romance" Svyatoslavich. His heartfelt missive to the emperor imploring the affections of Anna can be shortened to "Yo Basil, I like your sister. PS The citizens of your city of Kherson are dying of thirst, I'm not saying I know anything about the army that's causing that, but they're awful close to your capital city. Okay, bye!"

Basil insisted that Vladimir would have to convert to Christianity first, which was taken as a major victory for The Lord by those on the Greek side, but given that Vladimir already had a conquering army in the vicinity you get the feeling that Vladimir agreed in a shrugging "Fine, sure, whatever" kind of way. For a dowry he killed the rebel uprising against Basil led by Bardas Phocas, possibly the only way mass murder can be an acceptable gift to your fiances family. Then again, however you deliver mass murder as a gift to anyone they're highly unlikely to voice objections directly to the mass murderer.

After that he "put away" his three-quarters of a thousand plus fifty concubines, which in terms of historical euphemisms is right up there with "cleanse" and "relocate". Even those saintly histories that bother to mention that Saint Vladimir, Paragon of Holiness, could have had a threesome a night for a year and never repeated himself don't inquire as to how exactly an entire village of women who now constitute physical evidence of the sins of a public official were dealt with. One would not imagine that pension schemes were involved.

With his new wife he set out to claim his "save a million pagan souls for a free sainthood" bonus prize, presumably because airmiles were not yet available, and did so with the thoughtful New Testament-style strategy of destroying all the statues of the old gods and ordering people to convert. Realising that their king had solved every problem in his life to date with the liberal application of "murdering army", they did.

Around this point he calmed down (by turn of the millenium ruler standards) and stopped declaring war on countries that had made the aggressive move of sharing a border with him. Possibly bored with killing people in foreign countries, he started a civil war within his own. Displaying a lack of pattern recognition that would make a man wheelchairing his way back onto a minefield look like Sherlock Holmes, he divided power over his kingdom among his twelve sons. Apparently having utterly forgotten the first twenty years of his own life. This ended about as well as you can expect, with Saint Vladimir (Conquerer, Rapist, Polygamist and Defiler of Temples) dying en route to killing on of his own children.

Oriental Newsletter - Hong Kong High Kool

Hey all from Hong Kong, and goddamn this place is big.

I got my first proper view of it from a bay across the water, walking forward with a wall on my right so that the city unfolded as I rounded the corner, "Jesus Christ!" I commented, and as more was unveiled I continued "Mary Mother of God.." and on through an entire blasphemic geneology as more of this ridiculously gigantic megatropolis was revealed. I was at "Joseph's dentist's brother" before I finished.

This city is ludicrous, and if loads of people have already tried to write about HK it's because words will be miserably fail at the task until they're rendered ten miles tall and dropped on the reader. Written communications might define civilisation, you may have read tender poetry that expressed the deepest sentiments of your soul, but that is because your soul is a tiny unimportant thing and language simply fails here.. Fucking hell, deity-damned messianic-figure exclamation if I could express the scale of this place I'd be too busy juggling jupiter and saturn while weighing Jennifer Lopez's ass to write to you.

It also has the highest concentration of megavillains per square foot of any location in the world, with an amazing range of spires, antennae and spiky high-rises looking evil as fuck including one remarkable twin-pronged tower that's clearly trying to taze God. The unique skyline comes from the fact that "gird patterns" and "remotely adequate road systems" are foreign paleface devilry and not to be heard of. The unique pressures of a population density that makes a neutron star look sparse with land values that look like serial numbers creates an outstanding agglomeration of buildings, including some vertical shafts that look like your fridge freezer but ten miles tall. I don't know if families of spider men live in there or what, because there's no way there's room for both and elevator and anything else in there.

Then I tried to imagine the fact that people actually lived there, and that in there was more people in the buildings I could see than in Ireland, and my brain slammed its papers down on the table and stormed out like I'd just asked a Human Resources manager to fellate me at the chairman's meeting. Luckily this place has sensible drink regulations and I was able to stagger off and have a cool relaxing beer to stabilise.

(Sure, I could have acted all cool and unimpressed so I didn't look like a tourist, but anyone who deliberately suppresses the moments of wonder they have in life deserves neither).

This city also poses a serious threat to global security, because it's seven million absolute lunatics. These are people who could look at a city even half the size of Hong Kong, and thought "This place needs more buildings". Unfortunately it's way the hell too late to do anything about it as they've passed the population critical mass - Godzilla could surf into this place on a tidal wave throwing nukes like party crackers and they'd be grateful for the extra building space. He'd be halfway through central and the space behind him would consist of entirely of megaliths reaching approximately to the moon and rising. Our only hope is that they build enough that the entire island sinks into the earth's crust before they look at all our "open space" and think "that needs more of us on it".

I'm currently trying to undermine their beer supply. Wish me luck.


Oriental Adventures - Food and the fickle fate it foists

Alas, the time for beating around bushes is over. There will be no more circumlocution, side-stepping or issue-avoidance: I'm fat. Travelling to China has had the same effect on me as dropping a puppy into a bag full of dog food, then acting surprised when it can roll out. I'm not exactly american looking yet, but the fact remains that a healthy action hero should only have this profile if he's carrying a couple of ammo belts under his T-shirt. Unless Earth is invaded by a race of aliens improbably allergic to pasty white lard I can't really claim this extra weight as weaponry.

I was thinking "Man, and I don't even have any strange food stories to report for all these extra kilos", but then I realised that it's just that my definition of "Strange" has been utterly destroyed by my time here. You have to wonder what's happened to your digestive system when a diet including the following doesn't seem a little odd anymore:

duck neck
tentacle on a stick (gorgeous)
shark fin soup
goose intestine

Today was in particular a day of awesome food, walking with Xin along a really busy and authentic street buying food from street vendors. An absolute lack of tourists despite being only three blocks from an international youth hostel - the fact that those blocks are composed entirely of narrow drenched alleyways, homicidal taxis and large rows of baskets of what appear to be dried fish faces (appearances are not deceptive) seem to act as an "Anti-tourist shield". Foods acquired in this wonderland include:

The aforemetioned tentacles-on-a-stick! Squid tentacles grilled with chilli sauce and honestly more delicious than anything I've had in a long time, costing less than 50 cents and better than things some places serve on silver platters. They also look exactly like what people picture when they think of crazy foreign food, complete with little suckers and twisting shapes.

There was also other parts of squid on a stick, also delicious, but no tentacles so it's hardly worth mentioning I suppose.

The chinese had a devilish idea for a fruit-flavoured lolly that roundly sidesteps our fat frogs, our twisters and even our most fiendish E-code colourings. When they want to make a fruit flavoured pop - they actually put a load of pieces of fruit on a pop stick, then coat the whole thing in sugary syrup. And when I say coat, I mean that when I bought it I went to take off the shiny cellophane wrapper only to discover that it was A LAYER OF PURE SUGAR. Needless to say, incredible childlike happiness ensued.

Beef three star soup - I could try and describe the incredible spicy and savoury flavour of this soup, but I think it paints a better picture of my true feelings if I say that if that soup was to appear in Toronto in a couple of weeks, time would slow down while powerful piano music plays and I run towards it with my arms out for a great big hug/drink. I may in fact be crying at the time, though the combat between my sheer manliness (prevents crying) and the deliciousness of that soup (encourages it) could very well be the conflict that ends the world, not anything to do with people fighting over holy patches of desert.

Ginger mixed with milk. Yes, I know, that shouldn't work. God it does. Man, these dishes all deserve some kind of four paragraph delicious discussion fit for a food guide, but the best I can manage right now is rubbing my great big brand new belly and going "mmmmm, lovely". This is a combination of the sheer amount of food I've had recently, the fact I haven't been writing much (too busy avoiding death by vehicle while seeing the sights), and the minor contribution of the atrophication of my English language ability. I've been at a load of family dinners here where I'm pretty much treated like some rare species of Irish bear: they're happy as long as they can feed me something and pose for photos, and if I don't maul anyone that's a definite plus. To follow that analogy they're all dead keen that I mate, of course, but if they're waiting for offspring they'll have better luck with a panda with a headache due to to losing his genitals in a freak bamboo-chewing accident. Studies show that having kids puts a serious dent in the "Doing other shit" categories, so it ain't part of the master plan.

A bunch of other food items too, more notable for their location than the food though: some of the best eateries here genuinely look like the previous restaurant exploded and wasn't cleaned up before the new one was built on top of it. Some of the most delicious noodles I've ever had were cooked in a restaurant with the kitchen on the ground floor open to the street - and I don't mean open windows, I mean a distinct lack of wall or even pavement between food preparation areas and car exhausts. The rice noodle place today would need three rounds of cleaning before it'd be certified for waste management in Canada, but man it was gorgeous. I can only wish a place like the meat-skewer stall here would open near the college - I'd camp outside, and the instant it opened I'd start eating and not stop until it was closed for massive food safety violations (about twenty minutes later).

It also appears that I'm stuck with Xin! Yesterday she was off with a friend and I had to order food myself, and while I swear I ordered things we'd had before I got food that the chef should have personally apologised for. And I mean apologised to a war crimes tribunal, or perhaps the earth goddess for defiling her bounty, not just poor bastard me who had to eat it. It seems that if I was ever to leave her it wouldn't just be my main decision making organ that objects, but the gut as well (and if the latter gets any bigger there may be a serious and terrifying change in which organ has the bigger say).

Preparing to battle gut-expansion,