It seems that over the past few years, everyone has become a little bit more serious about the state of the environment.
I know that until recently I was certainly guilty of not giving a damn about the endangered Attwater's Greater Prairie Chicken, and preferred to scoff in the face of any climatic challenges thrown our way by bespectacled nay-saying scientists. After all, wasn't the great outdoors simply a place to purchase hardware? And couldn't we do that even if there were no chickens left at all?
There's been a bit of a change lately however, and it certainly seems like we're in for a rough few years ahead. With talk of the economy tanking, fuel prices soaring and a New Zealand edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in production, it's getting harder to keep a positive outlook on what can only be described as a woeful state of affairs. If it wasn't for the fact that we could count on our All Blacks to win every match, I'm not sure many of us could go on.
And then on the weekend, as I saw my crudely constructed fence become detached from the ground, take on some fairly impressive aerodynamic attributes and scatter itself over my neighbours house, it occurred to me that somewhere along the line, us humans got it all wrong. We're guilty of a litany of mistakes over the years, but in recent times, our one undoing - our one major failing - is that we're looking outside in the first place.
It's therefore time to close those curtains, hammer large crooked pieces of wood against the windows, leave the phone off the hook and spend the cold winter months in a glorious electronic hibernation! To assist you, here's some ideas that will wile away the long winter nights - not that you'll know or even care what the time is anyway.
1. Clock that retro game
Have you actually, honestly, clocked Half-Life? If you're one of the majority of gamers out there who have just lied to yourself, go grab a copy and give it a go. You'll be amazed at the compelling storyline, wonderful adaptation of survival horror mixed with nuclear mutation, and the best part is that it's ten bucks of your American dollars as a digital download off Steam. Well, American dollars, New Zealand dollars, same thing really.
Indeed, with a metascore of 96, you'll be hooked right up until the point where you can't solve a fairly basic puzzle, get sick of reloading your saved game and uninstall the thing in disgust. But hey, it's still more fun than watching your ten dollars disappear out of your tailpipe during rush-hour.
Not your thing?
2. Become an electricity pimp in your local area
With the nasty weather upon us, and thousands of homes routinely knocked off the grid due to poor infrastructure and wind gusts above 20kph, it's time to sever your property from the lame feed provided by electrical corporations with nothing to offer you but dwindling resources and call centres that aren't staffed.
How hard can it be? Simply pick up a suitable generator, ideally diesel so you can run it on leftover chip fat from your celebratory fry-ups, and leave it in the middle of your lawn. You won't have to wait long for a blackout, at which time you can fire it up and lord it over your neighbours by turning as many lights on as you can and watching Family Guy reruns with the curtains open.
Within a month, you'll have signed up so many people from nearby properties you'll have enough cash to build your own power station. Remember, resource consents don't matter if it's night time and nobody can read them.
3. Get a MMORPG addiction
[WTB] A Life.
There's nothing more likely to lose you friends, socially retard you and make you a gaunt, pale shadow of your former self than a damn good MMORPG. OK, sure, methamphetamine, but that's easier to kick and more socially acceptable. Grab a copy of World of Warcraft or EverQuest 2 and feel free to throw away your cellphone. Even if it rings after the first week you sure as hell won't want to answer it.
Throughout the world at this very moment, millions of people are hunched over a screen, furtively glancing at brightly animated characters, seeking to advance their standing in a world that doesn't exist, with creatures that have absolutely no importance to anything that occurs in the real world, not understanding that nobody outside of their small circle of similarly like-minded-yet-utterly-addicted electronic friends even knows or cares about any damn thing they're doing. And you could be one of them!
You don't even have to pay for the privilege of ostracising everyone you've ever known or cared about! Thanks to Blizzard earning enough money out of World of Warcraft to slightly shift the planets orbit, many development studios have switched to a free-to-play model instead. Titles such as ArchLord and Perfect World are the new drug dealers, promising that first hit for free and only making you pay with every waking moment of every single day for the rest of your life. Sign us up!
4. Cosplay your woes away
Once the bastion of the truly hard-core nerd, Cosplay has evolved recently to... well, to still be the bastion of the truly hard-core nerd. But if the thought of dressing up as your favourite Anime or video game character has been a long-standing dream, and the only thing preventing you from doing it is death threats from your closest friends, fear not! Once you're in the privacy of your boarded-up winter cocoon, you can strut your stuff in front of startled pets without fear of retribution.
Find a full-length mirror and marvel at your resemblance to a Priston Tale Knight! Take stunning photographs and digitally blur your face before posting them on your favourite forums! Yes indeed, provided nobody knows it's you, you can weather the flood of insults and calls for you to "stop posting that crap you loser", safe in the self-affirmed knowledge that they're simply jealous of your enormous bulging armour constructed largely from pipe-cleaners and aluminium foil.
5. Above all else, don't open that door
Anyone knocking on your door is likely to want something from you. Be it a cup of sugar, help with re-floating their house, or simply a request to identify the source of a strange odour you know to be mostly created by your lack of hygiene (see "Get a MMORPG addiction" above). You will not benefit from glancing at the state of the world outside.
Remember, we've taken more than enough from Mother Nature as it is. There's no need to push the issue by sticking your head out of your front door. Stay with what you know! Spend this winter wrapped up warm with your favourite game collection, and you can't go wrong.