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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

6:18 PM - Mecha my day

Gouf Custom fans are going to be delighted by capcom kai's depiction of the Zeon mecha in action.

And for more nifty-cool digital art, mouse-click to GFXartist. The Elite Galleries and the Elite Nominations sections house the better pieces.

(Link obtained from MeFi.)

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6:00 PM - Game themes

I've never actually bought a game purely for its music and I doubt that's going to change. But you may not necessarily have to buy the game to get the music.

Relax, it's perfectly legal.

You see, some game developers have been making soundtracks from their games freely available online. It's a nice way to promote their game and I hope more developers would follow suit. I prefer free game music over other game freebies like screensavers or wallpaper.

Here's a short list of free game music I've found online:

  • I hadn't even heard of Outcast before but the music by the Moscow Symphonic Orchestra is not too bad. The soundtrack has been described as great and awesome but most of it was a bit too subdued for my liking. I did, however, love the delightfully eccentric Ulukai Dance.

  • I wasn't too impressed with the music in Neverwinter Nights so I wasn't too disappointed Bioware only released a single brief clip from the game. The best you can say about the excerpt is that it's soothing and the worst is that it's instantly forgettable.

  • Blizzard has been the most generous developer by far when it comes to releasing music from its games. You can download 20+ themes (!) from Diablo II individually but I'd recommend getting the single huge archive file if you've got a fat enough net pipe. It took me almost an hour to get the 90MB ZIP file with my ADSL line but it was worth it since the ZIP version has notes by the composer, Matt Uelmen. My favourite theme, Tristram, apparently features a finger-plucking style influenced by a Peruvian guitarist. That's nice to know. I guess.

    Be sure to also get the music from the Warcraft III trailer and brief clips from World of Warcraft.

  • Creative Assembly, the developer behind the Total War series of strategy games, has released a couple of themes from Shogun: Total War. It's a pity CA hasn't done the same for the the rousing music from Medieval: Total War. Ah well, at least I have the WAVs on my hard disk.

  • Larian Studios' Divine Divinity has the best free music, I think. Voin, in particular, is excellent.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

6:31 PM - It's the eyes

There are two pictures of dogs in this post about pets. One resembles Lassie and the other, well, let's just say it isn't as photogenic and leave it at that.

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Monday, March 29, 2004

1:07 AM - 1-1

The match (pix) was a special occasion and it needed some special magic to light it up. Thierry Henry duly provided it in the 50th minute with a brilliant strike from outside the box. He had space but there didn't seem to be any danger at all until he pulled the trigger and BOOM ... goal of the season candidate. Carroll had little chance with the ball swerving and dipping throughout its journey to the back of the United net.

United, to their credit, didn't lie down and die. Two minutes later, Giggs had a legitimate claim for a penalty waved away by the referee. The Welshman easily got past Campbell but the Arsenal defender clearly took the United man out in the box. United protested but to no avail.

Solskjaer showed yet again why United missed him more than Beckham when the Norwegian replaced Fletcher in the 70th minute. It was his low pacey cross that led to United's equaliser in the 86th minute. Van Nistelrooy missed it -- his second clear chance of the match -- but Saha, racing in at the far corner, slotted it home to set up a pulsating finish.

(I particularly enjoyed the reaction shot of Arsene Wenger after the goal. You didn't have to be much of a lip reader to know he was saying, "I don't bee-leef theese.")

It ended 1-1 but United have nothing to be ashamed of. They fought hard and showed their critics were wrong to write them off. The end of an era? Dream on. It's a blip and nothing more. United will be back next season.

Arsenal have their remarkable record but they've dropped points. The title may be out of United's reach now -- no one but the mathematicians can be optimistic about United's chances this season -- but Chelsea are still in with a shout.

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12:03 AM - United vs. the Gunners

It's goalless at half-time in the match of the season. Some thoughts:

  • Ferguson surprised most when he opted to play Djemba-Djemba instead of Phil Neville or Butt. I don't think anyone would have argued with the choice when Djemba-Djemba hit a magnificent volley in the 12th minute which Lehmann did very well to save at full stretch.

  • Scholes had a chance early on when he attacked a ball between the Gunners' two giant defenders but unfortunately, he couldn't position himself for the shot. He had a better opportunity later on. Giggs dribbled past three Arsenal players and brilliantly set up Scholes in the Arsenal box but goal-king Scholes swung at the ball so wildly he fell over instead of connecting.

  • Gary Neville is showing some disturbingly bad judgement. He needlessly gave away a freekick when he lunged wildly at Reyes then later dove in the Arsenal box in a sorry attempt to earn a penalty. I hate to see gamesmanship -- okay, let's just call it cheating -- when opposing players do it and I especially hate to see it from United players. It's ugly and unnecessary.

  • Keane is getting forward a lot and he had a shot which went wide. I think he has to get forward because United don't look tremendously convincing in attack at the moment. Van Nistelrooy isn't getting much joy.

  • The two managers exchanged some words when Vieira fouled van Nistelrooy. Vieira was entitled to go for the ball and I don't think there was anything malicious about the challenge but for an instant it looked as if we'd see some ugly scenes in another match between these two teams.

  • Arsenal will be delighted if the score stays this way. They'd take a big step towards winning the title and would create a record at the same time. United need to step it up if they are to prevent this from happening.

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Sunday, March 28, 2004

7:23 PM - "Rozan Sho Ryu Ha!"

A digi-doodle of Dragon Shiryu from the Saint Seiya franchise.

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7:23 PM - Nyaah!

Gene Simmons is a bad influence.

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7:21 PM - The Daibijin

Finally! A PS2 game that requires you to take photos of a gigantic bikini-clad babe as she rampages around Japan.

I would very much like to see a movie based on this high concept. ("Aaahh! The jiggling, the jiggling!")

(Link obtained from the Qt3 forum.)

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Friday, March 26, 2004

9:39 PM - Mo' Masterforce

Some notes about the new Microman Masterforce and Acroyear X figures gathered from the Ore Micro BBS:

  • AcroVoltech really does resemble an Acroyear I when you replace his head and hands with parts from his back pack and gun. However, NISE reports he had trouble attaching the left ball-arm.

  • The stands included with each figure have a 2.5mm peg and a 5mm peg so you can use the stands for Microforce, Masterforce and the LED Powers figures as well as the vintage figures. It's a thoughtful touch.

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9:02 PM - Frightfully good

Epilogue, the online art gallery, has been updated with a section to showcase horror-themed art featuring zombies, werewolves, vampires and other fun folk. (Strangely, though, some creepy art isn't in the horror section.)

Be warned, there's some disturbing imagery in there -- it's dubbed the horror section for a reason -- so sensitive souls should probably steer clear.

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2:29 AM - Handle with care

It appears Takara is still suffering from aggravating QC problems.

Momodani reports the new Microman Masterforce and Acroyear X figures are quite delicate and suggests owners handle them with care.

He managed to break Acroscorl's ankle joint when he touched it lightly and discovered a crack on Groundmaster Roberto's ankle joint upon checking the other figures. He thinks the problems are due to the poor quality of the black-coloured plastic used for both figures' ankles.

He adds the fitting of some pieces (e.g. the armour) is off and he had to use a cutter to trim some parts.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

10:50 PM - Masterpiece Convoy: Part I

You'll have to forgive the pomp and pretension but I believe action figures, at their very best, are a superb meld of pop culture, technology and design.

Masterpiece Convoy best epitomises this.

I supposed it's a little odd then that I've handled it for less than three hours in the two weeks I've had it. I can see folks raising their eyebrows at this but handling the figure feels less like play and more like a religious experience. And who wants to be in their temple/mosque/church every hour of every day for two whole weeks?

I haven't even transformed the object of my devotion yet. That's because the robot mode is so brilliant and satisfying, I haven't felt the need to wrestle it into prime mover mode.

Is it truly a masterpiece then? Well, I think it's a masterpiece as far as ambition goes but it falls slightly short in execution.

I find myself constantly shaking my head in disbelief and grinning in delight and admiration as I explore MPC's feature-set.

"Here comes that sinking feeling ..."

I also find myself shaking my head and spewing expletives as I discover the figure's faults.

The most annoying of these faults involve iffy joint tolerances. I wasn't too happy when I unintentionally decapitated the figure while removing it from the package and I was less than thrilled when I accidentally amputated the left foot five minutes later.

Fortunately, I had heard this might happen so I managed to resist my first impulse which was to scream shrilly and pass out. Fixing both merely involved popping the parts back on.

It was galling, though. A 9800 yen with the kind of joint tolerances that would be annoying in a 980 yen figure? Come on. I know, I know; better it should pop off than break off. Still, wasn't there any way to prevent this?

What's worse was I found one of the pistons on his right arm was not connected to the forearm. I managed to fix it but again, what the hell? Did Takara change factories recently? What's with the poor QC?

(And I'm not the only one concerned about Takara's recent QC record.)

Am I being hypercritical? Maybe.

Bear in mind I've wanted a figure like this for years and now that I actually have it, the flaws, no matter how minor, seem slightly magnified to me. Especially since I think they could've been easily prevented.

To be fair, those annoyances don't detract much from the brilliance of the figure.

I hope to eventually put together a review (and a pictorial as well when I get a digicam) but I doubt it will be terribly comprehensive. There are some great reviews out already and I don't want to cover the same ground.

So no hurry.

Plus, the longer I take, the more likely I'll get over my gushing and hypercriticism and put together something balanced.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

9:56 PM - Poetry in motion

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful sym- ...
OH GOD, IT'S COMING THIS WAY!

(Bill Pruitt has more great shots in his Big Cats gallery.)

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Monday, March 22, 2004

10:34 PM - BN win big

Malaysia's ruling coalition Barisan Nasional impressed everyone (including themselves, I think) when they thrashed the opposition in the country's 11th General Elections. It was the coalition's best showing in 14 years.

Crucially, BN wrested control of Terengganu from PAS, easily retained control of Kedah and even made big gains in the PAS-stronghold of Kelantan.

PAS will no doubt have to rethink their campaigning style which saw them make big gains in the previous elections with a "hate him" campaign targeted at the previous PM, the often abrasive Dr Mahathir.

The fundamentalist party must have been stymied by the gentlemanly, dignified demeanour of his successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and indeed, the despicable attempt at attacking Pak Lah personally was so low it probably cost them votes.

It must be said Pak Lah almost comes across as bland at times compared to his charismatic predecessor but I think Malaysians realise the new PM is capable of getting the job done with minimum fuss and in the end, isn't that the only thing that really matters?

He's got a mandate; let's see what he does with it.

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10:18 PM - Giggs turns it on

United beat Spurs 3-0 at Old Trafford. Interestingly, Ferguson benched or rested all of his new signings and relied mainly on the old guard. They did not let him down.

Giggs gave one of his best performances this season and was a constant threat down the left flank. Solskjaer, restored to the starting line-up after a prolonged absence through injury, may have been far from his best but his presence on the right of United's midfield did cause Spurs problems as well. The Norwegian provided a simple, direct cross for Giggs to finish with an audacious back heel for United's first goal.

Ronaldo replaced the tiring Solksjaer with 15 minutes of the match left and it shows just how exciting a talent the kid is that he only needed 15 minutes to impress. He scored in the 89th minute with a shot from outside the box and if that goal isn't in contention for Football Focus's goal of the week, John Dykes and company will have stud marks on their sit-upons.

Bellion, another one of Ferguson's new signings, had even less time to impress but the young Frenchman did so nonetheless with a good finish after sterling work by Giggs set him up for United's third goal.

Looking at United's performance, I would say the players are well aware they're playing to earn the right to stay at the club.

United face Arsenal next in two back-to-back matches. I don't think the Red Devils have what it takes to beat the Gunners at the moment but I wouldn't mind United losing as long as they go down fighting tenaciously.

Still ...

It would be satisfying indeed if United could go to Highbury and end Arsenal's proud unbeaten record.

Very satisfying indeed.

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Saturday, March 20, 2004

10:46 PM - Nice try

Me: I'm going to give your homework ...

Student: Cannot-lah.

Me: Why not?

Student: Tomorrow got voting.

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10:45 PM - And I quote

Freeman Dyson:

There are two extreme points of view concerning the role of science in human understanding. At one extreme is the reductionist view, holding that all kinds of knowledge, from physics and chemistry to psychology and philosophy and sociology and history and ethics and religion, can be reduced to science. Whatever cannot be reduced to science is not knowledge.

...

At the other extreme is the traditional view, that knowledge comes from many independent sources, and science is only one of them. Knowledge of good and evil, knowledge of grace and beauty, knowledge of ethical and artistic values, knowledge of human nature derived from history and literature or from intimate acquaintance with family and friends, knowledge of the nature of things derived from meditation or from religion, all are sources of knowledge that stand side by side with science, parts of a human heritage that is older than science and perhaps more enduring.

(Link obtained from SciTech Daily Review.)

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Friday, March 19, 2004

8:53 PM - Alternatives

I had trouble updating my virus scanner, Grisoft's AVG Free Edition, recently. The program kept insisting no automatic connection to the Internet could be established and the upshot of this was I couldn't download the latest virus definitions.

There's a workaround which adds two alternative servers to the download list and this did the trick for me.

I have to wonder, though, why Grisoft didn't update the server list automatically and why this workaround wasn't posted on the AVG site.

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8:48 PM - Versatility

Palm Zire 71: PDA, digicam, MP3 player, shaving accessory.

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Thursday, March 18, 2004

7:49 PM - Dead Alive

What's screwier: illegal phantom voters or legal dead voters?

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7:27 PM - Under fire

NST sports columnist Lazarus Rokk has his say on the latest Manchester United crisis in an article subtly titled "After 17 years, it’s time for ‘Devil’ Ferguson to go."

He makes some interesting points but for the most part, it was easy to pick apart his arguments.

Among the points he makes:

... he got rid of David Beckham, arguably the world's most famous player, because he couldn't get along with him ...

Matches aren't won because of players' fame but rather their form and Beckham's subpar form saw him benched several times in his last season at United. And this was before he was given the boot, so to speak. One wonders if perhaps the Sarong Superstar had grown jaded at United and needed a change to reinvigorate himself. It's great that Becks has been gaining accolades at Madrid now but he was far from his best last season.

Lazarus adds:

I am sure there are United fans out there who would want to defend the Scot for his deliverance of the unprecedented treble — the first class treble comprising the Champions Trophy, the Premier League, and the FA Cup — in 1999.

Sure he did, but let's not forget that he had a lot of help from his assistant Brian Kidd who did most of the work for him on the pitch. And so did Steve McClaren after that, and Queiroz last season.

That's just bad writing. Those two paras make it seem as if Kidd helped Ferguson to win the Treble when in fact McClaren was Ferguson's assistant then.

I don't mean to downplay the role of the assistants but Ferguson has managed to win titles despite changing assistants three times.

And what have his assistants won since they left United? Kidd hasn't distinguished himself in his post-United career and McClaren has only the League Cup to his name. Queiroz is likely to win some silverware with Real Madrid but then he's inherited an incredible team and has the resources to sign anyone he wants.

Another point:

And why he shows a reluctance to use the other creative players like Kleberson, Christiano Ronaldo, Eric Djemba Djemba, and even Louis Saha more frequently makes one question his motives.

Kleberson's performances in the first part of the season were flat out horrible and while he did show some nice touches in the second half of the season, he isn't first-team material at the moment. He probably needs more time to adapt. (Take a look at how long it took Arsenal's own Brazilians, Edu and Gilberto, to settle.)

It's only a matter of time before Ronaldo turns into a match-winning superstar but right now he's a teenager who has just moved to a foreign country. Ferguson's absolutely right to use him sparingly. The kid is a long-term investment and you wouldn't want him burned out.

Djemba-Djemba's national team commitments mean he's going to be jetting off for Cameroon's qualifiers every so often and breaking into the United first team is especially difficult when you've got the likes of Keane, Phil Neville and Butt ahead of you in the pecking order.

Louis Saha picked up an injury before arriving at United and was cup-tied so that would have explained his omission.

I say

My own take on the situation? The only person who will determine Ferguson's fate will be Ferguson and he's no quitter.

I pity the fool who would question the Scot's passion because he still has fire in his belly. Just ask Porto's coach Mourinho who got an earful immediately after their first encounter.

But things have changed for Ferguson.

It looks as if his friends-turned-foes, Magnier and McManus, may be offered a place on the board and if that should happen, Ferguson will no doubt be in for some tough times.

In addition, his family -- specifically, his son, Jason -- came under media scrutiny during the Rock of Gibraltar affair. (Such a fuss over one horse's sex life.) By Ferguson's own admission, that was distressing and not easy to take.

Add to that his recent health problems and it's not inconceivable Ferguson might reconsider his future at the club.

Let's just say for the sake of argument the unthinkable happens and the footballing Knight steps down. Can anyone think of someone worthy of taking over at the helm? Is there any reason to believe a new manager would be able to do better than Ferguson given the same resources? Ferguson's detractors need to remember that his predecessor, Ron Atkinson, wasn't able to deliver the League title despite spending millions during his tenure.

Ferguson's successor would almost certainly want to stamp his own mark on the club and that could be disastrous. Remember how Souness systematically changed everything at Liverpool when he took over? Anfield never really recovered from that.

No, Ferguson has to stay. He has a long-term plan in place and I believe he is in the process of creating another legendary title-winning squad.

Give him the benefit of the doubt.

The man has earned it.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

11:07 PM - Atkins Diet gone wrong

A digi-doodle of a Xevoz Skulljack.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

9:10 PM - Elections

Malaysia will have its general elections soon. I'm sure the ruling coalition will retain control but there is a possibility the Islamist opposition will make gains in rural areas. I hope that doesn't happen because every time the Islamists win big, the government reacts by turning more conservative, often in ludicrous ways.

I don't understand why anyone rational would vote for the Islamist PAS party. Their election manifesto can be pithily summarised as "Vote for us or go to hell" and yet, they're winning hearts and minds somehow.

Why is that, I wonder? Do the people who support PAS lead such wretched Earthly lives they need to look to the afterlife for hope of reward and satisfaction?

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9:09 PM - Hard to stomach

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present this year's worst Google misdirect to this site:

crunching male abs preview

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9:08 PM - War chess

The Guardian reports:

Teams at the Swedish national defence college in Stockholm and the defence science and technology organisation in Australia are studying [chess] afresh in an attempt to understand better how to gain military success.

They used variations of the traditional game to investigate the importance of stealth over speed or speed over numerical strength and their conclusion was:

[B]eing stronger and having more "battlespace information" than your opponent are both less valuable when there is little information available overall to both sides - but the advantage of a fast pace remains.

But winning decisively and quickly may not necessarily be the best strategy in every situation. As one of the researchers rightly points out:

You can win a battle quickly but hearts and minds are not so easily won - and of course we do have continuing trouble in Iraq.

(Link obtained from Arts & Letters Daily.)

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Monday, March 15, 2004

12:55 AM - Rocking

I don't know what I find more surprising: the fact there's a hobby involving painting on rocks or the fact the results (1, 2, 3) can be pretty darn good.

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12:18 AM - Bad case of the Blues

It just keeps getting worse for United at the moment. They were hit for four at the City of Manchester Stadium by local rivals Manchester City.

Languid defending by Phil Neville and Silvestre gifted Fowler and Sinclair with opportunities which were converted clinically and two well-taken goals by Macken and Wright-Phillips added to the Red Devils' misery.

Despite being 2-1 down, United were actually the better side in the first half and had the lion's share of possession. Scholes finished a well-worked goal and the ever-dangerous Ronaldo hit the woodwork twice. All things considered, United really looked like they could easily overturn the deficit in the second half.

Sadly, they were unable to maintain their momentum after the break and could not break down the resilient City side. Ferguson tried to kick start the fight-back by replacing Ronaldo and Giggs with Solskjaer and Forlan in the second half but United never looked like they had the creativity to get the goals they needed.

United are now 12 points adrift of Arsenal and three points behind Chelsea. It's a good thing Charlton, the team currently in fourth place, are 15 points behind because otherwise United might have trouble maintaining third place never mind challenging for the title.

I am not looking forward to the two upcoming matches against Arsenal.

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Saturday, March 13, 2004

9:46 PM - Reader's Voice

I'm not a fan of McFarlane's action figures but there's no denying they are often visually stunning. Consider the CG-enhanced photos of Reader. (Favourites: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

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Friday, March 12, 2004

10:30 PM - Hero

Why globalisation rules: Spider-Man ver. Netherlands and Spider-Man ver. Japan.

Be sure to explore the rest of An International Catalogue of Superheroes. I'm particularly, ah, fascinated by the Indian superheroes whose ranks include Fauladi Singh the Indian Robot and Aaryamaan the Luke Skywalker rip-off.

(Link obtained from the Museum of Online Museums via Confessions of a Grade School Role Model.)

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Thursday, March 11, 2004

6:16 PM - And I quote

Roger Ebert on Hidalgo:

Whether you like movies like this, only you can say. But if you do not have some secret place in your soul that still responds even a little to brave cowboys, beautiful princesses and noble horses, then you are way too grown up and need to cut back on cable news.

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6:11 PM - Yo Joe ... smile!

What th-?! Why was General Eisenhower lecturing a bunch of Hasbro GI Joes?

Ah, it's just Eric Shindelbower at work. Or play, rather. He took his GI Joes, got some WW2 still photos and went to work with Photoshop. As he puts it:

My intent is not to mislead the viewer into thinking that these images are actual combat photos - they were manipulated to entertain the action figure enthusiast.

...

This technique produces images that are not intended to disrespect or make light of the soldiers and photographers that served in World War II.

Be sure to check out the work of other toy photographers on the site as well as the gallery dedicated to real combat photographers.

Shindelbower has also thoughtfully provided some tips for action figure photography but they're based on his experiences with an SLR camera. That means lots of scary photography terminology involving F-this and F-that.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

11:04 PM - Digitutor

Nikon has made available some nifty tutorials for folks who are interested in checking out the capabilities of selected Coolpix digicams. They cover the same ground as the owner manuals but the tutorials have been jazzed up with Flash and Quicktime. I had the former and not the latter but I managed to glean some useful information about the Coolpix 3700 model nonetheless.

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5:49 AM - Sucker punch

United were knocked out of the Champions League by Porto minutes earlier after only managing a 1-1 draw.

The Red Devils outplayed the Portuguese side for most of the match and the home side deservedly got the lead through a Scholes header after terrific work by O'Shea and Giggs down the left flank.

Scholes had another goal mistakenly ruled offside just before half-time and one suspects United fans will look back at that moment and curse one particular Russian linesman.

The makeshift defensive partnership of Gary Neville and Brown did extremely well in the centre of defence. McCarthy, who plundered two goals in the first leg, was hardly in this game but he did eventually play a part in United's defeat because there was a cruel twist at the end of the tale.

Phil Neville gave away a freekick needlessly and while Howard did well to parry the resulting attempt by McCarthy, Costinha stole in to put away the loose ball.

If only O'Shea wasn't too busy ball-watching.

If only Djemba-Djemba hadn't gone off injured at half-time.

If only Ronaldo hadn't been injured less than 10 minutes after coming on.

If, if, if.

It's probably best to be philosophical about this. I don't think United could have won the Champions League this season anyway.

It's still heartbreaking, though.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

10:16 PM - Dem bones

A digi-doodle of a Xevoz Skulljack.

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10:14 PM - They pushed him too far ...

It's Asimo unleashed!

(Katana, nunchuks and mace sold separately.)

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Monday, March 08, 2004

7:35 PM - Eh?

Graffiti seen today: "Who want's to be a women air"

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7:25 PM - Thrust hips, pump fists

Long story short, I now have a Masterpiece Convoy to call my own. Disaster averted. We are back at DEFCON 5. Life as we know it can go on. You may exhale now.

By the way, if you're an action figure fan, don't walk, don't run, teleport to your nearest TRU and pick up one of the new Xevoz figures. The first wave is out locally and I got Skulljack and Razorclaw for RM34.90 each, which really is outstanding value for what you get.

Skulljack, in particular, just shivers me timbers.

(Oh, quit groaning.)

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Sunday, March 07, 2004

8:02 PM - Typical

I'm a goddamned Cassandra.

I called the store today to enquire about Masterpiece Convoy and sure enough, they didn't have one ready for me. I just knew I was in for a disappointment the moment the twit who answered the phone (who happened to be the same twit who took my pre-order two months ago) asked for my deposit slip number.

I was then told by this twit -- he sounded rather drugged when I called and I suspect he overdosed on stupid pills -- the head office hadn't sent down stocks of the figure.

I was, to put it mildly, dissatisfied with this explanation.

After interrogating the twit, I was told he'd call me back before noon tomorrow after conferring with his boss. Since he sounded quite nervous at the prospect of my calling his boss directly, that's precisely what I'm going to do. If I do not get a satisfactory answer and I do not have a Masterpiece Convoy in my hands by the end of the day, the fan is going to get smothered.

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8:00 PM - "Please suck my blood!"

I don't know if this list of translated Fiveman episode titles is accurate but at the very least, the episode titles are intriguing. A sample:

04 - Intoxicate the Earth

05 - I Think I Am A Galaxy Egg

07 - The 45 meter Student

10 - Please Suck My Blood!

15 - Red is Two People!!

31 - A Dangerous Mother

42 - Kung Fu Soul

I will now undoubtedly spend several sleepless nights wondering whether I might be a galaxy egg. How do I tell? What set of circumstances might turn me into one?

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Saturday, March 06, 2004

11:07 PM - United through

United edged Fulham 2-1 at Old Trafford to qualify for the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

Fulham drew first blood after mistakes by Keane and Brown handed Fulham a penalty which Malbranque put away but van Nistelrooy got a brace with both United goals coming from quick breaks with pinpoint delivery from the wings.

The most notable thing about the match was the way Ferguson reshuffled the team after Fortune joined United's lengthy injury list before the match. During the course of the match, we saw Keane at centreback, Phil Neville at right-back, Fletcher in a central midfield position and even Giggs at left-back.

I wonder who the canny Scotsman is going to play in place of the suspended Keane for the Champions League match against Porto. Djemba-Djemba showed the kind of drive and enthusiasm you'd want to see in the engine room when he came on in the 75th minute but Fletcher did very well in the same position for most of the match. It's possible Ferguson will opt to play safe and resort to using Phil Neville and Butt but United need goals and those two aren't renowned for their creativity.

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10:59 PM - Hit them where it hurts

One of the kids I tutor told me that his school teacher has begun fining students whenever they speak Chinese during English class or forget to do their work. The kid added he was now very broke.

Who says teaching pays poorly?

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10:57 PM - To love is to live

This picture on Frangipani made me smile a little and made me a little sad. Be sure to read the related blog entry.

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Friday, March 05, 2004

9:32 PM - Number two

It's been suggested United are less convincing this season because Ferguson's lacked a number two man but I think United are specifically missing Carlos Queiroz. The latter was credited with improving United's defence and I don't think it's a coincidence the defence hasn't been as formidable since he left for Real Madrid.

It took Ferguson a long time to appoint someone to fill in the spot vacated by Queiroz and it would be fair to say no one was expecting him to pick Walter Smith.

It smacks of a panic decision. For one thing, it's only a temporary arrangement till the end of the season. Add to that the impromptu nature of this -- Smith was approached at a funeral the two were attending -- and one might be forgiven for thinking Ferguson's starting to feel the pressure. We know he can handle the footballing side of things but this season's off-field problems may have finally unsettled him.

Can Smith help turn United's season around? I don't see how because the season's effectively over. I'm firmly convinced United are in for a sound thrashing in the Champions League at some point and I cannot see them beating Arsenal in the FA Cup if the two should meet.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the offseason. I'm predicting a clearout with Ferguson moving to get rid of those who couldn't or can no longer hack it. United's current players would do well to remember how the manager got rid of Ince and Kanchelskis back in 1995.

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9:24 PM - He who waits

They say all good things come to he who waits. It's the sort of saying that makes me want to punch "they" in the groin.

If you recall, I've been eagerly looking forward to getting Masterpiece Convoy since I first set eyes on it last July.

The figure was released in December but I couldn't scrounge up the money for it until January and by that time, HLJ had sold out its stock of the popular figure.

So I had to take the long, torturous route to get it. I did not want to, of course. I did not stand at a metaphorical crossroads and think to myself, "The sign says, 'Long, Torturous Route.' Mmm, that sounds like fun. I think I'll try that." It just happened the route I chose turned out to be long and torturous. I was not surprised in the least. It's the sort of thing that happens to me with alarming regularity.

Anyway, I tried a local retailer. I was pleasantly surprised to find the difference in price wasn't that great. It would have cost me US$113 to get it directly from Japan and it was retailing locally for US$117. Plus, I would be saving some time since it would take up to five weeks to get it from HLJ.

(Well, that was the theory.)

Elated, I placed my order for Masterpiece Convoy in January after being assured numerous times that I would have it in my hands before Chinese New Year.

"Sure?" I asked.

"Sure, sure," went the reply. "We'll call you."

Chinese New Year came and went and I didn't hear anything from the store so I called in early February to find out just what the hell had happened.

"About Masterpiece Convoy ... ," I began.

"March," the answer quickly came which suggested it was well-rehearsed and frequently trotted out.

A person less used to this sort of thing might have vented and harangued the shopkeeper for some time but I simply resigned myself to more waiting.

The exasperating thing about this was that HLJ was taking orders for the figure for an expected restocking in March. I was just about to cancel my local order and get it from HLJ when HLJ stopped taking orders.

(By the way, if any seismologists in the Southeast Asia region were wondering about the strange readings they were picking up around early February, I should point out that it was only me hitting my head repeatedly on the wall.)

Then March arrived. Tired of waiting for the call, I called the store again today.

"The Masterpiece Convoy ... ," I started having braced myself for another disappointment.

"Saturday," the answer quickly came.

Now there's no reason whatsoever to believe the figure would actually arrive at the store on Saturday but what the hell, maybe the stars would align just so and it would happen.

I can't make it to the store on Saturday but I should have Masterpiece Convoy in my hands by next Monday.

But needless to say, I've braced myself for further disappointment. Maybe I would be handed a 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime. Maybe I'd open the box and find Masterpiece Convoy coloured pink with green spots.

Like I said, alarming regularity.

Anyway, if you should per chance hear an impossibly loud gut-wrenching cry of anguish emanating from the Southeast Asia region over the next few days, you'll know who and you'll know why.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

7:58 PM - The Commander

Yet another version of that CommanderMicroman digi-doodle. (Previous versions: 1, 2.)

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7:53 PM - Got milk?

We've all heard mother's milk is the best but I think it is possible to take that too far. Soccernet relates an anecdote about Betis Sevilla player Joaquin Sanchez:

According to the potted biography of the player that appeared in the papers this weekend ... he was breast-fed by his mother (who else?) up to the ripe old age of six. More graphically the narrative informed us of the fact that when Joaquín started to play competitively at this very age, he would forego the half-time oranges (plenty of those in Seville) for a quick tweak of the maternal paps, apparently unconcerned as to the reaction this would often provoke among his team-mates. As if this wasn't enough, he would tend to refresh himself at full-time as well, just for good measure.

Disconcertingly, the article doesn't state whether the player, now 22, has actually been weaned off his mother's tit.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

6:35 PM - Takara updates

Takara Hobby has another interview with Abiko Kazutami and the great news is that there are some terrific shots of the upcoming Micro Action Series.

Batman

First up, Batman ver. Comic (1, 2). I don't care for the urban camouflage-ish patterns on the costume or the exaggerated square jaw but I'll probably end up getting it.

I love the fact Takara have included a whole slew of Bat-accessories. The Dark Knight comes with a Batarang, handcuffs, gas mask and a grappling hook (2).

Next up, Batman ver. Flight Gear (1, 2, 3), an original Takara design which features detachable wings capable of forming a shield mode. Take note of how his weapon attaches to his ass. It might result in some embarrassing injuries should he absentmindedly sit down.

Casshern

Casshern (or Casshan) is relatively unknown outside Japan but that's about to change this year with the release of a live-action movie. Thai-toku has screencaps from the movie trailer and from what I've seen, the movie has "international hit" written all over it.

The Micro Action Series version of Casshern is based on the movie design and it differs slightly from the Tatsunoko Fight version released last year. The figure comes with three different heads: movie-style mask (2, 3, 4), unmasked (2) and an anime-influenced helmet. Casshern also happens to be another superhero who keeps weapons on his ass. The Jet Stream Hip Rockets double as his Pulsar guns.

Microlady

Microman designer Abiko Kazutami spoke at length about the upcoming Material Force female body template design. It was designed from scratch (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and he took pains to point out the differences between this figure and the male body template released earlier. For instance, the Microlady's shoulder/upper arm area feature brand-new joints.

The female body template includes loads of optional parts. For starters, you get seven different pairs of hands: weapons grip with up/down swivel, weapons grip with in/out hinge, gun grip, fingers spread, chop, fist and a poorly-executed "peace" sign. (There's also a picture showing how the hands were designed.)

In addition, each figure includes two pairs of feet: normal and with high heels. Interestingly, Takara have dropped that mysterious 3mm slot from the feet.

And just in case it wasn't immediately obvious this figure was designed by a guy for guys, I should point out the female body template comes with three different bust sizes (2, 3, 4).

(More pix: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.)

Abiko rightly points out there aren't any other female action figures in this scale with this level of articulation. Customisers, who were apparently urging Takara to produce this figure, will go absolutely wild with this. They've been producing some fantastic customs based on the Material Force Microman male figure templates. (E.g. K-No's excellent customs including Pisces Aphrodite and Leo Aiolia from the Saint Seiya franchise and Kamen Rider Kaixa from the Kamen Rider 555 series.)

Takara will do some brisk business with this figure and I just hope the company doesn't underestimate the demand. The original Material Force Microman figures were almost impossible to obtain outside Japan.

The female body template will also be used to produce two MicroLady and two AcroLady figures but Takara will probably only reveal them in the April update. The pictures were released in January by Be-J web but they were later removed. (At Takara's behest, perhaps?) Paul Lorphanpaibul has pictures of MicroLady Ninja and AcroDita archived on his site, though.

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Monday, March 01, 2004

9:29 PM - Draw

United put themselves in further trouble after dropping points against Fulham with a 1-1 draw at Loftus Road (the Insider report).

Ferguson rested several first team members and played others in unusual positions but for the most part United put in a decent performance.

Scholes was a disappointment, though. He played in his favourite position at the centre of midfield but he wasn't as influential as I would have liked.

Most of United's creativity and menace came via the excellent Ronaldo and fittingly, it was the Portuguese whiz-kid's pass which saw Saha give United the lead after a run that showcased the ex-Fulham man's strength and speed.

But United proved incapable of hanging on to their lead yet again. Boa Morte equalised in the 64th minute after accelerating past Brown and beating Carroll.

United are now third and trail Arsenal by 9 points.

Next season can't come soon enough for me.

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9:21 PM - Cheap pix

Who says you need an expensive digital SLR camera to produce eye-catching shots?

Artistic eye + cheap pencam + post-processing = cool pix.

(Favourites: 1, 2, 3, 4.)

(Link obtained from MeFi.)

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