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Friday, April 30, 2004

12:12 AM - Tinker, failure, Gerrard buy?

Rob Smyth adds to the "End of an Era" media prognostication slash finger-wagging which follows every United setback. He does, however, make some very good points about Ferguson's tinkering:

Without players playing in their natural positions every week, the instinctive fluidity that comes from simple repetition has gone. Instead you have Ryan Giggs on the right wing, up front, and even at left-back; Paul Scholes in the hole or wide on either side in midfield; Ole Solskjaer on either wing; Darren Fletcher and Kleberson on the right wing. Gary Neville even rocked up at left-back for the first time in living memory in the crucial title decider at Highbury last season.

...

A side that played some of the most pulsating football imaginable - in 1999-2000 they scored 97 goals in 38 games, miles clear of this Arsenal side - has become boring. When Ronaldo does not play, United are about as dynamic and exciting to watch as Songs of Praise.

The days when Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke - whose ability to take players out of the game in the centre of the park United have never replaced, though they tried with Ronaldinho - buzzed around and Roy Keane marauded through midfield are, like Keane's legs, long gone.

Replacing Keane is simply impossible. For 10 years he was United's pulse, and he is probably the most influential player in the club's history - just look, for example, at the mess United made of the first 80 minutes of the Champions League final without him to guide them.

Replacing Keane is not impossible actually. There's one player plying his trade in the Premiership right now who could fill Keane's boots but alas, it would be extraordinarily difficult to pry him away from his current employers.

I'm talking about Steven Gerrard. He's definitely worth breaking the bank for. There are unsubstantiated rumours of a 20 million pound summer bid but he'd be a bargain at 30 million. His swashbuckling style of play is guaranteed to add plenty to any squad and with his determination and commitment, you know you're going to get 90 minutes of all out action. He is, for all intents and purposes, Roy Keane ver. 2.0.

If there is a chance Gerrard's going to leave Liverpool, Ferguson needs to act to prevent Wenger grabbing him. You can kiss off United's titles hopes for the next few years if Gerrard ends up at Arsenal because he would form a killer combo with Vieira in the middle of the park.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

8:12 PM - River horse

Did you know the hippopotamus is considered the deadliest African mammal? Hippopotamus amphibius is said to cause more human deaths in that continent than the lion.

I don't doubt the animal's reputation as a dangerous beast -- a juggernaut weighing 4000 kg and capable of speeds of up to 40 kph would definitely cause some serious damage and that's without taking into account its razor-sharp incisors -- but I was curious whether the hippo was as deadly as it's made out to be.

A Google search led me to a Straight Dope article that attempted to address that claim but apart from relating a few anecdotes, there was nothing conclusive in it. Indeed, there don't appear to be any numbers for hippo-caused deaths online and most hippo-related articles are merely content to repeat the "the most dangerous African animal (aside from the mosquito)" claim.

Still, it's deadliness is not the most astonishing thing about the comical-looking creature. I had previously been aware of the hippo's strangest trait thanks to a National Geographic documentary some years back and it remains, ah, what's the word I'm looking for here ... fascinating? Well, that's not quite it. Anyway, you may or may not be, ah, fascinated to learn the male hippo proves its dominance by the amount of crap it produces. More crap, more dominant.

If that sounds hauntingly familiar, it's because the same principle holds true in politics.

Some hippo-related links:

(I know this is neither here nor there but I came across an interesting disease name while looking for hippo-related sites and I just have to share. "Babesiosis" sounds like it might be a disease caused by excessive exposure to beautiful women but it's not.)

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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

12:40 AM - Alive 'n' kicking

There's an article about the history and the impact of Dungeons & Dragons on (of all places) the BBC. It's a nice read but there were a couple of contentious points made. Consider the ending:

In the age of the iPod, mp3s, DVDs and online videogames, it is perhaps remarkable that a game based purely on pen, paper and dice remains so popular.

It's only remarkable if you didn't pay attention to the gaming industry. A check with the Toy Industry Association statistics page shows the games and puzzle category had over US$2 billion in sales for the last 6 months of 2002 and that's an increase of 19.1 percent compared to the same period the previous year. (Check out Alan Emrich's site for articles related to board game sales.)

Furthermore, the writer of the BBC article does not seem to be aware of -- or chooses to ignore -- the numerous computer and console games which were based on the D&D license.

Be sure to read the reader's comments at the end of the article. Aside from the "Ah, how I miss it" recollections and the predictable "Get a life"-type comments, there are a couple of nifty D&D-related anecdotes. I was especially amazed to discover there's a British Schools D&D Team Championship. The mind doth boggle. How does one win that championship? Most orcs hacked? Most gold accrued? Highest die roll?

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Sunday, April 25, 2004

10:14 PM - Neville strikes again

United were beaten by old foes Liverpool 1-0 at Old Trafford yesterday.

Both sides cancelled each other out for most of the match and there were precious few attempts on goal.

Gerrard got into the United box in the second half with a typically powerful surging run but there didn't seem to be any immediate danger. Gary Neville, however, felt somehow compelled to stick a foot out and Gerrard promptly fell over. No one could have any reason to contest the decision, though. Murphy stepped up and slotted home the penalty to give Liverpool the three points.

The highlight of the entire match for me was seeing two sides of Ronaldo. First, he got himself carded when he displayed his childish impetuosity by throwing the ball forcefully to the ground after a throw-in decision didn't go his way. A minute later, he casually displayed some breathtaking footwork to pass the ball.

United need more players capable of Ronaldo's unpredictablity. Preferably someone speedy to play on the opposite side of Ronaldo.

Giggs isn't producing the goods on a regular basis anymore and Ferguson should think about offloading him. United aren't going to get much for the Welshman because he's past his sell-by date but the gains in terms of wages saved should be reason enough to consider that option.

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10:13 PM - Chinese Democracy

It's 2004.

Big Brother is alive and well.

And is willing to do anything to stay that way.

From the Washington Post:

On a Saturday morning in the summer of 2000, eight young people met in a shabby apartment near Beijing University and started a study group to debate the need for political reform in China. Some were students. Others were recent graduates. Not one was over 30.

They were still friends back then, brought together by a shared desire to change their country for the better. After lunch, the group -- seven men and one woman -- took a stroll across campus, earnestly discussing the nation's problems under the willow trees surrounding a green lake.

Two days later, one of the students recorded the day's events on a sheet of lined paper under his university's letterhead.

...

And then he delivered the report to the Ministry of State Security.

(Link obtained from Hit & Run.)

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Friday, April 23, 2004

9:13 PM - Snap, snap, snap

I've updated my Fotopic album with some new shots. Go check it out.

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8:50 PM - Four words to live by

Feeling down? Has the world been beating up on you? I've got the pick-me-up for you. Just take to heart the words of a classic Beatles song:

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Developers, developers, developers, developers

(Link obtained from Slashdot.)

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12:22 AM - Neville strikes again

United beat Charlton 2-0 (BBC, Soccernet) at Old Trafford early Wednesday morning. Some observations:

  • Saha was outstanding. He worked hard and was constantly harrying the Charlton players.

  • Van Nistelrooy, back in the starting line-up, didn't get his name on the scoresheet but looked as determined and as single-minded as ever. Give him the ball and he will turn in the direction of goal and fire off a shot.

  • Bellion seems to be every United player's favourite chew toy. That is to say the other United players seem to enjoy chewing him out. Van Nistelrooy yelled at the speedy young Frenchman twice for getting caught offside which was a bit, shall we say, rude since the Dutch Master probably gets caught offside more often than any other player in the Premiership. Djemba-Djemba got caught in possession in the second half and immediately turned to yell at Bellion for passing the ball to him.

    Still, Bellion persevered and got the assist for United's first goal. He ran more than half the length of the pitch and passed to fellow Frenchman Saha. The angle seemed a tad acute but Saha's resulting shot was not only on target but it was too hot for Kiely to handle.

  • Buy lottery tickets, everyone. Gary Neville scored his second goal in a week after getting on the end of a Saha pass. Amazing. If Neville keeps at this, Ferguson might be convinced to get rid of van Nistelrooy in the summer.

    Irrefutable fact: Gary Neville has scored more goals than van Nistelrooy in United's last three matches.

    (Another irrefutable fact: van Nistelrooy didn't play in two of those three matches.)

  • If there's one cause for worry, it must be the fact United are conceding possession far too cheaply. A couple of players got caught in possesion in dangerous positions but more worryingly, United's game is being easily read by opponents. Numerous passes were telegraphed and easily intercepted.

  • It was a competent performance by United. Charlton made United work hard for the three points and there was little in the way of sexy football being displayed. The result moves United within a point of Chelsea with four matches left to play.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

11:20 PM - Album

I've only got 20MB of space on this site to store my blog data and digi-doodles so I decided to sign up with a photo database site to share my photos.

I picked Fotopic (specifically the Standard Free Service) so I now have a massive 250MB of space for photos. Now, 250MB might not seem like much at a time when most home PCs ship with 80GB hard disks but it's more than I need for my photos. I've uploaded 17 pictures thus far and managed to take up a grand total of 0.67MB of space. At that rate, I've still got space enough for an estimated 6344 pictures.

Users are discouraged from hot-linking to photos and there is a bandwidth limitation in place but that's only understandable. There's also a Premium Plan with less restrictions if you're interested and willing to pay.

Anyway, check out my Fotopic gallery. There isn't much there right now and I'll apologise in advance for the quality of the snaps. I'm still practising with the digicam and trying to figure out what works and what doesn't for a particular situation.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

9:56 PM - The red flag

This is the same piece of news reported by three different news organisations.

The BBC:

Ten people have been arrested following a series of anti-terror raids.

...

They were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 on suspicion of involvement in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

...

[Assistant Chief Constable David Whatton of Greater Manchester Police] said speculation that public buildings in Manchester were targets for terrorists was "extremely unhelpful" and urged the public to be vigilant.

The Guardian:

Sources in Manchester suggested they were planning to target a specific event where large numbers of people would be gathered, such as a football match, rather than the Trafford Centre, as had been suggested.

The Sun:

A suicide bomb plot to kill thousands of soccer fans at Saturday’s Manchester United-Liverpool match was dramatically foiled yesterday.

...

They had already bought the tickets for various positions in the stadium, cops revealed last night.

The official Manchester United response:

Manchester United have dismissed newspaper reports suggesting Old Trafford was a target for terrorists, following the arrest of several suspects in Greater Manchester.

Despite the Sun's less than stellar reputation for reporting, their claim does ring true. Al Qaeda may be crackpots but they're media-savvy crackpots. The high-profile match between Manchester United, the world's most popular club playing the world's most popular sport, and the other team (Kidneypond, was it?) will have a televised audience numbering in the hundreds of millions. If you want to draw attention, that would be the time and the place.

What will be the ramifications of this threat? The increased security and extra vigilance resulting from this can only be a good thing, of course.

Would this threat dissuade United fans from visiting Old Trafford and cause a hit in ticket sales? I doubt it. Like that chant goes:

Oh it's a grand old team to play for,
Oh it's a grand old team to see,
And if, you know, your history,
It's enough to make your heart go woh, oh, oh,oh...
We don't care what the city fans say,
What, the f*ck do we care,
For we only know, that there's gonna be a show,
And the famous Man United will be there.

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9:53 PM - Yes way!

There were a couple of snarky comments made online about the retitling of the Hellboy movie for Malaysian audiences.

Interestingly, this isn't the first time a movie had its title changed because it had the H-word. From the IMDB trivia section for "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey":

"The original title was "Bill and Ted go to Hell" but was changed because of American objections to the use of the word "hell".

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Monday, April 19, 2004

9:31 PM - What it's good for

From ToyDirectory.com:

Heavy television coverage of the war with Iraq gave the world a front row position for the parade of impressive U.S. and British weaponry, and toy manufacturers paid particular attention.

...

Many would be surprised to learn that the exchange of ideas is not a one-way street. The U.S. military also keeps an eye on new toy releases as a means of generating ideas for new weapons prototypes. The army based its quick-loading assault weapons on Hasbro's Supersoaker design. Other inspirations include: reconnaisance drones (R/C planes), walkie talkies with video capability (cheap cell phones for kids) and unmanned robotic vehicles (video game controllers).

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9:27 PM - Attention please

Remember the Bart Simpson gags involving him phoning Moe and asking for folks with embarrassing names?

Someone tried the same thing at Heathrow Airport.

It's crass.

It's juvenile.

But oh-so-funny.

(Link obtained from memepool.)

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Sunday, April 18, 2004

10:08 PM - Stoned

United were beaten 1-0 by relegation candidates Portsmouth last night. It was another early kick-off which meant I missed the entire first half. Judging from United's tepid performance in the second half, it was probably for the best.

United have now lost Premiership matches against Portsmouth, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Wolverhampton, Chelsea, Fulham and Southampton this season. United could have relied on their second eleven to see off at least five of those seven teams in seasons past.

ESPN pundit Gerry Armstrong suggested United need to get four new signings if they're to remain competitive with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea next season and it's hard to argue with that. Ferguson needs to be ruthless in the summer because some of United's current squad aren't worthy of the famous red jersey.

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9:50 PM - Digicam notes

Some notes on the Nikon Coolpix 3700:

  • Taking a picture is easy. Taking a good picture is not.

  • It may be categorised as a point and shoot camera but there are still a lot of settings you can change to affect the quality of the shot. For better or worse.

  • I need to look into getting a cheap lighting solution. Pictures taken with the 3700's flash tend to look like -- I hope I'm not intimidating you with this photographic term -- "ass." The pictures look washed out and overexposed with strange Bizarro World colours.

  • Keen on experimenting with post-processing, I downloaded the latest version of IrfanView (3.90, fact fans) and grabbed all the available plug-ins. My use of those plug-in effects tends to make the pictures look like they were taken with a cheap toy camera by someone incompetent right now but I'm sure with practice, I'll be able to make the pictures look like they were taken with a cheap toy camera by someone inebriated.

  • The digicam is capable of capturing a lot of detail and this includes every single mote and speck of dust. I have heard legends of an ancient technique for vanquishing dust called "dusting" and I intend to find out what it entails. I hope there's a FAQ or something somewhere.

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9:49 PM - Woody

Have you ever wistfully thought, "I sure wish there were action figures made of wood ... "? If so, rejoice for Maxim Enterprise has the action figure for you. It's called Fidgetz and there's a picture of it on Toy Directory. The write-up notes:

According to Maxim, playing with Fidgetz helps young children, as well as those with disabilities, improve their hand-eye coordination and problem solving skills.

I wonder how many kids pined for an action figure because it would really improve their hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills.

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Thursday, April 15, 2004

9:51 PM - 1-0

Gary Neville scored one of his rare goals to ensure United beat Leicester at Old Trafford. Some notes:

  • The match was a bit scrappy and so was the goal that decided the match. Ronaldo's attempt at goal wasn't even on target but the ball hit the trailing leg of a Leicester defender and rebounded fortuitously into the path of the advancing Neville who slammed the ball into the back of the net.

  • I was delighted by the way the hardworking Saha and the rampant Ronaldo linked up. These two are going to be devastating next season. Ronaldo tore apart the Leicester defence time and time again with his brilliant control, footwork and dribbling while Saha was constantly harassing the Leicester defenders, making darting runs and even getting back to defend during corners. If the Frenchman's finishing had been sharper, he would've got the goal his performance deserved.

  • Carroll made another notable mistake in this match. With only two minutes on the clock, his clearance of an O'Shea back-pass went straight to Izzet. Fortunately, the Leicester man's snap shot was so far off-target, it resulted in a United throw.

  • I think Forlan has realised his Manchester United career is over. He had a forgettable outing and the dejected look on his face and the way he dragged his feet when he was being replaced with Fletcher said it all.

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9:32 PM - The final frontier

Pictures like this make it oh-so-easy to dismiss those who would airily dismiss digital art.

(Link obtained from MeFi.)

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9:16 PM - Mini-Bot

Thanks to Tempest Blue who pointed out this link to me. Being a robot freak (as in "a person who freaks over robots" rather than "a freak who happens to be a robot"), I had previously been aware of it through Slashdot and MeFi. Unfortunately, the site's contents were faked.

Speculation has it the site is an example of stealth marketing because the site owner happens to be a producer of commercials. However, I couldn't find any link between the site owner and Mini or BMW. (Admittedly, I didn't try that hard.) I wonder if that ad company put up that site to showcase what it was capable of in terms of stealth marketing.

The bottom line is that Mini-Bot is as fake as the Bumblebee video (2) but it's still neatoriffic, nonetheless.

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8:55 PM - Photos

I played around with the digicam again and hand-coded a simple photo gallery for the resulting photos. I hope to eventually to get a program that automatically generates an online photo gallery because doing it manually is a pain.

Speaking of tedious tasks, I also need to get photo editing software. I'm currently editing photos with Pixia and it's a bit time-consuming. Take this shot of a Xevoz Razorclaw, f'rinstance:

Removing the background clutter from the picture took much longer than I expected. It's probably easier with dedicated photo editing software like Photoshop Elements.

(Incidentally, aside from removing most of the background from the photo, I also presented Razorclaw with a pair of red digital peepers.)

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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

6:27 PM - Coolpix

I got the Nikon Coolpix 3700 today.

Boeing Electronics at Sg. Wang Plaza is said to have very competitive prices so I headed there to get the digicam. I was gratified when the sales assistant, Stanley, quoted a price of RM1050, which is quite good since the suggested retail price for that particular model is RM1388.

I was hoping to get a tripod as well but the shop had run out of Sakure tripods. I settled for a Nikon-branded tabletop tripod and was quoted a price of RM80 for it.

I'm proud to report I managed to shave 10 whole ringgit off the total thanks to my hardcore take-no-prisoners bargaining style.

(Okay, I actually went, "Can reduce-ah?" and was startled when the sales assistant complied without a fuss.)

Total damage was RM1120 and I later got a 128MB Apacer SD Card for RM150 from Robyn Computer at Low Yatt. I would have purchased flash memory from Boeing but they quoted RM180 for a 128MB SD card.

Say, "Jeez ..."

Getting started with the Coolpix 3700 was quite easy since Nikon provided a quick start guide. I was soon snapping pictures and filling up the 16MB starter card provided with the camera. I was amazed at how simple it was to operate the 3700. There's a very good reason why it's called a "point and shoot" digicam.

Granted, the quality of the shots would probably make a pro or an enthusiast blanch, but the pix look pretty darn good in my ever so humble opinion.

I did face a problem during my first attempt at transferring the pictures to the PC. I had earlier installed the bundled software, Nikon View 6.1 and ArcSoft's Panorama Maker 3.0, but for some fershlugginer reason, Nikon View didn't autolaunch as it was supposed to when I connected the digicam to the PC.

Worse still, I couldn't switch off the digicam following that failed transfer attempt. The power indicator stayed on and the lens remained extended despite my repeated attempts at turning off the digicam. Upon conferring with the Boeing salesman, I was told to remove the battery from the digicam while it was still on.

Now, the Nikon manual specifically mentions on page 9 you're not supposed to do this. It's even in bold type. The manual didn't state what the consequences of that action would be but I'm guessing it cannot be anything good. It's in bold, for god's sake.

Still, I did exactly that and thankfully, I managed to switch off the camera and then successfully transferred the pictures to the PC on my second attempt.

Anyway, here's the wascally wabbit, Honeybunny:

Expect more pix soon.

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12:16 AM - On your guard

Oh, the things this cat wants to do to you.

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Monday, April 12, 2004

9:50 PM - Command I ver. Microforce

Microman Tokyo Tama Base describes how you can convert a repro Microman Command I into a super-articulated action figure using parts from a Microman Microforce figure and option parts from WAVE and Kotobukiya.

I only wish I had the patience and skills for a project like that.

Not to mention the constitution.

Plastic modellers must lead very short lives because the materials they work with is highly toxic and probably carcinogenic as well.

I once had a day-long headache after opening a bottle of plastic cement despite holding it at arm's length in front of an open window. That effectively put an end to any thoughts I had about getting into plastic modelling.

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9:43 PM - Share

There are a number of sites and services out there that allow you to share your umpteen photos of indistinguishable sunsets but precious few that allow you to share large multimedia files like, say, AVIs or MOVs.

Dropload has an interesting service which allows you to upload any large file (up to 50MB!) to its server and you can then invite someone to download it. The file is only stored on Dropload's server for 48 hours but that gives you plenty of time to notify the intended recipient and provide them with the download location.

The service is free right now and you're allowed to share any type of file as long as the material isn't illegal. I haven't signed up yet because I haven't any need for the service right now but I suspect Dropload will be a godsend for some.

(Link obtained from Ask MeFi.)

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Sunday, April 11, 2004

10:41 PM - Positively l33t

The New Sunday Times reports:

The Internet should be used by everyone to enhance their knowledge and improve their English, says former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Here's a translation of the above for people who learnt English primarily through the Internet:

teh intanret sohu7d be uedb y 3varyone yto enhance tehir knowledge anmd i/\/\prove theitr english, sayz former prime /\/\inistwr tun dr mahathir moHam4d...

The Dialectizer: Making dull writing entertaining. Slap mah fro!

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12:14 AM - Heads, United win

United beat Birmingham 2-1 at St. Andrews Stadium just now. The team in red and black were far from convincing, however.

Sir Alex made some strange tactical decisions for this match. He didn't change the defensive unit but opted for an unfamiliar new midfield unit consisting of Scholes and Djemba-Djemba in the middle with Fletcher on the right and inexplicably, Solskjaer on the left. Up front, Saha led the line with Giggs having a license to roam just behind.

It did not work.

Solskjaer was isolated for most of the match and Giggs was fairly ineffectual. Most of United's offensive threat in the first half -- and there wasn't much -- came through Fletcher, who was playing out on the right despite having a good outing in central midfield in last week's FA Cup semi-final match against Arsenal.

All told, it was a rather dour first half with few shots on target. Birmingham were quick to shut down United whenever the Red Devils had the ball and Steve Bruce's side wasn't causing Carroll that many problems either. I was actually nodding off when Birmingham scored in the 39th minute through a Grainger freekick. It was struck well enough but Carroll should be faulted for allowing the ball to slip through his hands.

The first half ended with Birmingham leading 1-0 and I don't think anyone would be surprised to find smashed teacups in United's dressing room.

Saha had a great chance to level the score barely a minute after the restart but he couldn't put it in the back of the net. Ferguson clearly needed to change things because United were still having problems in the last third of the field.

Enter: Cristiano Ronaldo.

United were level six minutes later.

Did the Portuguese whiz-kid score with his left foot? No.

Did the Portuguese whiz-kid score with his right foot? No.

It was a header and an exquisite one, too.

United had their victory 18 minutes later when Saha finally got it right with another header.

Both goals came from crosses by Giggs but it must be said he looked far from his best today. He was fairly ineffectual in the first half and it wasn't until he switched to his traditional spot on the left that we saw some genuine threat from the Welshman.

Fletcher deserves special mention as well. The young midfielder really shone in the second half when he played in central midfield and I'd like to see him play in that position when United take on Leicester on Tuesday.

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Friday, April 09, 2004

10:15 PM - Three to one

Someone at Astro is certainly a huge Arsenal fan. If you'll recall, the company took a somewhat optimistic full-page ad last week.

Well, the satellite TV service provider took out a quarter-page ad in The Star today (page 52, fact fans) featuring pictures of the Arsenal stars with the following text:

Lord of the League

Victory is now at hand. History is about to change. Who will reign as king?

What an odd ad.

If Astro believes Arsenal are the "Lord of the League" and "Victory is now at hand", why ask "Who will reign as king?"

And why is history about to change if Arsenal win the Premiership this season? Will Wenger be handed a DeLorean with a flux capacitor?

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10:11 PM - Another one bites the dust

I used to think Queen's "We Will Rock You" was a great song.

I would like to thank Pepsi, Beyonce Knowles, Britney Spears and Pink for collectively disabusing me of that notion.

Why couldn't they have used another Queen song? Like, say, "Fat Bottomed Girls"?

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10:04 PM - The hell you say

What do you call a movie based on a comic titled "Hellboy" which features a protagonist named "Hellboy"?

If it's being shown in Malaysia, you apparently call it "Super Sapiens."

The reason for the change? I think the movie's local distributor, Buena Vista Colombia TriStar Films (Malaysia), was attempting to prevent the movie being banned in Malaysia. It's a desperate act and I think it's one that will be ultimately futile.

The Malaysian Censorship Board are not averse to making complete fools of themselves in justifying stupid irrational bans and I do sense an impending stupid irrational ban for this movie.

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Thursday, April 08, 2004

6:13 PM - Bravest of the brave

Next week marks the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. The one indelible image from that event must surely be that famous photo of a defiant little man standing in front of a column of tanks. He was armed with nothing more than a plastic bag and bags of courage.

What was going through his head when he stared down those war machines? What drove him to do what he did? Outrage? Despair?

He stood in front of that column of tanks for half an hour until a friend pulled him away. To this day, no one seems quite sure who he was or what became of him. When asked by Barbara Walters, Jiang Zemin replied, "I think never killed." Was ol' Jay-Zee disappointed?

The Time magazine article celebrating the Unknown Rebel makes it a point to also commend the driver of that lead tank. The People's Liberation Army slaughtered many civilians in Tiananmen -- there were even reports of interfactional fighting among PLA units -- but the crew of that tank did the decent thing in not crushing that solitary protester in their way. No one knows what happened to them either. Several hundred officers were later court-martialled for refusing to move against protesters and I wonder if that tank crew was among those punished.

That famous image has not only been embellished and romanticised but also dismissed but I think Neil Kinnock nails it with this quote:

The memory of one unarmed young man standing in front of a column of tanks . . . will remain . . . long after the present leadership in China and what they stand for has been forgotten.

(Links obtained from MeFi and Wikipedia.)

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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

8:47 PM - Netwit

More funny excerpts from IRC: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

This one isn't funny but it does make you wonder if perhaps Engrish is actually some sort of insidious code.

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8:42 PM - And I quote

Slashdot on the title of Star Wars Episode III:

"Star Wars: Episode III: A Big Pile of Sith" -- nightsweat

"Episode III Title: The Passion of Jar Jar ... two hours of Jar Jar being beaten." -- Kenja

"Star Wars Episode III: We've Lost All Hope" -- Milo Fungus

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8:40 PM - Nature's fury: Tooth, claw and blade

A digi-doodle of a Xevoz Razorclaw.

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Monday, April 05, 2004

7:30 PM - F***ing good

God bless the Internet. Where else are you going to get a comprehensive list of obscenities? The National Geographic Channel? I don't think so.

The list is quite accurate, too. I looked in the Malay, Tamil, Hokkien and Cantonese sections and was gratified to find all the old schoolyard favourites were there. Most of the obscenities are understandably based on excretion, reproduction, loved ones or combinations of all three but some of them show brilliant creativity.

The rest of Insultmonger.com is equally entertaining. I loved the insults section in particular.

Link  | 

Sunday, April 04, 2004

8:50 PM - Bargain

I've mentioned several times about my wanting to get a digicam. I've decided on the Nikon CoolPix 3700 and I should be getting it within two weeks if all goes well.

The CoolPix 3700 has a suggested retail price of RM1388 but the street price should be lower than that. I used to rely on Mykamera.com's price list to get an idea of what the street price might be but the site is now displaying suggested retail prices because apparently competing establishments complained that Mykamera.com's prices were too low.

Fortunately, the folks at the Lowyat.net Photography, Digital Imaging & Video forum are in the process of compiling a price list of digicams and related accessories. (There aren't any Nikon models listed at the moment but I gather the CoolPix 3700 is currently going for RM1100 or thereabouts.)

The list isn't meant to be authoritative -- it's more of a general guide -- but it gives me some idea of how I should bargain when I get my digicam. I'm an awful bargainer. I generally end up paying the retail price because I simply do not have the patience to go through the whole hassle of bargaining.

If there's such a thing as a gene for bargaining, I clearly did not inherit from my father who is an absolute master at lowering prices. How good is he? Suffice to say if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had a category for best acting in a bargaining situation, my father would have several shelves filled with shiny golden statuettes. He puts on this particularly pitiful facial expression and goes into this whole routine involving reciting his entire life history and highlighting sad childhood memories until he gets a huge chunk of the price tag shaved off. The salespeople at Bukit Bintang Plaza still speak in awe of his masterful performance in lowering the price of a Sega Megadrive back in '89.

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8:47 PM - Bob's the name

Ben Yee has an interview with Bob Budiansky, the writer who had the longest run on the first Transformers comic series and one of the most influential people to have worked on the franchise.

This is only the second Transformers-related interview Budiansky's given to my knowledge -- Charles Ellis interviewed him last year -- and it's nice to see he's finally recognised for the groundwork he laid. Elements he introduced during his run are still being recycled twenty years later and the bios he wrote for the toys are still the best. He took chunks of plastic and turned them into memorable characters with distinct personalities and quirks. It's a shame he never took much advantage of the story hooks in the character bios for his comic stories (which weren't always of stellar quality).

There aren't any jaw-dropping revelations in the interview but it's still a nice read.

Now if only someone could identify and interview the decision-makers at Hasbro and Griffin/Bacal who oversaw the birth of Transformers.

Link  | 

Saturday, April 03, 2004

10:09 PM - Sweatin' it

Craig Stovall has a nice list of exercises you can do at home without any equipment.

But where do the names come from? I suppose I can see how "exploding star jumps" got its name but what about "burpees" and "Hindu squats"?

(Link obtained from Ask MeFi.)

Link  | 

10:01 PM - Treble? Tres terrible!

United beat Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup. (BBC, Soccernet, clockwatch, pix, player ratings.)

Unfortunately, I only saw the last 30 minutes of the match as I had a class to teach. I was hoping to catch one of those rare diseases which would prevent me from teaching but wouldn't prevent me from watching live telecasts of football matches but alas, that did not come to pass. I hope Astro repeats the match soon.

Speaking of Astro, the satellite TV service had an ad in The Star today (page 43, fact fans) which featured the Arsenal stars with the following text below:

One team to rule them all

Road to Treble. The complete journey only on Astro.

Watch all the action as Arsenal journeys on to become the new Treble Champion by conquering the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League and the English FA Cup. Catch every single record-setting moment and match, only on Astro.

Well, good ol' Scholes put a stop to any Arsenal hope of emulating United in winning the Treble, didn't he?

I missed the goal but I did manage to see Scholes earn a yellow card with another one of his bad tackles. It's strange how he has such impeccable timing when it comes to making runs into the box and such poor timing when it comes to tackling. The ball wasn't even in the same postal code as Reyes when Scholes clattered into the young Spaniard.

I loved Wenger's post-match reaction:

If we had to choose one competition to go out of, it would be this one.

Translation: Oh, ze grapes are probab-lee sour anyway.

Link  | 

Friday, April 02, 2004

9:18 PM - Crunch time

Tomorrow is make or break time for United's season. The Red Devils face Arsenal in the semifinals of the FA Cup at Villa Park. Defeat would mean a barren season and that would be something unacceptable to Sir Alex Ferguson and his men.

The Star had a preview of the match in its Entertainment section today with comments from various local fans as well as a few politicians. The most interesting thing about the articles was the revelation the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, has been a United fan since he was a schoolboy.

I suspect a few of the fans mentioned are going to be embarrassed over their comments, though. Three of the United fans who were quoted were expecting Saha to play tomorrow -- two were even expecting him to play an important role -- and that simply isn't going to happen because the Frenchman's cup-tied.

One final observation: writers need to drop their aitches when they mention "Christiano Ronaldo." (NST columnist Lazarus Rokk made the same mistake.) It's "Cristiano." But I suspect they'll learn the correct spelling soon enough. The kid is all set to become a world-famous superstar.

Link  | 

Thursday, April 01, 2004

7:08 PM - The art of criticism

Notice how this poster makes a grand sweeping statement about digital art then completely fails to back his point up with anything specific.

That's art criticism for you: vague, pompous and unsubstantial.

Wait, did I just make a grand sweeping statement myself?

Well, crud.

Link  | 

6:52 PM - The reign in Spain

Feeling the need to get medieval, I've re-installed Medieval: Total War and started a new campaign.

I'm currently playing as the English and doing reasonably well despite having been excommunicated (twice) and currently embroiled in a war against the Spanish and the Almohad.

I'd just like to note that contrary to my previous assertions, there doesn't seem to be a fixed time-limit for the battles as it depends on the total number of soldiers on the battlefield. Small encounters involving a few hundred men might have a 30 minute limit while large battles involving thousands of men might have a 55 minute limit.

As I noted before, this is a fun game but it's not without its flaws. The tactical game is nigh-perfect but the strategic portion needs tweaking.

I've already mentioned the tedious unit movement on the strategic map and I'd like to add a complaint about the insufficient amount of information provided to players. Take for instance the production of units. Creative Assembly did provide a double-sided poster with the technology tree but I would have much preferred it if that information was provided in the game itself.

Furthermore, there's no indication of the special requirements that need to be fulfilled before some units can be produced. For example, Welsh Longbowmen can only be produced after the year 1205. Why wasn't this indicated anywhere in the game or in the manual? I had to rely on an online FAQ for that information.

Here's hoping Creative Assembly improves the strategic game for the upcoming Rome: Total War.

Link  | 

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