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Monday, May 31, 2004

6:52 PM - Strike a pose

There are some excellent CG-enhanced action figure photos on this site but navigating around the site is tough so I'm reluctantly linking to the directory listing. (Click on the larger-sized JPEGs to see the pix. The smaller ones are thumbnails.)

Link  | 

6:29 PM - Painted prayers

I recently took a photo of a kolam and then realised I had no idea what it actually was. I knew it's a decoration that can be found in front of most Indian homes but that was the extent of my knowledge.

A Google search reveals it's essentially a cross between Divine Aid and Protection from Evil. (Can you tell I've just ordered Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark?) There are better descriptions (1, 2) on the Net and this is the best:

Kolams link the private realm to communal life, hospitality to guests and passersby, the personal and familial to the divine. In this way, more than a transient art, they are a conscious science. They are a subtle bridge between the intimate home and the vast and challenging world beyond. In ancient times, wandering sadhus would enter a village with kolams gracing the thresholds of village homes and know something of the lives of the inhabitants of each house. Abundance, hardship, aspirations were written on the earth with a few lines and dots or the absence of them.

This tradition is still being kept alive today hundreds of years later and thousands of miles away from its point of origin.

Some traditions are better off dead, though. Consider this:

Traditionally, the women wash the path in front of the house. (Cowdung is used to clean up the ground, though this practise is no longer in vogue in the cities, mainly because cowdung is not easily available & most entrance path are now laid in cement or tiles.)

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6:21 PM - Marbles

Ben Sweet has pictures of marbles (1, 2) and I think you'll agree they are things of beauty.

Link  | 

6:21 PM - Kleos and akleos

N.S. Gill:

We're puzzled by the qualities the ancient Greeks looked for in their heroes. Agamemnon was honored and obeyed by those under him despite his slaying of his own daughter and appropriation of his second-in-command's prize. Said second-in-command, Achilles, tried to dodge the draft by the ruse of transvestitsm and, even after he and his troops were mobilized, threw the world's biggest hissy-fit. Yet Achilles was the Greeks' mortal hero par excellence.

Link  | 

Saturday, May 29, 2004

9:34 PM - The ABCs

Abba Richman displays fantastic creativity in his Alphabet and Alphabet in Colour photo galleries. His philosophy:

There is nothing to be invented in our visual world, it’s all there. I shy away from photographing glorious sunsets, flowers, animals and beautiful things (or people). I find myself again and again looking at ordinary everyday objects, at garbage, at the man in the street, looking at things really close up and trying to find beauty in their colour and form. Sometimes I find that beauty, more often I don’t. Now and then I am satisfied with what I have photographed, occasionally very satisfied and sometimes… well, I just start again and continue looking. In my search I thank God for giving me the eyes to see.

Link  | 

Thursday, May 27, 2004

7:43 PM - Magnemo

Takara's magnet-based Magnemo system probably isn't as well-known as the 5mm peg and port system but it's been around for a long time as well. The Magnemo system consists of parts with metal balls which attach to other parts containing magnets and as you might expect, this provides loads of interchangeability when you mix and match parts.

The Micronauts repros by Palisades were the most recent figures to sport the Magnemo system but sadly, Takara hasn't released any Magnemo figures since the Magne Powers Microman line.

I recently got Vampiser and Hellpion, two Magnemo-11 figures from the Magne Powers line. The figures are two members of the Acromonster trio and are meant to be counterparts of the Robotman figures. While clearly robotic, the Acromonster figures are very Beast Wars-like in that they have a lot of organic elements in their design.

Unfortunately, Vampiser and Hellpion fare very poorly as playable action figures. I had been made aware of the weak magnets of the Acromonsters but I was surprised at how cheap they feel when compared to the sturdy Robotman.

However, the Acromonsters are redeemed by the Magnemo interchangeability. There are some annoying design elements which prevent some parts from attaching to the Acromonsters and the combinations tend to be unstable but you can still create some interesting frankenrobots. I've only got Giant Acroyear, Robotman Baron, Hurricane Bird, the Magnecats plus the aforementioned Acromonsters but I've been so pleased with the interchangeability, I plan to get additional Magnemo-11 figures.

Link  | 

7:42 PM - Dress to kill

God bless HLJ. How else will ninjas living outside Japan order their ninja costumes?

But what about ninjas who don't have the financial wherewithal to purchase a costume? Well, there is a low-budget solution.

Link  | 

7:38 PM - Talking stock

The photo I linked to previously was removed by DeviantArt. No reason was given but this may have something to do with it:

During recent weeks many of our newer members, as well as some older members, have been submitting artworks and prints containing what they believe to be 'Stock' photographs only to see them removed by the staff as a violation of copyright.

I wish I had saved that shot, though. It really was a striking photo. Ah well.

Anyway, if you're interested in royalty-free photos, there are plenty of sources on the net. Most free stock photo sites merely require a link back or a credit for using their pix.

Link  | 

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

9:44 PM - Tomato? Tomato!

To whom it may concern,

First of all, let me extend my heartiest congratulations to you on being elected the spokesperson for the Japanese people. The fact you elected yourself to this post does not diminish this major honour in any way.

You certainly have your work cut out for you. Judging from the way you frequently post about it, it would seem one of your main duties as an elected representative of the Japanese people is to go around and harangue people whenever they make a mistake romanizing Japanese words. This is clearly An Important Issue to you.

You have on numerous occasions voiced your concern that the Japanese would consider people who make such mistakes stupid. To be perfectly frank, I had trouble believing the Engrish-loving Japanese would be overly concerned about accuracy when using foreign languages but as a duly elected representative of the Japanese people, you speak on behalf of over 120 million individuals and as such your words certainly carry a lot of weight.

If I might be so bold as to offer a suggestion, though, perhaps it would behoove you to take a long, hard look at how you use the English language before you start carrying out your critical duty of policing how folks use foreign languages. I suspect -- and this is just a hunch, mind you -- that some of the language you employ may not actually be, strictly speaking, the Queen's English. Now, you may argue that you are not, strictly speaking, a subject of the English Queen and you do not give a -- how shall I put this? -- fying fluck what the Queen thinks. Still, don't you think that's more than slightly hypocritical on your part? Just asking.

Thank you and my apologies for taking precious time away from your self-appointed task of policing fandom.

Link  | 

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

8:35 PM - The windows to the soul

This cute, adowable fwuffy widdle puppy would be a whole lot more cute and adorable if it didn't have eyes that suggest it's wondering whether it should disembowel you now or disembowel you later.

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8:10 PM - Firing blanks

I'm generally cautious when I'm surfing. The mighty Proxomitron filters out the major annoyances and on top of that, I don't accept cookies willy-nilly and frequently scan my system for malware with Ad-Aware, Spybot-S&D and AVG.

You can imagine my surprise then when Ad-Aware suggested Internet Explorer had been hijacked. This was puzzling since I only use IE when I'm updating Windows.

It turns out Ad-Aware is erring on the side of safety. I had manually set a blank page as my home page and Ad-Aware erroneously assumed the blank page was the result of a browser hijack. Lavasoft's support forum has instructions for configuring Ad-Aware so that it's slightly less paranoid.

Link  | 

Monday, May 24, 2004

8:29 PM - Glory, glory

United beat Millwall 3-0 to win the FA Cup for the 11th time.

Some notes:

  • United had a couple of great chances in the first half but the Red Devils had trouble beating the Millwall keeper and when United did manage to do so, there was usually a defender on the goal line to prevent the goal.

  • Millwall's player-manager, Dennis Wise, was his usual nasty self. He felled the outstanding Ronaldo then surreptitiously assaulted the young Red Devil while pretending to help him up. Wise, then a Chelsea player, did the same thing to Butt in 1999 and got the United man sent off for retaliation.

  • Wise's underhanded tactics did nothing to dampen Ronaldo's spirits, however. The Portuguese kid got his revenge in the best possible way when he ghosted into the box in the 43rd minute to get on the end of a Gary Neville cross and head past Marshall.

  • The goal seem to affect Millwall badly and the second half was all United. The impressive Fletcher could've doubled United's advantage just minutes after the break. The young midfielder, playing in his preferred position in the centre and keeping out the likes of Butt and Phil Neville, made a brilliant run from the halfway line to the Millwall box but he could only weakly flick the ball into the arms of the Millwall keeper.

  • Giggs kicked it into high gear in the second half and made a couple of great runs. Livermore was so panicked by one such mazy run that he brought down the Welshman in the box for a United penalty in the 65th minute. Van Nistelrooy stepped up and blasted it high to the keeper's right. The game was effectively over as a contest but there was still enough time for van Nistelrooy to add a third in the 81st minute with the assist coming from Giggs.

  • Much to the astonishment of everyone, van Nistelrooy was named the man of the match by the guest of honour, Sven-Goran Eriksson, and the United faithful made known their disagreement by immediately chanting Ronaldo's name. Eriksson's bizarre and indefensible decision doesn't bode well for England's chances at Euro 2004.

  • I think a lot of folks were moved when the United players put on jerseys bearing the name Davis and the number 36 before receiving their medals. It was a tribute to the late Jimmy Davis, a United youth and England Under-20 player who was killed last August in a road accident. An inquest determined the young player had been twice over the legal drink-drive limit when he crashed his BMW. One hopes young Ronaldo is better guided by his colleagues and manager. We don't want to be left wondering what could have been.

  • Keane put another excellent display in the final. He had a superb volley saved in the first half, provided the key pass that eventually led to United's first goal, made a couple of crunching tackles and generally dominated the midfield in his usual manner.

    The United captain is 32 but the veteran looks years older. Those midfield battles have taken their toll and it doesn't look like Keane will be around for much longer. He has, at the most, only another season at the highest level left in him. United will miss him and not just for his talent.

    The tribute to Davis was instigated by Keane. He doesn't forget a slight -- ask Alf Inge Haaland -- and he doesn't forget to honour those who deserve it. The Guardian also notes:

    For every allegation of scything down an opponent or, years ago, punching and puking his way through Manchester's nightclubs, there is an untold story. One involves him befriending a young boy dying from cancer and making such an impression that he was buried in one of Keane's shirts. Beside him in the coffin was a ball Keane had signed by all the United players.

Link  | 

Sunday, May 23, 2004

9:46 PM - Showa Television

Takara is at it again. From the Sunday Herald:

Motivating Japan’s 30-somethings to descend upon the High Street in a feverish mass is a phenomenon quickly becoming known as Showa Television fever. It has the nation’s men flocking to snap-up nine-inch square room models – complete with working televisions – at 19,800 yen (£98) a pop.

Developed by a crack scientific team seeking to cure the masculine mid-life crisis, the faithfully reproduced models of a typical post-war living room have struck a nostalgic chord that now looks set to reverberate worldwide.

Kitted-out with a high resolution 1.5-inch colour TV that can be connected to DVD players, games consoles and home karaoke systems, the miniature front rooms are flying off the shelves, whipping up an astounding retail storm .

“It sounded like madness when they told me, ‘we’re planning to take a traditional girl’s toy and develop it for 30 to 50-year-old males’,” said Willie Norkin, spokesman for manufacturers Takara. “Most people’s first reaction is to look at you as if you are insane.”

Takara's traditional markets are shrinking -- the company cited poor sales of girls' toys for its lower than expected profits for its last financial year -- so the toyco is intent on creating new markets for its products and increasing overseas sales. Naturally, this involves some gambling on Takara's part but to the company's credit, it seems to win most of its gambles. Even the crazier ones.

Link  | 

Thursday, May 20, 2004

8:49 PM - Night-y Knight

A digi-doodle of the Batman.

Link  | 

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

6:18 PM - Search and rescue

An update on the Fotopic situation: They've sent the affected hard disks to a data recovery specialist in Southend.

Imagine the scenario if you will.

A team of highly-paid, talented specialists using equipment and software costing hundreds of thousands of dollars crunching algorithms in a desperate attempt to recover data from a dead disk. It seems an almost futile task but they've been given the job and by God, they're going to do their best to pull it off.

Sweat is pouring and they all have intense expressions on their faces as they try every trick they know and perhaps even invent some new ones.

They spend hour after hour in front of their monitors ... and finally a result! Their exhilaration is palpable. They laugh with relief and high five each other.

Then it dawns on them that they've just recovered a blurry picture of a ten dollar toy.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Malaysia, someone is cackling maniacally ...

Link  | 

6:16 PM - Mummy

Toy lines that inexplicably failed to set the toy world on fire # 1: Kenner's Mummies Alive. This was a toy line that posited a Mummy could not only be alive but might be found driving a dragster called "Hot Ra" as well. And yet somehow the line flopped. O cruel, cruel world.

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12:36 AM - The Force

Wired News:

Video-game business insiders once viewed the superhero genre as cursed. This came in the wake of high-profile cancellations such as Champions and Indestructibles by Peter Molyneux, an acclaimed game designer.

City of Heroes, a new massively multiplayer online world from NCSoft, may lift that curse.

The curse also affected Guardians: Agents of Justice but the game that actually lifted the curse was Freedom Force. (A sequel, Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich, is in the works.)

Link  | 

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

11:51 PM - Not in the Pink Aisle

A company named Plastic Fantasy has been producing action figures based on film stars. Adult film stars. That's "adult film stars" as in "stars of adult films" and not "film stars that are adult."

(I'd list the stars but I'd rather be spared from strange search engine hits.)

According to Plastic Fantasy:

Adult Superstars are approximately 7.5" tall and bear an amazing likeness to the adult celebrities they represent, thanks to the the sophisticated laser-scanning technique used to create each girl's face and body.

All Adult Superstars are packaged fully clothed, but the clothing is removable.

I wonder if the packaging for each figure includes a bio of the actresses. Perhaps even a memorable quote from one of their movies. ("Oh yeah, uh, yeah, ooh ... .")

Oh, you also need to know the company has another line of figures based on adult film stars called Jigglers.

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12:13 AM - Unbeaten, my ass

Fascinating factoid: Arsenal lost 7 times in the 2003/2004 season.

Aug 17 -- Lost to Manchester United in the FA Community Shield.

Sep 17 -- Lost to Inter Milan in a Champions League Group B match.

Oct 21 -- Lost to Dynamo Kiev in a Champions League Group B match.

Jan 20 -- Lost to Middlesbrough in the first leg of the League Cup Semi-Final.

Feb 3 -- Lost to Middlesbrough in the second leg of the League Cup Semi-Final.

Apr 3 -- Lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup Semi-Final.

Apr 6 -- Lost to Chelsea in the second leg of the Champions League Quarter-Final.

I just thought it was worth pointing that out considering the amount of gushing there is over how the Gunners are invincible or unbeatable.

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Sunday, May 16, 2004

10:16 PM - Due credit

Susan Rife has an article about the relative anonymity of designers of toys and games and the attempts of one game designer to remedy that. An excerpt:

Sell 3 million books and you're on the New York Times best-sellers list. Sell 3 million records and you're on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Sell 3 million copies of a game or toy and you're anonymous. Rich, maybe, but not a household name.

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10:09 PM - Taking stock

Takara's stock has been taking a beating after the company announced their 2003/2004 results would be drastically lower than earlier forecasts due in part to the sluggish sales of girls' toys and candy toys.

(Bandai, on the other hand, announced record net profits thanks to strong sales of Mobile Suit Gundam, Power Rangers and Kamen Rider 555 merchandise.)

Will this result in Takara scaling back some of its plans? The toyco was buying companies left and right last year and I wonder if those acquisitions will actually pay off.

Link  | 

12:48 AM - 2-0

United ended their Premiership season on a winning note when they beat Villa 2-0 at Villa Park earlier. The match wasn't aired live locally but I caught the highlights on ESPN. United got their goals in the first 10 minutes of the match with Ronaldo scoring the first in the 4th minute and van Nistelrooy adding the second six minutes later.

United finished the season a massive 15 points behind champions Arsenal. The Gunners became the first team to finish the Premiership season unbeaten and it's a feat that's unlikely to be equalled or surpassed soon.

United still have the FA Cup to play for and they should be able to see off the challenge of First Division side Millwall next week to ensure some silverware is added to Old Trafford's trophy cabinet this season.

But you can bet your bottom dollar Ferguson will be snarling, spitting and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to reclaim the Premiership title from Monsieur Wenger.

Link  | 

Friday, May 14, 2004

10:34 PM - Compare and contrast

Boing Boing highlights an E3 discussion about women in gaming and quotes the reaction of a female gamer, Alice Taylor, who notes:

25 years of gaming history has sent out the marketing message that games are for boys and men.

As if to illustrate that point, the preceeding Boing Boing entry was about the Playboy video game launch and it included a picture of the shapely rear ends of five women.

Link  | 

6:00 PM - And I quote

David Edelstein's review of Troy:

In truth, this Helen has a face that would launch maybe a hundred ships—although if you throw in that lithe body and a favorable wind, you could bump the number up to 250.

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5:58 PM - Virtuality

Clive Thompson:

Virtual worlds have produced some surreal rags-to-riches stories. When the on-line world Second Life launched, the players were impressed to see a female avatar industriously building a sprawling monster home. An in-game neighbour stopped by to say hello only to discover she was a homeless person in British Columbia, logging on using her single remaining possession, a laptop. Penniless in the real world, she belonged to a social elite in the fake one.

I wish there was an online publication that regularly covered the MMORPG beat because there must be numerous bizarre anecdotes like that to report.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

6:22 PM - Yuusha Ou

Do you know what I find most astonishing about the Max Factory Genesic GaoGaiGar figure?

It's not the posability.

It's not the price. (17,800 yen!)

It's not the complexity. (Over 300 parts!)

It's not the weight of the package. (2.37kg!)

It's the fact Max Factory included a pair of gloves in each package.

Will Max Factory include a monocle and a cigarette holder for their next release?

Link  | 

6:18 PM - "Twin Cobra Fist!"

They're saying Rumsfeld's time could be up. But you'd better believe he's not going to go without a fight ..."Viper Fang!"

(Link obtained from MeFi.)

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6:16 PM - And I quote

Peter Paul:

Our role is to enable the utilization of a convergent team of multidisciplinary media talents to be focused on any appropriate activity that integrates the best aspects of the Internet with offline activities to create a holistic approach to certain strategic objectives.

The man is in a New York jail awaiting trial and surprisingly, he's not being charged for the above sentence.

(Link obtained from News From Me.)

Link  | 

6:05 PM - Nix pix

If you're wondering about the "currently unavailable" placeholder graphics displaying on this site, it's because Fotopic had some trouble while undergoing upgrading and maintenance recently. Apparently, some hard disks were found to be corrupted. (Ouch.) Fotopic's status page notes the problem only affects certain collections and as luck would have it, this includes all 6 of mine.

I'm hoping Fotopic will be able to recover those collections because I haven't backed up the 69 pictures I uploaded to their database. I do have the originals but I'd rather not go through the whole process of cropping, resizing, filtering and correcting those originals again.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

7:28 PM - Room 101

Alan M. Dershowitz:

When, if ever, is it justified to resort to unconventional techniques such as truth serum, moderate physical pressure and outright torture?

The constitutional answer to this question may surprise people who are not familiar with the current U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination: Any interrogation technique, including the use of truth serum or even torture, is not prohibited. All that is prohibited is the introduction into evidence of the fruits of such techniques in a criminal trial against the person on whom the techniques were used. But the evidence could be used against that suspect in a non-criminal case--such as a deportation hearing--or against someone else.

...... consider a situation in which a kidnapped child had been buried in a box with two hours of oxygen. The kidnapper refuses to disclose its location. Should we not consider torture in that situation?

That might have been hypothetical at the time of writing but that was the dilemma facing Frankfurt police in the tragic case of Jakob von Metzler.

But as Jessica Montell rightly points out:

Assuming you get useful information from torture, then why not always use torture? Why stop at the bomb that's already been planted and at people who know where the explosives are? Why not people who are building the explosives, or people who are donating money, or transferring the funds for the explosives? Why stop at the victim himself? Why not torture the victims' families, their relatives, their neighbors? If the end justifies the means, then where would you draw the line?

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

6:11 PM - Hmm ...

From Drudge Report:

Pentagon possesses three disks of photos, one of which includes a photo of soldiers sodomizing prisoners with glow sticks... Many of the photos are redundant, and some have little to do with Iraqi detainees but show sex between U.S. soldiers... Pentagon officials prevailed at least temporarily in their insistence that the administration not immediately release the images, which include the forced masturbation of a detainee...

Future headline I'd like to see:

John Ashcroft busts Pentagon for possession of porn

Link  | 

6:08 PM - And I quote

Fyodor Dostoevsky:

People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that's a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.

Jonathan Glover:

We're revolted by the idea of people being humiliated, we have a possibly naturally programmed-in respect for other people's dignity, but again these things can be overcome, either by tribalism; we are the good ones, they are the bad ones, we demonise them and as a result we lose sympathy, we no longer feel respect, or by belief, they have the wrong beliefs, it's our duty to impose the truth on the world. And the final thing that restrains us in everyday life is that we have the thought that ‘I don't want to be the sort of person who does terrible things to other people. I don't want to be a torturer, a murder and so on’, but one of the things about modern technology is it introduces a new kind of psychological pattern where 'I'm only a cog in a machine,’ it's not me who's doing it. I'm just part of something much bigger than me, if I didn't do this bit some one else would' and as a result no one feels responsible. And so no one need feel they're a murderer or a torturer.

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Monday, May 10, 2004

11:12 PM - Third

United could only manage to draw 1-1 with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Saturday. It was another early kick-off so I had to miss the first half but I did catch the repeat of the match today. Some thoughts:

  • Someone needs to smack Andy Gray whenever he breathes noisily. It sounds exactly like someone slurping noodles and while making that sound might be considered proper when eating noodles in Japan, it's annoying coming from a Scottish colour commentator during an English football match.

  • Gronkjaer gave the Blues the lead with an absolute stunner but Gray was right in pointing out the Chelsea player shouldn't have been given enough time for three whole touches inside United's 18 yard area.

  • Scholes looked gutted to be substituted in the first half but he was fortunate not to be sent off after another one of his bad tackles. He had earlier been carded for diving for a penalty but I thought it was a harsh decision because there clearly was contact made by the Chelsea player.

  • The referee did award United a penalty later on when Saha was taken out in the box but Cudicini made a fantastic save to deny van Nistelrooy from converting from the spot.

  • Fortunately for United, Cudicini made an absolute mess of collecting a cross late in the match and all but presented van Nistelrooy with an easy equaliser.

Link  | 

11:01 PM - Batman

Surprise, surprise. Local retailer XL-Shop is selling the new Micro Action Series figures.

(Microman figures are hard to come by here in Malaysia and I haven't seen any since the first two waves of Microman Magnepowers were introduced. The fact those Magnepowers figures are still available five years later -- I got Acromonster Vampiser and Acromonster Hellpion today -- is an indication of how poorly they sold locally.)

MA-07 Batman (Comic version) and MA-08 Batman (Flight version) are being sold as a set for RM100 while MA-06 Casshern is retailing for RM49.90. I grabbed the two Batman figures and messed around with the comic version earlier. Some quick notes:

  • It's easier to remove and attach the Batman's hands compared to the Microforce figures.

  • Like the Microforce figures, the Batman has 3mm slots on his feet and I still haven't figured out their purpose.

  • The cape is a bit annoying. It's slightly flexible but it's inflexible enough to limit poses. The cape attaches to the 5mm port on the figure's back but it should have been affixed to the front as well because it has a tendency to ride up and push the head off.

  • Takara has thoughtfully included a parts tree for the extra hands to attach to when they're not in use. The figure stand -- with a peg each for new and vintage figures -- is nice as well. I only wish Takara had provided a ziploc bag to store the numerous Bat-accessories.

Link  | 

Sunday, May 09, 2004

7:42 PM - P.A. follies

Taking inspiration from this, head to your local airport and have the following two individuals paged using the airport's P.A. system:

Phyllis Goh and Fah Kiew Sief

Oh, the hilarity!

(Not to mention the ensuing hassles involving airport security personnel!)

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7:39 PM - Dressing down

I consider the cheongsam to be one of the most elegant traditional costumes ever designed.

But let's face it, it just doesn't work sometimes.

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7:34 PM - CP3700 update

Nikon recently released a firmware update for the Coolpix 3700. Among other things, the new version (1.2, fact fans) fixes a problem that prevents images from displaying after being uploaded to the PC. It only affects certain brands of SD cards and Nikon didn't name names but I encountered the symptoms described with my Apacer 128MB SD card two days ago.

Updating the firmware is a painless task and it's made even simpler thanks to the illustrated instructions provided. Still, I was somewhat nervous during the minute or so it took to actually update the firmware. But the digicam updated itself without any problems and I had a trouble-free session with the digicam after that.

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Saturday, May 08, 2004

9:49 PM - Mr. Subtle

Maintain eye contact. Maintain eye contact. Maintain eye contact. Maint- ... ah, screw it.

Link  | 

Friday, May 07, 2004

8:59 PM - Does not register

The Miami Herald's web site now requires registration so you'll need to sign-up if you want to read Dave Barry's columns on that site. According to the Herald's registration FAQ:

Registration information ... allows us to serve advertising that is relevant to you.

The trouble is I do not care for ads being pushed my way. I mute the volume on my TV set during commercials and I filter out just about every web ad with the mighty Proxomitron. If I want information about a product, I'll look for it, thankyewverymuch.

(And I'm not the only one who feels this way about web ads.)

So what's a registration-wary and ad-leery Dave Barry fan to do? Well, one could always get his columns from other sites, say, Sacbee.com.

Link  | 

Thursday, May 06, 2004

6:15 PM - A thousand words

I've added a few photos to my Fotopic gallery so check it out if you're interested.

Some digicam-related notes:

  • Free Digital Camera Enhancer is a freeware program that's handy to have. The download is tiny (the zip file is a mere 536kb in size) but the program packs a punch. I find it particularly useful when brightening photos and the results are surprisingly good. Unlike most photo editing software, Free DCE is simple to use. There are five sliders to manipulate plus a choice of three presets which determine how the program treats detail. For instance, you'd want to select the Close-ups preset for portraits since it would blur and blend blemishes on the subject's face.

    There weren't any problems but there were a couple of quirks. I was a bit annoyed I couldn't drag and drop a photo into the program and had to do the whole "Load", select file and click "Open" thing. That's so last millennium. This was compounded by the fact the Load screen doesn't have thumbnail previews of images. But I suppose I shouldn't expect too much for the non-price I paid.

  • Another must-have is Neat Image 4.0. The Coolpix 3700 is a fine camera but it does have trouble with excessive graininess or "noise" in low light conditions. Enter Neat Image. It's billed as the "best noise reduction for digital cameras and scanners" and I can't argue with that since I have nothing to compare it with.

    There are several versions of the program available but the freeware Demo version is good enough for my purposes.

    There are ready-made noise reduction profiles available for various digicam models but none for the CP3700. That wasn't much of a problem because it wasn't too difficult to use the program. It does take practise to get the most out of it, though.

  • Nikon View, the image transfer and editing software bundled with the digicam, is a bit of a pain. Its redeye-removal feature wasn't particularly impressive (I prefer to use IrfanView for that task) and annoyingly, the program automatically launches under certain circumstances (for instance, when you insert a CD-R filled with JPEGs) even when the digicam isn't attached to the PC.

  • Someone was wondering if it was possible to prevent the CP3700's AF assist illuminator from automatically activating. There's no conventional way to disable it since the digicam needs it in poor lighting conditions but there is a workaround that might help if you absolutely must disable that red light from shining. The AF assist illuminator is automatically disabled in the Landscape, Night Landscape, Museum, Fireworks Show, Sports and Dusk/Dawn scene modes so you could just select one of those scene modes. The problem is those scene modes may not be suitable for the type of photo you're taking but you know what they say about choosy beggars.

  • I wish the CP3700 had a real-time indicator of how much juice was left in the battery. A low-charge battery indicator does appear when power is on the low side but there's no indication of how many shots I can take once that indicator appears. Granted, there are a lot of variables to consider -- for instance, how often the battery-draining flash and LCD monitor are used -- but I would have liked a rough estimate at least.

  • One of the neater CP3700 features is sound-activated picture-taking. You select the feature, aim the camera, press the shutter button and the camera takes a picture when the microphone detects a sufficiently loud sound. At the most sensitive setting, a finger snap a few inches from the camera will automatically activate it. How cool is that? Technology: Turning dorks into Arthur Fonzarellis.

Link  | 

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

6:15 PM - Kamen Rider Blade

I've seen two subbed episodes of Kamen Rider Blade, the latest series in the Kamen Rider franchise but I'm going to reserve judgement about the characters and storylines until I've seen a few more episodes. I would like to make a few observations based on the episodes I've seen, though.

I'd like to preface my comments about Blade by saying I thoroughly enjoyed the previous Kamen Rider series, the stylish Kamen Rider 555, so I had high hopes for Blade.

Blade is predictable fare if you've seen 555 with a lot of similar elements.

Over the top henshin sequence? Check.

Elaborate creature suits with prominent zippers at the back? Check.

Multiple Kamen Riders to maximise merchandising possibilities? Check.

Good-looking leads who with limited acting ability and slightly stilted delivery? Check.

The formulaic approach extends to the contents of each episode. Each episode begins with a high energy, fast-paced action scene which segues into the opening credits and there's usually a dramatic scene to showcase the leads' limited acting range. A mid-episode action scene is optional but a comedy scene is mandatory. Each episode ends with an action scene (with an optional cliffhanger) or on a suspenseful note which is then usually recycled as the first scene of the next episode.

On the cards

I wasn't particularly thrilled to hear the the series would be cards-based. Kamen Rider 555's handphone gimmick grew on me quickly -- I now have to stifle the urge to thrust handphones skywards and yell, "Henshin!" -- but the card thing seemed like it would be really awkward and contrived. Not to mention horribly derivative.

It didn't help matters that the designer(s) were weren't too subtle about integrating the card motif into the character designs. The eponymous character is based on the spades suit and this is reflected in the design of his helmet and his blade. The design is distinctly unimpressive and the helmet design was even likened to a pen nib. Kamen Rider Chalice -- based on the hearts suit -- is the best of the lot so far but I have to say the Blade designs just aren't as impressive as 555's. I'm sure powered-up versions of the Blade characters will appear mid-series so hopefully Blade's character designer(s) will deliver the goods the second time around.

The monsters, for some unexplained reason, have numbers on them (representing the spot cards) which are revealed upon their defeat. How is this revealed? Well, the creatures wear belt buckles (!) which split open to reveal their number when they've been given the smackdown. The concept is that the creatures and their powers can be absorbed into the cards and the Riders can use these cards to power themselves up. (For instance, Kamen Rider Blade got the Kick card from the Locust Undead in episode 2.)

I know it sounds awkward but judging from the two episodes I've seen the card gimmickry can be executed in a stylish manner. Witness the way Kamen Rider Chalice dispatched the Plant Undead in Episode 2. That scene oozed pure unadulterated style and is guaranteed to win over even the most sceptical viewer.

Admittedly, the series does seem to emphasise such style with only minimal substance behind it all but when the action is done this stylishly, I don't really mind much.

Special mention has to be made of the sound effects, which like those for 555, are simply outstanding.

The merch

Unfortunately, the series is sorely lacking in the action figure department right now. It's strange considering the last four Kamen Rider series (Kuuga, Agito, Ryuuki and 555) had some terrific-looking figures. The only action figures (1, 2, 3) that have been released for Blade so far have been poor by previous standards. Is Bandai witholding more expensive deluxe figures until the cheaper ones have had enough time to sell?

The first two volumes of Blade VCDs are retailling locally for RM14.90 each with each volume containing four episodes. I'm sticking with the TV Nihon fansubs because the VCD versions are based on Hong Kong bootlegs and those tend to have comically bad subtitles.

Links:

Link  | 

6:07 PM - Unsupported file format

I had the same trouble playing some DVDs in Windows XP as I did with Windows 98 but fixing the problem in Windows XP was a bit more complicated than in Windows 98 because there's no easy way to simply disable the UDF file format in Windows XP.

I had to spend considerable time googling the workaround but I did manage to finally locate the fix. I was a bit nervous using it though since it involved deleting the UDF key in the Windows registry using regedit. Fortunately, regedit has an option to simply export a key and save it in a *.reg file so I had the option of reverting back to the original registry settings if things went wrong. Nothing did, however, and the DVDs play just fine now.

Link  | 

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

7:35 PM - Downsized

After touting Fotopic's advantages over Photobucket, I was taken aback to find out Fotopic automatically reduces the size of larger images.

On the face of it, that's an absurd thing to do. Why bother giving away a whopping 250MB of space and then be stingy with that space?

A check of the Fotopic knowledgebase reveals that there's a pretty good reason for doing this:

Photographs are automatically recompressed server-side so that they will fit on the user's screen. This process can be turned off but it's not recommended, since it'll mean that your photographs aren't optimised for different browsers.

We don't just resize though - we also sometimes change the colour cube on-the-fly, so that it works on lots of different resolutions in lots of different colours.

The downside of this is that it can cause noticeable degradation of image quality. Fortunately, you can turn off this feature in the Image Settings section under Gallery Settings.

Link  | 

Monday, May 03, 2004

5:57 PM - Groaner

Another week.

Another new midfield unit.

Another 1-0 defeat.

United were beaten by Blackburn at Ewood Park on Saturday. It was the Red Devils' third defeat in four matches.

I'm just thankful the FA doesn't deduct points for woeful performances because United deserved to be docked points for this one. There was plenty of hustle and bustle but little in the way of creativity or style.

That's hardly surprising when you consider the fact the midfield unit consisted of players more adept at stopping the opposition than creating chances. Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson couldn't impose themselves in the centre of the park and I was mystified why the manager gave the duo pats on the back when they were substituted in the second half. And why was Butt playing on the right?

Apologists will point out United were missing several key players but I don't think that ought to be used as an excuse. United maintain a large squad expressly to provide cover for the first eleven but the back-up players let themselves and the team down in this match.

The highlight of the entire match? I think it would be the continuing fairy tale of match-winner Jonathan Stead [1, 2, 3]. This is a player who was plucked from the Third Division, thrown into a Premiership relegation battle and rose to the challenge with 6 goals in 11 matches. If Hollywood wants to cash in big time with a football movie, well, here's a storyline to filch.

Forlan's miss from a yard out would have been as notable as van Nistelrooy's own clanger earlier in the season except you come to expect that sort of thing from Forlan. Hapless doesn't come close to describing him.

This loss will just provide more grist for the "End of an Era" mill but fans need to cast their mind back to December when United were leading the Premiership and few, if any, were castigating the team then.

Ferguson does need to make some changes before next season but there's no need to panic.

Link  | 

Saturday, May 01, 2004

8:34 PM - India

I don't know what this guy is smoking but you'd definitely want to avoid it at all costs because it makes you look really, really goofy.

The rest of Bruce's gallery is a must-see. There are amusing ("Dokken rules!"), strange, unusual, quirky, sad and absolutely devastating pictures taken in some undisclosed part of the Indian sub-continent.

Link  | 

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