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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

10:44 PM - Hmm ...

Does this (screencap) look familiar?

I wonder why they went to all that trouble?

It's my web host's unorthodox method of backing up the site while moving servers and waiting for the DNS to resolve.

Link  | 

Monday, August 30, 2004

11:46 PM - Framed

UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff on framing and the use of it by conservatives:

Language always comes with what is called "framing." Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like "revolt," that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That's a frame.

...

Terror is a general state, and it's internal to a person. Terror is not the person we're fighting, the "terrorist." The word terror activates your fear, and fear activates the strict father model, which is what conservatives want. The "war on terror" is not about stopping you from being afraid, it's about making you afraid.

...

Real wars are wars against countries, and in the "war on terror," we are attacking countries. But those countries are not the same as the terrorists. We're acting at the wrong level. Meanwhile, by using this frame, we get a commander in chief, as the Republicans keep referring to Bush a "war president" with "war powers," which imply that ordinary protections don't have to be observed. A "war president" has extraordinary powers. And the "war on terror," of course, never ends. There's no peace treaty with terror. It's a prescription for keeping conservatives in power indefinitely. In three words "war on terror" they've enacted vast political changes.

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9:42 PM - Blockade

Everton put up a blue brick wall and stymied wave after wave of United attack to earn a point from a goalless draw. (Reports: BBC, Soccernet, ManUtd.com.)

The Old Trafford faithful chanted Rooney's name provocatively (and somewhat prematurely) at the kickoff but they had little to cheer about at the end.

Ronaldo, Smith and Scholes all hit the woodwork while Saha couldn't direct a header goalward from six yards out but United weren't completely unlucky. The Red Devils were fortunate not to have a penalty awarded against them when Silvestre blatantly handled the ball in his own area while under pressure from Duncan Ferguson.

United simply couldn't find a way past a side content to sit back and nullify every offensive move. This happened last season and it's starting to be a recurring theme this season as well.

If there was one positive from this match, it was the assured performance of Jonathan Spector, the young American defender (and Jonathan Taylor Thomas look-alike). He managed to deal with whatever threat Everton posed on United's left flank and even made a few good offensive runs.

United are now seven points behind Arsenal and Chelsea and while that's hardly a worrying gap in August, it is worrying to see United struggle like this.

Link  | 

12:13 AM - Hip-hip-hypocrisy

The golden rule of fanboy criticism: When another fan makes a critical comment, he's clearly hard to please, never happy about anything, whiny and nitpicky but when you make a criticism, you think of yourself as being reasonable and thoughtful.

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Sunday, August 29, 2004

11:02 PM - Re: Rooney

Seen on the BBC's 606 forum:

Re: Rooney

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Saturday, August 28, 2004

11:40 PM - Format

Apparently, that strange format is a German one. Marty Nemzow writes:

Not every language or culture formats currencies (and numbers) in the same way. For example 1,000,000.00 in the United States becomes 1.000.000,00 in Germany. Some places will display 1'000'000 and 00/100. In addition, currency symbology is based on prefixes, suffixes and the handling of negative values in different ways. There is no ISO formatting standard and no standard that the international banking community accepts. The differences create functional problems for banks unfamiliar with specific currencies and cultural idioms. I once saw a U.S. bank overpay (by a hundred dollars) on a wire to a Japanese manufacturer because the yen was in such big numbers (and lacked decimal places) when contrasted to the USD amounts. The banker misplaced a decimal thinking he was fixing an erroneous-exitant error.

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11:39 PM - Red is my face

From a previous entry:

... the T|E's Calculator app has an odd bug: the decimal point is displayed as a comma and vice versa e.g. type in "1500" and it's displayed as "1.500".

Bug, my ass. I had apparently selected "1.000,00" instead of "1,000.00" in the Formats section of the device preferences and this resulted in that calculator oddity.

But why did palmOne include "1.000,00" as a viable format in the first place? Is it used anywhere?

Link  | 

11:39 PM - Hand it to United

United were moments away from their second defeat in their first three Premiership matches when Smith struck deep in injury time to earn a 1-1 draw with Blackburn. (Reports: BBC, Soccernet, ManUtd.com.)

The goal -- Smith's fifth in six matches -- was well struck but there was sickening element in the build-up. The replays showed Saha had handled the ball with his right hand to set it up for Smith. ESPN pundit Gerry Armstrong, the only person on the planet to think it wasn't a hand-ball, claimed that even if it had been handball, it balanced out an unsuccessful United penalty claim when the ball struck Johansson's arms in the box. Call me a doubting Thomas if you will but I don't think that particular argument is going to convince Souness and the Blackburn fans.

But I don't think anyone can argue United didn't deserve something from this match. I missed the first 34 minutes of the match (and Dickov's goal) due to work commitments but for the most part United dominated play without converting their possession into goals.

This was mainly due to a brilliant performance by Brad Friedel who appeared to be absolutely unbeatable today. The big American managed to stop on-target attempts by Kleberson, Smith, Ronaldo, Scholes and Saha to easily win the man-of-the-match award. He wasn't too happy after the match -- the camera caught him complaining bitterly to Souness about Saha's, ah, hand in the goal -- and I could understand why he was upset about losing the clean sheet in the manner he did.

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Friday, August 27, 2004

11:46 PM - Plug it

Sledge Trooper

Has my doodling ability improved tremendously?

Sadly, no. This happens to be a photo of a Xevoz Sledge Trooper that's been processed with Thredgeholder, a free Adobe Photoshop plug-in.

You don't actually need Photoshop to use the numerous free plug-ins available for the program. IrfanView, the freeware image viewer/editor I favour, is capable of using Photoshop plug-ins once the 8BF_Filters plug-in has been installed.

Download a plug-in, place it in IrfanView's Plugin directory then hit CTRL+K to bring up IrfanView's Adobe 8BF Filter list. Add the new filter to the list and the plug-in is yours to use and abuse.

(Link obtained from alt.comp.freeware.)

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11:45 PM - T|E part III

I described the T|E's TFT colour screen as being surprisingly bright in a previous entry but it's brighter than I first thought. We had a blackout around midnight and I discovered the T|E functions fairly well as an emergency flashlight. The display emanated enough light for me to navigate through the pitch-black house without stubbing a toe.

On the downside, the T|E's Calculator app has an odd bug: the decimal point is displayed as a comma and vice versa e.g. type in "1500" and it's displayed as "1.500". I haven't found any reports of the bug (admittedly, I didn't look that hard) and palmOne's T|E support page doesn't mention the problem. I'll try uninstalling and reinstalling the app.

Link  | 

Thursday, August 26, 2004

8:41 PM - Li'l Devils

United had a 2-1 lead going into their Champions League second-leg qualifying match against Dinamo Bucharest and could even afford to lose the match 1-0. There was so much at stake, though, and a premature exit was unthinkable, really. The club desperately needs to get involved in the Champions League because of the prestige factor alone.

So it was a bit of a shock when the live telecast began (3 minutes after kick-off, I might add) and I realised Ferguson had decided to field Manchester United ver. League Cup for the match. Smith led the attack and Howard started in goal but there were surprises elsewhere.

How's this for a defensive line-up: O'Shea, Silvestre, Gary Neville and Jonathan Spector.

How's this for a midfield unit: Fletcher, Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, Ronaldo and Eagles.

That struck me as being much too experimental for a must-win tie and I was nervous the Romanians might create a shock of their own by eliminating United.

But I needn't have worried. The Romanians seemed resigned to losing and United comfortably won the match 3-0 (reports: BBC, Soccernet, Guardian, ManUtd.com).

These United players may not have played together competitively much but you wouldn't have known it from the way they were putting together moves. One such move in the 18th minute started with Ronaldo on the left flank passing to Eagles who then laid it on to Gary Neville on the right flank to cross to Ronaldo who had made a run into the box. It didn't result in a goal but it was exhilarating to see.

Smith got United's first two goals less than five minutes into the second-half. The first came about when Kleberson's free-kick was diverted into the path of Smith who tapped it in from two yards out. The linesman ruled it offside but he was rightfully overruled by the referee. Smith may have been in an offside position but he got the ball from a Bucharest player.

Smith's second came courtesy of a Gary Neville cross and I'm slightly disconcerted by the fact United's most effective crosses are coming from the rightback rather the wingers.

Bellion added the third six minutes after coming on as a substitute for Ronaldo. I'm still not convinced Bellion was a wise signing -- he's speedy but his passing and positional sense are suspect -- but the Frenchman has two goals in two matches now.

And in other developments, United evidently are going to spend the 20 or so million pounds it will take to pry Rooney from Moyes's tight-fisted grip. The transfer deadline is next Tuesday and it appears United are going to get into a frenzied bidding war with Newcastle. The media seems to think the Red Devils are the odds-on favourite to land England's hottest talent but there's many a slip betwixt the lip and cup as the Kenyon-botched Ronaldinho transfer will have shown.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

9:39 PM - Super Trooper

Sledge Trooper

A photo of a Xevoz Sledge Trooper.

I've uploaded more photos to my Fotopic album.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

9:58 PM - T|E part II

I've had the palmOne Tungsten E for almost a week now and I thought I'd post some additional thoughts.

I insisted on checking the T|E's 5-way navigator button at the store when I bought it because of the reports of T|E units with poorly assembled navigator buttons. Mine seems to be fine and here's hoping it stays that way because I use it frequently to scroll down when reading ebooks.

The beautiful and surprisingly bright colour transflective TFT display screen is a mere 5.5cm by 5.5cm but I had no problems whatsoever reading text. (You can enlarge the screen text if you're having trouble.) The screen is thankfully free of the buzzing sound some T|E users have reported.

The battery life doesn't seem to be great. Unless you use the T|E strictly for its PIM abilities, you will end up topping up the battery almost on a daily basis because the TFT screen and MP3 playback, in particular, will suck up juice quickly.

Speaking of music, I downloaded Aeroplayer, a Palm OS music player, in order to try out the T|E's music playback. (The T|E software bundle includes RealOne Mobile Player but I was leery of Real products because of the company's history.) Aeroplayer is free but only if you stick to music in the Ogg Vorbis format. Aeroplayer does play MP3s but you'll have to pony up to get that functionality once the 14-day trial period is over. I didn't feel like paying so I ended up using Quintessential Player and its Ogg Vorbis plug-in to convert a couple MP3s to the Ogg Vorbis format. Converting one lossy format to another will result in a hit to audio quality but if you're using a PDA to listen to music I think it's fair to assume you're not especially concerned about audio quality.

And if you happen to be particularly unfussy about audio quality you might very well be satisfied by the audio produced by the T|E's built-in speaker. Folks who care little for tinny sound, on the other hand, would be better off shopping for a good pair of headphones.

The T|E's software bundle also includes Handmark's MobileDB database software. MobileDB seems to be a tad basic but its users have been producing (and freely sharing) some cool databases. If you're looking for a list of EPL 2004/2005 fixtures, a list of WWI German aces or a Futurama episode guide, head to the MobileDB archive and download away.

As far as I can tell, the T|E doesn't seem to have native support for HTML files. I had to first convert HTML files with Plucker Desktop on my PC before I could read them on the T|E with the Plucker reader. Both programs are free but this seems more work than should be necessary for something so simple as reading a HTML document.

Link  | 

Monday, August 23, 2004

7:30 PM - RPG PK

Ah, role-playing games.

You spend hours upon hours creating your avatar, taking care to imagine all the major life events that shaped her and her outlook, thinking up a name that's just right and figuring out a mode of speech she would use. You expend an extraordinary amount of effort to create a character ... and then you run into B0N3D00D and pLaTeDeWd.

This strip, in particular, perfectly illustrates the tension between those who prefer the game aspect of RPGs and those who prefer the role-playing aspect.

(Link obtained from the Quarter to Three forum.)

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Sunday, August 22, 2004

3:41 AM - Smith-en

United started the day at the bottom of the table but things returned to some semblance of normalcy when the Red Devils beat Norwich 2-1 (BBC, Soccernet, ManUtd.com) at Old Trafford to earn their first win of the 2004/2005 Premiership campaign.

Keane played in the centre of defence once again. His lack of pace resulted in him being caught out on a number of occasions but United need his commanding presence and unflappability to marshall the defence. That said, Ferdinand cannot return soon enough.

United new boy Liam Miller started in the centre of midfield alongside Djemba-Djemba with Giggs and Bellion on the flanks. The midfield unit did well -- Giggs, in particular, was in fine form today -- but United couldn't conjure up that many shots on goal despite dominating the play in the first half.

United finally broke the deadlock a minute after Norwich had nearly done so. Bentley (on loan from Arsenal) thumped a shot which rebounded off the crossbar with a resounding thwack and the United counterattack which ensued resulted in a Bellion goal after Smith had flicked on a Giggs cross.

Smith got United's second five minutes after the restart when he chested a Giggs header and let fly with a left-footed volley which went in the net courtesy of the upright. John Dykes and company can stop looking for their goal of the week.

The win wasn't as comfortable as it should have been because Norwich caused some anxious moments after pulling one back in the 73rd minute. For a moment it appeared the momentum had swung in the visitors' favour but Ferguson played his trump card in the 85th minute when he replaced Miller with a tanned Ronaldo. The kid from Madeira came on to resounding cheers and it was business as usual as he showed off his repertoire of tricks and drew a number of fouls in the few minutes he was on. It was good to see him back and full of his usual swagger and confidence.

In other news, Forlan has been sold to Villareal. This seems an odd decision (even considering what a misfire Forlan has been) because United don't have that many fit strikers at the moment. Saha is due to return for the trip to Blackburn but this still seems an unnecessary gamble. Is Ferguson going to buy a striker before the transfer deadline and if so, who? I doubt the board is going to approve the 20 or so million pounds it will take to pry Rooney from Everton right now.

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Friday, August 20, 2004

6:37 AM - Thunderstruck

Apparently, God doesn't want me to watch Manchester United lose in the Premiership.

At least, that's my impression after learning why my satellite decoder was non-functional on the day of the Chelsea-United match. Would you believe our satellite dish had been struck by lightning? What were the odds of this happening, I wonder?

I suppose I should count myself lucky the damage was restricted to the receiver on the dish. If the decoder set had been damaged as well, the repair bill would have been double what it was. (RM180, fact fans.)

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

9:55 PM - T|E

Tgnhl.isaap.anattea.mpl.ttotpry

That was my first attempt at trying my just-purchased palmOne Tungsten E's handwriting recognition capabilities. (It was supposed to be "This is an attempt to try", in case you were wondering.)

I got the PDA from MyGadgets in Low Yat Plaza for RM788. As usual, my woeful attempts at bargaining amounted to naught. The salesman did throw in a RM69.90 USB cable slash charger -- he claimed the USB cable bundled with the PDA couldn't trickle charge the PDA but that's not what the T|E manual says -- as well as a screen protector and a CD-ROM filled with bootleg Palm OS software. The Palm OS freeware scene has everything I need so I have no intention of chancing bad karma by installing the bootleg software but I appreciated the screen protector.

I installed the Palm Desktop and associated programs on my PC and my first HotSync -- this would be the fancy term palmOne uses for "connecting the PDA to the PC" -- went without a hitch. I then installed the updates from palmOne's support page and things seem to be A-OK.

I'm well aware of the problems some users have had with the T|E but I'm reasonably optimistic things will be fine. Besides, MyGadgets is offering a no-hassle replacement within the first 30 days and palmOne is offering a 12 month guarantee so I think I'm covered.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

9:00 PM - Luckless

I've just finished my second run through Hordes of the Underdark. It was much easier playing as a Sorcerer and I easily breezed through combat encounters which were extremely challenging for my Druid build.

I did, however, have considerable difficulty battling the Ultimate Bad Guy. Much to my chagrin, I discovered the folly of neglecting Persuade and Intimidate, and my decision to use only two savegame slots didn't help matters either. Still, I did manage to (eventually) complete the game thanks to a lucky break.

Speaking of luck (specifically, the bad kind), here's an amusing screenshot from HotU:

Luckles

If you think that was unlucky, try waiting several months for the English Premier League to start, getting all excited about having one of the matches of the season right at the beginning and then discovering the satellite decoder has decided to go on the fritz on the day of that match. That's unlucky.

Anyway, Chelsea edged it thanks to a goal by Gudjohnsen -- we'll have to wait a little longer to see Ferguson and his men wipe that smug look off Mourinho's mug -- but it sounds as if United had trouble converting their superior possession into goals. Ferguson's side had the same trouble last season against teams like Portsmouth and Wolves and I do hope this isn't going to be a recurring theme this season as well.

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Sunday, August 15, 2004

8:20 PM - Neo Sapien

A digi-doodle of a Xevoz Alpha Ranger.

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3:44 AM - A boring non-event

Franklin Foer characterises Iraq's surprising victory over Portugal as a meaningless victory because Olympics football is "a boring non-event."

Foer is right in pointing out there isn't much interest in Olympic football matches and he's also right in acribing this to the limitations imposed on the Olympics football tournament e.g. each squad may only have three players over 23.

But I think he's wrong about the reasons for those limitations. According to Foer:

With the calendar so jammed, the soccer world simply has no need for another major tournament. And the game's elite can't afford the physical toll of another long event.

I think the more pertinent point is FIFA doesn't want the Olympics tournament to overshadow their own little soiree and FIFA should be worried because contrary to Foer's claim that the Olympics gold medal has no appeal to footballers, Ronaldo insisted on playing in the Olympics despite the protestations of his manager.

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Saturday, August 14, 2004

6:39 AM - WordPress: Switching directories

I was a little disconcerted to find my main site's WordPress login page had been cached by Googlebot and I was particularly alarmed when Googlebot later spidered its way to the lost password screen. Now that might not have been a genuine security threat but I didn't want to take any chances. Nobody wants to be a Googledork, right?

The simple fix is to simply tell Googlebot and other search engine spiders to steer clear of my WordPress administration files. This can be accomplished by the use of a robots.txt file in the root directory.

But I now had a new problem. My blog entries were in the same directory as those admin files and the robots.txt file was also preventing search engines from indexing my entries. I'm not big-headed enough to believe that this site would be tremendously useful to most folks but there might be an entry or two in here with useful links for others if they could only find it. The trick was to allow the search engines to index my blog entries without indexing the admin files.

So I moved my blog entries to the root directory. The WordPress site has instructions for doing this and the process is straightforward. I did lose the ability to edit the blog entries directly but it's a relatively minor inconvenience and I'm willing to accept the trade-off for the added peace of mind.

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Friday, August 13, 2004

10:04 PM - Time to split

I've been trying to clear up space on my hard disk by moving files to CD-Rs and ran into a slight problem. I had a couple of large video files which wouldn't fit on a single CD-R.

Here's where HJSplit enters the picture. It's a tiny (174KB!) freeware utility that splits a large file (up to 10GB) into smaller chunks. There are more elegant solutions for splitting video files but I love HJSplit's simplicity. There's an online manual but this really is an idiot-friendly program. Cons? The only thing I can think of is that you need HJSplit when rejoining the split files but the program is so tiny you can store it with the split files.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

11:54 PM - Correction

From a previous entry:

My only disappointment is that I can't play a transforming Shapeshifter in the original campaign.

It is possible to play a Prestige Class character in the original campaign. I guess I hadn't fulfilled one of the requirements when I tried playing a Shifter the first time.

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11:54 PM - "Art can be fun"

The Cow Parade: Cows as objets d'art.

(Faves: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

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11:54 PM - Bend it like Beckham

The Guardian reports there is a significant number of gay football fans:

When England played Croatia in June, a bunch of fans gathered in the gay pub the Duke of Wellington in Soho in London. David, a 35-year-old in PR, remembers: "There was just this whole bar full of lads. Everyone was cheering and roaring for England. It was like being in any straight pub. But then not. Beckham bent over to pick up the ball. Suddenly it was a gay pub again."

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

10:35 PM - Say it with software

Gifts for gamers you hate: #1.

(Image found on eBay.)

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10:31 PM - To sleep

From the BBC:

Encephalitis Lethargica was a devastating illness that swept the world in the 1920's.

It attacked the brain, leaving victims like living statues, speechless and motionless.

During the outbreak, nearly a million died, and millions more were left frozen inside their useless bodies, in institutions.

Noone knew what had caused it, or how to treat it.

Austrian neurologist Constantin von Economo noted:

To look at these patients, one would suppose them to be in a state of profound secondary dementia. Emotions are scarcely noticeable in the face but they are mentally intact.

You may have heard of the disease through the movie Awakenings which was based on a book by Oliver Sacks.

Encephalitis Lethargica also has distinction of being one of the few neurological diseases to have songs inspired by it. Fittingly, the three songs (count 'em: 1, 2, 3) I found online were soporific.

(Link obtained from Neil Gaiman's site.)

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Monday, August 09, 2004

9:49 PM - To T|E or to T|E2

I'm having second thoughts about getting a palmOne Tungsten E as My Very First PDA.

Now I will concede you tend to get a distorted idea of the quality of hardware (or software) when browsing online forums because posts complaining about problems tend to outnumber posts gushing about how the product works flawlessly and as advertised.

But I find it interesting that there are a couple of T|E owners (1, 2, 3) who've gone through three or four units in the 10 months the model has been available. I suppose that's encouraging in the sense that T|E owners are sufficiently impressed by it to get another unit and it's alarming in the sense that the model seems to have serious enough flaws to warrant replacement.

(The negative reviews on Amazon are particularly dismaying. I'm suspicious of some of the reviews, though. One reviewer claimed [screencap] to have removed the batteries from his T|E after having problems and that's fishy because the model has a single battery and replacing it requires a soldering iron.)

Aside from the screen buzzing problem I mentioned earlier, there are reports (1, 2, 3) of the navigator button being flawed and furthermore, the model seems to have a data corruption problem (1, 2) when syncing data with some third-party apps.

The database problem doesn't bother me since it's highly unlikely I'll be using any third-party database applications. (I doubt I'll be relying on the T|E's PIM functionality all that much.)

The hardware problems, on the other hand, do worry me. However, I'm encouraged by the fact palmOne Malaysia is offering a one year warranty -- oddly, palmOne USA is only offering a 90 day warranty -- and replacing a defective unit seems relatively straightforward.

I could opt to wait for the rumoured follow-up to the T|E. According to scuttlebutt, the T|E2 will have a 320x480 screen and it will include Bluetooth connectivity. Is there anything to the rumour? I think so. The T|E2 rumour popped up at the same time as the Zire 31 rumour and the latter was released four months later. Will Palm release the T|E2 in October? It would mark the one year anniversary of the T|E and the current T|E promotion -- an attempt to sweeten the deal to get rid of existing stock? -- ends in September.

I'll mull things over the next few days before making up my mind. This is going to set me back 200 or so dollars and I want to be sure before I plunk down the moolah.

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1:05 AM - Reyes catches the eye

Ah, it begins anew.

John Dykes is as enthusiastic as ever.

Shebby Singh is still overusing the phrase "very, very." (Everything is very, very this and very, very that.)

Steve Darby is still dour.

Martin Tyler is, as ever, a pleasure to listen to.

Andy Gray, as always, does a disturbingly good impression of a Japanese man slurping his noodles whenever he breathes loudly.

And the match itself? Well, humble pie was served but sadly, it was United who had to swallow it.

Reyes starred as Arsenal beat United 3-1 (pix) to lift the FA Community Shield. It was sobering to see United torn apart by some young Arsenal players. Fabregas, Clichy and van Persie might not be household names just yet but they will be soon enough. The Gunners could have scored six if their forwards were sharper in front of goal. Reyes somehow conjured up a strong candidate for Miss of the Season in the very first match of the season and that was after the man-of-the-match did brilliantly to get into a goal-scoring position.

United, on the other hand, looked very ordinary out there today with two exceptions. The first exception being Smith's fantastic volley for United's only goal of the match. The other exception was Bellion and his mutant-like ability to get caught in offside positions.

I don't think August and September are going to be pleasant months for United fans. United should be much stronger when van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo and Ferdinand return to action but until then it looks as if the team is going to struggle. And even at full strength, I feel the current squad lacks the kind of creativity and unpredictability necessary to win the Champions League. Ferguson needs to spend when the January transfer window opens.

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Saturday, August 07, 2004

11:16 PM - Storming end

The Tournament of Champions came to a premature end when the United-Urawa match was abandoned because of adverse weather conditions. Ferguson noted it was the first time in his long career he had a match cancelled due to lightning. It was also the first time I had a live telecast of a match cancelled on me after I had stayed up until 4 a.m. for it. (Oh, how the expletives flew.)

Looking on the bright side, United's players will be fresher for Sunday's Community Shield match against Arsenal. The season curtain-raiser might be meaningless on the grand scale of things but I'm looking forward to United feeding Arsenal some humble pie.

United will have to attempt that without some big names, though. Van Nistelrooy is out for four weeks and Ronaldo is on Olympic duty. This is an opportunity for Saha and Smith to prove their worth to the manager. Both strikers are strong in the air but I'm concerned they might not get the kind of the supply they'll thrive on. Here's hoping Giggs and Fletcher have practised their crossing.

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Thursday, August 05, 2004

9:46 PM - Dust and shadows

This is why I need to clean up more often:

Dust

I completed the first NWN expansion, Shadows of Undrentide, today. I was expecting it to be longer than it actually was (20+ hours according to the manual) but I can't complain much.

How does SoU compare to the others? I think HotU>SoU>NWN sums it up nicely.

I was keen on trying out the Prestige Classes introduced in this expansion and gave the Shadowdancer a try for my first campaign run. I was a Rogue 7/Shadowdancer 6 at the end of the game and I found the Rogue's abilities much more useful than the Shadowdancer's. The Hide in Plain Sight feat, which the Shadowdancer gains at the first level, does lend itself well to the kind of hit and run tactics the Rogue specialises in but I didn't find the Shadowdancer feats gained at higher levels particularly useful. I ended up relying heavily on the Rogue's stealth attack ability and this meant I was often in trouble when faced with opponents who weren't susceptible to that. Fortunately, my henchman of choice, a dwarven Rogue 4/Cleric 9, proved to be quite helpful in those situations.

Technically, the game ran fine with the exception of one area in Chapter 2's Crypt Tower. The area in question is quite large and featured a maze with walls that would randomly disappear and reappear. It was an interesting design but it was so resource-heavy the game almost became unplayable.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

9:59 PM - Eagles in charge

United took on PSV Eindhoven early this morning in the first United match I've seen since the FA Cup. (Match reports: ManUtd.com, BBC, Soccernet.) The match is going to be repeated later but I couldn't resist staying up to watch. It's been a while and I've been jonesing.

The biggest shock of the day came earlier when Scholes announced his retirement from international football. There doesn't seem to be a compelling reason for him to do so at age 29. It was suggested it was partly because he was being played out of position at international level and it's worth noting Scholes has a stubborn, petulant side to him which manifests itself when he doesn't get his way. He once refused to play in a League Cup match when he was initially having problems playing as a supporting striker.

Regardless of Scholes's rationale for this, I'm all for it if it means he'll be fresher and hungrier when playing for United.

Some thoughts on the match:

  • The Vodafone Cup is being billed as a tournament of champions and that seems a bit hyperbolic. United finished third in the Premiership last season and their opponents were runners-up in the Dutch domestic league. United did win the FA Cup last season but "Tournament of Champions" is still excessive for a pre-season match.

  • Van Nistelrooy led United out against his former club and United ended the match being captained by 18-year-old Chris Eagles. The camera caught Silvestre ribbing Eagles about the unexpected honour at the end of the match and the young player had a slightly sheepish expression on his face as he left for the dressing room. Still, Eagles was impressive in this match and we should see him feature as a second-half sub in a number of matches this season.

  • United's third-choice keeper Ricardo (winner of the 2004 Francesco Totti look-alike contest) had another rare outing between the sticks. He performed well and pulled off a couple of good saves on the rare occasions the Dutch side threatened to score.

  • United started with a familiar defensive formation: Gary Neville at right-back, Brown and Silvestre in the middle and O'Shea at left-back. This unit featured regularly in the second half of last season and this is probably Ferguson's first-choice until Ferdinand's suspension is over and Gabriel Heinze settles in.

  • The midfield unit was just bizarre. Giggs started in the centre of midfield alongside Phil Neville and Eagles with two strikers, Forlan and Saha, playing on the wings. Giggs actually didn't fare too badly but I think I speak for every United fan when I say we would rather not see the Welshman playing there when the season starts. He did his best to protect the defence but "Good tackle by Giggs" is indisputably one of the rarest phrases in football.

  • Van Nistelrooy, just back from his honeymoon, was well-shackled by Bouma for the most part but the Dutch Master did cause PSV some concerns in the 45 minutes he was on. New signing Alan Smith replaced him in the second-half and this was the first time I saw Smith in action in the famous red jersey. It was a typical Smith performance: full of hustle and tough posturing with the physical presence and fully-committed tackles to back it up. The match commentator likened Smith's playing style to that of United great Mark Hughes and I saw no reason to disagree.

  • Silvestre got the only goal of the match in the 26th minute with a header courtesy of a Giggs corner. The French defender has scored from a number of corners in his United career and we should see even more goals from set-pieces from United as a whole this season thanks to the aerial threat posed by Saha and Smith.

United will next take on Urawa Reds in a match that will be televised locally early Friday morning.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

7:44 PM - "A headful of mad!"

These are the days of doom.

Specifically, Doom 3.

But cast your mind back to the days when you played the first game in the series. Did you ever wonder if the experience could have been improved with more words? Someone wondered that and wrote a comic based on the game.

So what deep thoughts were going through your avatar's head as he took on the demonic hordes of hell? An excerpt:

Who's a man and a half? I'm a man and a half! Berserker packin' man and a half! There's nothing wrong with you I can't fix ... with my hands! Dynamite! I'm cookin' with gas! I've gotta handful of vertebrae and a headful of mad! Yeah, that's your spinal cord, baby! Dig it! Who's the man? I'm the man! I'm a bad man! How bad? Real bad! I'm a 12.0 on the 10.0 scale of badness! Don't need a gun ... guns are for wusses!

It gets worse. How worse? Real worse. It's a 12.0 on the 10.0 scale of badness.

(Link obtained from memepool.)

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7:44 PM - August

August

Xevoz Sledge Trooper.

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2:14 AM - Dark Army

Japanese toy reviewer momodani has a review of Dark Army, the limited edition mail order Microman figure by Hot Dog Press. He's unimpressed by the designer graffiti scribbled all over the figure but I found one message particularly amusing.

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1:21 AM - Persistence

Prof. Timothy Burke:

MMOGs can never be virtual worlds until they abandon the character as the primary unit of persistence. To be virtual worlds, they have to make the gameworld itself the major unit of persistence.

This is the dream of many MMOG players: they beg for gameworlds in which their actions matter, in which there are events of consequence.

(Link obtained from Terra Nova.)

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1:21 AM - Smokin'

Some interesting statistics about smoking in Malaysia:

According to the Ministry of Health, in 2003, it was estimated that there are 5 million smokers in Malaysia (22 % of the population). Smoking is also believed to be a factor that caused 25 % of the non-accident deaths in Malaysia. It is also attributed as a contributing factor in eroding one's health such as cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancers and other lung-related diseases. The apparent adult per capita consumption of cigarettes in Malaysia has increased by 57% from 1970 to 1985 and by another 69 % between 1985 and 2000. The trend is expected to continue.

The Government has allocated RM 20 million a year on anti-smoking campaigns.

Meanwhile our Royal Malaysian Customs have got their own concerns. From an ad in The Star today (page 51, fact fans):

Smoking ad

Here's a close-up of the message:

Smoking ad close-up

So the government stance seems to be: Buy cigarettes but don't smoke.

You want more absurdity? The Malaysian smoking statistics I quoted above were taken from a speech at the launch of an anti-smoking campaign. The absurd part? The campaign was launched in collaboration with two cigarette manufacturers. Cigarette manufacturers against smoking. What next? Hookers for celibacy?

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Sunday, August 01, 2004

10:32 PM - Er ...

From a fan report of Hasbro's panel at the Official Transformers Collector's Convention:

Arcee is small for financial reasons and because they didn't think she'd appeal to the main market. Michelle said 7 year old boys don't want a $15 woman.

Your joke here: ___________________________.

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10:32 PM - And I quote

Warren Ellis:

Lesson: just when you think you've got it all worked out, you can get killed by a parrot.

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