Sunday, December 26, 2010

iPad - Weeeeeeeeee!

After months of longing, I've finally got it. My own iPad 32GB Wifi + 3G. I'm not going to say very much because very soon, the syncing will be finished and I'll be very busy for a while.

So happy!

Day of Goodwill

OK, a lot of people probably won't know what I'm on about with this subject. The Day of Goodwill is an annual holiday on December 26 observed in South Africa. In the UK and most English speaking parts of the world, this would be known as Boxing Day.

I had a terrible night's sleep last night I have to admit. I did fall asleep relatively early, but I kept tossing and turning and waking up. At around 2AM, I figured out why this was. A friend of mine picked up an iPad for me and today is the day I should to collect it. I was quite worried because he might have been affected by the travel miseries that's been around all week in Europe.

Anyway, I woke up just before 8AM - yeah, on a Sunday morning, the day after Christmas. I had already planned to catch the cricket match today between South Africa and India, the second Test in Durban. I also knew that the Ashes game would be broadcast before my match, but thought it would be to early for me to watch.

Well, since I woke so early, I actually managed to catch the last hours of the game. I thought I was dreaming still when I turned on my TV. Australia was bowled out for less than 100 runs. In a Test Match! I'm staggered... And the two opening batsmen from England managed 157 runs before stumps. I cannot believe this at all! The Ashes has been a bit up and down, but only 98 runs in the first innings is pretty pathetic from the Aussies!

I'll pick up my iPad just after lunch. Awesome!!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Quick post from a still white Brussels to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Apparently this is the first time the country has been completely white on Christmas Day since 1974 (according to local news agencies). Last year was considered a "white Christmas" as well but it wasn't the case for the entire country. The sun came out shining brightly and melted quite a lot of the snow, but the temperature stayed in the low minuses meaning there's a lot of ice forming too. Even more dangerous than snow...

Enjoy your festive season!

 Image Source: Krypton Zone (c) 2010 Entertainment

Friday, December 24, 2010

Snowed In

I just got a text from my colleague that she probably won't make it to the office today because there's just way too much snow outside. I was a bit groggly, and on my way to waking up when I saw that so I didn't really think too much of it. But... I just opened my curtains and saw something odd that greeted me. Around 10cm of snow on my balcony railings.

I can normally only judge the amount of snow by looking at the railings because the cement blocks on the balcony are affected by my heating system in the house. The walls generally emanates quite a lot of heat which melts a lot of the snow on the balcony itself before I get to see it.

This is easily the most snow I've seen, fallen, and accumulated in my seven years in Brussels! I'm shocked, and it's absolutely incredible. I knew all along that this winter would be severe, but you just cannot imagine anything of this degree. Driving to work today will be a nightmare. I'm so happy I filled the tank up last night!

UPDATE: 07:59

I just checked the local news agency VRT and they have an article headlined: "Stay off the roads if possible." The article said that the Belgian police is making this request because the road conditions are atrocious and quite some accidents have already occurred, and it's not even 08:00 yet! The traffic jam gauge is shooting past 460 km of queues all over the country and is on very red. Damn it!

 Image Source: Krypton Zone (c) 2010 Entertainment, VRT Nieuws

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Toyota Corporate Blog - My First Contribution

Here's a teaser:
Toyota tops durability test in Germany

Today our guest blogger is Danny Chen, Corporate Communications

I joined the Corporate Communications team last month, having already been in Toyota for the last three years. My main tasks are to cover both internal and external communications. Late last week, while putting together our internal newsletter, I picked up some news from our colleagues in Germany which I found pretty exciting for both of my audiences so I thought I’d share it with you.

The Technical Inspection Association (TÜV) in Germany published its annual report last week on the rate of defect of all the car models they inspected this year. Toyota came out on top as the most consistently reliable brand in the report with no less than 17 top ten spots in various age categories.
Read more

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Boys are Back - Top Gear

I just finally managed to catch the return episode of Top Gear that I somehow managed to miss yesterday evening. I'm quite gutted actually. I've had little time to follow the Top Gear forum (official and non-official ones) for some time now. The last thing I remember seeing is that they are coming back in the new year because there are no slots on the BBC scheduling and they weren't ready.

Well, they came back with a Tuesday night episode last night and I missed it. But, no worries... I was still able to catch up, albeit one day late.

It was hilarious! They poked some well-deserved fun at the Stig - who abandoned the show to chase after personal glory. They even brought in an old Top Gear stalwart, Tiffany Dell (yes, I know it's Tiff Nedell, but it always sounded like Tiffany) as "Emergency Stig". That's a real good laugh. Not to mention the pokes on Americans, as usual for a British TV show. But the quote:

"I've put the Christmas Tree out with 'pussy'!"

That was really the best part of the show. Great way to come back with a bang. I can't wait for the Boxing Day special from Iraq to Bethlehem.

The Boys are Back!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Latest News: New Use for Ice Scraper

You know those plastic ice scraper things to get rid of ice and snow on your car in the mornings, in the freezing cold? Well I always thought those things were for the outside of the car. Not anymore after tonight's commute back home.

I got in the car, and turned on all the de-misting and de-fogging things in the car's centre console, and waited, listening to my MJ album. After a considerable amount of time, I realised that the foggy stuff on my windscreen is just not going away. Being slightly impatient, and wanting to go home since my car was -4°C inside, I took out my trusty cloth from the glove compartment and started to wipe the affected windscreen.

You'll never guess, but the moisture in my breath during the morning commute, froze on the windscreen. When I wiped it, it just remained and felt very hard... Like ice! I took out my trusty ice scraper thing and started to scrape the inside of my windscreen, prompting some very funny looks from my colleagues in the car park. It worked, and flakes of ice started falling on my dashboard.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Facebook Goes Down

Well that's funny... Facebook just went down. Apparently, they decided to launch some new functions to the popular social media website about half an hour ago. It appears to have crashed the site. Everyone is seeing a blank screen.

What's quite fun is that everyone immediately jumped onto Twitter to get confirmation. This is what Twitter is about. The definition of Twitter is not to follow normal events and happenings. It's a place people go to get confirmation of something that has gone wrong, or a disaster of some kind.

Hopefully this Facebook outage won't cause serious issues to those addicted to the site.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

War! - On the Net

What a gigantic mess today. News broke late in the afternoon that Mastercard website was taken down by a group of, what the media are calling, "hacktivists" (i.e. activist hackers). Anon Operation called out to the world, and they responded in force to join in the DDoS attack on Mastercard. Not long after, another trumpet call went out to take down, which also went the way of an "HTTP error 408."

So this is war. A lot of it has been based on Twitter, and they were quick to deactivate the account of Anon Operation (which has reincarnated within a matter of minutes as: @Anon_Operationn). Facebook closed down their page. But what does a trumpet call from the people to take up arms against evil corporations look like? Well... like this:


It is so easy to join up and immediately feel a sense of belonging, not to mention the results were tremendous and very rapid. That's why so many people signed up when Anon Operations called out. What an amazing case study for the future. And all of this, just one day after Julian Assange of Wikileaks got arrested by UK authorities over an international arrest warrant issued by Sweden. Several companies severed ties with Wikileaks, including Mastercard and Visa and others like PayPal. This clarion call from Anon Operations launches a successful revenge attack against companies they deem to be aiding the censoring of free speech.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Michael (2010)

Yesterday, when I was looking to switch on my YouTube playlist, one of the recommendations grabbed my attention. It said something like: "Michael Jackson - Hold My Hand (Duet with Akon)." Now, I heard about this year's release of some posthumous material by the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, through an album titled Michael. This is all part of the deal between Sony Entertainment/Epic and the Michael Jackson Estate to generate more income for the Estate to off-set the still massive debts incurred by his Michael-ness over the years.

I have to be honest, as a massive fan of the Great Man, I wasn't so thrilled to hear about a series of new releases, especially of musical material which Michael either rejected from release because they weren't good enough for his perfectionist-self, or they weren't finished. I just can't imagine MJ ever agreeing to this. Even if he was completely broke, he would never let loose something with his name on but wasn't the complete product to the world.

Out of curiosity, I played the song. The last proper MJ release was part of the Thriller 25 Anniversary edition. Incidentally, the only song he actually re-recorded was "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' (2008 Remix with Akon)" because, apparently, he really appreciates Akon as an artist to be bothered with going into the studio to re-work on a classic. That version of the song was fantastic, it doesn't distract from the original, but gives it an amazing new dimension. I fully enjoyed it.

Well "Hold My Hand" is really quite something. I can't really think of an occasion when I listen to a new song and immediately think: "This song is great!" I don't even think most songs are in the "decent" category, especially on the first run. This one... it was different. Apart from thinking it is fantastic, I've keep it on loop for a number of times over the past two days now.

Do you know what? I haven't gotten sick of it at all. Most songs, especially the cheap, trashy, auto-tuned pop we have the great fortune of being doused with these days, get really boring if you loop it more than one or two individual plays. MJ's music has always had that something where I can keep them going for months and years, daily, and still think they're fresh. This song, strangely enough, falls into that category.

I know a lot of people are saying that this is not MJ himself. Apparently, his crazy father and one of the brothers has been quoted in saying that when they heard the mix the first time, they immediately "realised" it wasn't Michael Jackson singing. Others feel the same ways as I did (as expressed above) that they should never have released unfinished material not given His blessing.

You know what? That's a load of rubbish! I'll briefly analyse the song for you, the way I hear it. And since I have studied music, and have sung for several years in choir, I can safely say that I have somewhat of a good ear when it comes to things like this.

MJ's Voice

Granted, His voice sounds a bit different to what we have heard before. But to be very frank, when was the last time we heard his voice on an album? That would be "Invincible" in 2001. This would be something like six or seven years before this song was recorded. On that album already, MJ's voice sounded a lot deeper than his 90s stuff. He seems to have slightly changed his vocal range to protect his voice in general, plus age probably came to play as well.

Nasal Hints

If you listen carefully, MJ's projection feels a bit nasally as well. This really didn't come as too much of a surprise to me. In the movie "This is It" - which is the last time he has been recorded to be singing and talking - he sounded very nasally. We all know he has had numerous surgeries on his nasal cavities, and this is undoubtedly one of the side-effects. So be it...

If you listen closely, his vocals sound a lot less clear than that of Akon. My early impression was that it was indeed unfinished. Basically, MJ only did a few takes on the song and left it when they worked on it in a Las Vegas studio a few years ago. Akon, on the other hand, finished his bits in the studio this year.

Not Him singing? Yeah, right.... Whatever!

Let us just remember the Great Man instead of bickering over stupid things like that. Don't forget, we're all brothers and sisters on this fragile little Blue Marble in the Universe.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Return

I can't believe it's nearly three weeks since I last posted something here. I guess with the F1 season ending, there's not that much to talk about. The huge amount of snow we've had in Europe didn't really help either, since I haven't gone to the cinema for ages now. With the arrival of winter, my entire being is working towards a total hibernation sequence, as it has been every year. Due to the large quantity of sleep being used, I need to concentrate on the more important things and drop a few others. Sadly, the blog has been a target so far.

So what's been happening then? Wikileaks has published, and is still slowly publishing more, diplomatic cables for the world to see. Unlike other leaks, this one has certainly grabbed the interest of the media. The Iraqi War and Afghanistan stuff didn't seem to quite catch on as everybody thought it would.

I must say though, that the cable leaks have revealed nothing significant. It shows that the diplomatic world thinks Iran's president to be a giant idiot - which we all knew already. The cables indicate that Italian premier Berlusconi has wild parties - we are all fully aware of those "bunga-bunga" sex parties widely reported on the news already. It goes on about how Sarkozy is a short dictator-type, and the North Korean leadership are complete twats. Wow! This stuff is really life changing (warning: massive sarcasm).

After the last "war diary" leak, the head of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, came under tremendous fire from all sides. The officials were upset, and the media didn't let go. The Swedish government even used that moment to announce he was to be arrested on entry to the Scandinavian country for rape charges, which he denies. But then, all of a sudden, everyone realised that the people didn't care enough about it. The officials stopped, and the media backed off. Even Sweden decided to recant and claim they made a mistake so they have withdrawn all charges against Assange.

What's changed now is that the media is constantly on this diplomatic cable leak. I think the reason is because diplomacy is not exactly the most transparent industry out there. In fact, it's probably one of the least due to the nature of the job. Finally, the public gets a chance to look at what is happening in that world, but it will fade away soon enough. Sweden, however, has now issued an Interpol arrest warrant for Assange to be extradited to Sweden for trial. So the first time wasn't a mistake after all? Or does the word "conspiracy" come into play in any way?

Wikileaks has been under DDoS attacks since the cables leak and were forced to move servers. At some point they ended up in Amazon's server farm. Then Amazon dropped them in violation of their own charter of some kind. The DNS host for the domain also dropped them causing Wikileaks to change to various other domains such as .ch, .de... etc.

What an enormous saga. And it's something which is really not so significant since nothing revealed has been anything close to news breaking. Stop being stupid guys...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Analysis Laptop

About a week ago, my ancient laptop decided to go west and left me frustrated and really angry. Here's the spec of my Acer Aspire 1501LMi:
  • CPU: AMD Athon 64 3000+, 64-bit CPU at 1.7GHz
  • Memory: 512mb DDR SDRAM, upgraded to 1gb a few years ago
  • Graphics: ATI Mobiltity Radeon 9600
  • Hard Drive: 60GB
I think the most surprising aspect of all of this is that the Aspire is nearly seven years ago. To be exact, as of today, it has been in operation for six years, seven months, and six days, give or take a few days. So the fact that it decided to kick the bucket is not an amazingly huge shock, but nevertheless, it's never nice to have a laptop crap out like that.

So I decided to try an extend the lifespan of the laptop a little bit since I can't spare the cash to do so at the moment. I went through a series of debugging tests to see what was causing it to randomly conk out without any warning.

I've always known about the heat issue with this laptop. To give you an example, I was sitting in my college course with my laptop on and typing away a few years ago when the laptop was still new. My neighbour had his lunch sandwich next my ventilator holes on the laptop. About 15 minutes into the class, he suddenly exclaims that my laptop's vents have baked his sandwich. The crust turned from crispy to warm and crunchy, like it just came out of an oven.

Anyways... I played around a bit and swore a lot and came to one conclusion: it was the hard drive. Now, I've backed up most of my stuff some time ago and kept the backup up-to-date, so I'm not too concerned about a dead hard disk. What was a problem though, was that I did not have an extra one lying around to try with. So I went off on the internet to search for a decent cheap hard disk replacement. I eventually found a Samsung 160gb 2.5" drive for no more than 50€ which is amazingly good. I also bought a HDD enclosure to make it into a USB drive in case it doesn't work internally anymore. That only cost about 10€.

So the HDD arrived the other day and I started to install Windows on it. Everything worked fine, and it went through the procedure faster than usual. I had to install with Windows setup on a USB stick since the stupid DVD drive packed up a long time ago and has been very unreliable since. Windows started with a nice welcome message which made me a lot happier. Then I started downloading the official drivers and files to support the laptop.

No less had I installed the graphics card driver did the laptop go into its usual "conk out without warning" mode again. Now I'm on my third fresh install, and I have discovered that the graphics card drivers are problematic. Thankfully there's something called Omega Drivers on the net. Some private individuals decides to support and extend the operational life of graphics cards. The drivers worked perfectly.

However, I've come up to a snag. The graphics is working, but I think that's the thing killing my laptop. Windows dragging is now jittery, and video playback is blocky and glitchy. If I go heavily on the display on my HDTV, then it really goes mad and kills itself.

Further more, I think I've also discovered a secondary issue which has been around for ages. I think the heat aspect is causing a lot more long-term damage than I expected. I've just been running a CPU core temperature monitor and it seems to operate constantly at 70°C. When the CPU load goes anything above 1%, the temperature shoots up to 80°C+. This cannot be healthy. On this machine, not mine, I'm running the same monitor and it's showing that both cores are around 50°C, lowest 33°C and highest just under 60°C.

Anyways I think I have no choice anymore. The Aspire is really out of its depth now. The only thing I can do is to find some cash to buy something relatively decent very soon. I think I'll also find a way to blow the Aspire up after all the years of frustration it has caused me since I bought it, under ill advise by a stupid family member, in 2004.


EDIT: And I've just discovered something worrying... A website says the Athlon 64 chipset can operate only up to a maximum temperature of 70°C. So this thing has been running above and beyond that for years... Goodness me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Modern Air Travel

This morning, while I was reading the news, I came across an article on the BBC News website which featured the picture on the right with the caption below: "has some of the glamour associated with air travel disappeared?"

Such a great comment to reflect the modern day air travel industry. It definitely warmed the cockles of my innards on a freezing, cold and grey dawn.

Something has gone wrong in the past three or four decades. Air travel evolved from being a luxury where people dressed up for and airlines worked hard to give you everything possible, to something where it feels like we're all farmyard animals being mass transported around the globe.

Airplanes has to be one of the most significant inventions in the past century. The move from airplanes into mass transportation is even more significant. The world suddenly shrank, and we all became global citizens. A matter of hours and you can be on the other side of the planet. I think it's no more than 22 hours to really go from one side to the other these days. If the Concord is still around, half that time.

It's a real shame. I still think air travel should be respected. But not the airlines. They treat everyone, even people on higher travel classes, as badly as they could. This whole new era of terrorist activities made it even worse. We now have to be subjected to all sorts of privacy-invading and probably illegal searches on our most intimate body parts before being handed over to the airline staff.

Such a shame... I remember in the 80s when I was a child, that the air stewards were all dashing and charming (yes, I know most of them are gay, but so what? They did a damn good job on the planes and made it enjoyable for their customers), the air hostesses were gorgeous and specially chosen for their jobs to be good looking and well trained to service the paying customers.

What has happened? We get ugly, angry people on the planes serving us. Bashing us in the leg every 10 minutes with those trolleys. The food looks bland and disgusting to say the least. The seats are terrible and looking into a micro-screen for 10 hours is not my idea of enjoyment.

Bring back the old days!

Image source: BBC News

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - New Champion

There we have it, a new Formula 1 World Champion: Sebastian Vettel! He finally clinched the title in a pretty boring race where all the top contenders were affected somewhat by the early safety car stint when Liuzzi crashed Schumi out of the race.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is really something quite amazing. The track doesn't seem to bring out much of a interesting race, but the way the place looks is just superb. It's one of those modern circuits created under the reigns of Bernie Ecclestone. The investment is quite tremendous and you actually have a massive hotel that hangs over the entire circuit. Definitely a move away from traditional circuits.

Schumi was nudged by team mate Rosberg in the opening few corners and ended up pointing in the wrong direction. Most of the mid-pack drivers managed to miss him but Liuzzi had nowhere to go and ended up on top and scraping Schumi's head through the cockpit. Quite a scary moment echoed by Martin Brundle during the replays.

After that incident, the safety car was sent out for about five or six laps, during which most of the mid-pack drivers took advantage and went for their mandatory stops. This eventually had a compound affect when Webber and Alonso went for their new tyres. They ended up behind "back markers" like Petrov's Renault and Alguersuari's Torro Rosso. Sadly for them, they stayed there which ruled them out of the championship race entirely.

The race ended up to be pretty boring after all the hype. Last weekend's race in Brazil was much more interesting and stirs up the blood a lot more. What a shame then, a great track but yielding not much for the entertainment aspect. The older tracks apparently shouldn't be ruled out after all. They are still really superb.

Big pity for Ferrari who were in the best position to win the Drivers' Championship this year. I'm not the world's biggest Red Bull fan, but they have done a sterling job to take both Championships in 2010.

That's it for Formula 1 this year. Once again I'll go into a few months of complete boredom... Boooooo!

Monday, November 8, 2010

New F1 World Champions - Red Bull Racing Team

While the aftermath of the Brazillian settles, let's have a quick review to see what happened this afternoon (or evening depending where you live).

Red Bull are champions in 2010 with still one race to go. It's a fantastic result for them, but not something I'm so thrilled about. I've never been RBR's biggest fan and their relative dominance this year made it a bit annoying for me. It's a bit funny, but I can't tell you why I don't like them. Maybe because I'm slightly too conservative in my approach to F1 - yes, I know that's bad. Good on them in any case!

The Drivers' Championship goes on to next week in Abu Dhabi. Vettel took the win followed by Webber and Alonso. Jenson Button is completely out of the running, and seemed to be taking it quite well. Hamilton still has a mathematical chance but he was quite realistic to say that he needs a bit of a miracle to get there.

Alonso still stays in the top spot in the standings with 246 points followed by Webber (238 pts), Vetel (231 pts), Hamilton (222 pts).

The race itself was really exciting with lots of overtaking along the pit straight and first two corners. A Safety Car period 10 laps to the end of the race threw an extra element into the weekend but simply ended up with a massive train of cars in the middle of the pack. They acted as mobile roadblocks for the front drivers but not as severely as it could have been in other tighter race tracks. Schumi inexplicably gave 6th to team mate Nico Rosberg claiming Rosberg has a better chance in the Championship. I still don't see the point, but so be it. Does it really make such a big difference to be 6th in the overall standings?

The final race should be exciting. Both of the Red Bulls seems to have pushed their cars to the limit towards the end of the race. They were lighting up the time sheets with purple after purple laps. The McLarens and Ferrari's Alonso also seems to have pushed their cars a bit to ensure they didn't fall behind. Someone might pull up short next weekend because of this. Watch this space, I think...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vuvuzela Power at the Publivores

In order to prevent someone else posting this without my OK, I thought I'll take it into my own hands and have a go at it. Yes guys, I'm talking about you lot! All of you know very well who you are!

Yesterday night was La Nuit des Publivores in Brussels, the second of the two nights they are holding this year. For those of you who don't know, the English translation of the event is "Ad Eaters". Basically they spend all night (from 8 PM until past 4 AM) showing adverts from all over the world. There are also a couple of comedians and on-stage activities in-between to keep everyone awake and interested.

The point of it is to make as much noise as possible. They generally supply some kind of noise makers to help you with that since shouting gets a bit tedious after a few hours. This year, I decided to revive my trusty Vuvuzela for the occasion and proudly display my South African heritage. Unfortunately, I was louder than anybody else in the whole theatre setting which attracted the attention of the presenters.

During the first interval, he came to my seat, grabbed my Vuvuzela and ran off to the stage proclaiming that he has rid the night of the ultimate noise maker. For me this is just pure jealousy on their part. Mine was bigger and better than every single person in that room! Anyways, I did tell my friends not to leave my vuvu lying around in the first place. I chased after the presenter and snuck up on stage to reclaim my prized possession. Sadly both the presenters and the cameras caught me.

This is what happened...

Brazillian F1 Grand Prix

After yesterday's shocker Qualifying which saw Nico Hulkenberg snatch pole from actual title contenders by one second, today's race is shaping up to be an exciting Championship showdown. The Williams driver, although not in contention for the title, made the right decisions in changing conditions and was able to out-do everyone else in the field.

When Qualifying ended, the excitement just kept on coming. Jenson Button's convoy, with him in it, was ambushed by armed gunmen in the slums next to the circuit. His police trained driver took avoidance action immediately to get them out of trouble.

The Championship situation looks a bit like this:

Fernando Alonso (231 points)

To win the Championship today, he must:
  • Win the race with Webber P5 or below
  • P2 with Webber P8 or below
  • P3 with Webber P10 or below

Mark Webber (220 pts)

He will stay in contention if:
  • Alonso is P4 or below
The others have an even harder job to do this weekend. Not to be missed!

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Terror Alerts!

    A recent wave of discovery puts the world in a very awkward place. It seems that every single security measure put in place after 9/11 in the travel industry has been a complete waste of time. All that time we spend at the airports waiting for the authorities to go through our stuff and make sure we are not carrying bombs has had no effect in any way. The terrorists are still sneaking through and through. First the shoe bomber last year, and now they are going through the parcel delivery services and sticking plastic explosives in printer toners.

    Of course we, the normal civilians, all know what it means when terrorism strikes. We are normally the ones taking the subways, or busses, or planes when they get blown up or crashed into something. The best and most effective way to deal with terrorism is to ignore it and continue with life as it would be normally. Think of terrorists as a bunch of 2 year olds. All they want is attention. The more media coverage (like the recent parcel "attacks") and the more the government strives to cut off possibilities for terrorists to attack but making our lives worse all together, this is what fuels these infantile "douchebags."

    Just ignore it. People living and working in big cities know the risk. Some are more dangerous than others like New York, Paris and London. I half expect to see the European Commission in a smoldering ruin every night when I have to go past it. But if it happens, so be it. It will be horrible for a lot of people, including non-directly affected, but this is life in the modern world. It has been the same for decades before, nothing has changed.

    So stop trying to stop these terrorist by making our lives worse. This way, we will end up stopping travelling, and causing the economy to drop further, and then capitalism is over - terrorists win. Either you decide to send out a couple of nukes and take their entire caved up mountains out or you just let us live normal lives without further intrusions.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Psychic Paul (The Octopus)

    Horrible news today! Paul the Psychic Octopus, who correctly predicted all the FIFA 2010 World Cup South Africa results, has been found dead in his tank. The aquarium staff announced that his death was "peaceful" and "natural".

    RIP Paul. You gave us and the media something really fun to talk about. Your short two year life on this planet helped entertain us.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

    After some deliberation, I finally caught the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. I've been holding it off because I keep thinking it would depress me too much since it is all about crashing markets and bursting bubbles. Considering what I had to deal with when the world's financial markets imploded last year, and the aftermath continuing through this year, I wasn't sure if I could take a 2 hour movie about this exact thing.

    Well, since options were limited, I decided to give it a shot and see how it would turn out. Not bad, is what I would say. As opposed to what I feared, it did not drive me to further depression about the current climate in world economics and what it means to us all. It actually put quite an interesting spin on the whole thing - this is not the first time it's happened to us, it will keep coming so we just all have to make sure we know what we want out of life. The question, and it relates to what I wrote in my Korean GP review, has always been: are you a risk taker or someone who plays it safe.

    Those who take risks can potentially gain more out of it in the short to medium term. However, for the really unfortunate risk takers, the long term future isn't quite so bright - like Michael Douglas' character in this movie. He ended up in jail serving eight years for what he calls a "victimless crime" by playing with people's hard earned money and assets in a massive global game of chance. However, he managed to get a break by cheating his way through family (which is not uncommon to say the least) and managed to turn his situation around. This is someone who managed to crawl past the "long term" and went further.

    The movie is pretty long, and I've seen some critical reviews which marked this movie down for this specific fact. But the way it was filmed, the photography and the innovative use of graphics is really quite something. It does feel long, but it doesn't feel long. I know it doesn't make sense, but I'll try put it simply.

    When watching Avatar, if you don't have an intermission in the middle of the film (like they do at Kinepolis in Brussels), you simply do not feel the length. Your entire being is drawn and concentrating on what is happening on the big screen. Especially with the 3D aspect, it really uses all your senses and keeps them occupied. In this Wall Street film, you can feel the time passing by. But it doesn't mean it was boring in any way. It just felt long and quite drawn out in a pretty OK way.

    The movie really isn't very bad at all, and it really gets you thinking. Some people have made it their profession and their mark to take risks. On the face of it, these people are taking risks with other people's futures (back to the "victimless crime" aspect). But that isn't entirely true. There are still ways in which people on this kind of level can still be deeply affected. Even if they don't seem to have emotions or hearts at all, everyone has a price. Some, or most, will pay for it while they are on this planet. Others, well... who knows? Maybe if here is a hell, they will pay for it on the other side.

    It all comes down to our choices in what we want to be, what we want to do, and what we want our mark is on this planet. Or am I reading too much into this? Hmm...

    Korean Grand Prix Latest

    So I woke up at 7 AM to watch the first ever Formula 1 race hosted by South Korea especially as it was shaping up to be quite an interesting race. At this moment, we have 5 drivers who can still win the Championship. The race track looked a bit odd in 2D map form when I checked it out earlier this year before the track was actually finally completed, but it turns out to be a great flowing race track and looks quite interesting.

    What's happening now though... 1.5 hours into my early morning, nothing. The race "started" under Safety Car conditions and after 4 short laps, it was Red Flagged. The race has now stopped due to weather conditions. It's pouring with rain with standing water all over the place, but that's not really the biggest issue. It seems that due to the really new track surface, it makes the race impossible.

    Let's see how it goes.

    09:54 CET: So the race actually started after 18 laps behind the Safety Car. It was very interesting after the restart especially as the Mercedes GP drivers of Rosberg and Schumi took full advantage and managed to make their way up. Then it all suddenly ended again with Webber (Championship leader) running slightly wide and ramming against the wall and taking Rosberg out with him. So Safety Car back out for a few more laps, and it's about to go back in again after the carnage from Webber is cleared out.

    10:59 CET: What an eventful and absolutely fun race eventually. With the light completely gone, and everyone driving blind Alonso finishes 1st followed by Hamilton, Massa and Schumi. Vettel's engine blows up near the end of the race. And guess what? Alonso is laughing madly in his cockpit because he is now leading the World Championship! Amazing! Great race!

    It's been great that the FIA decided to go ahead with the race. It was a great shot in the arm for decision making by the governing body. If they decided to "wuss" out of the race today, it would have been detrimental to the credibility of the sport.

    Also very interesting to see how after 42 laps, Vettel said the light is terrible and the race should stop whereas Hamilton - who spent all day asking why the race is postponed or behind the Safety Car - wanted to race to keep going and get going. It just shows who wants to take risks and which driver wants to keep it safe and make sure the corporate business end of things are being taken care of.

    Look how dark it is! Goodness me!
     Image source: Screen capture from FOM World Feed.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010


    I'm in a rather miserable mood in the past few days. Apart from having a lot to do by end of next week, I've spent too many hours in traffic jams every night. It started off about 2-3 weeks ago now and it's just been terrible. The distance I need to cover is less than 12 km but it's taking me more than 1 hour to complete that journey every night.

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that, coupled with the deteriorating traffic situation, the temperature has taken a turn for the worse. The last weekend that we had good weather, we were hitting 28°C on a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago but suddenly, Monday brought about less than 5°C. Since then it has become colder and colder progressively until now, which is freezing point at night.

    All of this is making me a bit fed up and rather grumpy. I guess this is pretty normal for this time of the year. Weather goes the direction of terrible and the sun rises too late and goes down too early which will get worse by the end of next week with the changing of the Daylight Savings Time again. You just don't see natural light anymore!

    Still, nothing annoys me more by the massive coverage on all news channels of the latest classified documents published or "leaked" by WikiLeaks. I have no doubt that the information they have published is important, and can be important to some people who were previously not privy to this information. However, I'm not sure how useful this is for the average citizen.

    The first point of note is that no Average Joe will pour through nearly 400 000 pieces of documents online. I got tired and bored reading 5 "notable" extracts on the BBC News website this morning before I even moved past the second entry - and this was sort of summarised by BBC already.

    Secondly, the most amazing revelation, apparently, is that lots of civilians were killed. We know this already. The only thing we didn't know was how many civilians were killed. But do we need to know this? The fact that we already know civilians were being mowed down by US (or any one of its allies) armed forces in a very unpopular war should be enough for the public to go up-in-arms.

    Of course, we also should acknowledge the fact that this kind of "war" which is basically house-to-house combat in the streets is more guerrilla than conventional combat. The natural result of this is civilian casualties, and a lot of them not because the US forces are aiming to eradicate civilians, but they just get in the way.

    For me, this all looks like two children fighting in the public domain. WikiLeaks' Assange takes a whack at the US government which is then retaliated by a government sponsored smear campaign. Then some potentially unrelated incident occurs which saw Assange being publicly wanted by the Swedish authorities for rape charges. Some further accusations of governmental secret goings-on and then we have this 400k document leak.

    Getting really bored now... Have you guys tried growing up yet? And maybe the world's media could drop this and stop providing fuel for this petty argument?

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Weird News...

    I've just woken up on another cold and brisk morning. Apparently it feels like 1°C outside, according to my weather report. It's cold, not just for October, but in general I think. Man...

    When I got up from my bed, I did what I normally do: turned on my laptop and checked the news. On the BBC News website, I got a bit of a shock because the normal layout with a series of key news items did not show up. I thought I was on the wrong page when I saw this:

    As it is the morning, and it's about 07:00, you can probably understand why it did take me a few minutes to finally get my head around it. But then I switched to CNN after finding no news of importance to me and saw this:

    What on earth is going on? How can this Chilean miners thing possibly be the biggest news story today? Even if it the biggest, what makes it the most important news of the day? Why are all the media outlets changing their presentation to focus on this? Look at that stupid graphic on CNN. It's like a post-election report.

    I don't know about you, but I have no interest in these miners at all. Yes, I do feel extremely sorry for them and I am very sympathetic. But they have had so much coverage and it's nothing extraordinary. The mine collapsed and they got trapped. They keep getting food and water from the outside on a regular basis. They were even given cameras and signed soccer shirts to keep their morale up. NASA has offered to jump in with some method of keeping these people sane, as did everyone else when they realised what kind of publicity this would do for them.

    There is simply nothing of interest. It's not even human interest story anymore. Once again, we have a case where all the media just jumped in without really thinking about it. What a waste of time, especially mine!

    Image sources: BBC News, International

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Japanese GP

    Formula 1 is a very structured sport. Everything is planned in advance to the minute starting from what the FIA and FOM requires of the drivers and teams down to what the sponsors requires of the drivers and teams. All the various side-show events are prepared and planned, and everything normally goes very smoothly.

    Well, on Saturday, all of that changed. The rain clouds above Suzuka chucked so much torrential downpour down onto the track that the FIA had to delay and postpone the Qualifying sessions until it was so dark that the session was called off. I don't remember seeing anything like this for some time now. Eventually it was decided that Quali will take place on Sunday morning shortly before the race.

    Something like 5 cars were out before the race got anywhere at the start. Then it all calmed down a bit as the race started to settle after a rather strange weekend for everyone. Kobayashi had some really amazing "banzai" manoeuvres through the hairpin to overtake the likes of Barrichello and Heidfeld, in front of his home crowd. Nico Rosberg had a sudden scary moment as his right rear tyre seemed to have failed sending him out of control into the barriers while leading team mater Schumi.

    Anyways, the race wasn't too boring in the end, but once again the Red Bulls took the top spots. I'm really not a big fan of them, but they are really doing well so "good for them".

    What I did find annoying is that on the BBC broadcast, first there was a lull of no sound just before Rosberg's accident. Then just before the accident, they switched broadcast, I think, to Radio 5 Live. This was really funny as one of the commentators, while commenting on Kobayashi's various brave overtaking moves, quoted the hugely famous internet phenomenon of Leeroy Jenkins. So it wasn't so bad, at least the commentary changed to something quite funny and very much more up-to-date than what it is normally.

    However, something really got me riled up. The BBC decided to send Jake Humphrey off to Delhi to broadcast the Commonwealth Games ahead of the Grand Prix leaving a gap in the anchor role to stand alongside Coulthard and Eddie Jordan. They decided to bring pit lane reporter Lee McKenzie into the midst as anchor for this race.

    It was a massive disaster. She was not sufficiently prepared and sounded horribly amateurish. At some point during the post-race segment, she introduced Martin Whimarsh from McLaren as "Martin Whitaker". During the same segment, while reporting the Constructors Championships' current tally (which was on the screen), she exclaimed over the air to her colleagues to check if she reported the correct scores. Shortly afterwards, she had to recant following a calculation error on her side of the difference between the top two teams at the moment.

    I'm sorry, I never thought Lee was really very good in the pit lane when BBC took over. I always, and still, think Louise Goodman was much better. In the beginning I also didn't like Jake very much at all either, but that has changed because he is doing what all good commentators in F1 does - he prepares himself. He does his homework and jots things down (albeit on his iPad - showoff!) and ensures that he doesn't say anything more than what he knows or has to say.

    Here's the key point then...

    On TV, if you don't know something for sure, if you cannot be 100% confident it is correct, rather not say it at all. Give it a few extra seconds to confirm before going on air. It shows you to be unprepared and unprofessional if you get something wrong and you can immediately lose credibility.

    Image source: Krypton Zone (c) 2010 Entertainment

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Happy Birthday Republic of China - 中華民國 生日快樂

    Today is Double Ten Day (雙十國慶) or the National Day of the Republic of China (中華民國). Apart from celebrating the beginnings of our great democratic nation, this year also marks the start of the 100th year of our people breaking the bondage of a corrupt and slowly decaying empire towards a bright new democratic and free future.

    Long Live the Republic of China!
    中華民國 萬歲!

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    In Memory of Mr Ince

    Dear Readers,

    Someone very special to me, and thousands of others scattered all over the world, passed away yesterday morning at 11:30 - Mr John Ince.

    He was truly the embodiment of the principles of a True SACS Man, an icon, and a legend in every respect. His compassion was without bounds and he would happily give, give, and give.

    He made the world a better place, and he definitely made a significant impact on my life and my path in the long road in life. The same can be said to thousands of students present and past who ever passed through SACS, and even non-students.

    Mr Ince was really a special man. History will look upon him as one of the greatest ever to walk in our Great Halls.

    Thank you, sir. Your memories and guidance will continue to live in all of us. You will never, ever be forgotten.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

    I've been staying away from my blog for some time now due to my ill health. It's been a couple of days now that I've been really under the weather. Then again... The weather here seems to change from 8°C to 28°C within a few hours, no wonder I'm feeling a bit off-colour. With all the other people around me also a bit coldish means that even standing in a lift is a chance to catch some ugly germ floating around in the thin and processed air.

    What a wonderful change it was, then, when I happened across one of the latest animated movies from Dreamworks - How to Train Your Dragon.

    I caught the trailer some time ago before another movie started. I'm not quite sure which one, but I thought the movie it trailed would be great. The dialogues featured in that trailer was dry, witty and rather sarcastic which suited my taste pretty well.

    After seeing some film stills, I kept off watching it however. How can I ever watch an animated film after Avatar. Everything just seems boring and cheap in comparison. James Cameron's hit film is the pinnacle of silver screen technology, and whoever else not using that tech is not worthy for the big screen anymore - so I thought.

    On one of those rare occasions I do want to point out that I'm pretty happy that I was very, very wrong. Yes, the graphics aren't as realistic as Avatar. The world is not as nice as Pandora. The characters did not move as they did through motion capturing of Sam Worthington.

    So what...?

    The story is fantastic and it's just fun to watch. There is a deep storyline which is somewhat lost through the film, but just the dialogue is hilarious to listen to.

    "Thank you for nothing, you useless reptile."

    I really enjoyed the movie even after a second watch. It doesn't have that tear-jerking ability Disney and Pixar seems to have, but it's close. I'm glad some of the other animators are now trying to come up with animations that are not just funny for the sake of funny. Pixar normally has some deeper meaning even when it is funny. It's that special something that connects with you deep down whether it's something of interest to you, or some kind of emotion that they help you rekindle with.

    It's a great surprise that the movie is based on a series of children's books. I was getting pretty happy and excited about trying to sneak my way into my local English bookstore and ask for the set of these books written for 6-year olds by lying to them that it's for a nephew or something. But if I read correctly, the movie didn't really follow the book much at all. They had to alter it to match what the target demographic would be interested in, citing that the original story was too "sweet." Oh well... Pity then... Could still keep it in mind for when I have kids one day.

    Definitely worth a watch anyways, and definitely got my mood back up enough to fight off this horrible cold!

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    The Special Relationship (2010)

    On a trilogy of Tony Blair films starring Michael Sheen, Peter Morgan has once again written a masterpiece in "The Special Relationship." It's a film based around the relationship the British Prime Minister traditionally has with his/her US counterpart (The President). In this case, the story focuses around Blair and Bill Clinton.

    However, I think I must be getting old, and a lot quicker than I am expecting. Some time ago, I decided to drag out a dusted DVD of "Thirteen Days," a docudrama about the events leading up to and including the Cuban Missile Crisis during the 60s when J.F.K. was in charge. If I remember correctly, and I may not be since I think I am getting old, I watched this movie in a History class back in the early 2000s - and I didn't really think much of it.

    Watching it again now made so much more sense. I have had to deal with a crisis situation in my own profession earlier this year. It was suddenly easy to draw similarities and feel part of the story. A second watching turned out to be a fantastic blueprint of how to write a manual on "crisis management" and what a crisis this was - nuclear!

    I've been a massive fan of the mainstream second installment of Peter Morgan's trilogy, "The Queen." The movie was gritty, it had emotion, as it simply portrayed a frail family on the verge of destruction battling the onset of new media. Along comes a "knight in shining armor" to bring a traditional and very old fashioned family into this brave new world with the help of not just Blair, but also Alastair Campbell who has shaped much of what PR is in politics in the UK for a good while now.

    In any case, I've never seen the first film of the trilogy, "The Deal," which apparently involved a deal struck between Blair and Gordon Brown on who is to become Prime Minister. This is definitely something I will try to do now: find it and watch it. It was a great, joyful occasion when I discovered there was a new movie coming out this year with much of the same casts for characters appearing in "The Queen."

    Having just watched the final of the trilogy I must say I am really getting ancient. I sat through one hour and thirty minutes of political grappling and public relations spin and do you know what my reaction was? I honestly think this is the single best film I have seen all year. The worst part of all this though, is that I stick "Invictus," which is also somewhat of a political drama, together on top of my 2010 rankings.

    I was captivated throughout the film and kept hoping that it would not end. It was truly a joy to watch and it was a truly wonderful experience to have learnt something while watching an enjoyable movie. Fantastic!

    Now I am looking forward to my second watching sometime soon!

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Knight and Day (2010)

    During lunch time yesterday, I decided it was high time to watch the action comedy, starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, Knight and Day. When the trailers were first released, I wasn't too bothered with the movie to be honest. I'm not the world's biggest Tom Cruise fan (missed all his early stuff during my childhood, you know Top Gun and Vanilla Sky) and I really don't care much for Cameron Diaz.

    I can't figure out why people say she is the most beautiful person on the silver screen. There are actresses who are much better looking and with significantly smaller oral cavity than her. Just off-hand, I can say Liv Tyler, Rachel McAdams and Amy Adams. Anyways, I just don't like her looks nor do I like her acting a great deal.

    What sparked my interest, however, was when the two appeared on Top Gear in the last series to promote the movie. That episode of Top Gear (which I've already reviewed here) was easily on my Top 3 list and definitely the best content they've presented in the past 2 or 3 years (or 4 or 5 series). The chemistry of the two, and their really funny dispositions really caught my attention.

    So, the film then...

    It wasn't as bad as I thought it would have been. I've heard some rather bad stories about the movie, which also explains why it took me so long to finally go see it. Although... It definitely was not as good as I hoped it would have been.

    I see the point during the movie to show from either actor's perspective when they were drugged in a black-out scene. However, they overly used this technique and you actually miss out on a lot of action and storyline. At the end of that sequence of events, you would ask yourself: "what happened and how did they get from there to there?"

    Unfortunately, the trailer also turned out to be funnier than the movie actually is. And some of the other actors and actresses were so poor in their on-screen oratory presentation that I missed half of what they were going on about.

    I think I'll stop here to be quite honest. The movie was OK to be as kind as I can. But I probably would watch something like The Expendables again over this movie.

    What this exercise shows though, is that if you place the product cleverly and promote it in the right way, you can definitely gain more viewership and, in this case, box office production. Even for someone who has no interest in either of the leading actors/actresses, I was drawn to see it. Of course, they were lucky. The BBC no longer has a talk show to host promotion activities since Jonathan Ross left (or was he asked to go?), and they chose Top Gear as a replacement.

    Image source: Regency Enterprises

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    US Church Qur'an Burning

    I just read that a small church in Florida, US will go ahead with their plan to burn Qur'ans on the anniversary of 9/11. Short of staying as far as possible from trying to involve myself in this "religious conflict," I simply have to talk about this because it is so preposterous.

    Jesus Christ is known as Nabi Isa in the Islamic faith. He was known as a prophet or messenger of God (of course in Islam God is Allah) instead of God's son or an incarnation of God. Nabi Isa is mentioned no less than twenty-five times in the Qur'an which also mentions that he was born to Mary in a virginal conception, that he was to lead the ministry of Jews and that he was allowed to perform miracles by the act of God.

    Everyone is going on about how many troops will be killed in Afghanistan if this burning plan goes ahead. People like Hillary Clinton, the commanders in Afghanistan, NATO, etc have all jumped in with their voice of concern over the retaliation to be. But the really amazing thing about it all is that this small church is burning a sacred text which supports the existence and, in some ways, the authority of their own Messiah - Jesus Christ.

    Might as well go burn Bibles right? It amounts to exactly the same thing then... I think people of the Islamic faith will actually find this irony so funny that they would just pass it for a bunch of uneducated idiots being as stupid as humanly possible. They won't even dignify this action with a response to sink that low in IQ levels.

    Did you know?

    Judaism, Christianity and Islam all originated from about the same kind of time and same kind of place in what is now the Middle East? They were the three main monotheistic religions to come out and to survive until this day. All of this stems from the religious beliefs of Zoroastrianism in the region of current day Iran. the correlations of stories between the three religions is absolutely fascinating. Yet, some idiot would always start a war based on their own faith, which in turn is based on their sacred text, which in turn actually somewhat reflect what the enemy's sacred text says. Why do we allow these ignorant and foolish people to take charge in the first place?

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    The A-Team (2010)

    Doo-doo-doo-doo doo-doo-dooooo... ("The A-Team" Theme)

    I finally caught The A-Team remake today. It's been out for some time but I never had a chance or really bothered to go watch it. I think the reason for that is because of the varying degrees of reviews I've heard since the movie was released. On one side, people say it's really bad and is full of pointless action. On the other, people say it's great and definitely worth a watch.

    Trying to be as neutral as possible, I watched the new movie. The A-Team really wasn't something I followed as a kid. Primarily because it was not in my "era." I must say, my impression of the movie is that it is slightly better than what I expected - taking the good and bad comments from either side of the coin.

    Some of the action sequences were quite far fetched, basically absolutely impossible and improbable stuff even with the latest CG technology. Bradley Cooper (Face), whom I have enjoyed watching since catching him on a cancelled TV series "Kitchen Confidential," simply played himself throughout. The opening sequence with him wedged in tyres and about to be burnt alive brought back images of "The Hangover." What a pity...

    I still struggle to free myself of the image in my head I have amalgamated for Liam Neeson (Hannibal). He vividly stands out in movies like "Dark Knight" and "Love Actually." It becomes slightly difficult to picture him in other roles from that and really does take some getting used to.

    All in all, I don't think this is a bad movie. Nevertheless it wasn't brilliant and I don't really have a desire to see it again and again like some of the great movies in the past two or three years. There will doubtlessly be some sequels to come after this since they've already raked in $167 million.

    Image source: 20th Centruy Fox Entertainment

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    FIA Triumphs Again

    At the start of the 2010 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix last weekend in the legendary rolling Ardennes hills, the BBC's race commentator noticed that Felipe Massa's Ferrari was about 2-metres in-front of his pit box while he was sitting on the race grid. Following the hugely eventful race, nothing further was thought of or talked about regarding this incident.

    However, some amateur footage has been seen on YouTube by fans sitting in the grandstand by the pit straight. Massa was indeed very far out of his box and no action was taken against him. He ended the race in fourth place.

    Now the FIA has come out to condemn this and claim their shock that the race directors did not take appropriate action. They now also claim that this is a technical problem with the in-car transponders. A spokeswoman from the FIA told the press today that no action can be taken as the results of the race were already finalised and published. All they will do now is to see how they can prevent it from happening again.

    What on earth is the role of the FIA? They are the governing body of all things motor racing. It is their job to: 1) make everyone's lives a bit worse, and crucially, 2) to set up and maintain every single guideline or "sporting code" with consistency and purpose.

    I bring your attention to my race report of Spa where I mentioned that Vettel, who crashed into someone - who also happens to be a championship contender, who ended up retiring from the race while the young Vettel simply changed his nose and went back out - was only punished with a drive-through penalty. Michael Schumacher, the most experienced and the world's most successful driver, got a 10-place grid drop for the Belgian Grand Prix following his on-track battle with Barrichello which resulted in no accidents nor did it put anyone in any danger whatsoever.

    Only problem I saw was now Rubens was scared out of his pants and spent the rest of the race weekend and the shutdown period whining about it. "A general nice guy" is what people say of him, whatever man. He is bitter as hell for being Ferrari's Number 2 driver. Why didn't he quit if he didn't like it? Anyways, just a brown moment for a whiner. No big deal.

    Anyways, the FIA has once again shown how they are not doing their job properly. Especially after the BBC broadcast this to millions and millions of people. F1 footage from the UK is not only used for broadcast inside the UK but BBC is broadcast throughout Europe, and a lot of English speaking countries buy the rights to broadcast the BBC footage which is cheaper than hiring two commentators at each race.

    We all saw it... And we all recognise the FIA is not consistent at all. We still enjoy the sport, but we do always keep the hope you will improve on this at some point.

    Image source: YouTube

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Some say...

    I'm sure car fans - and if you are a car fan, you are most likely a Top Gear fan too - have been following this furore surrounding the up and coming HarperCollins publication which is said to reveal the identity of the anonymous racing driver on that legendary TV series.

    There is no denying, and there is nothing to be sad about, but I am a huge Top Gear fan. I've been an avid watcher since 2004 when a friend introduced it to me. This led to my catching up of every single episode since 2002. There is also a rather large forum dedicated to motoring shows in the UK of which I am a member and actively contribute.

    But for me, a lot of the intrigue of The Stig went away shortly after the show's producers killed off the Black Stig and brought in the White Stig. I was no longer actively reading the theories online of who he actually is.

    What matters, my dear fellow fans, are those absolutely phenomenal laps that he (or indeed, they) does (or do). That lap in the Renault F1 car, the lap in the Aston Martin DBR9 racer... Jaw-droppingly fantastic.

    I don't give a flying **** who The Stig is. He is a fictional character on a TV series watched by millions. His only, and most important contribution is that he drives some of the world's most amazing cars, and blasts them around a tiny "race track" built on some airfield in Southern England. And he does it with style!

    Look at The Stig as who you want to be. We all have a 5 year old boy inside of us when we see the Ferrari Enzo, the Bugatti Veyron or the Carrera GT. The Stig is full filling that dream of ours to take those beasts and wrangle it around a circuit allowing it to give all it can give. And what a dream that is!

    British tabloids should really find something else to report on. Not only are you trying to ruin a show watched by millions of people around the globe, but you are actively trying to destroy dreams and hopes of the younger generations.

    Do you not feel any kind of shame? Destroying children to sell tabloids (who's reporting credibility is supremely low, by the way).

    Take your trashy reporting and shove it!

    Some say he is Ben Collins, and others claim that James May has said The Stig is actually Captain Slow. But all we know is, he is a mirror of all of our automotive ambitions!

    Image source: The Telegraph

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Three Typhoons At Once?!

    There are currently 3 typhoons hovering around Taiwan. This morning, there were only two, one each on either side of the island. However, a massive tropical depression system was also detected hanging just over Taiwan. Within a few hours, that changed into another typhoon.

    It isn't the first time this has ever happened, but it is a rather rare, and quite a worrying occurrence. The weather services are predicting buckets of rain to chuck down very soon and all typhoon alerts have gone off to warn everyone on the sea and on land.

    Quite scary...

    Image source: Central Weather Bureau Taiwan

    Belgian GP

    Today's F1 race was definitely quite fun. The micro-climate at Spa once again threw everything up in the air and let a lot more luck into the equation than you would normally expect in F1.

    The Mercedes GP cars of Schumi and Rosberg did well to come back from their respective penalties to claim 6th and 7th places. And inspiring start for Schumi saw him jump something like 6 people before Eau Rouge. He kept his nose clean and showed what he can really do in the wet and given the chance.

    What was quite interesting is that, while fighting for track position, Vettel planted his nose right into the side pod of reigning Champion Button. Vettel had to limp back into the pits to repair his nose whereas Button was out completely.

    Replay showed Vettel trying to pass Button changing direction more than once, ending up losing control and slamming right into Button. What was the penalty? A drive through for causing an avoidable accident.

    I seem to recall Schumi getting a massive 10-place drop for "nearly causing an accident" when he fought with former team mate Rubens Barrichello on track and seemingly pressured him very close to the pit wall. No accident, both drivers finished the race. All that happened was an extra element of excitement was chucked into the race.

    The FIA needs to review their system of stewardship and make it consistent and fair!

    Still... Very much lamenting not being there like last year. Two years, in the paddocks. Last year, in the Toyota F1 motor home and meeting more than half the field, especially Bernie. First time in 6-years I've been in Belgium and not being at Spa for the F1 weekend! So annoying!

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    US$ 1,000,000 Speeding Fine

    The previous record holder of speeding fines was set in January this year by a Swiss citizen who drove his Ferrari Testarossa through a Swiss village at 137km/h, caught and landed with a $290,000 fine set by a Swiss court. The reason why the speeding fines are so high in Switzerland is because they take into account, not just the recorded speed, but also the personal wealth of the driver (in this case, around $22.7m).

    A Swedish driver has now smashed the record when he took his Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG onto the Swiss roads and was picked up at 290km/h, just shy of the 317km/h top speed (by the way, it was 170km/h over the speed limit). He basically maxed out the 563 hp, 6-litre V8 SLS AMG on Swiss roads. Either he didn't know that the Swiss are a bit anal about speeding on their roads, or he really just couldn't care less.

    But you know what? Not to make fun out of the dude with a $1m fine - which I'm assuming he can afford since his personal wealth is taken into account - but what an amazing bit of news to wake me up this morning! Good job!

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Vindication for Toyota... at last!

    "A preliminary investigation into accidents involving Toyota cars has suggested driver error may have played a part in many of the incidents."

    What a fantastic bit of news finally for the world's leading auto manufacturer after months of allegations and sour media coverage mostly originating from the United States. More than a handful of cars made by the iconic marque were recalled due to safety concerns, with every single recall activity making headlines with major news outlets - even though other marques, such as Honda, recalled dangerous and deadly vehicles with little making into the news feeds.

    I think the following YouTube video by gasitman gives you a pretty accurate account of all this media furore about nothing.

    Finally, ladies and gentlemen, justice is served to the righteous!

    Could It Be... The End?

    There seems to be an increase in both the number of natural disasters and their severity recently. I don't know if you've noticed, but it's just been bad news after bad news every single day...

    • Flooding in Pakistan sees nearly 2000 deaths and more than 14 million people affected. The UN has called for help from other nations for this massive disaster.
    • Landslides in China killed more than 700 people with 1000 people still missing. Further tropical storm acitivity is predicted which would heavily disrupt the rescue efforts. In Zhouqu, 45000 people have been evacuated.
    • Superbug discovered in UK hospitals linked to South East Asia which is resistent to the strongest antibiotics. Scientists fear this bug will be unstoppable especially if it mutates to survive in other bacteria and gets passed along from person to person.
    • Massive heatwave in Russia causing runaway wild fires. A dense smog has descended on Moscow from the fires, and with the heat not lifting at all, some residents compare living in the city to be similar to either "an oven" or "in hell."
    • The unseasonally cold winter in Europe has affected produce such as potatoes. A sharp rise in prices for vegetables is expected due to poor harvests. The same is happening in Southern Africa. Food shortages are now being predicted due to the unseasonal conditions.
    • Don't forget we had a massive volcano attack earlier this year which grounded flights in Europe for weeks. Of course, the ban could have been a bit exaggerated by the authorities, but still.

    More to come until it all just ends in 2012? Seems likely, especially if the weather shifts are as big as the past 12 months.

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Dirty Diamonds - Part 2

    So now Mia Farrow has directly contradicted Naomi Campbell on her testimony about those "dirty stones" Charles Taylor was supposed to have given her (although where those stones come from is still a mystery based on Campbell's statement).

    Still with all this furore... An inevitable questions comes into mind: So what if Charles Taylor gave diamond, or diamonds, to Campbell? It neither proves, nor does it disprove that Taylor was using conflict diamonds to fund wars in Sierra Leone.

    If it can be proven that Charles Taylor used diamonds mined from conflict zones to purchase arms, and that those arms were used to support the continuation of the conflict, then we have a case. Proving that he gave diamonds to a model, conflict or not, does not prove anything in this war crimes tribunal. Hence my question: So what?

    I honestly think they've gone completely insane in the Hague.

    Dirty Diamonds

    It's been all over the news recently that Naomi Campbell was asked to testify in the Hague against Charles Taylor in a war crimes tribunal run by the UN. Now they plan to bring in Mia Farrow and her former agent to give further testimony against the former ruthless dictator and to support Campbell's statements.

    What I don't understand is that apparently Campbell was brought to testify based on some comment given by Farrow quite a long time ago. For the former model, this whole debacle was a huge inconvenience, as she said in her statement. She is also afraid of implications afterwards in the case that this trial results to nothing and Taylor is somehow released.

    Campbell said that she was at an event in South Africa many years ago when she was awoken in her hotel room by two strangers at the door. They gave her a pouch with some "dirty stones" inside and said that this was a present for her. She had no idea what it was or who it came from, and promptly handed it over to someone from the Nelson Mandela Children's Foundation.

    Without looking deeper into what she said, which was very strange, the world's press jumped onto the bandwagon and started putting out headlines like "Mandela charity received blood diamonds." How dare Campbell and the world's press try to drag Nelson Mandela's image into this mud. Do none of you have any respect for this man who is commonly agreed as the shining beacon of human goodness?

    What did Campbell actually say? She said she received some dirty stones which she couldn't tell from normal stones to uncut diamonds. She received them from two men, two strangers at her hotel door. Neither of the men said who they were or for whom they were running this errand for. It could have been Bill Clinton for all we know.

    In case you don't know what blood diamond's are, they are diamonds mined in conflict zones in Africa by rebels and governments alike to fund their weapons and war on each other. These diamonds don't have any identifiable traces on them that it is a conflict diamond so they can easily make their way into the open market. However, with detailed composition analysis of the diamonds, their origins can be distinguished based on geological evidence.

    I really hope the world's press can stop with all this nonsense. If the UN wants to hold a war crimes trial and immediately discredit itself by associating this trial with a former model, someone who has fallen from grace, someone who also faces anger management issues, then so be it. None of us are interested in this case at all, since all war crimes tribunals are for show and it never really has any results.

    Most importantly... Naomi Campbell is not interesting. She was when she was a model and good looking. Now she just looks like a completely fool and exceedingly ugly. Stop putting her picture in the news!

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    Pointlessly Underwater

    Well, this was a completely pointless bit of information...

    Wow! I couldn't figure this out for myself...! Duh!

    Image source:

    The Founding of a Republic (2009) [建國大業]

    I don't know quite what possessed me, but I did take out a copy of "The Founding of a Republic [建國大業]" and managed to watch it from start to finish. When I read about this movie coming out, I was slightly intrigued by two possible points of interest. First is a casts consisting of some of the biggest Mandarin and Cantonese stars in the past decade (non-Taiwanese of course). But you do have the likes of Jet Li and Jackie Chan in the film. The second is a pure academic interest to see how much spin and propaganda this film would actually have since it was made to commemorate the formation of the Communist Government in Mainland China.

    The cast was quite disappointing to say the least. Jet Lit and Jackie Chan probably had a combined screen time of about 5 minutes. The rest of the cast were vaguely interesting because they did manage to find some actors who really look like the people they played. But I'm sure that is not very hard to do in a population of over 1 billion people.

    I was not entirely sure what the movie was trying to say. I think they did have some kind of communist agenda to start with, but it was gradually toned down to a point when the movie no longer made any sense at all. It kept jumping from one side to the other. At some point it felt like I was being chucked into the movie, along with separate themes and story lines, into a gigantic blender. I actually felt sick watching it. And I still have no idea what the movie was trying to say, nor did I learn any historical knowledge from it.

    What a completely pointless endeavour. It wasn't propaganda, it wasn't even slightly watchable... What a complete disaster for a film. And here we come upon the problem with the Chinese people. There is a serious lack of creativity, something which seems to have been lost many centuries ago. The Chinese people are good at taking something that is established and making something that match up to it, but never exceed the establishment. And I'm not talking about size. Making something bigger does not mean it's better (e.g. the Three Gorges Dam, not better, just huge; the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, lots and lots of people, huge spectacle, not better than the arrow fired into the cauldron in Barcelon '92).

    It's a pity... Really. But I tend not to expect anything out of a media system completely controlled by the government. It's not good for human evolution.

    Image source: China Film Group