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...