Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Drama as Singapore beats Thailand in the 1st leg of the ASEAN Championships Final

In all my years of watching football, I have never come across what happened earlier tonight during the match between Singapore and Thailand at the Singapore National Stadium. Both teams were playing in the 1st leg of the ASEAN Football Championship Final and the scores were at 1-1 when the drama happened.

Singapore got a penalty after striker Noh Alam Shah was pulled down in the Thai penalty box. The Thai players then stormed towards the referee disagreeing with his decision and then amazingly walked off the field. From ESPN:
The match was plunged into controversy in the 82nd minute when referee C.Ravichandran pointed to the spot after Alam Shah tumbled in the box under challenge from Niweat.

The Thais protested by walking off the pitch in protest and refused to return for 15 minutes.

Thai team manager Thavatchai Sajakul spent several minutes discussing the matter with match commissioner Mohamad Ameen before finally convincing his team to return.

When the action finally resumed, Fahruddin kept his cool to fire the ball into the top right corner of the Thai net.
It was really a disgraceful act from the Thais and especially more so since they did it in a final of a regional football competition. I think FIFA rules states that any team that walks off during a game will lose the match and be thrown out of the competition. What the Thais did was plain stupid, something that we can only expect from school boys.

Singapore deserved to win the match. They had more of the goal scoring chances and although it's just a narrow 2-1 win to take to Thailand for the 2nd leg, I feel Singapore can hold out for a draw there and win the ASEAN Championship for the second time in a row. As for Thailand, I hope FIFA will fine them for their disgraceful behaviour. Shame on you, Thailand!

Australia to backpackers: Stop working as prostitutes!

Some foreign backpackers visiting Queensland, Australia are earning money by working as illegal prostitutes. The Queensland Adult Business Association says that their actions are undermining the legal sex industry to make a profit and uphold health and safety standards. From The Age:
Mr Inskip said many backpackers counted on making extra cash during their visit.

"Especially when you go up to northern Queensland, it's not unusual for them to be working in the illegal escort industry," Mr Inskip said.

"No one asks to see their passports.

"If you go to a licensed brothel the first thing they do is ask for your passport and whether you are here legally."

He said illegal escorts often undercut legal brothels in terms of prices, because they had fewer overheads and it was difficult for the tax office to track the workers.

"They can charge less because they are not paying GST, staff costs for managers and receptionists, or have a registered business name," Mr Inskip said.

Poster showing every book read by a dude

Adam reads a lot of books and I really mean a lot. He has read over 750 books and he is only 25 years old! So, to show off his impressive reading record, he made a huge poster showing every book that he has ever read.

(Thanks Sunny Oh)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Windows Vista: Wow or No Wow?



Microsoft has launched the latest version of its Windows operating system, called Vista, designed to wow computer users. Well, that's what Bill Gates promised us. Using Vista according to him is "just not like using software anymore... it's more user-centric, less systems-centric."

But some technology experts are saying that despite being a very good operating system, Vista is not a breakthrough and that not many people are choosing to install it, instead they will upgrade to Vista only by buying a new machine. And that's what PC vendors like Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo Group are all hoping for - more people to buy their new machines that come with faster chips and larger hard drives to handle the demands of Vista.

Critics also say that there is no compelling reason to buy into the hype and purchase Vista. They are telling users not to buy Vista for the security, adding that a computer running Windows XP SP2 PC, along with third-party firewall, antiviral and antispyware tools, can be a perfectly secure PC if you keep up with the patches. Then there's a critic of another kind. The Green Party, an environmental group has claimed that Vista could lead to a mass upgrade of PCs that will result in old machines being dumped in landfill sites.

Ok, enough of all the critics. How does Vista really perform on a computer? Well, there is a user who says Vista is definitely the best operating system Microsoft has ever made. And read this: even Mac users (I repeat, MAC USERS) like it. There's one who switched his PowerBook for a new notebook running Vista and then there are those who used Vista on their Macs and found out that Macs are great machines for running Vista and it's faster than OSX!

Invisible Book Shelf

Here's how you can make your very own invisible book shelf. Then you can just sit back and watch the look on people's faces when they can't figure it out. Hahaha! I want one too!

(Thanks GeekGod)

Oh my god! I'm pregnant!

The internet is really amazing. Nowadays, you can even find out if you're pregnant by just using the web. The Free Online Pregnancy Test uses Remote Sensor Technology (RST) software in conjunction with a standard web browser Flash plug-in to analyse over 30 of your key physical health parameters. The RST software processes the parameters and, after evaluation, displays your pregnancy test results at up to 99.9 percent accuracy. I did the test and oh my god, even I'm pregnant!

(Thanks Shy)

Help create Monopoly Here and Now (Australia) Edition

Over at the Aussie Monopoly website, you can help create a new Monopoly board game by voting for your favourite Australia state or territory. The vote totals will determine the position of the states and territories on the board of Monopoly Here & Now Edition. The top voted region will be honoured with the coveted dark blue property traditionally occupied by Mayfair. You have until February 10 to vote.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I finally tried Botak Jones!

I've been wanting to try the famous burgers at Botak Jones ever since I first blogged about it earlier this month. So yesterday for dinner, I made a trip to the Botak Jones outlet at the Kopitiam at Block 325, Clementi Ave 5. You can also find Botak Jones at Yue Hua Food Place, Block 608 , Ang Mo Kio Ave. 5 and 32 Pioneer Sector 2, Sungei Kadut Eating House.

I arrived at the Kopitiam at 9pm and oh boy, it was crowded. 90% of all the tables there were occupied by people eating Botak Jones! That's how popular they are. I ordered their signature dish, which is the Botak Burger set meal- 150 grams of hand formed beef coated with melted cheese, served with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, two buns, and two mountain full of spicy fries and coleslaw. Each order placed takes roughly half an hour during peak time.



Now, I've heard that the burgers are really good but I was a tad disappointed after sinking my teeth into it. The beef came out medium well, so it was slightly juicy. You can tell them if you prefer yours to be done well and dry. Mine tasted pretty alright but I guess I was disappointed because I was expecting it to be really fantastic. Come to think of it, I think I still prefer my Whopper! I give the Botak Burger a 7.5 out of 10.



It's worth eating the Botak Burger once in a while but not like more than once a week unless you want to clog your arteries. They also serve other dishes besides burgers. Their fish and chips seem to be a favourite among those at the Kopitiam last night so you may want to give it a try when you are there.

Previously: Botak Jones

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Singapore historical sites on Google Maps

Now thanks to Singeo, you can take a look at all the locations of Singapore's historical sites on Google Maps. Just click on a marker on the map and it will lead you to a historical site with a photo of it. Pretty cool aye but I would love it more if they provide a brief information of the historical site or a link to more information.

(via Tomorrow.sg)

Beertable: A table for beer

The Beertable is a table that has six inverted stainless steel lined containers in the middle which function as mini insulators to help keep chilled beer nice and cool. Perfect for a group of friends watching football on TV and drinking beer.

(Thanks GeekGod)

Woman fights mountain lion with pen and wins!

Listen up kids! Remember that you should always bring a pen with you when you go out, just in case if you need to poke it into the eye of an attacking cougar/lion/tiger/mad cat, etc. From BBC:
Jim and Nell Hamm were walking in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park when the cougar wrestled Jim to the ground.

Nell started hitting the animal with the log but it kept hold of Jim's head. She then tried to stick the pen in its eye. The cougar eventually let go.

Mr Hamm is in fair condition after having his lips stitched back together.

He also suffered scalp lacerations and puncture wounds.

"She saved his life, there's no doubt," said Steve Martarano, spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game.

Print your own bookplate

A bookplate is a personalized piece of paper that is signed and glued into a book, identifying it as belonging to the owner. Over at My Home Library, you can look for your favourite bookplate, print it out and then paste it in the next book that you've decided to put in your home library.

(Thanks John 'Macca')

Turkish Star Wars


Google Video Link

Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is a Turkish made film commonly known as Turkish Star Wars because of its notorious bootlegging of Star Wars film clips worked into the film.

It was released in 1982, at a time when Turkey was caught in the midst of massive political upheaval. As a result, American-made films were not easily acquired and were often remade with a Turkish cast and setting. Even the musical soundtrack of this film is entirely lifted from Western film hits of the time, primarily using Raiders of the Lost Ark. Look out for scenes incorporating the music/clips of Moonraker, Flash Gordon, Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes and Disney's The Black Hole.

Go ahead and watch it. The film is 1 hr 30 mins long and it comes with English subs. Man, those Turks are really something!

Friday, January 26, 2007

A cloudy day at the beach

Today on my photoblog Katoomba Syndrome: A cloudy day at the beach

Previously: The Majestic 3

[You don’t need to visit a fashion information site to get information on using pearls or charm bracelets when you go to the beach next time. Try celtic jewelry instead. It is more durable than cuff links.]

Funny Korean DHL Ad


YouTube Link

This ad shows that DHL delivers anything. Even kisses. Don't try this with your DHL man.

(Thanks xXx)

Huge Australia.com logo for Google Maps

I blogged on Wednesday about Google flying their plane over Sydney on Australia Day (today) to update their Sydney imagery for Google Maps. I've been informed that Tourism Australia had written a huge 15x2 m ‘AUSTRALIA.COM’ with their kangaroo logo into the sand at one of my favourite beaches, Bondi Beach (next to the life guard tower in front of the pavilion). The Google plane is scheduled to fly over Bondi Beach between 9 and 9.30 am Australia time. What a way to advertise your website aye!

Update: Here's a shot of the Google plane flying above Sydney! (Thanks piximelly)

Update: The flyby images are now LIVE on Google Maps.

Previously: Australia Day 2007 on Google Maps

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Is Singapore eavesdropping on Thailand?

Thailand-Singapore relations looks set to worsen day after day. Thailand has accused Singapore of spying on private mobile phone conversations by the Thai military. Shin Corp and its mobile phone company AIS are owned by Singapore's Temasek Holdings. From Channel NewsAsia:
Sitthicahi Pookaiyaudoom, the Thai minister responsible for information and communication technology, said Thursday he was setting up an investigative committee to probe the case.

"I will today authorise the creation of a special committee chaired by the ICT ministry's permanent secretary to conduct an investigation into eavesdropping," Sitthicahi told reporters.

Sittichai said the investigation would focus not only on Temasek and Shin Corp but would look broadly at possible security lapses in Thailand's telecommunication system...

"What the Singapore government said does not affect the ICT ministry. That's for the foreign ministry to deal with, and I don't care about the comments by Singapore's government," he said.

"They say Singapore is a sovereign state. Thailand is also a sovereign state. That's not an issue."

Sittichai refused to rule out the possibility that the findings could result in the government rescinding concessions granted to Shin Corp.

"We have to carefully consider whether the terms of the concession allows state to confiscate the concession and on what ground."
The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already said that it does not route Thailand's domestic calls into Singapore, adding that it does not make business or technical sense.

Whether or not Singapore spied on Thailand, there is no doubt in my mind that the acquisition of Shin Corp by Temasek is looking more and more like a very bad investment decision.


Previously: Thailand-Singapore Relations: Singapore's elite should have stayed on the sidelines

Germs killing microwave-sponge experiments annoy some

On Tuesday, I blogged about using a microwave to kill germs living inside your kitchen sponges. I'm not sure if any of you have tried it but there are others who did with some unpleasant results - their sponges got burnt and microwaves ruined! From CNN:
"Just wanted you to know that your article on microwaving sponges and scrubbers aroused my interest. However, when I put my sponge/scrubber into the microwave, it caught fire, smoked up the house, ruined my microwave, and pissed me off," one correspondent wrote in an e-mail to Reuters.

"First, the sponge is worthless afterwards so you have to throw it out instead of using it. And second your entire house stinks like a burning tire for several hours, even with windows/doors open," complained another...

The university issued the following advisory: "To guard against the risk of fire, people who wish to sterilize their sponges at home must ensure the sponge is completely wet. Two minutes of microwaving is sufficient for most sterilization. Sponges should also have no metallic content. Last, people should be careful when removing the sponge from the microwave as it will be hot."

(Thanks Mr Big)

Previously: Microwave your kitchen scrubbers and sponges

Video of primitive shark caught in Japan



If there is an award for the ugliest fish, I'm sure the frilled shark would probably win it hands down (or in this case, fins down!). This video taken by the staff at the Awashima Marine Park in Shizuoka, south of Tokyo, shows a rare footage of a frilled shark. A fisherman at a nearby port spotted an odd-looking eel-like creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth and alerted the marine park staff. The frilled shark is a primitive shark species, sometimes called a "living fossil" because it resembles extinct species of sharks. Frilled sharks are usually found at depths of around 2,000 feet, but this one somehow found its way into shallow water off the coast of Japan. The poor shark died shortly after it was caught. Here's a link to another video.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sexual Consent Video

Dating someone new? Ready for the "first time"? Remember that responsible adults should always use sexual consent forms. It also helps if you have your lawyers ready beside the bed. And don't forget the condoms aye.

(Thanks WH)

Singapore $1M Urban Warrior Robot Contest

In an effort to sharpen Singapore military's technical edge, the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) has launched a contest with a S$1 million prize money, to build a robot that can operate autonomously in urban warfare conditions, moving in and out of buildings to search and destroy targets like a human soldier. From DSTA:
The TechX Challenge Robot must be capable of autonomous navigation and target identification and engagement.

It will have to navigate its way through a number of different settings, from an outdoor environment to an indoor urban location. Along the way, the robot has to overcome obstacles, negotiate stairs, operate an elevator to reach a particular floor in the building to search for and engage designated static targets before proceeding back to the starting point.

The robot will be expected to have the relevant payloads to facilitate navigation and execution of the tasks as required.
I think DSTA can keep the $1m because currently, I don't think anyone can build a robot that can do all those things.

Online networking not just for kids

Social networking sites are attracting not only teenages nowadays but people who are much older too. An analyst say that older people, the baby boomers who have the time and money to spend, are the future of social networking. From Newsweek:
Forget teen haunt Xanga and college-student staple Facebook. Online social networking isn't just for youngsters anymore. Of course, only 1 million of the more than 215 million social networkers regularly active today are older than 50. But by the end of the year that number could explode to 20 million, says a new study from global analysts Deloitte, due out later this month. Silver surfers could prove to be an even more coveted online group than their teenage predecessors. "They're the future of social networking," says Paul Lee, director of technology research at Deloitte.

The rise of boomer networkers has something to do with the teenage market's reaching saturation. In Ireland, for instance, 90 percent of teenagers already actively use Bebo; in the United States, it's hard to find a college student without a MySpace page. To expand, networking sites are being forced to shift their focus to older users. "Future growth has to come from older people," says Bebo founder Michael Birch. "There's no choice."

Comics that reinvent the superhero genre

Slate takes a look at some of the best comics that are reinventing the superhero genre such as Heroes, Rising Stars, Ex Machina and Astro City. Here's the slideshow: Men Without Tights.

(Thanks Johnny Q)

Australia Day 2007 on Google Maps

To celebrate Australia Day 2007 on January 26, Google Australia will be flying its plane over Sydney Harbour to take high resolution photos of the area from the air. Just check out the location and time when the plane will fly overhead and bring your friends and family to the location if you want to be a part of the Sydney landscape on Google Maps. Tip: Wear something distinct or carry a big sign so that you can spot yourself on Google Maps later.

(Thanks Mark)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Spitting bags for Shanghai cabbies

Specially made spitting bags will be issued to cab drivers in Shanghai to prevent them from spitting on the road. From Shanghai Daily:
"For many short-stay visitors to Shanghai, taxi drivers may be among the few locals they make contact with in town. In that sense, they shape part of the visitors' first impression of our city.

"For health concerns - as well as keeping a good image for Shanghai - we think we should make efforts to help some cabbies kick the spitting habit."

The city's health promoters are having thousands of paper bags produced, specifically for spitting into, and will send them to taxi companies free of charge.

It is hoped that the 45,000-plus taxis in town will soon carry the bags.

Cabbies will be encouraged to hang them in a convenient place for usage.

Ni said the committee sees the bag production as a long-term project.

"We are expecting the paper bags to work more as a reminder for cabbies to keep up good health behavior," she said.

Microwave your kitchen scrubbers and sponges

Scientists say that microwaving your sponges and kitchen scrub brushes is the only way to kill the disease-causing viruses and bacteria living in them. From Live Science:
“People often put their sponges and scrubbers in the dishwasher, but if they really want to decontaminate them and not just clean them, they should use the microwave," said Gabriel Bitton, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Florida.

The study was announced today and was detailed in the December issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

Other studies have shown that sponges and dishcloths are common carriers of pathogens from uncooked eggs, meat and other food. Damp objects help them thrive.

The researchers suggest wetting the objects—water being heated by the microwave seems to play a role in the sterilization—before zapping them every other day or so.

Intros and clips of all Ultraman TV series



Ultraman is a popular Japanese fictional superhero created by Eiji Tsuburaya from Tsuburaya Productions, a pioneer in special effects who was responsible for bringing Godzilla to life in 1954. Ultraman made his debut on July 10, 1966 in the the TV series, Ultraman, a follow-up to the TV series Ultra Q. The original series was so popular that it spawned many sequels throughout the years. The Ultra Series is the collective name for all the shows featuring Ultraman and his many brethren.

Ad: Download Oscar Nominated Movies


Here are the intros and other clips of the Ultra Series. Links lead to YouTube:

Ultra Q (intro, theme song) - This is the first of the long-running Ultra Series, and was broadcast on Tokyo Broadcasting System from January 2 to July 3, 1966. The Ultra Q series has no Ultra beings but only monsters such as the famous Godzilla.

Ultraman (intro, theme song) - The first series to feature an Ultra-being, Ultraman aired from from July 10, 1966 to April 9, 1967.

Ultra Seven (intro)- Aired from October 1, 1967 to September 8, 1968, Ultra Seven is a follow-up to Ultraman and considered by some to be the best Ultra Series of all time.

Ultraman Jack (intro, theme song, promo video) - Also known as The Return of Ultraman, Ultraman Jack aired from April 21, 1971 to March 31, 1972.

Ultraman Ace (theme song) - Aired from April 7, 1972 to March 30, 1973, Ultraman Ace shifted the Ultra Series from a sci-fi/mystery adventure to a full-tilt superhero fantasy fare.

Ultraman Taro (intro, theme song) - One of the strongest Ultramen, the series aired from April 6, 1973 to April 5, 1974.

Ultraman Leo (intro, theme song) - This was the last series of the golden era of Ultraman. The live-action franchise was put into hibernation for four years after Leo ended. Ultraman Leo aired aired between April 12, 1974 to March 28, 1975.

Ultraman 80 (intro, theme song) - The last Ultraman produced in Japan until Ultraman Tiga, 15 years later, Ultraman 80 aired between April 2, 1980 to March 25, 1981.

Ultraman Tiga (intro, US intro) - Tiga is the first Ultraman with multiple combat modes and non-red colors. It marked the return of the Ultraman franchise after a hiatus of over 15 years. It aired between September 7, 1996 to August 30, 1997

Ultrman Dyna (intro, music video) - It aired between September 6, 1997 to August 29, 1998 and is a light-hearted sequel to Ultraman Tiga.

Ultraman Gaia (intro) - The 14th show in the Ultra Series, it aired from September 5, 1998 until August 28, 1999 and featured two Ultramen with conflicting philosophies towards defending the Earth.

Ultraman Cosmos (intro) - It aired between July 7, 2001 to July 20, 2002, the longest running Ultra Series to date. Ultraman Cosmos was released to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the original Ultraman.

Ultraman Nexus (intro, music video) - It was part of an experiment in 2004 to re-invent Ultraman for a new generation of fans. It ran from October 2, 2004 until June 25, 2005.

Ultraman Max (intro) - Max started airing on 7 July 2005. It went back to the tried and true formula of new monsters every week and being fast paced like previous series.

Ultraman Mebius (intro) - The current Ultra Series, Ultraman Mebius celebrates the 40th anniversary of the franchise. It first aired on April 8, 2006.

And to cap it all off, here's the Ultra family doing what they do best - dancing!



Also read:
Watch Intro Clips of 1980s Cartoons
Watch music videos played on MTV's first day

Monday, January 22, 2007

French Sci-fi magazine covers

This site has a collection of the best vintage French science fiction magazine covers. You'll find some beautifully illustrated covers from magazines such as Galaxie, Satellite and Fiction.

(Thanks Charles)

A Year in Pyongyang

Andrew Holloway wrote a manuscript describing his year in Pyongyang during 1987-88 when he was working as a reviser for the North Korea Foreign Languages Publishing House. He died of stomach cancer without seeing his manuscript published into a book. But thanks to a guy who received the manuscript, you can read Andrew's work, A Year in Pyongyang online. Here's an excerpt from Chapter 1:
Halfway through September I received a letter from Pyongyang. It was from David Richardson, a Zimbabwean and the present incumbent of the post. He informed me that I was likely to be offered the job. He had been doing it for two years. He said that there were disadvantages to living in Pyongyang, particularly "this business of the mail", but on the whole the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. A fortnight later he rang me at work to confirm my appointment. He added that a formal offer would arrive in the post shortly. I experienced a mixture of consternation and excitement. It looked as if for the first and probably only time in my life, I was about to do something different. I quelled my apprehensions by telling myself that no matter what sort of an experience it was, at least it would be an adventure. Some adventure. Being marooned on a desert island is undoubtedly a sort of adventure, as is doing time in jail for an offence one has not committed. But looked at from the right perspective, getting up each day, going to work and pursuing one's banal, petty bourgeois, provincial pleasures are also a form of adventure, and a lot more fun as well.

At the time I applied, all I knew about North Korea was that it was a communist state situated on a peninsula in North East Asia bordered on the North by China and the Soviet Union and opposite the islands of Japan; that it had a reputation for being bizarre and isolationist, an Asian equivalent to Albania; that there had been a war on the Korean peninsula in the early fifties in which United Nations troops, predominantly American but including contingents from Britain and a number of other countries, had participated against the north; that the war had ended in a stalemate with Korea partitioned into two countries, a capitalist south and a communist north; and most vividly I recalled that the North Korea football team had pulled off some notable surprises in the 1966 World Cup Finals. When I received David Richardson's letter I thought I had better expand my knowledge. I went down to Leeds City Library but I could find virtually no material on Korea at all, or at least not on North Korea. I contacted Aidan Foster-Carter, who lent me a couple of books and several articles. This is the gist of what I read.

JesusPets

If Jesus returns tonight, who will feed your pets tomorrow? Good question aye. Thanks to JesusPets, you don't have to worry about who is going to care for your pets after you are raptured into heaven. From JesusPets:
Many Christians believe that animals do not go to heaven. So when Jesus comes back and you return with him to heaven, will there be somebody to take care of your dog or cat?

If you have a non-Christian family member, they might take care of your pet, but if not, have you made any plans? Imagine being taken to streets of gold while your dog starves to death walking around in his own feces trapped in your small house or apartment, subject to fire and earthquakes or even being eaten by heathens searching for any remaining morsel of food. Do you want that to happen?

With the imminent collapse of the global economy and rampant godlessness, even the community shelters will not have the resources to care for your poor, hungry animals. So you need to make preparations.

That’s what JesusPets is for. We are assembling a community of heathen pet-lovers to care for pets that are “left-behind.” We are coordinating with feed mills and kennels in preparation for your post-apocalyptic pet care needs.
(Thanks Mr Big)

My Little Pony Live!

I can't believe the day has arrived when Earth Ponies, Pegasus Ponies, Unicorn Ponies and their other mystical pony friends come to life. Here's the video evidence. May God save us all.

Want a healthier life? Get a dog.

A psychologist reviewed dozens of earlier research papers which looked at the health benefits of owning a pet and found that dog owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol and lead a healthier life. From BBC:
Dr Wells said the precise reason for the benefits was not totally clear.

"It is possible that dogs can directly promote our well-being by buffering us from stress, one of the major risk factors associated with ill-health.

"The ownership of a dog can also lead to increases in physical activity and facilitate the development of social contacts, which may enhance both physiological and psychological human health in a more indirect manner."

Dr June McNicholas, a health psychologist who has specialised on research into the health effects of pet ownership said that an important reason for the improved health of dog-owners was not just the exercise received while taking it for walks, but the opportunity for social contact with other dog-owners.

She said: "For older people, an animal can fulfil the 'need to be needed', perhaps after children have left home.

"In some cases, the social support offered by an animal is greater than the support than another human could offer."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

How to spot Comet McNaught in Singapore



If you have not yet seen Comet McNaught, the 2nd brightest comet since 1935, you may have another chance to view it later this evening till February.

I've produced a map of the sky as seen from Singapore, January 20, at 7.15pm using SkyTonight.com's Interactive Sky Chart. I then manually plot the path of Comet McNaught onto it. As you can see from the map, Comet McNaught can be seen in the South West sky after sunset. The only brighter object in the sky other than the comet is planet Venus which should be an easy object to spot. The only bright star in this region is Fomalhaut (at the top of the map). The crescent moon (not in the map) should be visible near Venus tomorrow evening. Remember, you need a clear sky if you are going to spot anything.

How bright is Comet McNaught? At its peak during January 14-15, it was shining at around -5 magnitude, making it the brightest comet since Comet Ikeya-Seki which was seen in 1965. How bright is a -5 magnitude? Venus, at its brightest shines at -4.7. At its peak, Comet McNaught was brighter than Venus! The faintest star seen with the naked eye from a very dark and clear sky shines at magnitude +6.

Currently, Comet McNaught is still shining brightly and it is still in the negative magnitude range. It is now a magnificent sight for people who are living in the southern hemisphere (Australia, etc). Here's a sky map for those in the south. And because Singapore is located just slightly above the equator, we are also able to view the comet. Unfortunately, those of you living further up in the north (United States, etc) will no longer be able to spot it but because its tail is so bright and long, you may still be able to spot just the tail two or more hours after the head has set. Amazing aye! Don't believe me? Check out these photos.

I had failed in my previous attempts to view Comet McNaught during the past week, no thanks to the bloody clouds but I'm hopeful I will get to view it during the next few evenings. This evening looks like a no-show because it is overcast now. Argh! Damn it!

In 1995 and 1996, I observed two great comets, Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake, and oh boy, were they spectacular! I guess I will be gutted if I can't add another great comet (McNaught) to my collection.

Previously:
Comet McNaught visible in broad daylight
New naked eye comet!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Surprise! Wild Swan!



Is this the weirdest Japanese product ever? Here's the English translation:
Surprise!! Wild Swan.
Fuooo-!! (action word of the swan popping out after holding the wing)
The swan's head pops out!!
With the "erect" swan, be the king of the party?!
How to operate: After placing the swan on the pants, pull down with your hand on the head (grasping), then let go-
Muku Muku - Boing!
Make mostly of Nylon
For people 12 and older.
I think they got this idea from the Koteka, a penis sheath worn by native male inhabitants of some ethnic groups in western New Guinea to cover their genitals. But of course, the swan looks so much cooler.

Block Posters: Create large wall posters from any image

Block Posters allows you to create a wall poster of any size from any image. Simply upload an image from your computer and choose how many A4 pages wide you would like your poster to be once printed. Sounds cool aye. I'm going to try it out but I bet the end result will be highly pixelated.

(Thanks GeekGod)

The Phobia List

A phobia is a strong, persistent fear of situations, objects, activities, or persons. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive, unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject. Thanks to the wonderful Phobia List, now I know about anuptaphobia (fear of staying single), coprophobia (fear of feces) and much more. Ah, the wonderful world of phobias. From The Phobia List:
Vaccinophobia- Fear of vaccination.
Venustraphobia- Fear of beautiful women.
Verbophobia- Fear of words.
Verminophobia- Fear of germs.
Vestiphobia- Fear of clothing.
Virginitiphobia- Fear of rape.
Vitricophobia- Fear of step-father.
(Thanks rontan)

Cristiano Ronaldo Underworld Football

Oh no! An Age of Darkness is threatening football. The future of the world's most beautiful game is at stake. The Underworld, home of demons, ghostly creatures and unnatural spirits, is now challenging mankind for the possession of the game. Our only hope lies with Cristiano Ronaldo. God help us.

(Thanks Tim Worthington)

China has missiles to destroy orbiting satellites

China has spooked the United States and its allies by successfully launching a missile to destroy an orbiting satellite. From CNN:
Aviation Week and Space Technology first reported the test: "Details emerging from space sources indicate that the Chinese Feng Yun 1C (FY-1C) polar orbit weather satellite launched in 1999 was attacked by an asat (anti-satellite) system launched from or near the Xichang Space Center."

A U.S. official, who would not agree to be identified, said the event was the first successful test of the missile after three failures.

The official said that U.S. "space tracking sensors" confirmed that the satellite is no longer in orbit and that the collision produced "hundreds of pieces of debris," that also are being tracked...

"If we, for instance, got into a conflict over Taiwan, one of the first things they'd probably do would be to shoot down all of our lower Earth-orbit spy satellites, putting out our eyes," said John Pike of globalsecurity.org, a Web site that compiles information on worldwide security issues.
China refused to confirm or deny the report but did say that its space missions are no threat to anyone. Australia, one of the the countries that are worried about China's new ability, has obtained evidence of the destruction and is concerned about the militarisation of space. From News.com.au:
By one estimate, the satellite, which was launched in 1999, could have been blown into as many as 300,000 pieces, ranging in size from 1cm to 10cm. Many of the pieces could remain in space for a decade, possibly affecting future space missions.

"The concern is the debris from the destroyed satellite could hit other satellites and damage them," Mr Downer said. "That is one of the issues of destroying satellites in this way because it then has the potential to disrupt other satellites still in use and, of course, the cost of building and launching satellites is massive.

"The other issue is the militarisation of outer space and we don't want to see the spread of an arms race into outer space."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

How to differentiate real from fake boobs

Say you have a date with a girl this weekend. She's hot alright. She got boobs that look like balloons that are about to burst. And you wonder if they are indeed god-sent or some man-made objects. Don't worry. Here's how you can identify if a woman's boobs are real or fake. From AskMen.com:
Most breasts aren't perfect orbs and they usually aren't identical. Be on the lookout for the way they hold in place as she moves around (especially her arms), and how they stay almost the same dimension -- instead of flattening out -- whether she reaches back or even stretches. Furthermore, when she bends over, you should see them fall if they're real.

Watch out for women wearing a constrictive bra to make them come together. The overall shape will still not look right. With such a bra, you won't be able to notice the outer circles contouring the breasts.

On the topic of odd breast shapes, the top of her breasts are bubbled up -- just like bubble butts. Fake boobs defy gravity, so they might look like they're bubbling up. Natural breasts follow a more natural sliding curve line from top to bottom.
P.S. Guys, don't spend all your time trying to stare at women's chests this weekend k.

(Thanks xXx)

Zalbollae and other illegal brands

Anyone wants a Zalbollae? How about a Tuna or Pama t-shirt or a Hike sandal? View some of the creative illegal brands here.

(Thanks Ivan)

The Hello Kitty S&M Room

The Morning News has a nice interview with photographer Misty Keasler who took very beautiful photos of the 'playful and unapologetically sexual' rooms inside Japan's famous love hotels. Go to the page and click next to view her photos. Her favourite room (and mine too!) has to be the the Hello Kitty S&M room in Hotel Adonis, Osaka. Now that's kinky!

Beauty-mad Singapore

In a country where beauty is big business and looking good is something of a national obsession, Singapore's beauty providers are going to the extremes to satisfy their customers. From Reuters:
At Fish Reflexology, clients' feet are exfoliated by tiny fish that nibble off dead skin -- a method used in Turkey for decades to treat diseases. The treatment is also available in some areas of China and Japan.

The spa opened in December on Singapore's Sentosa island and more than 2,000 customers have fed their feet to the fish...

Another popular beauty treatment is eyebrow embroidery, an industry the local Straits Times newspaper estimated to be worth 5 million Singapore dollars ($3.25 million) a year.

It entails plucking out your natural brows and then drawing strands of hair back using a pen-like device that injects ink under the skin. The result, patrons say, looks more natural than a tattoo and better than Mother Nature.

And if that sounds painful, several hair-removal salons in Singapore offer services for men including "boyzilians" -- the male equivalent of the "Brazilian", where almost all the hair is removed from the pubic area using strips daubed in warm wax.

Related: Beware of the pedicure

Thailand-Singapore Relations: Singapore's elite should have stayed on the sidelines

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, Faculty of Political Science at the Chulalongkorn University writes his opinion on former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's recent visit to Singapore which offended the new Thai government. From Bangkok Post:
Having become entangled in Thailand's political drama following the Shinawatra family's scandalous sale of Shin Corp to Singapore's government-linked Temasek Holdings early last year, Singapore's elite should have stayed on the sidelines and waited out the resolution of Thailand's deep-seated and ongoing confrontation and conflict.

But Singapore's leaders did not, and have not. They keep shooting themselves in the foot. They never got Thailand right. In view of their latest diplomatic blunder, perhaps they never will.

That Singapore's elite has persistently coddled Mr Thaksin prior to, and in the aftermath of, the military coup on Sept 19, 2006, is understandable.

Mr Thaksin's ties with Singapore's ruling Lee family run deep. The former premier was one of the first Lee Kuan Yew fellows back in 1994. The Singaporeans annually pick out up-and-coming young politicians from the region and treat them to red-carpet packages on the island in an effort to win over future regional leaders. In Mr Thaksin, the Singapore government picked a winner.

In addition, Mr Thaksin's and the Lees' common Hakka Chinese background further deepened their relationship. Like the Lees' one-party dominance of Singapore's democratic system, Mr Thaksin's authoritarian, decisive leadership style, and virtual monopoly in Thai politics during his nearly six-year rule also helped to solidify ties.

It was thus somewhat unsurprising that when it bought Shin Corp and allowed Mr Thaksin to cash out for 73.3 billion baht, Temasek was headed by none other than Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife, Madam Ho Ching.

Hong Kong is world's freest economy

Hong Kong is the world's freest economy followed by Singapore and Australia according to a survey by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. From Business Week:
The study said the rankings were based on a simple average of 10 factors, including property rights, investment freedom and financial freedoms. Hong Kong placed first in those categories.

But the city didn't do as well as Singapore in labor freedom and in the ease of starting businesses. Hong Kong was also seen as less free from corruption concerns, compared to Singapore.

Hong Kong's Financial Secretary Henry Tang said, "We will study the report carefully and will strive to preserve fervently those strong aspects of our economic freedom."

The report said Singapore will only be able to challenge Hong Kong if it improves its financial freedom.

"(Singapore) has to make significant changes to its financial freedom, as well as ownership control over banks," Feulner said.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Morning Musume English Lesson



Watch this YouTube video of Morning Musume, a popular all-girl J-pop group having fun in an English class. Dang! I wish I knew how to speak Japanese. Teaching English to cute Japanese girls looks like an interesting job. Here's part 2 and part 3 of the clip and their must watch music video. Ok, I have to admit it. I've just become a fan. Go Morning Musume!

(Thanks Mr Big)

Update: More Morning Musume cuteness: here, here and here. Alrighty, I shall stop.

Coffee lovers drinking illegally grown coffee


Grrrrr! Bad Starbucks. It bought coffee grown illegally in Indonesia in 2004.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has released its latest report called Gone In An Instant (pdf, 7.4mb). The report says that coffee lovers around the world are unknowingly drinking coffee that was illegally grown inside Indonesia's remote Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (BBS), one of the world's most important national parks for tigers, elephants and rhinos.

BBS, a World Heritage Site has already lost nearly 30 percent of its forest cover to illegal agriculture, most of which is for coffee production. WWF's investigation found farmers growing coffee on more than 173 square miles of park land (about two-thirds the size of Chicago) and producing more than 19,600 tons of coffee there each year. Most wildlife has already abandoned the sections of the park that have been illegally converted to coffee plantations. Further loss of forest will be a threat to the endangered tiger, rhino and elephant populations.

Illegally grown coffee from BBS is exported to at least 52 countries, with most of the companies buying the coffee likely to be unaware of its illegal origins. These illegally grown coffee is mixed by local traders with legally grown coffee beans and sold to the companies like Kraft Foods, Nestle and Starbucks among other major companies in the U.S. and abroad.

Handbags are hazardous to women

Ladies, listen up. Do you have neck, shoulder and back problems? If you do, then maybe you should blame your handbags. Health experts say that big handbags are becoming a health hazard. From China Daily:
"I see so many women with neck pains and headaches and what I usually do is look for their purse and pick it up," said Jane Sadler, a family practice physician on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center in Garland, Texas.

"We take it over to the scale and weigh it and usually they're anywhere from 7 to 10 pounds (3.1-4.5 kgs)...We're really going to see women with more and more problems later on if we continue the big purse craze."

William Case, a physical therapist in private practice in Houston, Texas, said an aggravated neck or shoulder can lead to upper back problems, meaning pain may then be felt while working at a computer or playing sports.

He urged designers "to place a cute, educational caution tag on all bags to inform of potential neck and shoulder dangers."

Above all, he recommended correct posture while carrying bulky purses, keeping the head and shoulders aligned upright. Patients should also frequently change the size and weight of purses carried.

"The extra-large purses are quite phenomenal. They look beautiful when the women wear them, but I don't know how aware they are of the potential problems," Case said.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Packet Garden: Grow a world from network traffic

Packet Garden is a free software that captures information about how you use the internet and uses this stored information to grow a private world you can later explore. It takes note of all the servers you visit, their geographical location and the kinds of data you access. Uploads make hills and downloads valleys, their location determined by numbers taken from internet address itself. The size of each hill or valley is based on how much data is sent or received. Plants are also grown for each protocol detected by the software; if you visit a website, an 'HTTP plant' is grown. If you share some files, a 'Peer to Peer plant' is grown, and so on. Cool aye! I'm going to download this and grow my own world today.

EDGE = Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered

The EDGE of Existence programme aims to conserve the world's most endangered species by implementing the research and conservation actions needed to secure their future. It has compiled a list of the Top 100 Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) mammals. Two-thirds of the top 100 EDGE mammal species are currently receiving little or no conservation attention. The EDGE of Existence programme aims to address this issue by implementing conservation strategies for all of these species within the next five years. This year, it has identified 10 Focal species for conservation such as the Yangtze river dolphin, the Pygmy hippopotamus and the golden-rumped elephant shrew. These animals are endangered or critically endangered and in urgent need of our help. You can help to save these species by donating here.

History of Religion in 1.9 min



It may not be that accurate, but this YouTube video shows the geographical evolution of the world's most well-known religions pretty well.

(Thanks GeekGod)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Swiss Recycle Designs

Thanks to this cool Swiss recycle designs website, now I know that I can use CD cases to make a small greenhouse, a plastic funnel as a clothes hook, a clothes peg to simplify the use chopsticks, a plastic fork to make dracula fangs and much more. And I thought only the Japanese are good at doing these kind of things.

Comet McNaught visible in broad daylight

Comet McNaught, the brightest comet in 40 years, has been reported by some to be visible in broad daylight. I've been trying to spot it for the past few days but the weather hasn't been helpful. I tried looking for it again today during lunch time when the sky cleared but it was difficult because of the bright sun. I hid the sun behind a building but still the blue sky was too bright for me to locate the comet. I even put on my sunglasses to block out some of the sky glare. The clouds then came few minutes later. I will try again tomorrow. Remember, please do not look at the sun directly, even with sunglasses. Meanwhile, the comet has been tracked by the SOHO spacecraft since three days ago as it flew right through one of its camera's field of few. You can view the latest images here. You should also browse through Spaceweather.com's Comet McNaught photo gallery. Lots of beautiful photos there.

Previously: New naked eye comet!

20 Adam Air pilots left within months

I've been blogging recently about the lack of expertise and technology in Indonesia's airline industry and why I won't be flying budget airlines in a response to the recent crash of Adam Air. Now an AP story is quoting some Adam Air pilots that left within months because of concerns that poor maintenance, corruption and rule-bending could lead to a crash of their planes. From Business Week:
"I didn't want to wait until I had lost my friends," said Feisal Banser, 30, a former Adam Air flight captain who knew several crew members on a passenger jet that crashed Jan. 1 with 102 people on board...

Banser and Salahuddin alleged that as part of efforts to save costs, parts were replaced or recycled, regulatory officials were bribed, or pilots were pressured to break international safety regulations.

Salahuddin, who joined Adam Air at its inception, says he left after essential problems with his plane's inertial reference unit, a key navigational tool, were repeatedly left unfixed.

"I saw how Adam Air managed the maintenance of the aircraft and I resigned to protect my life and the life of the passengers," the 35-year-old said, adding that he was once asked by the company's operations chief to sign documents clearing a flight because there was no technical engineer at the airport.

"He called me in the cockpit and told me to fly, but the aircraft was not airworthy," said Salahuddin who refused to take off, enraging his managers.

Previously:
Indonesia lacks expertise and technology for its airline industry
Why I won't be flying budget airlines

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Yes, I am Superman. Really!



"Eat your heart out, Clark Kent!" and more in the Best of IZ Reloaded 2006.

SIA gives frequent flyer card to teddy bear

I was reading Richard Quest's blog when I came across an interesting post. Richard is the host of Business Traveller on CNN. In one of his posts in December 2006, he wrote about his teddy bear Sleepy being given a frequent flyer card by Singapore Airlines. From Richard Quest's blog:
During my trip to Singapore, Singapore Airlines presented Sleepy with his frequent flyer card (a non-accrual account, well, we don’t actually pay for his tickets).

Sleepy also got a personal letter from the CEO of Singapore Airlines welcoming him to Kris Flyer.

Why did I ask them to enrol him? Well, a bit of mischief and a lot of “why not?” We can fill the hours in the air thinking of all sorts of things… and as so many of you ask about Sleepy, I thought he should have his own card.

I must admit I was surprised that Singapore Airlines went along with my request; they are, after all, thought of as the more conservative of airlines. It just goes to show that one’s perceptions can turn into prejudices. So, even though he might not always enjoy his own seat at least now he belongs.

On David Beckham

Bolton captain Kevin Nolan writes about David Beckham's move to American Major League Soccer side Los Angeles Galaxy in his latest column for BBC Sport. From Kevin Nolan column:
I was absolutely flabbergasted.

Footballers earn a lot of money but £128m over five years is something else. I struggled to get my head around the size of that figure.

I had heard several people say that he would be daft to go to the Major Soccer League.

But, honestly, with those sorts of figures I think he would be daft not to.

There seems to be little doubt the Beckhams are keen to make a big impression in America - and with that sort of salary I would say they are going to do so.
I like David Beckham, especially when he was playing for Manchester United. He was the best right midfielder/winger back then. When I first heard the news that he was going to leave his current club Real Madrid for LA Galaxy, I was shocked not at the amount of money he was given but at the club he chose to move on to. I felt that he should have give the Premiership another go. Beckham was terribly sad when he was kicked out of the England team after the World Cup and we all know he still wants to play for his country. But by going to USA, I fear he would have killed all hopes of wearing the white and blue of England again.

Beckham talked about the challenges of going to the MLS, but will all due respect to the American soccer league, it is no way comparable to the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga or the Italian Serie A, where all the best footballers in the world play. Seriously, no one (maybe only the soccer fans in America) is going to watch a MLS game, even if it features David Beckham. Football fans want to watch the big games, the big teams and the big names.

Beckham may be looking forward to his new challenge, his huge pay check and all those Hollywood parties (dang!) when he moves to the States, but his status among the world's best players will surely be a thing of the past. That's a pity because I feel at 31, he still has it in him to play in the best league in the world and be one of the best footballers again.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Egokast Video Belt Buckle

In the age of YouTube and online videos, a company thinks that it has found the next big thing - the Egokast video belt buckle. It is a 3.5 inch LCD video screen that you can wear on your belt or arm strap. It plays all sorts of video formats and pictures too. So next time when you head out, you can finally show off your favourite videos right above your crotch.

South Park Anime

I like the characters of South Park drawn in anime style by talented Japanese fans of the show. After looking at these brilliant artwork, I kinda wish they would do a South Park series (or at least an episode) in anime. That would be cool aye. View the artwork here, here and here.

Rude Singaporeans Beware!

Rude Singaporeans is a blog that showcases the ugly side of Singaporeans - rude, disgusting and inconsiderate citizens - like these two punks who think that it is cool to be riding their wrapped bikes in a crowded MRT train. "I was in train this afternoon heading to school and these two inconsiderate guys were blocking the way... They are also happily munching snacks away." The blog encourages readers to send photos of rude people caught in action.

(Thanks Mr Big)

The Pirate Bay wants to buy Sealand

On Tuesday, I blogged that the world's smallest country, Sealand is up for sale. Now The Pirate Bay, the world's largest bittorrent tracker, has shown interest in buying Sealand and has asked members of the internet community to donate money for the purchase. From Buy Sealand:
Recently it was made clear that this country is for sale. To make sure the owners will be kopimistic and that the country won’t be governed by people that do not care about it’s future, we have come up with a plan.

With the help of all the kopimists on Internets, we want to buy Sealand. Donate money and you will become a citizien.

We’ve set up a forum to discuss how the country is supposed to function. It should be a great place for everybody, with high-speed Internets access, no copyright laws and vip accounts to The Pirate Bay.
(Thanks GeekGod)

Previously: For Sale: World's Smallest Country

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sunday's UFO is a space junk re-entry

A mystery light was seen around 7.40pm from various parts of Singapore on Sunday, causing some to think that it was a UFO. Watch the news report and a video of the mystery light here. From Channel NewsAsia:
Intermittent bursts of green streaks across Singapore skies on Sunday evening have set communities abuzz with talk of unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings and experts debating the phenomenon.

The light was seen around 7.40pm in areas including Woodlands, Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Clementi and Marina.

While some readers said it was a green light, others observed a blue and white glow. The light resembled a fireball with a "tail", lasting for a few seconds in the sky before disappearing, they said.

"There was a light flying very fast going towards Sentosa and it was shaped like a rocket," said self-employed businessman Mr Abdullah Yusof, 48, who was at Harbourfront Centre with his family. The phenomenon lasted for less than a minute, he added.

Another reader, 25-year-old software engineer Xu Tao saw three green lights "moving from left to right" from his Clementi flat. His first thought? Aliens.

He said: "I thought it might be a UFO because it definitely looks different from aeroplane lights."
Experts have debated the exact nature of the UFO, one calling it a green flash, a phenomenon caused by the scattering of sunlight by small particles in the atmosphere. Another said it is most certainly a bolide, a huge meteor crashing through our atmosphere.

Now, some of you have been sending me emails for the past few days about the UFO and asked me what I thought it was. Well, based on my many years of experience in meteor astronomy (I had setup a meteor section in an astronomical society and served as its meteor recorder and have observed hundreds of meteors and fireballs), here's my own expert opinion.

Amateur astronomers contacted by the press say that the UFO spotted on Sunday could be a bolide or a fireball. There are a lot of meteors shooting into our atmosphere everyday, most are associated with known meteor showers. There is an active meteor shower called the Quadrantids which begins on December 28 and ends on January 7. Could the UFO be a Quadrantid? Most unlikely because Quadrantids generally do not produce bright meteors. And I have never ever come across a Quadrantid fireball before.

Fireballs are actually meteors that are brighter than usual. Some of these fireballs do not come from known meteor showers. A meteor that doesn't belong to any meteor shower is called a sporadic meteor. There are quite a few of them every night but a sporadic fireball is not so common. But I don't think the UFO is a fireball. Judging from some of the witness reports, such as, "three green lights "moving from left to right" and "it's like an aeroplane, very big, the front is like a cannon ball, full of colours - orange, yellow, blue and green", I would have to say a strong possibility for the mystery light is not a fireball but a space junk re-entry!

There are over a million bits of debris left by space missions that are currently orbiting the Earth. About 70,000 objects about the size of a postage stamp have been detected between 850 - 1,000 km above the Earth. Some of them will re-enter the earth's atmosphere from time to time. I have come across reports of re-entries that move in a flat trajectory parallel to the Earth, similar to the UFO seen on Sunday. These space junk re-entries can be visible for up to three minutes as they slowly cross the sky and burn. And only a space junk re-entry can produce the colours described by some of the witnesses. Therefore, I'm certain that the UFO seen on Sunday is a space junk re-entry, not a meteor/bollide, or a craft from outer space.

Spicy food kills cancer

I'm a chili junkie! I love the food I eat to be hot and spicy. Now there is more reason for me to eat spicy food. Researchers say that food rich in capsaicin, an ingredient found in chilli peppers, may offer protection from cancer because of their ability to kill cancer cells. From BBC:
They found capsaicin, an ingredient of jalapeno peppers, triggers cancer cell death by attacking mitochondria - the cells' energy-generating boiler rooms.

The research raises the possibility that other cancer drugs could be developed to target mitochondria.

The Nottingham University study features in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

The study showed that the family of molecules to which capsaicin belongs, the vanilloids, bind to proteins in the cancer cell mitochondria to trigger apoptosis, or cell death, without harming surrounding healthy cells.

Lead researcher Dr Timothy Bates said: "As these compounds attack the very heart of the tumour cells, we believe that we have in effect discovered a fundamental 'Achilles heel' for all cancers.

New stamps that taste and smell of sweet and sour pork

China Post has released a new stamp that has the scent and smell of sweet and sour pork to celebrate the year of the pig. Scratch the surface of the stamp to smell the sweet and sour pork and lick the back to taste it.

(Thanks shi)

Happy Meals



Dude stood outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York City for 2 1/2 hours. With a budget of $600, he treated random customers to their meals. Then the paranoid McDonald's manager called the police. Watch what happened.

(Thanks Allison)

Chinese high school sex survey surprises sex specialists

A survey carried out on high school students in Beijing finds that the average age when they first had sex was about 15 and that most are promiscuous, surprising many sex specialists in China. From China Daily:
"The new generation is open-minded about sex, indeed We can only conclude that it is a result of a fast-changing society," Zhang Meimei, professor of education at Capital Normal University, said yesterday. He was involved in the survey sponsored by the district education commission.

Of the 1,300 girls asked if they would agree if their boyfriends sought sex, only six gave a definite "no".

The typical answer: "As long as he loves me, it's OK."

About 200 boys and girls said they were willing to have a one-night stand if an opportunity arose.

Those in a more serious relationship said they would most likely have sex after graduation from high school.

About 30 percent believed that teen sex is fine as long as it is consensual, and 55 percent said it depends on how much the two love each other.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Online map maker sued by government

Online map maker Virtual Map, the company behind Streetdirectory.com and notorious for sending out hundreds of lawyer's letters demanding $10,000 or more from those who had reproduced its maps on their websites, has this time been sued by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) for... guess what? Copyright infringement! Hooray! From TODAYonline:
In their opening statement on Monday, SLA said their civil suit centres on whether Virtual Map has used the base materials given by the government agency and made alterations to them. The case isn't about the "usual form of infringement" where one party copies a portion of the work without significant alteration, in which the only issue is whether or not the part taken is substantial.

Yesterday, three more SLA staff members took the stand.

To Virtual Map's claim that the digitised data it received from the SLA was "raw" and bore "no substantial similarity" to their product, SLA charged that there was substantial reproduction on the part of Virtual Map.

As an ex-licensee of SLA who had access to SLA's work, it had "copied SLA's 'skeleton'", the result of "hard work, skill, labour and money invested by the Government".

SLA highlighted the "numerous tell-tale signs, errors and fingerprints" in Virtual Map's work. The firm has "neither the skill to create a map ab initio (from scratch) nor the facilities to map building shapes with any precision other than copy what has already been done", said SLA's expert witness, British map-maker expert, land surveyor and law lecturer Carl Calvert.
I have no sympathy for Virtual Map. In fact, when I first read the news early this morning, I broke out with laughter. This is a company that has been making money all these years by threatening so many people who had used its street maps. I'm so glad that it is getting a taste of its own medicine now.

Btw, I strongly believe that all street maps should be in the public domain and no one should be paying any amount at all to use them in their websites or flyers.

Japanese students to take chopstick test

A high school in western Japan will require its students to take a 10 minute test using chopsticks to transfer beads, marbles, dice and beans from one plate to another as part of its entrance exams. From Reuters:
"We are a school that has always placed emphasis on the Japanese spirit, and we want our students to understand this," said Katsushi Hisata, the school's vice principal...

Academically talented students who are chopstick-challenged, however, need not worry, Hisata said.

"If they do well on all other subjects, they won't fail the exam just because they have problems using chopsticks," he said.

"It's more a symbol, something we want students to know we pay attention to."

Pants Pankuro



"Every morning I do a wonderful #2! After it comes out, I feel happy all day!"

Pants Pankuro is a bizarre Japanese cartoon about two friends and their toilet antics. Check out the above clip with English subtitles. I think toilets that can talk and sing are scary.

(Thanks Yuki)

Finally the iPhone

Apple Computer Inc, oooops wait it's Apple Inc now (gone is the Computer from its name), has launched the iPhone, a product so revolutionary that it says will be as successful as the Macintosh and the iPod. The iPhone is a beauty and comes with a whopper of features. It's operated by OSX (wow!) and comes either with a 4GB or 8GB storage. Besides its phone function, the iPhone has a widescreen iPod that plays beautiful videos too. You can surf the net, do all the things you normally do with a PDA and take photos through its 2.0 megapixel camera.

The iPhone will be launched in North America in June, in Europe by the end of this year and in Asia in 2008. Apple will offer the iPhone through Cingular in the US and it will cost $500 or $600 with a two-year contract. A bit pricey aye. But despite its unbeatable looks and features, the iPhone has some weaknesses. You can't download songs directly onto it from the iTunes store, you can't sync it with a computer wirelessly, there are no games in it and you can't use it without signing up for cellular service.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Majestic 3

Today on my photoblog Katoomba Syndrome: The Majestic 3

Previously: Fallen Heart

New naked eye comet!

There's a new comet in the sky and it is easily visible to the naked eye! Comet 2006 P/1 McNaught has been brightening over the past few days. You can view it in the western sky at dusk. The comet is visible to the right of planet Venus. You can also view it in the eastern sky at dawn. From Space.com:
Recent estimates have ranged widely from magnitude +2.1 (about as bright as Polaris, the North Star) to a dazzling -8.8 (about 40 times brighter than Venus)!

David Moore reported seeing the comet on New Year's Day evening from Dublin, Ireland. He writes: "After searching for over half an hour in strong twilight I saw it easily in 20x80 binoculars from an upstairs window. I could see a small fuzzy and surprisingly bright head about as bright as the mag 3.5 star Lambda Aquilae 6 degrees above it. That said, it was not an easy observation given the strong twilight and the comet was only 3.0 degrees above the horizon!"

Well-known comet observer, John Bortle of Stormville, New York caught sight of the comet just before sunrise with 15 x 80 binoculars on Jan. 2.

"My eastern view was largely obstructed by trees," Bortle said. "Still it was somewhat amazing to see the comet against such a bright sky and through all those tree branches! From experience in making similar observations, I'd judge that it was not any fainter than 2nd magnitude."
Please note that people living further up in the northern hemisphere (US and Canada) will be more favourable to view the comet. The comet will be much closer to the horizon when viewed from lower latitudes such as Singapore so the trick is to try to spot the comet in broad daylight, say half and hour before sunset. I've been waiting for such a bright comet to grace our skies since the Comet Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake days. I'll try spotting it later this evening and throughout the week if the weather permits.

Update:

Spaceweather.com has a nice photo gallery of the comet.

I've created the following image using the excellent Stellarium software. It shows how the sky will look like for those of us in Singapore at 7pm tonight.



As you can see, it is impossible for us in Singapore to view the comet once the sun sets. I reckon the best time to try to spot it is from 6.30pm onwards. The sun will be up but if the comet is as bright as what everyone is saying, then we may just spot it in daylight. It may be difficult though. You need a good pair of eyes, know where to look at and a very clear and unobstructed sky.

More pictures of Comet McNaught here. (Thanks Greg)

Who is worse than Saddam?

Who is worse than Saddam? According to former Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, George Bush and Tony Blair are both worse than the now deceased Iraqi dictator. From Reuters:
"He (Bush) should resign straight away and be tried by the same kangaroo court," Mahathir told a news conference called to promote a peace conference he is hosting in Malaysia next month.

The conference, "Expose War Crimes: Criminalise War," will be accompanied by an exhibition on Western war crimes, including atrocities in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Vietnam and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, according to organizers...

Mahathir also branded Blair a war criminal. Blair backed the 2003 invasion with thousands of British troops.

"He is a culprit," the 81-year-old said. "He is as much a war criminal as he accuses Saddam of being a war criminal. The number of people he kills or causes to be killed is very many more than the number of people that Saddam caused to be killed."

For Sale: World's Smallest Country

The world's smallest country, Principality of Sealand is up for sale. The island country was founded as a sovereign Principality in 1967 in international waters, six miles off the eastern shores of Britain, by former English major Paddy Roy Bates. He proclaimed the island his own state after occupying it and called himself the Prince and his wife Princess. From Times Online:
After 40 years, the owners of the Principality of Sealand have put it on the market. They hope that investors will be lured by the island’s setting and its status as a tax haven.

But it is not exactly a dream hideaway. Sealand, which was built as a wartime fort called Roughs Tower in 1941, is a 550 sq m (5,920 sq ft) steel platform perched on two concrete towers. Accessible only by helicopter and boat, it sits seven miles (11km) off the coast of Harwich in Essex.

Its living accommodation is less than palatial — long, low buildings made of steel through which the sound of generators reverberates constantly. One American visitor described it as “unbelievably ugly”.

What it lacks in charm and climate it makes up for in a history that includes raiders, hand-to-hand fighting and a kidnapping.
(Thanks Sir Thomas)

2006 word of the year is Plutoed

The American Dialect Society comprising of linguists, grammarians, historians and independent scholars, has chosen Plutoed as its 2006 word of the year. From MSNBC:
To "pluto" is "to demote or devalue someone or something," much like what happened to the former planet last year when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto didn't meet its definition of a planet.

"Our members believe the great emotional reaction of the public to the demotion of Pluto shows the importance of Pluto as a name," said society president Cleveland Evans. "We may no longer believe in the Roman god Pluto, but we still have a sense of personal connection with the former planet."
Don't pluto me okay? Or I shall pluto you too. Ha!!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Boring Postcards

The Boring Postcards Flickr group wants to collect boring postcards, preferably old, but definitely cards that display boredom: boring subject, scenery, composition, expression etc. "Postcards were created to be boring." Yawn.

(Thanks Norman)
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