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Saturday, July 19, 2008


~ And back from Borneo!



An excellent, action-packed whirlwind trip. The flight to Sarawak was smooth & uneventful, and after checking into the hotel we ventured out for lunch. Our team above, Isaac, Grace, Peilin & myself and my white legs.



Aah, chicken rice. It rained as we were walking out. Rain was to become a bit of a theme of this trip actually.


We caught the bus out to the Sarawak cultural village in the afternoon, which was a pretty quick trip (about 45 mins) once we freed ourselves from the relative rarity that is a Kuching traffic jam, but it was about 5:30pm on a Friday so to be expected really.
I have to say, the rumours are true, the drivers in Kuching rearry really are much more sane than here in KL. Not that this is very difficult to achieve, as I'm sure I've 'waxed lyrical' about the drivers here, so I won't rave on about the topic again here.


Anyway, Kuching! It's a pretty little city, lots of green & very low-key, I would have liked to have a little more time to explore it, but no matter, next time. The world music festival was our main destination this time.


Each morning, my girlie and I indulged mightily on the provided breakfast at the hotel, our partners in adventure, Grace & Isaac apparently didn't need such sustenance, and slept through breakfast every morning, so I include this photo for their benefit ~(:^D)


The busride out to the cultural village was quite beautiful:


Hiroshi Motofuji ~ taiko master!

Taiko master Hiroshi Motofuji

.. and then it rained! And rained. And rained some more.
Advantages: cooled everything down.
Disadvantages: mud, mud everywhere.




Saturday we had the day off from the festival, which is not to suggest that we relaxed our weary festival muscles. No sireee, we went trekking in the Bako national park. Unlike the saying, this was not just 'a walk in the park'. We chose (quite sensibly it seemed at the time) a 2.6km hike, but after several hours we decided it was too much even for our hardened computer dude muscles.


It was still really worthwhile, but I'm pretty sure I've never sweated so much in my life. Some awesome scenery though.


Then Sunday, it was back to the festival, and that's right, more rain!
But check out the awesome hat on the guy on the right! Tell me it wasn't all worth it, just for that hat.



Monday was an actual day off, and with our return flight back to KL at 5:30pm, we indulged in some shopping.







Apologies for this post being so late, it appears that I brought an unwelcome visitor back with me from Borneo, the damn dreaded dengue fever. My last two weeks has been in various versions of the below picture, but all good, on the mend now.

He's a weird burger

In under a year, Ben Huh has become an unlikely web hero whose obtuse sense of humour has spawned a legion of cult websites fed for free by an army of loyal geek followers.

As the owner of Seattle-based internet company Pet Holdings, Huh has the enviable job of scouring the web in search of the latest internet fad - known as a "meme" - to nurture into an online phenomenon.

His first outing, ICanHasCheezBurger, acquired by the company in September last year, provides users with little more than a place to upload bizarre photos of cats captioned with even weirder misspelled punch lines.

The fad, dubbed "LOLcats", put Huh and his company on the map and now attracts 1.4 million page views a day.

Before Huh's site, LOLcats existed merely as images distributed by geeks on forums.

Huh's secret, he said in a phone interview, was to pull web fads out of the geek backwaters of the internet and make them accessible to a far broader audience.

In less than a year since he acquired ICanHasCheezBurger.com, Huh, 30, has followed up with five more similarly strange websites and, having recently hired his 11th employee, is now working on two more.

All up, the sites, funded by advertising, attract 2.8 million page views a day and if that trend continues for the rest of the year, Huh's sites will have served up over a billion views.

"We just want you to be able to come to one of our sites and be entertained for five minutes or more, that's all we're looking to do," he said.

Huh's latest venture, TotallyLooksLike, draws inspiration from the "separated at birth" features found in magazines.

However, instead of matching famous people with other famous people, TotallyLooksLike compares celebrity faces to pretty much anything - such as Gary Busey and a horse or Donatella Versace and Janice the Muppet.

And like all of the sites in Huh's stable, TotallyLooksLike is entirely user-driven with all content submitted to the site for free, allowing Huh and his team to concentrate on building out the technology back-end.

"We're like game designers - we're trying to come up with a system where people can have fun being creative," he said.

"People have always thought John Kerry looks like Herman Munster, that [Public Enemy's] Flavor Flav looks like Stripe from Gremlins. People have thought that and they probably shared it with friends but there was no outlet for it. We're giving these people an outlet to be funny."

Huh is the first to admit that he presides over a stable of sites that are, frankly, quite weird.

Failblog, which Huh recently acquired, specialises in hosting user-submitted pictures and videos of people or companies "failing at life".

For instance, featured on the site today is a picture of a ham advertised as being "delicious for [Jewish holiday] Chanukah".

And just below it is a picture of a screwdriver kit with the warning label "not to be inserted into penis".

GraphJam, another of Huh's sites, is a repository of Microsoft Excel graphs and flowcharts about everyday life and pop culture.

Punditkitchen hosts political pictures with funny captions, while there's even a version of LOLcats for dogs, called IHasAHotDog.

"I'll admit to you describing LOLcats in words sounds totally lame ... it's pictures of cats with funny misspelled captions on them," said Huh.

"If you think about that, you're like, why is that funny, there's no reason why that should be funny, but if you look at the site and you really understand the creativity of the users that come by, it's fascinating.

"Users transcribe human emotions to these cats and human activities, and for some reason it makes the cats adorable. It also makes them kind of evil ... the range is just incredible."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Weekend at Borneo



Ack ye gawds.. Lets start again...

Hi everyone (errr.. someone? hello?), just thought I'd let you know that I'm heading off for the weekend to go to the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. WooHoo!

I'm really looking fwd to this, it's going to be awesome to have a few days off and check out somewhere different, and the festival itself is just going to be so gosh-darned Wholesome.

I'm not sure what else to expect from Kuching (the capital of Sarawak (a Malaysian state in Borneo)), but that's half the fun isn't it. Expect lots of good food, pictures of cat statues, and probably leeches. And I won't be satisfied unless a monkey steals something of mine.

ooh insert mysterious jungle shot here

.. Full details when I get back.

Till then, be well.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

How English Is Evolving Into a Language We May Not Even Understand

The targeted offenses: if you are stolen, call the police at once. please omnivorously put the waste in garbage can. deformed man lavatory. For the past 18 months, teams of language police have been scouring Beijing on a mission to wipe out all such traces of bad English signage before the Olympics come to town in August. They're the type of goofy transgressions that we in the English homelands love to poke fun at, devoting entire Web sites to so-called Chinglish. (By the way, that last phrase means "handicapped bathroom.")

But what if these sentences aren't really bad English? What if they are evidence that the English language is happily leading an alternative lifestyle without us?

Thanks to globalization, the Allied victories in World War II, and American leadership in science and technology, English has become so successful across the world that it's escaping the boundaries of what we think it should be. In part, this is because there are fewer of us: By 2020, native speakers will make up only 15 percent of the estimated 2 billion people who will be using or learning the language. Already, most conversations in English are between nonnative speakers who use it as a lingua franca.

In China, this sort of free-form adoption of English is helped along by a shortage of native English-speaking teachers, who are hard to keep happy in rural areas for long stretches of time. An estimated 300 million Chinese — roughly equivalent to the total US population — read and write English but don't get enough quality spoken practice. The likely consequence of all this? In the future, more and more spoken English will sound increasingly like Chinese.

It's not merely that English will be salted with Chinese vocabulary for local cuisine, bon mots, and curses or that speakers will peel off words from local dialects. The Chinese and other Asians already pronounce English differently — in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. For example, in various parts of the region they tend not to turn vowels in unstressed syllables into neutral vowels. Instead of "har-muh-nee," it's "har-moh-nee." And the sounds that begin words like this and thing are often enunciated as the letters f, v, t, or d. In Singaporean English (known as Singlish), think is pronounced "tink," and theories is "tee-oh-rees."

English will become more like Chinese in other ways, too. Some grammatical appendages unique to English (such as adding do or did to questions) will drop away, and our practice of not turning certain nouns into plurals will be ignored. Expect to be asked: "How many informations can your flash drive hold?" In Mandarin, Cantonese, and other tongues, sentences don't require subjects, which leads to phrases like this: "Our goalie not here yet, so give chance, can or not?"

One noted feature of Singlish is the use of words like ah, lah, or wah at the end of a sentence to indicate a question or get a listener to agree with you. They're each pronounced with tone — the linguistic feature that gives spoken Mandarin its musical quality — adding a specific pitch to words to alter their meaning. (If you say "xin" with an even tone, it means "heart"; with a descending tone it means "honest.") According to linguists, such words may introduce tone into other Asian-English hybrids.

Given the number of people involved, Chinglish is destined to take on a life of its own. Advertisers will play with it, as they already do in Taiwan. It will be celebrated as a form of cultural identity, as the Hong Kong Museum of Art did in a Chinglish exhibition last year. It will be used widely online and in movies, music, games, and books, as it is in Singapore. Someday, it may even be taught in schools. Ultimately, it's not that speakers will slide along a continuum, with "proper" language at one end and local English dialects on the other, as in countries where creoles are spoken. Nor will Chinglish replace native languages, as creoles sometimes do. It's that Chinglish will be just as proper as any other English on the planet.

And it's possible Chinglish will be more efficient than our version, doing away with word endings and the articles a, an, and the. After all, if you can figure out "Environmental sanitation needs your conserve," maybe conservation isn't so necessary.

Any language is constantly evolving, so it's not surprising that English, transplanted to new soil, is bearing unusual fruit. Nor is it unique that a language, spread so far from its homelands, would begin to fracture. The obvious comparison is to Latin, which broke into mutually distinct languages over hundreds of years — French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian. A less familiar example is Arabic: The speakers of its myriad dialects are connected through the written language of the Koran and, more recently, through the homogenized Arabic of Al Jazeera. But what's happening to English may be its own thing: It's mingling with so many more local languages than Latin ever did, that it's on a path toward a global tongue — what's coming to be known as Panglish. Soon, when Americans travel abroad, one of the languages they'll have to learn may be their own.

.. from wired

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Chess boxers slug it out

A RUSSIAN man has been crowned world champion in the novelty sport of chess boxing, a game that requires equal skill at moving pawns and throwing punches.

Mathematics student Nikolai Sazhin, 19, competing under the name "The President'' knocked out a 37-year-old German policeman Frank Stoldt, who served as a peacekeeper in Kosovo until recently.

The loser said he was simply too punch-drunk to fend off checkmate.

"I took a lot of body-blows in the fourth round and that affected my concentration. That's why I made a big mistake in the fifth round: I did not see him coming for my king,'' he said.

Berlin is home to the world's biggest chess boxing club with some 40 members and it is in an old freight station here that the two men settled the matter early yesterday.

The match began over a chess board set up on a low table in the middle of a boxing ring.

Stripped to the waist, wearing towels around their shoulders and headphones playing the lulling sound of a moving train to drown out the baying crowd, the men played for four minutes.
Then off came their reading glasses and on went the gloves and the mouthguards.

For three minutes they beat each other and then, when the bell went, the chess board was back in the ring and they picked up the gentlemanly game where they had left off.

"This is the hard part, you are out of breath but you have to keep your wits about you,'' said David Steppeler, a 33-year-old instructor at the local chess boxing club.

"It is especially hard for the one who has to play first. He can easily make a false move, and in chess this is fatal. So in training we toughen people by making them do push-ups between every two chess moves.''

A chess boxing match consists of six rounds of chess and five in the ring but it can also end suddenly in knockout or checkmate.

Alternatively one of the players can be disqualified for taking too long to make his move in the chess rounds or breaking the boxing rules.

The weekend saw two matches apart from the world title bout and some of the competitors might have felt equally at home in a MENSA club meeting. One had a doctorate in biochemistry, another held a degree in political science and two were teachers.

The best in the world of chess boxing score somewhere between 1700 and 2000 points on the ELO chess rating system - putting them on a par with those who perform well in the sport at club level.

Perhaps fittingly, the sport had its beginnings in a comic strip by the French author Enki Bilal, titled Equator Cold that hit shelves in 1992.

The last work in Bilal's The Nikipol Trilogy features a blood-stained chess boxing battle set in an apocalyptic city in 2034.

In 2003, the young Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh decided to bring it all to life, but with less brutality, and organised the first match.

"But the way we do it is not as dark as it was in the comic strip. For me the thing is to channel your violence, to control it. Hence the marriage between boxing and chess,'' said Rubingh, who is the president of the international federation of chess boxing.

.. from news.com.au

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

.. And even more movies!

'Wanted'.. forgettable title, unforgettable movie!

well.. ok.. maybe 'unforgettable' may be a bit over the top, but 'Wanted' is what action movies should be. It's a no-holds barred, rollercoaster of a flick, completely, utterly unbelievable, but thoroughly enjoyable just the same.
I'm not usually a fan of action movies (I still watch them though) because they're often big dumb affairs that attempt to wow over the viewers with more and bigger explosions rather than even attempting to have a storyline. This is a bit different, and while not perfect, it leaves most other action flicks in the dust.
I read another review somewhere that captures the idea nicely: it's like the movie studio actually trusted the director to do his job, and no-one put their hand on his shoulder at any point to say 'maybe we should leave that bit out, it seems a bit distastful'.

Go see it, let me know what you think, I think you'll be surprised :)

'Wanted' gets 8/10 from me.

here's the trailer:

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