Saturday, February 26, 2005

This is more a collection of news stories through Google News than anything else, but anyhow.

Recently, it was reported that Saurabh Singh, a young boy from UP, had topped an "International Scientist Discovery" exam conducted by NASA. Naturally, people were amazed and overjoyed that a youth from India could do so well for himself, and the press definitely responded accordingly. Unfortunately, it has now been revealed that the whole thing appears to be a hoax. For starters, NASA don't have such an exam. Singh then claimed he went to Oxford to take the test (apparently, he told a Hindi newspaper he stayed at Buckingham palace while in London...but I doubt it). But then Oxford denied this too. Saurabh claimed that a certain V.K. Bansal, head of a maths training college, was the one who told him about the NASA exam, and flew with him to London. But V.K. Bansal has said he doesn't know Saurabh. Saurabh also says that Bansal has his suitcase, which has his passport among other things (he currently doesn't have any proof that he travelled to London).

I feel sorry for Saurabh, and I wonder whether he's just incredibly naive and didn't expect the story to get double-checked (how could it not!?). Maybe he just wanted to come off as a hero in his village?! Then again, he probably wouldn't have played along with the media reaction for so long. I'm surprised the media took so long to find out it was a fake - I would have thought someone would get suspicious when seeing he got 72% in the board exams. There is the possibility of course that he did take an exam, and travel somewhere, like he maintains, except that he got taken for a ride. It's possible that someone had fooled him into thinking he was going to join NASA. But the problem here is that it doesn't make sense; if Saurabh says that his flight was fully payed for by Bansal, that would mean that he didn't have to pay a thing. So what motive would there be for anyone to try and trick him!?

When the reports first came out, Singh said that AJ Kalam had also taken the exam, but had only managed 7th place. Considering the exam is fake, surely Kalam would have said something when the first reports came out? I believe Saurabh's current position is that he did meet Kalam, who congratulated him, and that the media's position is that this meeting was cancelled when the hoax reports started coming in. Even the latter is impossible, why would Kalam meet someone who claims that he (Kalam) did an exam that doesn't exist!? Ahh, it just makes no sense I tells ya! By the way, Saurabh says that he showed Kalam his certificate, which apparently misspells "Aeronautics" and gives the wrong name for the chief of NASA - but Saurabh says that this ex-chief has resigned, only that his resignation has not been accepted yet!!

Update: Oh my, you can have a look at the certificate here. I recommend trying to zoom in and read some of the text, it is mostly mystifying to think how this could ever be passed off as a legit, but at the same time very funny (if you abstract away the reality that this person may have been involved in a scam and got taken for a ride, or is involved in a malicious hoax, etc.). I love the arrow that emphasises "You are the member of NASA"..
Every time I feel like making a post these days, I also feel as though I ought to preface said post with some sort of apology to you, the gentle reader, no doubt eagerly awaiting some new and exciting ideas to be discussed in my inimitable style (again, I jest). I am still caught in a strange period of my life where I feel, remarkably enough, happy, and don't have the gumption to continue the tradition of deep, confessional stories and poems. Perhaps those days will come again, but not today my friend. *

I've often wondered what the strong appeal of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd is. In particular, it seems to me that a lot of people with an interest in '70s rock tend to rate these two as their favourites. It's hard to resist the urge to broadly divide music listeners into some categories - we have the true eclectics, who'll listen to anything you throw at their faces. There are moderate eclectics, who usually fall into one of the other categories primarily, but can drift out on ocassion. There are those who very much follow modern music in any shape or form. There's people, like myself, totally immersed in acts from decades long past. And then there are those who love Zeppelin and Floyd! A bit facetious perhaps, but I got this impression after reading a letter in Rolling Stone from a teen who was complaining about how music these days was nothing like what it was in the '70s, for instance, how it's nothing like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I found out today that a cousin also loves Zeppelin and Floyd. It struck me that I've seen many such comments from youngsters who believe Zeppelin are the greatest band ever, and it struck me as strange that a lot of them also seemed to like Floyd.

I suppose what I'm really asking is, is this trend of worshipping Zeppelin and Floyd indicative of importance placed on some specific aspect of the '70s, or rock in general? It's only natural that there are die-hard fanatics for pretty much every band in existence, but why I'm curious is that, on first glance, Zeppelin and Floyd don't have all that much in common (except that they were both active in the '70s).

I should add that I'm not claiming they're unworthy of praise and appreciation, far from it. I can't say I'm any sort of authoritative expert on either group, but I like them both, or at least whatever little I've heard.

The whole thing sounds a bit nonsensical, but it's hard to say just what I mean. This is one of those things where I wish I were better at expressing very muddy, vague concepts.

* A few years ago, when the Grateful Dead were the only band in the world for me, I was lucky to see a "making-of" documentary about their most famous album, American Beauty. In it, Robert Hunter said something that has stayed with me ever since. He spoke eloquently and beautifully about the time he went to London, this magical, mystical place that had forever captured his imagination. It was just wonderful how he said that the fact that he was in this place that he had thought of so romantically all his life allowed him to write three of his (in my opinion) greatest compositions, one of them being "Ripple", all in the same night. In particular, he related the tale of the night where he wrote these lyrics, with a bottle of red wine by his side, and then lamented at those immortal days being long gone. He said "I wonder if days like that will ever come again. Hmm. I'm sure they will. But not for me". All with a smile on his face.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

It's amusing to look over some of the posts I made around a year ago, just to see how much I've changed my opinions on some things. I once read a post by someone on the GameDev.Net forums saying how kept a record of all his posts over the years, just so that he could read them at a later time and have a laugh at how uninformed he once was. There's no doubt an element of that with this blog, because it's so much darn fun to look at some of the bizarre things I've said over the years.

One such instance would be this post, where I made a clumsy, inept argument that "old music is better than new music". Sheesh, it's practically embarassing reading some of the things I wrote in that post. There are some things I still agree with, for instance questions about originality in modern rock, but the rest of it reads like a big exercise in pig-headedness and elitism (I recall at the time thinking that this is probably how I would be perceived by anyone who read it!). The reason I bring this is up is not for more self-deprecation (there's been more than enough of that over the last few months), but in fact because of something I said there which I think revealed how out of sorts I was. I said something to the effect of "Soon, I will run out of music from rock's golden years, and thus will be left empty-handed". I remember also saying to my brother that Frank Zappa was surely the last bastion of hope in my rock catalogue - once he was done, it had to be pretty much over. But having spent the entire morning casually reading several random album reviews, it struck me how inaccurate such a statement is, and especially blasphemous from someone who is so clearly but a fledgling rock listener. I think it's most likely such a statement was made with purely the '60s in mind - it's true that the '60s itself is running a tad low in terms of music it can offer. Certainly nowhere even near the levels that I predicted, though, for the late '60s have their fair share of gems that I am woefully unfamiliar with. It's the '70s and '80s that I utterly under-estimated, for now there seems to be no end to the number of albums that keep popping their heads up on reviews I read. Especially the whole punk-scene, there seems to be a whole underground city full of these things (Richard Hell And The Voidoids, what a name!). The '80s in particular, because I, like so many others, associated the decade quite unfairly with some of the more horrendous fashion and cultural statements that were made, the kinds that are given coverage on TV. Yet this was a decade that started off with Joy Division and ended up with the Pixies! And hey, who said the '90s had nothing to offer? Maybe the mainstream wasn't brimming with masterpieces, but there were still some people with the ethos of old.

Yes, this is another pointless post, which admittedly was created out of the resurfacing desire to compile a mammoth collection of seminal albums. Where on earth do I get off coming up with such pointless and shallow wishes, you ask? I say point taken, but at least it takes my mind off the trauma of existence! (The astute reader will notice that I am yet again finishing off on a very half-serious note)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Well, whaddaya know? A webcomic based on Ultima VII (the immortal RPG from 1992, for those who are unaware)! An interesting idea, although I'll admit that the art isn't particularly my style. And the artist is French, so the grammar isn't perfect in places, but it's not a big deal. Heh, Ultima VII, now that was a real game. Yeah, this is nostalgia talking, but the wanderings around Trinsic will forever be remembered, for they represented a window to a whole new realm of experiences...days from my youth! Truly gone forever?

Friday, February 18, 2005

I was a little disappointed to find that The Doors' "Hello I Love You" (click to hear sound sample! Courtesy of the very cool CDUniverse It occurs to me that maybe linking to the sound file is some form of bandwidth theft*) sounds quite similar to The Kinks' "All Of The Day And All Of The Night". I heard of the supposed similarity a few days back, but only just compared the two. It definitely isn't the most obvious rip-off in rock, certainly not as obvious as, say, how Deep Purple's "Child In Time" lifted the melody from It's A Beautiful Day's "Bombay Calling". But it does certainly seem that The Doors' song is an extension of the riff and the melody in the "All Of The Day" (although, like I said, there's some marginal room for doubt), although the overall atmosphere is utterly different. As it were, The Kinks' riff is the base of the one The Doors used. Dave Davies, brother of Ray, doesn't seem to have forgiven The Doors for this, and I can understand his frustration. After all, The Kinks are either completely unknown to people, or known just as being those guys who did "You Really Got Me" all the way back in 1964.

(Of course, "Hello I Love You" is hardly the greatest song the Doors ever did - if you told me that "Light My Fire" was a rip-off of some other artist, I'd get a bit more depressed)

So, I wonder which of the famous classic-rock acts haven't been accused of ripping-off another artist? Even the undisputed kings of classic-rock, The Beatles, got into trouble with "Come Together", which copied the riff and structure of Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me". The towering giant Bobby Zimmerman, from memory, reworked some lines of an old folk-ballad into "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall" - specifically, the lines like "And what did you see, my blue eyed son? And what did you see, my darling young one?" (although I don't know if that's considered a 'rip-off' per se).

While we're on the subject of classic rock, and The Kinks, all my life I've lived under the delusion that "Sunny Afternoon" was by The Beatles. Like most songs I heard when growing up, it has always been buried away under the surface, burnt in my mind forever. It wasn't until a few minutes ago that I realized that this song from my childhood is in fact a Kinks song from Face To Face. Wow. Even now, I could so easily picture this being sung by Lennon, and finding its way on something like Revolver. I'd never have imagined that anyone other that Lennon and McCartney could come up with such a divine mood and melody..heh, I wonder what other songs I've wrongly associated over the years?!

* Bandwidth leeching, by my understanding, would be if I embedded the sound clips onto this blog. I'm not sure then what merely linking to these files is - in any case, I've decided not to risk anything.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Michael Holding has made perfectly clear his views on Twenty20 cricket, which I mused about recently: "There is nothing good about Twenty20 cricket. People who disagree don't know what they are talking about." Wow! Harsh words coming from Holding! I'm not as opposed to it as Holding is; he seems to be positively disgusted with the whole thing. But I think he makes valid points, even if there is the unfortunate reality that desperate times may be ahead for cricket's viewership unless there is some sort of major change.

New Zealand and Australia are playing their first international Twenty20 match today, and I, unlike Holding, will be sure to watch it, even though my fingers will be crossed. My pre-match prediction: a slog-fest is bound to ensue, which will provide much excitement and entertainment, but an uneasy feeling that it could saturate the public if it becomes a more common affair. Oh, and as for the victor, Australia will probably win comfortably - no Bond or Oram will mean trouble for New Zealand.

Post-mortem: As expected, Australia did win rather comfortably, though the match itself was..interesting. Clarke and Gilchrist both seemed to try to start off the innings hitting every ball to the boundary, which proved to be short-lived as both got out within three overs. Symonds employed a similar tactic, but with a deft touch, showing off some lovely late cuts. The real star was Ponting though - he too started off trying to play awkward pulls and forcing himself to try to smash the ball, but once four quick wickets were down, he treated it much like a normal ODI. A calm innings for the most part, and then right at the end he picked up the pace, claiming a massive 30 runs off Tuffey's final over. I didn't really expect New Zealand would have a chance of scoring more than 10 an over, and Kasprowicz made sure of it with a fine spell. It seemed almost cruel that Fleming and McCullum had managed to survive the initial burst of McGrath and Lee, the best opening bowling pair in ODIs, and then Fleming fell first ball to the (relatively) tame Kasper!

The commentators seemed to be all in favour of the game (though the fact that they're getting paid to commentate probably has a lot to do with that), but I still reserve my final judgement. The game wasn't as much of a "slog-fest" as I thought - it certainly looked like it was going to be that way when Clarke's first delivery saw him step outside leg stump and try to smash it over cover! Indeed, I could hardly accuse Ponting of "slogging" during his innings - even when he started to score freely at the end, he never resorted to anything you wouldn't see him do in a normal ODI. But the game is definitely squarely in the batsman's favour: evident from the fact that even McGrath was picked off at 12 runs an over!

I'm interested to see how many people were introduced to cricket with this game - and, more importantly, how they will follow-up this initial exposure, if at all. Indeed, Twenty20 was created to serve as a sampler, something to whet your appetite before getting into the "real deal", ODIs and tests. But really, it depends on what people find interesting in Twenty20 - if it's lots of hitting and constant excitement, then they might not be liable to follow up their interest and start watching the established forms of the game, which are a lot slower (yet can be so rewarding).

All said and done, I get the feeling we haven't seen the last of this new craze. Allan Border said it was a bit of fun, and I agree...but at what cost?! Heh. You know, talking about Twenty20 like a purist makes me feel so old. It's been a while since the '92 world cup, more than a decade in fact. Yet, in some ways, those times seem far more real than the ones I seem to be living in now. (There's nothing like ending a post in a bitter rejection of the present, is there?)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Another piece of useless, though mildly interesting trivia - Larry David has been in a few Woody Allen movies, such as Radio Days and New York Stories, although his parts haven't really been major. It just seems so interesting to think that these short, balding, neurotic comedians actually crossed paths; though, if David is to be believed in this interview, then there wasn't too much interaction between the two in either film.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Album: Forever Changes (1967)
Artist: Love
Favourite Song: Gosh I hate picking these. Possibly "Alone Again Or". But also "You Set The Scene", if just for the brilliant second-half.
Tracks: Alone Again Or / A House Is Not A Motel / Andmoreagain / The Daily Planet / Old Man / The Red Telephone / Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale / Live And Let Live / The Good Humour Man He Sees Everything Like This / Bummer In The Summer / You Set The Scene
Synopsis: Some claim this to be one of the greatest albums ever. I don't think this is necessarily the case, but an almost impeccable set of melodies and lovely instrumentation make it one of my favourites.

"I heard a funny thing someone said to me / He said 'You know, I could be in love with almost everyone'"

I've grown sick of writing lengthy album reviews. For starters, the time it takes to do those things is far too great, especially considering the overall low quality of the end-result! Truth be told, this is probably a bit of "blog-filler", intended to keep those neurons firing amidst the general quiet that has taken over this once sprawling virtual city, which used to be a marketplace of ideas, and the bustling centre for exchange of thought (no, I only jest gentle reader!). I've also gotten tired of ratings, because once I get started on trying to figure out a number, I can't stop (seen how many times I changed the rating on The Doors? And those were only the ones I bothered to publish!).

But hey, why start off the review of this delightful album on such a gloomy note? You'll find Forever Changes on a fair few lists of "Greatest albums ever", especially when those lists are compiled by the general public. After seeing it rank high up on a couple of these lists*, I rather ambitiously picked it up, expecting some marvellous lost artifact of the '60s, with pop songs par excellence and what have you. I wasn't quite prepared for what I did get - the gentle acoustic guitar to start off "Alone Again Or" seemed a good start, and was followed by a pleasant enough brass section. But then I noticed the trumpets and horns seemed to be appearing in every song - and the more I listened, for some reason, the more irate I became. I had the feeling that all the songs sounded the same, and that the horns were some sort of cheap gimmick.

It took a while to rectify such harsh judgement. When I listened to the album much later in the year, things seemed to click. I started to find the arrangments interesting, and the songs were far from similar - it went from the gently beautiful ("Andmoreagain") to the gloomily defiant ("A House Is Not A Motel"). A couple more listens and it all seemed to make sense. What I now think is this: it's a collection of some immaculate pop-songs, with some interesting orchestration. Some work, some don't, but overall, it's a thoroughly pleasant experience.

The melodies? Very strong throughout, although there are crests and troughs. The opening track, "Alone Again Or", is one of the melodic heights, but how can one discredit the haunting "Andmoreagain"? I can't get enough of the little section with the "heartbeat" - it's just so charming! "A House Is Not A Motel" is one of the more energetic numbers, with some vaguely Hendrix-esque electric-guitar soloing at the end - somewhat pointless, but they're listenable enough. Often overlooked is "Maybe The People Would Be The Times", with a trumpet and vocal hook I simply can't get enough of. The lyrical trick is simple enough - leaving out the last word in the first couple of stanzas - but it's neat how the trumpets are used at this exact spot, as though they are speaking for Lee.

The interesting thing about the album is that Arthur Lee supposedly thought his time was up when he made it. He cryptically said that he felt there was something about being 22 years old that just made him feel like that was it, that his life would be over soon. The album then was just his way of having the last word on everything, pronouncing his judgement on life and love. Lyrically, then, there are some underrated gems to be found, but admittedly not all of it works. Songs like "The Red Telephone" are definitely morbid - the narrator opens the song by telling us he's "Sitting on a hillside / Watching all the people die". It gets weirder still in "Live And Let Live", where Lee sings "There's a bluebird on the branch / I guess I'll get my pistol / Because he's on my land". Wow! Not the sort of album to play just before you go to sleep, huh?!

But though there is a cloud of gloom that hovers over a lot of the songs, there is a final burst of hope. The closing number, "You Set The Scene", opens up plain enough, with a fairly simple melody and rather obscure lyrics that detail "If you want, she brings you water / If you don't, then you will burn". But then the instrumentation changes, and a trumpet sounds Lee's final speech: which I find to be my favourite moment of the album. It's a little hard to explain why - I suppose it's because of the overall positive feeling, optimism in the face of seeming despair. He announces "This is the only thing that I am sure of / And that's all that lives is gonna die", at which point your cliche-senses perhaps start tingling. But the saving grace for me is the simple declaration "This is the time and life that I am living / And I'll face each day with a smile". His sincerity is questionable, true; but I take it to be him deciding to smile bravely on, even if knows there's a chance that this is all meaningless; indeed, "And for everyone who thinks that life's a game / Do you like the part you're playing?".

As with most albums that sneak there way onto "Greatest albums ever" lists, listeners seem to be generally divided into two camps: those who praise it to the sky, and those who dismiss at as nonsense compared to any number of other great albums. Very briefly, I don't think this is any serious competition to some of the other big names (Sgt. Pepper, Blonde On Blonde): but hey, it's a brilliantly orchestrated pop album, isn't that good enough!? Sure, there are better pop-albums, and its originality is questionable. But taken purely as a listening experience, I think this is rewarding, even if it might take a while to get used to.

* Although such lists are pointless in that the exact order of albums is for all intents and purposes totally whimsical, they do serve a useful purpose - namely, that they can help introduce albums that might otherwise slip you by. This is a bit of a double-edged sword, because you can easily go into the album expecting a masterpiece. If what you get is merely very good, then you might be left with a bitter taste, which is projected onto your dislike of the album in question. But I digress..

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Now here's a beautiful result which I became aware of only a few days ago:

The proof is still beyond me, although I'm happy just to bask in the knowledge that some clever soul has come up with one.
It has been a while since I tried to post any sort of story or poem (the story I posted a few weeks ago was written a long time ago), and I think this will be the case for a while now. I wouldn't say that I have writer's block, but I think what I have is an acute awareness of the limitations of my current style of writing, and to some extent, mode of thinking. Just today I began on the same old mental trip, scurrying through disconnected ideas and thoughts, analysing each one briefly yet close enough to be able to mould them all into the big picture. As I sit here, it's all too easy to pick out one of these images, or even the "big picture" itself, and try to write about it, reflecting on the nature of it, and so on (I suppose I am doing that right now, but this is meta-prose!). Yet, like I said, I feel as though I can sense the boundaries of anything I write all too well, and can see painfully clearly how, in a quest to dig deep and expose some realities of my own life as some sort of broader comment, I am left with something far too primitive to have any long-lasting merit. Of course, writing's an iterative thing, and to get better at it one must keep at it and write more, hoping to get better each time. I don't argue with this, but I guess what I'm getting at is that I don't feel I can write anymore without essentially repeating myself.

Naturally, I don't mean to use this as an appropriate time to pack up and leave (although maybe some of you think I should!), but rather I feel the need to somehow try and expand the style I have developed so far, however unoriginal it may be. I think the best way to try to do this is to just read long into the night! Sometimes I catch myself looking at particularly beautiful pieces of prose and poetry, and trying to dissect them in some attempt to try to figure out its essence, and what makes it so beautiful. The "reasoning" being, I suppose, that by doing so I can improve my own style. But this seems to be no more than glorified plagiarism, if not in the literal sense then in some sort of spiritual sense.. When I sit down and think about it though, I feel that influence is at its purest when the message just hits you without you having to be aware of it. I yearn for the subtle beauties of the written word, the ones that can gently lift us up above the mundane and absurd in normal life. I don't believe I can ever achieve such power with writing; my destiny is far humbler. But if it can at least possess a semblance of these greater notions..

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Art Of Problem Solving website is an excellent source of interesting maths problems, although most of them are of an olympiad level (if not higher). Still, it's as good a place as any to find some truly beautiful mathematical problems. Browsing through, I came across this thread, which outlines a method for integration that's too good to pass up. It's employed here to find an integral that is very hard to compute normally (click on the picture to read the text, the quality isn't great but it's readable):

This isn't the most beautiful or elegant thing on the site by any means, but since integrals have always been a soft-spot, I couldn't resist posting this.

Edit: I don't think a partial derivative is required in the little exercise above, a plain ol' ordinary derivative should do just fine.

The Australians won the VB series last night, and it just led me to start thinking whether there is any side in world-cricket today that can beat these seemingly unstoppable giants. Pakistan bowled very well yesterday, and it's rare for any side to restrict Australia to less than 250 in two consecutive games. Gilchrist had an early reprieve when he should have been out LBW in the first over, and he made the most of it by then hammering 40 off 30 balls. I don't blame the umpire too much though, it only just pitched inside leg-stump, and to the naked eye it was probably too close for comfort. As usual, though, Pakistan's batting left a lot to be desired. Although they have a huge depth in the batting, no one seemed willing to play a long innings and stay there till the end. It also seems like it has become a given that after 10 overs both openers will be gone, and possibly No. 3 as well. The match just became a matter of thinking "Well, they've lost a lot of wickets, but there's batting to come, they just need to form a partnership!". Alas, no partnership appeared, and the Aussies quite rightfully claimed victory in a series they have thoroughly dominated.

As for which team can pose any sort of threat to the Aussies, my guess would be the two teams currently playing each other, England and South Africa. England have experienced a sudden resurgence in terms of talent and form, and have been making waves in the cricketing world. Their defeat of Australia in the ICC Champions trophy (where they chased a fairly substantial total) showed that perhaps there was some merit to this hype being generated by legions of rejuvenated English supporters. However, of late, I think England seem to be slipping; or perhaps it's that SA have been improving. Now 1-2 down in the ODIs, they don't seem to have the consistency that's required to beat a great team like Australia. Much like Pakistan, they have the talent to do so on their day, but it's very questionable that they'll be able to win an entire series. Maybe I'm being too harsh on them, maybe it's just a lean patch they're going through at the moment.

I'd still back them to give Australia a scare in the Ashes, even if they can't win it - Hoggard is bowling brilliantly, and if Harmison can figure out what he's doing wrong, then they have an excellent opening attack. However, they don't seem to have as good support bowlers - Collingwood, Ali, they seem decent, but nothing exceptional. That may prove to be telling against the ominous batting card of Australia. The batting looks to be very good, even if a few players are not in form now. Strauss seems to be an amazing find, scoring century after century against the South Africans in the test series, he looks to have a good technique and the ability to bat for long periods of time. Vaughan was so impressive a few years ago - he just needs to score a fifty or two and get back his confidence! They have a fair bit of depth too, but they just need to get everyone into form if they want to challenge the Aussies.

South Africa have been very impressive, so much so that one wonders how they've managed to lose so many matches against England. Kallis is easily one of the best batsmen in world cricket today, with an impeccable technique and a voracious appetite for hundreds. Like England, SA has a lot of depth in their batting, going all the way down to Boucher and Pollock. Justin Kemp has a reputation for being a harder hitter of the ball than Klusener, and he showed why in the last couple of ODIs (although he was yorked twice by Collingwood before he could do any real damage!). The skipper, Smith, is not in particularly good form, and needs to work on his technique a bit, especially since Hoggard has exploited a weakness with his tendency to work balls onto the leg side. I think SA's real strength lies in the bowling, with Pollock and Ntini being the second best opening bowling combo in cricket (next to the Aussies' openers), with good support from Nel and Kallis. Boje is a bit of a question mark, I don't know too much about his bowling ability, although he has proved himself to be a very good batsman. I have vivid memories of Steve Waugh smashing him in the unforgettable quarter-final in the 1999 world cup though!

But, although England and South Africa are both very good teams, one just gets the feeling that Australia can meet any challenges that either team provide, and overcome them. It looks like it will be a while yet before anyone can offer serious competition to the world champions!

Friday, February 04, 2005

I don't remember the first time I spotted the dinosaur comics at, but, being the discerning comic-reader that I am, I dismissed it the first time because I didn't like the art-work. If you flip through the comics, you'll see that all of them employ the same six frames, only with different dialogues. An interesting concept, but one which would be short-lived if the material wasn't good. But, as it turns out, the material is downright brilliant. A little while ago, I came across the site again, and actually found myself laughing out loud at one of the strips. Of all the webcomics that I read (which aren't a lot), this is the first time in a long time that I've actually laughed at something - I've smirked, chuckled and groaned before at some of the humour, but the style here is quite different and very, very funny. It's easily funnier than any comic I've seen printed in the papers, and for that matter, most web-comics I've heard rave reviews about. For instance, look at this one (I want to print out and hang the last frame on my wall, seriously):

or even the "talking Devil" bits like this:

and this, where again the last frame deserves to be a poster on my wall:

Funnier than the entire archives of some other popular webcomics (no name-dropping, I'm going to give some of them a second chance!).

Ah, I've noticed that the images I've posted are far too small for you to be able to read the comics, gentle reader. I guess you'll just have to follow the link and read them on the main site!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

For someone claiming that one of his obsessions in mathematics, I've posted precious little about the subject on this blog these last few years. The biggest problem is that even if I wanted to post anything, I just don't know the right way to do it. Blogger doesn't seem to be able to upload files, if it did I could typeset a document in LaTeX and post a PDF with some nice formulae. One possibility is to make a PDF and then convert each page into a JPEG, and then upload these pictures (although it would probably result in a noticeable loss of quality). I was thinking about MathML, but after noticing how poor the support is in current browsers, as well as how hideously long the markup is, I've scrapped that idea for now. Using HTML symbols is always an option, even though it means I won't have the luxuries of elegant formatting and display. It seems by far that the JPEG option is the most favourable, so perhaps I will go with that sometime in the future.