Friday, February 29, 2008

20 sci-fi novels that will change your life

Very interesting list from, although it doesn't include anything from Asimov's famous Foundation series, Arthur C. Clarke or even Ray Bradbury. Incidentally, guess what the title of the Arabic translation of Foundation was? Al-Qaeda... honestly!!

Blogger down

Blogger was unexpectedly down for roughly half an hour till just now. Couldn't access my blog (i.e. produced a "502 Server Error"). I didn't see any maintenance notice on Blogger in this regard, and worse, the 502 error message asks you to come back in 30 seconds, which didn't work (yes, I did clean my browser cache). I checked out a couple of other blogs and they all seem to have shared the same fate. Wondering what happened to the great Google's blogging arm: hackers, viruses, human errors, aliens? With a lazy brain and fertile imagination the possibilities are endless :D *

New Iron Man trailer

I'm not really a big fan of Iron Man but this trailer blew me over. The poster, as you can see, is pretty cool too.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Street Fighter 4 Ryu vs Ken trailer

I found a pretty cool trailer of the upcoming Street Fighter game that features Ryu vs Ken in action, so it's only natural I'm sharing the link with you. Pure nostalgic stuff for anybody who grew up playing the 2D versions! I actually remember performing a 21-hit combo playing with Ryu in the final stage of SF Alpha. Now let's see what happens with SF4... B-)

Monday, February 25, 2008


I'm really indebted to the regular visitors at my blog, who account for almost one-fourth of my blog traffic and are from all over the world. Techqi has done small wonders: I initially planned to have 1000 page visits within a month, and ended up achieving it in a week! I've learned a lot about blogging and have realized that there are just as many things to be excited about this (still) unconventional new medium, as to be disillusioned. It's terrific to see thousands of new bloggers starting out with original content; on the other hand many established sites end up 'lifting' material. I don't post as frequently, largely to do with the amount of time I have at my leisure, but part of it also has to do with the way I perceive blogging itself. I think I'll try to redistribute my posts and spread out content in a more organized fashion. All my years as a journalist can certainly help me handle that! (Speaking of being a journalist, sometimes I miss the old days. But perhaps that's just habit, and I'm consciously ignoring the many frustrations I've suffered.) In a very strange way, blogging is like an odd monitor which has a display quality inversely proportional to the resolution. This is precisely the area I want to address: I want to bring information together in an informal, yet standardized, layout. The downside: it might take time. Let's see.

The shortest story ever written


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Grade calculator for university students

Here's a grade calculator that you can use for your grade projections, especially if you want to check out how you're doing at this time of the term. Here's a grade calculator that you can use for grade projections, especially if you want to find out how you're doing at this time of the term. (I made this with ENGL 110 at UBC in mind; if this doesn't match the grade breakdown for your course -- no pun intended! -- leave a comment if you want a grade calculator custom-tailored for your course. Yes, for free.) Scroll down this page to use the grade calculator. Note: only numerical scores allowed in this version. Update: Just search for "grade calculator for UBC" or "grade calculator for university" in Google and this page is listed in second place or third place right now. Comments not working, drop me an email if you need help.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Techqi update

Update update: the "*" isn't quite working, but I still try. Sorry for having vanished. I'm trying to create a philosopher's stone, which is indeed time consuming. Stuff I've been trying to do for Techqi include:
  • a take on Vancouver's eateries (right now I have lots of yummy photos, have to sit down and write),
  • complete the Optimizing Broadband... series (it should be a blast; the Antivirus reviews are already a hit on Google),
  • a write-up on a recent translation of the Quran published by Penguin,
  • shuffle the layout of this blog and throw in some ads (apparently I'm destined to be both poor and brilliant, which is kinda cool and sucks at the same time).
Plus, from now on I'll end my posts with a "*", so you don't have to feel cheated by very short posts. Here's the first one: *

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull movie trailer!

Click on the link to check it out :)

Reading "Othello" detrimental to relationship, study finds

Something that only an idle mind can produce.People who have seen or read William Shakespeare's "Othello" and have told their partners are almost certain to break up. William Sanders, a freshman in poli-sci at UCLA, told his girlfriend that he was studying the play for an English course. They broke up within a month for no apparent reason. Julie Styles, a North Vancouver native and second-year UBC student, saw her 6-year relationship being ended in a matter of days after she had told her boyfriend she was reading "Othello". Alison Cooper from Sydney tearfully recalls that her 40-year-old marriage was over after her husband, Bill Dawson, a plumber, went to see a local production of the play. "My Bill was so loving and sweet," she said, "But that goddamn Shakespearean play made him lose his mind. He was always ranting about how to murder a wife, and I simply couldn't take it anymore." Ms Cooper is currently under psychiatric treatment and facing mortgage issues. The tragic play seems to have most horribly affected people who have just started dating. 8.75 out of every 10 people surveyed broke up the day after they confessed that they had read, seen or were reading "Othello". Caroline Mahtab, an assistant professor at the University of Cairo pointed out the reason: "The play is cursed, and although people do not believe in these things anymore, every book has a Qi" she said. "Like a person, a book too has a soul, since so much of it is the work of a human soul, and many others." Coyote Dina, a Native American elder from the Haida tribe, confirmed this theory. "It is true -- books and parchments do have souls, and some have the power to affect human beings in ways they cannot even imagine." Literature professors, psychologists and leading Shakespeareans have hotly refuted this view. "It's complete BS," dramatist Tom Stoppard is reported as saying. "Shakespeare would never do such a thing." Celebrity psychologist Dr Phil had a lenient but disapproving view. "There is so much hate in that story," he said. "Hate cannot be your friend." He refused to comment on Oprah Winfrey, however. The RSC have refused to shut down productions of "Othello", despite the 660 protests held worldwide. Last October protester Sidhu Gurujan of Punjab, India almost died from injuries sustained while setting himself on fire. A flowerpot from a nearby apartment had cracked open his skull. While critics are convinced that talking about the play leads to relationship disasters, they have admitted that reading or seeing it and not talking about it could actually be beneficial. Many students confirmed this, and have confessed that writing papers on "Othello" helped them get good grades. "It works like an aphrodisiac," Oka Sung happily announced. The happy Toronto party-goer has his own prescription for students reading "Othello": "Tell you girlfriend or boyfriend that you're actually reading "Romeo and Juliet, and even if you haven't read "R & J", nod religiously when your partner talks about it." Religious leader Mullah Tashfinullah from Khorasan, Obasan, Afghanistan blasted the concentrated efforts of world universities in forcing young minds to indulge in the play. "In the name of Allah, the benevolent, the merciful," he said, "The book is actually about a battle between the forces of good and evil. It is as clear as sand and water. "The lady character (Desdemona) preaches with her actions that love is blind, while the pious Moor shows how marriage is a real-opener. "Anybody who poisons young minds against wedlock with such lies is a worshiper of Satan and progenitor of CSI Miami, and will burn in the bottomless pits of hell." He approved of readings of "Romeo and Juliet" in lieu of "Othello", calling it an admirable work, but insisted that the actress should wear a veil at all times. William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England in 1564. He is the most respected playwright in the English language, and his works continue to generate truckloads of critical responses by university professors and graduates alike. Shakespeare died in 1616 after a merry bout of drinking, and left his second-best bed to his widow in his will. Hexed literary works have long generated discontent, an issue that remains ignored by the authorities to this day. Last year a mass hysteria ensued rumors that reading James Joyce's "Ulysses" caused individuals to vomit and then laugh shaking their heads wildly. Now, how was that for a Valentine's Day post? :D :D Sorry for disappearing for a while. Wandering, wandering.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Study: baby products, cosmetics could be linked to reproductive problems

According to a study baby shampoos, lotions and powders, as well as cosmetics and toys could expose infants to chemicals that have been linked to reproductive problems, the Toronto Star reports. According to a study baby shampoos, lotions and powders, as well as cosmetics and toys could expose infants to chemicals that have been linked to reproductive problems, the Toronto Star reports.
  • The chemicals, called phthalates, are found in many ordinary products, including cosmetics, toys, vinyl flooring and medical supplies. They are used to stabilize fragrances and make plastics flexible.
  • They were found in elevated levels in the urine of all the babies who'd been recently shampooed, powdered or lotioned with baby products.
  • Animal studies have suggested that phthalates can cause reproductive birth defects and some activists believe they may cause reproductive problems in boys and early puberty in girls.
Phthalates (pronounced "thowl-ates") usage is limited in California and some countries. Environmental activists have long criticized its use, although scientific study regarding its harmful effects is lacking. MSNBC organized a talk by expert pediatricians who shared their thoughts on the issue. The panel advised against cosmetics and baby products that come in plastic bottles and containers:
  • Seek out phthalate-free cosmetics products. Use glass, instead of plastic bottles and containers. Look for the recycling codes that are on plastic products — the number 3 on a plastic container or toy means it’s vinyl or PVC and likely contains phthalates. So that’s something to avoid.
  • Things with fragrances might be more likely to contain the phthalates. Less is more, sometimes. Stay away from the products that seem to have so many extra chemicals added to them.
Don't forget to check out the whole discussion here.

Happy Chinese New Year!


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Stress during pregnancy linked with schizophrenia in children

Researchers from the University of Manchester have concluded that women who go through extreme stress during the first three months of pregnancy are more likely to give birth to babies who will have schizophrenia later on in life. The findings were published in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, Science Blog reports. Ali Khashan and his colleagues used data from a staggering 1.38 million Danish births occurring between 1973 and 1995. Women were linked to close family members using a national registry, and the same registry was used to determine if any of these relatives died or received a diagnosis of cancer, heart attack or stroke during each mother’s pregnancy. Their children were followed from the 10th birthday through June 30, 2005 or until they died, moved out of the country, or developed schizophrenia. The risk of schizophrenia and related disorders was approximately 67 percent greater among the offspring of women who were exposed to the death of a relative during the first trimester. However, death of a relative up to six months before or any other time during pregnancy was not related to risk for schizophrenia in the child, nor was exposure to serious illness in a relative. The association between a family death and risk of schizophrenia appeared to be significant only for individuals without a family history (parents, grandparents or siblings) of mental illness. The authors pointed out that chemicals released by the mother’s brain in response to stress may have affect the fetus’ developing brain. These effects may be strongest in early pregnancy, at a time when protective barriers between the mother and fetus are not yet fully constructed. A previous study had suggested that anxiety in general during pregnancy affects child behaviour. Schizophrenia (pronounced 'skit-suh-free-nee-uh') is a medical condition associated with abnormal brain structure and function and is long believed to begin during early stages of brain development. The term itself was coined by Eugen Bleuler in 1908, and comes from the Greek roots schizein ('to split') and phrÄ“n, phren- ('mind'). If you're interested in children's health, you might also want to check out Study: baby products, cosmetics could be linked to reproductive problems.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Rescued seal pup video from Vancouver Aquarium

Here's a video of the arrival of a seal pup at the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. It's very cute, and towards the end you can see it dreaming! Hats off to the Aquarium -- they've reportedly rescued and rehabilitated almost 2000 marine mammals over the last 45 years. What a feat!

Metro newspaper goof-up

The mother an innocent young man murdered in a gang shooting is lobbying for a website that identifies known gangsters to the community. Published today in Metro Vancouver. It's the first page lead news, titled 'Mom wants gangsters ID'd online'.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Eee II PC with Windows launches in Japan

My predictions did come true! Well, more or less -- it's not Vista. The 4G-X will cost ¥50,000 ($468/£239/€320).Asus finally launched the first Windows version of the Eee II PC in Japan on Thursday, CNet reports.

The Taiwanese company was originally set to launch Windows-running versions of the hit sub-notebook in December, and has now declared US shipments in late February or early March.

Dubbed the Eee PC 4G-X, it will come (like its Japanese counterpart) pre-loaded with Windows XP Home Edition. It has the same hardware specs as the original Eee PC 701, aka the 4G, introduced last fall: 4GB of storage, Intel Celeron 900MHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, etc. In addition to 4GB of storage, the 0.92kg 4G-X has 512MB of DDR 2 memory, a 7in, 800 x 480 display, three USB 2.0 ports, SDHC memory card reader, 10/100Mb/s Ethernet, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and a 0.3-megapixel webcam. According to Asus is, however, bundling the Eee with a 4GB SDHC card, which makes the 4G-X actually come with 8GB of storage.

Looks like I was right in guessing that the Eee wouldn't ship with Vista after all, although it's worth noting that Windows XP running on Western Eee PCs usually cites the CPU being actually clocked at 630MHz.

The 4G-X will cost ¥50,000 ($468/£239/€320). [image: CNet]

If you're interested in laptops, you might want to check out All about the MacBook Air.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Solved! Thanks to the guys from the Google forums. Here's the link: Updated Feb 20 3:13 PST Here's the code that I'm actually interested in. I intend to use it in a Blogger widget, so that my students can just visit the webpage and calculate their grades. I've tested it on my system and it works fine. However, the W3C Markup Validation Service and JSLint and still finds errors, a lot of which doesn't seem to make sense (e.g. assumes ">" missing in cases perfectly okay). Why does it work on my system, then? I'm actually an interested novice in HTML/JavaScript/blogging, and haven't ever used Firebug or similar plugins. Help, please!

Time stops at NY Grand Central

Updated: Feb 05 2008 This is so cool! The world's largest train station in the world came to a halt for 5 minutes, and I'm sure nobody was offended. The event was organized by a group called Improv Everwhere (we desperately need them at the state universities).

Friday, February 1, 2008

Microsoft bids record $42b for Yahoo! : inside news

[Updated] It's true: Microsoft announced today that it has bid $31 a share to acquire Yahoo!, representing a 62% premium over the former search engine giant's recent market value. All about the deal -- and the tricks of fate that make it a popcorn event.Update: Microsoft hasn't managed to buy Yahoo! yet, which was kinda expected. Hey, imagine the truckload of pride Yahoo! has to swallow. I hope this even keeps me interested. (Do you think MS buying Yahoo! would be a good thing for internet users? Drop a comment.) It's true: Microsoft announced today that it has bid $31 a share to acquire Yahoo!, representing a 62% premium over the former search engine giant's recent market value. The total value of the offer is $44.5 billion in cash and stock, making it the largest bid ever in the hi-tech industry. Pundits are claiming that it's an incredibly expensive deal, even for a company the size of Microsoft. Michael Liedtke of AP describes the situation brilliantly: Unable to topple Google Inc. on its own, Microsoft Corp. is trying to force crippled rival Yahoo Inc. into a shotgun marriage, with a wager worth nearly $42 billion that the two companies together will have a better chance of tackling the Internet search leader. (The deal is valued differently across the news sites I'm currently madly surfing.) In any case, this move shows just how desperate Microsoft is to ensure its digital supremacy. The future is less desktop and more online then, eh? Microsoft has to do this deal. It's a battle that Microsoft needs to win, said AMR Research analyst Jonathan Yarmis. It's a classic case of a buyer overbidding to blow any potential competitors out of the water, according to James Owers, a Georgia State University professor of corporate finance. Analysts are still unsure whether the deal is going to take place -- and many are claiming that Microsoft might have to ward off other bidders, such as There's also a fair chance that the Redmond, Washington-based software giant will need to raise the bar even further to get the job done. In a classic twist of fate,
  • Yahoo! shares climbed $9.20, or nearly 48 percent, to $28.38 while Microsoft shares fell $2.15, or 6.6 percent, to $30.45 (a sign that Wall Street is skeptical about whether the acquisition makes sense).
  • Google shares fell $48.40, or 8.6 percent, to close at $515.90 Friday.
  • Shortly after Microsoft disclosed its intentions, the U.S. Justice Department said it is "interested" in reviewing antitrust issues. European Union officials declined to comment, but analysts said Microsoft probably will face more challenges getting a Yahoo! acquisition approved in Europe than the United States.
Now we only need Steve Jobs to complete the pretty picture! :D [Sources: AP, Yahoo! News, Google News,, etc.]