Monday, October 05, 2009

It's not a battle royale unless...

One source of annoyance for editor-types is when writers repeatedly use "battle royale" when they mean to write "battle royal".

For example, check out the headlines for these two stories which cover the tiff between the Negeri Sembilan and Johor royal families.

To clarify:

Battle Royale is the title of a 2000 Japanese film directed by Kinji Fukasaku, which is based on the novel of the same name by Koushun Takami. The film was quite controversial when it first came out. It is known for its violent scenes and dark humour.

The intended phrase, battle royal, is a very old idiom, and it means "a fight in which more than two combatants are engaged" or "a heated argument".

The Star apparently knows the difference between the two phrases and has not used it in recent months (though they've let it slip into their the citizen's blogs and letters to the editor).

In the case of the duelling royal houses, I suppose you could invoke the film title because apparently, a gun was involved.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

List of Banned Publications in Malaysia

Just in time for Merdeka - here’s a list of banned publications in Malaysia which I culled from the Kementerian Dalam Negeri (Ministry of Home Affairs) website. This includes books, magazines, letters and even music. You can check it out for yourself at this link. KDN calls it the “Ileagal Publisher List”; note that they have misspelled “illegal”. Quite ironic.

Anyway, their website is very unuser-friendly, so I wrote a little program to scrape all the pages and dump them all into one neat Excel file. Plus, I’ve translated some of the terms from B.M., fixed the inconsistent date formats, and fixed most of the ALL-CAPS words.

This list is current as of Aug 31, 2009 and you can view the complete banlist here at the Zoho Viewer website; no special program is needed. You can also download the Excel file from there, if you want to slice-and-dice it in your favourite spreadsheet program or database program.

Thanks to Erna for reminding me about this list.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

List of diploma and degree mills

In the age of Google, when info is so easy to verify, you'd think jobseekers would avoid buying fake credentials from degree and diploma mills. It would also be a pretty bad idea to post your fake credentials online, or to provide them to the press.

Unfortunately, thousands of people still choose this risky shortcut, as reported by The Star:
Dodgy Degrees

One "university" which wasn't listed in the Sunday Star story is Washington International University, which is also a well-known diploma mill.

See the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization website, where WIU is clearly listed as a degree mill:

WIU is also listed on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's page of "Institutions Whose Degrees are Illegal to Use in Texas":

You'll also get an idea of other "colleges" to avoid by browsing the above links. Obtaining a real degree takes time, effort, and commitment. Don't let your company hire anyone with one of these "degrees," and if you have a colleague with one of these credentials, you should report them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Onion skewers pessimistic news stories

This wickedly funny "story" from The Onion is an excellent send-up of all the gloom-and-doom stories in the media.

Solitary Crow On Fence Post Portending Doom, Analysts Warn

Friday, June 05, 2009

Piece be with you

In America, where gun rights are almost a religion, one should not be too surprised to read this report:
Gun-loving pastor to his flock: Piece be with you
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Kentucky pastor is inviting his flock to bring guns to church to celebrate the Fourth of July and the Second Amendment.

New Bethel Church is welcoming "responsible handgun owners" to wear their firearms inside the church June 27, a Saturday. An ad says there will be a handgun raffle, patriotic music and information on gun safety.

This headline goes straight into my Headline Hall of Fame. Kudos to the writer or editor!

Also, who could resist gun-toting pastors?

UPDATE: My pal Riggy, an arms expert of sorts, has identified the pastor's gun as a Walther P99. It seems the pastor has James Bond aspirations! In recent Bond movies, this gun has replaced Bond's classic Walther PPK.

(AP Photo/Aaron Borton, The Courier-Journal, Story by By DYLAN T. LOVAN, Associated Press Writer)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"New Media" Business Template

This Non Sequitur comic strip by Wiley Miller nicely summarises the problem with many "New Media" business models.

(click on the thumbnail for the full strip)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Don't forget to deduct your balls

Sorry for the crude headline, but I couldn’t resist ;-) If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, don’t forget the new tax deductions for sports equipment, following the amendments for 2008. By “sports equipment” I am assuming that LHDN (Inland Revenue Board) means items like tennis racquets and tennis balls. In fact, the LHDN website specifically mentions golf balls and shuttlecocks.

From the LHDN website:
“An amount limited to a maximum of RM300 is deductible in respect of expenses expended by the individual for the purchase of sports equipment for any sports activity as defined under the Sports Development Act 1997. Sports equipment includes equipment with short lifespan e.g. golf balls and shuttlecocks but excluding sports attire, e.g. swimsuits and sports shoes.”

Among the sports covered in the Sports Development Act are tennis, football, basketball, badminton, golf, and squash. In all, 39 sports are covered (see below).

Unfortunately, the new exemptions exclude sports attire; the LHDN notes (see below) specifically exclude swimsuits and sports shoes! So you can’t deduct those Hush Puppies or Manolo Blahniks (nice try). That also means you can’t deduct that Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer swimsuit that you bought (as used by Mark Phelps, et al. Costs around RM2,200).

I was also quite amused by the inclusion of shooting and archery in the Sports Development Act. If I’m reading the LHDN exemptions right, that means you can deduct the cost of bullets and arrows!

Remember that you will need to have receipts for items you want to deduct, plus you’ll need to keep them for seven years. If all you have are the credit card receipts, remember to photocopy them, because they have an annoying tendency to fade over time.

Here are some useful links:

LHDN: Explanatory Notes for BE form 2008 (Income Tax of an Individual, PDF file. It’s in English!)
Go to this section:
D8C - Purchase of sports equipment for any sports activity as defined under the Sports Development Act 1997. Also check out the other sections for stuff you can deduct.

Sports Development Act 1997 (PDF file)
p. 23 has a list of activities regarded as sports for the purposes of the Act.

Your tax queries answered (The Star)
Star’s column basically rehashes the Explanatory Notes for sports equipment. But you may get some useful info about other deductibles.

Image ganked from AlterMedia România.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Slap in the Facebook

A Slap in the Facebook

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dear Miss Manners:

With the use of online chatting and social networks like Facebook, some people feel comfortable sharing their current state of mind on away messages or status messages. For instance, a friend of mine had the following message up: "The misery just doesn't end. Yet another bad week." Another friend had this message up: "Good to know I've found the person I might be ready to settle down with."

When I asked the first friend why she was having a bad week, she said that "things" have been happening lately. I tried to get a little more information from her, but realized she wasn't really providing me with any, so I backed off and just told her I hoped things would get better.

She later mentioned in the online conversation that I was not a good "conversationalist." Am I supposed to beg people for information from now on?

As for my friend who thought announcing a soon-to-be fiancee was an appropriate thing to do on Facebook, I tried asking him about his status as well. His response was that he would prefer to keep things on the "down low" for now and that his status message was not an invitation for people to pry.

Am I going crazy here, or are people really sending mixed signals? It seems to me that some people purposely try to get you to ask them questions, but when you do, they brush you off or act like YOU are the one prying into their business, even when they opened the door in the first place. Why is it so hard to be a good friend these days? Help!

Miss Manners says:
Your friends are turning into virtual friends. They want to advertise their every move and feeling to a presumably rapt and admiring audience but do not want to participate in the give-and-take of actual friendship.

The model for this, as Miss Manners is not the first to observe, is the celebrity. They "do" publicity through trusted chroniclers -- in this case themselves -- but are huffy about their "privacy" when they manage to attract someone's interest, which must be seldom enough.

So to continue your admirable concern for friends, Miss Manners is afraid you must note whether their confidences are being made to you as a friend or the wide world of virtual so-called friends who are not expected to show interest. Or you could make new friends who value real friendship.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

A quick test for Conficker

Wondering if you've been hit by the Conficker worm? Here's a "Conficker Eye Chart", an ingeniously simple web browser test created by Joe Stewart which takes advantage of the way the worm works.

Just follow the link above, which loads a webpage with six logos. If you can't see one, or any of the logos in the top row, then you are almost certainly infected by Conficker or other malware. This is because the Conficker worm (or other malware) will attempt to block any connections to anti-virus software company servers.

Stewart originally hosted the "eye chart" on his own server; it is now hosted by the Conficker Working Group, which is led by Microsoft and a number of anti-virus/ computer security software companies.

I was quite amused that Stewart had the opportunity for a little Unix advocacy. The other test images on the "eye chart" are the logos for Openbsd, Linux, and FreeBsd, and are linked to their respective websites. The worm, BTW, only infects Windows boxes.

If you suspect an infection, try using any of the repair tools from the Conficker Working Group.

In related news, there was some Conficker-themed geek humour going around on April 1.

(Thanks F-Secure)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My God.. It's full of books!

MPH Stock Clearance

Ongoing till 7pm Sun, Mar 22 at Mayang Plaza, Jalan SS 26/2, Taman Mayang, Petaling Jaya. This was formerly the Limkokweng building.

PROS: Serendipitous discoveries. Huge price cuts. Efficient checkout.
CONS: Crowds. No A.C. Little organisation. Some parking problems.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Darwin Award nominees (Malaysia)

The Star: Fisherman dies, four others warded after eating puffer fish
>>DUNGUN: A fisherman died in mid-sea after having puffer fish for lunch on Saturday while four others have been warded for food poisoning at the hospital here.<<

Never mind that puffer fish are the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world, and it takes years to become a licenced Fugu chef!

The Darwin Award, in case you don't know, is given to people who "do a service to humanity by removing themselves from the gene pool."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

OMG it's a tourist, what do we do?!

Startled Iraqis welcome, sort of, their first tourist (NYT/IHT)

A quite amusing story about L. Marchio, who is apparently Iraq's first tourist in more than five years. Panic ensues, and border guards, embassies, the media, the police and the U.S. Army have to be alerted!

(Photo credit: Michael Kamber for The New York Times)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Firefox 3: Lost bookmarks file

I was trying to synchronise my Firefox bookmarks on two systems when I realised the old bookmarks.html file was no longer being used. Firefox 3 now uses the "places.sqlite" file to store bookmarks.

To confuse matters, the old bookmarks.html files were still on my two systems. It was only after I checked the "last modified" date when I realised they were no longer being used by the current version of Firefox.

More details here:
MozillaZine: Lost bookmarks after Firefox 3 upgrade