Month: February 2014

First The Lego Movie, And Now Minecraft

Entertainment

Minecraft is heading to the big screen .

After the jaw-dropping success of The Lego Movie—which has raked in $280.5 million worldwide since its release three weeks ago—Warner Bros. has made moves to turn another beloved franchise into a movie by buying the rights to the incredibly popular game.

Minecraft, which was widely released in 2011, is an open play building game where players create avatars and then a world, using blocks to create structures. It also now has more than 100 million users, which, if Warner Bros. has any say in the matter, should translate into plenty of movie ticket sales.

Surprisingly, Deadline reports that executives are planning the do a live-action film. Less surprisingly, given the subject matter and potential, there is already plenty of interest from potential writers and directors. Roy Lee, who co-produced Lego, is set to produce Minecraft along with Jill Messick, whose…

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Shinji Kagawa vs. Olympiakos

It’s so sad how he keeps demanding the ball and no one gives it to him. It just keeps going to the flanks for Young to dribble and cross aimlessly. He’s being so criminally underused, both by Ferguson and now Moyes. Klopp may not have been fully right to criticise them, given that Kagawa might really have some fitness/fit issues. But the way he gets shunted to the left is a joke.

Of course, some blame must land on Kagawa himself. Choosing to go to Manchester United when they are not tuned towards passing and possession football was a mistake. Even under Fergie, ManU had always relied on wing play, more so than any other top teams in any European league.

Maybe Klopp can rescue him like he did Sahin (whom I still wish was with Liverpool; playing him as a No. 10 made zero sense). And he can go and rip up the Bundesliga again, proving that Moyes is a dinosaur. And that ManU should have tried to lure Klopp instead.

I’m so glad they didn’t though. #MoyesIn.

Cambodia Is a Deadly Political Mess That the World Completely Ignores

Cambodia has never really drawn much attention, bar the publicised trials of leaders of the Pol Pot regime. But the trials went kaput after years and years of being unable to convict them, and it just faded off into obscurity.

Cambodia has always lingered in the shadows of her more prominent neighbours. That can also apply to Laos, whom no one really knows. Vietnam will forever be etched in everyone’s memory after the disastrous Vietnam War. Thailand has more publicity, likely due to the popularity of the country as a travel destination. Myanmar and the story of Aung San Suu Kyi is also well known.

What do I know about Cambodia? Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat, Pol Pot, the two million who died in the killing fields…and nothing else. I suppose that’s a whole lot better than many other people. Oh, and that the current leader was heavily affliated to the Pol Pot regime, and that his insistence that the trials be held in Cambodia was attributed to the slow and ineffective legal process that didn’t yield any results.

Will the world ever notice Cambodia? Unless there’s a collapse of the country, or Vietnam decides to invade like it has done before, I doubt it. I know I probably won’t.

World

As Thailand teeters on the brink of a full-scale political meltdown, the simmering strife in neighboring Cambodia can be easy to miss. Yet six months after disputed elections, the situation remains grave, featuring the lethal suppression of peaceful protests and extra-judicial detentions.

The government of strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen has endured for some three decades, engorged on rampant corruption and typified by gross human rights abuses. “For far too long, Hun Sen and his colleagues have been getting away with violence, human-rights abuses, corruption, and media and electoral manipulation without serious internal or external challenge,” former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans wrote in an op-ed yesterday.

Ominously, however, opposition attempts to oust Hun Sen have been increasingly marred by controversy and bloodshed.

Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 68 out of 123 legislative seats at general elections on July 28. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) claims…

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Math Proves You Should Always Order the Bigger Pizza

NewsFeed

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that pizza is delicious. Everyone loves pizza. Like, the United States government even took the time recently to prove that.

So, that’s one of the reasons why you should always opt for the bigger pie when you’re out at a pizzeria with friends (or alone — we don’t judge) so that you simply have more delicious pizza to enjoy. The other reason, though, is that it’s pretty much always a much better deal.

Some heroes at NPR crunched the numbers, looking at 74,476 prices from 3,678 pizza places across the U.S. They point out that a 16-inch pizza, for example, is really four times the size of an eight-inch pizza, though most people would probably think it would be double.  On average, consumers spend $16.59 for a 16-inch pie. To get the same amount of pizza, they’d have to…

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Tesla’s Massive New Factory Is a Major Gamechanger

I’ve always liked the concept of Tesla Motors. Electric cars have a bad rep for being poor substitutes for regular cars, but Elon Musk and Tesla smashed that notion with the incredible Model S.

The Model S is both good looking, efficient, and spacious. It’s also the only car to ace every aspect of the U.S. car safety tests I believe. Now that they are building a factory for their car batteries (which can expand to production and sale of regular batteries), it could have huge implications for Tesla and the world.

If the new factory does defray costs by the touted 30%, it could make Teslas far more affordable. And with an affordable version in the works, that’s super great news for the future of automobiles.

We need to start doing more for the Earth. Just look at the air pollution in China. Electric cars will help ease the burden on our planet, and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The sort of innovation that goes into building these state-of-the-art cars will also only be beneficial for the world.

Unfortunately, in a crammed country like Singapore, it’s difficult to use electric cars. There just isn’t the infrastructure for it. But if the electric car industry continues to grow, it might not be surprising to see charging stations in carparks all over the country.

Now that I can really buy into.

Project Ara: Inside Google’s Bold Gambit to Make Smartphones Modular

Ever since Phonebloks and Project Ara emerged, I’ve been eagerly awaiting news of any possible releases. Now that there’s going to be a conference and a tentative release date in 2015, I’m really hyped up.

As a minor gadget geek, I love the concept of being able to customise my own phone. Current flagship models are always spouting the same stuff about better cameras, better battery life, and in the case of Samsung, a ton of unnecessary cool features that end up forgotten in the space of five minutes.

I don’t need a camera; I barely use mine. I would love to have decent speakers, although that’s not necessary too, given the sort of earphones I have. I want a big, fat battery to last me for days. I want good storage. And a decent screen will do for me.

Samsung has ridiculous screen sizes. iPhone has ‘too small’ a screen size currently, and I dislike iOS for some unexplainable reason. HTC looks like it could go bust if the new One doesn’t take off. There aren’t many other options, and there are always drawbacks to every phone.

With Project Ara, I could configure my own phone. And apparently, design is customisable too. Carbon fibre, anyone?

And this also means no more anxious waits for new flagship models to appear, and no need to get frustrated when the phone seems outdated when the 2-year term of your contract is running down. Just get an upgraded module. In the long term, it could be cheaper, and it gives instant gratification that is so sought after with people these days.

I really hope Project Ara takes off and soars. If it’s US-only though, I think I’ll cry.

Tech

On January 29, Google announced that it had agreed to sell Motorola, its phone-manufacturing business, to Chinese electronics giant Lenovo. Thus concluded the company’s brief, unprofitable foray into smartphone hardware, which began when it revealed plans to acquire Motorola Mobility in August, 2011.

Except that it didn’t really end there. It turned out that Google was holding onto one organization within Motorola: the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. Headed by Regina Dugan, the former director of the U.S. Defense Department’s fabled Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), ATAP aims to bring the same approach to mobile-gadget innovation that DARPA used to kickstart the Internet, satellite navigation, stealth fighters and other technologies that started small and eventually mattered a lot.

In retrospect, it’s completely logical that Google would choose to retain ATAP. The technologies and projects it specializes in are the wildly audacious ideas Google likes to call moonshots

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China’s Smog Is So Bad They’re Now Calling It a ‘Nuclear Winter’

Wow. And I thought the smog from Indonesia’s slash-and-burn farms was bad. I’m glad I managed to visit Beijing and the Great Wall years ago, before the country descended into a post-apocalyptic state.

At least it’ll be easy to find the next filming location for zombie flicks. China provided the spectacular scenery for Avatar. Now it can do the same for Silent Hill.

P.S. I think I read somewhere that China and India’s pollution problems aren’t any worse than what the Earth experienced back during the Industrial Revolution. While I can accept that it’s an unfortunate by-product of industrialisation and modernisation, surely more can be done? It’s getting pretty ridiculous.

World

On Wednesday morning in Beijing, we fitted our two boys with their minimasks and sent them off to school. Air pollution, according to the U.S.-embassy index, had hit a dangerous particulate concentration of 497. (The World Health Organization warns against daily exposure to PM 2.5 — fine particulates above 25.) At 500 on the Beijing scale — which the U.S. embassy has dryly dubbed “beyond index,” because who would think air pollution could climb so high? — school would be shuttered. Three index points were all that were keeping our kids in class.

By the time our children, ages 6 and 4, were starting school, the U.S. air-quality index had hit 512. By 11:00 a.m., it had reached 537. The air is off-the-charts bad. The U.S. embassy cautions that at this level, “everyone may experience more serious health effects.” Even the Chinese government, whose own air-quality monitoring often records pollution…

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No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine

So it seems Russia won’t intervene, because past history dictates that Ukraine will go back into their arms eventually. And I never knew Ukraine was in such a bad shape, and all that political infighting is news to me as well. Well, you learn something new everyday.

Again, I’m glad for Singapore’s stability. Funny how Europe is always seen as a continent filled with stable, rich, first world countries, when in fact, probably only a handful of them can boast that claim. The PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) have faced much economic turmoil in recent years. Recent news of Bosnia-Herzegovina having civil unrest. Italy’s political mess. The list goes on.

I do wish I was a Scandinavian though. I like cold places, and the countries there are advanced and provide excellent education. From what I know, Finland doesn’t have exams until high school graduation, yet ranks high in global education ratings. There’s no competition, and schools are run by educators; teachers provide one-to-one help, and it’s all to help each and every student learn.

And Sweden, Norway and other northern European countries are running out of garbage to burn for fuel, and have to import it. What? That’s mad.

And the stereotypical Scandinavian woman is strikingly attractive, blonde AND intelligent. Thanks, Vikings, for taking back home only the most beautiful of women. Now, can I please be reincarnated as a citizen of Finland? If I can’t study, at least I can go race in F1…

Man, I’m rambling again.

World

Vladimir Putin has been here before. A decade ago, when he was starting his second term as Russia ’s President, a popular uprising broke out in Ukraine. It took no more than a few weeks to break the bond of centuries between the two biggest countries in Eastern Europe . The current revolution in Ukraine looks very different. Unlike the peaceful Orange Revolution, this one has been violent and has dragged on for months. But the questions it has forced Russia to ask are much the same: To what extent should we intervene? When do we cut our losses and accept Ukraine’s drift toward the West? What would we gain, and what would we risk, from using our military to regain control?

Then, as now, these questions have been hotly debated in Moscow. Then, as now, Moscow watched its ally, Viktor Yanukovych, get ousted by mass protests. Then, as now…

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Russia Orders Troop Maneuvers Amid Ukraine Tensions

World

President Vladimir Putin ordered massive military exercises involving troops in western Russia, as pro-Western Ukrainian revolutionaries charted a new course in Kiev.

The military exercise is meant to “check the troops’ readiness for action in crisis situations that threaten the nation’s military security,” said Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who added that Putin ordered the exercise Wednesday afternoon. The troop maneuvers will begin Friday and will last four days, and involve ships of the Baltic and Northern Fleets and the air force.

Shoigu did not make any reference to Ukraine, which shares a border with western Russia, the Associated Press reports. Opposition figures there are setting the groundwork for a new government after toppling the Russia-supported President Viktor Yanukovych. A Russian lawmaker promised Tuesday to protect pro-Russia activists in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, where Russia has a major naval base.

It remains to be seen what kind of pressure Putin will…

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