A Rant Against Everything

The following lines are part of a full-blown rant against anything and everything. I can’t be held responsible if it hurts your sensibilities. Also, I can’t be held responsible if you waste 30 seconds of your life on this page. So here goes:

My last post was on the 18th of November. That makes it 12+16=28 days between that one and this post. A lot of water has flown under the bridge between then and now.

Most of the things that could have gone wrong, gladly obeyed Murphy’s law and did go wrong. Some things that could have stayed right, didn’t. The recession is still on, making it harder to earn a living, let alone keep the job that you already have. IT companies have hit the brakes on recruitment of freshers, so I’m still jobless with only an offer letter and a provisional degree to show for 4 years of engineering. BPOs are taking full advantage of the situation and recruiting truckloads of people. After all, even in the current climate, there’s no shortage of poor souls who need assistance in turning on that new vacuum cleaner they just purchased.

The political situation in this country shows no signs of improvement. Some people can so easily fool millions of people, all at the same time. And be revered for that. Nice. I must restrain myself from discussing this any further, as I sense a steady stream of expletives about to be unleashed. In short, I’m fed up of the political system in India. It needs a complete overhaul. But what can I do? Nothing. I should have guessed.

They say – ‘Nothing is permanent except change’. Nothing’s changed here since the past few months. It feels as if I’m running around in circles. Same old, same old. Wake up, survive, go to bed. It’s all come to a point where I seem to have lost interest in a lot of things, not the least this blog. I’ve got unfinished projects, objectives and games that are crying out for my attention. But there’s only so much you can do on your computer until you just want to turn it off. For good. The less said about television, the better.

When I began this rant of mine, my mind was overflowing with things that needed to be written but now it’s empty. Not because I’ve written them all down, but because I can’t seem to remember them now!! I think I’ve become a bit senile.

Damn.

So the rant is over, I guess. But I was wondering, how many others find themselves in the same situation? I’d love to know!

Burnt by Burnley!

bridgeChelsea 1-1 Burnley

Burnley win on penalties.

Ouch! This was not in the script. Not at all. In cup competitions there are instances of David slaying Goliath every now and then, but when that Goliath happens to be Chelsea FC, the earth is bound to shake a bit more than usual.

Didier Drogba, returning from injury, gave Chelsea the lead after being set up by Lampard. Frank Lampard himself had just come on in place of Belletti, who had gone off injured. Drogba celebrated his goal by tossing wads of cash into the crowd, like a crazy millionaire. Err, actually he just picked up a coin that had been thrown onto the pitch and tossed it back to its rightful owner among the 6000 Burnley supporters. And Didier can expect a call from the FA very soon.

With 20 minutes remaining, Ade Akinyibi equalized for Burnley. Both teams finished the game with 10 men. Franco Di Santo got injured and all 3 Chelsea substitutions had already been used. Burnley’s Steven Caldwell was sent off for picking up a second yelow card. Burnley held on to force a penalty shootout after the score remained at 1-1 after 120 minutes of football.

penalties

And what is it with Chelsea and penalties? I don’t remember us having won a penalty shootout in a million years! Burnley goalkeeper Brian Jensen saved Mikel’s shot in sudden death, sparking massive celebrations among the travelling fans.

save

So Chelsea suffer their third defeat under Mr.Scolari and are out of the Carling Cup. And something tells me, I might have jinxed this game by mentioning the giant-killing acts of the past season too many times in my preview. Oh well, at least now we can concentrate on the other 3 competitions and try to finish off games before they reach penalties. 😉

Chelsea vs Burnley – A Few Pre-Match Thoughts

It’s that time of the year when teams from the lower leagues are drawn against some of the biggest clubs in Europe, fighting for pride, glory and giant-killing honours. No, it’s not Football Manager time, it’s the Carling Cup!

Carling Cup

Chelsea are up against Burnley from the second tier of English football, who will no doubt be looking to do a Barnsley. After all, the giant-killers Barnsley beat Liverpool at Anfield and Chelsea as well, to reach the semi-finals of The FA Cup last year. Maybe Barnsley had Lady Luck tied up in the luggage compartment of their team bus, but that’s no excuse for taking a lower-league opponent lightly.

I’ll expect Mr. Scolari to field a strong team, with a mix of youth and experience. Drogba is likely to start after bidding farewell to the medical staff, who must be having their hands full these days. I hope Ivanovic starts as well; the poor lad hasn’t put a foot wrong and still can’t get a game! And please, oh please, give Di Santo some time on the pitch. Apart from these, I don’t expect wholesale changes to the Chelsea lineup.

As for the result, barring a calamity of gigantic proportions (a fancy phrase for complacency), we should win this one comfortably.

P.S. – Those who can’t watch the game on TV, tune into a stream of your choice from here.

Justice Is Served!

They say that the customer is king, but hardly do we see him being treated as one. Usually the smiles on the faces of dealers and salespersons are programmed to disappear as soon as you purchase a product from them. God help you if that product decides to act up one day.

However, not all consumers take it lying down. Check out this link for Koshy John’s woeful experience with the Hewlett Packard (India) customer care. Also, don’t forget to visit the forum where it all began.

Conclusive proof, that it pays to be aware of your rights as a consumer.

If Only It Were True… :P

Spam

If I were to believe this e-mail, I’ve just won a million US Dollars in cash and a Toyota Highlander. Now I’ve seen a lot of spam in my short life on the Internet, but his one made me wish it really was true 😀

“TOYOTA INTERNATIONAL LOTTO (HEADQUARTERS)
Customer Service Department Affiliate of Toyota Japan.
#28 Kanashiwa road Tokyo JP

We are pleased to inform you of the announcement made today, You are among the winners of the TOYOTA CAR INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION PROGRAM Participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from 2,500,000 email addresses of individuals and companies from all part of the world as part of our electronic business Promotions Program.

As a result of your visiting various websites we are running the e-business promotions for. You/Your Company email address, attached to ticket number 719-266-1319, with serial number 902-66 drew the lucky numbers 5,12, 30, 11, 17, 43 and Bonus number 12 , Your INSURANCE Number: FLS433/ 453L /G MSA and consequently you won in the Second Category of the TOYOTA FORTUNE LOTTO DRAW.

You have therefore been approved for the payment of the sum of $1,000,000.00USD (One Million United States Dollars) in cash, including a Toyota highlander which is the winning present /amount for the Second category winners. This is from the total prize money of US$2,650,000.00 shared among the international winners in the Second category.

CONGRATULATIONS!

Please be informed that your won fund of the sum of $1,000,000.00USD is now with the payee center. Contact our agent and give them your full names so that they will re-insure your winning fund under your full names. Together with the port where your winning car should be shiped to.

To begin your claim, please call our claim agent or send email immediately to:-.
Certificate Agent, Toyota Email Lotto

Mr. Steven Wu
Email: XXXXXXXXX@live.cn
XXXXXXXXX@gmail.com
Tel: XXXX-XXXXXXXXXXX

NOTE: In order to avoid unnecessary delays and complications, Please quote your

1. Full name:
2. Address/contact number:
3. Country of origin:
4. Sex/marital status:
5. Age:
6. Occupation:
7. Tel/fax:

Sincerely,
Mrs Ing Chuny Liu
Hon Cordinator
www.XXXXXXXXX.cn

[c4y6ri0epqd]”

In case you’re curious, here’s what a Toyota Highlander looks like:

2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Maybe someday… 🙂

Roma vs Chelsea – A Few Rants And The View From The Couch

UEFA Champions League

Anger is not an emotion I normally associate with a Chelsea defeat. Usually it’s bitter disappointment coupled with an unwavering optimism that we’ll bounce back stronger. However, the events that occured on matchday 4 of the UEFA Champions League left me fuming. And it was not just because of the defeat or even the match entirely. Allow me to explain.

In India, the rights for Champions League matches are allotted to Ten Sports and Zee Sports. Now these two channels are like the poor cousins of ESPN-Star Sports, and have to survive on whatever little coverage of European football they are allowed to broadcast in the Indian subcontinent. And how grateful I am, that it’s only a ‘little’. The reasons for this are plenty – poor presentation, lousy commentators (barring a few times when Andy Gray & Martin Tyler commentate), ignorant TV pundits. The list goes on. But the biggest gripe is their shameful bias towards Liverpool and Manchester United. On matchdays, 90% of the time they’ll be showing live mgames of these two teams, while other matches are either delayed or shown Live on Zee Sports. Zee Sports being the poorer of the poor cousins, is not available on my Tata Sky DTH service and hardly any cable operator carries this channel.

So here I was, my DTH box connected to the PC, tuned in to Ten Sports, watching the pre-match scenes at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. They had earlier told us that Liverpool vs Atletico is on Zee Sports, so it was only logical to conclude that Ten Sports will be showing Roma vs Chelsea. You can imagine my surprise when the host informed the viewers, with a sheepish grin I may add, that there’s been a mistake and Roma vs Chelsea is on Zee Sports.

That wasn’t in the script!

Thankfully, I’d noticed a few days ago while channel-surfing, that my cable operator was carrying Zee Sports. I swiftly unplugged the DTH box from my PC and attached the cable wire in its place. A few minutes and adjustments later, I was all set for the match.

However, it just wasn’t going to be my day. At half-time, I left my chair to get myself some refreshments, hoping we’d be able to overturn the 1-0 deficit in the second half. When I returned, i was greeted by a black screen.

What the hell happened?? Arrrghhh!!!

As I switched to another channel, I feared the worst and thought that there must have been a power failure at the operator’s premises. That wasn’t the case. Other channels were there, only Zee Sports had gone missing!! Another channel scan yielded the same result. I’d been left stranded with a stupid cable connection that was of no use to me now.

As a last resort, I fired up my browser and went straight to Justin.tv, hoping they’d have a decent stream for the game. Guess what? They did. And what a stream it was. On my 256kbps connection, it was butter-smooth and re-buffered only 7-8 times during 45 minutes. If only the match had ended in our favour as well.

Dejection

So what are my views about the match?

  • First, we need a proper striker who won’t go missing in crucial matches. Anelka was nothing if not anonymous during the game.
  • A genuine pacy winger is a must-buy in January. Letting Robinho slip from under our noses feels worse with each bad result.
  • Mikel, who has been a revelation this season, had a poor game. First he sold Deco short with a pass, causing the Portuguese to foul Totti. The freekick led to the opening goal for Roma. Then, he lost the ball which led to another goal.

deco

  • Carvalho’s absence in the defence is telling. Alex does not offer the same pace and mobility as Carvalho does.
  • We lack a Plan-B. Sometimes we are too predictable – full-backs will go forward, swing in crosses into the box. Lather, rinse, repeat.
  • The referee had a bad game. Deco’s second yellow was pretty harsh. The ref also missed a couple of dives from the Italian team.

This 3-1 loss is the worst defeat Chelsea have suffered under Scolari so far. That said, I still think we’ll top the group and make it comfortably into the last-16 of the Champions League. I just hope the next time it’s a European night, I don’t have to go through this kind of ordeal again. 😛

A New Direction

I’ve been on a holiday. Not the one involving the sun, sand and sardines but a holiday of a different kind. And during this time, the blog has been neglected… again.

You see, I’m not a born writer nor do I have a penchant for churning out paragraphs after paragraphs. The blog, as it stands, is as good as dead. Content is the key to online publishing and that is exactly what I can’t seem to come up with these days. Ideas that pop up in my mind are shelved for one reason or another. Some ideas are considered to be not good enough, some seem to be out-dated and some are plain daft.

Maybe I need to steer my mind into a completely different direction, change the entire structure of thinking, add new categories to write on. Let’s see what I can come up with. 😛

FIFA 09 – Quick & Dirty Review

FIFA 09 for the PC

FIFA 09 for the PC

The next instalment of EA’s football game is here. Where you ask? Apparently the game has released in Europe and has rapidly spread all over the bit-torrent network. Some may have pre-ordered their copies while some might be waiting for it to hit the store shelves in their town. However, the ones who couldn’t wait for the game to release and were not afraid to get their hands dirty, got their hands on it through the generous torrent community. So what we have here is a scenario where people were playing the game one day before its scheduled release. Nice.

Anyways, let’s get down to the interesting part, the things most of you would like answers to. Is FIFA 09 really next-gen, as promised? Does it deliver oh-so-realistic visuals? Have the quirks and bugs in previous versions been ironed out? How does it compare to its arch nemesis – Pro Evolution Soccer? All these and more will be answered!

First Impressions

Okay, I’ll skip the installation part as most of you are aware of it. Started the game, and the first screen asks me to select a language. Did that, and the mandatory declarations about the leagues and the copyrights came up.

I waited with bated breath as the opening cinematic began. Looks like EA have stopped making interesting opening videos since FIFA 2004. Even the video quality was not all that impressive. Not at all enticing. Selected my beloved Chelsea as the favourite team and I was all set.

The Interface

The interface is carried over from FIFA 08, with Adidas Live Season being a new addition. It basically allows you to select a league, for which you’ll get periodic updates from EA. For example, if a certain player is performing well in real life, his stats will be affected in the game as well. And if a player has a dip in form, his game stats will be reduced. Cool, innit?

The much-acclaimed Be-A-Pro mode is also there, with a new camera angle that looks better than the one in FIFA 08. This time around, you can opt to play a single Be-A-Pro game rather than a whole season. The other game modes are the same as in previous releases. Enough small-talk, now let’s get down to business.

Gameplay & Visuals

Sadly despite all the hype surrounding the so-called next-gen features incorporated in FIFA 09, the game did not live up to my expectations. What I expected was pretty clear – smooth, stunning visual quality, fluid player movement, ‘intelligent’ AI, engrossing gameplay. In short, I was looking for something which would make me go “Wow!” and make me want to play the game again and again.


But this was not to be. Now please note, I’m expressing my own opinions here, which may or may not correspond to your views. The first time I fired up the game, I set all details to high including 3-D Grass, Depth of Field and Shader Quality. Then I proceeded to set up my cheap PS-2 controller lookalike. But what’s this? Some buttons just would not get mapped and remained ‘EMPTY’! After a little searching on the Internet, I was able to find a solution for this.

Strike One.

Then I started a quick match and waited in anticipation at the loading screen. Ahh!! Looking good! The match began and being the seasoned footballer that I am, I could’t wait to… what the hell??

Why is the game stuttering??? Is something wrong with my setup? Is my 8600GT graphics card unable to handle the next-gen visuals?

Quit the game, reduced the detail level to minimum and started a new match, hoping for better results. Damn. Not again.

After much research on the Internet, I found many unfortunate souls plagued with the same problem. A solution was found, but the game was still not smooth enough, though playable.

Strike Two.

Okay, so I can manage with a handicapped controller and laggy visuals, but glitches in gameplay? Not at all tolerable. The first glitch is, that after managing to get my controller working, whenever I pass the ball to a teammate, the ball bounces off him, as if the right-analog stick is pressed in some direction. Secondly, goalscoring is insanely easy! It’s as if the keepers have been picked up from a pub team!! Then, in a bid to improve the player physics, they’ve made it such that in a crowd of players, the ball just keeps bouncing off players until someone manages to get control of it. Imagine that while trying to clear the ball in front of your own box surrounded by opposition attackers.

Strike Three. You’re OUT.

My Verdict

Let’s start with the good. The players look absolutely breathtaking, much more realistic than ever. The crowds have been considerably improved. Overall visual quality is pretty nice, with some subtle touches such as sweat on the foreheads of players. The ambiance is well-maintained by the chanting of fans and the crowd noises. There are loads of licensed leagues, teams and players to chose from. The Adidas Live Season is a good concept. The ability to use the mouse to play the game is quite innovative.

Now for the not-so-good. The gameplay is definitely not next-gen. Players can still move only in 8 directions and the fluidity in movement is almost absent. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not so intelligent. Apart from the visual elements, the game is not a big leap from its predecessor. Rather, it seems like 1 step forward, 2 steps backward. After all, it’s not just tricks & flicks that make up a football game. The core element, that is the gameplay, the feeling of actually being in the game, is lacking.

FIFA 09 is a good game, but after so much hype, I was expecting more than just a visual upgrade. There are several bugs that need to be ironed out and more than once, you’ll get the feeling that EA has short-changed PC gamers.

If I had to rate it, I’d give it 7 out of 10.

Issues, Issues!

  1. Where is Andrei Arshavin? One of the best performers of Euro 2008 can’t make it into this game.
  2. Where are the UEFA Cup holders Zenit St. Petersburg? Actually, where is the Russian League?
  3. Klaas Jan Huntelaar, one of the best strikers in Europe, coveted by some of the biggest clubs, does not have a face in this game. But he’s not alone, there are many more like him.
  4. Many gamepads don’t work out-of-the-box with this game.
  5. Graphics on high-end systems are poor, but surprisingly good on mid to low range machines.
  6. Why can’t we assign custom offensive and defensive runs to players?
  7. Where is Mineiro, who has now signed for Chelsea?
  8. When a player is substituted, I couldn’t find out the substitution if no cinematic was played. There could have been at least a simple popup.
  9. The cinematics are all from previous editions of the game.

Okay, so that’s enough FIFA-bashing for now. In short, it’s not a bad game at all, but it’s not great either. So if you love the FIFA series and don’t care too much about gameplay or simply want to soak in all the visual goodness, you can very well go and get this game. Otherwise, in my opinion it would be wise to wait until Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 releases, and compare both games to pick out the one that suits your taste.

More Screenshots!

So, where were we?

It’s been a while. The blog stares at me with a disillusioned look in its eyes.

“You said you’re serious this time. You said you’d take good care of me. What happened to your promises?”

Without saying a word, I click on the ‘New Post’ button, as if overcome by a deep sense of guilt. Words usually don’t come easily, but this time it’s different…

A lot has happened since I last sat down to utter my frivolous thoughts on these pages. So what better way to reignite the flame, than by updating what’s happened in the past few weeks? Here we go, then:

  • In the world of football, or more accurately the Barclays Premier League, Chelsea sit pretty at the top with Liverpool hanging onto their blue coat-tails, separated only by goal-difference. At third are Arsenal Manchester United Manchester City…. Hull City!! No, that is NOT a typo.
  • The PC game FIFA 09 released in Europe with great fanfare, but was leaked onto the bit-torrent network at least 1 day before its official launch.
  • My days as a bored, employed but not yet called up graduate should be coming to an end soon. Yes!!
  • Speaking of bored, I learnt that the Internet is a great way to spend your time. Or rather, waste it.
  • The international break is quite a pain in the neck. No football on the telly.
  • My room has undergone a mini renovation of sorts.
  • My computer still loves me and refuses to let me stay away from it for more than an hour.

And all is well with the world! 🙂