August 2009 Archives

Baked Pasta Part 2, Beef and Tomato Sauce

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Baked Pasta Part 1 was pretty neat, chicken in a savoury cream sauce. Decided to change things up with beef this time, and added something missing from the chicken version: sourness in the form of a tomato sauce.

These are the ingredients you'll need. Serves 1-2.

  • 200g pasta (any form will do, i used macaroni)
  • 200g beef (i cut mine up into thick cube chunks because i like my beef chewy, mince will do fine as well)
  • a couple cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 carrots, chopped into chunks
  • a grab of grated cheese
  • tomato puree
  • herbs to taste (i used a lot of oregano and freshly ground pepper)
  • pinch of salt to draw out the flavour in the beef

Here's how to do it.

Finely chop the garlic, over small fire, fry lightly with the butter in a saucepan. Very important to use a minimal fire here, you just want to lightly brown the beef to seal in the juices; if the beef starts to "sweat", then you're overcooking it. Sprinkle some salt.

Meanwhile, bring water to boil in another saucepan, chuck in the pasta and carrots together, and boil together for 6-7 minutes. The carrots in this dish really adds a delightful sweetness.

Once the beef is done (about 2-3 min max), carefully pluck it out of the saucepan onto a plate, leaving behind all the garlic and browned butter. Bring the flame back on, then pour in the tomato puree. Continuously stir to reduce over medium heat, about 5-6 minutes, or until it bubbles mildly. Sprinkle in the herbs. Don't overcook it, it burns easily and will leave a bitter taste.

Generally speaking, the beef and the sauce will be ready before the pasta and carrots are done.

Drain out the pasta and carrots, and pour into a baking dish. You may choose to add in a layer of cheese now, but i didn't in order to save the calories. Cheese here will thicken the dish considerably and give it a nice cheesy texture; without the cheese, it'll be a tad bit more saucy instead.

Arrange the beef evenly over the pasta and carrots, then pour on the sauce. The tomato sauce, enriched with the garlic and butter will be superb. Then sprinkle on the cheese.

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Chuck it into the oven at 220 degrees celcius for 18 minutes.

Allow to sit and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Minimum condiments are required, i used Tabasco to balance out the sourness.

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Reading James Clavell's, Tai-Pan - free

If you're looking for 6 really good books to read in eBook format, go here.

http://www.movieshare.org/e-books/james-clavell-6-ebooks-converted-doc/290423/

Always been a fan of James Clavell, and re-reading his books is a good way to pass the lunch hour during Ramadhan.

Recipe: Baked Macaroni with cheese and chicken

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I'm going to try my darnest not to go to a food bazaar during the month of ramadhan; i refuse to pay the prices for food there. Its just ridiculous.

This has pushed me into cooking mode, and i've been experimenting with several baked pasta dishes recently. The one i made last night was close to the best i've had. Here is the recipe.

This feeds 1-2 people, depending on appetite. Adjust accordingly if you're cooking for more.

  • 200g of pasta (i used macaroni, but any type of pasta will do)
  • couple slices of chicken breast, perhaps 100g or so
  • 1 can of campbell's mushroom soup  (any other savoury soup or sauce should work too)
  • 2  carrots, chopped chunkily
  • some shredded cheese of choice (i used cheddar and some parmesan)
  • herbs of choice (i used oregano, cayenne pepper and some parsley)

Boil the pasta and chopped up carrots together. It'll take about 6-7 minutes.

While the pasta and carrots are boiling, bring the soup to a boil in a separate saucepan. Stir vigorously, try to get the soup to reduce as much as possible. You want the soup thick.

Thinly slice the chicken breast, and season with salt and pepper.

Once everything is done, drain out the water from the pasta and carrots, lightly toss with some olive oil, then pour it all into a suitably sized baking dish.

Layer the chicken slices evenly on top of the pasta. Sprinkle some cheese. Then pour on the mushroom soup so that it smothers everything. Layer on more cheese, sprinkle the herbs on top.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 185 degrees celcius.

After baking, let it sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with condiments of choice, i used Tobasco sauce and some Nando's Garlic sauce. The contrast of sour, spicy against the savoury richness of the pasta is excellent.

Enjoy!

Let's politicize Kartina's whipping shall we

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Caught this very interesting snippet from The Sun today.

"Kartika is a first-time offender, did not cause harm to others, and has conveyed remorse for her actions, said the Women's Candidacy Initiative (WCI), calling for Pakatan Rakyat coalition parties to support human rights by repealing such severe forms of punishment."
Will Pakatan Rakyat (PR) do anything about this? I'm betting it won't, Human Rights be damned.

Its easy to cherry pick the human rights violations you want to disagree with when you're in the Opposition. Right to assembly? Right to free speech? No problem, PR will stand up for those rights all day long. Organize massive street demonstrations, shout about them at the top of our lungs in Parliament.

But the right against torture and degrading treatment (Article 5 of the UNDHR), nah we'll skip that one. Not a word, a whisper, a peep. Shush everyone! Don't want to offend our Al-Quran thumping partners, the guaranteed-to-Heaven, PAS. We don't want to seem un-Islamic, now do we.

Come on, PR. Prove me wrong. I dare you. Where is your moral authority now?

A difference in work ethics

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In Malaysia, quality of work is often equated to the quantity of work. A person who does massive amounts of overtime is valued by the company as a hard worker, a person who leaves the office "on the dot" is jeered.

Even in professional circles, non-operational areas of responsibility, i've seen the same thing happen.

"Wah, so hardworking, putting in overtime."
"Looking for a promotion, izzit? 9pm still not going back yet!"

At the other end of the stick.

"So free, meh? Go home at 5.30pm everyday. Got to ask boss to give you more work."
"Going home so early today?" (loudly so that everyone around can hear and look at you)

In Switzerland, punctuality is key. People work until 5pm and no longer. If you want to work beyond 5pm, you need to submit a written request to Management. If you work long hours, it reflects poorly on you because it means you're inefficient and unable to finish your work in regular office hours.

That's Switzerland. This is Malaysia. It's almost silly to compare the two. Isn't it?

BA is losing its shine

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Over chats with several reasonably close friends, it seems that a lot has changed for them since the fateful GE of 2008. Back then, they were gloriously anti-Government, staunchly for the New Dawn promised by Barisan Alternatif. Pointing and believing in the hype of a truly multi-racial, multi-religious party that could truly represent the spirit of Malaysia, ushering us into a period of sustained good will and happiness.

And, yes, did they bask in the glow of the decidedly victorious BA, with the sacking of Kedah, Selangor and Perak from the grips of the Evil Ones.

Barely 18 months down the road, and they are singing a different tune now. PKR rep in Kedah, Radzhi Salleh quits the party, further fracturing an already distressed BA presence in that state. The travails of DAP vs PAS in Selangor are well documented. And, of course, Perak has already fallen from their grasp when more than a few BA leaders decided to turn their backs on their parties.

Its all coming undone, isn't it?

A marriage of convenience it was, back then in 2008. Such things make for really messy divorces. Shame its the Rakyat that have to suffer the fallout.

In politics, its always better the Devil you know than the one you don't. Hopefully, voters will remember that when the next GE comes along.

England, England, Ingeeeeellluuuund!

England won The Ashes last night with a 197-run victory in the final Test at The Oval. I was listening to the match via Internet BBC radio, and it was truly nail-biting stuff.

England had dominated the crease during their at-bats, and put Australia to the sword with a huge 546 run target to win. Never before had any Test team been able to win a match with that number of runs.

In typically English fashion, they really made their supporters sweat by having a torrid time trying to bowl Australia out. At one point, doubts began creeping in if England would actually be able to do it. Then, Andrew Flintoff broke the Aussie resistance with a truly awesome 25-yard run out on the skipper (who was putting up solid resistance), Ricky Ponting. It all went downhill from there for the Australian side, as the remaining 7 wickets fell by 5.49pm the same day.

Superb cricket, a testimony to the greatness that Test cricket can achieve.

Is a woman a man? The Caster Semenya story

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The new 800 meter women's champion is a South African named, Caster Semenya. She ran the race in a stupidly fast time, 1 min 55 seconds, beating the previous world champ by 2 seconds (which, in football terms is like, Selangor FC beating Manchester United 6-0). It was incredible.

So incredible, people are wondering if Semenya is really a... man.

Apparently, the IAAF takes several weeks to perform the tests and publish the results. Why would it take so long? Just ask her to drop her pants and take a look. A 5 second test, at best.

I don't really doubt her feminity. But her picture makes me wonder: if women athletes look like that, it means you've sacrificed a lot to train your body to be the best in the world.

Turn on the heat, En Hishamuddin Hashim

A mysterious letter was presented to the Teoh Beng Hock inquest yesterday; it was significant enough for the coroner to suspend the proceedings pending an investigation into the contents of the letter.

What did the letter say?

Malaysia-Today has the answer. Better take a look quickly. The website may not be able to keep it posted for long.

The allegations in the letter are extremely damning, if true. Hishamuddin Hashim, a senior MACC official, is accused of some pretty nasty things, including deliberately dodging the process of providing DNA samples to the police. By suggesting that Hishamuddin's method of interrogation explains the broken belt and DNA traces found on Teoh Beng Hock, it really raises some obvious questions: did he kill Teoh Beng Hock?

The local internet is burning with the allegations made in the letter. Malaysians being Malaysian, aren't thinking very clearly and jumping to all sort of conclusions. My advice is: calm down.

Legally, for now at least, the letter suggests a lot, but proves nothing. It may not even be admissible evidence in a court of law.

  • Remember, allegations and accusations =/= proof. While the contents of the letter may very well be true, by believing in it now, without proper verification, makes you a sheep; you believe what you want to believe. Don't be sheep.
  • Even if its true that the mystery DNA sample on the belt belongs to Hishamuddin, it doesn't prove the Hishamuddin killed Teoh Beng Hock. Circumstantial, at best. The broken belt could be a result of vigorous interrogation, and not the result of an act of murder.
  • The letter COULD be a poison-pen letter against Hishamuddin Hashim. Someone in the MACC, or maybe even an old enemy, maybe someone whom Hishamuddin convicted in the past, doesn't like him. What better way than to destroy Hishamuddin than to take advantage of the current hype over the MACC and release this letter?
  • Anti-Government camp believe that the MACC is being used as a political tool, possibly leading to the murder/accidental killing of Teoh Beng Hock. The Government believe that this letter was written by someone in the anti-Government camp to stoke sentiments, and to discredit the MACC so that the MACC will get off their backs. What is the truth? Depending on which camp you belong to, you will have your own beliefs. But, do you know? Believing what you think is the truth is not the same as KNOWING the truth.

This is what i believe: this whole case sucks. While the MACC is noble in principle, it has only served to divide the country further. A country already divided over racial differences has been, in recent years, divided further along religious lines. Now, we are polarising the people further over greedy political issues. Its just wrong.

H1N1 National Curfew

Another 3 deaths yesterday of H1N1-positive patients taking the total to 67, from just over 4,000 infections.

It's time for the Government to declare a national curfew, shutting down public places such as shops, schools, universities, libraries, shopping complexes and public events.

It'll hurt the economy pretty badly. But it's gotta be done. Better to bite the bullet now rather than have to deal with a potentially worse problem later as the spread of the virus continues.

I'm very, very concerned.

The joke of maybes and perhaps at the TBH inquest

The Teoh Beng Hock Inquest.

It might as well be renamed to the inquest of Maybes and Perhaps, because that's all that ever seems to be said by any of the "experts".

Malik Imtiaz: Is it possible for the anal injuries to have occurred before the fall and made worse by the fall?

Dr Khairul Azman: Possible.

...

Gobind: If he was hit with a blunt and flat object, is it a possibility that he did not have his pants on at the time?

Dr Khairul Azman: Yes, possible.

...

Malik Imtiaz also asked if the scratches on Teohs hands resembled fingernail marks.

Dr Khairul Azman said that there was a possibility.


The reality of it is, none of the witnesses called up so far know how he died; so its natural that they are unwilling to commit to an answer of certainty. Was he pushed? Did he jump? There is no conclusive evidence of homicide, yet there is no apparent reason for suicide. On the flip side, there are circumstantial motives suggesting homicide, and circumstantial evidence suggesting suicide.

What this leads me to conclude, so far, is that either this was the perfect murder (no evidence or telltale signs left behind by the killers) or the most poorly executed suicide (no one can explain why he killed himself).

Poor boy. Even in death, everyone wants to use him. The Opposition want him to be their Martyr. The MACC (and, by extension, the Government), just want him to go away.

AH1N1 - 64 deaths and counting

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As of 14 August 2009, the WHO reported that there have been 177,457 laboratory-confirmed cases of 2009-H1N1 influenza virus (new H1N1) with 1,462 deaths (mortality rate of 0.824%).

Malaysia has 64 deaths from 4,225 cases, a mortality rate of 1.51%. This puts Malaysia at least 2x above the global average in terms of deaths:infection ratio.

I wonder when the Government is going to do something really drastic to keep the numbers under control. The spread of the infection needs to stop. Flu is a "social disease" -- it spreads through humans via social contact. Therefore, stopping the spread of the infection = halting all social contact besides non-essential contact. Closing the shopping malls, cinemas, LRTs, public gatherings, etc.

It'll hurt the economy tremendously if we did this. Billions of billions of ringgit will be lost, with months of recovery afterwards; Mexico has yet to recover from its 7-day shutdown. Can Malaysia(ns) afford the same? The question left now is, how much is a life worth (especially if its not yours)?

The Climb

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Every once in a while a song comes along that really touches me.

Its hard to describe why the song is special to me; the music washes over me in waves, grabs me, holds me up, and pushes me forward. Its the type of song that makes me feel good about myself, not just another bunch of notes and lyrics to pass over, but something that i feel compelled to listen to.

The Climb, vocals by Miley Cyrus, written by Jesse Alexander and Jon Mabe.

God's Will

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When i was a little boy, i asked my ustazah, "Why do people do bad things?"

She said, "Because the Devil tempted them into it."

"Why does the Devil do such things?"

"It's God's will."

"Why does God let the Devil tempt people to do bad things? Doesn't God want the Earth to be peaceful?"

"God created the Devil to test us. The good people won't do the bad things the Devil wants us to do. The bad people will give in to temptation."

"Why does God have to test us?"

"Because He wants to know which of us are good and which of us are bad. The good will have a place in Paradise, the bad will be sent to Hell."

I gave this some thought.

"Does God know everything in this universe?"

"Yes, He does."

"Then why does He have to test us? If He knows already which of us are bad and which of us are good."

There was no answer to this, well at least none that i can't remember satisfying me. Can't remember how old i was when i had this conversation. 9 years old? 10?

It just came to mind while i was having dinner. I bet God knew that i was going to remember this memory before i did. It is His will after all, that i'm having it.

English Premier League Fantasy Football

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Its been years since i played EPL Fantasy Football. After watching the Chelsea v Man United game last night, i decided to get back into it. Things have really changed since the last time i played!

The prizes on offer now are amazing. Winners will receive fully-paid trips to watch a football match in Europe, cash prizes in the thousands of USD, and gadgets such as iPods and cameras. Definitely worth the effort to take spend a bit of time each week selecting your fantasy team and taking a punt.

The two best prize-supported EPL FF leagues where Malaysians are eligible for prizes seem to be Fantasy Premier League (the official EPL fantasy football league) and ESPNStar's FC Manager (which has the best prizes).

In the past, i've found that taking part in these fantasy leagues add quite a bit of zest to the weekly EPL games. I'll be doing my best this season, and see if i can win myself and the missus a nice little European holiday. Wish me luck!

Malaysia, fake DVDs and terrorism

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I'm entertaining some guests from Australia today at work. Going to take them out for lunch in a bit, probably Nando's.

Trying my best to be a gracious host, i ask, "Is there anything you wanted to buy? Friday lunch hours are long due to prayers, you have ample time to visit some shopping malls."

"Well, yes, there is something my family wanted me to get for them from Malaysia. DVDs."

"DVDs? you mean the pirated ones?"

"Yes. Do you know where i can buy them?"

"Of course." (Petaling Street is right next to Nando's)

Good to know that Malaysia is famous for something. To the mat sallehs, we're culturally dead, piratesRus.

ps. Interesting tidbit here: buying pirated DVDs is funding terrorism. So the mat sallehs buy the pirated DVDs from us, the money ends up in some terrorist's hands, and is used to buy bombs to blow the mat sallehs up. Freaking poetic justice if there ever was one.

Review: iPhone 3GS in Malaysia

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Throw a virtual stone and you'll hit a iPhone 3GS review on the Internet. Google is your friend, the new features of the 3GS are well documented. This review will be about how it performs in Malaysia, and should be relevant to those thinking of buying it and/or just curious.

Summary: the iPhone 3GS performs as advertised, with a few caveats to the Malaysian market.

The Good:

  • The phone is fast, really fast. Applications open the moment you access them. Not sure if older models are the same, but this is how a smartphone should perform.
  • Stable -- not a single crash or hangup yet. I'm a pretty messy user, jumping from one app to another very quickly. Make a call, hang up, check email, while email is loading, jump out to Facebook, then jump back to email, then switch over to iTunes, then back to Facebook. All in a just a few minutes. The iPhone handles the transition without a hiccup.
  • Maxis 3G is decent -- i'm going to put this as a Good thing, though it has a lot of flaws. Malaysian Internet users all know that "broadband" is subjective, so even a half-way decent service is welcome. Maxis 3G, is, on average, a "half-way decent service". In the heart of the city, speeds are usually blazing fast. Connectivity is strong and i can imagine this is exactly how the iPhone was meant to perform as an Internet-capable device. Safari loads overseas web pages in a flash, gmail downloads even large attachments faster than my fixed line Internet connections can, YouTube is a dream, and even getting large music files from iTunes takes just a few seconds. But... 3G coverage is limited, and even where it is available like at my home in Kota Damansara, if the signal is weak, then the zooming speeds become crawling turtles.
  • Google maps on the iPhone is... uber. The addition of the compass to the iPhone really opens up its potential as a semi-GPS device. The phone probably determines your location through a process of triangulation based on Maxis coverage, so it isn't 100% accurate, but its pretty darned close. The ability to plot out directions on the phone from your current location to your selected destination is extremely useful. Even for a person that doesn't travel too much, i've found some very reasonable uses for this: surf over to http://www.foodpoi.com, find a restaurant i want, then type in the address in the phone, and voila, i get directions how to get there.
  • I never thought that having mobile iTunes would be that handy, but it is. There is a very handy little iPhone app called Shazam. I hear a song on the radio i like (i listen to a lot of oldies at BFM89.9), i let Shazam have a listen, it then tells me the name of the song, i'm then able to download it directly from iTunes into my phone. Very, very nice.

Enabling comments on the VOI

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There was a few setting bugs with this blog that made it difficult for people to leave comments. I think i've managed to sort them out, and sharing your thoughts should be much easier now.

thanks to Chicsinred for spotting the original problem!

he's just not that into you

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The winner of the Must-Watch-With-Your-Significant-Other Movie Award.

Chock full of contemporary stars, the movie is about love, marriage and relationships. It centers around 6 or 7 characters, and their relationships with each other. Just about every significant issue related to relationships is discussed: marriage, love, dating, boy meets girl, adultery, lust, communication. Its all there. One Movie to Rule Them All.

One story arc in particular caught my attention. Jennifer Aniston's character wants to get married. Ben Affleck's character doesn't see the point in marriage; they love each other, have a great life together, are loyal and committed and are generally happy as happy can be when two people who are just right for each other are together. So why get married?

Early on in the movie, she dumps him over the issue. He moves out, starts living on his boat.

Jennifer Aniston's/Ben Affleck's friends make up the other story arcs. The married ones are miserable, trapped in adulterous affairs, apathetic to each other, constantly finding faults with their partners and bickering over the smallest things.

By the end of the movie, Jennifer Aniston realizes that marriage is not a prerequisite for happiness. She was happy before, why spoil it by forcing her partner to marry for the sake of marriage.

She goes looking for him, they get back together, glad to be together again. Ben Affleck then proposes to her with one of the best lines of the movie, "I want you to be happy, because i know thats the only way i'll ever have a shot at happiness myself. If you're happy, i'm happy. Will you marry me?"

Classic. My thoughts exactly.

Selling alcohol to Muslims

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I apologize for my fellow Muslim. Datuk Dr Hassan Ali had this to say on the banning of the sale of beer in Muslim-majority areas of Selangor:

"Our aim is to curb the consumption of beer among Muslims as we have been informed that drinking among schoolchildren and undergraduates is getting out of hand.
Lets talk about Economics 101.

There is this well-discussed principle, called "supply and demand". Perhaps the good Dr Hassan was absent the day this class was taught.

We find beer on the shelves of stores (supply) because people want to buy it (demand). If no one wanted to buy beer (everyone in Selangor was a superb Muslim), then stores, being profit oriented, would devote that valuable shelf space to something else that can sell. Perhaps some nice little prayer beads, for example.

Obviously, Muslims in Muslim-majority areas of Selangor have a problem if they are drinking beer. Alcohol consumption is a big no-no. Worse still if those Muslims are schoolchildren.

That is the real problem you need to solve, Dr Hassan. The sale of beer in shops is NOT the problem. Why are Muslims turning to alcohol? What are you doing to educate them that alcohol is bad? Why are children drinking? What's wrong with the Muslim parents in the area? Are they beer guzzling raging alcoholics too? What can be done to reverse the rot?

Cutting off the supply of beer does NOT solve the problem. Muslims just take a 10 minute drive to PJ and get their fix there. In fact, cutting off the supply of alcohol across the whole nation will not solve the problem (see the Prohibition).

Dr Hassan is doing what all politicians do. He is grabbing the limelight. The Hero of Muslims, fighting against the sin of beer, throwing himself into deadly battle against the might of Ronnie Liu and the Unbelievers. While this may get him the votes (it must be sinful to vote against the Hero of Muslims, right?), its not doing anything to solve the root problem -- why are Muslims behaving poorly and drinking booze?

Marching Men (and Women)

An opinion piece in The Sun today commented on the ISA-related marches that happened over the weekend. It asked, why do we march? Its an expression of our will to change the status quo; when all other avenues have failed, its time to take to the streets (peacefully, of course). The writer invoked the ghost of the Gandhis, the Martin Luther Kings, the Nelson Mandelas, the Tunku Abdul Rahmans to lend strength to his argument. They had a cause, they marched and they changed the world. We can do the same. We must do the same.

Its an emotional appeal, and for a moment, i nearly believed it. Then i realized that Malaysia is not the India of the 1920s, nor the US of the 1960s and certainly not the South Africa of the 1980s. If you draw comparisons between the state of these societies against our own and claim their similarity, you would be guilty of grossly exaggerated hyperbole.

There are many good reasons to hold a public demonstration. Let's focus on those reasons and cut down on the rhetoric.

A weekend without the Internet

The last few days, i've felt like a writer without a typewriter. So many keen thoughts in my mind that i wanted to record down in this blog, but i didn't have the Internet connection to do so. Now, its a Monday morning, and all those thoughts are long gone, lost in the cobwebs of the silent halls and shadows of the mind.

I suppose i could have accessed my blog via Safari@iPhone, but... typing out a full blog on that tiny screen is a pain. Two days of the iPhone has taught me that its a convenience, not a replacement. Nothing beats a keyboard and a full screen monitor.

Well, perhaps a sexy secretary with a transcript pen might beat it. But how many of those do i have lying around nowadays.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2009 is the previous archive.

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