Spain Won UEFA EURO, Again

It was the red versus the blue, the Horde against the Alliance.  I wasn’t too sure about the outcome.  Spain could not beat Italy in the quarter-final.  Spain had to go into penalty shootout against Portugal in the semi-final.  I began to have my duda: Can Spain score at all with this new formation?

Image courtesy of UEFA official website

Cynthia and I are happy with the results of course.  We have plenty of Spanish and Spanish learning friends in Singapore.  We have visited Spain twice.   Photographs of last year’s visit are still … in process but you can view the pictures taken on our 2009 trip here.  We practically love everything Spanish.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I may finally get Cynthia into watching Formula One now that the Spanish fever is burning higher than ever.

It was just last weekend when Spanish F1 driver Fernando Alonso won the European race that took place in Valencia, Spain.  At the end of the race, he was meant to cruise to the podium.  Instead, Alonso stopped his Ferrari at the grandstand, with a Spanish flag on his hands, and he paid tribute to the Spanish fans.  Such emotion he was in, it was as though he has won the Championship (which is still a long way to go).  Alonso is a big fan of Spanish football.  I bet he is delighted about the UEFA win.  With the economy black hole Spain is in today, her people could really use some good news.

Some say Spanish football is boring.  Some say watching Formula One is boring.  For some strange reasons, I find either very exciting to watch.  I enjoy seeing how the Spanish football team set up the attack by slowly inching towards the goal through their accurate passing.  There is great teamwork involved and the Spanish team has sufficient star power as well.  To me, the experience of watching football and F1 is similar.  Both take one and a half hour to watch.  The first 5 minutes of a football match is as exciting as the opening laps of a F1 race.  Thereafter, the pace settles down.  Draw in a match to me is like a pole-to-podium-finish in a race.  There ain’t many goals in a typical football match.  Just like F1, there are only one or a few overtakes that truly matter.

Four years ago when Spain won UEFA, I doodled a picture of Torres.  And we enrolled ourselves into a Spanish class shortly after.  This year, I will be doing neither.  Cynthia is still practicing her Spanish.  In fact, her blog entry on this very topic written in Spanish is published faster than mine!  As for me, I will stick with my Spanish guitar.  She needs some love.

Will “Happy Feet” The Emperor Penguin Reach Home Safe?

What a coincidence.  Those who have read my manuscript submitted for the Golden Point Award writing competition would be in awe by the similarity of how my story begins and the recent media sensation in New Zealand.   I can assure you that my idea is original.  The first draft of my story was written in June 17th.  The Emperor Penguin that found his way to New Zealand was rescued on June 23rd (I think).  Anyway, I had no prior knowledge of such news.  Cynthia said it was a premonition.  I don’t think I am that magical, beyond the realms of Warcraft.  It is a pure coincidence.  And I better make sure that I shall append a small clarification note if and when my story is published.

No one knows why a 3.5 years old Emperor Penguin ended up in New Zealand.  The nearest iceberg – a natural habitat of an Emperor Penguin – is 2,200 km away.  The locals named him “Happy Feet”.  Under the care of Wellington Zoo, Happy Feet has recuperated, well enough to be freed into the ocean.  When I met my New Zealand colleague this morning, I shared with him the happy news.  He was surprised that I am in touch with New Zealand news.  I was surprised that he too is passionate about Happy Feet.  How do you reckon Happy Feet can find his way home, I asked.  Magnetic fields, he answered.    How nice if we could tell directions by sensing the invisible force eh?  Some creatures are oh so smart.

In order to track Happy Feet’s whereabouts, the New Zealand scientists have glued a tiny satellite signal transmission device onto his back.  You too can follow his progress in real time like I do (click here).   I do not know how this story would end.  A few hours ago, there was hardly any update.  So I asked myself, is he still alive?  As of now, Happy Feet seems to head somewhat south.  It looks as though there is still much distance to cover.  Some netizens fantasize if Happy Feet would find his family.  I doubt if we will ever know.  And I have watched enough animal channels to know that the living condition can be harsh down south.  All of a sudden, I wondered: Would it be better if we don’t know his whereabouts at all?  Just take it for granted that he is off to a better place?

Too late for that.  I think I am glued to that website for quite some time.

F1 Malaysia – An Afterthought

How powerful is KERS, the magic turbo button of a F1 car?  Powerful enough for a horde of cars to effortlessly overtake Webber – third on the grid – at the start of the race.  I felt for Webber, especially after watching the video clip filmed from his angle.  By the time the cars reached third gear, those who got the KERS working hit that button and off they went.  Webber was an easy target.  Without KERS, he was a sitting duck.  Fortunate for pole sitter Vettel, his KERS was working at that crucial start.  Secretly, I was hoping to see Vettel being taken over by the KERS cars and see if he is capable of overtaking some of the finest drivers of F1.  Similar to last race, he simply led all the way from beginning to finish.

Malaysia race track has a relatively long straight start.  Perhaps that flavors the KERS mechanism.  In fact, the long straight flavors the DRS (drag reduction system) as well.  I have lost track of the number of overtaking maneuvers there were.  The fight between Hamilton and Alonso was intense.  Both were handed a 20 seconds penalty after the race was over for different reasons (I have spotted that during the race and was wondering why there was no commentary on that).  The wheel-to-wheel fight between Kobayashi and Schumacher was entertaining.  At one point, I thought Button would have had a good fight with his teammate Hamilton but that did not happen.  At one point, I thought Hamilton was going to win the race.  But that did not happen either.  He could not make the Pirelli tyres – new to this season – last while Button managed to squeeze out two extra laps from those tyres when no one could.  Before the start of the season, one interviewer put his money on Button because of Button’s gifted talent in managing his tyres.  A second position is a good result for the McLaren team.  Given the fact that no one seems to have what it takes to catch Vettel, yet.

In the previous race, we have Red Bull, McLaren, and Renault taking the podium.  In this race, we also have Red Bull, McLaren, and Renault taking the podium.  Instead of Hamilton, we have Button.  Instead of Petrov, we have Heifield.  Where is Ferrari?  The world awaits.  Malaysia race is eventful because some cars had the KERS working, some did not (poor Webber).  Some cars had the DRS working, some did not (poor Alonso).  Tyre factor plays a major role too because when they are gone, they are really gone.  This is working as intend and has added a new layer of excitement to the race.

On the gossip front, would Hamilton eventually move to Red Bull Racing?  Nobody knows.  Would McLaren offer Hamilton a lifetime contract that worths billion?  Nobody knows.  Will Vettel continue to dominate the race?  China F1 could be a challenge to Red Bull if they are still unable to make KERS works.  Looking at the pace McLaren improves the car, the gap may come even closer.  Also, there is Renault that has reversed the exhaust system to blow downwards for extra down force.  Ferrari will try to catch up, for sure.  Looking at those super long straights in China, I would expect the next race to be as exciting, if not more.  How would KERS and DRS work under raining condition?  Perhaps that is what Red Bull needs to buy them more time and develop KERS.

F1 Australia – An Afterthought

Formula One is a world sport.  An expensive one.  And it does get affected by what is happening in the world today.  The first race of the year supposed to take place in Bahrain.  On March 13.  But that did not happen.  The Bahrain people have a future to fight for.  F1 could well be the last thing in their minds right now.  So, this season, F1 starts in Australia instead.  Cars have stickers saying “We Pray for Japan”.  The Australian crowd together with 100 million viewers observed a minute of silence, in memory of the recent Japanese earthquake.  In front of the TV, I too was silence for a minute, praying for Japan.

Each year, the brains behind F1 introduce something new to the sport.  This year sees the return of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and the new DRS (Drag Reduction System).  KERS works like a power booster and it is powered by a battery that gets charged up during braking.  Drivers are allowed to press that turbo button for up to 6.67 seconds per lap.  That translates to up to a 0.4 seconds boost per lap.  That is not a lot, you may say.  Well, take the Australia race as an example, the time difference between the 3rd place Petrov and 4th place Alonso is 1.04 seconds, over 58 laps.  One stood on the podium.  The other did not.  Every millisecond counts, when it comes to F1.

I loved watching KERS in action 2 seasons ago.  KERS was banned last year.  This year, cars like Ferrari and McLaren that have invested in the KERS technology previously (and suffered from it back then) seem to have made it works.  Red Bull has KERS installed, the batteries were all charged up, but apparently, neither of the two drivers pressed that magic button during the entire race.  Vettel, the ever so mischievous young dude (cocky may be a better word) wanted to keep the press guessing on whether or not he has used that magic button during the Australia race.  Words are out that the 2010 constructor champion Red Bull is still trying to make KERS work.  Or the more diplomatic statement is that right now, without KERS, the car is optimal.  Whatever the case, Vettel’s Red Bull seems to have dominated the race, like last season.  They may have the best F1 engineer today.  And looks like Vettel is a force to reckon with.  A legend in the making?  We shall see.

To the viewers, Vettel’s drive to first position may well be a forgettable race.  He was so far ahead that there was nothing much to report, really.  If not for Hamilton’s car near to falling apart in the final laps, his race to second position would also have been forgettable (except the first lap when he regained the track position from Webber).  Hamilton was in the middle of nowhere.  Not fast enough to touch Vettel.  Not slow enough to be touched by Petrov.  The more exciting part of the race goes to the fight between Button, Alonso, Massa, and Petrov.  When DRS first kicked into action, I was so excited that my heart nearly popped out.  Here is how DRS works.

In a designated section of the circuit, if a car in pursuit is within 1 second to the car in front, the DRS green light on the steering wheel will light up.  The driver will be able to open the flap on the rear wing to reduce the drag and give a little speed boost so as to attack the car in front.  This is to facilitate overtaking.  The F1 stewards by the magic of modern technology decides when DRS can be used for which car.  It is not a sure win battle, otherwise it would have been too trivial.  Some drivers claim that DRS has helped them in some ways.  Perhaps time will tell.

Below is a video narrated by Mark Webber on KERS and DRS.

We could only imagine what a race this could be had Robert Kubica been able to drive for Renault this season.  That serious injury he suffered from the rally race, I doubt if he is returning to F1 any time soon, if at all.  His teammate, the Russian rookie Petrov, has made it to the podium taking the third position.  Renault is looking good this year.  It is refreshing to see a new face at the podium.  The result of this Australia race looks hauntingly similar to the last race of previous season held in Abu Dhabi.  On top of that, it looks as though Petrov is Alonso’s Achilles’s heel.  The same person who denied Alonso the 2010 championship is now denying his podium celebration for the Australia race.  What is going on?  What happens to Ferrari?  And what happens to Mercedes and their drivers Schumacher and Rosberg who both DNF (did not finish)?  One thing for sure.  I am looking forward to watching the next race on TV.  Destination Malaysia.

Dear SMRT – This Fine Idea Is Not Too Fine Eh?

What a crazily busy week at work, and hence the lack of frequent updates.  I wish I was sipping lemon juice by a swimming pool full of gorgeous looking babes holidaying somewhere at the Mediterranean sea and hey, THAT was the reason I have not been writing lately.  OK.  I have to start separating what is in my head from what is real.  This morning, I saw a car stopped on the side of the road with a punctured tire.  Then I saw another one.  And another one.  What would I do?  What would you do?  I took out my phone and updated my status in Facebook, like what the millions of Singaporeans who suffer from ‘mobile phone syndrome’ would do.  As I drove inside a neighborhood, I got lost, entered into some paint ball or pain ball parks, stumbled onto an outdoor media event full of anticipating photographers and event organizers busy shooing me out of the way.  Then I bumped onto my friend and her husband.  She told me excitingly that she saw one of my cousins, who is now pregnant, somewhere in the crowd.  I was so excited because I have not seen my cousins for donkey number of years, since my sister’s wedding night.  So I pushed through the crowd, eager to meet my cousin.  All of a sudden, I have this urge to pee.  Huge urge.  Mother nature has recalled me back to where I really am.  And I woke up.

That Facebook update still looks very real to me.  I checked my Facebook this morning.  It is not there.  It would have been freaky if otherwise.

You know the drill.  Another dear so-and-so entry.  Have a good weekend!

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Dear SMRT,

I can totally see where you are coming from.  Not all of us are professionally trained to perform the displays of affection in public (a.k.a. PDA), like the Hollywood stars.  Even in movies, not all kissing scenes are created equal.  I struggle to decide who kisses the best on silver screen.  If Robert Pattinson was to look healthier in that vampire saga, I would vote for him and his kissing partner Kristen Stewart.  So, to be fair, Homer and Marge – who recently featured in Playboy – get the golden kiss award from me.  Speaking from the years of kissing experience, I think passionate kissing technique takes time to fruition.  Some couples may have taken a bit to far when practicing on the train.  Should they be fined S$500 if they fail to please the crowd and cause ‘nuisance’?  I think learning how to kiss is like learning how to cycle.  You can cycle all you like inside a HDB void deck.  But nothing beats practicing on the road.  The other day (which is a day many years ago), I was in UK.  It was quite an eye-opener to see a couple passionately kissing in front of my university’s library.  What a lucky dude!  The girl was gyrating all over him.  Now that, is passion.  We need more of such in Singapore.  Personally, I think S$500 is a bit heavy for couples who do a lousy job.  Perhaps lower it to, say, S$5?  To make up for the lost revenue, I would propose a new fine for those who may have caused a nuisance in the train.  Untreated body odor.  How much should this new fine be then?  The current fine for carrying inflammable items is S$5,000.  OK, that is a bit heavy for B.O.  Smoking is S$1,000 while food and drink is S$500.  I would say B.O. is of the similar category of food and drink.  Both are, in a sense, nasal harassment.  If we don’t like what we see, we can always close our eyes or look elsewhere.  I can’t say the same for odor.  What do you think?

When I read the news, it looks as though this new fine of yours is in response to someone posting a video of a couple passionately kissing on the train to STOMP – a citizen-journalism website.  Now, why do we take this website so seriously?  I do not know (lack of better things to talk about in Singapore?)  Let’s not forget that it is the same website that led us to a wild bear hunt.  12 employees from the Singapore Zoo, four policemen, and three members from a nature group spent hours searching the forest to look for a bear.  Did we find the bear?  Had there been one and had it been not as smart as Mas Selamat, I am sure we could have found it, eventually.  No.  The ‘bear’ was merely some PR stuns, which looking at the poor quality video, it looks hauntingly real, like the King Kong in the 1933 film, like my Facebook update in my dream.  According the report in STOMP, the PR company should be fined S$1,000.  I think STOMP should be fined S$1,000 instead.

I adore the now-defunct “Train is coming, train is coming, train is COMING!” jingle.  Alas, what a bunch of whiners we have in Singapore.  And now, the jingle is gone.  For a moment, I thought we were truly unique.  Where in the world would a jingle be played when a train is approaching the platform?  It always put a smile to my face making me eager to board the train and live the day.  So on the record, I love the trainiscoming jingle.  That is original, that is dare to change.  Back to the S$500 fine for PDA, I wanted to propose dedicating a section of the train for the open-minded passengers who are OK with couples practice kissing on the train – same sex, different sexes.  Now, that is bold, and original.  Singapore Tourism Board would love it.  But looking at how the jingle is being shot down by the public, this too looks like a no-go.

I don’t envy your job.