Snippets – 22 December 2010


(27 people died but what caused the accident is yet to be confirmed, at least by the right people but already fingers being pointed at the driver and the bus whilst the bodies of the dead Thai tourists being sent home. Image source: http://www.salon.com/)

Driver, Bus Blamed

At least, this is what the police are saying BEFORE the official investigation by MIROS is completed.

Police believe that the express bus crash at Km15 of the Cameron Highlands-Simpang Pulai road yesterday in which 27 people were killed, mostly Thai tourists, was due to driver factor and technical problems of the bus.

Perak police deputy chief Datuk Zakaria Yusof who said this, also denied that the accident could have been caused by the road’s oily patches.

And then, after making a rather “jumping the gun” statement, Zakaria Yusof says this to cover his back:-

“However, it is up to the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), Puspakom and Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) to determine the cause of the accident,” he told a press conference, here, today.

(Source)

What he meant by that? It is up to MIROS (now changed to independent board) to determine the cause but I am saying that it is due to the bus and the driver? MIROS already mentioned that investigations will take about 2 weeks to complete and yet, Zakaria, did not see the wisdom to wait for the investigations to be completed and jump into his own conclusions based on initial observations.

If this been said by a lay man, it would have been understandable (after all, we have seen accidents happened due to reckless drivers and defective buses and why should this be any different) but Zakaria is not a lay person – he is the deputy police chief for the state of Perak and what he says matters. It may even influence on the outcome of the official investigations.

(Uthaya after release from ISA detention was a force to reckon with. As a human rights lawyer, he was in thick of action when a number of temples was demolished in Selangor and organized the unprecedented Hindraf rally in the city. Image source: TheNutGraph)

Separate Indian Channel

Uthayakumar and Hindraf before the last general election were doing just fine – despite having 4 of the main leaders under ISA, Hindraf remained as a pressure group to both BN and PR. Hindraf sided with PR during the last general election and contributed to the tsunami that shook BN upside down.

However, things have changed a lot since then especially when you read things like this:-

THE government needs to have a separate television channel for the Indian community like the Vasantham channel in Singapore

Human Rights Party secretary-general P. Uthayakumar as making the call in reference to Bernama TV decision not to air Tamil news on Friday which left many Indians unhappy and dissatisfied.

He said Indian labourers, especially those who earned about an average of RM600 a month, could not subscribe for Astro to watch Indian programmes as it was too costly.

(Source)

Should HRP concentrate on getting a separate Indian TV channel that may only provide entertainment or should concentrate on getting those laborers (with average RM600 per month) on ways to improve their life and get them up above the level of poverty and low income? Which is more important for these laborers and their children?

Long time ago, when I visited my uncle who was staying in a FELDA settlement and worked hard in his own plantation, I noticed that they did not have TV (they were not that rich at that time) but that did not stop them from having access to information and entertainment. They had newspaper and radio in place of local TV or satellite TV. They had less time to watch TV but had plenty to watch over their children’s education and work.

At times, what is needed by these lowly paid laborers is not a TV channel for entertainment but rather a way out from the confines of poverty and hardship.

(The 2nd MCLM candidate is better than a couple PR politicians and several dozen BN politicians and share with ideals with his father, the late M.G.G. Pillai. Image source: http://alhaj.wordpress.com)

MCLM’s 2nd Candidate

If you have been following up Malaysia Today, you know about the “Third Force” and there is some positive development with the Third Force:-

The Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) has named human rights lawyer Sreekant Pillai as the second person from its movement to contest in the next general election.

Sreekant said he had chosen to be independent because “the current government has nothing more it can offer to the people and the existing parties are not doing what the rakyat wants”. Sreekant is the son of the late veteran journalist M.G.G. Pillai.

(Source)

I know Sreekant Pillai personally and I dare say that if there is one candidate that worth our votes in the next general election, he would be the one. Although one would see the Third Force as a potential cause of hung Parliament and question the composition of candidates of MCLM todate (2 candidates and both are lawyers), I think it is pertinent to see what we have now. Quality of politicians that we voted in to Parliament in the last election has been todate…shameful.

No doubt the arrogance and reckless mismanagement of the country have toned down after there is stronger presence of the opposition in the Parliament, these politicians still need to be reminded that at end of the day, it is the interest of the people that matters the most (especially after certain politicians have sold off the voters trust to jump political party).

MCLM may provide that gap and enforcement of getting the right people for the job.

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Ronald Lee Ermey


(No one, I mean, no one messes up with the drill sergeant – more so if the drill sergeant is Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann. Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann is furious after finding out a hidden food in the recruit’s personal box. Image source: www:boston.com)

I am watching Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” and I must say Ronald Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann looks too real, too scary and certainly impressive.

I have “met” Ronald Lee Ermey in his show “Lock N’ Load With R. Lee Ermey” – shown in Astro’s History Channel. He looked tamed in this show but he is a quite a different man, playing the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the Full Metal Jacket.

And there is an interesting fact on how Ronald Lee Ermey got the part:-

Former US Marine Corps Drill Instructor R. Lee Ermey was not originally hired to play Gunnery Sgt. Hartman but as a consultant for the Marine Corps boot camp portion of the film.

He performed a demonstration on videotape in which he yelled obscene insults and abuse for 15 minutes without stopping, repeating himself or even flinching – despite being continuously pelted with tennis balls and oranges. Stanley Kubrick was so impressed that he cast Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann

The videotape demonstration was not the only factor which got R. Lee Ermey the role as the drill instructor. Ermey went to Stanley Kubrick and asked for the part, as the actors on the set were, in his opinion, not up to snuff.

When Kubrick declined, Ermey barked an order for Kubrick to stand up when he was spoken to, and the director instinctively obeyed. That sealed the matter, and Ermey won the part as Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann.

(Source: IMDB)

And Ronald Lee Ermey was so good with his role, he also improvised on his dialogues:-

Much, if not all, of R. Lee Ermey’s dialogue during the Parris Island sequence was improvised. While filming the opening scene, where he disciplines Pvt. Cowboy, he says Cowboy is the type of guy who would have sex with another guy “and not even have the goddamned common courtesy to give him a reach-around”.

Stanley Kubrick immediately yelled cut and went over to Ermey and asked, “What the hell is a reach-around?” Ermey politely explained what it meant. Kubrick laughed and re-shot the scene, telling Ermey to keep the line

Impressive piece of acting indeed!

Chennai Trip – Part 3


Read:-

Prologue
Part 1
Part 2

One thing about watching TV in Chennai is watching creative ads. And one of the ads that stand up among the many ads in the many TV channels is the Limca Ad. It is surprisingly so believable.

To be continued in Part 4…

Childhood Memories – Part 21


Read the rest of the series here

Lately I have been watching M*A*S*H (the series) – last seen on national TV in the 1980s (or earlier, I can’t recall) and I must say that I almost missed something rather brilliant. Then again, I was too young to understand the double meaning jokes in M*A*S*H. Now it makes sense to me.

Still remember the other shows back in 1970s & 1980s?

(The dependable Sergeant Saunders. Image source : http://www.crazyabouttv.com/)

Combat!

It was THE World War 2 TV series back then. Who can forget Vic Morrow as the no-nonsense Sergeant Chip Saunders? As far as my Dad was concern, Combat! was the baseline from which all other World War 2 movies are judged. Whenever we see some World War 2 movies on TV, my Dad will always say – Combat! was better. That is until he watched Saving Private Ryan and was blown away with the realism of the massacre on the beach. The story of Combat! was re-told again in another well made TV war series – Tour of Duty (instead of World War 2, it is Vietnam War and Terence Knox played the role of the no-nonsense Sergeant Clayton ‘Zeke’ Anderson).

High Chaparral

One of the main attractions of this Western show is the opening theme. We had plenty of Western movies in the early 1980s but this was the series to watch for. My favorite character was Manolito – the kind of uncle that every nephew should have – wild, loose cannon, good with the ladies but always there to back you up any time of the day.

(Ponch and his trusted retro looking Kawasaki police bike, flagging down a motorist. Image source: http://media.monstersandcritics.com/)

ChiPs

The show that got me attracted to police bikes and me wanting to be traffic policemen too. Interestingly the CHiPs was using Kawasaki Police bike which looked somewhat similar to our PDRM’s Honda police bikes. There was not much “traffic policising” in the series which was a big disappointment to us. We would be sitting in anticipation when Officer Francis Poncherello and Officer Jonathan Baker would fire up their bikes and speed along the highway to catch some bad guys or to attend some emergencies. The power of the Kawasakis was awesome!

MacGyver

All can do but no violence please, hero and one who introduced the concept of “macgyverism”. It was interesting to see what one can do with a little application of knowledge of science, technology and common sense. Reading into MacGyver Handbook many years later, I realised not all quick fix by MacGyver was workable – it was only made for the fun of the series.

(The truck that started the love for huge trucks. Image source: http://www.hollywood-diecast.com)

BJ and the Bear

Watching this series – I wished the long trailers in Malaysia were as beautiful as those in the US. Most of the long haul trucks in Malaysia were too bland. Most does not even have a separate cabin for the drivers. The best colored long haul truck that I had ever seen was a lonely Goodyear truck in Taiping. It was a standard Mercedes Benz truck (the usual ones that plies down Malaysian roads) but the paint work was brilliant.


(I had always thought the short guy was kind of creepy. Image source: http://www.youaintrock.com)

Fantasy Island

“The plane, the plane” was the call sign of the day in an island where one’s fantasies comes true (including one I recall, to be assassinated by a professional hit man). Interesting part of this series was the storyline – there is no limit to one’s fantasies, so content wise, it was not so boring. There is always something refreshing every week. I guess the short guy was the main attraction of the show although when we were still small kids, the short guy looked kind of creepy.

A-Team

Very similar to MacGyver but there is more of them here and this time, they are loaded with heavy weapons to the teeth. Memorable characters – scared to fly Mr T, the crazy Murdoch and the black themed van. Incidentally a newer version of the A-Team is soon coming to the big screens, starring Liam Neeson as the team leader, Hannibal. That should make the movie more interesting.

Of course, there were more – Stingray, Thunderbirds, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in 21st Century, Star Trek (starred William Shatner), Hawaii-Five O, The Equaliser, TJ Hooker, Dallas, Dynasty, Magnum PI, Airwolf, Knight Rider, Love Boat, Three’s a Company, The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show, Different Strokes and more (too many to be listed here)

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Little House of the Prairie

A Quick Guide to Star Trek – Part 2


“She [the Borg Queen] brought me closer to humanity than I ever thought possible. And for a time, I was tempted by her offer. (Picard: For how long?) Zero point six-eight seconds, sir… For an android, that is nearly an eternity” (Data, Star Trek: First Contact)

Read Part 1 here

tactical

5. The tactical officers

What is deep space exploration without any confrontation with aggressive aliens? In the world of Star Trek, enemies of the Federation comes in many shape and form, from known enemies like Romulan and Borg, unknown  space life forms and misunderstood friendly aliens. And right at the front of space battles is the tactical officer who lays out tactics within critical timespan, ensures the starship is adequately shielded from on-going blast and phasers, aims the ship’s weapons for a direct hit and provide security details for internal and away missions.

ST: TNG – In 2364, Lieutenant junior grade Worf (Klingon) was assigned as a command division bridge officer on the USS Enterprise. Worf spent most of his first year on the Enterprise-D as a relief officer for the conn and other bridge stations. Worf was permitted a variation from the Starfleet uniform dress code, and wore a Klingon warrior’s sash, sometimes called a baldric by Humans, over his regular duty uniform.

In 2365, Worf transferred to the operations division and officially became the Enterprise-D’s chief tactical officer and security chief. After seven years of service aboard the starship, Worf rose in rank to lieutenant commander in 2371.

VOYTuvok (Vulcan) was the tactical officer and second officer aboard USS Voyager. He served in this post for the seven years that Voyager was stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Tuvok was a prize-winning orchid breeder. He used grafting techniques on flowers from both Earth and Vulcan.

Tuvok’s main pastime was the Vulcan game kal-toh. Tuvok also spent his spare time meditating, and instructed various members of the crew in this pursuit over the years.

My pick – I guess it depends on the situation, Worf for close combat (it is suicidal to take on an angry Klingon in an hand to hand combat) and Tuvok for long range ship tactical and security crew readiness (he had the logic enough to write a “worst case scenario” holodeck program for the USS Voyager’s crew)

moral

6. The moral officers

Long journey in starships especially in the case of USS Voyager can be lonesome, boring and stressful. Thankfully both USS Enterprise and USS Voyager is equipped with holodecks for the crew to let off some steam but at end of the day, it helps if there is one who is willing to sit down and listen and advice crewmen on their personal problems. In the case of USS Enterprise, Deanna Troi is also helped by Guinan (played by Whoopi Goldberg) who is also the bartender and an informal moral officer

ST: TNGDeanna Troi (half-Betazoid, half-Human) served as ship’s counsellor aboard the USS Enterprise-D and the USS Enterprise-E. Troi’s empathic skills made her an important asset to the Enterprise and often came in handy when dealing with hostile races. Since she could usually tell if others were lying, she repeatedly proved herself invaluable in many suspenseful situations

VOY Neelix (Talaxian male) joined the USS Voyager, serving as chef, morale officer, ambassador, navigator, and holder of many other odd-jobs. Aboard Voyager, Neelix served as a chef, “Special Consultant for the Delta Quadrant”, and occasionally as a self-appointed “chief morale officer”. Captain Kathryn Janeway gave Neelix the unofficial title of “ambassador” when he proved to have a flair for diplomacy.

My pick – Neelix for his multi role duties and also for the fact, he can’t read one’s mind. He is less emotional too.

And finally, my favourite characters in both series…

AI

7. The Artificial Intelligence

The cream of the series – the crewmen who is not really “alive” (although Captain Picard did argue differently for Data in Starfleet) and can do wonders with limitless calculation and memory storage. The best part of the “artificial intelligence” in both series is that they try (sometimes to an extent of humour) to be as close as a humanistic can be.

ST: TNG Lt Commander Data (Soong-type android) was composed of 24.6 kilograms of tripolymer composites, 11.8 kilograms of molybdenum-cobalt alloys and 1.3 kilograms of bioplast sheeting. All told, he weighed approximately 100 kilograms. Data’s upper spinal support was a polyalloy designed for extreme stress. His skull was composed of cortenide and duranium. Data was built with an ultimate storage capacity of eight hundred quadrillion bits (100 petabytes, approximately 50 times the identifiable storage capacity of the human brain) and a total linear computational speed rated at sixty trillion operations per second.

Data served as operations officer and second officer on board the USS Enterprise-D from 2364 until the vessel’s destruction in 2371. Since he did not require sleep, he routinely stood night watch on the bridge. His speed of thought and great strength made him an important asset to the ship, and the fact that he was unaffected by disease, radiation or mind control was vital on more than one occasion. Data pursued many of the higher arts of Earth. He developed his painting skills, creating art of many styles and subjects. He wrote poetry and performed in plays. He played the violin and performed on several occasions.

VOY The Doctor (hologram) was the name given by the crew of the USS Voyager to their Emergency Medical Hologram (alternatively abbreviated as “EMH”). The EMH Mark I, of which the Doctor was an example, was a computer program with a holographic interface in the form of a Human male doctor. The EMH Mark I, properly known as the Emergency Medical Holographic Program AK-1 Diagnostic and Surgical Subroutine Omega 323, was developed by a team of engineers to be an emergency supplement to the medical team on starships.

Only meant to run for a maximum of one thousand five hundred hours, it had little personality and the apparent objectives of first accessing an emergency situation before dealing with that crisis, as efficiently as possible. It was capable of treating any known injury or disease; programmed with medical knowledge of every member world in the Federation (at least, as of 2371), it had the knowledge of five million surgical treatments and was capable of adapting to create new medical treatments. It also had a database of spiritual medical treatments practices by Native Americans. The Doctor took a keen interest in opera, frequently practising his singing with a holographic soprano.

My pick – Data because he is not limited to any shortcomings in the hologram circuits. He can’t perform major medical functions but that is not a major shortcoming. He just needs to learn the same from the ship’s massive library within seconds.

(Key data and pictures for this Star Trek post sourced here)

A Quick Guide to Star Trek – Part 1


“I refuse to believe that the afterlife is run by you, Q. The universe is not so badly designed!” (Captain Jean Luc Picard in ST: TNG episode Tapestry)

Inspired by the Star Wars movies, Star Trek: The Next Generations (ST: TNG) and Star Trek Voyager (VOY) was one of my favourite TV shows in the 1990s.

And in recent times, I managed to get hold of whole 7 seasons of ST: TNG and it was worth watching the show all over again. VOY on the other hand, took viewers on the other side of ST:TNG and had it’s own interesting attractions as the Federation ship that got lost in the Delta Quadrant which requires 70,000 light years to return back home.

Whilst on the onset, both series looked the same (with ST: TNG being more prominent between the 2), there are some interesting differences and my pick between the 2.

starship

(USS Voyager (right) is smaller but better designed compared to USS Enterprise)

1. Type of starships

The crew in ST: TNG flies the more famous USS Enterprise a Galaxy-class Federation starship commissioned in 2363 whilst the crew flies the lesser known, much smaller but more nibble USS Voyager, the Intrepid-class Federation starship commissioned in 2371. Further USS Enterprise is deemed the flagship of the Starfleet and one of the largest among all Federation starships.

ST: TNGUSS Enterprise has 42 decks, 14 phaser arrays, 2 torpedo launchers, 250 photon torpedoes, deflector shields with a maximum warp speed of 9.8 and a crew complement of 1,014

VOYUSS Voyager has 15 decks, 13 phaser arrays, 38 photon torpedoes, deflector shields with a maximum warp speed of 9.975 and a crew complement of 150.

My pick – USS Voyager. For a simple fact, it is faster, more nimble and carries less unnecessary crew. Besides Captain Picard hates it when there are children on board.

captains

(No one can ignore the ‘prominent’ feature of Captain Jean Luc Picard (left) and the powerful stare from him)

2. The captains

Long before playing the role of Professor X in X-Men, Patrick Steward played Captain Jean Luc Picard in ST: TNG and that it was one of the key crowd puller for the series. For Voyager, we had an unsettled first impression but Kate Mulgrew who played the Captain Kathryn Janeway showed that Kathryn Janeway was one tough lady and had all the rights and skills to captain a Federation ship.

ST: TNG – USS Enterprise D is captained by Captain Jean Luc Picard (human). Picard not only witnessed the major turning points of recent galactic history, but played a key role in them also, from making first contact as captain of the Federation’s flagship with no fewer than 27 alien species, including the Ferengi and the Borg.

He also became the chief contact point with the Q Continuum as well as serving as Arbiter of Succession, choosing the former leader of the Klingon Empire, Chancellor Gowron, and exposing the Romulan Star Empire as backers of his chief rivals, later aiding an underground movement of dissidents to gain a toehold on the Romulan homeworld. Captain Picard ‘s favourite drink is hot Earl Grey tea

VOY – USS Voyager is captained by Captain Kathryn Janeway (human). She became the first Federation captain to successfully traverse the Delta Quadrant, encountering dozens of new planets and civilizations over the course of seven years. While there, she and her crew also survived numerous encounters with the Borg. By 2379, she was a Vice Admiral at Starfleet Command. Captain Janeway’s favourite drink is hot black coffee.

My pick – Captain Jean Luc Picard at any given day! He’s bald and yet he is cool and one that had stood up to Q on almost equal terms

ist officer

(Both have the right looks of a first officer but Commander Riker (left) is more experienced with Federation starships)

3. The 1st officers

Captains cannot work effectively without having a fine, dedicated, skilled crew and first in line are the ‘number ones’ or the next in command. When the captain is unable to take helm of the ship or is away on missions or trapped in some alien world / ship, number one have the control and final say. Number ones also take care of job assignments and staff evaluations and other operational issues.

ST: TNG – USS Enterprise D’s 1st officer is Commander William Thomas Riker (human). He was perhaps best known for his long assignment as first officer under Captain Jean-Luc Picard aboard the USS Enterprise-D, and later the USS Enterprise-E. In 2379, he finally accepted a promotion to captain and was assigned to the USS Titan. Riker was a jazz aficionado, and his favourite musical instrument was the trombone.

VOY – USS Voyager’s D’s 1st officer is Commander Chakotay (human). Chakotay didn’t use the holodeck often, but enjoyed reading instead. He occasionally took the time to embrace his artistic side, such as creations using colored sand while trapped on ‘New Earth’ and carvings of Native American symbols. Chakotay was a vegetarian; one of his favourite meals was mushroom soup.

My pick – it is tough choice between the 2. Both had their own strengths and weaknesses but I guess Riker have the edge over Chakotay – he already been offered captain-ship several times but opted to remain Jean Luc Picard’s number 1.

engineer

(Geordi (left) is blind and needs a visor to see things in a very different way)

4. The chief engineers

The heart of Federation star ships is the warp propulsion system and without the right person at the engineering, the starship, no matter who is in charge, is in deep trouble (they can loose speed, shield and weapons). Since the time of Scotty Scott and Captain Kirk, the role of the chief engineer has become more complex, as starships gets bigger and more technologically innovative.

ST: TNGGeordi La Forge (human) held the rank of lieutenant commander and was the chief engineer of the USS Enterprise-D and USS Enterprise-E, both under Captain Jean-Luc Picard. As a junior officer, his specialities included antimatter power, dilithium regulators, holodeck programs, and climate-control computers. His intense focus enabled him to master the complexities of warp engineering and other starship systems.

VOY B’Elanna Torres (half-Klingon, half-Human) served as Chief Engineer on the USS Voyager. Torres was initially assigned the provisional rank of lieutenant junior grade. Torres had difficulty getting along with the temporary chief engineer, Joe Carey.

She was recommended as a replacement chief engineer by Chakotay. However, Kathryn Janeway opposed this decision. After Voyager became trapped in a quantum singularity, Torres proved her skills to Janeway and earned her respect. Janeway then made her chief engineer over Carey.

My pick – Between 2, Geordi is better simply because he is more prominent when it comes to new innovations to the warp propulsion system and key starship systems. And without a “Klingon DNA”, he is often more adapting to handle critical situation without losing control or temper.

(Key data and pictures for this Star Trek post sourced here)

To be continued…

(Read Part 2 HERE)

MacGyverism – can we apply it too?


Image hosted by Photobucket.com

(Remember this guy in the late 80s? He used to be and still is one of my role model and “super” hero. Picture source: http://www.davegeeonline.com)
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For those watched the TV series MacGyver in the late 80’s, you will appreciate this. MacGyver (acted convincingly by Richard Dean Anderson) never really used violence to solve problems; he always used his mind to solve one. He is the guy who hated the use of guns, played ice-hockey and help out in the charity homes (a parents’ dream for an ideal son in law).

What I like about MacGyver is that when faced with danger, his first reaction was always to stop for a moment and think. With a good imagination and resourcefulness, he always wins the day. That series started something called MacGyverism.

So, what is MacGyverism anyway? According to one site, it means something clever that MacGyver does which other action heroes wouldn’t normally think of doing. This may include such things as using household cleaners to make a smokescreen or building an ultra light plane from materials at a construction site

The very 1st episode was fully packed with MacGyverism and it found a die-hard fan in me. Did you notice this in the 1st episode?

1. Disarmed missile with a paperclip
2. Matches & rope got rifle to shoot itself
3. Smashed pistol barrel to use as rocket thruster
4. Kicked grate to test for hidden laser
5. Lit cigarette with hidden laser
6. Smoked cigarette to find hidden laser
7. Used binocular eyepiece to catch laser beam
8. Aimed laser beam at source to “kill” it
9. Knotted fire hose to build up water pressure
10. Used said hose to lift steel beam
11. Tested heat on door with a stick (it caught fire)
12. Milk Chocolate candy stops sulphuric acid leak
13. Used shirt to filter gases
14. Sodium metal & cold capsule explosive
15. Flipped lights in morse code

I think we should be more exposed to TV shows like MacGyver, not because we can learn to build bomb from ordinary things but rather using it to make a point that we can indeed work things out if we can stop and think about it. The value of education especially science and moral certainly comes in handy and is shown in practice.

Read more about other creative things done by MacGyver at here
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(Filed under Del.icio.us Tag: TV)