Fantasy Premier League 2014/15: Halftime Report

Gosh….time really flew by during the on-going BPL season that I didn’t even have time to update about my 5th year foray into the world of fantasy football management in the fantasy premier league (FPL)!

Anyway, I started off the season quite solidly, scoring 69 points and ranked 66,50 globally. In my mini league, I believe I was in second or third position after round 1, which is rather important because getting a good start is key to a good campaign ahead.

Everything fell into plan until GW3, when i irrationally sold off Costa on news of some injury. That started a horrific freefall somewhat for the next few GWs. Fortunately, many of my other friends didn’t fare too well either and I was still able to stay in the top 3 position for some time.

This year, I triggered my first Wildcard only after GW5. It wasn’t due to injuries (like last year) but more of a strategic re-formation of my team pieces. This allowed me to steadily climb up and secure solid 50+ points for the next 4 weeks without sacrificing too many weekly transfers. It has been a pretty exciting race in my mini league too. Quite a roller coaster battle at the top with two Kenny’s, especially from GW8 onwards till about GW18, where there were many lead changes. I thought I totally suffered during the year end chaotic period but I guess so did everyone else! As of GW20, I still lead the league with only about 30 points breathing space from No. 2. That was when another contender, whom I shall call Bro J emerge from nowhere andВ is closing in very fast (as of this blog, post-GW21, Bro J is already in the No. 2 spot!)

My highs during the first 20 GWs was in GW16 when I hit 87 points and pushed my global rank to a season high 27,723. I even managed to break into the top 10 (at no. 9) of the BFM league! Another achievement was qualifying for the Knockout Cup, which starts after GW18. Unfortunately, I hit my low a few weeks later in GW19 with a pathetic score of just 27 points. This ensured a I was bundled out quite early this year of the cup only after 2 rounds! Sigh.

As ofВ the halfway point of GW20, I have thus far accumulated 1,079 points and currently rank at a global rank of 58,491. My team budget has increased $5.7M to stand at $105.7M. My key strategies for maintaining my lead in my mini-league?

1. Keep lead at least till after Winter Wildcard – This instant reset button will make those playing catch-up very difficult to erm, catch-up!

2. Getting the captain’s armband choice right. For example, those that took the risk and captained Sanchez in GW21 scored 38 points vs only 6 for the majority who went for Hazard. Sigh.

Things I Learnt In Hanoi

Breathtaking Ha Long Bay

My recent trip to Hanoi really opened up my eyes to the cultures and lifestyle of this capital city of Vietnam. It was my first ever visit to this country, so I thought I would list down some of my observations and lessons learnt about Hanoi..

1. Get a Local SIM card when you are there.

Mobile SIMs are surprisingly very cheap over there. I bought a Viettel SIM with 600MB data В for only VND150,000, which is aboutВ RM25. I even had some credits to make about 10 minutes of international call as well! :-)

2. Traffic rules do not apply in Hanoi

Traffic lights, roundabouts, road signs, zebra crossings, etc. are absolutely meaningless here. It’s ALL-WAY traffic where motorists moves in whatever direction they want!

A meaningless road sign
The meaningless roundabout…

3. Motorcycle Helmets in Hanoi are also meaningless…

Although all motorcyclists and scooterists wear them, it is as good as wearing a toy helmet! The material used is so thin I doubt if it offered any protection to the wearer at all!

4. Getting 5 seconds of peace is like striking lottery!

The streets of Hanoi is constantly noisy with horns blaring and motor sounds. If you are a light sleeper, you’d best find a hotel with near-perfect sound proofing…:-p

5. You cannot survive the streets without your HORN!

With fellow motorists to your left, right, front and back almost all the time, it is essential to HONK-AS-YOU-DRIVE/RIDE. Horns is Hanoi are therefore SO essential here they should just engineer it to honk automatically every 3 seconds. Seriously.

6. Hanoi riders and drivers are possibly amongst the most skilful in the world!

Moving around these streets with these kind of chaotic traffic on an everyday basis is proof of their incredible road skills!

7. Rubbish is naturally thrown on the roadside or just about anywhere at all!

Dustbins are hardly seen in the streets of Hanoi. So it becomes quite natural for them to just throw rubbish on the floor. every 2-3 hours, some cleaners will come around with a push-cart garbage dump to clean the streets…

The garbage trolley..

8. Be prepared to HAGGLE

When going shopping, always remember that the opening prices is always marked up. So, be prepare to haggle and get the best bargain possible. Most shops in the same area sells virtually the same stuff. So don’t feel bad by declining one shop and testing out the prices of other shops. My tip is to counter the opening price by 40-50% and work from there.

9. One needs proper strategy just to cross the road.

in Hanoi, forget about the universal Look left, look right, look left again…cross. Here, the proper strategy is to simply PRAY, CLOSE YOUR EYES and CROSS THE ROAD! Hanoi motorists will somehow do extremely well to avoid hitting you! Don’t worry, about a first few crossings filled with heart attacks, you should be able to get used to it.

Here’s a sample video clip of a junction you need to cross in the Old Quarters…

10. Beware of street peddlers

There are certain groups of people hanging out around the streets who are always on the look out to make a quick buck. One are men armed with some small tools who will always try to persuade you that your show needs to be fixed. I was approached by these people no less than 5 times during my visit. The other group are lady peddlers who are a carrying fruit baskets. They would offer you to take a photo with their baskets….for a price, of course.

11. Secret meaning of XE OM

One of the cheapest ways of getting around Hanoi is by motorcycle taxis, or better known as Xe Om. You can spot them at most street corners on their bikes and a spare helmet. They will usually promote or offer their services by calling out Xe Om! After trying out their services for my customised city tour, I believe Xe Om secretly stands for Xtreme Entertainment On Motorcycle! Thrilling, heart-stopping and cheap! Definitely a recommended ride – since I don’t think they have any entertainment parks in this city…

12. Vietnamese coffee if STRONG

Since I am not really a coffee lover, I cannot confirm if Vietnamese coffee is the best in the world. It does however, tastes stronger than most coffee I’ve tasted. And anything hot and strong is surely good stuff to have in the chilly, breezy weather of Hanoi. And if the coffee here is strong, they also have Vietnamese tea here which is also just as strong!

12. Best way to LEPAK in Hanoi

Find a restaurant along the streets that serves arguably the cheapest beer on the planet, Bia Hoi (usually on sale at VND5000 (about only RM1!!!), pull up a stool, sit on it next to a small table, order your Bia Hoi, some food, and watch life pass by on the streets….

Lepaking Hanoi style, at No 2 Duong Thanh

13. Sandwiches are HUGE!!

Before coming here, I knew a bit about the Vietnamese sandwich or Ban Minh. Wehen I reached here, I noticed another similar dish that was just as popular was their KEBAB. And the size of it just blew me away!

14. Be amazed with their telecom lines

If your free, try turning your head upwards and admire the stretch and bundles of telecom lines running (not very high) around the city area. Although the Government has plans to put them all underground sometime in the future, the telecom lines is a sight that has to be seen and appreciated.

15. Almost Impossible to tell the Originals from the Fakes

There are just so many FAKE stuff (handbags, clothes, shirts, etc.) in Hanoi that it is quite impossible to tell the real apart from the fakes. so the best thing to do is just to NOT go there with intention to get original stuff. Your expectations might just be crushed. 😛

16. Best Pho in the world

Personally, it’s just noodle soup with beef/chicken/pork to me, but many people seem to go ga-ga over Pho. Having said that, any trip to Vietnam would not be complete without eating this dish.

Even the STREETS are called PHO!! Different pronunciation though..

17. Making new friends during tours

Through the Street Food Tour and the Ha Long bay tour which I took, I managed to make many new friends from all over the world, like Germany, Chile, Uruguay, USA, China, France, Australia, Singapore and Japan!

18. Ha Long Bay tour guides are very good story-tellers and have creative imagination!

This is especially significant during the tour to theВ Dong Thien Cung,В where one could see beautiful rock formations inside the caves. Trust me, after coming out of the caves, you’ll never look at any other rock feature the same way again!

19. Lower your sails of expectation for Ha Long Bay cruises

If you are planning to go to Ha Long bay during your stay in Hanoi, I’d bet you would have this picture of the cruise boat in your mind…

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What you’d actually get….:-P

Do lower your expectations because more likely than not, you will board a boat without any such sails. When I reached the jetty area, I surveyed all the boats docked there and I spotted NONE with sails. Of course, having said that, try not to let the missing sails spoil your Ha Long bay tour. It is still a MUST-SEE tour when you go to Hanoi!

20. Standard of English is fast improving with the younger generation

I observed that whilst the older folk in Hanoi spoke almost ZERO English, it was encouraging to see most of the younger generation ably speaking the language. Most of these younger population would either still be studying or currently working in the hotel industry. Many of the English-speaking tour guides in Hanoi are actually university students working part time to get some side income. Even the young taxi driver that took me to the airport on my final day was happily listening to some techno-rock mash-up with shocking repetitive lyrics like “m***** f****** b****” Yes, the passion to learn English amongst the younger generation here is indeed very strong!

21. Get your hotel to help you get a taxi

Before coming to Hanoi, I had read many disturbing stories about the rampant taxi scams in Hanoi. There were cases of taxi drivers taking the unsuspecting victims for a free tour around the city before eventually reaching the destination for a higher price, obviously. Then there are also stories of taxis with ‘faulty’ meters that starts at a higher rate. My solution was to get your hotel (or any other hotel nearby where you are) to call a taxi for you. Give them your destination and request for the hotel’s assistance to be the spokesperson to tell the driver where you need to go. The wonderful staff at Paradise Boutique Hotel where I stayed even went the extra mile to check the taxi meter before giving the OK for the driver to leave. In addition, more often than not all hotels would have their list of reliable taxis they can call for their guests.

22. So many TV channels!

I was quite surprised to find the hotel TV with more than 80 channels!! Of course, the bulk of these are Vietnamese dramas…:-p

23. Exotic foods are quite easy to find here.

If you’re adventurous enough, you can quite easily find some exotic foods like dog, cat, snail, crocodile, etc.

24. No worries if you run out of Vietnamese Dong!

Whilst most shops in Hanoi readily accept USD and VND, I found out that they are also quite open to accepting just about ANY OTHER currency from tourists! Of course, you’d have to follow their ‘daily’ conversion rate. So at the end of the day, you may not need to convert so much VND t bring to Hanoi…

25. The weather is quite cold, chilly and breezy around Year End

Check the weather forecast before heading to Hanoi. When I visited this month, I was welcomed with breezy, chilly winds everyday. The temperature went down to as low as 12 degrees Celsius and only as high as 18 degrees Celsius.

Brace yourself for chilly Hanoi!

26. Prepare to eat like a KID again!

Most of the tables and chairs in the Old Quarters seem like they were specially made for kids. My personal theory is that the stall owners don’t want table hoggers…haha…

27. Bring your own water to Ha Long bay

Most (if not ALL) of the Ha Long Bay tours will cover just the food, but not the water. Water (and Bia Hoi, of course) is happily served at a cost when the boat had already left the jetty. If you bring your own water, you could easily save some money here.

28. What souvenirs to buy home from Hanoi?

The top 5 popular stuff tourist buy from Hanoi are (i) Silk stuff; (ii) Coffee; (iii) Lacquer stuff; (iv) Pirated DVDs – around USD0.75 per piece!; (v) North Face bags!

New Man United First 11

With the early season transfer window officially closed last weekend, we Man Utd fans are now faced with one seriously complex question:

“What would the Best Man Utd Starting 11 look like?”

One of the premium strikers joining Man Utd on loan at the tail end of the transfer window deadline was Rademel Falcao. With the Colombian on board, how would LVG manage his side on his preferred 3-5-2 formation? Would one of Rooney or RVP have to be sacrificed to accommodate Falcao? Or would Rooney play in a slightly more deeper role now? Or does LVG just abandon the 3-5-2 and slot in a 4-3-3 to allow his trident of star strikers to wreak havoc week in week out in the BPL?

I’m sure many Man Uts fans would have their own preferred first 11. Here is my ideal first 11 for Man Utd this season:

football formations

 

I stuck with a 3-4-1-2, slotting in Rooney in the ‘hole’ behind RVP and Falcao. Mata would provide the creativity as the attacking MF whilst Hererra would be the holding MF. History shows Man Utd also does well with wide-men and I would pick Di Maria and Valencia to light up both left and right sidelines respectively. In defence, I picked Blind to cover the central defender’s role. whilst many people may have only seen him as a left-back in the World Cup, his profile actually shows he is equally adept in covering the middle. His lack of pace also seems to concur with my pick to slot him in the heart of our defence. Both LB and RB, Rojo and Jones are perfect fits in those areas and their speed and courage to push forward makes this line-up a very offensive-minded one.

But of course, in the CURRENT scenario where Man Utd is beset with numerous injuries, I thought I should come up with a short-term first 11 based on the available players, so here it is:

football formations

Formation is still a 3-4-1-2. Only difference here is Blind slotted into the defensive midfielder role behind Mata. In defense, Evans would have to stay more consistent as he is given the CB role.

Many people may be talking about big signings like Di Maria and Falcao but personally, I felt that Daley Blind would be one of the best buys of Man Utd this season. A bit of an unknown (until the World Cup commenced), Blind is one of those versatile players who can play in numerous positions which would prove very useful in the current scenario where there are many injuries. His style of play is even a fit for the holding midfielder role!

 

I also tinkered about the possibility of a What-If scenario for LVG should he decide to stick with his 3-5-2 formation. In this formation, my favoured first 11 would look like this:

football formations
I would pick both RVP and Falcao up front because they are technically better finishers compared with Rooney. The important man in the ‘hole’ behind the strikers is a toss up between Rooney and Mata. In this formation, one of these two would have to be sacrificed. Valencia and Di Maria are the natural wingers whilst LVG could then utilise the speeds of both Rojo and Jones as wing backs! The back-3 would have to be players who don’t usually forage up front too often, so I would pick Shaw, Smalling and Evans here. Not sure how Hererra might fit into a 3-5-2 this way though. Hmmmm.

…which led me to another alternative formation, a 4-4-2 as follows:

football formations

 

Under this formation, Hererra would be able to support Mata in their favoured positions in the middle. Rooney would get to play his favoured role in the hole. Only problem В here is either RVP or Falcao needs to be sacrificed up front. Another change here is the back four where Rojo and Blind have been slotted in CB roles, which both have played before. Shaw and Jones make up the defensive backs.

With all being said, I’m just excited to see how LVG rolls out the brand-new look of Man Utd next wekeend! 😀

My 10 Memorable Moments from World Cup 2014 Round of 16

 

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#1: James Rodriguez’s extraordinary chested, half body spun-around, rocket volley of a goal vs Uruguay. My current personal pick for Goal of the Tournament

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#2: Tim Howard (USA) makes an astonishing World Cup record 16 saves vs Belgium!

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#3: Mexican Heartbreak as the El Tri lose 1-2 to Holland after conceding 2 goals in the final 6 minutes, the second one coming off a penalty in injury timeВ 

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#4: Dzemaili’s incredible 120th minute Extra-Time double miss that could have taken the Swiss into a penalty shoot-out with Argentina

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#5: First ever Cooling Breaks during a World Cup match! Methinks if this continues it will really help the Europeans..

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#6: Germany’s ridiculously complicated, awkward and (obviously) FAILED freekick routine vs Algeria

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#7: Pinilla’s 120th minute Extra-Time thunderous strike which struck Brazil’s crossbar which would have given Chile a dramatic upset over hosts Brazil

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#8: Julio Cesar makes TWO big saves to become Brazil’s hero has the hosts scrape into the Quarter Finals

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#9: Extra-Time became the flavour of the Round of 16, where 5 of 8 matches went the extra distance; 2 of which were decided on penalties! Tightest Round methinks!

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#10: Having successfully frustrated Messi for 118 minutes, it only took a moment of brilliance to ‘out of nowhere’ unlock the Swiss defence and set up Di Maria for Argentina’s winner

My 10 Memorable Moments from World Cup 2014 Gameweek 3

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#1: Suarez takes a bite at Italian Chiellini’s shoulder during their final group match. He was eventually served a 9 match ban!

 

#2: Mexico coach Miguel Herrera’s super animated facial celebrations when Mexico booked their spot in the Round of 16В 

#3: Swiss Shaqiri’s hattrick vs Honduras. One of his goals is definitely a nominee for Goal of the Tournament. View HERE

 

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#4: Brilliant Messi brace vs Nigeria secures top spot for Argentina in their group. One of his goals was the perfectly executed freekick, above

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#5: All Asian countries knocked out by first round…SIGH. And all disappointingly ended up bottom of the table too!

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#6: Greece scoring an injury-time penalty vs Ivory Coast to seal a 2-1 win and a place in the next Round! Heartbreak for the Africans!

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#7: James Rodriguez comes on at the half and guides Colombia to 4-1 over Japan with two assists and one brilliant solo goal above

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#8: With Portugal already eliminated, Cristiano Ronaldo signs out of the World Cup with his one and only goal

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#9: With the 4-2 trashing of South Korea, Algeria became the African nation to score that many goals at a World Cup!

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#10: For the first time ever, CONCACAF region has THREE (3) representatives in the Round of 16 – Mexico, Costa Rica and USA. Meanwhile the European scrapheap heading home include defending champions Spain, former champions England and Italy, and others like Portugal, Russia, Bosnia and Croatia

 

My 10 Memorable Moments from World Cup 2014 Gameweek 2

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#1: Defending Champions Spain sent crashing out by brilliant Chile 2-0

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#2: The Holland vs Australia thriller which ended in a 3-2 victory for Holland. Breathless.

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#3: Tim Cahill’s stunning volley vs Holland

#4: Suarez scores a brace that sends England to crushing defeat! Second goal even came off a Steven Gerrard ‘assist’!

 

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#5: Swiss Dzemaili’s В 35-yard low-rocket vs France

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#6: Messi injury time brilliant winner for Argentina vs Iran

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#7: Cabaye’s unbelievable miss from close range after Benzema’s missed penalty (France vs Switzerland)

#8: Last minute goal by Portugal’s Varela snatches 2-2 draw vs USA that saves Portugal from early elimination

 

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#9: Two wins out of Two! Costa Rica qualifies for the Round of 16 from a group comprising 3 former champions – Italy, England and Uruguay!

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#10: Possibly the most BORING match to-date: Belgium vs Russia…В 

My 10 Memorable Moments from World Cup 2014 Gameweek 1

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#1: Free-Kick Spray Paint!

Wonder where the ref keeps it throughout the match? :-p

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#2: Creative Hublot Time/Substitute Board

#3: Van Persie’s “Flying Dutchman” goal vs Spain

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#4: Defending Champs Spain getting a trashing from Holland

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#5: Goal-Line Technology successfully used for first time in World Cup @ France vs Honduras match

Watch the technology in action here:

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/06/goal-line-technology-france-honduras

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#6: Swiss’ Seferovic’s dramatic injury time winner over Ecuador

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#7: Thomas Mueller bags the tournament’s first hat-trick vs Portugal

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#8: Colombia’s well-rehearsed group dance celebrations.

Wonder if we’ll get to see a selfie celebration next?

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#9: First goal of World Cup 2014 was….an OWN GOAL. Poor Marcelo…

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#10: Pepe’s ‘red-carded’ headbutt on Mueller

Fantasy Premier League: 2014 Recap

Two Words: Champion Again!

Woo Hoo! Well…in my mini league of 26 friends, at least. Heh. On a personal note, I was really pleased with this achievement of (still) defending my mini-league title four times already ( 3 times in the Citizen Sports FB League and 1 time in the FPL) since I started to mange fantasy teams! Yeah!

Of the four past seasons, the recent one is probably one of the closest I’ve ever been ran before. I t wasn’t until probably GW37 that I was quite sure none of my friends could catch me. Check out the tussle for the top in my mini-league from GW 25 onwards:

GW25 Leader: Friend P

GW 26: P

GW 27: P

GW 28: P

GW 29: Me

GW 30: Me

GW 31: P

GW 32: P

GW 33: Me

GW 34: Me

GW 35: P

GW 36: Me

GW 37: Me

GW 38: Me!

It was quite an exciting FPL mini league overall. I was consistently in the top three early on in the season. Towards the end of GW10, I briefly took the lead, only to lose it about 3-4 GWs later. My form would stumble badly in the early part of Q2 of the season, falling behind to as badly as 7th place. I then started to pick up pace again after GW20 and played catch up week in, week out, till eventually catching up with the leaders by GW 29. It was really head-to-head from this point on. Exciting stuff. After the final GW38, I finished ahead of my second placed friend by a close 14 points. Phew! Definitely a FPL season to savour. :-)

In summary I amassed a total of 2,254 points, averaging 59.3 points/GW in the process. My overall global rank is at 158,420, out of 3,218,989 total players, just making the top 5% cut. :-) Biggest disappointment was the poor investment of players, making my yield only a measely $5.7M over the entire season, making my team value at $105.7M

Key Plays Down the Stretch:

1. Consistent Scoring: From GW31 till GW38, I had managed to score 60+ points in all but one GW, averaging 70.4 points in that span.

2. Edin Dzeko: Supposedly my third striker, Dzeko was one of my more consistent performers down the stretch, where it was littered with many coaches benching players and injuries, etc.

3. Depth of Bench: With so many double and even triple GWs, coupled with the fact that towards the end many teams were not fighting for much anymore, this led to many leading players being benched. Somehow this helped me because of my bench depth comprising of regular starters too.

4. Wildcard Playing: I thought I played both my wildcards at very timely moments in the season. The first one was played early on, around GW7/8 I think, due to the numerous injuries plaguing my team. I dealt my second WC before the international break, not only to offset the second round of injuries, but also to position a team ready for the final stretch.

5. Suarez Non Performing: With Suarez not firing on all cylinders down the stretch, it was a huge relief to me, whom I didn’t have him on my squad till late on.

Can’t wait for the new FPL season to begin again! 😀

Remembering Almost Human

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It was really a sad, sad day for sci-fi fans around the world…okok, for me, at least..:-P, when FOX decided to pull the plug off sci-fi TV series Almost Human after its first season. Premiering in late November 2013, Almost Human ran its course till around march this year.

Briefly, it was a buddy-cop series set in 2048, where advanced crime has resulted in every human cop pairing up with an android cop. In Almost Human, Det. John Kennex (Karl Urban) was paired up with an older DRN android model named Dorian (Michael Ealy). Personally, I felt the show was very refreshing and owed a lot to the infectious chemistry of the bromance, or ‘ro-bromance’, rather, of the two leads. Week in, week out the show delivered well-scripted procedural shows. Unfortunately, I suppose other factors also crept in which eventually got the show cancelled.

Anyway, I thought one good way of remembering Almost Human was to recall some of the more memorable technology gadgets shown during the series’ run. What’s cooler is that since the show was set in 2048, which isn’t too far off, MOST of these gadgets can easily be a reality in the not too distant future!

Here’s my pick of 15 of ’em:

1. Virtual Post-Its: Forget those yellow pieces of paper cluttering your office cubicle. Get the idea typed out and simply ‘fling’ it as a virtual post-it on your own house wall! Cool, eh?

2. Sphere Bomb Containment Unit: This round little gadget creates a ball of sphere around the bomb threat so that the explosion is contained within the sphere and saves more lives to those outside the sphere.

3. DNA Bomb: Committed В a crime with evidences, DNA, etc. littered all over the crime scene? Set off one of these gizmos and it will ‘purify’ the crime scene of any DNA.

4. Flash Spray Mask: Spraying this substance on your face will make your face unrecognizable by video cameras.

5. Holographic Face Mask: Gone are the rubber or latex face masks. These holographic face masks can even mask your voices!

6. Hologram Usage: Need a quick medical advice? Make a holographic house call! How do we get a trial witness under protective custody to come to court? Beam the hologram into court!

7. Personalised Ads: Imagine billboards scanning the viewer and automatically displays personalised ads just for you!

8. Meal Dispenser Machines: Vending machines that dispenses meals and food tablets after personalisation

9. Animatric Toys: Being a kid would be great! You’d have toys that could animate themselves with a touch of the finger!

10. Electronic Paper: Reports, presentations, documents, etc…all packaged in a handy e-paper tablet like thingy.

11. Virtual Golf: Transform your home into the ultimate golfing gaming course with a virtual and immersive interface

12. Efficient Cremation: Machines will be built where it can process the entire cremation of a body within seconds!

13. Palm Phone: Virtualization of your mobile phone on the palm of your hands

14. Smarthome Security System: Voice activated, artificial intelligent home security system

15. Robotic Cockroaches: Surveillance Robotic bugs with chips and cameras used in police operations

 

Did you have personal favourite tech on Almost Human? :-)