Sunday, 31 August 2008
There was a lot of pressure building up to the DNC this year. For starters the media has been playing up the split in the Democratic party as a result of the fallout from a bitter primary season. It now seems that most of this was overhyped and over played, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worrying about it a little bit, if not for the prospect of the GOP stealing those votes (which I find highly unlikely) than for simply losing the votes from our party this November.
On top of this McCain had slowly but surely started to claw his way back towards Obama in the polls this summer, making up for a rather pitiful start after clinching the nomination by hitting the Democrats hard with relentless (and often ludicrous) attack ads and carefully staged reactions to summer events like the issues in Georgia (read my last post for an overview of how absurd that was). And it's because of all this that an awful lot was depending on the Democrats giving a good showing in Denver this summer, when Obama finally made his landmark nomination, the first ever for an African American, official.
Going into this event, the Democrats had one big thing on their side: the complete and utter lunacy of the Republican party. The fact is that there is absolutely no justifiable reason for anyone to still think that the GOP knows what's best for us, and yet they have done a fantastic job of selling themselves to the public, and downsizing their opposition. All the Democrats really needed to do was to clearly and definitively explain why another term for the GOP would be a disaster, and to get enough attention from the people of America so that they would all see it. They had 'reality' on their side, the trouble was making sure everyone could see that.
To this end you have to say they gave a pretty good effort. Spread across 4 days with many many speakers and performers, they weren't all winners, but there was enough substance there, enough style there and enough heart and emotion to make things very very difficult for the GOP in the aftermath of this convention.
We start off with Michelle Obama winning over a nation and showing us exactly what a first lady should be. In this speech she was so top notch that people speculate that this not only pushes Obama's stock up, but indeed gives her own career a push, opening up a path for her to get into politics, and thus cement the Obama family's place amongst Democrat royalty along with the Clintons and the Kennedys.
Even more moving than this was the speech on the same day by Democrat talisman and all time legendary legislator Ted Kennedy making a shock appearance despite his recent surgery and battle with terminal cancer. His doctors advised him not to go, but so strong is his belief in Obama, as it has been since he made the shock endorsement of him over Clinton in the primaries, that nothing was ever going to keep him away, as he vowed to still be there, on the senate floor next January, working under President Obama, touting him as the Kennedy of this generation, that once in a lifetime political figure who can really change things for the better.
So far so good. On the second day it was time to put to bed all the stories of disunity in the party, which Hillary Clinton pulled off perfectly with a fantastic speech in which she fully endorsed Obama and reminded her supporters that anyone who really believed in her wouldn't go and vote for someone with the opposite policies (and in doing so gave the immortal line 'no way, no how, no mccain').
Day 3 saw Bill Clinton give his two cents, to the biggest ovation of any speaker at the dnc. Here is a man who represents success in the Democratic party; someone who had two terms as President and is remembered as one of the best (and lets all remember the 'too inexperienced' jibes the GOP used back then too). Believe you me, if he could run for a third term they'd all vote for him.
Also on that day was the big nomination itself, in which Hillary herself was brilliant in calling for Obama to be nominated by acclamation, rather than go through the roll call of all the delegates. Joe Biden received a similar acclamation as vice president and then proceeded to give his big acceptance speech, which was also very well handled. Biden even went on the attack against McCain which was damn nice to see. The problem the Dems have had so far is taking the high road. GOP uses dirty tactics, and a large portion of America is dumb enough to be impressed by that, like it or not, the Democrats need to do it a little bit too, and so it was nice to see Biden getting his hands dirty (and being far more concerned with little things like facts than mccains attacks!)
This speech was followed by a shock appearance by Obama a day earlier than expected (watch til the end of the speech) to rapturous applause.
Then of course, came the big day. Obama's acceptance day. This will go down as one of the most impressive speeches ever in politics. The entire day was special.
A giant stadium packed to the rafters with 90,000 people; live concert performances from the likes of Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder. Big speeches from the likes of Al Gore and Bill Richardson. Then, at long last after a week of tense build up, with all the pressure of the summer's events resting on him, Obama makes his dramatic appearance to the dulcet chords of U2's 'City of Blinding Lights'.
He followed this with the best speech of his career. And for a man so well renowned for his oratory ability this is saying an awful lot. He simply ticked all the boxes; he went into intense detail over all of his policies to respond to the common (and unfounded) GOP critique that he has no specific policies (which ironically are more detailed and defined than mccains), he healed wounds with old Clinton supporters. He even went on the attack against McCain, letting him and everyone else in the country know that he's ready for battle, sort of a 'bring it on' message, which was very much needed.
It was a breathtaking speech and one which has earned himself unanimous kudos from everyone, democrat and republican alike. Anyone who still has any doubt about what Obama will bring to this country need only watch this speech and all will become clear. It's no wonder he has shot ahead of McCain in the polls again.
Coming up next week is the RNC, will it have a similar effect? I'm sure it'll help the GOP but i doubt it'll be anything like this. For starters they just don't have the funding that the Dems have, despite using the national campaign financing system and taking under the table donations from special interest groups and lobbyists. Secondly they just don't have the support among well known or influential politicians or celebrities to bring a lot of clout or showiness to an event. Lastly just look at the last big event, when McCain gave his victory speech and his numbers in the polls plummeted shortly thereafter (and if you watched that speech i think you can see why).
It's going live in America this weekend. And there was much rejoicing.
Not much else to report today.
Work is still ongoing for the next version, I foresee a fair few key changes coming.
In other news check out my new football shirt, it'll be making it's debut at the Chelsea Spurs game today.
Well my driving lessons are finally over. Whatever happens when I take my test, there is nothing left for an instructor to teach me, and now it is simply a matter of taking it until I pass it (hopefully first time, or so I would expect).
Having been through all this, which has been a bit more of an ordeal than it ideally should have been due to some irritating interruptions as a result of exams and uni, I feel that I am now in a good position to offer a few words of wisdom for anyone still to get their license.
At the end of the day the KEY thing I would say is simply, don't use BSM.
Before I took my lessons I myself was advised to stay away from the big heartless companies and find a nice private instructor, and I bloody well wish I had listened now. Let me tell you why.
The truth of the matter is that a big company like BSM doesn't give a damn about you or passing your tests, they just want your money. As a result they will keep you taking lessons with them as long as is humanly possible, and not express a whole lot of care in aiding your progress.
On top of this they have a truly bizarre payment policy. They charge an extortionate 35 pounds an hour and if you need to cancel or rearrange a lesson you have to call them to give notice at least 3 days in advance, leaving absolutely no room for error with illness or any unexpected commitment. Even if you wake up on the day of your lesson delirious with fever you won't get a refund, they still charge you.
Conversely the exact opposite seems to be true for instructors, they can just not turn up and no action is taken (though you do get refunded for this fortunately!).
All the while the customer service you have to constantly deal with on the phone never treats you with dignity or makes you feel like the consumer. Instead they just sound annoyed every time you have to contact them and completely uninterested in any questions or problems you might have.
And the instructors themselves... well maybe I was just unlucky but I had the experience of two different instructors, one main one and then a substitute for a few days while my main instructor was ill.
My main instructor, to be frank, shouldn't be teaching this sort of thing. It was clear from the start how much of a kick he gets out of creating a real preschool teacher/student relationship. This sort of condescending, incessantly critical behavior might be typical of people trying to teach lazy inter-city 16 year olds with an attitude problem, but in my education, at Eton and now Imperial, I am used to teachers treating you with respect and dignity. I may look like a kid, but no way in hell would I put up with being treated like one, somehow I doubt he adopts this same demeanor with any older students he gets.
Even when I was 16 I wouldn't have put up with this kind of bullshit, and there's no way in hell I'm going to put up with it when i'm doing an optional driving course from someone who clearly just likes being in a position of authority. And it's not even like he's critiquing my driving technique, he would start bollocking me for administrative issues that weren't even anything to do with me; he would give me condescending speeches in a 'how many times do i have to tell you, silly child' tone about things before even asking if i knew the answer beforehand, which normally I did.
Not that he was all bad. In long lessons he would eventually tire of his teacher persona and act like a real person, at which point the lessons were even fun. But time and time again he would go back to his apparent superiority complex and exert his authority just for the fun of it, chastising me incorrectly (and later apologizing) taking the wheel in the middle of the road whenever he changed his mind about what he wanted to do; at one point in a narrow one way road some douchebag in a van was attempting to speed around me over the speed limit, despite the road not being nearly whide enough for that. My instructor responded by having me stop short at a junction and wait there an unnecessarily long time holding up traffic, seemingly just to piss off the guy behind me.
What made it far worse was that when he got in these stupid moods, he would throw completely inane comments my way. For example occasionally I would get a theory question wrong (most often only partially wrong, like forgetting one out of the many things that differentiate different kinds of crossings) and he would respond with an unnecessarily personal put down and actually be pedantic enough to try and get me to rise to the bait and respond, to capitulate to his whim. Eventually I just had to tell him to stop being a child.
My substitute teacher was less vindictive than the main one, but he was just an idiot. The number of times i corrected him during my lessons was staggering. And then there was the time he made me double park on a busy road while he went into mcdonalds to get a burger. With this guy you really could tell that he didn't give a fuck, and was just there to collect a paycheck.
I'm usually pretty positive about the various services I deal with, but as people who remember my incident with eBay back in Easter will recall, i'm not one to lay back and take it when a company has no clue what it's doing. It's almost excusable with eBay, a company which more often than not doesn't have to deal directly with customers, but with BSM that's pretty much all they do, and it's a bit of a disgrace to be perfectly honest.
In conclusion, it got the job done, but don't waste your cash on this, go find a proper teacher. The only benefits you get from BSM is the special guidebooks they send you, but even those you can get in shops now.
song of the day: Take a Chance" by "The Magic Numbers"
thing that makes me smile today: Obama's stunning acceptance speech in front of 90,000 people. picked a great song to go in on as well.
pic of the day:
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
I'm sure most of you have seen this already, but yesterday the brand new update for the iFooty app went live on the iTunes store.
This version adds the basic stats to the league table screen and tightens up certain stability issues we found present in the previous version (of which there weren't many). It is a small update but i'm sure many of you will be happy with it. Rest assured we have a giant update coming up sometime real soon, with some really exciting new features. Stay tuned.
In other news, I am very happy to reveal that at long last, iFooty is going to be made available in the US iTunes store. I have heard from a lot of people asking why it's available everywhere except America and Canada right now, wondering if it would ever come. It has always been on the agenda to release it to everyone who wants it and now, I repeat, iFooty will be made available to American iPhone users, this week.
I am glad to see so many people still enjoying the app, and now anyone in the world who has an iPhone will be able to join in the fun and see the app that reached top spot in the UK in half a week and held on to that place ever since.
In 1995, a company called Westwood changed videogames forever by introducing us to the original Command and Conquer. This game created a genre and years later, the franchise it spawned is still the yardstick against which all other real time strategy games are measured.
The spin off series, Red Alert, arguably has achieved even greater success, with a lighter tone and simpler, more appealing design and backstory; war between the Soviet Union and the Allies. Now, Red Alert is back and (quite possibly) better than ever, in Red Alert 3.
This game brings back the good old formula of absurd action involving bombs, tanks and the odd trained dolphin with lasers attached to their head. Sprinkle in a few camp cutscenes involving big name actors (highlights this time include Jonathan Pryce, George Takei, Tim Curry, Peter Stormare, J K Simmons, and the list goes on) and kick ass lighting fast gameplay.
The first two Red Alert games were classics, and this looks to be even better, now bringing to the table multiplayer co-op campaigns, which are all the rage in videogames these days. This on top of the already kick ass multiplayer skirmishes should offer a formidably long lifespan.
Also coming to join in the fun this time is a brand new faction, the Empire of the Rising Sun. By now I'm sure you're getting bored with the Soviets and Allies blowing the crap out of each other, and so to remedy this, EA games have brought in this new faction, hailing from the far east.
It carries a very distinct anime style with robots and funky weapons. One of the characters even seems to be a japanese schoolgirl. You can bet your ass you won't hear me complaining. I just hope it all comes off a bit better than Yuri's 3rd faction last time around, which i was not too keen on to be honest.
So what does this mean for you? Seriously awesome multiplayer, some kick ass campaigns, and several months of me randomly interjecting soviet soundbytes into my vocabulary like 'affirmative', 'move out' and 'for mother russia!'. be afraid.
The game comes out October 28th, this is one to watch my friends.
In recent days political pundits will have noticed the polls indicating a tighter and tighter race for the presidency. Indeed right now the Republican party is celebrating the fact that they are now only a little bit behind Obama (something which seems to say a lot about the state of the Republican party itself!).
Theories abound for why this might be the case, but one idea which has been continually sledgehammered into our minds is the notion of 'experience' and how John McCain is better equipped to lead our country and deal with foreign affairs than his opponent. A reasonable point on a superficial level, but one which makes little sense upon analysis.
One of the most obvious things that comes to mind in consideration of this thought is why hasn't this ever been an issue before? No one seemed to care about Bush Jr's lack of high level experience when he ran for President. Similarly Bill Clinton didn't suffer for his 'inexperience', despite being even younger than Obama when he first ran for President. In fact Clinton ended up being one of the better President's in recent times.
The fact is that this is just a slur that is being pushed by the Republican mud slingers (which at last count made up about 95% of the Republican party's campaign efforts) for the simple reason that McCain doesn't have a whole lot else to brag about. He is one of the least exceptional candidates we have had in many many years and, faced against an inspirational opponent in Barack Obama, has been forced to clutch for straws to find something to base his campaign on.
But forgetting this, even if we do decide that 'experience' is a crucial part of the job, what kind of experience are we actually talking about?
Is it McCain's knowledge of foreign politics and history? Quite frankly there must be thousands of university graduates out there with as much expertise on the subject as John 'Wayne' McCain. How has his first hand real life experience helped him?
Let's not forget that McCain has been wrong on Iraq every step of the way. Not just in his hilariously incorrect assertion that Iraq shares a border with Pakistan. Not just in his essay on Iraq, that was Rejected by the New York Times. McCain was wrong to support the Iraq war in the first place, when Obama was brave enough to stand against it; and more recently his continued rejection of an Iraq timetable has been called into more and more criticism as Obama's set timetable has been embraced, first by the Iraqi Government itself, and then even bythe Republican party's own BUSH ADMINISTRATION. One has to wonder indeed, will McCain still refer to a timetable as 'defeat'? Of course he won't, because as time goes on McCain is more and more shifting his policy on iraq to match Obama's.
Even more disturbing than his complete lack of capacity to deal with Iraq is his recent response to the crisis in Georgia. Georgia started off matters by attacking and killing masses of civilians in the breakaway South Ossetia region, formerly a part of Georgia. Russia ran in to defend the area, then took things much too far by pushing into Georgia as retaliation.
The difference in each candidate's response to this matter is vast. Obama as far back as a year ago warned of the unstable nature of the region and the possible fallout that might ensue from a Georgian invasion of South Ossetia. He recognized the complicated nature of the situation this summer as well as Georgia began their onslaught and Russia retaliated. This was a measured and intelligent response showing awareness of the political dilemma in the region.
By contrast, McCain released all his pent up frustration from the cold war (he even made the cold war a focus of his speech) by unleashing his vitriol and fire at the Russians, painting them as the big evil in the world and claiming Georgia were the 'voice of democracy' in Asia and suddenly our best friends as a result. This of course had nothing to do with McCain's personal friendship with the president of Georgia. Then again this isn't the first time the Republicans have tried to use personal motives to spur us on to conflict with another nation. On top of this McCain's claim that Russia were the initial aggressors demonstrates that either he's getting his news from the Georgia propaganda network or that he was simply unaware of the breakaway nature of the region. If all this wasn't enough it has recently been revealed that McCain plagiarized his speech from Wikipedia which goes down as one of the funniest gaffes he has yet come up with.
While Obama had the foresight to warn us about this catastrophie months ago, McCain had to trawl wikipedia for basic information on the country he pretended to be so passionate about supporting. Is this the benefit of 'experience'?
All in all I think we can be thankful that McCain was not president during these proceedings, Lord knows what might have happened with such wild and unrestrained escalation between the American and Russian governments. Let's just hope we don't ever have to find out.
The White House has disagreed with him. Our allies have disagreed with him. He has been wrong time and time again on all foreign issues in recent times. Next time he tries to tell us about all his 'experience', just remember that all he really has is experience of being wrong.
song of the day: "You Said" by "Semifinalists"
thing that makes me smile today: iFooty topping the charts on the iTunes app store.
pic of the day:
Red Alert 3
Command & Conquer 3
Saturday, 23 August 2008
A revolutionary departure for the super hero genre. The 'Citizen Kane' of super hero stories. Taking the genre to a 'whole new level'. These sound like phrases that you've heard recently describing the Dark Knight?
Well they could well do. As everyone knows now, the Dark Knight has come along and been an absolutely massive hit. It has changed the way people look at super hero movies and made the type of camp schlock that characterizes the recent spiderman and superman movies simply obsolete in the genre. Make no mistake, movies like that will still be made, but they will now be looked at not as the forefront of super hero or comic book movies, but in the same light that we look at uninspired efforts in other genres, like the seriously unnecessary Evan Almighty.
But despite the (well deserved) kudos being heaped upon this movie this summer, these are all things that have been said before in a similar context.
Watchmen was a graphic novel by Alan Moore, who also did V for Vendetta and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It was written in the 80's at a time when the super hero comicbook genre was feared to be coming to a standstill. People were tired of the same old stuff; paragon heroes running around in camp and colorfully impractical outfits saving the world from largely one dimensional villains. Something was needed to come and re-invigorate the genre, bring something fresh to the table.
That something was Watchmen. This was a comic book which defied conventions and introduced a conflicted and refreshingly grey world. Where super heroes are depicted as real people with their own personal and ethical issues, their own neuroses and failings, and indeed who don't even have any real super powers (except for one of them). In addition to an intelligent deconstruction of the 'hero' archetype, the graphic novel is imbued with innovative use of symbolism and multi-layered dialogue that would make any of the finest authors proud.
In the end, Watchmen is the only graphic novel to win a Hugo Award, and the only graphic novel to have been included in Time Magazine's top 100 English language novels of all time. So why hasn't it been made into a movie yet? Simply because it was deemed to ambitious. Indeed many have tried, and all eventually failed.
This is finally about to change now though. Zack Snyder, the director of 300 (which was not my cup of tea but you can't flaw the artistic direction) is bringing Watchmen to the big screen next year, and it looks fucking amazing.
Did you like the Dark Knight? 99/100 of you will have said yes to that. It was intelligent, multi-layered and thought provoking. This is the comic book that started all that though, did it all before 20 years ago, and many in the media are now expecting big things from the cinema adaption, and even those who as recently as last month praised Dark Knight as a one in a million film are tipping this to give it a run for its money.
This film has 'win' written all over it, and if you have any doubt check out the trailer here: Watchmen Trailer. Quite frankly one of the best trailers I've ever seen.
Goodness me what a week. iFooty has gone online and started downloading, just in time for the new season (no thanks to Apple taking their time with it, bless em) and it has been received pretty well, which is nice to see. In fact we've gone on to take the number 1 spot after just 4 days.
That's all well and good, but to be honest I didn't co-create this app just to get downloads, I really did it because I needed an app like this! As it turns out, so did a lot of other people. I'm glad so many people are enjoying something I helped create.
On top of this there have been a lot of comments and emails about people saying they can't believe it's free and they would have spent money on it. I'm not fussed though, I'd happily do this for free, it's a great app which can help a lot of people.
Not going to comment on plans for the future, except to say that work is being done on new features (some of which I had been pushing to get in the initial release, which I am now very pleased to be finishing up). Version 1.0.1 should be ready soon, it's only a small update though, the killer features are coming in 1.1, oh and it's going to be released in the US store any day now...
In other news I now have a LOT more free time after this week, which is bloody fantastic. It means i'll be able to get a lot done in other matters. Looking forward to getting back into my writing, look out for excerpts that I might post here at some point soon.
y'all have a great weekend :)
Yes it's true that I am a Chelsea fan. But similarly I think anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that last season I was our staunchest critic. Even early in the season I was vocal about how craply it was all going and I was very pleasantly surprised by our strong end to the season.
However I am very happily starting this season with a different view. I was pretty optimistic about our chances under new manager Scolari, and cautiously apprehensive about the expensive signing of Bosingwa and the rather risky purchase of Deco, a player many had considered to be over the hill; but I still felt we might give a good account of ourselves this season. But I certainly wasn't prepared for that first match.
I've always been a vocal critic of all the hacks in the media who call Chelsea boring and say we can't play exciting football. To be frank we're just like United in that we sometimes play good football and sometimes sit back and counter attack (it's funny how when United do it, counter attacking is 'sexy football' and when we do it it's a negative tactic).
But even I have to admit that I have never seen Chelsea play like we did against Portsmouth. So full of confidence, gelling perfectly, accurate and quick passing, it was an incredible joy to watch. That we have settled in so quickly is nothing short of a miracle from Scolari, and against a very very good side in Portsmouth as well (last season's FA cup winners)
Compare this to Arsenal's and Liverpool's rather soggy and lame openers against poor opposition and United dropping points in a display that reminds us just how mediocre they really are without Ronaldo. It bodes well for the season ahead and will be interesting to watch.
Meanwhile John Terry kept his place as England Captain. And this apparently was a massive 'shock' to the footballing world. To be honest though the only people I know who are shocked by it are people who know nothing about football and just get their opinions from the tabloids, and to be honest that's all that this is.
The media has generally been quite quick to heap fawning praise on United in recent times and so it should come as no shock when they start pushing Rio for England captain upon us. In fact at no point did Capello or anyone else involved with England ever say a single thing to back up this notion that Rio was a cert for the captaincy. This was pretty much just a campaign started by the media in the misguided hope that they could pressure and influence Capello to appoint the person that they wanted to be captain.
I think Capello has known for a while now that Terry would be his choice, they're honestly not comparable as a captain. Rio has never been a good example on or off the pitch as a person, and he's certainly not the best man motivator and does he look like someone with a great tactical brain? To be honest Gerrard would have been a way better choice for captain, as would Lampard, Wayne Rooney (if he could control his temper) and Beckham. Fortunately Capello is a very smart man, and managed to keep Terry as captain, whilst appeasing the average punter with Rio as vice captain.
For any of you out there who don't like this appointment, or his decision to keep Lampard in the England team, just remember that Capello has never been one to make 'popular' decisions, and he's always been proven right before...
song of the day: "Wham City" by "Dan Deacon"
thing that makes me smile today: iFooty topping the charts on the iTunes app store.
pic of the day:
All subsequent super hero media til Dark Knight
Monday, 18 August 2008
Since the iPhone application store launched there has been massive interest in becoming 'the next big hit' in a medium that has warranted high levels of attention from all corners of the media.
I have previewed many of these apps and even wrote a piece on them the day after the store opened a few weeks ago.
However, for the first time now I have an app for you that has me really, really excited. It's an app that I have no doubt will elicit equal levels of intrigue in many of my compatriots. iFooty. The first football (soccer) app on iTunes and the only app that I find myself using over and over every single day.
This app is for every single football fan out there. It accumulates all the information you need in one place and displays it all with elegance and panache. What's more, it's completely 100% free.
With this app you can choose any team from the four main English leagues and the Scottish premier league and from the app's homepage you will then see complete fixtures lists, results lists, get live match updates courtesy of the bbc, and an rss news feed that's updated in real time as the news gets reported, straight to your iPhone.
If you love football, you need this app. If you have even a vague interest in football, you need this app. This is only version 1.0, stay tuned for future updates with exciting new features and expanded coverage.
Well it's that joyful time of year again. After a long and boring summer spent checking the gossip columns every five minutes to see what new and exciting developments were being made in the world of football (spoiler alert: there weren't any) the new football season is upon us. And it may seem cliché to say, but this one really does look to be one of the closest and most exciting in years.
In this guide we preview each and every team, run the rule over their key signings and players to watch and then fill you in on our carefully considered predictions for the season ahead.
Nickname: The Gunners
Ground: Emirates Stadium
Position last season: Third
Manager: Arsene Wenger (September 1996)
It seems every year Arsenal is on the verge of collapse. All the big name players, formally Wenger's young 'wonder kids' who were tipped to form a world beating team, leave for pastures greener and more trophy filled. However despite this, last season they emerged as early leaders and even a few of us at one point or another considered whether they might just be able to keep it going... which they didn't.
They have brought in a number of new players to replace the depletion of an already thin squad. Do they have what it takes? Can wenger keep them all together this time? You can forgive Arsenal fans for being less than optimistic.
Key Signing: Samir Nasri
Key Man: Cesc Fabregas
Verdict: Are sure to have bright moments here and there, but don't look to have the talent or depth of their main rivals. Will probably still qualify for the champions league, but shouldn't expect more.
Nickname: The Villans
Ground: Villa Park
Last season: Sixth
Manager: Martin O'Neill (August 2006)
Certainly an impressive showing from Villa last season, but faltered in the latter stages of the season and particularly against big opposition.
They have signed well in Cuellar and Sidwell and there is no reason they can't reach similar levels this season.
Key Signing: Carlos Cuellar
Key Man: Gareth Barry
Verdict: Should push for europe but don't expect an infringement on the big four just yet.
Ground: Ewood Park
Last season: Seventh
Manager: Paul Ince (June 2008)
Good to see Incey up and about, but he has some big shoes to fill after Mark Hughes departed for Manchester City. He has still inherited a decent team with a very classy striker up front in Roque Santa Cruz. The lost of Bentley was inevitable.
Having not strengthened much this summer I would not expect Blackburn to reach the level they were at last season.
Key Signing: Paul Robinson
Key Man: Roque Santa Cruz
Verdict: Incey will need time to settle into the job, this year won't be that year but next season they could well find themselves competing for Europe again.
Ground: Reebok Stadium
Last season: 16th
Manager: Gary Megson (October 2007)
Quite fortunate to escape last season, with both Reading and Birmingham probably being as good if not better than Bolton, but credit to them they pulled it off.
They have also invested well this summer with Johan Elmander, but I wouldn't expect that to propel them any higher than a relegation tussle.
Key Signing: Johan Elmander
Key Man: Johan Elmander
Verdict: Could go down, will almost certainly have to struggle to stay in the league, of the five or six teams fighting around relegation this season expect Bolton to be one of them.
Ground: Stamford Bridge
Last season: 2nd
Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari (July 2008)
Well, where to begin. After a very interesting summer, Chelsea have invested shrewdly in some great talent in Bosingwa and Deco and appointed one of the best managers in the world in 'Big Phil' Scolari. On top of this Scolari has been charming his way into the hearts of media all over the world with his straight talking modesty and wit.
Further more the team strolled their way through pre-season scoring 19 goals and conceding just 1, culminating in a 5-0 demolition of Italian super giants AC Milan. On paper, what could possibly stop this from being a walkover?
Well for starters people will still not like Chelsea. People don't realize that it has nothing to do with player conduct, humility, fair play, sexy football, money or anything else. Chelsea being hated has simply worked its way into the national psychy and it will stay there for a while. For starters remember that the majority of the country hates London in general, and the majority of football fans hates anyone who challenges the authority of the old guard Liverpool and Man U. On top of this there's the fact that football has simply exploded in recent years and there are a whole load of silly newbie football fans (like my old flatmate) who clearly have only been following football for this long, and so have no experience of following football without hating chelsea, or from back in the day when man u or arsenal were hated more.
Key Signing: Deco
Key Man: Frank Lampard
Verdict: At the end of the day, the key thing from last season is that Chelsea were equal with United, despite not playing particularly well, and despite heavy squad losses and a mid season managerial change... with a season of stability and competent management ahead, who knows what might happen...
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Ground: Goodison Park
Last season: Fifth
Manager: David Moyes (March 2002)
For a number of years now Everton have been punching way above their weight, despite having little money and a constant exodus of their big players. This all serves as a testament to Moyes's management skills.
However there is only so far he can take them and I think that limit has been reached unless some heavy investment is put into the club from outside sources. On top of this there have been no new arrivals and some key departures.
Key Signing: n/a
Key Man: Tim Cahill
Verdict: Pushing for champions league a few seasons ago, pushing for the uefa cup last season, likely to finish mid table this year.
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Ground: Craven Cottage
Last season: 17th
Manager: Roy Hodgson (December 2007)
Another unlikely escape from last season, mostly down to Hodgson's wily management. The question is, was his effect simply the traditional 'new manager' euphoria or is there more to come this year? we shall see.
Their big signing of the summer is definitely Everton goal poacher Andy Johnson, formally of Crystal Palace, formally of England.
Key Signing: Andy Johnson
Key Man: Andy Johnson
Verdict: Could also struggle this year, will do well to pull above a relegation scrap.
Ground: KC Stadium
Last season: Promoted (Championship play-off winners)
Manager: Phil Brown (December 2006)
I imagine I was probably not the only football fan to get goosebumps watching the playoff final last season. Hull gained entry to the premiership for the first time in their history, and who was it other than 40 year old local boy Windass who put them there.
It was a truly romantic footballing story and the stuff of legends but they will have a hell of a fight on to stay here this season.
Key Signing: Anthony Gardner
Key Man: Boaz Myhill
Verdict: Everyone's favorites for the drop. With the heart this club have shown I reckon it could be closer than people expect, depending on how long the euphoria of being in the big time can last with them.
Last season: Fourth
Manager: Rafael Benitez (June 2004)
Every year it's the same old story. Soppy old nostalgics on tv, mostly old Liverpool players, pine about the good old days when Liverpool were the best club in the world some 20 years ago and how THIS season will finally be the season where they recapture old glories.
It's startling, it really is. Benitez has done a good job and brought some good success to the club but he has yet to show that he has the tactical nuance to see a team successfully through a premiership campaign. People talk about the wonders that new signing Robbie Keane will bring to the club in a boost for silverware, but frankly, in a team with Gerrard and Torres, Robbie Keane is NOT going to make the difference.
Key Signing: err... Robbie Keane
Key Man: Fernando Torres
Verdict: Will push further and harder and likely overtake Arsenal but unlikely to trouble the other two, depending on how United bounce back from their summer difficulties.
Ground: City of Manchester Stadium
Last season: Ninth
Manager: Mark Hughes (June 2008)
Christ. Replacing Chelsea and Newcastle as the premier soap opera of the league, stand up Manchester City! Thaskin Sinawatra has a warrant for his arrest, his assets are frozen, Mark Hughes preparing to walk out already? it's all going a bit pear shaped for them, which is a shame as they have some decent players.
They have also made their record signing in young Brazilian Jo, remains to be seen if he can live up to such billing though.
Key Signing: Jo
Key Man: Elano
Verdict: Even with good players and a good manager they are likely to be very distracted by the off the pitch shenanigans, like what plagued chelsea and newcastle in recent years.
Nickname: Red Devils
Ground: Old Trafford
Last season: Champions
Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson (November 1986)
Champions of England, champions of Europe. There's not much more you can say about this team. Sure their devotion to 'attacking' football might be a bit of a media myth from a team that so expertly uses the long ball/counter attack playbook, but no one can deny that it is effective. On top of this they have two of the best players in the world in Rooney and Ronaldo.
The problem? Not so many summer signings to speak of, and to be frank the team looks a bit mediocre without Ronaldo. They have to improve upon last season if they want to win again, but so far it looks like they may achieve the opposite.
Key Signing: none yet...
Key Man: Ronaldo
Verdict: Sure to be there or there abouts at the end of the year but really need one or two more quality signings. the likes of nani, anderson and park simply wont make up for any injury that might befall ronaldo or rooney.
Ground: Riverside Stadium
Last season: 13th
Manager: Gareth Southgate (June 2006)
Southgate has done a very good job at boro and continues to do so. He has brought in very decent players like Tuncay, Mido and Alves and could well make a good push into mid table this year.
Youngster Emnes has been tipped for big things too having been signed in July.
Key Signing: Emnes
Key Man: Alfonso Alves
Verdict: Likely to stay around where they were last season but could push a place or two higher.
Ground: St James' Park
Last season: 12th
Manager: Kevin Keegan (January 2008)
After the ridiculous shenanigans last season, Kevin Keegan did very well to come back in and stabilise the boat. He has done much to revitalize this Newcastle team and could well try and push on for better things this season. His big problem will be that his other fellow mid tablers have also improved and I don't think they have enough about them to really worry any of the higher up clubs. A lot will depend on the fitness of Owen.
Keegan has signed well this summer, including Jonas Gutierrez, a flair player much in the mold of Asprilla and Ginola who were previous Keegan signings way back when.
Key Signing: Jonas Gutierrez
Key Man: Michael Owen
Verdict: If all players (owen) are fit they could push high in the mid table and maybe even europe. in all likelihood though they will just end up mid table as usual.
Ground: Fratton Park
Last season: Eighth
Manager: Harry Redknapp (December 2005)
Seriously. Harry has done a hell of a job at Pompey. He has taken them from premiership newboys to a seriously decent club near the top of the table, pushing for Europe. This is an amazing transformation and a testament to his skill. On top of this he went on to win the FA cup last season, the cherry on the cake.
He could well do similarly well this season with the players at his disposal. A striking pair of Crouch and Defoe could well turn out to be inspired signing. This in addition to a brilliant defensive base with David James, Sol Campbell and Glen Johnson makes them a very capable outfit.
Key Signing: Peter Crouch
Key Man: David James
Verdict: Could equal last season's efforts, might even push higher.
Ground: Britannia Stadium
Last season: Promoted (second in the Championship)
Manager: Tony Pulis (June 2006)
Stoke are big and strong, and performed very well last season. However I think a lack of quality will be their undoing this year.
They have signed well this summer, with Kitson being a good player who will work his socks off for the team.
Key Signing: Dave Kitson
Key Man: Dave Kitson
Verdict: Likely to be let down by a lack of quality and a lack of heart, predicted bottom dwellers this year.
Nickname: Black Cats
Ground: Stadium of Light
Last season: 15th
Manager: Roy Keane (August 2006)
Much has been said of Roy Keane at Sunderland and there is no doubt that at times he impressed last season, despite a distinct lack of quality about the team. This season however he has done some very good strengthening of the side, with proven premiership players Chimbonda, Malbranque and Diouf joining last season's mid season signing of Kieron Richardson
Key Signing: El Hadji Diouf
Key Man: El Hadji Diouf
Verdict: Will survive again this year and might push a bit higher than last season's 15th. A good mid table finish will cement their premier league status.
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Ground: White Hart Lane
Last season: 11th
Manager: Juande Ramos (October 2007)
A LOT is expected of Tottenham this season. A lot was expected of them last season after pushing for the champions league in the previous two seasons. However it never came to pass. Since then we have seen a change in management and a large injection of cash, the end result being the Spurs spent more this summer than any other club on the likes of Modric, Dos Santos and Bentley.
If all this investment fails to pay off it will be a disaster.
Key Signing: Luka Modric
Key Man: Ledley King
Verdict: Should push for Europe or better, any less will be a failure, I wouldn't put that past them though, they are Spurs after all.
Last season: Promoted (Championship champions)
Manager: Tony Mowbray (October 2006)
Played some good football last season, won the championship, runners up in the fa cup. However they don't really have much in the way of goal scoring players and that will be their undoing.
In Scott Carson they now have a very dependable goalkeeper.
Key Signing: Scott Carson
Key Man: Luke Moore
Verdict: Could survive, they will have to work hard and pull some goals out of somewhere but they have a capable team for a newly promoted side.
WEST HAM UNITED
Ground: Upton Park
Last season: 10th
Manager: Alan Curbishley (December 2006)
All the drama of previous seasons has settled down, and not so much is expected of them anymore. However last season they can reasonably claim pity for the number of injuries that hampered their progress. It will be interesting to see how they fare without similar problems this year.
Much is expected from new Swiss signing Behrami
Key Signing: Valon Behrami
Key Man: Dean Ashton
Verdict: With some luck when it comes to injuries they will almost certainly improve upon the last two seasons.
Ground: JJB Stadium
Last season: 14th
Manager: Steve Bruce (November 2007)
Did well to avoid relegation last season. Have money and a good manager. But a lack of real quality, probably will be in the relegation battle this season.
Key Signing: Amr Zaky
Key Man: Emile Heskey
Verdict: Will fight for their right to stay in the prem. good luck is all i can say.
In the August 15 Journal of Biological Chemistry, Robert Friedland and colleagues have published studies demonstrating that a virus which commonly infects potatoes may offer a novel approach to developing any future vaccine for Alzheimer's.
There have been previous, promising, attempts to create antibodies to the amyloid beta protein, a key protein in Alzheimer's disease. Studies in mice have shown that vaccinations with the protein can slow disease onset and improve cognitive abilities.
There have been a few early human trials which have shown themselves to be equally promising, resulting in promoted plaque destruction in patients, but the treatment was deemed to carry too much of a risk of an autoimmune reaction and has been halted.
It has been proposed that one answer to this problem would be to find a protein very similar in structure to the human version but not similar enough to provoke such a reaction, in much the same fashion as the smallpox virus is developed.
Now it has been shown that vaccines developed for a similar protein in Potato virus can also be effective against amyloid beta plaques in Alzheimer's patients. This virus is a fairly common virus that poses no threat to humans.
While future tests are required to show just how effective such treatment can be, this is still a highly promising lead in treatment of Alzheimer's.
If I haven't been the most reachable person in the world recently... well that's just your tough luck, i'll get back to you in a week.
Been in Italy, perfect holiday with painfully hot weather and plenty of peace and solitude to allow me time to reflect and ponder all situations great and small.
There was also a lot of booze and debauchery and the world's biggest, most prestigious 'prosecco pong' tournament, which I did very well in to reach a dramatic and well fought final, very reminiscent of the recent epic Wimbledon final.
It gave me time to think about what is really important, and carefully consider my future. Right now I do not know where I will be in a few months time, what I will be doing or who will be near and dear to me in my life. I don't even know what I want to be the answers to those questions anymore. I went on a very interesting date recently before I went away to Italy, which was fun, really sweet girl, but there was something missing, and that's the way it's been most of the time recently. Maybe I should give it another chance...
I'll see you all in a week's time, might even write up some reviews of my time in Italy, as per tradition.