Lazarus Rokk had an article entitled "When soccer can be better than sex" in the sports section of today's NST. The column is about the Real-United match and is, as can be expected from the title, filled with sexual innuendo.
Personally, I didn't think the match was as satisfying as sex. If United had progressed to the semi-finals then yeah, it probably would have been as satisfying as sex. Hell, it would have been as satisfying as sex with the entire Swedish Bikini Team.
Some additional thoughts on Medieval: Total War:
Snakas has pictures of the upcoming Ultra Small Transformers line taken at Superfestival 28. These are tiny versions of G1 toys that actually transform. The figures are priced at 380 yen and are expected to be released in June.
The only downside to them seems to be they're packed randomly in identical-looking packages. You won't have any idea what figure you'll be getting until you open it. I hate that. I don't want to buy an entire carton to be assured of getting the one figure I want.
Stupid marketing scheme.
The Iraqi people will have a democracy. But it will be the type of democracy the US approves of.
... pants on fire. I just had to tweak it.
And it gets worse.
I had promised to stop publishing new versions of this digi-doodle but I just couldn't help myself.
(Here are other versions of the above picture: 1, 2, 3, 4.)
I think I'm done now.
Interesting factoids about the 2002/2003 season:
Naturally, United winning the Premiership isn't a foregone conclusion. If there's anything to learn from this season's amazing turnarounds and surprise results, it's that you should never count your chickens before they hatch.
Beloit College has a list highlighting the generation gap by showing us old fogeys what the younger generation -- specifically, the class of 2002 don't think much about.
Like most of these types of lists, the entries tend to be generalised -- it isn't representative of every individual of the Class of 2002, of course -- but it's an interesting read, I think.
Some excerpts with my comments in italics:
It's more likely "Atari" will remind them of the software label under which Infogrammes published games like Neverwinter Nights rather than the console.
Ah, the remote control. The second greatest invention. The first would be the Mute button on the remote control. The third greatest invention would be the optical mouse. No more messing around with dirty mouse balls.
I'm so fashion-unconscious -- I'm currently modelling shorts from the Spring 1997 collection from the Paramount Garden pasar malam -- I have no idea what Jordache jeans even are.
The BBC has started a "Beckham to Real?" watch here.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said that he is willing to serve another term as chairman. He then added, "Of course I would, where else am I going to find a job in this economy?”
Another sign the economy isn’t doing well: Plastic surgery is down 12 percent this year. Twelve percent fewer people are getting plastic surgery. That’s what they mean when they say the economy could turn ugly.
It was announced today that on May 29, President Bush is going to host his 35th class reunion from Yale at the White House. This is every "C” student’s dream come true - to go back to your class reunion as the president! "You’re making plans for the reunion? You wanna have it at my place? I think everybody knows where it is, it’s called the White House."
The campaign is not yet over but speculation about the rebuilding process has already begun.
United have still got the Premiership to play for -- the Mancunians lead by 5 points but there still could be a twist left in the tale -- but most of the UK media aren't interested in that minor detail.
They're falling over themselves trying to figure out who Ferguson is going to bring in to replace Beckham. Apparently, they've already decided Beckham's departure to Real Madrid in the close season is a given.
Will Ferguson opt to sell Beckham? The manager could get 30-plus million pounds for the superstar midfielder which Ferguson could then use to buy a defender, a defensive midfielder and a partner for van Nistelrooy.
The club is currently making a bundle from sales of jerseys bearing Beckham's name. I can't see the money men at the club giving that up easily.
And finding a replacement for Beckham isn't going to be easy or cheap. Solskjaer is a decent replacement but he isn't the regular service-provider Beckham is.
I think it's more likely Ferguson will offload Giggs to Inter. Giggs is now 30 and his primary asset, his speed, is only going to depreciate in the next few years. Ferguson has been playing Giggs in a more central role this season but I don't think it has been paying off as well as Ferguson hoped it would.
Ferguson will have to get a replacement for Keane as well. United need someone to slam home those tackles and prevent the opposing playmakers from dominating the midfield. Keane isn't covering as much ground as he used to.
Some folks think United will make an outrageous 40 million pound bid for Patrick Vieira. Impossible? Perhaps. This isn't the first time United have been linked with Vieira. He would make the perfect replacement for Keane and Arsenal do need the cash since they've embarked on an ambitious stadium-building effort.
The BBC's Phil McNulty is more down-to-earth with his predictions. He expects the departures to include Barthez and Blanc (no surprise, Blanc wanted to retire last season) with Beckham rated a probable if the price was right.
McNulty expects the new signings to include Leeds' keeper, Paul Robinson, and his teammate, Harry Kewell, as well as West Ham's Jermain Defoe.
I'd agree about Barthez. The Frenchman can be brilliant with his shot-stopping but is far too erratic and inconsistent not to mention injury-prone. The highly-rated Robinson would make an ideal long-term replacement.
And Kewell would be the perfect replacement for Giggs if Ferguson chooses to go that route.
Q: What is the meaning of "give birth"?
A: Bagi burung.
Ah, search engine misdirects.
They're often a source of exasperation. Still, once I got past the requests for nude pictures of cartoon characters, there were some genuinely intriguing search engine misdirects.
Here's the most intriguing recent misdirect by a search engine to this site:
By "tit", I'm going to go out on a limb and assume the person who submitted that search engine term wasn't looking for a type of small insectivorous bird.
Side note: The above link provides one of the best lines I've read today:
It's not common for any tit too be so trusting of people that they sit on your hand.
But this brings up a question: What did the user who entered that term into the search engine hope the tit in question would morph into? A picture of Mount Everest? A picture of Jabba the Hutt? A picture of a type of small insectivorous bird?
For what it's worth, this one was was from the German edition of Google
nude heard rockers pix
What does that mean? How does one even begin to decipher that? Is that a request for nude pictures of listeners of rock? Is that a request for stories of rockers' pictures one may have heard while one was nude?
This one was from Malaysia:
share tmnet password
United managed to beat Keller finally. Paul Scholes got the first goal in the 68th minute and that man van Nistelrooy got the second in the 90th minute.
The first half of the Spurs-United match has just ended with score still 0-0. That's remarkable considering how United-Spurs matches tend to be goal fiestas. Who could forget that incredible 5-3 victory last season? United were down 0-3 at half time but bounced back in one of football's greatest revivals to score five goals.
Anyway, back to this match. Soccernet's live commentary describes the first half thus:
The story of the first half has been the duel between van Nistelrooy and Keller - one guilty perhaps of some errant finishing, the other of some excellent stops
United cannot afford to slip up. They need to win this one to ensure they remain in the driving seat. Anything less than a win means United will have to go back to hoping Arsenal slip up again.
United have 45 minutes to seal this win.
I downloaded Proxomitron 4.4 today. Surfing will never be the same again. It will be faster and less filled with hassles.
Now, I love my main browser, Phoenix 0.5, and its abilities to kill pop-ups and block images. But it isn't perfect. There are annoyances on web sites out there that Phoenix can't handle effectively.
Enter the Proxomitron.
(Sounds like the title of a Transformers episode, right?)
I've only been using it for a few hours but I can already tell this small app will be indispensable.
Setting it up was rather easy. You launch the 1.4MB installer and 1.7MB worth of files get dumped on your hard disk.
Next, you have to change the settings on your browser. F'rinstance, to get Proxomitron to work with Phoenix I had to change the proxy setting -- it's under "Connection" in the Preferences menu -- to "localhost" at port 8080.
And I was good to go.
Well, I went and noticed the difference immediately.
Unlike Phoenix, which downloads pop-ups and the blocked images but doesn't display them, Proxomitron doesn't allow the filtered objects to be downloaded at all. This translates into a faster surfing session as pages are rendered quicker. When you're surfing with a 56K modem connection like I am, any increase of speed is welcome..
I should point out Proxomitron isn't the most intuitive of apps to use. Learning how to make full use of the filtering techniques is going to take a bit of time. The tradeoff here is it's one of the most configurable programs around. You can filter out just about everything from everywhere.
Proxomitron's default rulesets are pretty good, though. It managed to filter out the Flash ads on Gone Gold -- something Phoenix couldn't handle. That page loads much faster now.
However, there are some pages which you might not want filtered.
F'rinstance, I had configured Proxomitron to be quite strict with its filters with the result being I couldn't even see the comments and counter on my own page. Major problem? Hell, no. All I had to do was add this site to the Bypass list. This excludes this page from Proxomitron's filtering. Nifty, eh?
The price of this powerful program?
Most intriguing misdirect to this site by Google recently:
boutros-ghali action figure
Arsenal blew a golden opportunity to take over at the top. They put themselves in a precarious position by only managing a 2-2 draw against Bolton.
This means United now have at two-point lead over Arsenal with both teams having played 35 matches. There are only three matches left. A United win at Tottenham today would turn the screws on Arsenal even further.
With everyone focusing on SARS, most Malaysians seem to have to forgotten there's a dengue outbreak that still hasn't been brought under control. Two of my neighbours were hit in the past month. And my next door neighbour was hospitalised two days ago.
There seems to be zero coverage about the mosquito-borne disease in the papers now. It's yesterday's news except to folks like us who are living with the threat.
As an addendum to my earlier entry about Takara's financial year, it appears the 48 per cent increase in consolidated profits cited in that news report was an anticipated figure. You can check out Yahoo Japan's Research page for Takara with the Lycos translator.
Bah. I've got a problem with the site and I can't figure out what's causing it.
Hate when that happens.
The probem? The formatting for the March and April archives seems to be out of whack. But only when I browse that page with OB1. Here's what the April archive page looks like in OB1:
I don't have problems viewing that page in either Phoenix 0.5 or IE 5.5/6.0. This is what the page looks like in Phoenix:
That's how it's supposed to look like.
The weird thing is the archive pages are generated automatically and the archives for the other months display just fine in OB1.
Weirder still, the page displays just fine if I were to reduce the size of the font through OB1.
I initially thought the problem was being caused by dodgy user-added HTML code but wouldn't that affect Phoenix and IE as well? Is it an OB1 error? Is OB1 having trouble with the size of that page?
I even switched from monthly archives from weekly archives in an attempt to isolate the problem but the formatting problem doesn't show up in the weekly archives.
Anyway, I'd appreciate it if you could send a comment my way if that page's formatting looks wacky in your browser of choice.
I tweaked and replaced the last picture of Kenshin I did. The left shoulder was bugging me and it's less awkward-looking now.
It was another surprising episode.
I didn't think Alex would be the one voted out. But thanks to a switch by Rob, the gloating Alex discovered he was the 10th survivor loser.
The episode started with the dominant alliance of Alex, Jenna, Heidi and Rob revelling in their supremacy. They sat idly by and watched worker bees Matthew, Butch and Christy do the chores.
Rob saw the arrogance of this. However, he didn't make a move until Alex foolishly confided to him that come the final four, Alex would be voting for him.
Meanwhile, the Reward Challenge saw the survivors bid for food items followed by letters from home. There was stirring, heart-tugging music as Jenna tearfully lost her first bid to get a letter from home and again later when she did win her letter. The reason she was so upset was she had revealed earlier her mother has a tumour.
Think about this.
This only child, who said she prefers to stay at home with her parents, left her seriously-ill mother to go on a game show.
Apparently, no one actually asked Jenna why she left her sick mother. Or maybe someone did ask that obvious question and it was edited to prevent ruining any future heart-tugging, teary moments.
Matt later commented in a solo interview Christy deserved her letter -- the deaf woman probably had it the hardest among the survivors -- while rightly criticising Jenna for being selfish.
The Immunity Challenge saw the survivors trying to guess the results of the confidential survey they were given earlier.
Jenna was taken aback to find the others thought she was the most likely to use sex appeal to get further in the game. Why was she surprised? She stripped for peanut butter and categorically stated she would use her bikini-ed body to get further in the game.
Matthew provided some hilarity when he voted for himself as the one who most needs therapy and the one others have a crush on.
Anyway, Rob ended up winning the immunity necklace.
Rob had absolutely no trouble convincing Matt and Christy they ought to vote for Alex. The latter two saw Rob for the conniver he is but went along with Rob's plan as it was the only chance for saving their own skins.
The producers set up the vote by having Probst ask Heidi and Alex if they would be surprised to be voted out. Alex, not knowing Rob had switched, naturally answered in the affirmative. As it turned out, Alex got voted out -- yet another well-deserved S6 comeuppance! -- as Matt smirked.
As for the aftermath of this vote, both Heidi and Jenna will know for certain Rob provided the crucial swing vote. The preview for next week's episode sees Jenna haranguing Rob for thinking about himself. How hypocritical. True but hypocritical. At least, Rob didn't leave his sick mother to go on a game show.
What are Rob's options now? His decision to betray Alex is going to cost him the jury votes of Jenna and Heidi. Everyone will now see him as the conniving guy who cannot be trusted.
He could swing back and rejoin Heidi and Jenna. The trio could then vote for Matthew, who has a lot of prior votes, which would be a factor in the event of a tie. Eliminating Matt would mean Jenna, Heidi and Rob would be in ascension again. But Heidi and Jenna aren't going to vote for each other because of their closeness so Rob is still without a shot at the Final Two.
Rob's best play is to stick with Matthew, Butch and Christy and hope Matthew will take him along into the Final Two. Matthew had promised not to betray Rob but you just know that means Matt will end up betraying Rob.
The next one out? Either Jenna or Heidi. I'm leaning towards Jenna.
Quote of the week is from Rob who says, "I am turning my back on three people that potentially will be on the Jury. Three people that are definitely not going to vote for me if I am in the Final Two."
I know. I know.
But I just couldn't help myself.
I started out just trying to do a quick digi-doodle of Kenshin in an action pose and next thing you know ...
On a whim and a fancy, I decided to brave the Kedai Telekom customer reps to enquire about TM Net's ADSL service, Streamyx. (See my previous entry about Kedai Telekom to see why I use the word "brave".)
I was stunned to find out Streamyx was finally available in Banting. (Naturally, Telekom Malaysia being Telekom Malaysia had not bothered to update its service availability page.)
Giddy with visions of surfing at 300kbps, I immediately made plans to apply.
I initially planned to sign up for the Home 111 package that includes a modem and a flat rate for surfing.
Allow me one moment to savour the phrase "flat rate for surfing"!
No more clock-watching while surfing!
No more eye-popping and mind-boggling when the monthly phone bills arrives!
(There's also a Home 150 package that offers a fatter pipe -- 512kbps -- for RM150 a month but I figure I'll stick with the basic 384kbps scheme and upgrade later if/when it's necessary.)
I first called Exzee Computer, my local tech pimp, to enquire about getting a NIC as per TM Net's Streamyx requirements page.
I was told by the proprietor of Exzee Computer I didn't actually need a NIC since the D-Link DSL-200i USB ADSL modem, which by sheer coincidence Exzee happens to be selling, didn't require one.
Hey, I thought, buying a USB ADSL modem meant I could opt for the Home 88 package for RM88 a month (sans modem) instead of the Home 111 package which is RM111 a month (with an included modem).
At one fell swoop, I would save RM25 for a NIC and RM23 a month for a rented modem.
(Bonus: I would get to use the phrase "at one fell swoop" in a blog entry about this.)
Of course, getting my own ADSL modem meant configuring the modem on my own before Telekom Malaysia's techies showed up to do whatever it is they do when they fix you up for Streamyx.
As usual, configuring the hardware was a bitch and a half with me doing the bitching. I spent two hours trying to get the modem drivers to install without luck. The damn installer kept hanging and the Windows Device Manager would be stuck with a USB WAN ADSL adapter with no driver support. I could not for the life of me figure out why the damn installation kept hanging.
I finally posted on a forum frequented by local users of Streamyx.
Unlike most local fora, this one has knowledgeable, helpful and even polite posters. They actually use the word "community" like they mean it. I described my problem and got a helpful reply quickly.
But the thing that seemed to have solved my probem was a driver on the local distributor's web site. The installation with those drivers went off without a hitch and I think I'm good to go. Now all I have to do is wait for the Telekom Malaysia techies.
Oh, I'm sure something else will go wrong -- I have to come to expect this with any sort of hardware change to my computer -- but I'm equally confident I'll be zipping along at broadband speeds before too long.
Yep, I will finally be able to bitch about the Streamyx service's problems!
I'll start practising now.
"Aiyoh, how come-ah the Streamyx so slow today-ah? Only 100kbps?! Where can like dis wan?"
"Aisayman, cannot connect?! What is dis?! Dat Telekom Malaysia, too much wan-lah! Aiyoh!"
Courtesy of eDodo, the Lord of the Rings Extra Special Super Extended DVD Edition.
(Link obtained from Slashdot.)
The fourth United goal in that scintillating Manchester United-Real Madrid match has been credited to Beckham. I had thought it was an own-goal by Hierro but I guess it makes a better story if the world-famous superstar gets two goals after coming on as a substitute.
Both Soccernet and the BBC question if Ferguson made a tactical error in opting to give Solskjaer Beckham's spot.
I think Ferguson got it right.
Solskjaer was one of the better performers despite some misses in front of goal. He was constantly hounding the Real players (something the other United players seemed strangely reluctant to do) and his assist provided Ruud with United's first goal.
Young O'Shea had a good game as well. Ostensibly a defender, he provided attacking thrust down the left flank. United miss that somewhat these days since Giggs has started playing a more central role.
But for me the United's man of the match had to be van Nistelrooy. The guy just never stopped. This is a guy whose entire psyche is focused on one thing and one thing only: scoring goals.
To be sure, one or two shots he had towards the end were somewhat half-hearted but he epitomised the fighting spirit United are renowned for.
A Ronaldo hat-trick ensured Real Madrid advanced to the semifinals of the Champions League despite a brave performance from Manchester United. Three sucker punches by the man from Brazil -- who was hardly there in the first leg and was mostly anonymous during this match -- saw Madrid win 6-5 on aggregate.
United struck in the second half with a Beckham special and were gifted two goals courtesy of Madrid defenders but it wasn't enough. The two Ronaldo goals in the second half killed off United's hopes of a dream final at Old Trafford. The Red Devils did put up a tremendous fight, though, so all credit to them.
Ronaldo will get the headlines but personally, Iker Casillas's saves were more crucial to Real's cause.
United still have the Premiership to play for but I've prepared myself for another season without silverware.
United need to rebuild and they will.
Enjoy your victory, Real.
United are still in it, if barely.
Ferguson opted to leave Beckham out and started with Solskjaer on the right with Veron, who started brightly, taking the place of the suspended Paul Scholes.
The English side started strongly and van Nistelrooy tested Casillas with a shot from an acute angle. (He'll try a shot from anywhere!)
But then inexplicably, United again gave the Madrid side too much time on the ball. The result was Zidane and Co had time to compose their attack while United sat back. A goal by the Spanish side was inevitable. Ronaldo, who up till then had been anonymous, burst through in the 12th minute and fired a shot that beat Barthez, who seemed to get his angles wrong.
It seemed to be all over. But United slowly but surely began to impose themselves and finished very strongly. That man van Nistelrooy scored in the 43rd minute -- he's now got an amazing 38 goals in 37 appearances at Old Trafford! -- with an assist by Solskjaer. United then had the game by the scruff of the neck and had several chances to increase their tally.
Will they be able to get the two goals they need in the second half to take the game into extra time? I expect Ferguson will be tempted to send Beckham in -- probably at the expense of Wes Brown -- to increase United's attacking options.
Will they be able to stop Madrid from scoring again? Another Real Madrid goal would kill the match off. United need to harass Madrid when the Spanish side have the ball.
The second half is about to start.
You gotta love the Japanese. They're so innovative. Case in point: there's apparently a Japanese AV featuring a couple making whoopee.
With scuba gear.
To correct an earlier entry, jihads in Medieval: Total War can only be declared to retake a land from the enemy and the religion of the enemy isn't a factor.
Manchester United take on Real Madrid at Old Trafford in a few hours' time in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals.
Everything seems to be against United. The Red Devils trail 1-3 after being completely outplayed for most of the first leg match. Both Paul Scholes and Gary Neville are out. The man United will surely look to for attacking flair, Juan Sebastian Veron, has not kicked a ball in anger for some time after suffering a knee injury.
The good news is that their primary tormentor in that first match, Raul, will not be playing in the return leg because he has appendicitis.
Is this the first sign the Footballing Gods are smiling upon United?
My M:TW campaign as the Almohads is progressing nicely.
Between the Turks and myself, the Egyptian faction was eliminated. But peace didn't reign long for the Almohads because the Spanish decided to pick a fight.
This caused most of my so-called allies to side with the Spaniards. Was it because they expected the Spaniards to emerge victorious or because they decided to back the Catholic side instead of the Muslims?
It ultimately doesn't matter. I have to win the game by conquering two-thirds of the playing map and that means alliances aren't going to last very long anyway.
The first battle in the Spanish-Almohads War saw the Spaniards invade Cordoba with a force of 2040 men personally led by the Spanish monarch, King Ferdinand I. Appropriately enough, the Almohad defending force, half the size of the invading army, was led by my own faction leader, the glorious Khalifah Yusuf II.
The AI wasn't too convincing in this battle. While it did move its units nicely and positioned them well, it opted for a piecemeal approach for its attack.
The result was a resounding victory for the Almohads with 800-plus Spaniards killed.
Confident that I could face down the Spaniards, I took on the English as well because they were expanding far too quickly for my liking.
I won my first battle against the English easily enough but then my Turkish allies decide to declare a jihad to retake Palestine, which happens to be in my territory.
(And here I thought jihads in M:TW could only be declared to retake Muslim lands from non-Muslim factions.)
Regardless, the Almohads are now taking on three factions simultaneously.
Goodness Gracious Me just keeps getting better and better. I particularly enjoyed seeing the GGM crew take on the condescending Western attitudes towards Indian culture. They turned the tables quite nicely in the Indian Broadcasting Corporation and Great Train Journeys skits.
It was also great to see Mr India back. His explanation why the British Royal family was Indian -- except for Prince Charles who is, of course, African -- was a classic.
And as ever, watching the duelling aunties was a delight. This time the point of contention was how dependent their sons were on them.
I posted the payment for the Neo Henshin Cyborg figure I won on eBay yesterday.
Yeah, I won an eBay auction. Shocking. Well, okay, maybe not.
I chose to Buy It Now because I haven't been too successful at bidding of late. I tend to be very conservative with my maximum bids so I rarely win the more desirable figures. It's a good thing I prefer obscure, little-loved toy lines and figures for the most part.
Anyway, total damage including shipping was US$34. A bit pricey.
I think it's worth it, though. Neo Henshin Cyborg is a superbly articulated 12" Takara figure with 5mm joints. In and of itself, that's reason enough to get one.
But the Henshin Cyborg line has also got historical significance and direct connections to GI Joe, Microman and GaoGaiGar and is indirectly connected to Transformers as well. I had been meaning to get one of these figures for some time but was constantly putting it off.
As is my usual practice, I opted to pay with an International Bank Draft. It couldn't be simpler. You fill in a form, hand over the payment plus RM2 for the commission and then you're given the bank draft for you to post.
At least that was the procedure in the past.
Public Bank is now a bit more stringent apparently because of fraud. So I was subjected to some interrogation before the bank officer handed over the bank draft.
Where did I live? Oh, I don't live in PJ as it's stated on my identity card? What do I do? Oh, I teach? How old are my students? What's the payment for? Could I hand her the payment request?
Jeez. I count myself fortunate I wasn't given the rubber glove treatment.
I think the lady was cautious because I had the look of someone who might try to commit fraud. She probably thought I looked like a scoundrel, a rogue, a ne'er-do-well ...
How cool is that?
I tweaked the picture of the old guy. Nothing major. Just fixed some stuff that bugged me.
David Edelstein on Chow Yun Fatt's performance in Bulletproof Monk:
Why not just let Chow speak in Cantonese? Or give him fewer lines? Or dub him, even? Anything would be better than hearing one of the coolest actors on the planet ask a onetime teen-sex-comedy co-star, "Kong you sepmyporogy?" (i.e., "Can you accept my apology?").
If the Amikai-powered translator is accurate, this report states Takara increased its consolidated profits by 48 per cent for the financial year ending March 2003. The increase was attributed partially to the popularity of Beyblades, Takara's phenomenally popular line of tops, in North America.
In other news, Takara is taking over videogame company Atlus. The assumption is the company intends to produce more games based on its characters. It's also in line with the company's strategy to move away from its reliance on the toy business.
Why? Well, the declining birth rate -- it was estimated the Japanese population in 2100 will be half of what it is today -- means a smaller kiddy market in the future.
(The flip side of that is Japan has an ever-increasing number of senior citizens. Will we see Japanese toy companies start tapping into that market? Will Takara produces a toy based on adult diapers for its goofy Nanchatte line? Time will tell.)
Factor in the sluggish Japanese economy and you can see why Japanese toy companies like Takara are scrambling to tap into non-traditional markets.
Old guy. I imagine he's someone's sifu and thus, is able to get away with calling people "young grasshopper".
I need to practise drawing ears and noses.
And getting facial proportions right.
Not to mention the perspective.
This week's episode was one of those "let's squeeze every little bit out of this series" episodes. We got a recap of the first 27 days and we got some previously unseen footage as well. It turns out there was a good reason why the footage was unseen: it was mostly blah.
I restarted my Turkish campaign. I opted for a more cautious approach this time but I still floundered rather quickly.
I started by establishing an alliance with the Egyptians in order to safeguard my southern borders. The dangerous Byzantines were more problematic, however. They declined my first offer of an alliance and didn't agree to one until I had rather sizeable armies on my borders.
Heh. Everybody wants to be on friendly terms with the largest kid on the block.
So everything peachy-keen? Well, no. I made a couple of mistakes, which I recognised only in hindsight.
The major one was I had only one highly developed province. I was hoping to cut my costs down -- I badly mucked up my economy in my first Turkish campaign -- so I built up Rum and left my other provinces relatively backward.
Here's the problem: Rum borders Byzantine territories.
Once I had a large enough force, I opted to break my alliance with the Egyptians. Hey, I was running out of funds and needed to expand.
Technically, you don't actually break alliances per se in M:TW. It's just sorta assumed the alliance is off when you invade your allies. Anyway, alliances in M:TW are a bit weak. It's mostly a non-aggression pact although AI-controlled allies do sometimes send troops to aid your cause. I gather the next game in the series, Rome: Total War, will include more options for alliances.
So, anyway, I invaded one Egyptian province and watched an Egyptian army reciprocate by marching into Syria, one of my provinces.
Hey, no problem, I thought.
I easily conquered the Egyptian province and decided to withdraw my defending troops from Syria. The Turkish army in Syria was no match for the larger invading army and I wanted to save as much men as possible for what I thought would be a prolonged campaign against the Egyptians.
However, it didn't work out that way. The Turkish general ordered to retreat immediately rebelled.
That's exactly what I didn't need: An internal war just as I had started an external one.
Lesson learnt: Keep checking the loyalty of my generals on a regular basis.
I did manage to win the civil war but at great cost. I lost most of my armed forces and lost one province, which turned neutral once I had defeated the rebels.
Here's the really suey part: That province was Rum.
Seeing this golden opportunity, the Byzantines marched into Rum and took it for themselves.
Bas- ... cheeky chaps!
To recap: I was embroiled in a war against the Egyptians, lost most of my troops in a civil war and lost my key province.
While I did win a few thrilling battles against the Egyptians, my second Turkish campaign went downhill quickly.
With a little help from my friends
So I started my fourth campaign. I chose the Almohads as my faction as playing them on the Normal difficulty setting is supposed to be easier than playing the Turks. Thus far, it has been proven true.
As usual, I quickly allied myself with my neighbours in order to buy time to build up my economy and war machine.
I started my military campaign by taking advantage of a rebellion in Portugal. The province -- previously under the thumb of one of my allies, the Spaniards -- had turned neutral. I quickly moved an army in there, defeated the rebels and acquired new territory for the Almohads.
Unfortunately, the Catholics in Portugal didn't care too much for their new Muslim ruler and staged another rebellion. Realising I couldn't beat the substantial Portuguese rebel force just yet, I withdrew.
Lesson learnt: Pay attention to the amount of religious influence in a province before invading. Send in religious agents to increase religious influence.
I then had problems in my own provinces. I had to tweak my tax rate to increase the loyalty rate in a couple of problematic provinces. Even so, one of my own provinces did rebel. Fortunately, I managed defeat the rebels quickly.
I was amazed but gratified to see another one of my allies, the Egyptians, send in some troops to aid in the battle. As a way of thanking my Egyptian ally for his support, I invaded Egypt.
The campaign against the Egyptians has gone well so far. Yet another one of my allies, the Turks, are creating a second front so it doesn't look like the Egyptians are going to last long.
Automate and move out
While I've no complaints about the real-time tactical battle system so far, the turn-based strategy portion of the game needs to be improved.
Moving unit counters across the strategic map is just plain tedious. This is especially true later in the game when you're moving jillions of armies and agents across the board.
And it's a really large playing board, too.
The developers should have included an auto-move option like the one found in SMAC. You highlight a unit, select your destination and the unit moves itself there.
Also, there ought to be a way to automate unit building. There are hundreds of units in the game with different pre-requisites. To create a particular unit, I have to look at the requirements for it on the chart then look up the requirements for the buildings required on the flip side of that chart then finally put the necessary buildings in the building queue.
Ideally, I should be able to select a unit type from a list and then have the AI automatically put the necessary buildings in the build queue.
Manchester United scored only three goals yesterday. Slackers!
The 3-1 win over Blackburn -- courtesy of a goal from van Nistelrooy, a brace from Scholes and a penalty save from substitute keeper Ricardo -- puts further pressure on Arsenal.
Real are next in what seems to be a Mission: Impossible. Truth be told, I'm not expecting United to pull it off. But to quote Mr Miyagi:
Win, lose, no matter. You make good fight, earn respect, then nobody bother.
Transfandom has an interview with a Transformers designer, Aaron Archer.
Stormrider: Do you like what you do?Archer: Yes! Absolutely. Who wouldn't? It's not bad, there are worse jobs.
Stormrider: Do you like what you do?
Archer: Yes! Absolutely. Who wouldn't? It's not bad, there are worse jobs.
Test-drive the new vacillating employee today! Goes from "Yes! Absolutely," to "It's not bad, there are worse jobs" in three seconds!
Now, I love Google but the problem with search engines like Google is that they aren't particularly smart. The search engines just look for words fitting the search criteria on the site. Often, this results in hits to sites that have no relevant content to offer to the user.
Here are some really bad recent search engine hits for this site:
nude patch neverwinter nights (Apr 15)viconia nude (Apr 16 & Apr 17)feline tf stories (Apr 17)Kilt wearers dogs (Apr 17)
nude patch neverwinter nights (Apr 15)
viconia nude (Apr 16 & Apr 17)
feline tf stories (Apr 17)
Kilt wearers dogs (Apr 17)
Just because I used the word "nude" in one entry, "patch" in another and mentioned the game "Neverwinter Nights", it doesn't mean I have something relevant for someone looking for a NWN nude patch.
And then you have to consider the really bizarre search terms. The weirdest Google hit for this site was for the phrase "before and after pictures of penis fractures."
Let's ignore the painful mental "ow!" the term "penis fractures" evokes and contemplate that search term for a moment.
The person who entered that search term into Google wanted to see a picture of a penis fracture. Perhaps that person had a good reason for that.
But then that person also wanted a picture of the penis before the fracture.
Did that person expect someone to take a picture of his penis, fracture it and then take another picture of the now-fractured penis?
United drew 2-2 against Arsenal early yesterday morning. The match was touted as the title decider but it turned out to be anything but decisive.
That man van Nistelrooy gave United the lead but Arsenal levelled thanks to a deflected goal credited to Thierry Henry. Henry then put the defending champions in front with a goal that should not have been allowed. Justice was served, however, as Giggs equalised with a rare headed goal.
I suspect Wenger and Ferguson wouldn't be displeased with the result. United still maintain their three point advantage but crucially, Arsenal have a game in hand and a better goal difference.
You may or may not have noticed that I don't have an About Me section on this site. I guess I want my non-existent readership to know me through my entries rather than explicitly spell out who I am to them.
But in case you absolutely had to know something about me, you could always let Googlism tell you through its filtering of Google searches. Here are some thing Googlism thinks of me:
I got tired of beating up on the hapless AI on the Easy setting so I decided to kick things up a notch. I not only started a new campaign on Normal difficulty but I also chose a particularly hard faction to play: the Turks.
Got my ass well and truly kicked. I played seven battles and lost every one. It wasn't even close.
I was expecting the AI to be a pushover again but it's now less prone to ridiculous mistakes, takes full advantage of its units' strengths and is far less likely to put its leader unit in a dangerous situation.
I actually was delighted to be proven wrong. Finally, a real reason to think during battles.
As that wascally wabbit would say, "Dis calls for a widdle stragedy."
The Malay Mail had a fascinating Daily Mail article on page two today:
Senior Iraqi officials have scattered across the Middle East, and even to Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia, after fleeing Baghdad before the war began, sources claimed yesterday.
I don't know how true the article is. I think it's odd Saddam Hussein would allow "senior Iraqi officials" to scarper off to other countries before the war began when he himself was stuck in Iraq.
(This is assuming US intelligence claims Saddam was killed -- first in his bunker then in a restaurant ... they killed him twice! -- during the war are true.)
But anyway, here are possible signs the new neighbour next door might have been affiliated with Saddam's regime:
"He was born with a gift of laughterAnd a sense that the world was mad."
"He was born with a gift of laughter
And a sense that the world was mad."
I enjoyed another classic movie today: Scaramouche.
There have been several versions based on the Rafael Sabatini novel. This was the 1952 version starring Stewart Granger and the captivating Eleanor Parker.
Granger plays Andre Moreau who starts off as a bon vivant, more adept with his tongue than with a sword, happy to lead a carefree life pursuing the sultry actress Lenore.
But he soon gets embroiled in the French Revolution after his best friend is killed in a duel against that master swordsman, the Marquis De Maynes.
And so, Andre, now considered a traitor, must learn swordplay to get his revenge.
Does he succeed? Well, of course, he does. But it's not the destination, it's the journey. And what a fun ride it is.
The movie has what is considered the longest ever sword duel in movies. It's amazing even today and many a swash was well and truly buckled.
On a down note, Andre may have wit but he is, one must say, a bit of a twit. What man would settle for the demure but bland Aline when he could have the sensual Lenore and her knowing smiles and glances?
Incidentally, the movie also features Richard Anderson, years before he would win himself an Oscar role.
And here's yet another example of the verbosity of characters in the movies of yesteryear:
Forgive the intrusion, but vehicle ordinance no. 4012 forbids osculation in public conveyances. First offenders get three days in the pillory.
You hardly hear anyone use the word "osculation" these days and perhaps that's a good thing. But the point is I wish movies today spent as much time on words as they do on pyrotechnics.
What movie today would have its lead spout lines like this:
Happy the rascal travelling life by a way to whom the gods say, "Here's an easy switch: You may have lost Diana on the highway but look, there is Aphrodite in a ditch."
I watched Unbreakable for the second time. I thought it was ultimately unsatisfying, though. It seemed to be a comic book movie for movie-goers who find comic books unpalatable.
Elijah, Shylaman's pretentious in-movie guide to comics, suggests the condescending attitude the writer-producer-director might have had with this quote:
Real life doesn't fit into little boxes that were drawn for it.
I had another satisfying Medieval:Total War session. But first some bad news.
King William III was unable to complete the conquest of the German people. He succumbed to illness in the year 1130 and was succeeded by his magnificence King Alfred II.
Meanwhile, Lord de Normandie, the King of Scotland, proved once again why he was rightly considered the greatest English general, earning his sixth star in the battle for Bavaria in 1131.
The Germans sought to relieve the siege of the Bavarian castle and sent an army of 1000 men led personally by the German Emperor, Conrad III.
And so it was that Lord de Normandie's battle-hardened army of 900 men -- including mercenaries -- stood on the hills overlooking two bridges and awaited the German army that warm summer morning.
The bridges were the only available routes available to the Germans and it was clear that the battle would be decided on them.
But which bridge would the Germans choose? The East bridge? The West one? Or would he choose both? Not knowing the answer, Lord de Normandie positioned his men prepared for every possibility.
It is sometimes difficult to single out the actions of a particular unit for praise in battles but historians will no doubt agree that the heroes of this battle were the Italian light infantry men led by the mercenary Abbas al Mustanjid.
Faced with the difficult task of guarding the Western bridge, Abbas and his men not only stopped the German advance cold but pushed them back, starting the German rout.
The German Emperor fought valiantly on his mighty steed but was brought down on that bloody bridge. Seeing this, the remnants of the German army fled, leaving 500 German broken bodies on the battlefield.
Abbas's Italian infantrymen slaughtered a full third of the German army that day, shaming all who doubted the mercenaries' loyalty to the English cause.
Tragically, half the unit -- 52 valiant men -- were killed including the inspirational Abbas himself.
Let the records show that Soldier Number 22 -- "22" to his friends, "Twosy-woosy" to tavern wenches -- of that unit was bestowed +6 honour for his valiant actions that day.
(I'm not sure how the battle honours system works. It has something to do with kills made but there doesn't seem to be a direct correlation. F'rinstance, one soldier made 15 kills and received +4 battle honour while ol' "22" made only 4 kills but received +6. How? Why? Is "22" in possession of pictures of Lord de Normandie in a compromising position?)
All told, it was another poor performance by the AI. (To be fair, though, those bridge-crossings can be murder on the attacker even when a Natural Intelligence is in charge.)
According to one user-written FAQ, the AI is more capable on the Normal difficulty setting. I'll switch to the Normal difficulty level as soon as I've got the hang of the strategic game.
The strategic game is now much more complex now that I've advanced somewhat through the tech tree. I've come into possession of some interesting units.
I'm especially taken with assassins. They're a lot of fun. So much so it's almost impossible to resist using them. I've assassinated emissaries (easy), princesses (a bit tougher) but haven't been able to take out an enemy general ... yet.
Incidentally, you also have the ability to assassinate your own generals should one of them prove to be ... problematic. (Those medieval pink slips can be murder!)
It's too bad Creative Assembly chose to omit the cutscenes. I was absolutely riveted by the suspenseful mini-movies of the ninjas at work in Shogun: Total War.
Naturally, the AI gets to use assassins as well. There's currently one on the loose in Wessex. I know this because he has murdered two of my emissaries. What a bast- ... naughty chap, wot wot hey hey?
In other developments, I managed to get myself excommunicated by the Pope for pursuing my campaign against the Germans. But there hasn't been any perceptible effects from that. (So far.)
Oh, and I just found out one of the building improvements is a brothel.
Gosh, I wonder what benefits that building provides.
Another version of that Arcee digi-doodle with minor tweaks here and there. (Previous versions are here and here.)
As part of its fan service to stats-crazy wargamers, the developers have included the ability to log battles.
Here's the insane part: The system takes into account the performance of every single soldier in seven different categories. Not impressive, you say? Well, bear in mind there can be up to 10,000 soldiers in a battle.
That's just insane! (In a nice way.)
Thanks to the battle log, I know Soldier No. 32 in Sir Ralph Gaveston's urban militia unit felled 7 Germans and was bestowed +3 honour in the battle for Tyrolia (played on April 12 at 5:20 AM) which took 13 mins (and 41 secs) to conclude. The log also states Prince Herrmann, the leader of the German army, slew 6 English soldiers before being killed himself in the battle that summer.
The French were still beyond me so I decided to pick on the Germans instead.
(Relax, I'm talking about my first Medieval: Total War campaign.)
I invaded Burgundy and the outraged Germans decided to call off our alliance. So fussy.
I couldn't take the Burgundy castle at the outset. The Germans kept pouring in from neighbouring provinces so my invading army led by the King of Scotland, Lord de Normandie, was busy just repelling the Germans.
I had ample troops in England but unfortunately, I had no way of transporting them to the continent. I needed naval transport vessels and that required a Shipwright building improvement and a Shipwright building improvement had several other building pre-requirements.
(The double-sided colour chart containing the building and unit pre-requisites comes in mighty handy in situations like this.)
As it turned out, I couldn't wait for the reinforcements from the British Isles so I assaulted the Burgundy castle with a force of 500 men. I ended up losing half my force -- mostly the foot-sloggers who were ordered to assault the stockard and castle gates -- but eventually the castle was mine.
Lesson learnt: siege engines are your friends in castles assaults.
Battles have a 30 minute time limit and defenders win if the outcome has not been decided once time runs out. But time hasn't been a crucial factor in the battles I've played in.
The main reason for that is the AI is a bit of an idiot on the Easy difficulty setting. Watching the hapless AI squander away its superior numbers with naive tactics is a bit of downer. Where's the challenge? Well, okay, admittedly, it shouldn't be challenging on the Easy setting.
But I'm worried the AI is going to be easily bamboozled on the harder difficulty settings as well. If that's true, I'm going to end up shelving the game rather quickly.
My favourite tactic thus far? "Cut off the head and the body will wither away."
An inferior mobile force can easily rout a larger opposing force by targetting the enemy leader unit -- the AI, being the idiot that it is, isn't never concerned about protecting its leader unit -- and then picking off the other units, now demoralised, at leisure.
To execute this tactic, I usually rely on a cavalry-heavy task force. I use the high mobility of the cavalry units to feint, split the enemy force and create a clear route to the enemy general's unit. Once that's been accomplished, chaaaarge!
It has worked every time so far.
Vices and virtues
The RPG element in the game is pretty neat. Faction leaders and generals develop vices and virtues which are sometimes based on their actions.
F'rinstance, my first faction leader, King William II, suffered the stigma of having "Good Runner" as a vice after running away from his first battle. On the plus side, he later gained a reputation for being a good builder.
The vices and virtues don't just add "character" and "personality" but also confer strategic and tactical bonuses. Naturally, you'd be advised to take full advantage of a general's strengths.
Each general is also rated for loyalty to his faction leader. A general lacking in loyalty might rebel or even be bribed by another faction. To increase loyalty, you can either arrange a marriage with one of your daughters or confer a title upon him.
Another nifty element is aging. Your faction leader grows old -- each turn equals one year of game time and each campaign might take hundreds of game years -- and will eventually kick the bucket. If no heir of age is available, you lose the game. Thus, marrying off the faction leader and obtaining a heir is of paramount importance.
My faction leader, King William II, did eventually pass beyond the veil -- cheh, so poetic -- and was succeeded by his eldest son who was crowned King William III.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
When the going seems impossible, only true champions rise to meet the challenge.
The Red Devils went behind 0-1 in their must-win match against Newcastle United at St James' Park after Jenas scored in the 21st minute. Newcastle have been very difficult to beat at home and it looked like United's title challenge was coming to a premature end.
The United response?
Four goals in 12 minutes.
The first half ended with United leading 4-1.
Folks, this is Roy of the Rovers material. This shouldn't be happening in an actual football game. But it is.
I'm following this astonishing match via the text commentary on Soccernet.
What a surprising episode.
I was certain Matthew, who everyone thought was going crazy, would be a shoo-in for the votes. I also thought nothing could stop Deena and Rob from being the final two survivors.
Well, sah-prise, sah-prise, sah-prise.
Rob -- wretched, annoying, evil and despicable -- started the episode by gloating about the way he was manipulating Matthew. It was embarrassing to watch Matthew hanging on to every word the duplicitous Rob was saying.
Later, Heidi, who has stopped moaning about how she was being victimised for being younger and having a better body, had her younger and better body bitten by a creepy-crawly.
Rob, who is the source of all evil in Survivor 6 and must be exorcised, noted the resulting swelling on Heidi's knee was the size of her breast. No prizes for guessing what Rob thinks of when he goes to sleep at night. No wonder he got upset when Heidi slept next to Dave.
And it's not just the bugs that were biting. Bland Butch got himself a love-bite from a piranha while fishing.
Survivor 6.9: The Amazon Strikes Back!
But the survivors got their chance to exact revenge. The immunity challenge had the survivors gulp down some disgusting bugs -- grasshoppers, live coconut worms, beetles and a live beetle larva.
I was glad to see straight shooting Matthew winning the immunity necklace. He's just about the only survivor worth rooting for. If only he wasn't so bloody gullible.
The result meant both Deena and Alex spent the rest of the episode trying to solicit for votes against the other.
As it turned out, the 9th survivor voted off was the calculating Deena who completely miscalculated this time around.
Like Rob, she believed she had everyone under her thumb but unfortunately for her, Jenna didn't particularly care for the way Deena was so quick to backstab Alex.
Deena's ouster doesn't change the balance of power all that much. The dominant bloc still consists of Rob, Alex, Jenna and Heidi.
Matthew, Butch and Christy don't seem to have many options available to them aside from winning immunity.
I'm going to predict either Matthew or Butch is going to be the next one voted off. I expect Jenna and Heidi might want to keep Christy as a fifth wheel in case they need to knock off Rob and Alex come the Final Five.
I would dearly love to see Rob, easily the most baleful character appearing in a television series right now, taken care of next.
Hey, Mr Rumsfeld, would you believe Rob has WMD and is in cahoots with Al-Qaeda? Hello? Hello? Awww.
Well, it was worth a shot.
The quote of the week is from Heidi: "Do I have to put my whole mouth on it?"
I've recently downloaded Keynote, a freeware note organiser. Yep, another one. I've tried several but have been disappointed by most of them.
Note organising isn't XDesk 95's forte and both Skwyrul Pro and GS Notes were buggy. So, I've stuck to the no-frills Treepad Lite for most of my note-taking and organising.
However, on Pricelessware's recommendation, I've downloaded and installed Keynote 1.6.1 and I'm happy to report I may have found a Treepad Lite killer.
At 1.5MB, Keynote's installer is the largest of the note organisers I've tried. Installation takes up less than 3MB of space.
I've only been using Keynote these past two days but thus far, my favourite Keynote's features are:
Keynote is not without its shortcomings. For some reason, Keynote's hot keys differ from Windows application norms. Undo is "Ctrl+Enter" while Redo is "Alt+Backspace". Most apps use "Ctrl+Z" and "CTRL+Y". It's minor as complaints go, though.
There was a nice AFP article in yesterday's issue of Computimes about Masahiko Kajita, the Takara employee who thought up the banana-shaped handset for handphones as part of the goofy Nanchatte series.
The article included two pictures of Kajita, a blonde Japanese man with a broad nose and a broader grin on his face.
Some interesting points:
I'm more of a fan of Takara's action figures but it's nice to see the company capturing mind share and getting publicity.
I've just watched Casablanca for the first time. Funny how I've seen and heard umpteen pop cultural references to the movie without seeing the movie itself. Well, perhaps not so funny when you consider how many profess to love it.
Casablanca's about a showgirl named Lola with yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there ... no, wait, that's Copacabana. Casablanca's about the redemption of the jaded cynic Rick when his lost love returns.
I was taken aback at how much more erudite the characters are compared to characters in modern movies. When was the last time you heard a character use the word "evinced"? And I love the snappy patter.
I was also impressed by the way the director and screenwriters allude to events rather than spelling everything out, trusting that the audience would be smart enough to read between the lines.
Some fascinating trivia: Rick never actually says, "Play it again, Sam." And just to clarify things, he never actually says the following either:
More fascinating trivia from Casablanca (courtesy of IMDB):
Director Michael Curtiz' Hungarian accent often caused confusion on the set. He asked a prop man for a "poodle" to appear in one scene. The prop man searched high and low for a poodle while the entire crew waited. He found one and presented it to Curtiz, who screamed "A poodle! A poodle of water!"
Inspired by Medieval: Total War, I decided to digi-doodle a warrior-king.
A leader of men.
Grim and purposeful.
Well, okay, the real reason is I was hankering to try out Pixia's "airbrush" feature again. It's all about the stubble.
War this. War that. Eager for some distraction, I got myself a game.
In my defence, I had planned to get Medieval: Total War several months ago but had to put it off until now.
Published by Activision, the game was developed by Creative Assembly, the people behind the award-winning first game in the series, Shogun: Total War.
I didn't actually play much of Shogun. I installed it, got a severe case of game-lock for a couple of hours but quickly grew disenchanted with the strategic element of the game.
I gather the development team has tweaked the strategic element of the game but it remains to be seen if it's a tweak for the better.
(Sadly, the developers have opted to do without the in-game movies. I absolutely loved Shogun's stylish little cutscenes.)
I ordered the game on Gamers Dotcom's web site last Wednesday evening, got my confirmation almost immediately followed by a payment request for RM154. That breaks down to RM149 for the game plus RM5 for shipping via Poslaju.
There's another Malaysian web site selling M:TW for RM139 (with free shipping to boot). However, I haven't dealt with that place and I didn't want to take a chance.
Anyway, I paid for my order by making a deposit into Gamers Dotcom's Public Bank account the next day and posted the bank slip via Pos Malaysia's Poslaju service the same day.
Pos Malaysia then took four days to deliver the letter from Banting to Petaling Jaya -- a trip that takes less than two hours by car.
At this point, I should highlight the fact if literally translated "Poslaju" means "speedpost".
Fortunately, Pos Malaysia was much faster in shipping the game to me. It took only two days so total turnaround time was one week.
It's a pity Gamers Dotcom requires the bank slip to confirm payment before shipping the order. Isn't there any way they can confirm payment by checking their account electronically? It would halve the turnaround time.
The whole enchilada
The game comes in one of those newfangled half-sized game boxes. I like the new format. Storing the boxes isn't going to take up as much space.
The box contains two CD-ROMs, one 80-page manual and a colour chart.
I was impressed with the manual which has about 70 pages of useful information. But in a game this complex, it still doesn't suffice.
I would have liked, for instance, a hardcopy of the unit statistics. I can always print out one of those user-written FAQs but I shouldn't have to resort to that.
I was also disappointed that the manual lacked a list of keyboard commands for the battle system. Oh, it's in the manual here and there but I would've liked a separate card or at the very least an appendix in the manual listing the battle system keyboard commands. To be fair, the keyboard commands are listed in the game itself in the Controls section of the Options menu.
I was pleased to find some crucial game information -- unit and building pre-requisites -- was provided in the form of a double-sided colour chart for easy reference.
Perusing the manual, I was startled to find the credits section includes a thank you to one "Di the camel lady" for making her camels sing. Needless to say, "Di and the Singing Camels" would make an excellent name for a rock band. (That Dave Barry!)
Also notable in the credits section is a mention of a Muslim culture consultant. The game includes a playable Muslim faction and I guess Creative Assembly were trying to stave off any criticism about cultural insensitivity.
Installing the game proved to be a straightforward process. At least it was a straightforward process once I was able to remove the discs from the CD case. They seemed to be stuck there.
At one point, I was certain I was going to break the discs but I did eventually manage to remove them after some wrestling and swearing. It's a good thing I enjoy swearing. Dammit. To hell.
A full installation requires 1.7GB of hard disk space. There's no option for a smaller install size. Exasperatingly, even with a full installation, you still need the first CD in the drive to launch and play the game. I hate that. Dammit. To hell.
Oddly, you're never asked to enter the CD-Key -- all-but-hidden behind the discs on the CD case -- during the installation. Apparently, you'll only need to key it in when playing the multiplayer game on GameSpy.
More oddly, gamers outside North America will be startled to find they are discouraged from electronically registering the game. Dammit. To hell.
After installing the game, I promptly applied the 8.42MB v1.1 patch which I had downloaded earlier.
Allow me to digress a moment.
An expansion disc, the Viking Invasion, will be released soon. Aside from usual more-more-more (e.g. more units, more maps, more game), the expansion disc also has fixes for the original game.
Creative Assembly have released two updates for the game but have yet to fix every bug in the game. They don't have any plans for releasing another patch for the original game. So, essentially, to get the latest fixed version of the game engine, you'll have to get the expansion pack.
How sucky is that?
It's bad enough gamers are paying for the dubious honour of playtesting games for developers, they now have to pay to update as well.
Learning the art of war
Kudos to the developers for including tutorials for both the turn-based strategy element (i.e. the Risk-y boardgame portion) and the real-time battle system.
The tutorials don't encompass every aspect of the game but considering how complex the game is and how most gamers -- by "most gamers", I mean "I" -- would be eager to dive right in and learn as they -- by "they, I mean "I" -- go along perhaps it's understandable.
Anyway, I've started my first campaign (on the Easy difficulty setting) playing King William II of England.
I've played two battles thus far. I lost the first one to a numerically-inferior bunch of kilt-wearers but beat them in the return fixture in a thrilling highland battle.
(Imaginary newspaper heading: "Jocks strapped!")
I was a bit reckless in the battles, though. I probably should spend more time considering my tactics.
(By the way, I thought it strange Creative Assembly would choose to put five jillion clickable icons on the battle screen but omit a clickable icon for the most important battle command: pause game. You have to hit the "P" key to pause.)
I nearly lost the king in the first battle -- his entire retinue of Royal Knights was killed -- but I intend to keep sending him into battle. Leadership by example, wot wot hey hey? Besides, I've got two sons who've come of age -- the heir and spare as the manual puts it -- and they'll serve as backup in case of any royal cockups.
I've got some problems on the strategic level, though. I must first deal with the Welsh and find some way of circumventing the powerful French faction which surrounds my holdings on the continent.
Alex Ferguson on dealing with Raul:
We know Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo are great players but we could have handled that. Raul was very difficult.My only hope is that he doesn't like travelling. Failing that, we will stop him coming into the country for the second leg.
We know Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo are great players but we could have handled that. Raul was very difficult.
My only hope is that he doesn't like travelling. Failing that, we will stop him coming into the country for the second leg.
Well, that was a bit of a disaster.
I got the kick off time wrong and missed the entire first half. I tuned in only to watch the replays of two Madrid goals -- the first by Figo in the 12th minute followed by a superb strike by Raul in the 28th minute.
Four minutes after the restart and Raul, if not man of the match then certainly man of the second half, managed to beat Barthez with a sublime finish from outside the box.
United looked like they were heading for an absolutely humiliating defeat on Spanish soil but the ever-resilient English side managed to claw one back three minutes later through van Nistelrooy.
Both sides had opportunities to add to their tally but the match ended 3-1.
Things look very grim for the Red Devils. While they do have that precious away goal, they've got to score at least two against an imperious Real side and they've got to do this without the services of Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, both of whom picked up yellow cards and are thus unavailable for the return leg.
But if there's one thing the football world has learnt, you can never write off United.
The Red Devils take on Champions League defending champions, Real Madrid, on the Spanish aristocrats' home turf, the imposing Bernabeu stadium, in less than an hour's time. It ought to be a thrilling encounter between two great sides known for their swashbuckling attacking displays.
The last time the two sides clashed in the Champions League, the Spanish side beat United 3-2 at Old Trafford and went on to lift the trophy.
And the current Real Madrid squad is much improved over that one. They've added the creative and elegant Zinedine Zidane as well as as the explosive Ronaldo.
Roy Keane must be especially motivated this time around -- and Keane is never a player lacking in motivation -- as his own goal was the first nail in United's coffin in the two teams' last encounter.
The only casualty for United is Veron who's out with a knee injury. United hardly missed the Argentinian's silky skills in their 4-0 drubbing of Liverpool on Saturday but then Veron seems to only produce his best for the Champions League.
Veron's omission means another rare start for the luckless and injury-prone Nicky Butt. I expect United will require Butt's tenacity and tigerish tackling more than Veron's flash in this titanic tussle anyway.
I've no doubt Ferguson will be delighted to get away with a draw but he will be hoping the Red Devils manage to get a precious away goal. That's not an impossible task.
While Real are often brilliant in attack, they do seem vulnerable defensively. Hopefully, the prolific Ruud van Nistelrooy, who has an excellent goal-scoring record in the Champions League, will take maximum advantage of any mistakes by the Madrid defense.
Red Burgundies are a distinctive breed. In contrast to the heavy, dark, and brutish wines that are the fashion in California, Australia, and increasingly Bordeaux, a good red Burgundy is light on its feet, a paragon of harmony and finesse. The difference between, say, a top-notch Napa Valley cabernet and a Musigny -- a grand cru red Burgundy -- is the difference between Ginger and Mary Ann. The cabernet is a voluptuous sexpot. The Musigny, by contrast, is all discreet charm, understated, reserved, but unmistakably sensuous. The cabernet is a sure thing; red Burgundies make you work for it.
Oh good grief.
What is it about wine that engenders such ridiculous descriptions?
Is it the realisation one has spent waaay too much money on a bottle of fermented grape juice?
Is it the alcohol?
A hastily done digi-doodle of Nick Fury in his Agent of Shield days.
Ah, Monday nights are good thanks to Goodness Gracious Me. My favourite skits from this week's episode:
"Are you saying William Shakespeare is Indian?""Is the Pope Punjabi?"
"Are you saying William Shakespeare is Indian?"
"Is the Pope Punjabi?"
"Now I will tell you of Hanuman. In Sanskrit:Amitabh na Bachan,Starsky an Hutchan"
"Now I will tell you of Hanuman. In Sanskrit:
Amitabh na Bachan,
Starsky an Hutchan"
Unfortunately, a couple of skits were censored.
Hilary Andersson makes a point:
As I write I am in a country without a visa.I never passed through an Iraqi border checkpoint. I invaded, too. I came in with the British forces.By all rights of a sovereign nation I am here illegally. By what right am in Iraq? By what right is Britain? That is what Iraqis want to know.And listen to the language of the British forces.A spokesman at the military headquarters in Qatar called the Iraqi militias "illegal criminal forces".This was perhaps in reference to the law of armed conflict which defines standards of warfare, such as wearing uniforms and not using civilians as human shields....But whatever you think of Saddam Hussein, how can you call a man defending his sovereign nation an illegal element?Who is illegal? The invaders or the invaded? The language of the new liberator to people here is strange indeed.
As I write I am in a country without a visa.
I never passed through an Iraqi border checkpoint. I invaded, too. I came in with the British forces.
By all rights of a sovereign nation I am here illegally. By what right am in Iraq? By what right is Britain? That is what Iraqis want to know.
And listen to the language of the British forces.
A spokesman at the military headquarters in Qatar called the Iraqi militias "illegal criminal forces".
This was perhaps in reference to the law of armed conflict which defines standards of warfare, such as wearing uniforms and not using civilians as human shields.
But whatever you think of Saddam Hussein, how can you call a man defending his sovereign nation an illegal element?
Who is illegal? The invaders or the invaded? The language of the new liberator to people here is strange indeed.
I think that the Iraqi militia's penchant for using civilians as human shields is indefensible and the perpetrators ought to be prosecuted.
But at the same time, I wonder who's going to provide justice for Iraqi civilians like 12-year-old Ali Ismaeel Abbas, who was almost certainly maimed by an Anglo-American missile?
Computimes interviews Amir Muhammad:
Q: Does technology help you get whatever message you have to the audience?A: If I wanted to deliver messages, I'd be working for Pos Malaysia.
Q: Does technology help you get whatever message you have to the audience?
A: If I wanted to deliver messages, I'd be working for Pos Malaysia.
It's one thing for a half-assed blog to point to some questionable reporting and analysis (and in the interests of disclosure, you might want to check out my own examples here and here) but I really expect more from newspapers.
The Malay Mail was quite irresponsible with its front page piece today. The headline:
Sinister Bush PlotHe wants to convert Iraqis
Sinister Bush Plot
He wants to convert Iraqis
I can only hope and pray you didn't hurt your eyes from rolling them that hard.
I realise that a lot of Malaysians may be against the war. No, I don't have stats and unlike Malaysiakini columnist, James Wong, I'm not going to make up my own. My assumption is based purely on the letters the newspapers print, the media coverage and the opinions of the people who I talk to daily.
A shocking, sensationalist headline like that is bound to get the anti-US, pro-conspiracy, pro-Iraq newsstand browser to buy a copy of The Malay Mail. But it is irresponsible.
The article quotes Daily Mail columnist Suzanne Moore who writes:
As if we have not inflicted enough suffering on the Iraqi, the news they are to be flooded with evangelical Christians to convert them is sinister.
Sinister? More like ludicrous.
Were the Afghans mass-converted after the US went in? No. The Malay Mail article doesn't even bother to address the fact one million Iraqis are Christian (including Tariq Aziz).
From what I can tell, Moore's charge stems from an accusation by this group:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations charges that Graham, who's been critical of Islam, will use aid as bait to convert Muslims to Christianity.
Now, Reverend Franklin Graham -- who fronts the international relief group, Samaritan's Purse -- did stupidly call Islam "a very evil and wicked religion" in an interview with NBC not long after Sept. 11. But this balanced Journalnow.com article clarifies:
Graham did later qualify his remarks, saying he did not believe Muslims "are evil people because of their faith. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith - including Christianity."
Journalnow.com also quotes Omar Ghafoorzai, a spokesman for the Afghan Embassy in Washington:
Ghafoorzai said that Samaritan's Purse runs "the most well-equipped hospital in all of northern Afghanistan." The hospital, in Kholm, was struggling to offer even basic services before Samaritan's Purse arrived in January 2002, bringing a team that included new medical staff."We have not heard any complaints about them," said Ghafoorzai. "From what we hear, they are doing a good job."Ghafoorzai said that whether a relief worker is Christian, Muslim or non-religious is "not an issue to us." All that matters, he said, is whether a person is truly helping the people of Afghanistan.
Ghafoorzai said that Samaritan's Purse runs "the most well-equipped hospital in all of northern Afghanistan." The hospital, in Kholm, was struggling to offer even basic services before Samaritan's Purse arrived in January 2002, bringing a team that included new medical staff.
"We have not heard any complaints about them," said Ghafoorzai. "From what we hear, they are doing a good job."
Ghafoorzai said that whether a relief worker is Christian, Muslim or non-religious is "not an issue to us." All that matters, he said, is whether a person is truly helping the people of Afghanistan.
Figures.com has clear pictures of the new Microman Microforce figures: Ninja, Gunner, Commander and Spy.
The great news for US action figure fans is that Diamond is importing the figures and selling them for US$4.99. That's cheaper than the retail price in Japan (980 yen, fact fans) and US fans will be saving on shipping as well. Lucky bast- ... chaps.
A word of caution, though: Diamond sometimes has trouble getting Japanese figures. Releases are sometimes delayed or cancelled altogether. Get them directly from Japan if you want to be absolutely sure of obtaining them.
And trust me, if you're an action figure fan, you'll really want to make sure you can get these figures because they look terrific.
I'm particularly impressed with the articulation. Take a look at the pose Spy has been put in. You can see how the double hinged joint for each knee comes into play here. In addition, the well-jointed ankles (I think it's a hinge-ball combo joint) allow for some extreme stances.
Also worth noting are the shoulder joints which are large ball joints. This would allow the figures to swing the shoulders in front of the torso, giving the figures some additional cool poses.
There appears to be a piece missing from the pelvis piece -- specifically, the, ah, crotch. The only reason I can think of for doing this would be to take full advantage of the articulation. However, a jiggly, loose pelvis piece -- a feature of the SuperMicroman figures from the 1999 Microman Magnepowers line -- is going to be somewhat irritating during play. But I could be wrong about this.
Each Microforce figure comes packaged with chromed weapons and a backpack. Cool. Each figure also comes with five removable hands in various poses. I'm guessing the different types include weapon gripping, open and fists. I'm also guessing I'll quickly lose the extra hands.
United drew level with Arsenal after thrashing Liverpool. The Gunners could only manage a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa. Arsenal lead on goal difference -- +33 compared to United's +28.
Six matches left.
Arsenal are looking nervous.
The BBC has an article about Robodex, the world's largest robot exhibition, held in Yokohama this weekend.
The exhibition features a new version of Asimo, new accessories for Aibo, a bipedal robot from Sony, and a really small robot which weighs only 12.7g.
(That's almost as light as Calista Flockhart.)
But still no robots that transform into vehicles! Pull your thumbs out, scientists!
Personally, the most fascinating development wasn't actually a robot; it was a exo-skeleton suit that boosts your strength by 50 per cent.
Natsuko Wada, 68, from Tokyo said: "I can see the benefits of something like this, especially as so many Japanese are getting older, but who can afford robots to help at home? It might just be for the rich.
I'm envisioning a nightmare scenario where rich senior citizens run amuck in Tokyo beating up on everyone.
(Bonus robot points: Spot the Transformers reference in the article.)
A colour version of an earlier digi-doodle.
Before you think there's something odd about the way I keep drawing half-nekkid guys, I should hasten to point out I'm trying to practice drawing anatomy and colouring skin.
"We will do something which I believe is very beautiful," said Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf at a Baghdad news conference, adding that the Iraqis planned to strike back "in an unconventional way." Asked if that meant the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, he quickly said no."What I meant are commando and martyrdom operations in a very new, creative way," al-Sahhaf said.
"We will do something which I believe is very beautiful," said Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf at a Baghdad news conference, adding that the Iraqis planned to strike back "in an unconventional way." Asked if that meant the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, he quickly said no.
"What I meant are commando and martyrdom operations in a very new, creative way," al-Sahhaf said.
The article does not state what he meant by "beautiful" and "new, creative way" but I think we can all rule out elaborate song and dance numbers.
I caught The Sixth Sense for the first time on Thursday. Slightly creepy but some of the ghosts cracked me up after the initial shock had worn off.
Famous last words:
And oh yeah, the movie has a shocking revelation about the character Bruce Willis plays ...
He's a non-smirker!
I realise the following pretty much draws from the paranoid side of plausibility but I think it's necessary to keep track of it. Just in case. In any event, we should find out in the coming months whether these people and articles were spot on in their assessment or were just full of it.
(I apologise in advance for the extensive quoting I've done but I think it's necessary.)
To begin, we have to ask: Who are the neocons?
Pat Buchanan (hardly the most impartial person when it comes to the neoconservatives but these paragraphs make a good intro):
The first generation were ex-liberals, socialists, and Trotskyites, boat-people from the McGovern revolution who rafted over to the GOP at the end of conservatism’s long march to power with Ronald Reagan in 1980....Almost none came out of the business world or military, and few if any came out of the Goldwater campaign. The heroes they invoke are Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman, Martin Luther King, and Democratic Senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson (Wash.) and Pat Moynihan (N.Y.)....Their publications include the Weekly Standard, Commentary, the New Republic, National Review, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Though few in number, they wield disproportionate power through control of the conservative foundations and magazines, through their syndicated columns, and by attaching themselves to men of power.
The first generation were ex-liberals, socialists, and Trotskyites, boat-people from the McGovern revolution who rafted over to the GOP at the end of conservatism’s long march to power with Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Almost none came out of the business world or military, and few if any came out of the Goldwater campaign. The heroes they invoke are Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman, Martin Luther King, and Democratic Senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson (Wash.) and Pat Moynihan (N.Y.).
Their publications include the Weekly Standard, Commentary, the New Republic, National Review, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Though few in number, they wield disproportionate power through control of the conservative foundations and magazines, through their syndicated columns, and by attaching themselves to men of power.
What do they believe?
In their belief system, neoconservatives -- or neo-Reaganites, as some prefer to be called -- are at once pessimists and optimists. The world, they believe, is a dangerous, threatening place. Civilization and democracy hang by a thread; great beasts prowl the forest, ready to prey on those not tough enough to meet them in equal combat. At the same time -- this is the optimistic bit -- the U.S. is endowed by Providence with the power to make the world better if it will only take the risks of leadership to do so; if, in the current jargon, it is sufficiently "forward leaning."
Are they influential?
"Rebuilding America's Defenses," a 2000 report by the Project for the New American Century, listed 27 people as having attended meetings or contributed papers in preparation of the report. Among them are six who have since assumed key defense and foreign policy positions in the Bush administration. And the report seems to have become a blueprint for Bush's foreign and defense policy.
Examples of their influence on foreign and defense policy?
Overall, that 2000 report reads like a blueprint for current Bush defense policy. Most of what it advocates, the Bush administration has tried to accomplish. For example, the project report urged the repudiation of the anti-ballistic missile treaty and a commitment to a global missile defense system. The administration has taken that course. It recommended that to project sufficient power worldwide to enforce Pax Americana, the United States would have to increase defense spending from 3 percent of gross domestic product to as much as 3.8 percent. For next year, the Bush administration has requested a defense budget of $379 billion, almost exactly 3.8 percent of GDP. It advocates the "transformation" of the U.S. military to meet its expanded obligations, including the cancellation of such outmoded defense programs as the Crusader artillery system. That's exactly the message being preached by Rumsfeld and others. It urges the development of small nuclear warheads "required in targeting the very deep, underground hardened bunkers that are being built by many of our potential adversaries." This year the GOP-led U.S. House gave the Pentagon the green light to develop such a weapon, called the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, while the Senate has so far balked. That close tracking of recommendation with current policy is hardly surprising, given the current positions of the people who contributed to the 2000 report. Paul Wolfowitz is now deputy defense secretary. John Bolton is undersecretary of state. Stephen Cambone is head of the Pentagon's Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation. Eliot Cohen and Devon Cross are members of the Defense Policy Board, which advises Rumsfeld. I. Lewis Libby is chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Dov Zakheim is comptroller for the Defense Department.
Overall, that 2000 report reads like a blueprint for current Bush defense policy. Most of what it advocates, the Bush administration has tried to accomplish. For example, the project report urged the repudiation of the anti-ballistic missile treaty and a commitment to a global missile defense system. The administration has taken that course.
It recommended that to project sufficient power worldwide to enforce Pax Americana, the United States would have to increase defense spending from 3 percent of gross domestic product to as much as 3.8 percent. For next year, the Bush administration has requested a defense budget of $379 billion, almost exactly 3.8 percent of GDP.
It advocates the "transformation" of the U.S. military to meet its expanded obligations, including the cancellation of such outmoded defense programs as the Crusader artillery system. That's exactly the message being preached by Rumsfeld and others.
It urges the development of small nuclear warheads "required in targeting the very deep, underground hardened bunkers that are being built by many of our potential adversaries." This year the GOP-led U.S. House gave the Pentagon the green light to develop such a weapon, called the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, while the Senate has so far balked.
That close tracking of recommendation with current policy is hardly surprising, given the current positions of the people who contributed to the 2000 report.
Paul Wolfowitz is now deputy defense secretary. John Bolton is undersecretary of state. Stephen Cambone is head of the Pentagon's Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation. Eliot Cohen and Devon Cross are members of the Defense Policy Board, which advises Rumsfeld. I. Lewis Libby is chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Dov Zakheim is comptroller for the Defense Department.
So what are they concerned about?
For the neoconservatives, missile defense and Iraq's possession of WMDs were both examples of a common concern, "asymmetric threats," or the idea that nations with far less conventional military strength than the U.S. would use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons to redress the balance.
The Bush administration plan, released Sept. 20, marks a significant departure from previous approaches, a change that it attributes largely to the attacks of Sept. 11.
(The above dates refer to September 20, 2002 and September 11, 2001, respectively.)
Everyone sensible -- French, American, Russian, German -- has known for years that Saddam is a dangerous tyrant who brutalizes his people, is prepared to threaten others and bears abiding grudges. But only one nation -- the U.S. -- has suffered the thousands of deaths that a few people with a deep hatred could inflict. "I do think 9/11 is a historic watershed," Cheney told NBC News last week. The U.S., he said, was worried that the next attack on its territory "could involve far deadlier weapons than the world has ever seen. The rest of the world hasn't had to come to grips with that yet."
Where's the main danger going to come from?
Joshua Micah Marshall:
The primary cause of all this danger is the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, poverty, and economic stagnation. Repressive regimes channel dissent into the mosques, where the hopeless and disenfranchised are taught a brand of Islam that combines anti-modernism, anti-Americanism, and a worship of violence that borders on nihilism. Unable to overthrow their own authoritarian rulers, the citizenry turns its fury against the foreign power that funds and supports these corrupt regimes to maintain stability and access to oil: the United States.
What sort of danger?
The most shocking thing about 9/11 was the willingness of Islamists to carry out indiscriminate mass killing of noncombatant Americans. The attacks that day laid bare the desire of our enemies to obtain weapons of mass destruction to inflict vastly greater destruction on our country and people. The day after 9/11, there existed four deeply anti-American rogue states, clearly open to helping Islamists achieve the mass murder of Americans. They were Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. The invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 removed one of these four regimes. The coming invasion of Iraq will remove a second. Is it any wonder that the two remaining anti-American rogue states are doing everything in their power to race toward clear-cut possession of nuclear weapons? Possession of nuclear weapons by these rogue states can serve two purposes. It can deter the United States from doing to them what we have done to the Taliban and are about to do to the Baath. And, if President Bush is as determined and implacable as they fear he is, it can keep the Islamist cause alive (Iran) and allow revenge (Iran and North Korea) in the face of the impending overthrow of their governments by military or other means. The vengeance they have in mind could be prospective and openly state-sponsored, or carried out later by Islamist terror networks in possession of weapons of mass murder as a last will and testament of the North Korean and/or Iranian regimes.
The most shocking thing about 9/11 was the willingness of Islamists to carry out indiscriminate mass killing of noncombatant Americans. The attacks that day laid bare the desire of our enemies to obtain weapons of mass destruction to inflict vastly greater destruction on our country and people.
The day after 9/11, there existed four deeply anti-American rogue states, clearly open to helping Islamists achieve the mass murder of Americans. They were Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. The invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 removed one of these four regimes. The coming invasion of Iraq will remove a second.
Is it any wonder that the two remaining anti-American rogue states are doing everything in their power to race toward clear-cut possession of nuclear weapons? Possession of nuclear weapons by these rogue states can serve two purposes. It can deter the United States from doing to them what we have done to the Taliban and are about to do to the Baath. And, if President Bush is as determined and implacable as they fear he is, it can keep the Islamist cause alive (Iran) and allow revenge (Iran and North Korea) in the face of the impending overthrow of their governments by military or other means. The vengeance they have in mind could be prospective and openly state-sponsored, or carried out later by Islamist terror networks in possession of weapons of mass murder as a last will and testament of the North Korean and/or Iranian regimes.
How does Iraq fit in the neocons' grand plan?
Rumsfeld and Kagan believe that a successful war against Iraq will produce other benefits, such as serving an object lesson for nations such as Iran and Syria. Rumsfeld, as befits his sensitive position, puts it rather gently. If a regime change were to take place in Iraq, other nations pursuing weapons of mass destruction "would get the message that having them . . . is attracting attention that is not favorable and is not helpful," he says.
Do they believe the Middle East can be turned into a democractic nicey-nice place?
Cheney, friends say, has gradually abandoned his former skepticism about the potential for democracy in the Middle East. Among those who have influenced him: Bernard Lewis, a Princeton historian, and Fouad Ajami, a former colleague of Wolfowitz's at Johns Hopkins. Both men passionately believe that the lack of democracy and pluralism are central to the chronic instability of the Middle East and that any serious policy there must aspire to do more than leave existing autocracies in power.
What signs are there that they're going to move preemptively against other potential threats?
In the months before war a debate raged in the Pentagon between, crudely put, the uniforms and the suits. The soldiers wanted more time, so they could build up to the 250,000 troops that would constitute the "overwhelming force" believed since the first Gulf war to be the best way to deploy US power. They wanted another month. But the Pentagon civilians, led by Defence Secretary Rumsfeld, insisted on going earlier, with many fewer men. Why would a hawk like Rumsfeld prefer less to more? My Washington source offers an astonishing explanation: "So they can do it again." The logic is simple. Rumsfeld and co know that amassing an army of quarter of a million is a once-a-decade affair: 1991 and 2003. But if they can prove that victory is possible with a lighter, more nimble force, assembled rapidly - then why not repeat the trick? "This is just the beginning," an administration official told the New York Times this week. "I would not rule out the same sequence of events for Iran and North Korea as for Iraq."
In the months before war a debate raged in the Pentagon between, crudely put, the uniforms and the suits. The soldiers wanted more time, so they could build up to the 250,000 troops that would constitute the "overwhelming force" believed since the first Gulf war to be the best way to deploy US power. They wanted another month. But the Pentagon civilians, led by Defence Secretary Rumsfeld, insisted on going earlier, with many fewer men.
Why would a hawk like Rumsfeld prefer less to more? My Washington source offers an astonishing explanation: "So they can do it again." The logic is simple. Rumsfeld and co know that amassing an army of quarter of a million is a once-a-decade affair: 1991 and 2003. But if they can prove that victory is possible with a lighter, more nimble force, assembled rapidly - then why not repeat the trick? "This is just the beginning," an administration official told the New York Times this week. "I would not rule out the same sequence of events for Iran and North Korea as for Iraq."
In February, Undersecretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating Iraq, the United States would "deal with" Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
(Of course, "deal with" doesn't have to mean "Tomahawks, up, up and away!")
New York Times:
Shortly after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a stark warning to Iran and Syria last week, declaring that any "hostile acts" they committed on behalf of Iraq might prompt severe consequences, one of President Bush's closest aides stepped into the Oval Office to warn him that his unpredictable defense secretary had just raised the specter of a broader confrontation.Mr. Bush smiled a moment at the latest example of Mr. Rumsfeld's brazenness, recalled the aide. Then he said one word — "Good" — and went back to work....In fact, only Mr. Rumsfeld seems willing to name potential adversaries these days. But several senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they saw signs that some countries were reconsidering their behavior. Their newest is North Korea, which Gary Samore, the nonproliferation specialist in the Clinton White House, recently called "the dog that hasn't barked." North Korea's diplomatic broadsides at the United States have been toned down in recent days. No one has seen Kim Jong Il, the country's reclusive leader, in months, and some experts say they believe he may be staying out of sight for fear of his own personal security. So far, at least, the country has not made good on its threat to restart a plutonium reprocessing facility that has the capacity to to produce fuel for a half-dozen nuclear bombs this year. American intelligence agencies had expected him to do so by now. "He may have simply encountered technical troubles," said one North Korea expert in the administration. "But he may also be looking at CNN and considering the wisdom of his next move. The fact is, We don't know." Another possible factor, Mr. Bush's aides say, is that China, which is North Korea's main supplier of oil, has finally begun to deliver tough messages to Mr. Kim's government. Iran may also be newly cautious, the administration argues. After Mr. Rumsfeld issued his warning on March 28 that the United States would not tolerate the entry into Iraq of the Badr Corps — which he said was "trained, equipped and directed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard" — the incursion was apparently cut off.
Shortly after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a stark warning to Iran and Syria last week, declaring that any "hostile acts" they committed on behalf of Iraq might prompt severe consequences, one of President Bush's closest aides stepped into the Oval Office to warn him that his unpredictable defense secretary had just raised the specter of a broader confrontation.
Mr. Bush smiled a moment at the latest example of Mr. Rumsfeld's brazenness, recalled the aide. Then he said one word — "Good" — and went back to work.
In fact, only Mr. Rumsfeld seems willing to name potential adversaries these days. But several senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they saw signs that some countries were reconsidering their behavior.
Their newest is North Korea, which Gary Samore, the nonproliferation specialist in the Clinton White House, recently called "the dog that hasn't barked."
North Korea's diplomatic broadsides at the United States have been toned down in recent days. No one has seen Kim Jong Il, the country's reclusive leader, in months, and some experts say they believe he may be staying out of sight for fear of his own personal security. So far, at least, the country has not made good on its threat to restart a plutonium reprocessing facility that has the capacity to to produce fuel for a half-dozen nuclear bombs this year. American intelligence agencies had expected him to do so by now.
"He may have simply encountered technical troubles," said one North Korea expert in the administration. "But he may also be looking at CNN and considering the wisdom of his next move. The fact is, We don't know."
Another possible factor, Mr. Bush's aides say, is that China, which is North Korea's main supplier of oil, has finally begun to deliver tough messages to Mr. Kim's government.
Iran may also be newly cautious, the administration argues. After Mr. Rumsfeld issued his warning on March 28 that the United States would not tolerate the entry into Iraq of the Badr Corps — which he said was "trained, equipped and directed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard" — the incursion was apparently cut off.
Right. So that's the optimistic outlook: North Korea and Iran quieten down and play nice after seeing the Iraqi situation. What's the pessimistic outlook like?
Imagine it's six months from now. The Iraq war is over. After an initial burst of joy and gratitude at being liberated from Saddam's rule, the people of Iraq are watching, and waiting, and beginning to chafe under American occupation. Across the border, in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, our conquering presence has brought street protests and escalating violence. The United Nations and NATO are in disarray, so America is pretty much on its own. Hemmed in by budget deficits at home and limited financial assistance from allies, the Bush administration is talking again about tapping Iraq's oil reserves to offset some of the costs of the American presence--talk that is further inflaming the region. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence has discovered fresh evidence that, prior to the war, Saddam moved quantities of biological and chemical weapons to Syria. When Syria denies having such weapons, the administration starts massing troops on the Syrian border. But as they begin to move, there is an explosion: Hezbollah terrorists from southern Lebanon blow themselves up in a Baghdad restaurant, killing dozens of Western aid workers and journalists. Knowing that Hezbollah has cells in America, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge puts the nation back on Orange Alert. FBI agents start sweeping through mosques, with a new round of arrests of Saudis, Pakistanis, Palestinians, and Yemenis.
What's the endgame going to look like?
In short, the administration is trying to roll the table--to use U.S. military force, or the threat of it, to reform or topple virtually every regime in the region, from foes like Syria to friends like Egypt, on the theory that it is the undemocratic nature of these regimes that ultimately breeds terrorism. So events that may seem negative--Hezbollah for the first time targeting American civilians; U.S. soldiers preparing for war with Syria--while unfortunate in themselves, are actually part of the hawks' broader agenda. Each crisis will draw U.S. forces further into the region and each countermove in turn will create problems that can only be fixed by still further American involvement, until democratic governments--or, failing that, U.S. troops--rule the entire Middle East.
Will this actually work?
But, to date, every time a Western or non-Muslim country has put troops into Arab lands to stamp out violence and terror, it has awakened entire new terrorist organizations and a generation of recruits. Placing U.S. troops in Riyadh after the Gulf War (to protect Saudi Arabia and its oilfields from Saddam) gave Osama bin Laden a cause around which he built al Qaeda. Israel took the West Bank in a war of self-defense, but once there its occupation helped give rise to Hamas. Israel's incursion into southern Lebanon (justified at the time, but transformed into a permanent occupation) led to the rise of Hezbollah. Why do we imagine that our invasion and occupation of Iraq, or whatever countries come next, will turn out any differently?
I managed to completely forget about Survivor last night. It was perhaps for the best since it appears as if it was a Rob-heavy episode. Anyway, the following comments and opinions are based on the recap on the official site. (Feel free to correct me.)
As expected, Dave was voted out and ends up being the first person on the jury.
It looks like Deena and Rob are almost guaranteed spots in the final three. Bleah. That's what I need: More episodes with Rob.
You wonder why I don't care for him? Here are quotes from last night's episode ...
Rob on Matthew:
The craziest man I have ever met has been living with me 24 hours a day, nonstop.
This coming from the guy who asks his Magic 8-ball for advice.
Rob on Heidi sleeping next to Dave:
I don't know if Heidi is playing Dave or not. But what I don't like is when someone in my alliance is sleeping with the enemy.
Translation: "It's not fair! Why won't she sleep next to me?!"
Rob gets the quote of the week:
I can't take him any more. He is a showoff, and he is arrogant. Dave has got to go.
Ah yes. This coming from the man who considers almost everyone a knucklehead and frequently grandstands for the camera. (Remember the karaoke sing-alongs and the flamboyant showboating when voting for Roger?) Dave had to go all right but mainly because poor Rob was feeling insecure and inadequate whenever the former was around.
It looks like Matt, displaying some peculiar behaviour and seemingly a little too fond of the machete, is going to be on the way out next week. Oh well, the guy was bland but at least he wasn't sleazy like some folks out there.
To update my earlier entry, United comprehensively beat Liverpool 4-0. The Ruudster scored from another penalty in the 65th minute and goals from Giggs and Solskjaer completed the rout.
The BBC report suggests United were perhaps more than a tad fortunate -- there's some doubt about the second penalty decision -- but it doesn't really matter. It's three in the bag.
Japan's economic woes, as can be expected, have affected the hobby industry as well. HLJ reports its third most important supplier, Mitsuboshi Shoten (which is Tokyo's largest hobby distributor), has folded. This means HLJ is having trouble getting stocks of Transformers (among other lines).
I initially thought this was why HLJ changed the stock status of the Standard Convoy figure (from the Japanese version of the Transformers Armada line) from "Standard" to "Out-of-Production."
But considering how this hasn't affected the availability of most of the other Armada figures, I think it's more likely HLJ just exhausted its stocks of the critically-acclaimed figure.
This is the make or break portion of the campaign. Anything less than a victory in this battle will not be acceptable.
I'm talking of course about Manchester United's crunch match against their fierce rivals, Liverpool.
The good news is that United have taken an early lead through a Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty in the fifth minute and they have a numerical advantage after Liverpool captain and defensive bulwark Sami Hyppia was sent off.
Got a bad case of insomnia. But I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.
... wait, that's not right.
Anyway, to update an earlier entry, apparently the embattled Al-Jazeera can win something.
Specifically, the Qatar-based network won the award for upholding freedom of expression at the Index on Censorship's third annual Freedom of Expression Awards on March 26. An Index on Censorship article notes:
What is the true test of a journalist's even-handedness? Perhaps the ability to annoy both sides with their coverage? With news that the Qatari-based satellite TV station al-Jazeera has been censored by the Iraqis and condemned by the British on the same day, its disputed credibility may only be enhanced.
On Monday former president George Bush threw out the first pitch at the Cincinnati reds game. Now al-Jazeera network is reporting that the ball missed the catcher, killed 5 Iraqi civilians and destroyed a baby milk factory.
Hell, sometimes you can't please anyone.
Al-Jazeera, accused by some of being the tools of Iraqi propaganda, has had one of its reporters kicked out of Iraq and another barred from reporting.
By the Iraqi government.
I recently managed to get in touch with tempestblue, one of my favourite players from the Bubble. He's got his exams right now but hopefully, we'll get together online in May and revive the dynamic duo of Giob and Jane. Those two had some fun adventures.
But I was also reminded of some not-so-great moments when playing the multiplayer version of Neverwinter Nights.
There I am with another travelling companion, Lliel, when suddenly a gravely injured halfing appears before us just outside of camp crying for help.
O-ho! A chance for Dagor, my taciturn druid, to use his healing spells, I thought. It just so happens I've got Cure Light Wounds and it's been assigned to Shift+F6 on the quickbar.
So I press Shift and F6 ...
... except I miss the Shift key.
Unfortunately, F6 happens to be ... Ice Storm.
Fortunately, I had a Raise Dead scroll handy.
The halfling, once raised, didn't believe me when I said I was trying to make a cold compress for his wounds.
Everyone has to sacrifice in times of war. Even Dubya:
He's being hard on himself; he gave up sweets just before the war began.
The article, entitled "Strain of Iraq war showing on Bush, those who know him say," just seems farcical. We're told Bush:
Maybe it's just me but after reading about entire Iraqi families being wiped out, it's a tad difficult to sympathise with the terrible hardships the US President is undergoing.
From Athens, Ohio:
A man was exercising his free speech rights when he barked back at a police dog, a state appeals court has ruled....Jeremy Gilchrist, then 21, encountered the dog, who was in a police cruiser, as he walked with friends.His attorney said he was trying to be funny when he barked back....State law makes it illegal to taunt, torment or hit a police dog or horse. Officer Krishea Osborne testified that Gilchrist's barking made the dog ``work himself up into a frenzy.''
A man was exercising his free speech rights when he barked back at a police dog, a state appeals court has ruled.
Jeremy Gilchrist, then 21, encountered the dog, who was in a police cruiser, as he walked with friends.
His attorney said he was trying to be funny when he barked back.
State law makes it illegal to taunt, torment or hit a police dog or horse. Officer Krishea Osborne testified that Gilchrist's barking made the dog ``work himself up into a frenzy.''
Perhaps Pepsie the police dog should've retaliated with a tactic borrowed from Rocky the police dog.
But this incident proves yet again it's not what you bark, it's how you bark it. This would be an opportune moment to plug the Takara Bowlingual.
(Link obtained from Best of the Web.)
Unless of course you were suckered into buying a DVD of a copy of the movie recorded in the cinema by someone with shaky hands. Ugh.
Despite that, I did enjoy Lilo & Stitch, a Disney movie with great offbeat leads.
Malaysia is free from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) with no reported deaths or suspected cases, said Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif.
People should be smart and listen to the Government. There is no need to be frightened.
Yes, yes, Big Brother knows what's best for you.
Finally, the punch line:
The Health Ministry has confirmed that eight people have been warded in various hospitals in the country after they showed symptoms of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Robin Wiliams notes:
In America, we have orange alert, but what the hell does that mean? We're supposed to be afraid of Krishna?
I think that ought to have been Hare Krishnas because of the orange robes they wear. Krishna's sort of a purplish colour, isn't he?
Speaking of Krishna, he was a really cool God-dude:
Krishna led a very pampered and amorous life in the Gokul, along side thousands of gopikaas, the cowherdesses who were all entralled at his beauty and were thrilled whenever he played the flute.
Krishna: God, avatar of Vishnu, rock star.
The contents of this site, unless otherwise noted,are licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Made in Malaysia.
Pass comments to tmwarwolf attitude at yahoo dot combut drop the attitude.
Powered by Blog 7.1
Made in Malaysia.
Pass comments to tmwarwolf attitude at yahoo dot combut drop the attitude.
Powered by Blog 7.1