10 December 2005

City Lights, Christmas Lights

The streets are teeming with shoppers tonight. I managed to avoid a large measure of it by keeping to the backstreets.

I was at NYDC at the Heeren earlier, reading Susanna Clarke's wondrous 'Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell'. A compelling and most enchanting tale. I look forward to future work from her.

I was also at Borders later tonight.

09 December 2005


The weekend is here! Alright! And I have recovered. Time to sketch! Woo! I shall visit Borders tonight. I wonder if there is anything new.

"Don't you think it's time we learned to walk
And learned to talkLet's start over
This world is over
Let's start over
This world is gone"
'In Shakespeare's Garden' Cause and Effect
Age of Empires III: Build Sequences

My experiences are mostly against a 'Hard' computer opponent in skirmish mode. I have managed a few wins against an 'Expert' computer opponent on the Carribean and Amazonia maps but that don't count because the computer opponent hasn't got an ability to formulate a strategy and set priorities for naval warfare. My sister on the other hand has managed to beat the computer on Expert level on land using the Portuguese. She's far better than me.

Anyhow, first things first. I generally build up to 20 villagers before going to Colonial Age. Time (5:30-6:30) However, from what I have read, this would be too slow in a game against human opponents online, especially against an opponent who rushes. The norm would be about 15 villagers. Time (4:15-4:30). I would need to improve and refine my game and build sequence.

This is my build sequence. It is a so-called 'booming' build. Good against the computer opponent at the Hard setting. One can beat the computer in 24-25 minutes easily. It will not work against a human opponent.

My Build Sequence (Generic. Excludes Dutch)
1. Set 2 villagers to Wood. Set 1 villager to Gold. Set the remainder to Food. Build to 20. Go for Colonial.
2. For cards, get the 2-Villager and 3-Villager card if you can. The 300-wood card comes after.
3. Meanwhile, the explorer must get two treasures. After that the explorer must explore the surrounding areas. Then, go harass the enemy villagers.
4. During the Colonial Age, withdraw the explorer, get the Tower card and the 2-Tower card for defence. Site the three towers close. Concentrated fire. Site them near the Town Centre. Build 5 musketeers. Group the explorer with them. Harass the enemy. This should be at the 8 minute mark.
5. Continue churning Villagers at all times. Wood - 5 or more Villagers. Gold - Villagers. Food - Rest of the Villagers. Go for hunting. The computer opponent will not know how to harass hunters.
6. Continue with building more musketeers. Guard gold deposits with 2 musketeers. Guard herds of animals. Leave 2-3 to defend your town centre. Bring down the opponent's explorer when they get too close to your town centre and towers. This should be easily accomplished.
7. Fortress Age. Okay, build an artillery foundry near their base. And a barracks too. If possible, build your fortress.
8. Now move more troops and at least 2 artillery pieces near their town. Continue demolishing their building.
9. Intercept their fortress wagon if possible. Destroy it.
10. By now, their economy should be severely retarded. Their forces should be badly reduced. Close in. Destroy towers. Pikeman are great against buildings. Leave your artillery against their counter attack forces. Protect your artillery too. The Hard computer opponent should surrender at this point. Time from start to finish: 24:30 or 25:00.

The build sequence against a human opponent. This is what I have gathered online.

Build Sequence (Generic. Excludes Dutch)

1. Set all Villagers to collecting Food. Build up to 15 Villagers.
2. Go for Colonial Age. Set all villager to Wood.
3. Build Market. Build Barracks. For the first two cards, get villagers. For the next two get troops to defend against a rush.
4. Colonial Age. (4+ minutes) Now, the game can go anywhere depending on the strategy. Boom** or Rush*.

I have not tried this sequence but I will. I want to see how I can refine my build sequence. I will subsequently go online.

I have also not tried the mercenary rush* technique. Apparently, people have been using that when playing as the Germans.

I played against relatively few human opponents in RTS games. I have played against Wei Yi, Brian, Willie but they weren't the exactly very familiar with strategies, tactics, prioritisation and the game system. And we didn't play normal games, we usually bashed Brian. The last time, I went online with Age of Mythology, I guessed I met an experienced opponent who built swiftly, then timed his attack and rushed* me. Sadly for him, I did have a substantial force waiting. And his force was wiped out. He was spent. He simply gave up and disconnected! A cheap one-shot all-out strategy. I guessed it must have worked against many unwary opponents.

*Rush. Lingo for attacking very early in the game.
** Boom. Lingo for building a powerful economy.
Note: Images taken from http://www.ageofempires3.com

"Leave your shiny cars at home
Don't you think it's time we learned to walk
And learned to talk
Everybody meet to give praise to the sky and the sea"
'In Shakespeare's Garden' Cause and Effect

This was drawn using Faber-Castell technical pens and Copic markers. An imaginery scene.

Illustration Friday theme: Blue

"The Strategies of Men Appear.....
World Destruction Now Is Here"
'This Faith' Front Line Assembly

08 December 2005

Illustrations Update

I have been rather lethargic and distracted these days, hence, the lack of postings of illustrations. Scanning can be quite a chore at times.

Anyhow, I have more or less recovered from my cold and will soon be scanning new stuff to put up.

"Everybody meet in the field at the top of the hill
No need to bring your guns
Though we've got some time to kill
This place is to the point when we need to have a little talk"
'In Shakespeare's Garden' Cause and Effect
Celebrations - Manchester United is out!

YESYESYES! Manchester United lost and has dropped out of the Champions League. Hahahah! The purchase of expensive strikers like Louis Saha, Alan Smith and Wayne Rooney over the past two years was to no avail! They tried to purchase their way to victory! This calls for a celebration! WOO!


"I had a nightmare only yesterday
You played a skeleton
You took my love then died that day
I played an American"
'Tora! Tora! Tora!' Depeche Mode
The Zenith Angle

This new Bruce Sterling work is cloaked in the guise of a techno-thriller but it is not a typical techno-thriller in the traditional Tom Clancy sense. 'Zenith Angle' is not a typical Sterling SF novel nor a cyberpunk novel.

What is it?

Well, it is a tale of machinations within the government organs. A tale where a cliched computer genius has to grapple with different elements in the bureaucracy. In a sense, it describes one man's struggle with the system.

There is some amount of 'info-dumping' throughout in the 'Zenith Angle' where the protaganist explains nebulous concepts or the narration includes some explanations of certain scientific applications. Mumbo jumbo? Perhaps. Given Sterling's contacts and conversations with members of the scientific community, computer community, and more, he is more than capable of extrapolating current technologies and technologies of the next future.

Is this a satire? There is certainly a feeling of the absurd at times, though I suspect it is unintended. The 'Zenith Angle' doesn't feel clever and it appears to take itself seriously. Is this a stand-up of Homeland Security and the resulting hysteria? Well, it is not humourous and it doesn't have that strident loudness found typically in left-wing and Liberal works critical of the Iraq War. If this is a satire, it doesn't work. I think this is a failed attempt at satire.

The prose is somewhat lighter than the usual dry and tedious prose that one finds in the typical Sterling novel. The characters in Zenith Angle are rather cliched and the dialogue is flat. The all too common Everyman professor or technical type with a loving brilliant wife and child who has to make sacrifices. Oh dear. The commando right-wing redneck stereotype. The money-grabbing dotcommer. What else? The list goes on and on. One dimensional characters galore.

This is an unusual novel in that it is chiefly concerned with an imaginery description of the Leviathan. How does it compare with reality? And would Sterling know? Not unlikely. Again, he has spoken with all sorts, from corporate futurists to policy-makers to SF writers. Well, I find 'Zenith Angle' entertaining but it may find sympathy with a certain set who have experienced the ironicy inherent in a bureaucracy of sorts. Sterling may not have worked in a bureaucracy within the government. However, one may be better off reading Dilbert if one is looking for parody. The plot and ending are rather like that of a lacklustre James Bond thriller.

If one is looking for a satire, look no further than Tom Clancy. They can be laugh out loud material if you know how to read them. Hahaha.

Tom Clancy's awful right-wing, patriotic, breast-beating techno-thrillers aren't exactly exemplary literary works; and they don't work as pulp fiction, they can be tedious and cliched rather than entertaining. Still, his expression of patriotism is not as bad as the fanatical nationalistic sentiments expressed by immature Asians around the region. Wait till you encounter Thai or Malaysian nationalistic sentiments, it's unbelievable.

All in all, the 'Zenith Angle' is entertaining but it is not worth the time. Why? There is simply a lot of fiction of good quality out there. This lightweight attempt at satire promises much but delivers very little ultimately.

"They were raining from the sky
Exploding in my heart
Is this a love in disguise
Or just a form of modern art"
'Tora! Tora! Tora!' Depeche Mode

07 December 2005

Tora! Tora! Tora!

On this date, December 7th, in 1941, the treacherous Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, bringing the United States into the war. At the same time (it was December 8th in Asia), the Japanese bombed Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines.

It should never be forgotten.

Neither should it be forgotten that there were many sacrifices before the fucking Japs* got their sorry asses kicked.

*Yes, they do have a history of treacherous attacks.

"From the skies you could almost hear them cry
Tora! Tora! Tora!
In the town they were going down
Tora! Tora! Tora!"

'Tora! Tora! Tora!' Depeche Mode

06 December 2005

Age of Empires III: The Art of Destruction

I have only been playing the Supremacy games on the Skirmish mode against the computer. After almost 36 games, mostly on the 'Hard' setting, I have come to the following conclusions:

Dutch - I have played more games using the Dutch than any other civilisation and they are certainly the weakest of the lot. Each villager cost 100 gold instead of 100 food. They are particularly vulnerable to early attacks from the others. In the late game, assuming that they can survive and are not fatally weakened, their large number of banks may allow victory. However, it is difficult to last to the Imperial Age with the Dutch. I have read of a means of quickly advancing to the next age which I will try.

British - Well, I like playing the British. With every house built, a villager is given. In addition, the longbowmen is useful in the early game as it does not cost gold while the various gunpowder units are available for the late game. Very strong economically.

Spanish - The Spanish are supposedly the most accessible of the civilisations according to Esemble Studios. I like playing the Spanish. They have great units for the early game and also powerful units for the late game. And the shipments arrive fast.

Russian - The Russians are powerful. I find that I can destroy the enemy's productive capabilities early in the game. Their strategy would centre around early game raids to cripple the enemy economy. However, creating units en-masse is troublesome at times.

German - I find them to be pretty average with their Ulhans which is great for raiding. The villager with the cart is great as well. However, beyond that, there is little to recommend.

Portuguese - I have played it a few times. While the organ guns are nice, I think the Portuguese are weak. I can't pinpoint the weaknesses except in a general sense.

Ottoman - I found it extremely easy to attack the enemy early with the Ottomans. With their powerful infantry unit type (Janissary) early in the game, one can easily attack enemy villagers and disrupt their production. The Arbus units are lethal. The Ottomans are possibly the strongest civilisation in the game.

French - The French has rifle-armed villagers costing 120 food. However, they are supposedly very powerful with their cuirassiers. I have found them to be relatively fast during the buildup. Strong economically. I can't pinpoint strengths and weakness. The French does appear to be one of the stronger civilisations.

My time to the Colonial Age isn't great either. It ranges from 5:30 to 6:30. I have read that some people can reach the Colonial Age in 4:30 and have an army attacking shortly after.

Beating the computer at 'Hard' level generally takes between 27 to 45 minutes. On another note, beating the computer one on one at an 'Expert' level isn't difficult if one were to choose 'Carribean' or 'Amazonia'. The computer AI cannot handle seapower well.

*Image taken from http://www.ageofempires3.com

"I guess it's over now.
I think we've seen the end.
When our common dream.
Faltered in the between.
Though I've tried so hard to make it real.
It doesn't matter now.
I guess it never did."
'It's over now' Cause and Effect

05 December 2005


I am grumbling. I am bored. Where are all the interesting people? Where they all hiding? Are there interesting people in Singapore for that matter?

I should really cultivate a group. Some kind of elite group that meets often. For drinks, for meals, for games. I don't want to meet any more Singaporean drones. Fuck them. Otherwise, I keep meeting the same people who say the same things. Cars, gadgets, and other branded goods. Materialism. Time to re-evaluate close friends, friends, aquaintances. Time to spring clean. I shall have to initiate things and not be so laid back.

Call it the Roundtable, call it the Evil Gathering, whatever.


Of course nothing will ever come to pass because I have never liked elitism. Then again, stupid and boring people are grating.

"One - You lock the target
Two - You bait the line
Three- You slowly spread the net
And four - You catch the man"
'Headhunter' Front 242

A friend who is an academic just had some of his work plagarised by a student from the University of Sydney.

He had resources and instructions on LaTeX put up and the work had been used and presented to various groups. Now, this doctoral student in Australia came and ripped his work off wholesale. Quoting my friend, it was a computer scientist ripping off a political scientist. Ironic! Needless to say, my poor friend was aghast.

He sent an email to the person in question to remove the offending copied work and he 'cc:ed' them to the person's advisor and other academics. And guess how the thief reacted? He restricted my friend from accessing the page! What blatant and shameless audacity!

Somehow, I think this thief may get away with it. Who really enforces and policies these things? Such are the times.

"Today he has no means, he's alone and anonymous
But written in his cells he has got the marks of a genius
I'm looking for this man to sell him to other men
To sell him to other men at ten times the price at least
I'm looking for this man who knows the rules of the game
Who's able to forget them to realize my aim
I'm looking for this man to make us rich and famous"
'Headhunter' Front 242

Age of Empires III

I am currently playing 'Age of Empires III'. It's a compelling little real-time strategy game, much simpler and faster playing than its predecessors, 'Age of Empires', 'Age of Empires II: Age of Kings', 'Age of Mythology', and the 'Rise of Nations'. The new home cities and cards concepts are interesting but hardly groundbreaking. Still, it is an enjoyable affair.

I have previously been playing 'Battlefield 2' and 'Doom 3'. The latter is a vast disappointment.