24 December 2005

Puma IFV

Rheinmetall Landsysteme and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann will be building about 1000 new Puma IFVs which will replace 2000 Marder 1 MICVs in the German army.

The Marder 2 vehicles, which were to succeed the Marder 1s, were cancelled some years ago due to a lack of budget.

Technical data:
maximum design weight: 43 tons
weight (Protection Level A): 31.45 tons
weight (Protection Level C): 40.7 tons
crew: 9 (6+3);
maximum road speed: 70 kilometres per hour
power to weight ratio: 20 kW/t;
length: 7,330 mm
width: 3,430 mm
total height: 3,050 mm

This seems like a very conventional vehicle. Nothing revolutionary about it. Armament fit, protection levels, troop capacity, etc.

Stronghold

A stronghold at the ridge. Ink sketch circa 2000.

23 December 2005

A Load of Rubbish

This series by George R.R. Martin is one of the worst fantasies I have read in years with wooden stock characters that resemble those in a high school drama, horrid prose, soap opera-like plot, cartoon violence, rapes (I guess for the adolescent boys and not so mature men who have a certain mental condition). I wasted enough time ploughing through over 1600 in two books.

This series is ranking with the Dragonlance Chronicles and the Belgariad as the worst books I have ever read.

Yes, the War of the Roses is an interesting period. This fantasy tale, however, is just beyond redemption, truly insipid. Sure, it will sell truckloads, it will make the author money in licensing and merchandising. The collectible card game, the artbook, the boardgames and expansion, the RPG and other associated material are already available. The horror!

Who knows? After the success of the Lord of the Rings, Narnia and Harry Potter...

Love

Angela Carter's work in long form and short form is characterised by the richness of the prose and imagination. 'Love' is no exception and this short novel is that of a bizarre love triangle. Some of the passages and descriptive prose are haunting.

Angela Carter work has always been individual and unique. 'Love' begins with a passage denoting a loss of gravity, a sense of madness:

"One day, Annabel saw the sun and the moon at the same time. The sight filled her with a terror which entire consumed her and did not leave her until the night closed in catastrophe for she had no instinct for self-preservation if she was confronted by ambiguities.'

Duran Duran The Singles 1986-95

The second set of Duran Duran singles consists of 14 CDs.

I was looking at my US CD single of 'Come undone'. I noted that it has a track that the CD single in this collection has not got. Strange. Duran Duran's covers of Velvet Underground's 'Perfect Day' and 'Femme Fatale' are excellent, close to perfection. I have read that Lou Reed had praised it and was very impressed.

The tracklisting are as follows:

CD 1: NOTORIOUS
1/ Notorious (45 Mix)
2/ Winter Marches On
3/ Notorious (Extended Mix)
4/ Notorious (Latin Rascals Mix)

CD 2: SKIN TRADE
1/ Skin Trade (Radio Cut)
2/ We Need You
3/ Skin Trade (Stretch Mix)
4/ Skin Trade (Album version)

CD 3: MEET EL PRESIDENTE
1/ Meet El Presidente (7" Remix)
2/ Vertigo (Do The Demolition)
3/ Meet El Presidente
4/ Meet El Presidente (Meet El Beat)

CD 4: I DON'T WANT YOUR LOVE
1/ I Don't Want Your Love (7" Mix)
2/ I Don't Want Your Love (Album version)
3/ I Don't Want Your Love (Big Mix)

CD 5: ALL SHE WANTS IS
1/ All She Wants Is (45 Mix)
2/ I Believe/All I Need To Know
3/ All She Wants Is (US Master Mix)
4/ All She Wants Is (Euro Dub Mix)
5/ Skin Trade (Parisian Mix)

CD 6: DO YOU BELIEVE IN SHAME
1/ Do You Believe In Shame?
2/ The Krush Brothers LSD Edit
3/ God (London)
4/ This Is How A Road Gets Made
5/ Palomino (Edit)
6/ Drug (Original Version)
7/ Notorious (live - Ahoy Rotterdam 1987)

CD 7: BURNING THE GROUND
1/ Burning The Ground
2/ Decadance
3/ Decadance (2 Risk E Remix 12")

CD 8: VIOLENCE OF SUMMER (LOVE'S TAKING OVER)
1/ Violence Of Summer (7" Mix)
2/ Violence Of Summer (The Story Mix)
3/ Violence Of Summer (Power Mix)
4/ Violence Of Summer (Album version)
5/ Violence Of Summer (The Rock Mix)
6/ Violence Of Summer (The Dub Sound Of A Powerful Mix)
7/ Violence Of Summer (Power Cutdown)
8/ Throb

CD 9: SERIOUS
1/ Serious (Single version)
2/ Yo Bad Azizi
3/ Water Babies
4/ All Along The Water

CD 10: ORDINARY WORLD
1/ Ordinary World (Single version)
2/ My Antarctica
3/ Ordinary World
4/ Save A Prayer (single version)
5/ Skin Trade
6/ The Reflex (7" version)
7/ Hungry Like The Wolf (130 B.P.M. version)
8/ Girls On Film

CD 11: COME UNDONE
1/ Come Undone (Edit)
2/ Ordinary World (Acoustic version)
3/ Come Undone (FGI Thumpin' 12")
4/ Come Undone (7" Edit Alternate) (3.57)
5/ Come Undone (La Fin De Siecle)
5/ Come Undone (Album version)
6/ Come Undone (12" Mix Comin' Together) (7.21)
7/ Come Undone (Come Undub) (4.47)
8/ Come Undone (Album version) (4.31)
9/ Rio (Album version)
10/7/ Is There Something I Should Know?
11/8/ A View To A Kill

CD 12: TOO MUCH INFORMATION
1/ Too Much Information (Album version)
2/ Come Undone (live)
3/ Notorious (live)
4/ Too Much Information (Ben Chapman 12" Mix)
5/ Drowning Man (D:Ream 12" mix)
6/ Drowning Man (Ambient Mix)
7/ Too Much Information (Deptford Dub)
8/ Too Much Information (Album version edit)
9/ Come Undone (12" Mix Comin' Together)

CD 13: PERFECT DAY
1/ Perfect Day
2/ Femme Fatale (Alternative Mix)
3/ Love Voodoo (Remix)
4/ The Needle And The Damage Done
5/ 911 Is A Joke (Alternate version)
6/ Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me (Make Me Smile)
7/ Perfect Day (Acoustic version)

CD 14: WHITE LINES (DON'T DO IT)
1/ White Lines (Album version)
2/ Save A Prayer (Single version)
3/ None Of The Above (Drizabone mix)
4/ White Lines (70's Club Mix)
5/ White Lines (Oakland Fonk Mix)
6/ White Lines (Junior Vasquez Mix)
7/ Ordinary World (Acoustic version - Simon Mayo Show)

Trainyard

A sketch of an imaginery scene. Again, this is done about five years ago.

22 December 2005

New Covenant single 'Ritual Noise' and Snog compilation 'Sixteen Easy Tunes for the End Times'

There are so many new releases slated for Early 2006. The new long-awaited Covenant single 'Ritual Noise' is due at the end of January 2006.

There will be a compilation of Snog singles and tracks titled 'Sixteen Easy Tunes for the End Times'. This brainchild of David Thrussell includes classics such as 'Corporate Slave', 'Hey Christian God', 'The Ballad', 'Real Estate Man', 'Born to be mild'.

Not to be missed. A definite weird industrial classic with nothing sounding like this. Of course, if you are one of those Holy types...

Age of Empires 3: Observations* from online play

From the few games I have played, here are my observations:


1. Preserve a field army at all times. They are an instrument of decision. The field army should be used when possible unless there is a standoff or a balance of power. Of course, the size, relative to the enemy should be considered.

2. Maintain a viable and competitive economy. The players that I have encountered were not very bothered with their economies and were building at a fairly relaxed rate. Some have even outpaced me in reaching the Colonial Age first. (4:00+) but they managed it unrealistically. I only managed it after 6 minutes.


3. Know your enemy's ability. Know what their civilisation can do. The weapons systems available to them.


4. Instead of reading Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' with its ambigious folksy sayings, I would advise that one look up Archer Jones 'The Art of War in the Western World'. The early parts of the book are instructive and has a bearing. The different types of weapons systems and their relativity are discussed in great detail.

5. Tactical-level battles are important. Don't ignore them like I do in those games I lose unless you have a great strategic edge.

6. Economy and the speed of development is all-important. This is the most important aspect of Age of Empires 3. Strategy and economy. Not reflexes. Not speed of reaction.

There is a player who goes by the moniker of El Capitan. He has a blog that discusses advanced strategies that are interesting to say that least. Bruce Shelley, the designer of the Age of Empires 3 also maintains a blog.


*There are too few games for 'lessons'.
**Images taken from http://www.ageofempires3.com


The Great Outdoors

Another piece from the same series of small sketches I did five years or so ago. These images just came to my mind swiftly as I draw.

Sometimes, I have dreams that are crystal clear to the extent that it is frightening. It was in a sense more 'real' than being awake and it can be disorientating when I wake up. Is this merely a shadow world I inhabit?

21 December 2005


Sir John Fisher's Naval Revolution

I was flipping through this volume at Borders when Brian urged me to get it. He recommended it heavily being the evil person that he is. So, I picked this up and have started reading it.

As it is, I have quite a few books on naval warfare, policy, shipbuilding, ship design in the First World War.

Anyway, the premise of this book by Nicholas Lambert was that Fisher aims were total naval supremacy using new technology rather than countering the German build-up. Fisher was never the hidebound traditionalist and he espoused new naval technologies. He saw that through new technologies the eventual lack of funding can be countered. He saw the Battlecruiser as the new unit that can take the place of three types.

His revolution was, however, tempered by the traditional navalists after 1910 despite the efforts of Churchill's administration who embraced it.

His was the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) of a century ago.
Duran Duran The Singles 81-85

A box set of Duran Duran singles is certainly long overdue. This set and another set were released a few years ago and features covers which were reproductions of the origins.

CD1
1. Planet Earth
2. Late Bar
3. Planet Earth (Night Version)

CD2
4. Careless Memories
5. Khanada6. Fame
7. Girls On Film
8. Faster Than Light

CD3
9. Girls On Film (Night Version)
10. My Own Way (Single Version)
11. Like An Angel
12. My Own Way (Night Version)

CD4
13. Hungry Like The Wolf
14. Careless Memories (Live Version)
15. Hungry Like The Wolf (Night Version)

CD5
16. Save A Prayer (7 Inch Edit)
17. Hold Back The Rain (Re Mix)
18. Hold Back The Rain (12 Inch Re Mix)

CD6
19. Rio (Part One)
20. The Chauffeur (Blue Silver)
21. Rio (Part Two)
22. My Own Way

CD7
23. Is There Something I Should Know
24. Faith In This Colour
25. Is There Something I Should Know (Monster Mix)
26. Faith In This Colour (Alternate Slow Mix)

CD8
27. Union Of The Snake
28. Secret Oktober
29. Union Of The Snake (The Monkey Mix)

CD9
30. New Moon On Monday (Album Version)
31. Tiger Tiger
32. New Moon On Monday (Dance Mix)

CD10
33. The Reflex (7 Inch Version)
34. Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) (Live)
35. The Reflex (Dance Mix)

CD11
36. The Wild Boys (45)
37. (Im Looking For) Cracks In The Pavement (84)
38. The Wild Boys (Wilder Than Wild Boys) (Extended Mix)

CD12
39. A View To Kill
40 A View To Kill (That Fatal Kiss)

Likewise, Depeche Mode has released six boxsets (with the first one released in 1992), Modern Talking has released one, Rational Youth one, Erasure three... Let's hope Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark will release one as well.



The Tree on the Summit

This is part of a series of sketches I did about five years ago. Again, they are drawing using technical pens and coloured with Copic markers.

20 December 2005

The Strange House

A piece swiftly drawn with technical pigment pens and Copic markers.
Age of Empires 3: Update

Three losses tonight. All were against the French and Ottoman.

Spain versus Ottoman - 24 minutes. I destroyed his town centre. I neglected my large army which destroyed his buildings and was then destroyed. Was beaten twice in battles. My lack of tactical finesse was a major cause of strategic loss. He attacked. My counterattack was very successful. My followup was a failure.

Spain versus French - 25 minutes. Highlights: The game was essentially over by the eighth minute when an army of cavalry and infantry arrived at my town centre. I had five musketeers. Great Lakes map.

Spain versus French - 19 minutes. Highlights: I managed to destroy his army, destroy two of his trading posts and losing my army. His third or fourth wave arrived and the game was over.

In all, the causes were a faster run-up. They built a lot faster, especially the French. The Ottomans could send a very large early army of janissary. The musketeers were of no match. My economy was more fragile and was not fast enough. The keyword is not fast enough.

My record: 4:3. I have problems against French and Ottoman players. They rush earlier than I could.

Addendum

My next course of action would be to improve my timing. I need to reach Colonial Age within 4:30 to stand a chance and I must do it without fatally weakening my economy. An alternative would be to play the French (or the Ottomans) like many many other players at present. There has been talk about balancing the nations. Esemble Studios may increase the strengths of the weaker ones.
Age of Empires 3: The Online Experience

This is my observation as a relatively new and inexperienced player online. It was with great anticipation and trepidation that I approached the whole online experience. I had read in forums of people with very short times in reaching Colonial and Fortress ages and I wondered if I would be 'rushed' from the onset. I had expected a lot of great, experienced and aggressive players. I did eventually go online and I have fought four different opponents as of last night. I chose 1 versus 1 encounters regardless of my opponent's city level. In my first encounter, I encountered a player playing the Spanish with a level 16 city. After five encounters, I had managed four victories. I had rushed all my opponents crushing them with the following times: 25, 19, 16, 15 minutes.

Spain versus Spain - 25 minutes. Highlights: Opponent built towers to protect his two trading posts which I destroyed. My subsequent attack saw lancers, falconets, pikemen, musketeers and redolero (a kind of sword and buckler infantry) overrun their town centre. I had a fortified outpost, fortress and barracks at the boundary of their base. I also have five fortified outposts protecting my town centre.

Spain versus Russia - 19 minutes. Highlights: Opponent repulsed four waves before I sent an army with two falconets into their town centre. His gold production was utterly shattered. I had a fortified outpost, fortress and barracks at the boundary of their base.

Spain versus Britain - 16 minutes. Highlights: Opponent defeated my first two waves of attack before my third massed attack overwhelmed the remnants of his army. Opponent tried building walls early in the game. Two sections were completed when my attack was launched.

Spain versus Spain - 15 minutes. Highlights: Opponent disabled my explorer twice and destroyed my exploratory first army. Game ended in Colonial Age after my second army arrived in his town centre.

The terrain ranged from Carolina to Texas.

I play Spain because I am comfortable with the units, economy and strategy. Despite a lot of practice playing the Dutch, I could not get a measure of the strategy needed to succeed. After over forty games, I switched to playing the Spanish.

I guess I have been fortunate. The other players that I have encountered are not those formidable ones that one sees about in forums discussing strategies.

From these few games, I think there are many 'normal' players out there. One need not be an expert to go on Esemble Studios servers. There are between 1800 to 2700 opponents online at Esemble Online (ESO) and the vast number are normal players. The online experience is worthwhile and accessible.

Age of Empires 3 is not a game of fast reactions and reflexes. One simply needs to have a strategy in mind before playing. It's a thinking game. And if one can think on one's feet, fine and good but it is not necessary. I find that the strategic elements are ultimately more important than the tactical elements.

I may embark on the 2 versus 2 games one of these days. The problem with that is the need for a reliable partner and an agreed strategy before play. Co-ordination will be paramount.

Addendum

I finally faced a competent Ottoman player who rushed tonight. Needlness to say, I suffered my first defeat in 28 minutes. My loss came from the lack of tactical finesse. I lost twice with a huge army when I neglected to micro-manage my troops! And they attacked the wrong buildings! I had razed his town centre.

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

19 December 2005

Drawings

As noted earlier, I will scan my sketch book. I have managed a small batch tonight. I will try to put up an image daily if I can.


With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa

Brian 'forced' this book on me when he, Poon and I were at Borders on Saturday night. This is certainly an engrossing read, on par with Guy Sager and a few other infantrymen accounts which I have previously read. I am halfway through it.

This is an infantryman's account of his experiences in the bloody assaults at Peleliu and Okinawa and the sacrifices involved.

Sledge was an mortarman (60mm mortars) with the 5th regiment, 1st Marine Division in both assaults in 1944-45.


1st Cavalry Division 'First Team' in Baghdad

Interesting images in this new volume includes that of a destroyed M6 Linebacker, a destroyed M2A3 Bradley (with all the passive armour boxes) and a destroyed M1A2 Abrams.

It also includes helicopter losses to enemy fire like that of an AH-64D Apache Longbow, two AH-58 Kiowas and a UH-60 Blackhawk. Four other choppers were lost to accidents.

The fighting in the Baghdad and Sunni Triangle area appears to be extremely intense. The area patrolled and covered is large.

In these difficult circumstance, the professionalism and bravery of the troops cannot be understated.

"Got to get you off my conscience by Friday,
On Saturday I'll be wide awake,
On Sunday I'm your new best friend,
On Monday learn it all again"
'Evil' Ladytron
Age of Empires 3: The Art of Early Attacks

I have played about seventy games of Age of Empires 3. The computer opponent on the Hard setting can easily be attacked early in the game. In the parlance of gamers, the early attack is termed as the 'rush'.

Beating the computer at the 'Hard' setting is rather simple. Of late, I have managed to 'rush' the computer opponent at the 'Hard' settings, finishing them off in 23, 23, 21, 26, 23 minutes.

My sister has even managed to beat them early in 18 minutes!

The lessons in these rushes are:

1. Attack the enemy villagers early. Prevent them from mining for gold and hunting or gathering for food. This can be sent by sending creating five musketeers and sending them separately to various areas of the map. After a barracks is built, five soldiers armed with firearms must be sent. Avoid tangling with the enemy outposts. Watch the troops. Do not let them chase the villagers into the enemy town centre.

2. Disable the enemy explorer. Use the outposts and troops. This is not very important but it can be done easily. So, why not?

3. Continue creating villagers. At no point should one ever stop creating villagers. All villagers must be occupied, doing productive things at all times. My rush depends on ruining their economy and eventually outbuilding them.

4. Continue rushing and sending troops piecemeal. (Not in ones or twos. Five or ten harassing troops would be enough). One may lose several initial battles. The idea is to force the enemy to expend resources. Organise defences. Lose villagers and troops. This way, one would hardly need defences for good reason. For exchanges, ensure that the exchange ratios are close to parity. Losing 5 to 4 is alright. Losing 10 to 3 is not.

5. Send two falconets (light artillery) with about ten troops of various types by the Fortress Age. At that point, one should be able to devastate the town centre. A second wave of reinforcing troops would win the game. Oh, destroy their outposts and town centres using your troops. Leave the falconets against villagers and enemy troops.

6. Two barracks should be built. The first may be built near the town centre. The second should be built near the enemy town centre. If possible, site an outpost by the advance barracks. Have reinforcing shipments of troops delivered there.

7. Never forget to exploit victory. Upon winning a battle, do not stand there and cheer. Go in. Do in their villagers! Bring followup forces and mope-up!

These are generally characteristics of my rush against the computer. I will describe them in detail in future.

I have gone online and fought three opponents, two of which were so-called 'clan' members. I rushed the first player and destroyed him in 25 minutes, I rushed the second and destroyed him in 19 minutes and finally tonight, I played a third, rushing him and forcing his resignation in 16 minutes.

I will write on those in great detail in the coming days.

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

18 December 2005

Indonesia circa 1930s Part II

I managed to find two more photos taken by my grandfather.


Exact location unknown.


A dwelling? Whatever it is, this building has character.

Drinks with Good Ol' Anthony, Poon and Brian

Anthony is a friend whom I have not seen for over a decade. Then, out of the blue, he spotted my blog. Shortly after he contacted me, he left for Berkeley with his wife. Fortunately, Anthony is back again for a short period of time. We took the opportunity to meet for drinks this afternoon. So, I called up some old friends whom he has not seen for a while too.

I recall that the last time I saw him was when he was just a seventeen year old student who played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons! He was one of the members of the Rivendell BBS and then the Lothlorien BBS.

We had drinks at NYDC at the Heeren. It was crowded!

We had a great time. We spoke of old friends and aquaintances. It has really been a while.



Later, Poon, Brian* and I had dinner at Black Angus at the Orchard Parade Hotel.

I'm tired. Otherwise, there will be snide remarks in this blog entry. Haha!

*Sorry everyone about that photo of Brian. In Call of Cthulhu parlance, please make a insanity check.


Indonesia circa 1930s

My grandfather had visited Indonesia in the 1930s. He had taught in Indonesia for about a year or more before he was forced to leave due to his anti-colonial leanings. This is one of his photos from that period. Subsequently, he was to return to Indonesia under more arduous conditions in 1942. He fled Singapore with his family in a boat (unpowered) before Singapore fell to the brutal Imperial Japanese Army in early 1942. He was to live in the jungles of Sumatra with his family for several years before returning to Singapore in 1945 after the vanquished Japanese departed.

He had originally left China with his family in 1937 when the Imperial Japanese Army invaded China under several false pretexts and the army was engaged in rapine and massacres.