31 March 2006

The Machinist

A clever psychological drama with symbols throughout. The books. The paths taken. The choices.

Loners may find a lot to identify with. Not the paranoia but the existence.

Malaysian Sea Skua ASM falls into the sea

According to a NewKerala report, one of the Sea Skua ASM (Air-to-Surface Missiles) that Malaysia bought four years ago "fell into the Straits of Malacca during a contractual test firing when its rocket booster failed to ignite."

In an earlier report, it was stated that:

"However, Laksamana Ilyas declined to disclose the exact location of the test launch and the number of missiles acquired by the navy. "We have a large enough number," he told reporters here Monday after pinning honorary wings on four navy trainees who qualified for flight duty. The test target will be a barge at sea. Laksamana Ilyas urged all fishermen and tourist boats to stay away from a radius of 16 nautical miles from Kuala Beruas in the Straits of Malacca."

This missile is likely launched from the Sea Lynx helicopters of the Malaysian armed forces. Those four navy trainees who qualified probably launched the Sea Skua ASM.

After the missile fell into the sea, the report has the Malaysian navy chief saying:

"We will not accept the missiles unless they are proven to work," Royal Malaysian Navy Chief Ilayas Din was quoted by the 'New Straits Times' newspaper as saying about yesterday's incident. He said a second contractual firing test would be held on March 23.""

It is also noted that:

"Nine ships and four helicopters were involved in supporting the firing and was estimated to have cost around 68,000 US dollars. "

A later report has assured fishermen that the missile will not pose a danger to them on the seabed.
Heating in Shanghai

A few weeks ago, I visited Shanghai during a cold spell. The temperatures which were about 15 degrees Celsius suddenly plunged to 2 degrees. The gusts of wind were strong, cutting into my skin. The place was freezing. It was unexpected.

Strangely, as I observed, most of Shanghai did not appear to be heated except for the hotels and high-end department stores. Most of the shops in buildings were open to the elements. Thus, they were all bitterly cold inside. My hands and feet were numb. I saw that some of the Shanghainese would wear fluffy, shapeless and colourful jackets while others wore wool-lined leather coats.

It was an unexpected development to find one of the fastest developing cities in the world in this state of a distribution of thermal comforts. What on earth?

This has left me puzzled for a week or two until I read an article in the 15th March issue of the Wall Street Journal about the heating policy in China. I was astounded.

This is unbelievable but true. Apparently, there is a line drawn north of Nanjing and Shanghai that cuts China in half. This line demarcates where there will be central heating from the government boilers. From December to March, heating will be available for those cities north of that line, for instance, Beijing, Harbin and others. So, if there is a weather anomaly, for instance, it gets hot in February, the people living north of the line will keep their windows open!

It is also noted that in recent years, people have purchased private heaters. In addition, new apartments and dwellings are built with heaters.

Recently, according to the Shanghainese, the seasons has been unusual. A few of them have told me that spring and autumn have vanished. After winter, it will be summer and then followed by winter again. The weather has been somewhat extreme in recent years.

This reminded me of what a taxi driver in Leeds once told me a decade ago. He recalled snow that was up to his knees in his childhood. In the three years I spent in Yorkshire, the snow did not reach up to me ankles. Apparently, the weather has been changing.

30 March 2006

"An original and interesting mind was Philip Dick, however he also had some difficulty in making a name for himself. Initially he had been more popular in France and later his fame spread to the US. Also, his works were of "uneven quality". "

Quote from an interview with Shargh, a daily newspaper, Stanislaw Lem
"The works of the Derrida and Lacana schools do not seem particularly clear to me: they resembles ideology presented in a talmudic way combined with splitting hairs."

Quote from an interview with Shargh, a daily newspaper, Stanislaw Lem

Witch Finder

I finished C.L. Werner's 'Witch Hunter' tonight. It's a decent read. I am reading the sequel 'Witch Finder' now.

Last night, I finished Nicholas Ostler's 'Empire of the Word: A Language History of the World'. I will speak a little on that later. The propagation and transmission of languages. The evolution and death of languages...

And then, it's back to finishing Jared Diamond's volume on mankind's propensity to destroy the environment that sustains his society in 'Collapse'.

This is a 4cm x 4cm ink drawing of Cthulhu, a Great Old One, from the tales of H.P. Lovecraft, a prominent American horror writer of the 1930s.

I used a 2B pencil to draw the outline and I used Artline and Faber-Castell pigment ink pens after.

Cthulhu is not technically a monster. It is an old alien God which is beyond the comprehension of humans. Yet, insane cultists worship it.

Illustration Friday theme: Monster

29 March 2006

Books I'm reading

I'm currently embarking on C.L.Werner's 'Witch Hunter' and Ronald McNair Scott's 'Robert the Bruce'. The former is fun pulp fiction featuring a witch hunter on the trail of the taint of Chaos in the dark world of Warhammer while the latter is a straight forward narrative on the life of the great Scottish King, Robert the Bruce, who successfully fought off the English.

I'm still in the midst of Jared Diamond's 'Collapse', a book on the M16, something on the Chinese army today.

"About what am I now employing my own soul? On every occasion I must ask myself this question, and inquire, what have I now in this part of me which they call the ruling principle? And whose soul have I now? That of a child, or of a young man, or of a feeble woman, or of a tyrant, or of a domestic animal, or of a wild beast?"

'The Meditations' Marcus Aurelius, 167 A.D.

28 March 2006

VNV Nation News

Surprisingly, VNV Nation is going to be doing the soundtrack for 'Gene Generation' (The Underworld of Gene Hacking? Err...), a low budget SF film with Singaporean direction, I think. I am not sure if the film is worth watching. I will probably give it a miss. I don't know. However, I will definitely be interested in the soundtrack.

The director is one Pearry Reginald Teo. And from his mySpace entry, he likes Covenant, VNV Nation, Depeche Mode, Sisters of Mercy, Wolfsheim, The Cruxshadows and so forth. This can't be bad. And his taste in films is excellent. 'City of Lost Children', 'Brazil', 'Fight Club', 'Blade Runner'. This bodes well. Maybe, I will bother with 'Gene Generation' after all...

On another note, there are two releases slated from VNV Nation, 'Homeward' and 'Reformation'. That is great news!

Stanislaw Lem is dead!

I learned from Mr.Nizz and a BBC report that Stanislaw Lem, the greatest SF writer in the Eastern Bloc besides Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, is dead. I am saddened. For me, Stanislaw Lem has been the science fiction writer as well as a writer for all humanity. A literary giant has died.

Lem is not concerned merely with rocketships and robots, rather, his concerns, in the form of parables and novels are often ontological, universal and philosophical with the New York Times once describing him as 'a polymath and a virtuoso storyteller and stylist'. In some ways, Lem's playful timeless parables can be compared to Jorge Luis Borges.

I recall browsing at a small independent bookstore in Stockton in California one cold, late evening in the mid-eighties and discovering the books of Lem. 'The Cyberiad'*, 'Tales of Pirx the Pilot', 'His Master's Voice', 'The Star Diaries', 'Memoirs of a Space Traveller' and more. They were intriguing books, very much unlike the formulaic trash I was reading then (ie Asimov's Foundation trilogy, Frank Herbert's Dune series...)

This piece of news will take some time to sink in despite the fact that Lem has not produced any work for a decade or so.

*As you can tell, my email address for the last decade is named in honour of this book.
Assault Rifles of the Malaysian Armed Forces and Paramilitary Groups

The Malaysian armed forces has been steadily acquiring armaments of various types over the years. In terms of assault rifles, it has procured a variety of types. Here are the known types:

M16 (Model 613) - 200 000
M16 (Model 653) - 5000

Beretta AR-70 - Likely to be in low numbers. 5000?

Steyr AUG A1 - This replacement for the M16 was first adopted 15 years ago. The numbers bought then were unlikely to be a one is to one replacement, however there is a possibility that over 200 000 were indeed licence-manufactured. The assault rifles adopted were licence-manufactured by SME Ordnance Sdn Bhd and SME Aerospace Sdn Bhd which are subsidiaries of Nadi. The rifles were manufactured in a 113ha plant in Batu Arang. Recently, Steyr has indicated that it will manufacture all their AUG A1, A2 and A3 rifles in Malaysia.

It is not unlikely that some other assault rifle types were bought in small numbers for trials and for use by various specialists groups or paramilitary types.

The Steyr AUG has definitely seen action in Malaysian hands However, it is with bank robbers who are sometimes ex-military or have access to the arsenals.

According to a 17th March 2006 New Straits Times report, the Malaysian Armed Forces is currently searching for a replacement:

"New assault rifles may be in the offing for the army. It is now looking into the possibility of replacing its Steyr AUG rifles, introduced 15 years ago. Army chief Jen Datuk Seri Abdul Aziz Zainal said soldiers would be equipped with a more modern rifle."The Steyr has served us for 15 years now. Whatever has been in use for a long time perhaps needs to be changed." Abdul Aziz was speaking at a Press conference at the Sungai Besi army camp after a shooting competition for the media, organised in conjunction with the 73rd Army Day on March 1."

It is not unlikely that it will adopt the AUG A3 for both economic and strategic reasons. Time will tell...

The Malaysian army chief also made an additional statement that is of interest:

"On whether the Steyr was being replaced because of weaknesses, he said: "There are no weaknesses (in the weapon)."If there are weaknesses, it is because of the person handling the weapon," he said."

Why was the question been floated? It was likely to be floated due to negative reports arising from the grapevine. If not, why would he have made this additional statement? Unless...

On a related but different note, the Malaysia government website has an interesting statistic. Can it possibly be true? It is supposedly an adapted article from the Star:

"The Steyr AUG (Armee Universal Gewehr, or Army Universal Rifle) was first produced in 1978, and is now said to be the most widely sold modern assault rifle, next to the AK-47 series. "

Note that statement and claim. One wonders about the accuracy of this article. Is the article suggesting that 10 million Steyr AUG or more has been sold?
Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach

Ooooh, Wilson dropped this at my place at 11:30 pm last night. Woo.

I can't wait.

The reviews on Amazon don't appear to be great and the level cap is 10. However, who can resist this? It should be at least a month or two of good fun. Then, I can terminate my subscription. Heheh.

C'mon guys, let's start a party for old times' sake. Life's too short!

27 March 2006

Oliver Stone's Alexander

Oliver Stone's 2004 attempt at a re-telling of the life of Alexander the Great was sorely lacking. With Alexander (Colin Farrell) sporting an Irish accent and Olympia (Angelina Jolie), a strange Hollywood Russian accent, 'Alexander' appeared to be a mish-mash of mis-castings and bad accents. Farrell was unconvincing as Alexander. He plainly did not have the ability to handle such a role and he would have been better suited for a cop show of some sort.

Colin Farrell's wig and heavy mascara were hilarious. The heavy mascara on some of Alexander companion were laughable as well. What gives?

It got worse. Besides the mis-casting, the narrative did not flow from scene to scene, it was more than episodic, the narrative stuttered. The choice of important scenes appear strange as some important episodes of Alexander's life was omitted while others incidental ones were included. Simplifcation? Perhaps. However, the choices did not lend itself to narrative continuity, thus, the narrative suffered.

Then, there was the bad childhood and blame the bad parenting bit. Abusive father. Manipulative mother. Urm....

Is this film meant to be an indictment of Bush and Bush Senior's direction of Pax Americana in Iraq with the emphasis on the conquests in Alexander being a failure? If it is, the film is simply not effective. The message is submerged somewhere.

I saw the DVD last night and I wished I hadn't wasted three hours of my life on this. I had wanted a visualisation of Alexander the Great but this was simply a failure in every sense of the word.

Ink sketch using Faber-Castell and Artline pens.

26 March 2006

"Our nation lived in freedom and quietness until Edward, King of England, under colour of friendship and alliance, attacked us, all unsuspecting, when we had neither King nor Head and our people were unacquainted with wars and invasions."

Scottish Declaration of Arbroath, 1320

25 March 2006

A Glorious Sunny Morning

What a glorious, sunny Saturday morning. Too bad, I'm at work. Heh.
"If what we are about to tell you is true, as we believe it is, it means that there are men and women dwelling in the continuous present, where the past is dead and the future consists of fear and impossible desires."

'The Serpent and the Rainbow' Wade Davis

24 March 2006

Thundering Typhoons!*

Wheeeee! It's Friday! I'm inspired by some ink sketches that I have seen thanks to Mr Nizz. I will bring out my sketchbooks tonight to sketch! I will also be re-reading the rules to 'Hammer of the Scots'. There are games arranged on the 1st of April.

*Yes, I'm quoting Captain Haddock's favourite line. Hahah.
On Organising A Wargame Session: A Classic Remark from ESB

"Organising a wargame session is even more difficult than getting married. For the latter, you merely need to find someone whose likes and dislikes roughly matches yours.For the former, you need to find 3 others who want to play that genre of wargame, who like that particular game within the genre, who are available for that day and time slot, who have the ability to move to the chosen location .....Given that the number of married couples in Singapore is not increasing, it will be no wonder that wargamers become like the dodo soon :-)"

A classic remark from ESB* after two attempts at organising an Iron Dragon rail game.

*ESB stands for Evil SB. You should know who he is.
"Think of the universal substance, of which thou hast a very small portion; and of universal time, of which a short and indivisible interval has been assigned to thee; and of that which is fixed by destiny, and how small a part of it thou art."

'The Meditations' Marcus Aurelius, 167 A.D.

23 March 2006

Singapore Open Gaming II

Ken Lee is organising the second Singapore Open Gaming session. It should be held at the usual place.

Date: 8th April 2006
Time: 2:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Place: Block 3, Room 139 Resident's Committee Room, Queen's Road. (Note, this is just off Farrer Road, just below the Westlake eateries).
Cost: Variable. It's a small sum divided amongst the total number of participants. It should cost under four dollars.

Yes, you can bring your own games, food, etc.

If you are interested, do drop him an email.
Chinese Fortune-Teller Wax Model

Here's a wax model of a Chinese Fortune-Teller as one will have seen a few hundred years ago. The Chinese museums in Shanghai have amazingly life-like wax models, perhaps almost on par with Madame Tussads in London?

22 March 2006

Flying Lemur killed by Slingshot (or catapult) Wielders

It is unbelievable. Several men in their forties and fifties were apparently spotted shooting at flying lemurs: http://www.asiaone.com/st/st_20060322_379655.html

They injured one which eventually died.

Savages! Unbelievable. And to think that I saw a man in his late forties or fifties shooting at a cat just last week.

Is this a reflection of this society? I wonder.

Cult of the Feet

The enigmatic Cult of the Feet ventures forth in their eternal quest.

'The Foot shall be brought down, this is the End of Days.'

Illustration Friday theme: Feet
Taxis in Shanghai

The streets in Shanghai are filled with taxis. I didn't have to wait for long when I needed one. A quick wave and a taxi stops. It will appear that all the taxis companies within Shanghai are utilising different models of the Volkswagen Santana with mainly 1.8 litre engines. The Santana, Santana 2000 and Santana 3000. It will also appear that the Santana taxis are running on LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) which is clean and efficient.

I have spotted a Mercedes taxi once when I was there.

Incidentally, one can pay for the fares via contactless electronic swipe cards! (ie cash cards) My trips in Shanghai would cost on average 14 reminbi. The trip to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport should cost no more than 140 reminbi. Of course, one can take the maglev instead!

21 March 2006

Diary of Dreams 'Nigredo'

The work of Diary of Dreams, headed by Adrian Hates, has been often compared to the Clan of Xymox. I do think that there is some superficial similarities but somehow, the musical approach reminds me of Wolfsheim. The sound of the Diary of Dreams is that of sparse electronic coldness and endless desolation.

1. Dead Letter
2. Giftraum
3. Kindrom
4. Reign of Chaos
5. Charma Sleeper
6. Tales of the Silent City
7. Portrait of a Cynic
8. Unmensch
9. Witching Hour
10. Psycho-Logic
11. Krank: Haft
12. Cannibals
13. Mask of Shame

Hotel Rates in Shanghai

Here are the hotel rates at the New Century Hotel at No.1111 Li Yang Road in Shanghai. I didn't stay there, so I can't vouch for the rooms, I only had a large breakfast there. Sadly, I don't know of any subway that is near the New Century Hotel.

The current exchange rates:

1.00 SGD (Singapore Dollars) = 4.96078 CNY (China Yuan Renminbi)

1.00 USD (United States Dollars) = 8.03720 CNY (China Yuan Renminbi)

The rates are pretty affordable. This is not a five-star hotel in downtown Pudong or on Nanjing Road where you would expect to pay between 200 SGD to 500 SGD a night. Bear in mind when the Grand Prix (Formula 1) is in town, you can expect to pay 500 SGD a night!

Breakfast at the hotel is 78 rmb. Breakfast in the hotel is expensive and is not good at all. There is, however, a McDonald's nearby where they serve a decent breakfast (I know, McDonald's has crap food usually but the breakfast is edible) at 16 to 18 rmb.

20 March 2006

First Singapore Open Gaming

Place: Resident's Committee Room No.139. Queen's Road, Block 3.
Time: 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
Date: 18th March 2006, Saturday

Firstly a big thank you to Ken Lee who organised the first session of the Singapore Open Gaming, an event that is his brainchild and is from the community.

Secondly, this is a great event without affiliation to any commercial concerns for once, hence no politics, obligations or onerous payments, for instance, to Settlers' Cafe, Mind Cafe, Pitstop, Paradigm Infinitium, Comics Mart or other commercial entities. And you can play any game you like!

The Saturday session was a fun and eventful one. Sixteen or more people turned up. The games played included:

Fury of Dracula
Industrial Waste
Lord of the Rings
Modern Art
Power Grid
Lord of the Rings
6Nimmt! (Take 6)

I played 'Lord of the Rings' with four others but it was an extremely short game. I drew one bad tile after another. We didn't make it past Bree as the Fellowship was wiped out with the Ringbearer and another hobbit embracing Sauron... I think the other players were saying that this is lowest scoring game they have ever played. We scored 10 points.

Afterwards, Keng Ho introduced 'Ole!', a neat swift playing card game which could accommodate seven players and Ivan managed a win. I like this game from Abacus Spiele.

I will definitely turn up for the next session that Ken organises. I will highly recommend this event (if it can remain free of any commercial concerns). As for the fees, we share it for the rental of this room.

My BGG Profile if anyone is interested.

Kal Jerico: Blood Royal (Necromunda)

I read this little piece of pulp SF about a bounty hunter and his sidekicks who prowl the underworld of Necromunda last week. It's great fun.

This novel, by Gordon Rennie and Will McDermott, is quite similar in spirit to the related graphic novel about Kal Jerico.

Kal Jerico is hilarious. He is dependent on his 'Plan W' which stands for 'Plan Wing it'! And he is very vain, and often, in the midst of combat, he would be concerned with his looks. He would often strike a pose, with his great coat and coat tails flapping in the airflow generated by the ventilation shafts! And his allies would berate him.

Hahahah. It's simply great fun.
Face I

A swift ballpoint pen doodle. Heh.

Another ballpoint pen doodle. Exaggerated and stylised faces.


Little doodles done ten days ago at the Book Cafe. Heh. Yes, you can tell that I was bored. Grotesque faces. Heh.

18 March 2006

Warm Waters

I went swimming in the evening twice in the week. Damn. The water was very warm. The relentless sunshine over the last two weeks is the contributor to this state of affairs.
Burger King, Liat Towers

Tonight, as I sat in Burger King with a drink and my diary, a very pretty girl* came and sat on the next table. And I begin hearing a nice voice singing as I read 'Necromunda: Blood Royal'. I was startled. The girl was singing! And she has a pleasant angelic voice. A moment later, her clean-cut, well-groomed male companion with a square jaw arrived. She started by talking about the Zara and Mango shops in Spain and how there were differences catering to a different cliente. He tried engaging her in conversation but he wasn't a particularly good conversationist. His feeble attempts were amusing to say the least. He wanted her to tell him how the 'Ice Age' cartoon was and she was unable to indulge with much of a reply as the cartoon was just that.** It was too distracting and amusing and I wrote my diary instead.

Anyhow, I got two Diary of Dreams CDs, 'Menschfeind' and 'Nigredo' at Borders earlier.

I also bought Daniel C. Dennett's 'Freedom Evolves' and Wade Davis' 'The Serpent and the Rainbow'.

*She was actually pretty and she does not have the typical round-faced, weak chin lian look.
**My designer and artist friends didn't have anything to say about 'Ice Age' either. It was just too run of the mill.

17 March 2006


Yesterday, I saw a fat, balding man with a catapult at the void deck of a HDB block. He was shooting at a cat with a catapult. I was appalled.
Asian Aerospace 2006: A Collection of Images

Fighters II
Armament and Ordnance of the F-16D
Helicopter Door Mount
Unmanned Combat Vehicle
Airbus A380
B-1B Lancer
Fighters III
All-Terrain Vehicles, Light Attack Vehicles and Armoured Vehicles*
Pegasus Lightweight Howitzer*
CIS 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher
Redback Weapon System (Metal Storm Technology)*
Anti-Tank Missiles*
Small Arms*
M8 Ridgeway Armoured Gun System (AGS)*

As usual, as with all my photos, feel free to use them, in a blog, on a website, in a commercial work, for reference, whatever, use them in any way. I put them up to share. If you need the original high resolution image (600-700KB size, jpg form), do let me know. I will email them to you.

I'm too lazy to put up the images of the commercial jets. I will one day. I will also put stuff up on the Asian Aerospace 1992 one of these days.

* These are what I consider to be highlights.
Asian Aerospace 2006: Unmanned Combat Vehicle

This appears to be an unmanned combat vehicle from Singapore Technologies Kinetics.

Of course, this would be remotely controlled and it would not be robotic.

*This is one of the last of a sequence of photos from the Asian Aerospace 2006.

16 March 2006

The USA is now ranked 5th in the FIFA Rankings

Who would have have thought that the USA could ever be ranked fifth in football. It has happened!

Top 20 in rankings (previous month in brackets):
• 1. Brazil - 835
• 2. Czech Republic - 789
• 3. Netherlands - 788
• 4. Argentina - 765
• 5. (6=) United States - 764
• 6. Spain - 763
• 7. (6=) Mexico - 762
• 8. (5) France - 760
• 9. England - 756
• 10. Portugal - 755
• 11. Turkey - 743
• 12= Nigeria - 738
• 12= Italy - 738
• 14. Denmark - 736
• 15. (16) Cameroon - 726
• 16. (15)Sweden - 725
• 17. Egypt - 714
• 18. Japan - 712
• 19= (22) Iran - 705
• 19= (23) Croatia - 705
Asian Aerospace 2006: Armament and Ordnance of the F-16D

The RGM-84 Harpoon.

The AIM-9 Sidewinder, AGM-65 Maverick and a LGB.

The M61A1 20mm rotary cannon.

15 March 2006

Don't you forget about me

I was at Hard Rock Cafe for dinner on Monday night when the old video for Simple Minds 'Don't you forget about me' came on the many screens in the joint. The video brings back memories of those old teenybopper flicks of the eighties and also my university days in California.

It seems that those days were only yesterday. Time really flies.

Now Simple Minds is supposedly dropping by Singapore for a concert. My little sister has expressed interest.

Perhaps, I will get their 2005 CD 'Black and White 050505' which has apparently been well-received. Perhaps not. I am a lot more excited in Covenant, Cesium 137 and Clan of Xymox's new CDs.
Sea Skua

It is reported in the Straits Times that the Malaysian armed forces will be conducting a test-firing of the Sea Skua missile. The Sea Skua missile is a helicopter-launched anti-shipping missile that was responsible for destroying most of the Iraq Navy during in 1991.

14 March 2006

Howling Mistake

Hayao Miyazaki 2004 adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones' 'Howl's Moving Castle' is an incoherent mess. Given that Jones' novel was a convoluted and confusing tale of wizards and witches, at the conclusion, every detail and bit in the plot was tied up and explained. Everything fitted perfectly in the novel, but Miyazaki's work of animation was a visual feast of loose ends which not only changed the plot but made little sense whatsoever.

For instance, who turned the prince into a scarecrow? Why were Howl and the Witch of the Wastes feuding? Why was there a war? Who and what was fighting? If Howl was defending the cities from foreign attack, why then would Mrs. Suleimen want to capture Howl? These are just the beginning of the loose bits in the film and this is coming from a person who has read the novel and also other works from Jones.

At the end of the film, the end of the war was explained away by Mrs Suleiman saying with sigh, 'In which case, let's call off the war...' WHAT?!?

Doh. As much as I am a fan of a lot of Miyazaki's previous work, I enjoyed the visuals of this most recent effort of his. The townscapes, the castle design, the costumes, the pre-dreadnoughts and ironclads, the flying machines. 'Spirited Away' is a masterpiece. 'Howl's Moving Castle' is a disaster of the first magnitude.

Summoning of the muse - A tribute to Dead Can Dance

I heard this one some time back. It's nothing out of the ordinary. Since the Dead can Dance created coherent albums with a thematic sequence within a framework, this tribute fails on that level. Individual tracks taken out of context, existing in a vacuum. It's listenable but not particularly memorable.

1. Arcana - The Arcane*
2. Dark Sanctuary - Summoning of the muse
3. Autumn's Grey Solace - Musica Eternal*
4. Faith & the Muse - Chant Of The Paladin*
5. Black tape for a blue girl - Fortune presents gifts not according to the book
6. Rajna - Cantara
7. Mirabilis - The Writing On My Father's Hand*
8. Chandeen - In power we entrust the love advocated
9. Arcana - Enigma of the Absolute*
10. KOBE - Bird*
12. Athan Maroulis with Surface 10 - Ulysses
13. Stoa - Cantara*

* Exclusive track

13 March 2006

My pre-ordered wargames arrived

Like many wargamers, I have pre-ordered games on the P500 list from GMT Games as well as other wargames companies. The following games arrived recently:

Flying Colours: Fleet Actions in the Age of Sail
Designer: Mike Nagel
Developer: John Alsen

Twilight Struggle: The Cold War 1945-1989
Designers: Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews

I have ordered and received many wargames from GMT Games previously and I would not hesitate to encourage other wargamers to assist the tiny wargaming industry by pre-ordering. The wargames industry is a small cottage industry and has recently seen a small revival. The keyword is 'small'.

I will put up a list of what games I have on pre-order later in the week.

It's been a while since I gamed. I will be playing again soon. I just need to summon the energy...

12 March 2006

Asian Aerospace 2006: Helicopter Door Mount

A belt-fed MG, door mount.


A friend had stated that this could be the CIS .5 HMG. Given his experience in both the M2 and CIS .5 HMGs, he is probably right.
Illustration Friday

Theme: Tattoo

11 March 2006


BlackRX has pointed out that nVidia now allows four graphics processors to be linked via SLI! (Scalable Link Interface). FOUR! WOO HOO! Astounding! Quad-SLI system here we come!

I am drooling! Absolute EVIL!
The last US Navy F-14 Tomcats retires

Apparently, the last two squadrons of F-14s Tomcats have been retired in the US Navy. This is the end of an era in naval aviation.

The only operators of the F-14 today is the Iranian Revolutionary Guards with about seven to twenty operational fighters.

The replacement for the US Navy? The F-18E/F Super Hornet which is a distinct new aircraft and not merely a new variant of the F-18A/B/C/D series.

There's some big IT show in Suntec City. Hmm.. Well, I think I will probably head down to the Time Machine Studio at Millennia's Walk instead. Perhaps, they may have something new from Concord Publications. Maybe, just maybe, 'Medieval Knights' and 'Spec Ops 37' may be in. I'll probably bring a sketchbook along too.

There appears to be a photo essay on the conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh in Spec Ops. Wow! Unbelievable. I look forward to the images.

Hmm.. The interior artwork appears passable from the webpage.

Meanwhile Mr.Unstoppable Sniper wants to play Battlefield 2 at Orchard Cineleisure level 9 tonight. I wonder if the Great Grand Grand Admiral of Japan and Mr.Elder God* wants to play too.

*Technically, he's an Old One.
The Toilet in Shanghai

This is a toilet in a restaurant in an industrial park in the outskirts of Shanghai. Simply unbelievable. I had heard horror stories of toilets in China being holes in the ground. This one blew me away. Unbelievable. Hole in the ground. Heh.

Five Reasons why Shanghai rocks

Five Reasons why Shanghai rocks (and Singapore doesn't)...

1. is when you wave at an empty cab in a busy street in Shanghai, it actually stops. Amazing!

2. is the joy from not having to see yet another sad poser in a Starbucks or cafe hunched over an iBook or some Mac notebook pretending to type when they are actually viewing porn or doing nothing. Are these things the new phallic symbols? Is this dick-stroking in public?

3. is discovering that the public toilets in Shanghai can be cleaner than Singapore! Oh dear, Asian toilets, surely, an atrocity of sorts...

4. is not having to see another loser who insist on displaying their iPod ostentatiously like some medal for courage. C'mon, it's not cleavage or a buttcrack or jewellery. You don't have to display your materialistic tendencies, we know you have got money to buy electronic trinkets, so, what the fuck? Sadly, it may be a matter of time before the Shanghainese adopt this odious practice (if they are not already overrun by odious iPod-toting Singaporeans). Ewww..

5. is the relief from hearing any fucktards speaking in Singlish. Phew!

10 March 2006

Wheeee! It's Friday!

The weekend is here! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Death or Glory

I'm currently reading 'Death or Glory', a pulp SF novel set in the world of Warhammer 40 000. Sandy Mitchell's 'Ciaphias Cain' is a cowardly commissar who goes through adventures unwillingly and these novels are in the same vein as the funny Flashman novels. A Ciaphias Cain novel is simply pure delight.
Condominiums and Apartment Blocks in Shanghai

Graffiti is present everywhere. Even on the walls of the grim, grey concrete blocks of the sixties and seventies. This is possibly a typical apartment block built when China was pretty much a centrally-controlled economy.

More typical apartment blocks. These are newer, probably built in the eighties and early nineties after Deng Xiaopeng opened China up.

A new apartment block. Notice that one in four apartments mounts a satellite TV dish? Some units have even mounted two! Satellite TV dishes are illegal for private citizens in China (and Singapore too). Yet, the Chinese ignore the authorities. You won't see this sort of behaviour in democratic Singapore eh? No sir! Heh.

Yet more condominiums. The city of Shanghai is literally littered with hundreds of these sparkling new condominium blocks (and I am not exaggerating. I am probably underestimating the numbers by quite a bit). And the local residents live in them. And no, foreign expatriates from Europe and the USA don't live in apartment blocks, they live in proper houses with gardens!

Most of these new condominiums were built in the last five years. China a menace to the USA? Not likely. The Chinese are too busy doing business and building a good life. Like these nice nice condominiums. There is, however, a hitch. I think they do not have a concept of maintaining a maintenance and sinking fund. There isn't any real building management. (Hear that, Aik Koon?) The older condominiums and apartment blocks are badly maintained with chipping paint, dank corridors, blacked out foyers and lifts!

These condominiums here are supposedly built by CapitaLand of Singapore. A Shanghainese told me that they find these things ugly, and he also added that they were quite like the 'famous' or infamous 'HDB'* flats in Singapore. And the Shanghainese also told me that they generally do not like them. Unfortunately, he is under the impression that CapitaLand built HDB flats in Singapore though the reality is that it is not responsible for the HDB flats in Singapore.

Okay, my observations. These condominiums have large surfaces of glass. Large windows. They may work in a tropical environment if the air-conditioning is switched on twenty-four hours a day. However, in Shanghai, it may just be a bad idea. Large windows imply that there will be a lot of heat lost in winter. In general, the typical Shanghainese family will not use their heaters**, preferring to economise. In summer, when temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius, the apartments with its large glass windows become greenhouses. Thus, these apartments are cold in winter and hot in summer...

On a last note, as manpower is plentiful and inexpensive, I see at least two security guards for each apartment block, one at the door and the other at the office, in front of the close-circuit TV. There is also guards at the gate and car park! Shanghai is supposedly a rather safe and crime-free city though I see a steel door in front of the normal wooden door of each apartment unit!

*HDB - Housing Development Board. This is an organisation within the government in Singapore that builds subsidised flats for the citizens. They have been so successful in the last thirty years that 80% of all Singaporeans live in them. They are not horrid pigeonholes as the Shanghainese above may have implied. Oh, do senior civil servants live in HDB flats?
**My observation. I was there during a cold spell when temperatures dropped from 17 degrees Celsius to 1 degree. Ack.

09 March 2006

Regional Corporate Tax Rates

It will appear that the corporate tax rate here is competitive.

Australia - 30%
China - 33%
Hong Kong - 17.5%
India - 33.66%
Indonesia - 30%
Japan - 40.69%
Malaysia - 28%
New Zealand - 33%
Philippines - 35%
Singapore - 20%
South Korea - 27.5%
Taiwan - 25%

It will also appear that only Hong Kong has a lower corporate tax rate. However, from what I have heard, with deductions and other tax write-offs, Singapore is not far off compared to Hong Kong.
The Undiscovered Mind

I bought 'The Undiscovered Mind: How the Brain Defies Explanation' by John Horgan, an ex-writer for the Scientific American, from Kinokuniya at Liang Court earlier. This should be an interesting read. I am somewhat sceptical of this writer's ability though.