27 May 2006

Conversations at NYDC

I had a great time last night chatting with Colin, June and Siu Hean at NYDC at the Heeren. Insults were hurled (June was told that she can't be seen when we all keep our chins up), compliments were paid (Siu Hean was complimented on his well-preserved state and his certainty in attaining the world number one spot in Scrabble), the state of the nation was commented upon (ie we need gas ovens!), and more zany and silly topics...

All in all, a great night for conversation.

I bought Pet Shop Boys' 'Fundamentalism'* at HMV and Kelvin has told me that the people in his office loved it.

*Fundamental - S$18.95
Fundamentalism - S$20.95
US$1.00 = S$1.7
Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends

Hmmm... This has been released. It is a parallel to the Age of Mythology game. This game encompassed a mythological element for the Rise of Nations series, much akin with the Age of Mythology in the Age of Empires series.

A lot depended on the execution. In a lot of Real Time Strategy (RTS) games, a mythological unit often merely meant that the unit was a powerful unit, not unlike Tiger I tanks amidst hordes of M4 Shermans. In essence, one could question what differentiates these powerful mythological units from other powerful units in other games? In a poorly executed and imagined RTS, nothing!

Why would mythological units be willing to be subjugated by mortal kings and serve their whim? Would there be a element where the rulers must offer to the Gods? Should mythical elements not be added then? Otherwise, why even bother with mythological units? Could the powers of mythological units not be unique and special? Not merely a more powerful attack? Not merely greatly durability?

Are mythological units merely akin to Tiger I tanks? Spearheading a phalanx of hoplites? Like Tiger Is spearing Pzkw IVs? If they were, the game would not be convincing.

I am not curious and not particularly interested.

26 May 2006

Singapore Open Gaming IV

Ken is kindly organising the next Singapore Open Gaming. As usual, if you like boardgames, card games, wargames or even roleplaying games, feel free to come and join us! Surely you can take your eyes off that football for a bit? The World Cup is one month long!

Time: 1pm - 6pm
Date: June 10, 2006
Venue: Blk 3 Queen's Rd, #01-139 (Just off Farrer Rd, one level below Westlake Restaurant)
Cost: $3

There is also an MSN site for this. Comments, photos and more!
The Malaysian armed forces search for ninety-eight 8x8

The Malaysia authorities have announced a requirement for ninety-eight 8x8 vehicles, which will be sufficient to equip one cavalry regiment.

The competing vehicles include:

• the Finnish Patria Vehicles Armoured Modular Vehicle (AMV), fitted with an Oto Melara two-person turret and armed with ATK GunSystems Company 30 mm MK 44 cannon
• the Swiss Mowag Piranha IIIC, also fitted with an Oto Melara two-person turret
• the Turkish FNSS Pars, fitted with a one-person Sharpshooter turret armed with an ATK Gun Systems Company 25 mm M242 cannon.

The Malaysian army is already equipped with several hundred Turkish AFVs armed with the Sharpshooter turret and M242 gun and it is not unlikely that they will select the Turkish 8x8 in the name of Islamic solidarity again.

Source: Janes Defence Weekly. 3rd May2006
Requirement for 8 Self-propelled mortars

The Malaysian army has announced a requirement for eight self-propelled mortars. These mortars are likely to be providing organic firepower for units equipped with the Turkish FNSS
armoured combat vehicle (ACV).

According to Janes Defence Weekly, the two contenders that meet this requirement are the French TDA 120 mm 120R 2M rifled system and the Swiss Ruag Land Systems Bighorn 120 mm recoiling mortar system.

It would be likely that the Malaysian army would seek to mount the mortars on existing FNSS vehicles.

Source: Janes Defence Weekly, 3rd May 2006
Malaysian Army takes delivery of Augusta-Westland A109

It is reported that the Malaysian Army has taken delivery of five Augusta Westland
A 109 light observation helicopters (LOH)
and the remaining deliveries of six are expected to take place by the end of 2006. The A 109s were ordered in 2003 by the Mahathir regime.

According to Janes Defence Weekly, the aircraft are used by the Army Aviation Regiment’s 881 Squadron based at Keluang.

Source: Janes Defence Weekly, 3rd May 2006

25 May 2006


I misplaced it.

Just lost an important file of several hundred images. I deleted it by accident yesterday. What can I say?
The European IQ League

Joseph pointed out this report from the Times.

"Professor Lynn, who caused controversy last year by claiming that men were more intelligent than women by about five IQ points on average, said that populations in the colder, more challenging environments of Northern Europe had developed larger brains than those in warmer climates further south. The average brain size in Northern and Central Europe is 1,320cc and in southeast Europe it is 1,312cc."

I notice Russia has an average of 99 on this chart. Isn't Russia a challenging environment? Simiarly, Finland and Norway?

Of course, if a chart of Asia were to be composed and publish, this will fuel jingoistic and nationalistic sentiments... Imagine the uproar.

An additional note, this chart is ranked in terms of nationalities. Not race.

Professor Lynn ascribes the differences between British and French intelligence levels to the results of military conflict. He described it as “a hitherto unrecognised law of history” that “the side with the higher IQ normally wins, unless they are hugely outnumbered, as Germany was after 1942”.

A unrecognised law of history?
Malaysia announces USD 210 million worth of Defence Purchases

In the Defence Services Asia exhibition held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia annouced the award of five defence contracts worth US$210 million. These include communications equipment, the Diving Control and Platform Simulator for the Scorpene submarines, two TRM-L 3D survelliance and target acquisition radars, 155mm ammunition for the G5 artillery and 108 3-tonne cargo trucks.

Source: Janes Defence Weekly. 3rd May 2006

24 May 2006

Photos of Shanghai

Kelvin was recently in Shanghai. Here are the photos he has taken of Shanghai:

Set 1
Set 2
Set 3
Pet Shop Boys 'Fundamental'

'Fundamental' has been released. The reviews of the mainstream press are positive. Synthpop in this day and age of rap, metal and r&b? Amazing. Normally, there's a bias in most music presses against electronic music, especially synthpop but this is amazing.

The Independent review - 5/5 stars

Guardian review - 4/5 stars

The Daily Mirror review - 4/4 stars

Playlouder.com review - 4.5/5 stars
Bizarre Topiary Shape

The amount of hype over the 'Da Vinci Code' movie and book is unbelievable. It's expected that religious freaks are going to maul this movie (and give it controvesy and help sell several million tickets), and just as unbelievable is the amount of people who lap up the awfully written book and movie.* I mean, c'mon, read some real books for once! Enough of ranting for now. Heheheh. Anyway, I guess if the masses enjoy it, who am I to say anything? Let them enjoy their narcotic. After all, John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon and others sold millions of books too.

Here is a humourous take of the movie and book described Tom Hanks' amazing hairstyle as:

Some SONY studio executives had worried over Hanks' decision to grow his hair out into a bizarre topiary shape prior to filming, but oddly enough this is the one detail fans appreciate.
"The quasi-mullet is perfectly in keeping with Dan's original vision," said Howard. "You can't take your eyes off the thing. It's magnificent. In a way it's a sweet tribute to the Dan Brown fan, a discerning intellectual who purchases all their reading material at Wal-Mart."

Hahahaha. HILARIOUS!

Another statement within that satirising piece:

Unlike the tome of the same name, the big screen version of The DaVinci Code is somewhat coherent and preserves only a smattering of the moronic expository dialogue that made the original so special.

It's ironic. Simply ironic.

*The facts or fiction in the novel or movie doesn't offend or mean much to me, I have read stuff that is far more blasphemous to Christian extremists in my opinion. It is just that the book is a badly written piece of trash with vanilla prose, paper characterisations, lousy plotting, what else? And the movie, well... Oh yes, 'Digital Fortress' is pretty bad as well.

Source: Colin
'The Tiger of Malaya'

Avalanche Press is due to publish a wargame on the Fall of Singapore in 1942 titled 'The Tiger of Malaya'.

I am hesitant when it comes to pre-ordering this game. Avalanche Press has some vocal detractors and these detractors have made their views known in a number of reviews. Justified? I don't know. I own a few of their wargames but I haven't gotten down to playing them yet.

I am interested. I suppose I can wait.

Note: Sample counters are from the Avalanche Press website.

23 May 2006

The Magic Realism of Rob Gonsalves

Colin referred me to this website featuring the prints and book of Rob Gonsalves. Wow! Reminiscent of Escher.

Good night, and good luck

Self-consciously indulgent, and yet at the same time pretentious (in black and white, see? And a jazz singer to boot too!), this award-winning film may be a timely reminder in view of the recent anti-terrorism laws passed under the Homeland Security aegis to combat the ever present global Islamic terror. This chronicling of the McCarthy era hysteria was supported by fine performances from the thespians but somehow, the overrated depiction lacked spirit and fire. Everything, the scenes, just seemed to flow swiftly through, as if ultimately, there was little of consequence, though that was, of course, not the case.

Utterly forgettable. Overrated.

*This is not a full-fledged review, this is a short commentary, my reaction, my impressions. Nothing more.
Meoooow! Slipper Hug!

She has grown up so quickly. She's a lot larger these days, much bigger than this image. I will be putting up the rest of the kitten pictures soon.

She's more playful than ever.

22 May 2006

Die Siedler von Nurnberg (The Settlers of Nuremberg)

I bought a set of the Settlers of Nuremberg some years ago but I haven't got down to playing it. I will do so one of these days. Probably very soon. If you are interested in playing a game of this, do let me know.

I have a list of unplayed German games that includes 'Die Macher', 'Die Handler', 'San Juan' and more.
'Thirty Years War' C.V.Wedgwood

C.V.Wedgwood's classic narrative on the Thirty Years War has finally been re-issued in a softcover format by the New York Review Books Classics in 2005.

This 544-page volume is priced at US$12.32 at Amazon and should provide a good introduction to that war. Recommended.
In the middle distance, two pairs of powerplant smokestacks framed the camp. Soldiers called them Scud goalposts. A squad doing p.t. - physical training - jogged past. The troops in unison answered a sergeant's jody call:

Momma and me lyin' in bed,
Momma turns to me and Momma says,
Gimme gimme p.t.
Good for you and good for me.

Exerpt from 'In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat' , Rick Atkinson

21 May 2006

HTML Problems II

Mysteriously, the problem is solved with a new post. Heh. It's so easy to point fingers at the perennial hate figure of the industry.

If there were ever a witchhunt... McCarthyism in the IT world.
HTML Problems

I'm having some HTML problems. It's probably got to do with the way Internet Explorer renders something and possibly the way Blogger generates code. Anyway, hopefully, I can solve this in a few days' time.

No biggie.

Silly names for real people. As if you cut open a rag doll and found inside:Real Intestines, real lungs, a beating heart, blood. A lot of hot sticky blood.

Exerpt from 'Haunted'

Some writers utilise various certain plot devices to facilitate the employment of myriad concurrent plots a single work when a simple narrative form would be inadequate or inappropriate. Chuck Palahniuk, of the 'Fight Club' fame, is the latest in a long line of authors.

In 'Haunted' (2005), he created a premise where writers who replied to an advertisement are led to believe that they will be given a creative environment in seclusion in a writers' retreat to assist in creating their masterpiece. Instead, these people are caged in a 'cavernous and ornate old theatre' and put in a situation where 'heat, power and, most importantly, food are in increasing short supply'. Given these cirumstances, these artists are forced to be creative. Thus, Palahnuik had created the opportunity to create twenty-three tales in within a novel!

Beside him sits Mrs. Clark, her breasts so big they almost rest in her lap.
Eyeing them, Comrade Snarky leans into the grat flannel sleeve of the Earl of Slander. She says, "Purely ornamental, I assume. And of no nutritive value..."

Exerpt from 'Haunted'

Italo Calvino had earlier in his own shrewd way, written a novel that incorporated ten plots. His novel began with 'If on a winter's night, a traveller..' And he proceeded to toy with the reader, diffusing the distinction between the reader and 'the reader'... It is difficult to describe how Calvino manipulated and led the reader throughout, weaving from a plot to another. There is a consistent theme in that manipulation.

Stanislaw Lem was responsible for two of the most imaginative works employing the device of book reviews of books that are nonexistent. In that he could create impossible novels and works that are not humanly possible to write or create. He could describe these works from a distance and yet, envisage the possibilities of what such a work would entail. 'A Perfect Vacuum' and 'One Human Minute' are formidable intellectual exercises and I expected no less from Lem.

As for Palahniuk's novel, I wonder how it would differ from a collection of short stories and if his adoption of various personas in writing 'Haunted' is effective. Is he able to speak in a different voice.

To Mr Whittier, we were lab animals, an experiment.

Exerpt from 'Haunted'

Note: What I write on the blogs are not reviews per se. They are simply short commentaries. If you want reviews, you should look elsewhere. Proper reviews from, say, the New York Times, are more incisive, informative and critical. I read the Calvino and Lem books in the late eighties and early nineties, it has been a long time.
'Forbidden Fruit' In Strict Confidence


In Strict Confidence is one of my favourite bands for the last two years. Here is a video from their new album 'Exile Paradise'.