June 25, 2007
From the Hall of Incredibly Minor Accomplishments
Just noting, for posterity, that last night I finally achieved my goal of winning the Medieval: Total War: Viking Invasion English Dark Ages campaign with all eight civilizations at expert level. Northumbria was the hardest.
Yes, I know I'm two games behind currency in the Total War series. It's been a long time coming. Still a game with the capability to surprise you, though. I remember the second-last campaign, the Welsh, being pretty blah, tactics-wise. But the final one, the Picts, ended with three colossal nail-biters with the Mercians that were all just tremendously enjoyable. In the first, my 2,400 odd troops got attacked by 5,500, and beat off four separate wave-attacks, a level of determination I'd never really seen before... the second, the computer, with 3,000 plus, surprised me when I attempted to attack them with 2,400, with an actually half-clever spoiling attack on my left flank right off the bat that broke one battalion before I could reinforce, and then a succession of little men-for-time trading that forced me up against the game clock for once. I figured I'd have an easier time against the last army, with 2,400 on each side, but again right at the start the AI hit me with a near-perfect rush on my center that blew apart three of six infantry units, and broke my army into two flanks fighting independently: getting out of that was a sweet experience.
I don't know what peculiar combination of circumstances led to those two highly intelligent final AI fights (the first wasn't particularly intelligent, just near-run), after years where I didn't always find the AI particularly challenging, but it was a great way to end a project that actually taught me a lot (via peripheral reading and game-piqued interest) about Dark Ages England. Part of it, I suspect, was that I was unconsciously taking more risks than usual, out of confidence in the computer's relative lack of ability. I didn't wait until the odds were strongly in my favour, or the force-mix perfect for the job. Pride goeth before a fall for a reason. But sometimes it's just true that even a semi-random algorithm can be stimulated by just the right behaviours. The computer, at some level, was playing successfully because it found that something about my layout or armies' behaviour was consistent with what it was optimized to play against, which is kind of neat when you think about it.
Faith is belief when there are no giraffes
A great, tight piece of review writing, this. If I was still in any nominal way a self-identified Christian, I hope I'd have the sense to be insulted by "Evan Almighty." Pity, as I really enjoy Carell's other movie turns.
June 22, 2007
About the M-Gator tragedy
The M-Gator, used by the Canadian, U.S. and other militaries, has a ground pressure when fully loaded of 8 psi. Human-foot ground pressure is 9-12 psi. So assuming the IED that destroyed the Gator was detonated by a pressure plate or other independent trigger, it likely would have been tripped by personnel walking from point A to B as well. And if it was command-detonated (ie, someone pressed a button to blow it up) it would also have been equally effective against three dismounted troops.
The general in charge has said the vehicle in question was used in part because of the narrowness of the local laneways, which would seem to rule out the use of any larger, better protected vehicle, regardless of their availability. So there may not have been a lot of good choices here, and given those ground pressure figures it at least seems unlikely the personnel would have been any safer walking that day.
June 13, 2007
I think it's fair to start calling the surge a disaster, but that's just me
A signal failure in Iraq. It's like if 9/11 had only brought down one WTC tower, and a year later someone came back and blew up the other one. How much respect would anyone have put in Homeland Security at that point?
June 08, 2007
I mentioned Alizée below, without mentioning her Canadian-born mentor, Mylène Farmer, whom I'm also quite fond of hearing these days. Leaving aside that both women are obviously quite attractive and pleasant to listen to, I'm still a fan of what I guess might be called "late Europop", especially when its as slickly delivered as the Farmer team does it.
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex