Seeing Ghosts

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli

Since a friend of mine, Tan Kien Boon, recently made a post on his blog about an emotionally trying experience that could be related to ghosts, I thought I might write about my closest encounter with the supernatural. This happened several years ago when I was working for a logging company in Gabon in west central Africa. I was sleeping, alone, face up, late in the afternoon, the kind of sleep where you’re not awake but not completely unconscious either.

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A Game: Armageddon Empires

Armageddon Empires

I’ve been playing around with Armageddon Empires that I briefly talked about last week. Despite the presence of a fully-fledged deck editor and its collectible card game mechanics, it seems pretty clear that AE is much closer to being an old-school wargame / turn-based strategy game than a CCG. That’s not a bad thing of course, and playing AE brought back fond memories of games like Fantasy General. Like FG, AE plays out on a hex map, though the map is randomly generated in AE’s case. Unlike FG and similar wargames however, AE plays more like a 4X game in a post-apocalyptic setting. Each players starts out with a single base and limited resources and must send units out to control the map to gain additional resources and to scout for the locations of the enemies.

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Wuxia in English

Eagle Shooting Hero cover

No one can be Chinese, wherever they are in the world, and be ignorant of Louis Cha, better known as Jin Yong, if only because television production companies insist on making a new version of a series based on one of novels every few years. I’ve always personally regretted not having ever learned Chinese well enough to comfortably read the original novels. After all, I was into comic-book superheroes, sword and sorcery adventures and space opera. Kung fu fighting heroes and heroines in a fantasy version of ancient China seemed like a perfect fit.

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Software Boutique Victim of “Rasa Sayang” Spat

More Malaysians by now should be aware of the ridiculous spat between Indonesia and Malaysia over who owns the rights to the song Rasa Sayang, a popular folk song. It seems that its use by the Malaysian government to promote yet another tourism campaign triggered protests from Indonesians who claim that they rightfully own that song.

What most Malaysians probably don’t know that the argument has claimed an unlikely victim, the website of The Software Boutique, a Malaysia-based online games retailer. I’m in the market for some new games and have been trying to access the website for the store for the past few days without success. Curious, I dug around a bit and found this. It appears that angry Indonesian hackers hacked the website for Tourism Malaysia’s Rasa Sayang campaign. In the process, however, they seem to have also hacked every website that used the same hosting provider, and The Software Boutique was one of those. According to the same source, their store remains down until they manage to find a new hosting provider.

Considering that TSB is only one of two online games retailers that I know of in Malaysia, I’d be glad to see it up again. TSB has always had very quick customer service for me in the past. The other retailer that I know of, PC Game.com.my had much slower customer service, though they seem to have improved somewhat lately.

What atheists can’t refute (or can they?)

Ordinarily, I try not to make this blog into a “today on QT3” sort of thing, but at times something comes up that’s too interesting and relevant to my own interests to ignore.

A poster on QT3 recently linked to an article by Dinesh D’Souza attacking atheism based on Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Admittedly, the argument does not constitute an affirmation of theism. It merely seeks to demonstrate what D’Souza considers to be a failing of atheism. Essentially, D’Souza argues that, as Kant pointed out, the province of reason is limited to the things that we can perceive and to the things as we can perceive them. This means that we have no way of knowing what Kant calls the noumena, the things as they are in themselves, unfiltered by the limitations of human perception, and to D’Souza this opens to door to religious faith.

Within hours of the original post however, QT3 member Hawkeye Fierce posted an excellent response:

Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason has always seemed like a lot of mental masturbation to me. He says that the capacities of reason are limited because our perception is limited, and that there could exist phenomena that we are simply incapable of perceiving in any way. I suppose that could be true, but if we are unable to perceive these phenomena, I don’t see how it follows that we should act any differently. Reality may be bigger than we can perceive, but if the part that we can’t see can’t actually affect us, it may as well not exist. And if it can affect us, well then it’s no longer imperceptible. Also, without experiential information, all theories about what the imperceptible universe is like are equally valid and invalid, so there’s no reason to pick one over the other.

I can really put it no better than the above. D’Souza writes that he tried to get a rebuttal from Daniel Dennett but didn’t get a satisfactory response. This seems like a pretty good response to me.

A Book: Accelerando

The solar system is a dead loss right now – dumb all over! Just measure the MIPS per milligram. If it isn’t thinking, it isn’t working. We need to start with the low-mass bodies, reconfigure them for our own use. Dismantle the moon! Dismantle Mars! Build masses of free-flying nanocomputing processor nodes exchanging data via laser link, each layer running off the waste heat of the next one in. Matrioshka brains, Russian doll Dyson spheres the size of solar systems. Teach dumb matter to do the Turing boogie!

– Charles Stross in Accelerando

Accelerando by Charles Stross

Accelerando is a hard book to recommend to anyone. At times it reads as if author Charles Stross wrote it by first making a bullet-point list of cool stuff he wanted to include: effective cyclists! Rubberized concrete! Agalmic economies! Corporate regulations written in Python! Distributed Internet reputation servers! As the exclamation points suggest, every mention of the latest and greatest toys is suffused with breathless enthusiasm. Only afterwards is the story worked in and the characters, in this case, three generations of the dysfunctional and idiosyncratic Macx family, created to serve the plot.

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Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong In?


Which Hogwarts house will you be sorted into?

There are probably a ton of quizzes like this floating around the net, though this one seems pretty well done. I read all of the Harry Potter books earlier this year and found them to be great entertainment. There’s no doubt in my mind that J.K. Rowling is tremendously talented and deserves all of the fame and fortune that she got from the series. While it’s true that a lot of the elements including the plot, the dynamics of the three central characters and the urban fantasy setting feel somewhat generic, it’s all been put together very well and will probably go down in history as a timeless children’s classic.

Doubtless there will be unbelievable pressure to write more books in the Potter-verse. I have mixed feelings about that. While it would be interesting to learn more details about the wizarding world, particularly outside of the UK, I’m fairly sure that any additional books will be a letdown. J.K. Rowling has created a wonderful world that is rich enough to be engaging, but as this paper demonstrates, it doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny. Poke at the inconsistencies and incongruities of the Potter-verse too much and it will fall apart like the piece of elaborate theatre that it is. Much better to let it end on a high-note in my opinion.

The unexamined life is a life not worth living