Given up on the Americas

Okay, I’ve officially given up on finishing the Americas campaign of the Kingdoms expansion for Medieval 2. Mainly because I’ve just discovered that as New Spain, you really have only one option when conquering a native city: exterminate them all. Sure, the game presents you with the additional options of either conquering the city (relatively) peacefully or looting it for all it’s worth, but if you actually choose any of those two options you’ll just end up with a huge city full of enraged native Americans that you’d need a full stack of troops to garrison just to keep the rioting under control.

Normally, having a large population should at least confer advantages in the form of a larger tax base, making a populous city a more valuable source of income. In this campaign, however, I haven’t been able to see any noticeable increase in revenue due to a larger population, which makes exterminating them all the only viable option. Since games are all about having multiple choices and options, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, a choice that is really no choice at all is a cardinal sin.

In my game, I’ve been mostly looting the cities I’ve captured, which has caused my offensive campaign to be bogged down by the need to allocate the majority of my troops to police duty. I could “cheat” by completely abandoning the cities to the rioters so that they rebel and then move back in with my troops to conquer them all over again, only this time choosing to kill everyone, but just thinking about playing that way just takes the wind out of my sails.

So I’m done with the Americas campaign. I might come back to the other campaigns in the expansion, but after this, it’s likely to be later rather than sooner. In the meantime, I have plenty of other games to play.

Counterproductive socialist demands by JERIT

By way of Jed Yoong’s blog, I’ve learned of the Bicycle Campaign by Jerit, short for the Malay name of the group, Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas. The campaign which starts today involves cyclists setting out from both Kedah and Johor towards Kuala Lumpur. They plan to stop at every town and city along the way to raise awareness of their demands. When they reach the capital on the 18th December, they plan to hand over the full list of their demands to the Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

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Recent Interesting Science Articles (November ’08)

Three science articles for this month, one on an exciting new development in the ongoing quest for a real cure for AIDS, one on nuclear energy, and the last one on a theoretical attempt to create a scenario right out of Jurassic Park.

In the AIDS-related news, The Wall Street Journal reports the case of a doctor, Gero Hütter, who managed to functionally cure a patient of the disease at the Charité Medical University in Berlin, Germany despite not being an AIDS specialist. Instead, Dr. Hütter is a hematologist, a specialist in diseases of the blood and bone marrow, and his patient suffered from leukemia as well as AIDS.

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Segregation and the net generation

In a recent review of a book published in The Economist, I noted something that I had suspected all along. In Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, author Don Tapscott argues that not only are the children now growing up in a world of networked computers more intelligent and well-informed than any previous generation, they are also more tolerant of diversity and more concerned with social justice.

This is an argument that makes a lot of sense to me. After all, it doesn’t matter what skin colour you are when you’re interacting with each other on all sorts of forums, using instant messaging software, in multiplayer games, on social networking sites and even using old-fashioned e-mail. What does matter are the quality and content of your posts, messages and other forms of communications and it is by those standards that participants are judged by the communities they choose to be a part of. What could be fairer than that?

In a previous post, I addressed some concerns about racial segregation in Malaysia. I argued that the existence of vernacular schools had little impact on whether or not Malaysians of different races would cooperate and coexist peacefully in society and that the divisions between the races are the result of government policies, and not prejudices learned as children. I reiterate that stand here. The largest Malaysian forum on the internet, LYN, is full of Malaysians of all races, of all religions and many different types of schools. Yet, none of that matters on the net.

Folks are segregated on that forum, but they are segregated not by race but by the choices they make: what hobbies they take up, what shows they like, what games they play, how outgoing they choose to be and so on. It’s hard to argue there isn’t a great deal of tension between the different races in Malaysia now, but again, I say that this is due to politicians playing up the issue and instituting policies that are expressly designed to create divisions. Here’s to the hope that the net generation will prove wiser and more resistant to such divide and conquer tactics.

Top Gear reviews Proton

I spotted this from a thread in LYN. Check out these reviews of Proton cars by UK-based Top Gear. They seem to really, really hate the brand.

We don’t know what Malaysian motorists did to upset the gods, but it must have been something pretty serious, judging by the punishment they seem to be getting. Still, at least the domestic audience thinks this stuff is the norm – what on earth do they think they’re doing bringing it to the UK? Walk away.

Explaining Libertarianism using the Nolan Chart

I thought I’d post a Nolan Chart today to demonstrate what being a libertarian means. This particular version is from The Proceedings of the Friesian School by Kelley L. Ross, one of my favorite sites on philosophy. Other versions exist, for example, the one used on Wikipedia to illustrate its article on the subject. You’d do well to read Ross’ article on the subject, but to summarize, the Nolan Chart appears to have been inspired by Ayn Rand’s observation that the political right and the political left both allow individual freedom in the areas that they think aren’t important but invoke government intervention in areas that they think are important.

To the political right in the U.S. who are often strongly religious, the area that is important is personal morality. After all, to the religious, material wealth isn’t something that you can take with you to the afterlife and anyway, God helps those who help themselves, so it makes perfect sense that those who work hard are materially rewarded. Sin however is seen as a permanent stain on the soul and perhaps even a corrupting influence that can spread unless it is stamped out, and is therefore much too important to be left to the individual.

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The unexamined life is a life not worth living