A Game: Bleach Heat the Soul 5 (PSP)

As much as I’ve always liked the concept of fighting games, my reflexes and finger dexterity generally aren’t good enough for me to do well at them beyond beginner-level difficulty. Still, I’m a pretty big fan of Bleach, and I was genuinely curious enough about how the different character powers would work in a fighting game, so I decided to give the newest installment of the Heat the Soul series a try. This is actually easier said than done since this game exists only in a Japanese version, which means there are no English instructions. Since I don’t speak or read Japanese, learning my way through the game was mainly a question of trial and error. Luckily, the menu items are in English, but I had to guess what the instructions wanted me to do.

This latest installment covers the Hueco Mundo storyline in the Bleach series, which means that it features all of the Arrancar from that storyline and de-emphasizes the shinigami characters. Virtually all of the characters who were present in previous games are still here, but some of them can only be unlocked by importing a savegame from a previous version of the game. This is a shame, because those characters include such colorful ones as Kisuke Urahara, Mayuri Kurotschi and Shunsui Kyoraku. The new arrancar includes some genuinely interesting ones like Ulquiorra Schiffer and the fully released form of Grimmjow Jeagerjaques, but unfortunately also the rather silly Privaron Espada.

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My New Gaming Rig

Hey, look at what the postman brought me! As you might guess, I finally have a gaming rig of my own again. It’s a fairly modest Dell XPS 420 with the following key specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
  • 3 GB RAM
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • 500 GB SATA Hard Drive

This is nowhere near the current cutting edge of course, but with just a 20-inch LCD monitor to drive, it should be more than enough to meet my gaming needs for a while. The included speakers and subwoofer aren’t anything special, but they constitute probably the best sound system I’ve ever owned.

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Recent Interesting Science Articles (June 2008)

Wow, I haven’t done any updates for this in a while, so let’s make up for it by posting about four different articles, starting with the biggest science-related news this month. According to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Center, the North Pole may be, for a brief period, completely free of ice this summer. This is as alarming a symptom of global warming as anyone can imagine. While the scientists assure us that the melting of the polar ice cap should have no immediate ill effects, jokes about Santa Claus losing his home aside, it’s hard to deny that this should be seen as an extremely loud wake up call.

I have to admit that I was once a global warming skeptic myself but the scientific consensus now is that global warming is a real and human-induced phenomenon. What we should do about it is a different and complex matter of course, and I still reserve the right to mock greens for their conflicting rhetoric over it.

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A Game: Warhammer Battle for Atluma (PSP)

Yep, it’s yet another CCG for the PSP while I’m still waiting for a new gaming rig. This one is based on the War Cry card game by Sabertooth Games that was in turn based on Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy miniatures game. The license means that existing fans of the table-top wargame will find the factions, characters and units in this direct port of the CCG instantly recognizable. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to save it from ultimately being a very mediocre video game.

The CCG mechanics are robust and appropriately enough, borrow significant elements from wargaming. Each player builds two decks. The Army deck holds only characters, troops and weapons while the Action deck holds special strategies and tactics to be played to change the outcome of battles. Each match actually consists of three battles and each battle begins with a muster phase. During this phase every player is assigned a set number of points with which to alternately play cards from his or her Army deck onto the table, drawing a new Army card after each one played until both players have spent all of their resource points.

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A Book: Anansi Boys

“You shouldn’t say that about your father!”

“Well, it’s true. He was crap. A rotten husband and a rotten father.”

“Of course he was!” said Mrs.Higgler, fiercely, “But you can’t judge him like you would judge a man. You got to remember, Fat Charlie, that your father was a god.”

“A god among men?”

“No. Just a god.” She said it without any kind of emphasis, as flatly and as normally as she might have said “he was diabetic” or simply “he was black.”

– Neil Gaiman in Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys may be the sequel to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods but where its predecessor was dour, tragic and epic in scope, this sequel is light-hearted, humorous and family-centered. In place of the hardened ex-convict Shadow of American Gods, the protagonist of Anansi Boys is a regular guy stuck with the unfortunate nickname of Fat Charlie. Not that Charlie is really fat, mind you, just somewhat rounded around the edges. Charlie’s father has a knack for naming things and having the names stick, you see, and as the reader soon learns, that’s just the least of his father’s talents.

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Living in Kota Kinabalu

Well, I’m been offline and out of touch for a lot longer than I anticipated, but I’m back online now. I’m working in Kota Kinabalu and will likely be staying here for a while. KK turns out to be a surprisingly vibrant, yet picturesque little city. As my brother-in-law says, you can get nearly everything that you can find in Kuala Lumpur here, but there are plenty of stuff here that you won’t be able to find in the Klang Valley, such as great beaches, clean air and fantastic scenic views..

The place I’m staying at is near the University Malaysia Sabah campus towards the north. It’s some way off from the city centre, but that’s more than made up for by the mountain views available here and the fact that the newly opened 1 Borneo, the biggest shopping mall in East Malaysia, is within walking distance of where we are. Mount Kinabalu is theoretically within line of sight from here, but it’s always covered in clouds so it’s not actually visible. Even so, the sight of the mountain covering the whole horizon is mighty impressive, especially so when the sun shines directly on it.

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Prince Caspian and the Fickleness of Deities

My wife’s first reaction as we walked out the cinema after watching Prince Caspian was “Aslan is such an asshole.” Indeed he is, and in the same way, so is the personage after whom Aslan was clearly modelled, Jesus Christ and the Christian God.

This second installment of the Narnia series based on the novels by C.S. Lewis has been marketed as a harmless, big budget, family-friendly, action adventure fantasy flick. So harmless and family-friendly that no blood whatsoever is shown on screen even as Gentle Queen Susan perforates countless enemies with her arrows and Magnificent King Peter hacks and bashes his way through the Conquistador-like opposition. But I can’t help but wonder how many of my fellow Malaysians who sat with me in the same cinema were aware of the Christian agenda behind the novels and the films it has inspired. In a country so paranoid about religious sensibilities that The Passion of the Christ was banned in cinemas and the word Allah was, initially anyway, forbidden to be used by a local Christian newspaper to describe the Christian God, it’s a wonder that Prince Caspian is being shown on Malaysian cinemas with an “Umum” rating.

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The unexamined life is a life not worth living