Home for a Visit

It's been an insane year so far, with my life consumed for January, February, and March by a murder trial I was defending. But it seems fitting that my first post for 2015 feature my triumphant return to Winnipeg for my first Winnipeg Jets game since 1996. At the airport in Toronto and again in Winnipeg I met Don Cherry and Ron MacLean and got my picture taken with them and my dad.


More Races of Twilight Imperium

We're gearing up for our second game of Twilight Imperium at the Château Wansbutter, which means another round of pre-game race selection. We're going to have seven players this time around, with many familiar faces from last time. Mr. Heiner is already plotting his revenge for my denial of his well-planned attack of last game. He's told our group "remember that shafting Nicholas, not necessarily winning, is the point of TI."

But I digress. Since we have more players, and I purchased the Shattered Empire expansion, I decided to add a few more races to the mix:

In a word: Fire people
Background: Former slaves of the Universities of Jol'Nar; a race of living flames who must travel inside special suits when off-world, they seek to revenge on their former masters and a new regime of justice in the galaxy.
Pros/Cons: The start the game with a War Sun, can move through supernovas, their War Suns can spawn fighters without a space dock, good trade agreements, mediocre home system, start the game with a War Sun although the rest of their fleet is weak.
Style: For the cautious player who wants to be left alone in the early game (having a War Sun will have that effect on neighbours), yet able to play with some finesse as the Embers are not considered one of the strongest races.


In a word: Warrior Zealots
Background: Genetically-modified fanatic adherents of a bizarre cult centred around long-dead scientist named Darien who illegally cloned hundreds of his children in an effort to save his wife from a deadly disease who now seek to bind all to their religion.
Pros/Cons: Beasts in ground combat, can do kamikaze runs to destroy enemy ships, poor trade agreements, poor home system, very strong starting fleet.
Style: Another race for a very aggressive style of play -- really, these guys would have been well-suited to Greg's aggressive militarism of our first game.

In a word: Warrior Space gypsies 
Background: Genetically-modified fanatic adherents of a bizarre cult centred around long-dead scientist named Darien who illegally cloned hundreds of his children in an effort to save his wife from a deadly disease who now seek to bind all to their religion.
Pros/Cons: Have mobile star bases, can still collect victory points if their home system is occupied, gain bonus trade goods for capturing planets, good trade agreements, rubbish home system, good starting fleet.
Style: For a player looking to play a subtle and crafty game, utilising mobility and trade goods to gain influence in the galaxy.


This will be a day long remembered

Ok, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens trailer out today. So far so good -- I like everything I see in this teaser. Glad to see that they'll be bringing in remnants of the Empire as the bad guys. Storm Troopers with slightly changed armour to reflect the passage of time gets a thumbs-up from me. Tie Fighters vs. the Millennium Falcon in an atmospheric battle? Definitely cool.

Above all, this trailer makes it look like Abrams has nailed the "maculate reality"/lived-in universe feel of the original trilogy. This teaser has that gritty and real feel to it. 

As I've said on Swords and Space Radio, though, I will assassinate J.J. Abrams if he sneaks in a gratuitous bikini scene like he did with Star Trek into Darkness. Although I must unfortunately concede that there would be precedent for such trash with Return of the Jedi and Princess Leia's infamous slave costume.


Interstellar Follow-up

First, here's the embed of the radio show we did last week for ease of reference:

Check Out Movies Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with The AMDG Radio Network on BlogTalkRadio

For those who haven't listened, this is the first work covered by Swords and Space where I give it a full 5/5 stars. In my view this is destined to be a Sci Fi classic on par with 2001: A Space Odyssey and I am really glad I had the opportunity to see it and discuss it on my radio show.

There's a lot of science in the film and it was all handled in such a way that even a guy like me who generally dislikes and finds "hard" Sci Fi boring, loved it. My wife who is not a Sci Fi person, but consented to watch it because she liked Christopher Nolan's other films, also loved it. This has given new opportunities to learn some more about science:

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has been tweeting about the science behind Interstellar and recently followed-up with an interview with NPR well-worth reading: http://www.npr.org/2014/11/14/363798836/neil-degrasse-tyson-separates-fact-from-fiction-in-interstellar

Another science-ish topic we covered on the show was Christopher Nolan's refreshing new take on Artificial Intelligence which I thought was really well done, and really ought to be the gold standard in Sci Fi versus (with all due respect) Isaac Asimov's rules that dominate the genre. Here's an article that echoes my thoughts so rather than rewriting in my own words I'll just share the link: TARS, the Interstellar robot, should be the future of artificial intelligence.

Finally, Hans Zimmer posted his reasons for delaying the release of the Interstellar soundtrack on Quora: http://www.quora.com/Why-has-the-soundtrack-for-Interstellar-2014-movie-not-been-released-yet/answer/Hans-Zimmer-11?srid=ttEB&share=1


Some Thoughts on the Zombie Apocalypse

I had the opportunity recently to play some of the iPad app "The Walking Dead", which got me thinking about the "zombie apocalypse" which continues to be all the rage (apparently the TV series the game is based on is in its fifth season). One thing that I have a hard time accepting from the genre is how quickly and totally the zombie virus spreads, such that there is complete societal breakdown and anarchy, with only a few survivors here-and-there within days if not hours.

Given that the zombie "disease" is communicable only by the zombie biting or otherwise exchanging fluids with victims, I don't really see how this would spread that quick. Even extremely contageous airborne viruses do not spread as quickly as zombieism is portrayed. Further, what allows things like Ebola to spread is the fact that someone can be symptom-free yet contageous for a certain period of time. Not so with zombies. It seems to me that it would be localised to one area since zombies can't drive and it would take them a while to get out of a given city -- leaving authorities plenty of time to quarantine the threat.

I would expect that the army, and the highly militarized police forces in modern society, would be able to take on zombies, even in fairly large numbers, quite handily. Zombies need to get within arm's reach to bite and -- although rarely portrayed as fast as in 28 Days Later, and World War Z -- are slow and shambling. Certainly easy pickings for standard infantry weapons to say nothing of attack helicopters or armoured fighting vehicles which would be totally impervious to zombies.

On the other hand, if zombies could spread as quickly as portrayed, I unfortunately do find it entirely credible how abominably survivors behave in most of these series. I read from time-to-time the blog "SHTF School" written by a survivor of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. He describes from his experiences pretty much all the awful things you see in films like The Road and TV series like the Walking Dead. The sad truth is that there are a lot of people out there who only act like civilized human beings because they have to. From that perspective, one can see the justification for the expanding police state -- in an age where the majority of people are not restrained by religious belief/morals, or a tight-knit community, most of society is one natural disaster away from a replay of what happened in New Orleans in my view.

It's interesting that in the Middle Ages there were no police and the local lord was away on other estates, or crusading, or attending the king. Compared to the control and supervision western democracies exert over their citizens, people lived in anarchy back then. There were bandits, to be sure, but the reason the great majority of people were not robbing and killing each other were the strength of the Catholic religion and the close social bonds people had in that time.


"Interstellar" on Swords and Space Radio Tomorrow

 We're back on the air tomorrow night with episode 26 of Swords and space. I'll be going with my wife today to see Christipher Nolan's Interstellar in preparation for this show. I am really looking forward to it, not because I know anything about the movie (I've purposely kept myself in the dark) but because I have really enjoyed all of Chris Nolan's films. Fortunately, so has my wife. Here's the link:

Swords and Space XXVI: Interstellar 11/11 by The AMDG Radio Network | Movies Podcasts


Virtual Walk-Through of 17th Century London

A little history today for a change of pace -- I was sent the above by a family member and found its depiction of 17th century London fascinating. This video was created by six students from De Montfort University. Due to the Great Fire of London in 1666, most of the buildings are conjectural, but the streets are based off of period maps and primary sources like diary entries describing the buildings including details like tavern signs.

I do love the Tudor style buildings, however the video gives it a rather dark/depressing feel I thought. I'm not sure that it would have been that bad in reality -- I've been the Shrewsbury which has a large area dating back to the 15th century (we stayed in a hotel that was a 15th century house -- albeit renovated) and it featured the narrow alleyways and overhanging stories but did not have a dreary or dark feel at all. I felt rather at home in that setting -- it somehow felt more human than modern cities.
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