Monday, May 31, 2010

GameLog 147 & 148

Star Wolves 3: Civil War (36h) - FINALLY got my birthday present from Greig to download over steam. When steam fails, it FAILS. Took a little to get into as the 8600 couldn't really get it cranked. The interface was also a little clunky, but that seems typical for 1C games; almost there, just not quite. The story has been pretty linear too. Although it feels you can deviate from the main plot if you really wanted, you can't as your ship randomly explodes if it goes somewhere unexpected. Reminds me of Final Fantasy and both don't fit the type of free exploration games I'm used to playing.

League of Legends (15h) - Game of choice for all concerned at Matt's place. At one point there was all 4 of us sitting in a room playing LoL, but all in different games. Ahh the potential!

Neptune's Pride
(14h) - More or less game over now with Sandy mopping up and me holding on to 2nd.

Grepolis (10h) - Ticking over in the Delta region now. Lot slower paced than Epsilon.

Final Fantasy XIII (6h) - After dinner game with Cameron.

Mount & Blade: Warband (4h) - Another present from Greig. Online play felt a little underdone and is a total gankfest, but after looking at how it plays and comparing it to the campaign battles, I'm not sure I should have expected any different. Started a new campaign, but there's not too much in there compared to the mods of the original. Combat seems tougher now, but the same old tricks work.

FIFA world Cup: South Africa 2010 [Wii] (3h) - Game from Matt while up in Mackay. Even though it's an EA game, it controls and plays differently than normal FIFA. Not sure whether that's the Wii or the game, but probably a bit of both. Shooting and corners are now incredibly easy, while passing and transitioning from defense into offense are abysmal compared to previous games. Just ... wierd. One thing it has going though is a good feeling of the sense of occasion. I can see me popping this one in a couple of times in the leadup to the World Cup to get in the mood.

Borderlands (2h) - LAN games.

TrackMania Nations (1h) - Shalom finally made it over for a matchup, now they'll hopefully join in for winter season starting next week.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wait - Ascension Sunday

Last Sunday's sermon on waiting.


Acts 1:4
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised."

Luke 24:45-49
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

Even though today is ascension Sunday, the ascension was to happen 40 days after the resurrection, so that puts it at about last Friday. At the moment we’re in a bit of a gap in the Christian calendar. After ascension, waiting for Pentecost.

In today’s text we hear an odd command. Wait. “Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my father had promised.” The disciples, too, have a gap to fill. Waiting for Pentecost. We know Pentecost was to come a bit more than a week later, but how would it have been just sitting and waiting for the outpouring of the spirit?

The disciples were Jews, and from the Old Testament the Jews didn’t have a very good track record of waiting. When Moses was receiving the 10 commandments, he told the elders and people of Israel to wait until he returned. While Moses was gone for 40 days, they wavered and faltered.

Exodus 26:13
Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. 14 He said to the elders, "Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them."
Exodus 32:1
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."
Exodus 32:7
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf."

Then God got a little angry.

So back to the Disciples. They were given the instruction to wait for things to come. The gift God had promised is on the way. Wait. Earlier on, not 40 days beforehand, they also had been given a prediction of what was to come. Jesus mentioned many times that he was to be crucified, but on the third day he will rise again. Here is another gap where there seems to be nothing to do but sit and wait, but the disciples react badly. They huddle up in their rooms in fear. Fear of getting caught, fear that their world that has all fallen apart. Jesus had told them first in parables after clearing out the temple:
John 2:19
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."

Then throughout his ministry more plainly. After feeding the 4000 and healing the blind:
Matthew 16:21
From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

And again after many more miracles and parables:
Matthew 20:17
Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"

The time of waiting from Christ’s death to eventual resurrection should have been one of anticipation. The biggest miracle ever was close at hand! Yet they cowered.

In contrast, the disciples approach the Ascension and following days in a totally different manner. We read from the end of Luke:
Luke 24:50-53
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

What a change. What a way to wait, praising God. The difference? 40 days. A long time. Jesus had spent 40 days proving himself to be the resurrected Christ. He appeared to the disciples, to Thomas, to the men on the road to Emmaus. He ate with them and talked with them. Still, we hear their faith was lacking:
Mark 16:14
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

Disciples had lacking faith? Didn’t they gave up everything to follow Jesus? Martin Luther, in a sermon on ascension, explains the difference:
Martin Luther [1]
But let no one think that the apostles were altogether unbelieving; they believed what was written in the Law and the prophets, although their faith was not yet perfect. They believed that God created heaven and earth, and was the Maker of every creature. The Lord, however, shows what they lacked; they did not believe the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Although they believed the other things, they were still lacking in this. I hold that they believed that they had a gracious God. Yet this was not enough; they must believe also the resurrection of Christ. Christ’s words to them at the Last Supper: "You believe in God, believe also in me." John 14, 1.

What does it mean, then, to believe the resurrection of Christ? This thing which is so important that without it the disciples were called unbelieving and faithless? To believe the resurrection of Christ, is nothing else than to believe that we have a Mediator before God. Who is Christ, who makes us holy and acceptable to God the Father. For man's possessions, by birth and nature, are but sin and corruption, by which he brings down upon himself the wrath of God. But God is eternal righteousness and purity, and therefore, from his very nature, hates sin. Hence there is always enmity between God and the natural man. They cannot be harmony with one another.
For this cause, Christ became man and took upon himself our sins and also the wrath of the Father, and drowned them both in himself, thus reconciling us to God the Father. Without this faith, we are children of wrath, able to do no good work that is pleasing to God.

The disciples had faith in the God of Law, the God that talked to Moses calling the people of Israel corrupt. Jesus rebukes their lack of faith, but opens their minds to the Scriptures:
Luke 24:44
He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

The disciples, finally seeing the jigsaw puzzle complete before their eyes, are filled with joy! As Jesus ascends, they praise him. As they wait for Pentecost, they praise him!

So here we are today; in the lull between Ascension and Pentecost. We can look back at the past and learn from the disciples. And with the disciples, let us also praise the Lord for Christ has risen for you, for me, for everyone.

[1] Sermon for the Day of Christ’s Ascension; Mark 16:14-20 (2nd sermon) by Martin Luther; taken from his Church Postil, 1522.

It's missing an X

Over the past couple of weeks, Sandy and I have been looking for an online free web game for both of us to play. After dabbling with a couple of capitalism types, we finally settled on Heroes of Gaia, a Hreroes of Might and Magic lookalike put into the MMO mould.

After playing for a couple of weeks, the game started to become a bit repetitive. Even though there was lots of different missions to do, they generally devolved into 'search for target, attack'. Tehre were other things that seemed amiss, but I couldn't really put my finger on it.

One morning I asked Sandy what she thought of the game. "Yeah, it's all right, but it's missing an X". I thought about it and laughed. "It's missing an X". What a unique sentence. I'm not sure how many other wives out there would have been able to say that. Firstly because it requires a deep understanding of 4X games, but also because it was a very efficient sentence to convey the exact problem with the game. She knew I'd understand what it meant. There is no longer any eXploration.

I don't think we played it after that. The problem was now exposed and the search restarted to find an interesting web game for the both of us. Currently our hopes lie in Neptune's Pride, a Masters of Orion type game with world time elements of play. It has a pretty clean interface and simple combat mechanics and tech tree, with an interesting mix of public and hidden information. The design would seem to be more like a board game than a computer game.

Yes, It has the eXplore. Time will tell if the other X's are there too, but it's looking good.

GameLog 143 - 146

Been a real busy set of weeks, especially last Thursday when I was hoping to write these up ...

Grepolis (45h) - Epsilon game has faded away somewhat. I'd more or less gone incative by the time NoE started their big push. I'm glad i haven't lost any cities to them in the past 2 weeks, but they are being divested to worthy players now.

Started in Zeta, but got the worst island and position ever. Cancelled the start in the hope of rejoining over NE with previous Royal Regimant players, but it's past that and it's still not offering me a choice to rejoin :/.

In the lull of Zeta kicking back in I started on Delta and have a moderate starting location. I've overtaken eveeyone on the closest islands, but am now debating whether to go with an alliance or stick it out on my own.

Heroes of Gaia (35h) - Started this MMO with Sandy as a Grepolis we can play together. It looks and plays like Heroes of Might and Magic, but started to get very samey. Sandy nailed it when She said "It's missing an X". It was a very time intensive game too compared to Grepolis and Neptune's pride.

League of Legends (20h) - Mainly a late night game with Scott, Carina and Greig. The skill matching is working pretty well and it's usually an intense 30 minutes per game. Currently playing Ashe and Heimerdinger. Heimer is less useful when playing agaist a team intent on ganking, but can easily hold his own in a standup battle.

Neptune's Pride
(10h) - Another online game with Sandy to find the missing X. It's playing pretty good now, but certainly a game that should be played among friends for that extra diplomacy kick. So far it's like a lightweight Masters of Orion.

Final Fantasy XIII (4h) - After dinner game with Cameron. Must be getting close to the world exploration part. The linearity of the game is starting to piss me off. The massive cutscenes make it more of a movie with random pressing of X to continue. The story does make it reasonable for Cameron to watch, as the combat is now starting to surpass his skill level.
Borderlands (2h) - LAN games at my place.

TrackMania Nations (1h) - Summer season of CCG finished up with Ted taking out the finals

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Civ5 pricing woes

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mars bar cake

Happy Birthday to me!

Sandy whipped up this "Mars bar" cake for the Saturday dinner with Mark and Amanda. Chocolate coating was pretty thick, with marshmallows as nougat and caramel layered inbetween. A biscuit secured the bottom, but faded into the background with all the sugar on offer.

Yep, it was sweet. Probably on par with a certain marsbar & whipped cream from a previous birthday. You wanted another piece, but something (heart?) let you know that one was enough and put down the knife please.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Who you know who knows what you know

This first article for Thursday Theory was inspired by Peter Sawyer's talk at the graduation ceremony for my Post Grad teaching. Peter emphasized "networking" though joining organisations such as the Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce to not only swap business cards, but help them out in the hope that they would also help you out some day. This led to the adage "It's not what you know, but who you know"

After getting my first job through Andrew, I came up with an adaptation to the adage (as well as an awesome tongue twister):
It's not "It's not what you know, but who you know", but "It's not what you know, but who you know who knows what you know"

The key change is the emphasis on capability is conferred to the person referring you rather than being left out altogether. In practical terms this means that people will only refer others that they believe will be capable for the job. This is because if the other person fails at the job, that reflects poorly on them as a referrer.

Since my first job, I have only had one of around 30 that I have needed to go through an interview process. The rest have been through referrals by people who "know what I know". Now they don't know all the things I know, but they know capability. They know that I have succeeded in the past with a similar task and should also be able to succeed in the prospective task, or that I have as much chance as any of completing the task, and the level of security in a known quantity is enough to make the appointment over other potentially more qualified applicants who are unknown.

So what of University then? Why bother going to uni or learning anything for that matter if it's all about who you know? Well, completing university demonstrates a couple of things to your peers, rellies and friends:
- You are interested in a specific field of work / study more than other areas
- You are skilled enough to complete a degree
- You can persevere enough to complete a degree
- You now have a skillset in that field to complete most tasks.

University also offers a fantastic place to establish a network of people doing other disciplines that now "know what you know". They know what it was like to go through Uni and what the end skillset is likely to be. They know what YOU were like going through Uni.

By the time you realise this it's probably too late. The networking gained at Uni comes into play after you leave, and is more or less irreversible. If you were a slacker through Uni, most of your peers would be hesitant to recommend you for fear of you not fulfilling the task when there's money on the line.

Thursday Theory

After completing the Post Grad teaching last year, my 1 day a week off this year was to refocus back on the PhD on procedural world generation. That was, as it happened, until I moved the free day to Thursday so that I can concentrate on delivering the Head to the Heart youth group sessions for St John's. I still need more motivation to do something more productive with my time though, as the more recent Thursdays off have been procrastinated away playing Grepolis or League of Legends.

After last week's graduation triggered my memory about "who you know who knows what you know", I thought I'd try something different. On Thursday I'll try to write an article about a concept that I've previously discussed with people, but isn't written down anywhere. Hopefully these articles are going to take a couple of hours each, and give me some focus for kaizen.

All I need is a catchy tagline: Thursday Theory.