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Avengers: Age of Ultron

by Loki Kola

October 23, 2014


I came.

About those "nonexistent" Iraqi WMDs.

by CWS

October 19, 2014

This past week, for those who haven't been paying attention, the New York Times accidentally revealed that, from 2004-2011, Coalition troops did in fact discover vast quantities of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq: Saddam Hussein's fabled stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. The ones that the anti-American Left have spent the past decade screeching had never existed in the first place, and that the entire U.S.-led invasion was predicated on a diabolical lie concocted by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Halliburton -- the entire company, apparently -- for some reason or other.

This fantasy, which was the true lie, somehow became the accepted narrative in the minds of large swaths of the public. I personally watched certain individuals who had argued just as strenuously and persuasively as I did in favor of the invasion, circa 2002-2003, later turn on a dime and completely buy into the whole "Bush lied, people died" bumper-sticker as if it were some sort of religious mantra. No, none of them are currently active members here, but one or two of you will know of whom I speak.

Personal history and frustrations aside, this was not even the most remarkable revelation of the story. The most baffling detail was the fact that those discoveries were apparently kept a closely guarded secret by the Bush administration.

From here, I will turn the record over to NRO's Deroy Murdock.
National Review Online wrote:

October 16, 2014 4:30 PM
Bush Didn’t Lie
So why did his administration sit on the evidence of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs?
By Deroy Murdock

New media accounts — including coverage by NRO’s Patrick Brennan — confirm what I repeatedly have written since the depths of Operation Iraqi Freedom: The late dictator Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass death, and the United States of America was correct to invade Iraq, find these toxins, and destroy them. Also vital: padlocking this Baathist general store for militant-Islamic terrorism.

As I explained on July 17, 2006:
While the liberal press gently sleeps, evidence continues to mount that Hussein had WMDs, though perhaps not in quantities that would bulge warehouses.

“Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent,” states a June 21 declassified summary of a report from the National Ground Intelligence Center. “Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.”

It turns out that — based on open sources — I vastly underestimated the size of Hussein’s stockpiles of deadly devices.

In this story’s first outrage, it now transpires that Hussein had some 5,000 tank shells filled with sarin nerve gas, mustard gas, and other lethal agents. This is roughly ten times the arsenal that I reported that he possessed. Had I access to more accurate information back then, my pieces would have reflected the depth of Hussein’s supplies of these munitions.

These recent news stories overlook another discovery from 2004: The U.S. Department of Energy and the Pentagon removed 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium from Iraq “that could potentially be used in a radiological dispersal device or diverted to support a nuclear weapons program,” according to a DOE press release. This development was almost totally overlooked by the entire press corps, absent The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, author Richard Miniter, and yours truly.

Team Bush’s near-silence about Saddam Hussein’s 3,894 pounds of uranium points to this story’s second outrage: the Bush administration’s phenomenally flaccid response to its most vociferous detractors on the WMD question.

Then-president George W. Bush’s critics used the most bitter and vicious tones to accuse him of deceiving America and the world about weapons of mass death. “Bush lied, people died” was the Left’s relentlessly repeated anti-Bush indictment. The liberal fever swamps were rife with theories that Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their pals at Halliburton concocted the WMD charges from whole cloth. Why? To justify a U.S. invasion in order to seize Iraq’s oil fields. Lifting sanctions and simply letting Iraq’s oil flow must have been too much trouble.

The notion that Operation Iraqi Freedom rested upon a giant foundation of even bigger lies severely damaged the reputations of the United States of America, Bush, the conservative movement, and the GOP — the latter two of which tended to support the Iraq invasion. (So did then-senators Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and John Kerry, and 108 other congressional Democrats at the time, although most later turned tail and pretended never to have voted to attack Iraq.)

Amid this wholesale meltdown of domestic and international public opinion, the Bush administration inexplicably and unforgivably yielded to the architects in Bush’s political operation and sat on this treasure trove of exculpatory evidence. In fact, Bush did not lie about WMDs. They really existed — and in enormous amounts. Moreover, they were sitting in the Iraqi desert, making U.S. GIs physically ill. (In yet another outrage, 17 soldiers reportedly were denied the medical attention or subsequent commendations that they deserved for handling these poisons. They also allegedly were told to clam up about what they saw.)

It is outrageous that the Pentagon and, apparently, Bush’s political team concealed proof that America’s chief casus belli actually existed. Instead, the howling hyenas of the Left were allowed to gnaw away at Bush’s political corpse.

Why did anyone involved in this disaster think that this would be good for America domestically or globally? How thick were the skulls of Bush’s political advisers not to see the importance of presenting this information amid deafening shouts that the president and those of us who supported Operation Iraqi Freedom were a pack of filthy liars?

Anyone who aided and abetted this extremely destructive cover-up should be removed immediately and barred permanently from government agencies, political campaigns, and party organizations.

The third and most frightful outrage here is that some 2,500 of these canisters of nerve gas and mustard gas remained in Iraq. Rather than implement a policy of “No WMD Left Behind,” roughly half of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs were cast adrift in Iraq.

And now they are in the humane and prudent hands of the Islamic State.

“Experts” now say that these deadly weapons have degraded and pose no threat to anyone.

Would you bet your life on this?

At any time, the Islamic State can use these weapons against American and allied targets in the Middle East or anywhere else. If they detonate them and they work, hundreds or thousands could be killed.

Then again, they or their comrades in the Jihadist International could strap these artillery shells to sticks of dynamite and threaten to explode them. While the sarin and mustard gas might be inert, which mayor, governor, prime minister, or president could bank on that? Such uncertainty would give the Islamic State tremendous leverage: “Obey our demands, or those sticks of dynamite will become a cloud of nerve gas.”

Bush did not lie, we now learn.

However, in some twisted act of self-mutilation, his government severely wounded itself and America by hiding the abundant evidence that would have silenced Bush’s and the USA’s loudest and harshest opponents and enemies. Even worse, these “imaginary” weapons — that proved to be all too real — were abandoned in the sands for the Islamic State to adopt as their own.

And, before he prematurely withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq, Obama did nothing to fix any of this.

From the Euphrates to the Potomac, this is nothing short of governmental malpractice.

Loath as I am to link to the Daily Beast, there is an article there which makes a very credible argument that this brilliant decision was the brainchild of W.'s chief political adviser, so-called "boy genius" and "Architect" of the nearly-disastrous 2000 campaign, not to mention perpetual Fox News commentator, Karl Rove. Who I've become thoroughly convinced, over the past several years, is one of the most astonishingly stupid men in American politics.

Anyway, I wanted to make a note of all this for the record.

The Greatest Threat to Civilization

by CWS

October 11, 2014

I'll probably regret it, but now I find myself morbidly curious.

(I was only going to list two choices, but I decided not to be that obvious.)

Star Wars: Rebels

by CWS

October 4, 2014

Well, I caught the first episode of the new Star Wars CGI series this morning, and I have to admit that I'm impressed. It certainly seems to be a step up from The Clone Wars, with an entirely new and already interesting cast, and the fact that they're actually using the genuine Star Wars music again is also a plus.

NZ Election 2014

by snowman1989

September 20, 2014

Yeah, yeah, I know the NZ election wasn't all that significant in world affairs compared to the impact the Scottish vote had just a couple days ago. But I gave some coverage of the election in 2011, so I thought I'd do this year to. And perhaps give you some perspective on how other democratic societies do their thing.

Quick reminder: The National party is roughly equivalent to Republicans (though to me they're actually closer to Democrats), and won the last election. The Labour Party are kind of like the Democrats, except, you know, ACTUALLY left wing. They are NZ's main parties in an MMP style parliamentary system.

And it pains me to see that NZ has shifted further to the right. National has won yet another term. Another three years of their crap while our country suffers from rising levels of child poverty and worsening pollution, not to mention the TPP talks which John Key is determined to get done. And what's worse is the fact that National doesn't have to make deals with the other parties. For the first time in our history, a single party has won enough votes to go it alone.

That is a HUGE deal for us here. That's never happened before under MMP. Previously we've had dominant parties, but they've always needed other minor parties to make alliances with them to get enough seats to win a majority. Not so this term.

And to my continued bafflement, ACT and United Future are still a thing with some people. Apparently.

All I can say is 2017 can't come soon enough. :? That, and this election's infographics are worse than the ones we had in 2011.

NZ Herald coverage

Electorate map of New Zealand 2014

World leans towards the Dark Side

by snowman1989

September 11, 2014

Turns out most people prefer the Empire over the Rebels, according to world wide statistics collected from the game Star Wars Commander. Three guesses which country likes playing Emperor more than anyone else.


Gamers prefer to choose the Dark Side


If you needed further proof that Russia has gone to the Dark Side of the Force, you're about to get it.

Star Wars Commander, an iOS title that launched August 21, is Disney's first major Star Wars game (and the first game to fall under the new Star Wars canon, having passed muster with the new Lucasfilm Story Group).

In its simple base-building strategy action, Star Wars Commander may remind gamers a little of Supercell's mega-hit Clash of Clans, although its producers told me they had something more like Starcraft in mind.

Certainly, it's got a long way to go before it reaches the popularity of either of those titles. Disney announced Thursday that Star Wars Commander had been downloaded 5 million times in the last 3 weeks - most impressive, as Darth Vader might say, until you consider Clash of Clans has 30 million players every day.

But the more intriguing part of the Disney announcement? The company revealed what percentage of gamers choose to play as the evil Empire versus the Rebel Alliance - and how that varies country to country.

Most of the world, as you can see in the map below, leans slightly to the Dark Side. There are a surprising amount of Rebel sympathizers in South America, southern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. The Force is strongest with the Rebels in Peru, where more than 62% of players chose the Light Side. (Geopolitical essay writers, start your engines.)

The Dark Side dominates the northern hemisphere - some countries more than others. By far the strongest area of Imperial power is in Russia and the other former Soviet republics (yes, even Ukraine).

Russian gamers chose to play as the Empire nearly 58 per cent of the time. Contrast that with American gamers, who are more mildly evil: less than 53 per cent of them went to the Dark Side.



Light Blue = Leans toward Imperial
Dark Blue = Imperial
Light Orange = Leans toward Rebellion
Dark Orange = Rebel
Gray = No data available


Note that China is gray. Imperial Gray.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

by CWS

August 21, 2014

Well...I think we can rest assured that MGS5 will maintain the attention to detail, authenticity and gritty realism the series has always been known for.


Silent Hills

by CWS

August 13, 2014

Konami has released a teaser trailer for what looks to be a very exciting new chapter in their long-running survival-horror series, Silent Hill. The original game debuted on the first PlayStation in 1999 and was instantly recognized as the single most frightening video game ever made, but more recent sequels and spin-offs have begun to lose a bit of their edge. But this game looks quite intriguing both for the promise of what sort of scares can be achieved with the new generation of gaming hardware, and also for some very big names attached to it: legendary producer Hideo Kojima, of Metal Gear fame; director Guillermo del Toro, best known for the Hellboy films, Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, and the new TV series The Strain; and The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus, AKA Daryl Dixon.


Konami certainly does know how to tease, don't they?

Mass Effect creator/producer Casey Hudson leaves BioWare

by CWS

August 12, 2014

This news is a few days old but it still deserves notice.
Aaryn Flynn, BioWare Studio General Manager wrote:

After nearly 16 years of game development at BioWare, Executive Producer Casey Hudson has made the decision to move on from BioWare and enter a new stage of his career. We thank Casey for his hard work and dedication as we look back on his time with BioWare.

Starting as a Technical Artist on Neverwinter Nights and MDK2, Casey moved into the Project Director role with 2003’s Game of the Year Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. He then led the team in the development of the Mass Effect trilogy, an award-winning series that I and many others consider to be one of the most important science-fiction universes of our generation. Casey’s focus on production quality, digital acting technology, and emotionally engaging narrative has made a substantial impact on BioWare and the video game industry as a whole.

Casey shared his thoughts with his colleagues in a letter earlier today:

“After what already feels like a lifetime of extraordinary experiences, I have decided to hit the reset button and move on from BioWare. I’ll take a much needed break, get perspective on what I really want to do with the next phase of my life, and eventually, take on a new set of challenges.

Though there’s never an easy time to make a change like this, I believe this is the best time for it. The foundation of our new IP in Edmonton is complete, and the team is ready to move forward into pre-production on a title that I think will redefine interactive entertainment. Development for the next Mass Effect game is well underway, with stunning assets and playable builds that prove the team is ready to deliver the best Mass Effect experience to date. And the Dragon Age: Inquisition team is putting the final touches on a truly ambitious title with some of the most beautiful visuals I’ve seen in a game.

But while I feel that the time has come, this is without a doubt the most difficult decision of my career. BioWare is as magical a place today as it was when I started. The projects we are working on are some of the most exciting and prestigious in the world. The talent in our teams is second to none. And the people here are some of my closest friends. I’ve spent more time with many of you than my own family, and I have enjoyed every day of it.”

Casey also had a message of appreciation for BioWare fans:

“Long before I worked in games, I was fascinated by their ability to transport me to places where amazing and memorable experiences awaited. When I made my very first asset that I knew would actually make it into a game (the laser bolt in MDK2!) I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to contribute in some small way to the process of creating interactive entertainment.

Now, having led the development of four major titles, I’m profoundly appreciative of the role I’ve been able to play in creating these games. The very idea that so many of you have enjoyed spending time in the worlds we’ve created is the defining achievement of my career, and it’s your support over the years that made it all possible.

Thank you.

I know that I leave our projects in great hands, and I join you in looking forward to playing them.”

As we say a fond farewell, I know I speak on behalf of the entire studio when I say that we will be forever grateful for Casey’s hard work, passion, and everything he has taught us over the years – a methodical dedication to quality, a spirit of teamwork and camaraderie, and putting fans above everything else. But most of all, Casey has challenged every one of us in the studio to be better tomorrow than we were today. It is in that spirit that as we finish Dragon Age: Inquisition, we will continue working on the next Mass Effect game and our new IP project, confident in our goals and progress.

Thank you Casey. This is not an ending, but a new beginning.

On Writing Styles and Philosophies

by CWS

August 12, 2014

A few days ago, Loki and I were discussing personal writing styles and their accompanying philosophies. It's been on my mind ever since, and I think it would be a discussion worth continuing here.

For obvious reasons, I'm going to be speaking from the perspective of my own chosen style and my reasons for choosing it, and citing some supporting examples from my own published stories. This is not to be misconstrued as me saying "my way is the best way and everyone should write this way"; I am not that conceited. (No, honestly...I'm really not. :| ) Rather, this is me attempting to explain what I've found to work best for me, and why. And others are definitely encouraged to do the same!

Personally, I've come to deliberately favor a "less is more" approach to descriptive writing. There are several reasons for this, but the one I want to focus on initially is that it is not because I see myself as writing for children, or a young/immature audience. It's the exact opposite. I write with the intention, or at least the hope, that my work is going to be read by active thinkers. I assume that my audience is intelligent enough to be able to "read between the lines", in places, without having to be constantly led by the nose. This doesn't mean minimalism for its own sake, to the point of descriptive laziness, or to try and hide the fact that I really don't know what the hell I'm doing by pretending to leave key elements open to broad interpretation; it simply means I don't feel that spelling out every possible detail is necessarily the wisest or most effective course, where it can be avoided. I also think a reader's imagination can often fill in certain details better than I might be able to describe them. And particularly when dealing with truly dark, disturbing and horrific topics, I think this approach can be especially effective because in horror and suspense, it's usually the things you don't see that are the most frightening, for this very reason.

When I was younger, I felt somewhat obligated to flesh out every scene, and every potential scene, as much as I could, believing that every written moment held its own undiscovered opportunities, and that scenes I might personally view as "filler" could possibly be found to be enjoyable by others. I now strongly reject that approach, having found that it breeds mediocrity and disinterest. Now, when writing, I try to remember to constantly ask myself, How does this further the story, as a whole? Does this really add something worthwhile, or does it detract? Is it really necessary to include this, in order to tell the story I'm trying to tell? I'm not advocating self-censorship, necessarily, but sometimes things can have unintended consequences, and weighing the pros and cons can be a good idea. Or at the very least, it can't hurt.

I came to a realization some time ago that I've never used any profanity in any of my Titans fics. This was not because I sat down in advance and said to myself, "Okay, this series has a much broader audience than anything else I've ever touched, so I'd better be careful" (like I said, it's something I've noticed in hindsight). The reason is, very simply, that I've never felt it was necessary at any point in any of my fics. Maybe that will change at some point, but so far, it hasn't.

At the same time, I've never thought of myself as writing for anything other than a mature audience. My very first Titans story, Snow, is still, at its core, one of the darkest things I've ever written. While it did not go into explicit detail, it nevertheless dealt pretty directly with the torture and sexual abuse of young children. And needless to say, that was probably one of the first stories where I really had to consciously think about how much detail would be enough to get the point across, versus how much would be crossing the line into cheap sensationalism.

In a related example, one early draft of Chapter 17 would have had Snow mockingly dismiss each of the Titans in turn, and using a racial epithet in reference to Cyborg. I ultimately decided against that for two reasons. First, you can't always predict how that sort of thing might be misconstrued. And second, and more importantly, it wasn't necessary. It wouldn't have added anything in terms of fleshing out Snow's character; by that point in the story, the reader was going to have a pretty clear idea of exactly how evil he really was without him tossing around racist insults, to boot. So that was an example of something I decided would have potentially detracted much more from the story than it might have added to it.

The deliberate omission of specific descriptive details can also serve other purposes in different genres. For example, Slash, which has ended up being one of my most popular fics for some reason. The entire thing revolved around Starfire's "computer drapery", which was never described in the story's text, but which was inferred to have been a depiction of a homosexual kiss between Robin and Kid Flash. It became obvious at least halfway through the story that that was what it was, but I think actually spelling it out would have ruined the joke; part of the fun was figuring out just what was causing Robin to flip out to the degree that he was. So in a sense, the "punchline" was something that was never actually stated.

Switching topics a bit, I'm aware that I do have some definite limitations as a writer, and that they're largely self-imposed. I don't do romance, at least not in the traditional, fluffy sense. There are a variety of reasons which all ultimately boil down to that I've never been able to figure out how to approach it in a way that feels genuine, or at least not "false", to me. If that makes any sense. I'm aware that it's a weakness and something I should probably push myself to overcome in order to grow as a writer, yadda yadda, etc. But it's just not something that interests me, to put it bluntly.

On a similar note -- and those who are familiar with my work have probably already noticed this -- I also have something of an aversion to "purely" happy endings. I just think they're boring. My favorite kind of ending is one that leaves you deep in thought, so both on a conscious and unconscious level, I guess I try to aspire to that.

Anyway, I guess I'll let someone else take it up from here. :P

Robin Williams, R.I.P.

by Loki Kola

August 11, 2014

So I wake up today to hear Robin Williams is dead. Killed himself, apparently, after years spent battling crippling depression.

I loved the guy. Genie, I'll miss you.

Power management / overclocking question

by CWS

July 30, 2014

I'm looking for some input and advice on some power management and minor overclock settings in one of my motherboard utilities as it relates to my current PC hardware.

There is a utility in the "ASUS Suite" of software that came with my motherboard called DIGI+ Power control for adjusting the PC's power management. Though I'm aware that my current setup would probably be very favorable for it, I've never felt daring enough to attempt anything in the way of overclocking. Looking at some of these settings, however, I have to confess I'm curious about them, though still extremely wary of potentially damaging my system. So I'm looking for advice from people more knowledgeable than myself on such matters.

Basically my question boils down to this. Would I see any improvement in performance if I were to set the CPU power phase control (pictured here) to "optimized" or even "extreme", and set the DRAM power phase control (pictured here) to "extreme", for normal usage, and would it be safe for my hardware to do so?

Some relevant details about my hardware: according to the PSU calculator on ASUS's website (which is a very handy thing!), all my hardware components have a combined draw of about 700 watts. I have a 1300w PSU. Under normal conditions my CPU runs temperatures from the mid-20s to the high 30s (Centigrade), the motherboard itself sits around the mid-30s, the VCORE runs in the mid-20s and the DRAM is low 30s.

None of this is to say that I have any complaints about my PC's performance as it currently stands...I'm just wondering if I'm using the most "optimal" settings for my build, you know? Anyway, any input would be appreciated.


by CWS

July 10, 2014

So, I'm getting ready to replace my C drive with a SSD. I have zero experience with these things. Is there anything I should know before I dive in?

Happy Independence Day (2014)

by The Phiend

July 4, 2014

Once again, it's that time of year! When I try to come up with some clever way to phrase "You can have a happy July 4th even if you aren't a resident of a country where that's Independence Day".


De-extinction event: Bringing back the Moa

by snowman1989

July 3, 2014

It sounds very Jurassic Park, but bringing back an extinct species could be possible in the near future. New Zealand's largest ever bird, the Moa, which towered above even the ostrich, could make a comeback.


Time to bring back... the moa

Trevor Mallard continues to push his idea that moa may one day roam in Wainuiomata, despite his leader saying the "moa is not a goer".

Labour's Hutt South MP presented the idea to 30 or so businesspeople at a development breakfast in the Lower Hutt suburb Wainuiomata.

While admitting it sounded "a bit Jurassic Park", Mallard said scientists had been making progress on techniques for using recovered DNA from extinct animals to reconstruct new life. Moa could return to the bush of Rimutaka Forest Park, he said.

"It would certainly give us international focus and, frankly, I can't think of a better place. Those valleys [behind Wainuiomata] are accessible without helicopter, with a one-hour walk."

Mallard said his speech at the breakfast meeting included why he loved the suburb and a long term look to the future.

He was aware that he had opened himself to "bird jokes and extinction jokes" but people once laughed at those who said the kiwi would return to Wainuiomata.

Asked about leader David Cunliffe's comment that "the moa is not a goer", Mallard said: 'The Moa will be a goer but we are talking 50 to 100 years out."

"Of course it's not official Labour Party policy".

He was not concerned about support from caucus colleagues on the issue.

Mallard insisted he was "absolutely serious" that New Zealand should be taking advantage of science as it develops.

"I only want the small moa in Wainuiomata. I don't want those that are 240kg and 3.5 metres tall. I'd like ones that I could pat on the head."

Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace said the discussion was worth having.

"I think it will capture people's imaginations. And after all, 20 years ago if we'd said kiwis would be back in Rimutaka Forest Park, people would have laughed at us."

I say it is feasible because the Moa was rendered extinct relatively recently, in the last few hundred years. The cut-off point for any DNA retrieval tends to be around 10,000 years from the best preserved remains, of which we have a lot of - some are even mummified. And we have some of the world's strictest biosecurity protocols, predator control programmes and conservation techniques that have influenced how the rest of the world's countries manage their own unique species.

But of course there's the counterargument from Jurassic Park. Just because we could doesn't mean we should. New Zealand's original ecosystem, which supported the original Moa, has been all but totally destroyed by colonisation and the introduction of invasive species, the severe consequences of which we are still having to deal with. Less than 10% of New Zealand's original forest cover still stands. Would a revived Moa species be able to survive in the modern world? And the ethical dilemma over genetic engineering is still strong here as well. Would we really be bringing back the original Moa, or an engineered clone? How would their behaviour develop without a pre-existing population (of which we know precious little about) to learn from? Would we be contaminating the rest of our surviving ecosystem with genetically modified organic matter?

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