Vacationing soon?

I have never made any effort to conceal my fondness for London either as a vacationing spot or a place to live. However, I might be going to Okinawa sometime soon instead, after seeing this...

I just have to see what in blazes they mean by this sign.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark dares to brave the flu scare and will be going to London for one (1) weekend in late August. Single attractive females of age between 18 and 40 are welcome to apply as travel companions.


"Ciao!", she said.

And though I was the one who left, I was left wondering:

"What the bloody hell did she mean by that!?"

Cyphers I can deal with. Subtlety, on the other hand, is like a foreign language of which I know only a few words. Kind of like German...

Pax vobiscum aque vale.

ArabianShark would like to to notice that last post (not this post, last post) was this blog's 169th post. That's thirteen squared. Very bad luck if you're superstitious, very good luck if you're a fan of the very lovely Olivia Wilde. Draw your own conclusions.

Incompetence spreads...

I used to think this wretched excuse for a country was the only massively incompetent country nearby. Well...

In the 28th of June I ordered a pair of boots from a Spanish website. I had had dealings with that website before and thought it was good enough. Back then, when I had ordered a pair of sunglasses, I had paid with credit card the moment I placed my order. A few days later I received an e-mail from them saying that as soon as I made a money order transfer to some account they indicated, they would proceed with shipping. I made my best to send an e-mail in Spanish (which I never do) calling their attention to the fact that I had already paid. They made their excuses and said that their boss was on vacation and only he had the credit card numbers, so if I could re-send just the credit card number, they'd proceed to send my order. So I did, and they sent me the sunglasses and I thought it had been just a minor hiccup and never thought much about it.

Back to my new boots. On the same day as I placed my order, they sent me a confirmation e-mail, and I thought everything was running smoothly. On the 6th of July, a whole week after I had placed my order, I had heard nary a peep from them, so I went to their site to see if there was a problem. Now, most commercial sites keep a log of their clients' orders, and even an option to track yet undelivered packages, but my latest order wasn't even listed on my account information. I sent an e-mail asking about this. They were quite quick to answer that the order wouldn-t be listed until it was processed. So, I wonder, what the bloody hell had they been doing for the previous week, faffing about with bulls? THey did, however, promise to give me a delivery date the next day. Which they never did.

Fast forward another week and I sent them another e-mail, complaining a bit more. They said nothing about that, but they called me the next day, saying they had lost my order, and asked me, on the phone, to place my order - again. By this time my patience had run out, and I tired of trying to make my point across in Spanish, so I adressed them in my own mother tongue and let them work for a sale, for a change.

Today I received an e-mail stating that they could not satisfy my order. Mind you, this was not an apolgetic e-mail, more of an informative e-mail, as though they were telling me when my order would be delivered (which, in fact, they were - never). And for this they took more than a whole fortnight. What the hell!? They also said I should contact my local distributor for that particular brand. Well, don't you bloody think I tried that even before I went to you, you paella shovelling castanette heads!?

In a way, I'm glad to see mine isn't the only masively incompetent country. In another, it seems competence isn-t just as within reach as I thought. I really need to get out of here.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark fails to see why the Brits have such a warm spot in their hearts for Spain, as there-s hardly anything there they wouldn't find in their former colonies - the ones worthwhile, that is.

First exemplar

For once, Yahtzee disappointed me. His review of Prototype said nearly bugger all about the game, and while it was entertaining enough, as are all of his reviews, I feel he put way too much emphasis on comparing it to inFamous to give any sort of idea of what the game was all about. This must be addressed...

Imagine that GTA IV, Assassin's Creed and Mirror's Edge had a threesome (OK, now I gave myself the image of Altair and Niko Belic going at it with Faith at the same time. Hot, a bit, perhaps, but hilarious, a lot, definitely. The joke potential is out there and there's a pecan nut cookie with the name of who can make the best joke out of this situation on it) from which a beautiful child was born, and then that child got stuck on one nasty acid trip.

So storywise Alan Mercer (that's you, the player) woke up at his own autopsy, and rather than reassure the coroners who hadn't started to cut into him, decided to murder them brutally with appendages that he wasn't supposed to have, as much to his surprise as to ours (if we had no previous knowledge of what the game was all about, that is). So he sees what he did, and someone shoots him for it (fair enough, I'd say), except that doesn't kill him and he resumes his fledgeling rampage. This does alright to set the tone for the game: Everyone hates you, kill everyone.

Well, that's a bit simplistic, really. There's the harmless, innocent civillians, who can do absolutely nothing to hurt you and exist only to kill for a disguise, kill for a tidbit of the story, kill for extra health or kill for the heck of it. There's no penalty for killing civilians, and no law enforcement, at least not the way you'd expect from GTA, where you can't accidentally shoot someone's head off without a whole police station worth of police forces chasing after you. In this game, killing everyone is alright provided you don't let the militray see you do it. Come thi think of it, the Marines (because that's the branch of the military they're going to pick on in this game) are really only concerned about your superpowers, so I suppose they'd be cool with you picking up one of their spare M-16 and going postal on the rest of the populace. I'll ahve to try that.

Onto gameplay then. As I said, the game plays much like GTA, except that instead of driving about, you parkour around. Parkour, in spite of being the definition given of Alan's free running on the manual, isn't really what he does, as I am yet to met any traceur who can leap like Alan, although that's probably a techinicality, run up a vertical wall for as long as there's a wall to run along, although that's probably because most traceurs aren't strong enough to dig their feet into brick walls with each step like Alan, or, for some reason not entirely given neither in game nor in the manual, glide, although that's probably because traceurs are real people without fictional mutant afflictions. Much like GTA, you run around Manhattan (they recreated Manhattan for the game, and quite well, I thought) looking for the lazy bum who sits about and tells you what you need to do. See, this is why I liked Scarface (the game, not the movie, although the movie is good too, just not called upon for this matter). In Scarface, you alone knew what to do next, you didn't need some NPC to tell you what to do next. I mean, you're given control of a character, the character is supposed to somehow embody you in the game. What does your character say about you if he/she can't think for themselves as far as deciding what the next story mission is going to be? So anyway, you run errands like a good little boy with some wierd mutation that allows you to perform awesome feats of strength and agility and twist your body into weapons of bludgeoning, slicing, ripping and whipping (for the S&M crowd, I suppose) and in between there are sidemissions that pop up and sit there until you can be bothered to do them (or don't that's alright). Sometimes (and I mean "in some games") these missions are fun and rewarding and look like they have a purpose and a place in the setting of the game (again, Scarface had you do drug runs, protecting your empire and shylocking, all well within Tony Montana's character and trade). Prototype has you seeing how many zombies (they're not called zombies, but ever since Fallout 3 started calling its zombis "Ghouls" I decided every sort of Zombie should be properly called zombie instead of whatever their creator called it, and if you're not happy, I demand that you refer to my opinions, as I have created them, as "Commandments". So there) or Mrines you can kill in a specific way within a time limit. There remind me of GTA II and III's Kill Frenzies, and are alright enough. Then there's the War Missions, where you join either the Zombies or the Marines and kill the other faction before everyone else in yoour faction snuffs it, and this seems aright as well, although a bit strange, as neither faction actually likes you or goes one iota out of their way to stop themselves from killing you as soon as they kno eho you are. And then there's the races. Why, oh why races? Yahtzee said this, and the races have absolutely no place in this game. Really, if you were to find yourself hunted by Marines and Zombies, with no memory whatsoever of anything and suffering from some disease that gave you superpowers as well as driving you insane with the memories of those you killed, would you set up races or yourself against the clock around some rooftops? I wouldn't either. And Gliding? Those are fun, but I feel they have no place either. I suppose that's where this game should not have taken so much after Mom (that's Faith, from Mirros's Edge, if you couldn't figure it out for yourself).

Combat is where this game realy shines. There's something for everybody: Hack and slash fun makes up most fo the combat, with fluid attacks from your claws/blades/hammers/whips/fists (yes, you can just duke it out in a regular fist fight with super strength, but half the fun goes away, if you do), but there's a rather bland shooter component with auto aim (at least for the 360 version) and only one weapon at a time which you discard as soon as you run out of ammo (again, Faith's colours shining through) and, of course, you can get your hands (if you can find them) on a military vehicle and blast about in it. As this isn't GTA, there's only a handful of things to drive: so far I've found an APC, with homing missiles and a heavy machinegun, a Tank, with a main turret and a machine gun, a transport helicopter, with rockets and a machine gun and a redition of the AH-64 Apache anti-tank helicopter, with tracking all-purpose missiles, rockets and, surprise, a machine gun (go figure). It should be said that usually fliying in these games is a nightmare, as the controls aren't made for flight simulation, and this is hardly any exception, although nowere as nightmarish as, say, Operation Flashpoint, in the late 90's, and even less of a nightmare than in GTA IV. However, once you get down and dirty with melee, combos are a bit dodgy, and the whole thing is button mashingly repetitive and bland, at times, nothing like, say, Samurai Warriors and it's like. Still, there's a wide enough array of things to do with your enhanced mutant flesh in combat, but most of them are a bit ungainly to be done often.

Character progression is always nice, and here, it's a bit of a hybrid. Some evolutions you get as part of the story, and others you buy with experience (which Prototpe calls EP, but as Microsoft hasn't tried to copyright the abreviation XP, I suppose it might as well have used it like everyone else). Yhis is the only reason to do most of the side quests, except those which have you breach a military base and eat up personnel with skills, which you acquire and cannot be had any other way. But even this isn't such a good reason to do the side quests. More on this in a while.

Innovation for this game comes in the Consume gimmick. For any reason, at any time, you can consume people. If you do, they vanish in a brutally violent cloud of groy brutality, your health gets replenished a bit and you can take on the form of whoever you just ate (so you are what you eat, in this game). This is useful to shake off pursuers when you behave badly in front of the Marines, but is also useful to infiltrate their bases, as they don't usually bother you at all for as long as you don't do superpowers, don't kill them and look like one of them, which allows you to do all the things you shouldn't while they're not watching under their own noses. At some foint, it also enables you to point at any Marine and yell "It's him", and the other Marines around (including automated turrets) will shoot the Marine you pointed at for you. You may then ask them who wrote "gullible" on the ceiling, and they'll all look up, even if they're outdoors. Well, you can't, but if there was an action for asking them who wrote "gullible" on the ceiling, they would look up.

Workarounds come in the form of exploiting the Hives (not, not the disease). You see, for some reason, every now and then, the zombies infest a building, and make it a zombie churning hive. Destrying the building, provides XP like crazy for doing hardly anything, really. Just wlak into a base, wreak some havok and the Marines, instead of just fending for themselves, then calling reinforcements, then upgrading reingorcements and so on, immediately call in the helicopters. An then, your day is made. If running about isn't your thing, save your XP until you can get the jump upgrades, the Whipfist power and the one that allows you to grab from a distaance. Now go into a Military base, bitchslap the Commander (or any other Marine) and wait for the helicopters. Then jump up, latch on to a helicopter, "skyjack" it (skyjacket is not a garment worn by pilots) and dispose of the other helicopters. Now unload your rockets into the Hives and let the XP roll. When you run out of ammo, take the helicopter back towards some Marines and hassle them until more helicopters come (i. e., in a heartbeat). Knowing this takes some of the fun out of the game, but the storyline compels me such... Oh, wait, no it doesn't.

Finally, the real nasty dealings. First, there's the useless collectionism. Spread around the city there are phantom fire looking things that are either hints or landmark collectibles. Hints are usually about as useful as "Press the jump button tpo jump", and landmark collectibles do bugger all, in game. Bad to the bone, if you ask me. Then, storywise - ok, hold on. The story is a convoluted mess of starting out knowing nothing and finding out that nowing nothing is probably the way to go. There are some fellows walking around that know stuff, and consuming them lets you know what parto of the storyline they know, and if you can be bothered to stop playing, then go into an unnavigateable menu to see who knew whom (remember the names won't have a face to put it to - because you ate it) and what did they know of the story, then you might be able to learn what the hell is going on in this strange, diesase ridden Manhattan - but, really, why should you care? This is probably where this acid junkie should have taken after one of the dads (Assassin's Creed had a neat story), which leads me to believe Altair was probably the only one - no, I won't do this. I suppose the story might be alright, but the game is enjoyable enough without it, and I don't see how it's going to make it any better, especially because the memories I've been getting are usually much too biased to be storytelling, or only barely relevant (or so it seems, but I haven't really been playng attention). Then, storywise, there came a moment, after a Boss fight where I lost all my powers. What the hell was that all about? So now, for a few story missions, I can't do most of the stuff that makes the game fun? And how would the game explain that I had lost all battle worth powers, but not the ability to absorb people, disguise, run up walls and glide? Major fault, Prototype...

In conclusion, however, this is pretty good. It's not revolutionary in any way, and seems to pick up on many other titles and fames (there's a persistent, undrlying Spider Man thme to the whole thing - young adult in New York jumping from rooftop to rooftop in disguise with figures of authority after him, they could have made a good Carnage game instead), but is well entertaining. So give it a whirl.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark has his last final ever in a few hours.

American Soil

Two very bad topics to discuss on a first date are politics and religion, and you can take it to the bank (although finance is hardly substacne for a romantic conversation). But this isn't our first date, is it, dear readers?

Movies: now that might be a rather better topic for a fist dte chat. From circa 1944 up until the mid, maybe late 90's, whenever a beligerant threat was needed, you could depend on nuclear ordinance as a plot device. It worked for Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, The Hunt for Red October, Dr. No and, more recently, The Sum of All Fears (where it was proved that Ben Afleck's suck may outweight Morgan Freeman's awesome - sorry, Mr. Freeman, you're still awesome anyway) and The World is Not Enough - and Bond doesn't usually dabble in something as unimaginative as nuclear weapons. Lately, however, it seems there's a bit of a shift in the current of thought towards either biological weapons (vide The Tuxedo and so many others) or terrorism, especially with heavy civillian casualties (vide Collateral, Fight Club, Iron Man, for example) or both (vide 24 and loads more).

Now me, being bit stuck in the past (I tell you, this Internet thing seems like news to me every single day), would like to focus a bit back on the nuclear weapons. Have you ever noticed there is a very small nuber of countries where a nuclear warhead was ever detonated intentionally by another and an even smaller number (x is defined as even smaller then y if x %le y) number of countries who have actively used nuclear weapons on other countries. It should come as no surprise that, among all the countires that currrently count nuclear warheads in their armouries, one of them has more than any other. I wonder if it's a surprise that said country has never been the victim of a nuclear attack or, even had nuclear weapons detonated on its soil (Hawaii hardly counts as American Soil. I mean, they even had specially pritned currency after WWII that would have no monetary value in case Japan tried to reminesce about Pearl Harbour and take Hawaii). Enter the SADM.

By now you may be asking, Shark, you cynical bastard, you, what on Earth is a SADM? Well, this is a SADM. For thise of you whose stubby little fingers are much too good to waste on a click to an external link wich could save me the trouble of typing this long drawn rant that far outweights the actual definition of a SADM, but oh, no, you had to save your precious fingers for your APM or your CS:S or COD or wahtever FPS and TLA you can think of, it's a small, portable nuke, conceived by your friendly neighbourhood Americans in the 1960's to use against the Soviets, should they try to invade Europe. Yes, there's a thought, let's blow the hell out of somewhere we have no business in and irradiate and contaminate their water and their soil under the pretence that we'd be doing them a favour, stopping those gosh darn Soviets. We might even get some thank yous out of it. And before you go on thinking how those crazy European chicks might have "sophisticated European" ways of saying thank you, isn't this on par with American foreign policy? So kind of them...

I'd like to propose a worlwide boycott on good ol' Red, White and Blue (which, by the way, they stole from the Brits. Their flag's colour scheme is taken from the Union Jack. I wonder what it means, thatone of their patriotic icons is actually, first and foremost, the patriotic icon of another country, on from which they claimed emancipation after a war, some would say, instigated by a lie), but I know that's not going to take. We're all a bit too hung up on Ameritrash (kind of Eurotrash, only it refers to products. And not people. And it's from America. And it's not witty in any way, but never mind). Of course, most of Ameritrash isn't even made in America (except for McDOnalds and 5.11 boots. I might be wrong on both counts. You have been warned), so, if a worldwide boycott would mean that Ameritrash still gets made and shipped worldwide, only not passing GO, not collecting $200 and, thus, a bit more affordable... You know, I think this could work. How about we give it a whirl, a trial period. Six months? We can do without pron (oh, right, porn is usually made either in Oakland, San Francisco or San Fernando Valley, so that's also Ameritrash made in America) for six months, right? If not, talk to the Germans and the Austrians, they'll hook you up. Just don't leave them in the same room unattended.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark realises his usual parting sentence sounds a bit ironic in this post, but really, how many wars have the Yanks not been in recently? And how many of the ones they've been on were in their soil? Do you think that explains their war-mongering?

That is the question...

I've been working long and hard for this. Now, it's nearly done. I'm almost done with my degree. I have only the summer and the very beginning of fall to endure (hopefully) and, if I manage to finish my dissertation, I'll be doe with this once and for all. And then my trouble begin, but I'll cross thatr bridge when I get to it... I might even burn a few bridges at hat time. Meanwhile...

So let's see... I't now 2009, nearly seven years after I began this college thing - seven never dull years, and, taking the good with the bad, seven years well spent, I'd say. It's also been about five years since I last asked myself if Engineering was really the path to follow for me - yes, for two whole years I wondered if I had made the right choice. For the last five years I've been wondering only if I was cut out to be an engineer after all. Not whether I'd be happy as an engineer, but merely if I would be able to become an engineer. See, I've been wanting to be an engineer for over a decade now (give or take), and along the way, I've seen fellow aspiring engineers succeed, fail and change their mind. I've seen fellows become perfectly content with something more along the lines of becoming a technician, and that's fine with me if it's fine with them, I've seen fellows dropping this particular line of work altogether in search for something more up their alley, and why shouldn't theny, if thats what they want. And Then there's that fellow dearest to my heart who once shared my dream and who is now ver very close to becomming something completely different. In spite of the small legion of colleagues whom I've seen follow due course and become what I want to become myself, theree's always been at least a quantum of self doubt.

Well, not any more. These last few days I've seen the kind of silly wanker that can become an engineer, and a respected engineer at that. Of course that isn't to say that all silly wankers become engineers, and certainly not that all who become engineers are silly wankers or even that all engineers become silly wankers, but the percentage of silly wanker enginners, regardless of the direction of the cause-and-effect relation, begs the question, or rather replaces "Can I become an Engineers" with "Do I really want to become associated with this kind of engineers?".

The asnwer, most naturally, is twofold. No, I do not want to wind up in constant association with the ilk of silly wankers I'm discovering more and more, although yes, I want to become an engineer in spite of the silly wankers littering the profession. Maybe a propper bridge burning can provide the flame to cleanse some of the silly wanking stain. If you can take this and make a Monica Lweinsky related pun, contact me as soon a you can for your free chocolate mousse and whipped cream topped cookie.

Pax vobiscum atque vale.

ArabianShark is quite proud of some ninety pages written over the course of the last year or so and might - just might - profit from them, it seems. Let's not jink it yet. Eat your heart out, Paulo Coelho. And learn to write!