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Topics - Cain

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Aneristic Illusions / Suicide bombings in Russia
« on: December 30, 2013, 11:23:46 am »
Looks like the Caucasus Emirate has been busy.  Two suicide bombings in two days in Volgograd, and a car bombing in Pyatigorsk besides.

While I have no doubt that Umarov's merry band of insurgents are behind the attack, it is worth remembering Prince Bandar's threat uttered this summer:

"There are many common values ​​and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world. Russia, the US, the EU and the Saudis agree on promoting and consolidating international peace and security. The terrorist threat is growing in light of the phenomena spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were terrorist experiences, as evidenced by the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extremist groups in Libya. ... As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.”

Putin thanked King Abdullah for his greetings and Bandar for his exposition, but then he said to Bandar, “We know that you have supported the Chechen terrorist groups for a decade. And that support, which you have frankly talked about just now, is completely incompatible with the common objectives of fighting global terrorism that you mentioned. We are interested in developing friendly relations according to clear and strong principles.”

Aneristic Illusions / Bwahahaha
« on: December 24, 2013, 09:37:30 am »
Hey everyone, remember this guy?

Trey Radel made his name as a Tea Party candidate who demanded that welfare recipients get drug tests as a condition of receiving welfare.

Is anyone surprised then, to discover that Congressthing Radel was arrested for cocaine use?

Projection, I'm telling you.  It's always projection.

Aneristic Illusions / I can't summon the energy to care about Ukraine..
« on: December 18, 2013, 01:46:46 pm »
..but I just want to note that watching John McCain blather on about freedom while standing next to Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the Nazi-esque Svoboda Party is too hilarious not to comment on.

Robots trained to deny they are robots.  This is the first step, mark my words.  It's medicare one day, and then BOOM, Skynet.

Aneristic Illusions / No war with Iran? LETS FIGHT CHINA
« on: November 27, 2013, 09:38:57 am »
I'm only guessing, but I strongly suspect that was the guiding conviction which led to the USAF flying two B-52s through the new Chinese air defence zone over Senkaku airspace.

What the US media doesn't seem keen to tell anyone is that the new ADIZ would, if followed properly, probably help avert a conflict.  It's not a claim of sovereignty, or of this now being exclusively Chinese airspace.  What it means is that the Chinese government would like to know what planes are flying in the area, because that way, it wont scramble all fighters and cause an international incident over a sensitive region because of, say, a military training exercise.

Like the one which allegedly occured yesterday.

Yes, of course it's also designed to tweak the nose of the Japanese, somewhat.  Hell, the Chinese ADIZ directly mirrors the Japanese ADIZ in that area.  And the Chinese "restrictions" in that zone are far less onerous than for the America ADIZ, for example - though of course the USA has the advantage of no contested territory on its borders.

Japan is also refusing to recognize the ADIZ, thus negating the possibility that the above was a genuine mistake.  Abe's a firebrand, but he knows when to talk with the US.  And that John Kerry lined right up to declare how "deeply concerned" he was at this means there is coordination and signalling between the two.

Here's the thing - when the US decides to initiate AirSeaBattle against China, it wont tell them.  So seeing unknown warplanes with no transponders on, not responding to Chinese air traffic controllers (military or otherwise), looks like the opening strike of a war.  That's how serious this is.

Techmology and Scientism / Entire internet suffers man-in-middle attack
« on: November 22, 2013, 10:36:48 am »
This is very worrying:

Imagine one day you’re using the Internet the same way you do every day. Reading the news, shopping, sending email, checking your bank and credit card balances. Maybe even doing some work for your employer.

Typically, but not always, the bits being sent from your computer, tablet or phone will flow from where you are to where they need to be via the most direct route available.

But what if they didn’t? What if someone slipped in between you and the various servers you’re connecting with and diverted your traffic elsewhere, funneling it through a choke point of their choosing, so they could capture, copy and analyze it? Your data takes some extra — and imperceptible — milliseconds to get where it’s going and ultimately everything you’re doing online works just fine. But your traffic has been hijacked by parties unknown and you’re none the wiser that it has happened.

In network security circles, this is what’s known as a Man-In-The-Middle attack. And for years it has been understood to be possible in theory, but never seen in practice. That changed earlier this year when someone — it’s unclear who — diverted Internet traffic from some 150 cities around the world through networks in Belarus and Iceland.

Now obviously, there are two important questions here.  How was this done?  The article goes into some detail about this and while I'm no expert on the technical side, it seems that small ISPs which were front companies for...whoever did this, were able to get away with it because the larger ISPs weren't monitoring traffic to keep an eye on where it was going.

But the other question is who was behind this?  Two ISPs are mentioned in regards to this, one in Belarus, and one in Iceland.

Belarus is not an easy country to operate in.  It's a one-party dictatorship, with strict media control.  In regards to the internet, the state telecom corporation, Beltelecom, "holds the exclusive interconnection with Internet providers outside of Belarus. Beltelecom owns all the backbone channels that linked to the Lattelecom, TEO LT, Tata Communications (former Teleglobe), Synterra, Rostelecom, Transtelekom and MTS ISP's. Beltelecom is the only operator licensed to provide commercial VoIP services in Belarus."

GlobalOneBel appears to be owned by a Mr Vladimir Koresko, who also registered a firm, GlobalOne Security, in the UK (which was dissolved in 2005).  According to the records from that registration, he is of Russian origin, and born in 1945.  His given address in Belarus is the same as that of GlobalOneBel's HQ.

Apart from that, it's pretty much impossible to get information on him.  I did find however, that Research Programmes Ltd was registered as an officer with GlobalOne Security, and this company was associated with a number of Russian internet and software firms in the UK, including Power Engineering Universal, where they first served as a director.  Power Engineering Universal has dissolved, but in the same address there is now iTranstion Group Ltd, where they were listed as the Director between 2006 and 2007.  The current director is Iryna Hvardzeitsava, who is also of Belarussian origin.

This may be linked, it may not be.  Depends on what exactly Research Programmes Ltd is.

As for the Icelandic firm...Nyherji "is the Icelandic representative of a number of foreign technology firms, most of whom are at the forefront of their field, including IBM, Lenovo, Canon, Lexmark, Sony, Heidelberg, SAP, Avaya, Cisco Systems and APC" according to their corporate website.  From my limited look, it does seem to be fairly legit.  As does Opin Kerfi.

So...I don't know.  Attribution is a bitch on the internet.

OK then.

So, as I've previously mentioned, I'd been considering doing a Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 playthrough, with the twist of user feedback driving the main in-game decisions.

For those of you who don't know, DAO is a game published in 2009 by Bioware.  It was billed as a "spritual successor" to the extremely popular and critically acclaimed Baldur's Gate series, which made Bioware's name as the creator of stories with multiple, branching endings and convincing, engaging characters.

Bioware chafed a little under the IP restrictions which the owners of Dungeons&Dragons put them under for that series, and so sought to develop their own intellectual property which they could then take in the direction they wanted.  After 5 years(!) in development, Dragon Age: Origins was the result. 

I won't give too much of the story away, but suffice to say, whicever Origin is chosen, the main character gets drafted into the Grey Wardens, a Templar-esque transnational order of warriors, whose main purpose is to defend against the Blight - periodic invasions by creatures called darkspawn - by any means necessary.  And then things get all complicated.  There's more than a hint of influence from certain modern fantasy stories too, such as George RR Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time and (more in the second game) Steven Erikson's Malazan setting.

Just so you are aware, the choice of Origin does have an in-game impact, and can change the possible choices of how the game ends.  The event which causes your drafting will have repurcussions later on in the game, though even if you chose another origin, some of those events will still have happened (the elves in Denerim riot regardless, a power struggle breaks out in Orzammar, Arl Howe kills the Couslands).  It can, however, make certain confrontations and story lines have a bit more resonance.

And if you ask me personally, I like either the Human Noble or City Elf (Female) storylines the best, for that resonance.

Gender primarily influences who you can romance in the game. There are always two hetrosexual and one homosexual romance option for each gender.  It can also have an influence on the ending, depending on in-game choices and origin story.

There are three classes in the game: Warrior, Rogue and Mage.  As per usual, warriors are the heavy hitters and the tanks, who can wear the heaviest armour and use the heaviest weapons, deal out and take the most damage.  Rogues are the agile burst DPS specialists - if you really need that one character dead, right now, they're your best friend.  Mages are the distance based, crowd control specialists.  Blowing things up, setting things on fire, boiling people's blood while its still inside know the drill.  They can also heal, however, in a slight departure from standard RPG fare.  Don't go crying to a priest if you cut yourself, unless you just want a sermon.

Each class has 4 specializations, which give certain stat bonuses and open up a new talent tree.  Rogues get Assassins, Duellists, Rangers and Bards, Warriors get Templars, Champions, Reavers and Beserkers and Mages get Arcane Warrior, Spirit Healer, Shapechanger and Blood Mage.  Since they fall under character build and, in some cases, require specialised builds to properly utilise, they will be down to my discretion, though again popular demand may influence me in certain ways.

I've showcased each different type of fighting style in each playthrough.  As I intend to keep control of the build for whatever character you select, that doesn't really matter much, but I may take into consideration preferences on the subject.  So for warriors, there is sword and shield style, which primarily helps defend the character, there is two-handed weapons which is primarily offensive in nature, there is two-weapons style and archery as well. 

Two-weapons and archery are mostly intended for rogues, though they can work on the warrior as well.  Two weapons is, of course, up close dual-wielding, and archery involves hanging back and using precision strikes to take down the enemy.  And mages are entirely different.

You may also be wondering why my characters are starting off with some high level, powerful gear.  These are the result of completing certain achievements for DLC in the game.  For instance, the Battledress of the Provocateur involves finding the six scraps of leather in Leliana's Song, and the Dragonbone Cleaver is obtained by defeating the Varterral on Hard difficulty in Witch Hunt.  They are extremely powerful...but they come with restrictions like all the game items, and since they are high-tier, some of those restrictions mean it can take quite a bit of levelling up before those items are available for the classes they are intended.

In terms of DLC I intend to play...I only think Awakening, Witch Hunt and Leliana's Song have any story impact or are of enough quality to do, besides those which are integrated into the game itself.  Golems of Amgarrak is a slogfest, and after the last time, I refuse to do it on Nightmare again, which I know you sadists would otherwise make me do.  Though it is delightfully creepy, I wont deny.  But no-one wants to sit through 500 reloads of "Cain trying to defeat the Reaper and getting frustrated at everything."

Each playthrough was done on Hard difficulty, which the developers consider the "baseline" difficulty for the intended DAO experience (why is this not the Normal setting?  People whining, most likely).

I have modded the game...slightly.  All my mods fall into three basic categories: bugfixes, graphics and lore. 

Bugfixes are simple.  When the game shipped, a lot of things didn't work properly.  Spells didn't draw threat, archery and two-handed weapon talents didn't work as described or intended, DoT damage for certain talents didn't work...all a mess.  A lot of this was patched, but Bioware have limited resources and cannot do everything.  Some rewards were also not given.

Graphics are also simple.  The game came out 4 years ago.  I think the graphics are fairly decent, but they weren't top-notch even back then, and so have suffered in the interim.  Some HD textures, tint changes and minor facelifts bring a new clarity to the game. 

Lore may be a bit more debateable.  One mod replaces the Cousland armory, to give weapons and armor a bit more suited to one of the most ancient noble houses of Ferelden.  Steel tier armor, to be exact, with a Silverite blade.  The blade has the normal strength restrictions, meaning it wont be used until mid-game at least, but it does come with a minor enchantment and two rune slots.  The armor is normal steel armor, but restricted to the main character alone.  It also adds a little bit more gold and some jewels to the Cousland treasury.

Another improves Warden's Oath, the necklace you are given when joining the Wardens.  It makes it a bit more competitive for end-of-game play, and with an enchantment that makes sense.

A third installs stamina potions, which are included in the expansion pack, but were apparently an oversight for the main game.

Finally, a mod is installed which means skill and talent points are not automatically assigned to the character on creation, allowing a bit more freedom when starting out.

So no godlike weapons, invincibility or nudity mods.  Sorry to disappoint.

To start with, we'll have three polls.  One poll for origin, race and gender, and one for class.  Please note, dwarves do not get to be mages, so don't vote for the dwarf origins, then that.  The mage origin is the same regardless of race. 

I missed the first half of the Human Noble origin because fraps crashed, but the story is essentially: you are the second child of the noble Cousland family.  Your father and brother intend to ride south and join the King at Ostagar, where Ferelden forces are planning to confront the darkspawn.  Arl Howe, an old friend of your father, intends to ride south with your father and brother, but his forces have been delayed.  And Duncan, a Grey Warden, is at your castle to see Ser Gilmore, in regards to recruiting him to the Wardens.  During the night, Arl Howe's men launch a surprise attack on the keep, which is where the action starts.

You may also like to know that Arl Howe is voiced by Tim Curry, who is a great choice.  In fact, great voice acting abounds in this game, with some very well known people voicing certain parts.

Human Noble (Warrior, Sword and Shield) playthrough
City Elf (Rogue, Dual-wield) playthrough
Dalish Elf (Rogue, Archery) playthrough
Circle of Magi (Human Male) playthrough
Dwarf Commoner (Rogue, Dual-wield) playthrough
Dwarf Noble (Warrior, 2-handed) playthrough

The final part of the Dwarf playthrough is uploaded, it just isn't yet processed.  It should be within the next 24 hours, however, so maybe watch that one last.

And as for the polls

Race, Gender and Origin
Class poll
Difficulty poll

And just one more question...when commentating, do you want me to read out the character's answer before selecting it?  No voice actor voices the main character in this game, as you'll notice.  And while on the topic, do you want the Codex entries reading out?  Some of the lore is quite interesting, and certain adds to the feeling of the game, but there is a fair bit of it as well.  It's up to you guys.

Once an origin is decided, I'll put up another poll with choices relating to that origin.

Read it here:

Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The WikiLeaks release of the text comes ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013. The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states.

The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU pact TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), for which President Obama initiated US-EU negotiations in January 2013. Together, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP.

So it's kinda important.

Called it


    Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief has said the kingdom will make a "major shift" in dealings with the US in protest at perceived American inaction over the Syria war and its overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

    The source said that Prince Bandar bin Sultan had told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed a 2011 anti-government revolt.

    It was not immediately clear whether Prince Bandar's reported statements had the full backing of King Abdullah.

    In an unprecedented move last week, Saudi Arabia rejected its first offer of a seat on the UN security council and denounced the UN for failing to resolve world conflicts. The move appeared largely directed at the US.

    "The shift away from the US is a major one," the source said on Tuesday. "Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.

    "Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the US. This happened after the US failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine.

    "Relations with the US have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the US is growing closer with Iran and the US also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising."

Bandar is butthurt over Syria, and that the US wont give SA carte blance to bloodily suppress every Arab Spring uprising that doesn't come with a "House of Saud" seal of approval.

Still, this is a pretty ballsy move.  IMO, Saudi Arabia needs the US more than the other way around.  Sure, if the Kingdom went full on economic oil blockade of the USA, things would go badly, but that's an act of war, and, well...on the level below that, the US gives a certain large amount of patronage and protection to Saudi Arabia.  Or, at least, it did...the US was obviously not keen on protecting Saudi Arabia from the consequences of their own stupidity should they militarily intervene in Syria, as recently leaked war plans show.

Maybe this is just a play to panic the US diplomatic corps.  Or maybe it's as serious as they say.  Worth keeping an eye on, this

Aneristic Illusions / So, this sounds familiar, right?
« on: October 23, 2013, 09:57:08 am »

Aneristic Illusions / Still trust the BBC? You shouldn't
« on: October 07, 2013, 01:25:54 pm »

The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Vo Nguyen Giap is dead
« on: October 04, 2013, 10:32:52 pm »

Aneristic Illusions / So, the Mail wants to play THAT game?
« on: October 02, 2013, 09:08:46 am »

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