Thursday, April 26, 2007

More proof that Iraq is a "quagmire" and "lost"

Iraqi Boy Scouts prepare for Jamboree

If this doesn't bring a little moisture to your eyes, check your pulse.


And just for some perspective, here's what Scouting was like under Saddam:
After the Baath party took control in 1968 and especially after Saddam Hussein seized power in 1979, youth groups were retooled to serve the state. One replacement program, Saddam's Cubs, offered "summer camps" where 10 to 15 year-old boys endured 14-hour days filled with hand-to-hand fighting drills. In 1990, during the period when the Iraq Boy Scouts and Girl Guides Council... was recognized by WOSM, the Mesopotamian nation had 12,000 Scouts, however by 1999, Iraq had been expelled from the WOSM.

That was then.

This is now:
In the autumn of 2004, Chip Beck, a former Navy commander, CIA operative, and Assistant Commissioner for Venture Scouting in the National Capital Area Council (NCAC) of Washington D.C., was serving a 6 month CPA tour of duty in Iraq, and had the idea to try and restart scouting in the country. The Iraqi Scouts Initiative committee was led by Co-Chairmen Beck and Michael Bradle, an Eagle Scout.

Beck and a quorum of 100 multinational Scouters informally established the Green Zone Council of Scouting in February 2004 as a loose fraternal organization for fellow Scouters serving in Iraq. Through various Scouting networks, the GZC as it was called, came to the attention of Bradle and his corporation, who offered their full support, suggesting both groups work to formally re-establish a legal, recognized, and fully functioning Scouting program in Iraq.

The Scout program is open to boys and girls of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and allows for local nuances to shape various regional program options.

A National Iraqi Scouting Headquarters is envisioned for Baghdad, and a former government establishment has been earmarked for this. Five national Scout camps are also planned.

Since the movement restarted in 2004, it has been taken over by Iraqis and is now run exclusively by them. Iraqi Scouts are involved in community service such as helping police with traffic control, giving first aid, cultivating cotton, planting trees and helping during natural disasters.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

New S&B series: "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" in detail

In an earlier post, I addressed some of the false objections that people hostile to evangelical Christianity and Christians have against the PC game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces." I've decided now that I've been playing the game for a while, I'm going to address these objections in detail by going through the game step-by-step. I'll start out by addressing the game manual and subsequent posts will address the game from the tutorials to each of the missions. At the bottom of each post, I will keep track of the number of times violence is encouraged (with "VE"), the number of times "convert or kill" shows up in any way (with "CK"), and the number of times peaceful solutions are encouraged (with "PS"). I will also explain the goals of the missions as they are presented. I will try to avoid spoilers but will provide warning if I can't get around using them.

Now, never let it be said that I've nothing critical to say about the game, because I do. First off, I just want to preface this with the fact that my system, while newer, is probably below average. I think at least a couple of the problems I've encountered resulted from that and not the game itself.

BUGS

There are a few bugs in the game. This is not uncommon to games and it is really unfair for the critics to point them out as if they are somehow unique to LB:EF. Left Behind Games Inc. included free update checks with the game and has, in fact, already fixed many bugs via these updates. A couple of things I've encountered despite the updates is a bit of game hesitation when a character in the game finishes training and exits the training building, and a couple of isolated game crashes after certain events (but not always after the same events). However, as noted above, I believe these two issues are related to my system and not the game itself.

ADVERTISING AND SPYWARE

The advertising in the game is hard to miss, but does not detract from the game. The ads are presented as billboards on the sides of buildings. At certain angles, the ads suddenly vanish only to reappear again when the viewing angle changes.

As for allegations of spyware, all I can say is that my protection software - the software included in Windows and Norton - is up-to-date and I have not gotten a single spyware warning regarding the game. Perhaps other protection programs mistake the ad programming of the game for spyware. I don't know.

GAME PLAY, GRAPHICS AND AUDIO

While the game makers did a bang up job on recreating New York City (the buildings, contrary to the claims of some reviewers, are amazingly detailed and realistic - even down to awnings, fire escapes, water towers on the roofs, scaffolding and even air conditioners!), some aspects aren't particularly good. The vehicles have poor A.I. - they just go and go until they encounter an obstacle, usually a character in the game, and then they stop on a dime and just sit there if the character is doing something and can't move (which they can and will do if not doing something). Not very accurate to New York City drivers, I'm sure!

The limited character design, animation and voicing is kind of a downer, too. For example, Musician characters all look and sound alike, and when they sing, they do this weird sort of dance that reminds me of the dancing Santa toys. I realize that there's a point at which having a variety of designs, animations and voices can actually be detrimental, but they game makers didn't even try to reach that point. Another thing is when some special characters who have distinctive voices in voice-overs suddenly have their voices change to the standard generic voices when selected and moved.

Oh, and speaking of being selected and moved, every character always, ALWAYS says something when selected and moved. This gets a bit annoying, though the game makers did try to throw a little variety into the game by giving some of the voices different inflections to cycle through.

All in all, though, none of these things have detracted too much from the gameplay.

STORY

At no point do the game and its makers treat the background story of LB:EF (i.e. the "End Times," Rapture and subsequent events) as anything other than a possibility and not an absolute. In fact, on their website, they encourage people to search for their own answers regarding the issue of the "End Times."


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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Bunny banned in Rhode Island... for being too Christian???

I honestly originally thought this had to be a Scrappleface spoof.

Sadly, it's not:

A Rhode Island public school has decided the Easter bunny is too Christian and renamed him Peter Rabbit, and a state legislator is so hopping mad he has introduced an "Easter Bunny Act" to save the bunny's good name.


Oh, yeah. Sure. Let me just open up my Bible to Egg-lesiastes. Here we go. Chapter 1, verse 1. "And the Lord did sayeth, 'Let us maketh a bunny in man's image. He shalt walketh uprighteth, haveth a zipper upon his back and his head shalt be removable. He shalt carryeth a basket filled with plastic eggs of many pastel colors. Many children will flee-eth from his presence and their terror shalt be sharedeth with the multitudes on America's Funniest Home Videos.'"

Stupid P.C. administrators. Man...


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