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The World Has Changed Forever   20 comments
I've been doing some thinking since the disaster on Tuesday about just what the lasting impact of everything happening surrounding the terrorist attack. The full scope has still not set in for most people as I think most of us are still in some disbeilef. Of course, we know that two buildings which served as the financial center for a good part of the world no longer exist, and with them the offices and executives of companies from almost every civilized country, not just American. We know there was selfless and heroic bravery, personifed most by 300 fireman and policeman which rushed to the scene to evacuate people and were crushed in the collapsing buildings (think - how many cities even have 210 firemen?), but also in the bravery of the people on the 4th plane who learned of the fate of the first 3 from their cell phones, and decided on the spot they were going to fight back, knowing they were deciding their own death but saving thousands of others. The cowboys won that one. One thing is for sure, no one better even THINK of hijacking an American flight in the next 20 years or so, the only thing they will get out of it is a disfigured face and multiple broken bones, bomb or no bomb. And in the face of the tragedy, Americans from Hillary to Helms are standing side by side, united in grief and a desire for quick and sweeping action.

What hasn't sunk in yet is that what happened is truly momentous, not just for the USA but for the world. America has fought in some nasty wars in the last century. In WWII we had military troops fighting a naval war in 2 oceans, and ground wars in Asia, North Africa, Italy and France all at the same time, and then of course there was Pearl Harbor itself and Vietnam, Korea, and the trench warfare of WWI. Yet through all that the war that took the greatest toll on life was the Civil War in the early 1860's. To put the loss of life (which isn't yet known) from the terrorist attacks Tuesday morning into perspective, the single greatest loss of life due to violence that the USA has ever faced was the Battle of Antietam during Lee's first campaign north with a death toll for the first day of 26,000 people. The attack this past Tueday could equal or exceed that when the final body count is finally added up. In that sense, there shouldn't be a doubt in anyone's mind, just as there isn't in any of our politician's voices, that this was most certainly an Act of War, and maybe the worst Act ever in our history. It only compounds the issue that the vast majority of the victims were civilians in peacetime.

But who to declare war on? Our President has said on "Terrorism," but terrorism isn't like any other foe anyone has faced. There is a terrorist Army, but it is spread all over the world, just under the surface as transplanted citizens sprinkled very thinly, but very wide, and probably in every western (and Middle East) country in the world, just preparing and waiting for their call. The concept is frightening, learning that the terrorists who planned the WTC Bombing 8 years ago, the terrorists who made the attack on Tuesday, and the ones who have been caught planning dozens of huge attacke in the US and all over the world in the meantime were for the most part described as quiet, ordinary citizens in their communities.

But they aren't ordinary. They are indoctrinated and brainwashed to beleive that if they kill themselves and take symbolic innocent lives with them, they are assured a place in their paradise if they answer the call. Some are trained in geurilla camps all over the Middle East and deployed to armed struggles from Chechnya, to Somalia, to China, and of course all over the Middle East. Much more dangerous than those are the ones that lie in wait. They seek to blend in to the social fabric, learning skills and gaining trust in preparation of answering a future call for martyrdom. To a man, they are people who are raised in a radically religious Islamic life which sees the world as a struggle between good and evil, and grow up learning that a real war between God and Satan (whose agents are the "Zionists") is happening right now.

This kind of thinking is not unique to Islam. On the contrary there are plenty of examples on any religion of fanatic cults of one or another, and although it seems that the US has more than its share of crazy Christian cults accumulating weapons for the Armegeddon happening next year (David Koresh and Waco come to mind) there are people like that in every country. Included are suicidal and psychopathic Marxists organizations, which although they claim to be athiests, are really more like a religious cult than they would like to think.

But there's a difference when it comes to Islam. Namely, there are Nations which claim to do things in the name of Islam, and whose entire legal structure is not built around law as the rest of the civilized world sees it, but built around their religious teachings. In their effort to promote Islam, and ensure that proper influences and behaviors are encouraged in their followers (and improper behaviors punished), they continually put out messages that their religion is superior, and that the most devout among them are close to God and speak in His name. And by the way, there is war between God and Satan happenign right now, and everyone who supports the state and its people are on the side of God, and everyone egainst is on the side of Satan. Even Marxist Russia never tried to inspire people to such lunacy. Since they are countries, even though they operate like cults they are accorded the same respect and rights as any other sovreign country, which is literally the ultimate protection something can have. That is what seprates them from the other fanatic groups.

If you have never been there, the Middle East Wire is a fascinating look into the materials which are distributed to the Arabic people by their governments. Despite the overwhelming evidence law enforcement has uncovered on 2 continents, there is a uniform denial that any one practicing Islam could do these deeds. And between bizarre theories that it was the Japanese Red Army or that "the operation can only be considered a full-scale war which indicates the beginning of an extensive move from inside the US against the bloodthirsty ruling system. " (my favorite) there is a uniform opinion that the US, the victims, bear the sole responsibilty for the tragedy. Realize these are not kooks, this is the official press of each country, in some cases the only press which is available to the people. Every country represented shares the opinion that the US brought this on themselves, and inside titles supposedly comdemning the attacks, there are thinly veiled warnings that this will happen again.

The scene the stories tell is really very scary when you look at the religious context they are all written in. Suicide bombers who blow themselves up at busstops and discos in Israel (2 a month for the past 2 years) are affectionately called "martyrs," and their is not a single word saying that such actions are deplorable, instead blame is assigned on the people killed and the people are told that in fact the bombers are now in heaven, just like a martyr should be. An attck that shows God you are striking at Satan justifies lies, deceit, maimin, and slaughter. And it justifies among leaders in a whole region that the Holocaust of WWII is irrelevant and does not deserved to be remembered in a UN condemnation on racism.

You may guess from my tone that maybe I am condemning all Muslims and declaring Islam an insincere religion. On the contrary, what I have learned in the last months about Islam leaves me very impressed. I have had the pleasure in that time to work with 2 Muslims. One, a web designer, is actually from Palestine, moved to the US about 5 years ago and still has most of his family living in the West Bank. The other which happens to be my Project Leader is from Iraq and escaped (his words) from there in the late 80's. Through them I have learned that Islam considers itself "the religion of Peace", and prides itself that there are Muslims all over the world, in every country, and the spread of the religion had ntohing to do with war. In fact, there are over 5 million Muslims in the US alone, and just like America, they are black, white, brown, red, and yellow. When you look at the facts no one could argue that Islam has done a great deal of good in alot of people's lives. I certainly don't think that every occupant of a rougue country is guilty of a crime either, but I certainly would argue their leaders and press are, and by controlling all the information anyone sees, it can be very difficult not to believe everything that is told to you. It's not like someone can pick up a Time magazine and think "oh, so that explains some things" - there simply is no other source of information allowed but what the government has produced.

I have also learned from them that there is a steady and vocal hate among Arabs against Israel. Israel as it exists (governed by Jews) is an illegitamate State formed out of thin air from some UN charter, and the Israelis proceeded to create their own version of the Holocaust killing and driving out men and women and children to make way for the Jews to take all their land and property. As such, anything and everything is permitted to attack back. And it just might be true that suicide bombers are in fact martyrs. At least they should never be talked about in a negative way.

I even developed some empathy for the Palestinians - for the past month or so, by sheer coincidece, I have been talking to a number of members of the Israeli gaming scene, which is quite a bit different than anywhere else. Among other things, virtually the entire scene is under 18, with no one older. Of course, the reason is that in Israel there is mandatory military service once you reach 18. Unlike some other countries with mandatory military service, in Israel it is taken quite a bit more seriously and there is virtually no free time for very long stretches. I also learned that there have been word of a few Lan Parties in Lebanon, but computer gaming is either outlawed or non existant everywhere else in the Middle East.In the words of one person I talked to "they do that stuff in reallife."

But my friendship with my work buddies made me think of something - what would Arabs think of Counter-Strike anyway? I would guess they would probably be pretty offended since all the terrorists are Arab models while the CTs are all controlled by Zionists.

Aside from that, my Arab friends shared the virulent anti-Israeli and pro-martyr opinion quite strongly - until Tuesday.

What they realized, and what became crystal clear Tuesday, is that pussyfooting and toeing the line with this kind of fanaticism, an "it's ok if it's for our side" attitude, has suddenly spawned into an incredibly evil monster. As is obvious in the Middle East Wire stories, there is a stuggle between making the same arguments they made Monday justifying smaller versions of this kind of violence, and of realizing that once this Beast is set loose, there may not be a way a way to get it back under control. A good example is Arafat, the leader of the in-limbo Palestinian State. He was gaining positive worldwide support for his positions, and the World looked the other waywhile he simultaneously insisted suicide bombings against civilians will only stop when all his demands are met, yet denying he has any control over them, and calling for peace talks in the US while he walks through the streets with a submachine gun over his shoulder. None of that double talk is going to fly now, especially when he claims the Palestinian people feel America's sorrow, while just outside his door they are celebrating in the streets. None of it carries any weight now - although the double talk works and is accepted amongst his peers in the Middle East, the rest of the world will no longer stand for it. You are either for peace, or you are against it.

And that is what this war is about. It is about realizing that the polical correctness towards extreme fanatics has no place in the civilized world. Some people have been playing with fire and have caused an inferno, and just like we arrest people for throwing out a lit cigarette into a national forest, the world has to stamp out terrorism whever it might pop up, and hold those accountable for advocating it. Pussyfooting with terrorists and treating with kid gloves scourges like bin Laden and Saddam Hussein can lead to this, and it can lead to much worse. Truly, the leaders of every country in the civilized world saw immediately that this could just as easily happen to the Eiffle Tower by French wackos, to Big Ben by English crazies, to the Kremlin by a Chenchnyan sympathizer, or to the Imperial City by some Chinese nostalgic for the Maoist past. This truly was an attack on the entire world's way of life. Either declare war on these extremists and agree as civilized people and demand that if bin Laden should camp out in Afghanistan or Sudan, that the respect for their sovereignty as a Nation, as was customary in the old world, will not hold quite the same weight any longer. To do anything less would create a world of fear and dread across every country. To deal with it the movement we take for granted would have to be ripped away, much more of our lives would have to be exposed to official scrutiny just to go on a vacation, and moving or getting a job would probably mean endless government paperwork and delayed "approval." The civilized world realizes that is not the vision we as human beings have for our future.

In that light, it really comes as no surprise that the President of Afghanistan's staunchest ally, Pakistan, made sure all the news cameras were on hand to hear him tell Colin Powell he is pledging his "unstinted support" for any effort to stamp out terrorism, and has closed the border with Afghanistan, stopped supplying fuel to the Taleban, and has opened Pakistani airspace and airfields to Any air attack which might need it at our request. Even he realizes as an ally of the Taleban that at any pont, the people they are protecting could decide that Pakistan was not living up to its potential and that thousands of Pakistani civilians must die. It could be at a whim, all that is needed is the word from God, spoken through a local prophet hiding in a cave, and the Pakistani Royal Palace could be rubble tommorrow. It's simple really. Allow the threat of thousands of civilians to die at any time, anywhere in the world, or not.

And so the world has pledged to end this once and for all, no matter how long it takes. Our leaders are building wide support for a fast and total solution once a guilty party is identified, and the American fighting machine is itching to be let loose, because they know they won't stop short of Baghdad if they enter Iraq again, and any other military mission they receive anywhere else won't be holding back to score political points. There is an acceptance that this will not be a short war either. If other threats to life in the 21st century should surface, I'm sure the world will stand just as firm against it. For the first time in history, NATO invoked Article 5 to say that the attack on America was an attack on 18 other countries also. The UN Security Council including Russia ans China have unanimously endorsed any action which might result from the wheels currently in motion. The world is putting alot of trust in America and setting aside politics to do it, and I have confidence we'll all be a stronger, safer, and closer world for it. If there is anything at all positive to come out of four jetairliners being hijacked and used as cruise missiles against cities, let that be it.

Luke Skywalker's Sparring Droid   1 comment
It's funny, I just watched Star Wars again a couple of days ago, and then this story comes out:

NASA's Ames Research Center is building a "personal satellite assistant", powered by a Pentium III with the Linux operating system, to help out astronauts on space shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) missions.

The robot is a six-inch sphere inspired by the sparring droid that Luke Skywalker fights in the movie "Star Wars", but NASA engineers say its functionality is closer to the "tricorder" tool used in Star Trek: it senses the pressure and temperature of the ambient atmosphere, and detects concentrations of gases like carbon dioxide and oxygen.

It will also contain fans for movement and video cameras for sight, and will be able to be controlled from the ground, making it possible for mission controllers to have a "virtual presence" in orbit. Engineers also envision speech capabilities, a small LCD screen for displaying lists and a wireless network connection to the on-board computer.

It makes sense that in the weightless space station, something like this is easily possible, and with the fans it could float around checking out all modules and monitoring the environment. Put a microphone and a speaker on it and you've got true life being stranger than fiction.

Three words: Cool as Hell.

Put your ad on the Challenge Network!   comment
You may have noticed ads going up on the front page here, and also on the demo pages. They will be showing up across the network as time goes on. The majority are real ads, but 20% of the ones you see are there for "free." I always liked the old Barrysworld where all they showed was banners for sites they hosted, as it always led to some really neat sites I never would have seen otherwise, and I thought it would be cool to do something like that since the opportunity was there. The main purpose is for sites hosted with Challenge to get their banner up there, but I decided to try a little experiment and open it up to the community.

So.... if you run a site and want to get in the rotation up there, send the banner and the link to . Just about anything will be accepted as long as:

1. It's FPS related
2. We think you are cool
3. You are an asset to the community
Realize your ad won't show up very often at all, since it is shared in a small pool with a whole bunch of other people looking for a free mention. Since we produce more views than any other network, it will get seen. If you really need to be told, sending us something doesn't obligate us to do jack shit, banners will be added or removed whenever we feel like it.

There's also some real ad banners up there from a number of places, if you see something that interests you, please visit the sponsor's site. Please, please, please! I can not stress enough how important it is for us to have some success out of this. And ads are not easy money like they were a year ago, nowadays to get anything, someone has to click on it and then sign up for a mailing list, buy something, or do SOMETHING to prove they actually showed up. It's unfair, but those are the rules I guess.

The ebay people want to be especially nice to us, so if you see their banner, please drop by their site and make a bid on anything at all :)

Oh and if you just happen to be in control of an ad budget of some kind, please don't hesitate to contact me or about spending a little of it, we are open to very creative ideas:))))))

Golden Challenge Network Eggs   4 comments
As for learning stupid tricks, first I'd like to thank Prong an Mugwump for giving me the tips which finally let me "get" bunny hopping the other night. I can fly pretty good now on e4m3, but only in one direction in a circle. Until I can learn how to switch directions I'm afraid it will do little to help my game at all.

Having access to the Challenge Network means a programmer can always try some new things, pretty much whatever weird idea comes around. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in a whole bunch of half-finished things around the network (probably most of which were started by me), but alot of things go along without ever being announced. So unless you check Challenge-World frequently enough that you catch every headline in the 12-hour or so window that it shows up on there, there's a good chance there are a couple of things around the network you may have missed, no matter how much you look around. This column will just highlight a few things which you may find interesting, or even halfway useful.

The Player Index was recently updated with results from CPL Holland (Except for the money totals). It's exceedingly clear that this year's money list will be pretty anemic by last year's standards, and unfortunately the future doesn't look bright for individuals to make a large amount of money anytime soon...

After looking at the player rankings, I thought a much better system could be developed by taking into account more tournaments than just CPL tournaments. Since I have access to the Player Index, by far the most complete list of records, I wrote up a few algorithms which came up with a ranking list using all that information.

To come up with these ranks, I looked at the 2 ranking systems I thought were most appropriate for Quake duels, namely the Golf World Rankings and Tennis Rankings, and I took concepts away from each I thought were appropriate. Each system weights tournaments differently depending on how important it is, and the competition involved, and each award the high winners the vast majority of the points, bothe of which I did. Here are a few rules I used to ake the ranks:

See here for tourney results used

1. Babbage's and Razer/CPL received a pool of 250 points, CPL Europe and the WCGC in Seoul received 200, and then from there everything else received much less. CPL Asia was about 150, CPL Pacific a little less, the Battletop Qualifiers around 100 each, as well as Lan Arena and a few others. Female Events got a whopping 60 points.

2. The winner received 40% of the points, 2nd place 25%, 3rd place 15%, and then on down. ( I took these proportions from Golf), In general, points were awarded down to about the top x bracket, with x about equal to 20% of the points (Tennis).

3. Only the last 20 months were included (bye bye Frag 3), and points in the last 10 months counted double. This is also from Golf, which uses 12 months and 24 months, but I figured things change a little quicker in the Quake world, so the time horizon should be shorter.

4. You had to be in two events to be included. If I left this out, some weird things popped up, like Death had 80 points, and mojo was top 5. I didn't think this was accurate or fair, and the results fit much better by including this rule.

5. Tennis has all kinds of "bonus" points for doing certain things, like if you beat a top 5 player, you get a big bonus, and even beating other ranked players gets a little bonus, no matter how low they are. It would be nice to do something like this, but way too complicated.

That's it in a nutshell. Interesting experiment which may just lie there forever.

On Challenge-TV's home page there's a "Question of the Day" thing that has been there for awhile. I programmed it to be available to all the sites, and allow easy customizable content for each country, but I never got around to announcing it.

dk is always adding new shiet into the demo db. Lots of StarCraft replays now, and he is assisting CHiNX of Challenge-HL with sending up some DMC demos.

Challenge is home of Promode, the Way Quake 3 Should Have Been (tm), but there are also a couple of other cool mods which make their home here. Bullit haunts Challenge-HL and is constantly improving the AG mod (Half-Life's only competition mod), and the Pigmod guys (who are making the voteable CS options mod) have decided to take up hosting at Challenge-CS.

A few weeks ago I moved another service over from Gamershome, a "Make Your Own Game Server Monitor" thingamajig. It has hardly been advertised, but word of mouth is spreading and a few new accounts are made on it daily from all over the world. Death, the talented artist from New Zealand has made a new, slick design for it to replace my l33t orignal design, and as soon as I can integrate it in it will be "announced".

We breifly considered offering lan party listings. It was inspired by Ausgamers, but was going to include all kinds of cool little features before it petered out.

Stayne is a really cool guy (everyone I have met in real life has turned out that way) and somehow I managed to get the owner of to kindly let us run the DNS for the domain, which is really, realy cool for anyone who has been around long enough to remeber all the past incarnations of SHOD. Stayne says another release of his new master-of-the-universe app is right around the corner.

The Malaysians rock. They recently put up a CS money list and CS rankings for Malaysia. And I know you should be careful what you wish for, but I kind of wish stuff like this happened around my homwtown.

I have been talking to Oogly FOREVER too, so since he is so cool he is a Really Special Affiliate and gets his own little Maple Leaf Flag on World's front page. I mean, where in the hell else are you going to go for Canadian news?

Here's some other things you shouldn't miss too, but you may have:

Agent made a file section on Challenge-TV, and that pipe is pretty fat.

Annouc makes me want to live in Spain. Again.

Here in Alabama, we like nothing more than to watch "The Strip" against Miami over and over again. Online, nothing beats reading about the good old TGI.

I almost forgot....

There was a new Links link put up awhile ago, it has links to releveant competitive gaming news sites around the globe.

And last, a Help Wanted page is up because well, we are in need of lots of help around heya.

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