Monday, 1 April 2013

Barista 101

When seeing people make coffee at cafes like Starbucks, you think its just an easy job of making a hot drink. But is it really? Lets go through the equipment and it's usage.


A machine used to grind coffee beans into powder. The top of the machine is called a hopper which stores the coffee beans. The grind regulator under the hopper is not recommended to play with as a small ajustment to it will make the coffee powder too fine/course causing bad coffee. Once the coffee beans are grinded, the powder goes into the dispenser (doser/dosing chamber) which goes into a group handle during service. It is highly recommended to put the right amount of beans and grind the right amount required per order as grinded powder has a life of 15 minutes of quality. The beans and powder left in the grinder are exposed to oxygen and end up losing it's flavours. The beans MUST BE sealed tight and stored in a cool dry place or fridge. To check the beans' quality, check the expiry date, oily feel, fresh flavoury smell and appearance. At the end of service, the beans and grinds left in the grinder must be thrown away as it is already oxidised. The whole machine must be cleaned as the beans and powder leave behind oil and if not cleaned; becomes rancid and ruins future coffee being made causing the coffee's crema to look pale.

Espresso machine

A water boiler that presses boiling water through the coffee grinds from the group head to the group handle. There are keypads that enable features like single/double shots, two cup single/double shots, infinite mode or a water tap. The steam wand is attached on either ends of the machine which steams and froths the milk using the stainless steel milk jug. At the end of service, the blind filter can be used to trap the boiling water inside to clean any coffee residue and oils. A small amount of detergent can be used for improved cleaning but must be rinsed and new coffee shots must be tested to check any detergent taste present. The espresso machine must be left on so it is ready to use at a moment's notice and cups are placed on top of the machine to keep warm and prevent new coffee from being cold.



First turn on the grinder machine and place the group handle under the dosing chamber. Pull the dosing chamber's lever to allow the powder fall onto the group handle's portafilter and let it overflow a little bit. Place the group handle on top of the doing chamber and use the dosing chamber's lid to level the powder while all excess powder falls back into the chamber. Do this twice to ensure you have enough powder. Use a tamper to compress the powder and do this with your body weight with your hand under the elbow. Tamp evenly or under/over extraction will occur. By doing this, arm strength is not needed otherwise the arm will get tired and later won't be able to produce good coffees. Also remove any loose grinds off the group head's rim.

Extracting coffee 

Place the group handle under the group head. Most coffees run on single shot (30ml) while Long black runs on double shot. Place the approptiate cup underneath for the coffee you want to make. If the customer wants sugar, put the right amount of sugar into the cup first and as the coffee flows in, the sugar will dissolve. At the start of extraction, the first 7 seconds has no liquid coming out as the boiling water is trying to force it's way through (so don't panic!). After that, a caramel/black liquid will start flowing steadily. This overall process takes 25-30 seconds with making a single shot coffee and at the end, a crema (golden brown liquid) is produced. The thicker the crema; the better. The short and long blacks only require espresso and not milk. The short black requires a small demitasse cup / small shot glass of 30ml espresso while the long black uses a tulip coffee cup with half boiling water and 60ml of espresso. These two are the base drinks of coffee. After making the coffee, take the group handle out and dump the used powder into the dump tube. After, use the machine to clean portafilter fully before placing it back into the group head. If not cleaned, the oil and residue will become rancid and will ruin future coffee being made.

Easier said than done, errors can occur when making coffee. Under/over extraction can occur, so what are they? Under extraction can occur if the powder is too coarse which causes the boiling water to pass through quickly and not able to extract all the oil and flavours. This is seen when light liquid starts flowing out quickly below seven seconds. Over extraction occurs when the powder is too fine and water passes through too slowly causing liquid to drip slowly. Because the boiling water is left inside the portafilter for too long, burnt dark coffee is produced with a very bad taste.

Aerating milk

The milk used in coffee must be cold, fresh and not expired. The steam wand is used to heat up, areate and stretch the milk to double or triple it's volume. Remember to purge / turn on the steam wand to make sure there are no water or foreign substances go into the milk. For one cup of coffee, fill the clean stainless steel milkjug with 1/3 full of milk. Place the wand inside the milk at an angle, not straight down. By placing at an angle, the steam will hit the milk jug's curvy corner and reflect everywhere around the jug making a whirlpool or able to heat the entire milk. If the steam wand is too deep, a screeching sound occurs causing milk to be only heated and not aerated making it less foamy. In this case, lower the jug to make the steam wand come up closer to the surface. A sucking sound must be heard and as the milk rises, a steady bubble sound must be heard. If the steam wand is too close to the surface, it will cause the milk to make big bubbles, splatter and cause a mess. Turn off the steam wand when the stretched milk reaches the top of the jug. Every time after using the steam wand, always wipe it with a damp cloth to prevent any milk residue from sticking as the hot steam wand starts cooking the milk's calcium. After aerating the milk, use a spoon to scoop out the big and excess bubbles. With small bubbles remaining, bang the jug on the table or swirl the jug in a small circle to get rid of the small bubbles and have shiny glossy foam. To check if the milk is hot enough, use a temperature probe or if the jug is too hot to touch, then it is ready. The standard temperature is 65-70°C. If below, it is just a warm/temid drink but if above, will not only be too hot but also destroy some coffee flavours.

Pouring the milk depends on the coffee. Cappuccino and cafe mocha requires 1/3 milk and 1/3 foam so pour from the side of the milk jug. Pour quickly so both the milk and foam will come at the same time. The flat white and latte requires mostly milk and a little layer of foam so pour through the jug's sprout. In this way, the milk will mostly go through as it is heavier while the light foam will come in last.

Remember to pour quick otherwise more milk will be poured with less foam. Another way to pour milk for a cappuccino is to place the jug's spout close to the coffee by placing the cup on an angle (like pouring a beer). Pour the milk through the spout and eventually put the cup upright when pouring is done. Pull the jug higher for more milk as it falls faster in gravity than foam.

Other information

The cups for each coffee varies as every cafe/establishment is different. Normally, the flat white, cappuccino and cafe mocha are in a standard 150ml cup while the latte is on a latte/rocks glass. If a customer wants a large coffee, use a large coffee glass with double shot espresso.

Whan making the cafe mocha, first put chocolate powder and a little bit of boiling water on the cup to form a paste and after putting in a shot of coffee, stir it to prevent the chocolate from sticking from the bottom and to ensure the coffee and chocolate paste is fully mixed before putting in the milk. There is another method which is putting chocolate powder in the cup and mix with the espresso. Another method is to do a shot of espresso and top with chocolate milk.

A good iced coffee requires good flavour especially during a hot summer vacation. Fill a Hurricane glass with ice and trim milk and double shot espresso. Use a straw to stir and add whip cream on top. The reason is because trim milk allows the espresso expose more flavour and the double shot espresso is to guarantee a good coffee flavour otherwise you're left with a big glass of iced milk. Put chocolate powder and/or a couple of coffee beans on the whip cream as garnish.

Iced chocolate on a Hurracane glass has different methods. Put chocolate sauce around the glass and put ice in. Pour in milk while mixing water and chocolate power to make a paste. Pour the chocolate paste into the glass and use a straw to stir. Another method can be mixing a chocolate powder and milk in a milk jug and mixing it by heating with a steam wand. Be careful not to make it too hot and pour the warm chocolate milk into the glass. Another method can be putting chocolate powder and water first to make a paste. Then add milk and stir. No matter the method, Always finish with whip cream on top and chocolate powder and/or marshmellows on the cream as garnish.

For hot chocolate, you can mix chocolate powder and water to make a paste and pour aerated milk. This is done when people want to make patterns by pouring milk. Be careful not to put too much water or there will be a watery taste. Another method is to put chocolate powder in a jug full of milk, aerate it and pour into the cup.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Battlefield 3 Premium

Battlefield Premium is a one off payment expansion pack with all downloadable content like maps, new weapons and dogtags.

Battlefield Premium has a one off payment of $49.99 to $69.99 (depending on currency) while individual map packs cost $15 to $25 (depending on currency). There are five map packs. Call of Duty Elite has a yearly subscription fee of $49.99 while individual map packs cost $15 (Again, all depending on currency). Call of Duty map packs are released monthly for the next nine months after the release of the game. 

The first Battlefield 3 map pack was "Back to Karkand" released in December 2011. It featured four old legendary maps from Battlefield 2 = Karkand, Gulf of Oman, Wake Island and Sharqi Peninsula. They were based on voters' choice and have been redesigned with the Frostbite 2 engine. The assignments has ten new weapons with 8 guns designed for a specific class while 2 guns are for all classes. There are new vehicles like armoured personnel carriers, F-35B fighters and buggy jeeps. A new game mode was introduced called 'Conquest Assault' which one team will have a base while the other can only spawn on captured areas or squadmates.During Battlefield 3's development, DICE had a seperate team to develop this expansion pack.

"Close Quarters" is the second expansion pack released on June 2012 featured infantry only close quarter combat similar to Call of Duty's multiplayer. It's 4 maps are Operation 925, Scrapmetal, Ziba Tower and Donya Fortress. It has enhanced destruction as the walls are made of plaster and light wood enabling players to shoot through walls. The assignments also featured ten new guns with most designed for close quarters while others can be unlocked and used in the base game. It's new gamemodes is Conquest Domination and Gunmaster. 'Conquest Domination' is when there are three point flags around the map to capture and hold; very similar to Call of Duty's Domination gamemode. 'Gunmaster' is where every player starts with a handgun and advances to the next weapons after scoring a number of kills. A player is demoted to the previous gun if being a victim to a knife takedown. The weapons used in gunmaster can vary depending on the server admin's choice.

Third expansion pack is "Armored Kill" which is focused on all-out vehicle action released on September 2012. Its four maps are Alborz Mountains (mountainous snow map), Armored Shield, Death Valley and Bandar Desert which is the largest map in Battlefield history. The assignments are perks for the tank destroyers and mobile artillery like extinguisher for tank destroyers or anti-air missile for the mobile artillery. Both tank destroyers (2S25 Sprut / M1128) and mobile artillery (M142 HIMARS / BM-21) are the new vehicles appearing in the map pack. The AC-130 gunship will also appear to provide air support with a particular point flag needed to be captured in order to use it. With two players on board, it is equiped with the M102 cannon, GAU-12 25mm cannon and both players can use the two anti-aircraft guns to repel any enemy helicopters and jets. Gunship parajump is a mobile spawn point to allow players to spawn and jump from the gunship to paracute.'Tank superiority' is a new gamemode where there is only one objective in the middle of the map with both sides having plenty of vehicles with life tickets like Conquest mode.

The fourth expansion pack is "Aftermath" released in December 2012, is a post-earthquake Tehran and is loosely based on the single player campaign. Its four maps is Epicentre, Markaz Monolith, Talah Market, Azadi Palace. The assignments feature new dogtags and the all new crossbow and it's unlocks like scanbolt, explosive bolt and scope. The game was modified for the post earthquake environments which meant soldiers in the game look devistated from the quake with minor injuries and lost helmets and vehicles like the humvee looking like they were built from scrap. A new gamemode introduced in Aftermath is 'Scavenger' where every player starts with a handgun and a grenade. Weapons lie everywhere around the map with light weapons (Personal defence weapons) located in safe areas while more powerful weapons (LMGs and sniper rifles) are located in areas where the player is exposed to the enemy.

The fifth and last expansion pack is "Endgame" releasing in March 2012. It's four maps are Kiasar Railroad, Nebandan Flats, Operation Riverside and Sabalan Pipeline. It will feature new vehicles including motorbikes and rocket launchers from Humvees. 'Capture the flag' and 'Air superiority' are the new gamemodes introduced in the expansion map.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Best vs Best

On 14 February 1939, the battleship Bismarck was unveiled and media reported that the ship was 35,000 tonnes which was the limit under the Treaty of Versailles that Germany had to follow. The ship was actually 50,000 tonnes. Because of her size, the Bismarck was considered a "he" instead of a "she". The Bismarck was not only the largest warship in the Nazi German navy, but also named after Otto von Bismarck who united all German states under one empire during the 19th century. Hitler promised that war against the British would not happen until 1945 which is when the Navy is ready in full force. When World War Two broke out, the German Navy was unprepared and outnumbered by the British Royal Navy. The German Navy had to think about maneuver tactics and had the task to destroy merchant ships heading to Britain in an effort to starve them.

Hitler did not like the idea of destroying merchant ships heading to Britain as he was afraid that losing warships meant losing prestige. He told an admiral that he was a hero on land but a coawrd at sea. Hitler thought he knew everything about ground war as he fought in World War One. He left the Luftwaffe to his trusted deputy Hermann Goring but had no understanding of the Navy and its structure.

Operation Rheinuburg (Exercise Rhine) was a three month mission to strike merchant ships at the Atlantic. Warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were under repair after being attacked by the RAF and Bismarck's sister ship Tirpitz was still under construction. Only the Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen were sent but were outnumbered by the Royal Navy. The two ships left in secrecy and even the crew did not know until the the ships set sail. Admiral Gunther Lutjens commanded the two ships while Captain Ernst Lindermann commanded the Bismarck under Lutjens' authority.

When Hitler visited the Bismarck, an admiral was deliberately absent to avoid the possibility of getting Hitler's disapproval for Exercise Rhine to commence. The ships set sail and were spotted by the Norwegian resistance at the Norwegian coast and a Swedish crusier but continued to a naval base in Norway. During their stay at Norway, Prinz Eugen topped up it's fuel while the Bismarck had paintings on the haul to camouflage itself and its size. The sighting led to a Royal Navy captain in Stockholm to send a message back to Britain. An RAF spitfire came in and saw the ships at port and escaped after the port raised the alarm. The Royal Navy sent ships to intercept the Bismarck before it disappeared into the Atlantic. All possible escape routes like the Denmark Strait, North Sea, North Atlantic Sea and the English Channel were blocked. The Bismarck sailed in the Denmark Strait when HMS Norfolk and HMS Suffolk saw spotted it but were told to hold back as the two did not have the firepower to take on the Bismarck. The Bismarck opened fire on the two ships but the recoil of the guns knocked the ship's radar out of action so Prinz Eugin had to take the lead. Hitler was disappointed by the ships' deployment and wanted them back but was too late.

As the Bismarck sailed south, HMS Hood accompanied by HMS Prince of Wales tried to intercept them. The HMS Hood, built in 1920, was the pride of the Royal Navy as it was not only the biggest but most powerful in it's fleet. The battle between the Bismarck and HMS Hood was a battle between the pride of the German Navy and the Royal Navy. The plan was for the Hood and Prince of Wales to block the German ships' path meaning that they can use all it's guns while the Germans can only use it's front guns. The Norfolk and Suffolk lost contact of the Bismarck and after recalculating it's position, the Hood and Prince of Wales came too late meaning that the Bismarck and Prinz Eugin accidently had the tactical advantage of having all it's guns facing the British who can only use it's front guns. The Hood was already in action stations for hours while the Bismarck sounded the alarm after spotting the Hood. The Bismarck crew were suprised they were taking on the Hood.

The Hood and Prince of Wales opened the first shots at Prinz Eugen. Litjens refused to return fire following strict orders not to engage warships. Lindermann was frustrated saying "I will not have my ship shot out from under my ass" and ordered the Bismarck to open fire. It's first and second salvo fell short but the third scored a direct hit on the Hood exploding anti aircraft amunitions. Flames erupted and the compass tower was hit by the Bismarck's fourth salvo. The Hood turned left so it could use all its guns but took another direct hit in the main magazine causing a massive explosion. The Hood exploded in half and sank. It's forward guns fired in anger before sinking into the water. There were only three survivors on board the Hood who were being thrown up to the surface by the ship's exploding boilers. The Hood sank 8 minutes into the battle and the Prince of Wales steered hard to avoid the wreckage. The HMS Prince of Wales was only three weeks into service prior and still had civilian contractors on board at the time of the battle. It's guns were malfunctioning and the ship had no experience in combat. The ship retreated after taking 17 hits while Litjens continued his patrol rather than chasing the lone British ship. The Bismarck crew were horrified at the sinking of the Hood fearing that they could be next.

The Bismarck had suffered 3 damaging hits from the Prince of Wales and suffered ruptures in fuel tanks and flooding water in the front compartment. The Bismarck sailed to German occupied France for repairs while Prinz Eugen broke away. The British were devestated by the lost of Hood and deployed all ships to find the Bismarck. The Prince of Wales, Norfolk and Suffolk followed from the South, Admiral Tovey on the King George V and it's fleet followed from the east while Force H followed from the south. HMS Victorious sent Swordfish torpedo bombers to strike the Bismarck. The swordfish was considered old and outdated and gained the nickname "String bag". It only had one torpedo so they had to make their shot count. Eight swordfish planes attacked the Bismarck at the altitude of 200 feet and all but one made a direct hit. The direct hit caused shockwave with a Bismarck crewmember thrown to his death toward a plane catapult. It was the ship's first fatality. Royal Navy ships were following in a zigzag to prevent U boats from striking but their zig zag tactics caused the Bismarck to outmeneuver by turning around as the British headed south and after, headed west for France.

The Bismarck disappeared so a British leased American PBY Catalina with an American co-pilot later spoted them and retreated after taking heavy fire. The Catalina crew were hailed as heroes when the came back. 15 Swordfish planes came in for a second airstrike. They lost their suprise when it ran into a US coast guard cutter and the Bismarck opened fire. The Bismarck's stern was ripped by a torpedo so the ship's rudders were broken and unable to maneuver. In both airstrikes by the swordfish torpedo bombers, none of them were hit by the Bismarck's guns because the guns could not be directed slow enough.

The Royal Navy surrounded the Bismarck with King George V and Rodney at the west, Nolfolk at the north and the Dorsetshire at the east. The Royal Navy opened fire with Rodney being the first to hit and destroy the Bismarck's front gun turrets. King George V's guns hit the Bismarck's gunnery control centre while the Norfolk struck the fire control tower. After taking so many hits, the Bismarck had wounded crew on deck dying with legs or arms missing from explosion. The Dorsetshire fired it's torpedoes but at the same time, the Bismarck scuttled itself so the ship's sinking is debated. 115 crewmembers survived and rescued out of the 2200 crew.

After the Bismarck's sinking, the Japanese showed that planes and aircraft carriers are the new weapons of naval warfare during the attack on Pearl Harbor ending the battleship era.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Fiscal Cliff

Fiscal cliff is a series of tax increases and budget cuts. It has been on all over the news as both Republicains and Democrats tried to stop it from happening. So what is it really?

When George W Bush was president, he introduced tax cuts ("Bush tax cuts"), meaning more money in the pocket and happy people. They are set to expire on 2013. In 2011, the US debt ceiling was raised and with a current $16 trillion debt, the US government agreed to cut $1.2 trillion to compensate for the current budget deficit over the next decade. With the tax cuts expiring and government spending reduced, government department workers will have less pay or be made reduntant while people are having higher taxes. This will cause less spending and the US economy is set to fall like a cliff which is why it's called a fiscal cliff. To think that the US is already in recession, the fiscal cliff will cause the US to go into deeper recession with the budget cutting 50% of government programs and 50% of defence. This will also cause a loss of a million jobs over the next two years.

The fiscal cliff was caused by the House of Representatives (Republican majority) to not allow the debt ceiling to go any higher without any agreement to cut any spending in mid 2011.

The Democrats wanted to extend tax cuts to all Americans except the wealthy. The Republicans wanted tax cuts extended to all Americans and claimed that the Democrats are heavily taxing the wealthy who are providing jobs. President Obama has cut short his holiday to Hawaii to try to solve this problem. The Senate (Democrat majority) had passed it's proposal but the House of Representatives (Republican majority) are holding their ground prevent President Obama from passing his proposal to stop the fiscal cliff. Both sides must agree on a compromise to prevent the fiscal cliff from automatically happening in 1 January 2013 (NZ time).

Monday, 3 December 2012

Close quarters

When thinking about war, many tend to think about jungle or open areas like trying to take a trench or hill, but what about getting up close?

Urban warfare or close quarter combat had not play a major role in history as war was mostly fought in big open terrians. Although there were minor events of urban warfare during the musket times and World War one and two, some of the first major events of urban warfare occured during the Battle of Berlin during the last days of the Third Reich. Soviet troops were advancing house to house, street to street, alleyway to alleyway. Using their experience from the Battle of Stalingrad, the Soviet troops knew better than the Germans and advanced in a fast pace.

The US military did not have much experience in urban warfare until the Battle of Hue in 1968 during the Tet Offensive. Hue is an historical city and is the home of Vietnamese culture. It was one of the few cities left untouched during the Vietnam War until the Tet Offensive when the Viet Cong took over the city. Because it was a special historical city, bombing and artillery was not allowed in order to preserve the city. Without support and experience, the marines had a hard time. Sometimes it took half a day to move from one side of the street to the other. The US military experienced major urban warfare again during the war in Iraq especially the Battle of Fallujah where both US soldiers and marines had to take over city full of insurgents who earlier ambushed and killed four American PMCs and mutilated them on TV.

Urban warfare is considered chaotic as soldiers have to clear every room and every corner. The biggest danger is that there could be an insurgent around any corner waiting to kill. There are also the danger of booby traps, trap doors, hidden entrances, machine gun pits and grenades. Sometimes it may take a company of 100 soldiers to clear four houses.

To have equipment suitable for urban combat, there are guns like the MP5 which uses the 9mm pistol round. It is great for close quarters but the is unsuitable for long range and body armor. To fix this problem of not penetrating body armor, the MP7 was developed with it's 4.6mm round that can do the job. The UMP-45 has the .45 caliber which unlike the 9mm , has a wider diameter plus extra stopping power which can stop an insurgent dead in his track. The .45 caliber was first used on the M1911 pistol which responded to complaints from US soldiers facing deadly enemies in the Philippines not going down after being hit from the 9mm. Of course, submachine guns may not be enough for urban warfare and may require guns with heavier caliber like the 5.56mm. In this case the M4 Carbine was developed for close quarters, in other words, shorter barrel. When advancing in battle, soldiers tend to advance sideways to make themselves a smaller targer which also reduce their chances of being hit. With the introduction of body armor, advancing sideways is not recommended as the side of the vest has little or no armored plates. Therefore, SWAT members advance facing frontwards with their body armor protecting them.

When dealing with the dangers of close quarters, there had been several techniques developed like "slicing the pie" which meant slowly maneuvering slowly around the corner making sure the sight is clear before moving. Small flashlights can be used which can be attached on the gun or used on another hand. They are used to see through dark places but only recommended when doing a quick search otherwise it will give away it's position. It can also be used as defence like barricading yourself in a room and shining your light on the door so when the intruder breaches the door, the first thing he sees is a bright wall of light. The British SAS attach their flashlights under the barrel of their MP5s and "where you point the torch, is where the bullets will end up". In hostage situations, flashbangs/stun grenades are used. They produce a bright light which temporarily blind a terrorist and produce a loud bang which is as loud as a jet engine which temporarily deafens the terrorist. The flashbang provide an extra few vital seconds to identifiy the terrorists and hostages. The Israelis invented a new weapon called the cornershot which can turn around corners. It has a camera and an LCD screen so a soldier can see what is around the corner without exposing himself. The Israelis also cleverly invented the concept of having the fake kitten attached on the cornershot so the terrorist is distracted giving the soldier a few extra seconds to identify and make the next decision. Lasers attached on guns are also used for pinpoint accuracy. When maneuvering around corners, experts highly recommend raising your arm (not holding the weapon) and use it to block any surprise attacks when encountering an enemy around a corner. By blocking his attack, you're prevented him from disarming you.

When breaching doors, a Ramington 870 "Little pig" shotgun is used with special rounds designed to push locks out. There are other ways of entry like using a battering ram or a Thor to bash the door open. Frame charges are used in blowing through walls or windows as a way of surprise entry instead of going through a door that could be barricaded. It is always important that when entering room, a soldier never goes in alone. To make sure he is going to be backed up without talking, he gives a nod meaning he is ready. The second soldier squeezes his shoulder shoulder indicating that he is also ready.

Room clearance is always part of urban warfare and is highly dangerous. Because of this, team work is vital. The door is known as the "fatal funnel" which has to be cleared quickly upon entering. When entering the room, there are areas of responsibilities, i.e. - the first soldier entering scans the right side while the next soldier scans the left side. They enter almost simultaneously so all areas of the room is scanned plus soldiers can watch each other's back. It is impossible for a soldier to scan 180 degrees at the same time. If the first soldier responsible for the right sector sees an enemy on the left, he must ignore him and trust the second soldier with his life that he will take care of the threat. If the first soldier decides to deal with the threat, not only he had ignored his area of responsibility, but put the lives of himself and his comrades at dangerous risk as there could be an enemy hiding at his sector waiting to open fire. Positioning is important because if a soldier's gun is jammed or misses and is in his comrade's line of fire (does not have a clean shot), then the situation can become fatal. So if you thought that soldiers/SWAT teams have an easy job of just going through room by room blazing at fully automatic, think again.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Manila hostage crisis

On August 23 2010, 9:30am, a former police officer Rolando Mendoza boarded a tourist bus Hong Thai 799 carrying 25 Hong Kong tourists. He boarded the bus and asked the driver if it is going to the Heros graves. He then brandished his M16 rifle and announced to everyone on board that they are his hostages and also told them that the issue is not with them but with the Phillipine government. In 2008, he was accused of corruption and drug charges and as a result lost his job and his retirement benefits in 2010. He demanded  his job back. The tourist bus stopped at the Quirino Grandstand where President Benigno Aquino was inaugurated two months earlier. He stuck a big paper on the windscreen demanding his job back and his name to be cleared. Police surrounded the area and started negotiations.

A woman started having stomach pain which got worse and she was released. Mendoza released her on the condition that she will come back. The police did not allow her after her release. The woman's husband was diebetic and needed medical attention. He was released and reunited with his wife. Mendoza's daughter apologized to the two for her father's action.  As a gesture of goodwill, a mother and three children are released in exchange for media to come but the police did not allow them. The police never interviewed the two about the situation inside. During hostage situations, it is always important to interview released hostages to gather important intellegence before carrying out any assault/rescue attempt.

At 3pm, a brother of Mendoza, Gregorio (also a police officer) sneaked through police lines wearing street clothes and carrying a handgun. He wanted to talk to Mendoza before being taken away with his gun confiscated. At night, it was raining and police gave Mendoza a letter that did not please him. The letter said it was offering an extention to review his case and that this process takes over 10 days. Mendoza was angry wanting his name to be cleared on the day. A radio channel managed to contact Mendoza's cellphone which he read the letter live on air. As night continue, Mendoza got impatient and angry. As a former police captain, he knew police tactics and knew that police are trying to wear him out. Gregorio was arrested for breaching police cordons and carrying a gun earlier that day. He refused to coorporate and laid on the ground refusing to leave. A brawl occurred and his son joined him in protest. Mendoza saw the whole scene live on the bus's TV and demanded his brother to be released or he'll start shooting. He eventually lost his patience and shot a tour guide (handcuffed to the door) dead. He then opened fire on the hostages. A hostage  named Joe and another fellow hostage attempted to attack Mendoza. Mendoza shot and killed the fellow hostage and Joe retreated back to his seat where he put his bag in front of his head as defence. Mendoza's bullets blasted the bag to pieces wounding both of Joe's hands and then leaned forward playing dead.

The bus driver had his handcuffs taken away and was ordered to drive. Police shot the tires and Mendoza started firing on the hostages at the back of the bus. The driver then jumped out of the window and ran to police. The driver kept yelling that everyone is dead. Police never interviewed him and assumed that all hostages were killed. This was another missed opportunity to gather important intellegence about the situation inside the bus. Police only interviewed Mendoza's brother Gregorio and still had problems detaining him. The Special Action Force (SAF), trained by the FBI, were deployed under the orders of President Aquino. The police commander however decided to order the police SWAT to conduct the assault instead. The SWAT team were surprised seeing that the SAF were ordered by the president to deploy. The police managed to publish a letter granting Mendoza reinstatement and approved his name to be cleared. The letter was not delivered as it was stuck in traffic and did not make it on time. Attempts to contact Mendoza's cellphone failed. At 7:37pm, the SWAT were deployed with three snipers hiding in the Quirino Grandstand. The heavy rain made it difficult to get a visual on Mendoza. The SWAT team hid on the side of the bus smashing the windows trying to get a clear visual but to their surprise, the windows were alot tougher than expected and tried breaching the front door before meeting gunfire from Mendoza. A tour guide was cuffed to the door dead and the SWAT commander was thinking of how to get in as the front door was jammed. The SWAT team were also seen throwing glow sticks inside and after failing to get in a number of times for ten minutes, they were given informal advice from the onlooking media. They were recommended to breach the back door. They did so and finally able to get in before again meeting Mendoza's gunfire. As the situation was filmed live, Mendoza was able to see the SWAT team's action on the bus's TV. At 8:11pm, the SAF were finally ordered to join the SWAT in assaulting the bus. Tear gas was thrown into the back of the bus which forced Mendoza moved to the front of the bus and at 8:41pm, a police sniper shot and killed him. He laid dead on the front door. Nine hostages were also killed and six were injured.

When the siege was over, there were complete disorginisation with media being able to get up close to the bus slowing down emergency services doing their job. There were a lack of coordination in medical support which led to victims turned away from hospitals which caused more delays for medical treatment.

The police were heavily criticised on their hostage rescue attempt. Critics claimed that Mendoza had let his guard down several times by exposing himself which gave snipers the golden opportunity to kill him. Experts claim that the police should have cut a circuit under the bus that would enable the front door to open and by going on low profile, be able to enter quickly to end the situation.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Art of War

The Art of War was written by Sun Tzu is a text explaining military strategy as a guide to victory.

Sun Tzu lived in the state of Wu during the Warring States period. The state of Chu became hostile towards Wu and had over 100,000 troops compared to Wu's 30,000 troops. Sun Tzu believed that discipline was a key factor in having a strong military force. He gathered a group of palace ladies and ordered them to get into formation when drums began beating. The ladies laughed and Sun Tzu explained the instructions agian in a clear manner. When the ladies laughed and did not move again, he executed one of the ladies and ordered them to start again. At this point, the ladies got into formation without hesitation. Sun Tzu was then appointed the commander of the Wu forces. At the start of the war, Sun Tzu did not embrace for the Chu's large army as he did not have the numbers. Instead of attacking the strong points, he decided to attack the weak points. He invaded Chu and destroyed Chu's remote outposts and maneuvered to avoid Chu's reinforcements. In other words, Chu's big army was going backwards and forwards only to find that Sun Tzu's forces had disappeared. Sun Tzu's tactics had frustrated Chu's forces with many defections made towards Wu. Chu decided to punish and invade Cai, a nation north of Chu. The duke of Cai called for it's ally Wu for help as they did not have the force to hold back Chu. Sun Tzu deployed a small force towards Cai which is used a bait that drew the Chu forced away from Cai and so that meant that Cai was saved without a single battle. The small force confronts the main Chu forces while Sun Tzu's main forces head to the Ying, Chu's capital. The commander of the Chu's main forces decided to chase Sun Tzu's main force otherwise if the commander of the Ying's commander held off Wu's main force then he will take credit. The commander of Chu's main forces was arrogant which was never part of Sun Tzu's thinking. As Chu's main forces gave chase, Sun Tzu turned around and surrounded them with the smaller force to catch up and attack their rear. Sun Tzu's 20000 elite troops ambushed the Chu main force by surprise and won. His movement towards Ying was deception that attracted Chu's main force. After the war Sun Tzu disappeared as he did not like his leaders' behaviour and the King of Wu enjoying the wealth he has when entering Ying. So how did an army of 30,000 defeated and army of over 100,000? Sun Tzu used preparation to discipline his troops, deception to lure the Chu forces and indirect attacks by attacking weak points and never confronting Chu head on.

So does Sun Tzu's Art of War apply to wars being fought today or the past 200 years?

Lets look at the American Civil War for example. During the Battle of Gettysberg, the Confederates attacked the Union troops sitting on top of Cemetery Hill. The Art of War advised that it is not wise to attack forces sitting on top of a hill. During the Civil War, the battles were often fought with both sides confronting each other head on which caused heavy casualties while the Art of War advised that attacks should be made towards the weakest points, in other words, Sun Tzu only wanted to use minimal resources.

During World War 2, the Art of War was applied on the D-Day invasion. Nazi Germany knew that the Allies were going to invade Europe soon and it definately around Northern France as it was in range of air support provided by planes stationed in Southern England. The Allies did some deception tactics prior to the D-Day invasion. Fake tanks (inflated) and equipment were used as fake intelligence and to make the Germans think that other beaches, not Normandy, would be invaded. During the invasion, the Allies were successful while the Germans failed. This was because of generals had no interference from their leaders. The Allies had a simple command structure with Dwight Eisenhower being the top Commander with easy access to other commanders. The Germans had a complex command structure with Hitler being the top and it meant that Hitler was the one making the final decision. The Field Marshal was serperated from the Navy and Air Force while the SS was under Himmler's command. This complex command structure was completely opposite to the Art of War.

During the Vietnam War, General Vo Nguyen Giap had followed the Art of War. He did not fought against the Americans head on because he knew his forces and the enemy just what the Art of War stated. Instead, he chose to conduct guerrilla warfare and to outthink the US instead of outfighting them. The US dropped 7 million tonnes of bombs on Vietnam relying on sheer military force to advance which Sun Tzu does not recommend. Giap knew the US would launch airstrikes before sending troops in. Giap ordered his forces to take shelter during the airstrikes and ambush the Americans when they land. Giap even ordered his forces to fight closely with the Americans to prevent US air support from bombing it's own men. Giap constantly harassed US troops via ambush, booby traps and snipers to the point where the American public no longer supported the war. In other words, the US were losing the war in Vietnam because of it's support lost from it's people. Giap subdue the US without any head on/direct fighting. Giap's advisors got impatient and demanded a full scale head on attack against the US troops. Giap decides to launch all attacks at all South Vietnamese cities and bases at the same time and kept the plan secret and launch the operation by surprise which was called the Tet Offensive. Giap even used spies prior to the offensive. Giap promised a cease fire during the Tet New Year and made a direct attack on Khe Sanh. He wanted the direct attack on Khe Sanh to be a destraction while the indirect attack on all South Vietnamese cities and bases to win the war. However, during the Tet Offensive, the Viet Cong hoped the people of South VIetnam rose and help them win but the massacre of South Vietnamese sympathizers in Hue saw the people of South Vietnam refusing to give support. The images of the Tet Offensive saw the increase in support from the American public. Giap returned to his typical guerrilla tactics which led to anti war protests in the US. After US withdrawal, Saigon finally fell to North Vietnam.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

In a such a short time

Normally a big project would take years if not, decades to build like cruise ships, dams, skyscrapers, bridges and tunnels. Imagine building a small island, an airport, miles of highway, railway lines and a large suspension bridge in seven years? This happened in Hong Kong and the reason for seven years was because Hong Kong was to be handed over back to China from the British. The engineers feared the if not completed by then, the Chinese might pull the plug.

Hong Kong needed a new airport as Kai Tak was overwhelmed by huge number of passengers and cargo with only one runway. Due to the overwhelming numbers, if incoming cargo is delayed, then millions of dollars is at stake. Expansion was impossible as Kai Tak was surrounded by buildings and skyscrapers. When pilots land, they often flew low around buildings which was considered dangerous for people living in apartments around the airport.

The only option left was to build a new airport. There was too few land to build and looked at Chek Lap Kok and Lam Chau Islands. Both islands were mountainous and work began on clearing the mountains so both islands were level. The rubble was not wasted but used to connect both islands. Ships were used to vacuum the sea bed to expose the flat bedrock before adding the rubble on top. Because of the shortage of time, The terminals had identical rooves with 126 of them mass produced on sight. A cargo terminal was built with state of the art system where cargo can be transferred through a conveyor belt and if lifted through a high levels of shelves for storage.

Infrastructure had to built to and from the airport. Hong Kong already had two tunnels built decades ago. Due to constant heavy traffic, a new six lane tunnel had to be built. Bridges in the city had to be built due to heavy traffic. It was only built at night and on top of existing roads. Through the Ma Wan channel, a tunnel was going to be built but was too dangerous to build due to theavy traffic of container ships. The Tsing Ma Bridge (long suspension) was built. It was also tall enough for any ship to pass under. At 1733 metres long, engineers found that a deadly typhoon can knock it down so the bridge was made heavier. A tunnel was added inside along with a railway line and it became a double decker bridge. High speed railway lines were built along the highways for the millions of people using rail transport each day.

The fear of not completing on time was showing and negotiations were being made with the Chinese. When Hong Kong was handed back to China, the terminal was still not completed and the fear of the Chinese pulling the plug did not occurred. The Chinese gave Hong Kong a one year extension to complete the airport construction which they have successfully done.

Hong Kong Airport opened in 1998 with the historic closure of Kai Tak. The runway flights were turned off after the final takeoff made by Cathay Pacific and the quote "Goodbye Kai Tak, and thank you" before turning off the runway lights. All the equipment was moved to the new airport in seven hours. Cathay Pacific also made the first landing on the new airport. Hong Kong Airport's location away from the city centre would be alot safer instead of having planes constantly flying low above apartments. To be able to build big infrastructures and a big airport in seven years is an incredible achievement for the tiny land of Hong Kong.

30 day video game challenge - Day 30

My favourite game of all time

Saturday, 29 September 2012

30 day video game challenge - Day 29

A game I thought I would not like, but ended up loving

After enjoying Modern Warfare 2's epic gameplay and graphics, I thought Bad Company 2 was no match against it. Bad Company 2 managed to impress the community with it's comedy campaign along with huge destruction and vehicles in multiplayer.

Friday, 28 September 2012

30 day video game challenge - Day 28

Favourite game developer

A company from Sweden, developed the Battlefield series and made big success from Battlefield 2 to Battlefield Play4Free to Battlefield 2142. It was very brave of them to accept a challenge given from EA to develop Battlefield 3 and try to take down Modern Warfare 3 in late 2011. They managed impressed the gaming community with it's Frostbite 2 engine and major features that Modern Warfare 3 did not offer like 64 player modes, huge maps, vehicles, etc. Battlefield 4 is expected to be released in late 2013 and expections are high. This year celebrates Battlefield's 10th anniversary.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

30 day video game challenge - Day 27

Most epic scene ever

In Battlefield 3's mission "Going Hunting" where the player is flying through the Carrier Battle Group after take off with the Battlefield theme playing while base is giving the pilot its next instructions. Sure you're not piloting the plane but the thrill, the sound effect and the speed of flying off the carrier is amazing.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

30 day video game challenge - Day 26

Best voice acting - Battlefield 3

Digital sounds and great voice acting puts the game one step further to realism. During development, Andy McNab (former SAS) assisted the development by giving advice on how soldiers think, act and talk trying to reflect what a real soldier would speak.
"Words like 'maybe', 'we will try to' or 'we will attempt', don't exist in a soldier's world. We use words like 'you will', 'I will', 'we will'. All dialogue is absolute because soldiers in the real world must be positive in everything they do. After all, real lives are at stake, so there is no room for failure."
Andy McNab

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

30 day video game challenge - Day 25

A game I plan on playing

Using the Frostbite 2 engine, showing off epic campaign trailers plus having multiple special forces factions in multiplayer makes the game look very promising.

Monday, 24 September 2012

30 day video game challenge - Day 24

Favourite classic game - Road Rash

Riding through highways and cities while evading police plus trying to reach the top three without putting too much damage on the bike puts in alot of fun and adrenaline.