Saturday, 1 June 2013

Melbourne facts


Melbourne Cricket Ground

·         Stadium capacity of over 100,000 located in Richmond

·         Home of the National Sports Museum located in the Olympic stand and provides stadium tours

·         Cricket during the summer (e.g. Boxing Day test) and AFL during the winter

·         Located in Richmond, east of the CBD. Jolimont and Richmond are the nearest train stations.

·         Tram number 70 can be used to get to the MCG from the CBD to stop 7C.

·         Location of the grand final for the AFL and the host of the 2006 Commonwealth Games and 1956 Olympic Games.


·         Rugby and football stadium with capacity of 30,000

·         Hosting football’s A-League, rugby’s Super 15 and the NRL.

·         Home of the Melbourne Heart (A-league), Melbourne Victory (A-League), Melbourne Storm (NRL) and Melbourne Rebels (Super 15).

·         Tram number 70 can be used to get there at stop 7D. Richmond train station is the nearest station.  Located in Melbourne’s Olympic park.

·         Well known for its Bio-frame roof using lightweight steel and a combination of glass, metal and cladding.

Hisense Arena

·         Capacity of 11,000 located in Olympic Park.

·         A multipurpose stadium hosting the ANZ netball championships, Australian Open tennis, track cycling, NBL basketball and concerts.

·         Home of the Melbourne Vixens and Melbourne Tigers

·         Set to host ice hockey matches between USA and Canada on June 14 and 15.

·         Next concert will be the Boomtown Rats on May 23

·         Tram number 70 can be used to get there at stop 7C. Richmond train station is the nearest station

Rod Laver Arena

·         Capacity of 14,000 and located at Olympic Park

·         Hosted basketball in the past but now only hosts tennis and concerts

·         Upcoming concerts = Robert Plant (April 3), The Script (April 6), Aerosmith (May 4), Pink (7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16 & 17 July, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22 & 23 August), Rihanna (September 30, October 1) and One Direction (3, 16, 17, 28, 29 & 30 October).

·         Tram number 70 can be used to get there at stop 7B. Richmond train station is the nearest station

Etihad Stadium

·         Capacity of 53,000 located at Docklands

·         Hosts cricket, concerts, NRL, AFL and football (A-League) and the Lions tour (29 June)

·         Tram numbers 48, 11, 31, 70, 35 and 70 can be used to get there. The stadium is located right next to Southern Cross train station.

·         Corporate suites provide good views for up to 16 guests, VIP car parks and a buffet. At the price of $3500 to $7800 per game.

·         The Diamond Club is a two storey suite providing an excellent view, luxury comfort, 3 course meals and a bartending service.


Flemington Race Course

·         Home of the Melbourne Cup. The 2013 race will be on 5 November 2013

·         A train line dedicated to the venue is used during race day via the Craigieburn Line.

·         Upcoming events are the Winter Race Day on August 1, Community Race Day on April 13, ANZAC Day race on April 25 and Green Fields Race Day on May 4.


St Kilda Beach

·         St Kilda is a bay side suburb not far from the CBD. It is famous for its beach and sun.

·         Can get there through tram numbers 96, 79 and 112.

·         Also an area for 94 restaurants, cafes and bars.

Luna Park

·         Family theme park full of rollercoaster rides, bumper cars and Ferris wheel

·         Can get there through tram numbers 96 (From Crown), 16 (From Swanson), 3, 67 and 79 (From Richmond).

·         Entry is free. Unlimited rides cost $33 (kids) and $43 (adults). Single rides cost $7 (Child) and $9 (Adult)

Melbourne Museum

·         Located at Nicolson Street north east of the CBD. Can get there through tram numbers 86 and 96. Nearest train station is Parliament.

·         Showing a variety of displays from biology to science to historical Melbourne and Victoria.

·         Latest exhibits include Afghan treasures showing until July 28, Bunjilaka showing until June 16 and James Bond 007 showing at November 1.

·         Opens from 10AM to 5PM. Adult tickets cost $10 while kids and concession is free.

·         Museum cafe and car parking available

·         IMAX cinema has the third largest screen in the world (32x23 metres) showing world class 3D. The latest educational films showing are the Flight of the Butterflies, The Last Reef and Born to be Wild. Blockbuster films like Top Gun and Oz the Great and Powerful are currently being screened.

Immigration Museum

·         Located in Flinders Street. Can get there via the City Circle Tram or from Flinders Street train station.

·         Showing exhibits and stories of how all immigrants came to Australia for a new life and to escape war and poverty.

·         Latest exhibitions include Leaving Dublin showing until August 25, Sweets showing until June 2 and IKONA portraits showing until May 12.

·         Adult tickets cost $10 while children have free entry.

Science works

·         Science museum located south west of the CBD. The nearest train station is Spotswood via the Werribee/Williamstown line.

·         Showing exhibits, facts and the fascinating world of science and engineering

·         The latest shows like the Moon, Earth’s climate and the Black Hole are showing until May 19

·         Adult tickets cost $10 while child and concession tickets are free

Eureka Skydeck 88

·         Located on the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower, Melbourne’s tallest building located in Southbank; south of the CBD

·         The lift travels from the ground to the 88th floor at the speed of 9 metres per second

·         Have a magnificent 360 degree view of the entire Melbourne.

·         30 minute helicopter rides around Melbourne are available for $199 per person

·         The edge experience is being in a glass cube sticking out from the building at 300 metres above the ground. Not for people who fear heights.

·         Adult tickets are $18, kids are $10 and concession is $14

·         Cafe available

Melbourne Zoo

·         Located north of the CBD. Can get there via Tram 55 or stopping at Royal Park train station via the Upfield line.

·         A huge variety of animals on display like birds, carnivores, herbivores and sea animals.

·         Adult tickets cost $23, concession costs $20 while kids under 15 get free entry

State Library of Victoria

·         Largest and oldest library in the state located in CBD with Melbourne Central the closest station.

·         The La Trobe reading room is famous for its dome and structure.

·         Paintings, old documents and Ned Kelly’s original armour are on display

Chinatown Melbourne

·         Located in Little Bourke Street in the CBD. Parliament train station is closest.

·         Home of 24 restaurants, mainly Chinese

·         Also the home of the Chinese Museum showing the heritage and generations of Chinese Australians

Queen Victoria Market

·         Located at the corner of Peel and Victoria Street; north of the CBD

·         Trams number 57 and 55 can be used to get there

·         A thriving market selling fresh produce and meat, deli products, clothing and merchandise.

·         Opens on Tuesday, Thursday (6am – 2pm), Friday (6am – 5pm) and Weekends (6am – 4PM).

Royal Exhibition Building

·         Located at Nicolson Street north east of the CBD next to Melbourne Museum. Can get there through tram numbers 86 and 96. Nearest train station is Parliament.

·         One of the oldest remaining pavilions and the site of the 1901 Federation of Australia.

·         Now used for cultural and community events, fairs and trade shows.

National Gallery of Victoria

·         Located in Federation Square next to Flinders Street train station and at 180 Saint Kilda Road

·         A huge display of artworks from both Australia and around the world

·         Free entry along with guided tours and art exhibits showing for a limited time

Melbourne Theatre Company

·         Two theatres = Southbank Theatre located at 140 Southbank Boulevard and Arts Centre Melbourne located at 100 Saint Kilda Road.

·         Can get there by tram or from Flinders Street Station

·         Showing world class plays. The upcoming plays include Beached, True Minds, Zeitgeist, Rupert and The Mountaintop.

Melbourne Aquarium

·         Located at the corner of Flinders and King Street in the CBD. Can get there from a city circle tram, Southern Cross or Flinders Street train stations.

·         A display showing a vast variety of sea animals like sharks, fish, penguins and eels. Fish feeding and diving activity is provided.

·         Adult tickets cost $35, concession costs $29 and children tickets cost $21.50

·         Also has a cafe providing fresh food and coffee.

Yarra Valley Vineyards

·         Located north of Lilydale. After stopping at Lilydale Train Station, take a bus to Yarra Glen, Healesville or Warburton.

·         Tours provided by Yarra Valley Winery Tours, Top down Tours and Link Tours.

·         Two restaurants Bulong Estate and De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate offer quality foods with fresh produce and to provide a good wine experience

·         Wine tasting sessions available

Point Cook Museum

·         Located in Werribee. Take a Werribee Shuttle Bus to get there from CBD.

·         An Air Force museum showing exhibits and history

·         Free entry. Opens on Tuesday to Friday 10am to 3pm and on weekends 10am to 5pm.


·         Taxi service is mostly active around Melbourne. The biggest taxi company is 13CABS and you can arrange pickup on their website.

·         To use public transport, you must have a Myki card. It can be purchased at a city loop station, a retail store or online for $5. Don’t forget to keep it topped up, touch on and touch off to avoid penalty fare. The old Metcard has already been phased out. 

·         Melbourne transport has been divided into two zones. Zone one is the CBD and inner suburbs. Zone two is the outer areas. This helps determine an appropriate fare.

·         Nightrider bus services are provided between the CBD and outer suburbs after midnight every 30 minutes during the weekends.

·         V/Lane provides train services to rural Victoria. They mostly start at Southern Cross train station. Alternatively, they provide coach services. They provide easy travel to gold rush towns of Bendigo and Ballarat, the second largest city Geelong and rural Gippsland.

·         Catering is provided on the Albury, Bairnsdale, Swan Hill, Shepparton and Warrnambool lines.

·         Skybus provides a bus service between the airport and Southern Cross train station 24 hours a day every ten minutes. They also provide minibuses to pick you up from your hotel in the CBD. One way costs $17 while return costs $28.

·         A City Circle Tram (35) is provided for free that runs every ten minutes

Car rentals

·         There are many companies and the main one is Budget that has 46 locations around Melbourne

·         Companies provide a variety of cars from hatchbacks to SUVs.

·         There are special offers like $40 off or happy hour.



·         7 Alfred Place, Melbourne CBD

·         Three course French Cuisine meals and a variety of wine available

·         Awarded One Chef Hat -The Age Good Food Guide 2012


Flower Drum

·         17 Market Lane, Melbourne CBD

·         Awarded 2 Chef Hats - The Age Good Food Guide 2007-2013

·         Chinese restaurant offers both A La Carte and Banquets.


·         187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

·         The Age Good Food Guide Diners' Choice Award 2013

·         A La Carte three course meals along with a huge variety of wine and cocktails

II Bacaro

·         168-170 Little Collins Street, Melbourne CBD

·         Italian and European cuisine. Gluten free foods are available.

·         Awarded One Chef Hat - The Age Good Food Guide 2012


·         1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne CBD

·         Awarded Two Chef Hats - The Age Good Food Guide 2009-2013

·         A variety of Spanish cuisine and Tapas.


·         6 Russell Place, Melbourne CBD

·         Awarded One Chef Hat - The Age Good Food Guide 2013

·         A variety of Italian cuisine and wine. New head chef Paolo Masciopinto recently arrived

Cafe di Stasio

·         31 Fitzroy Street, Saint Kilda

·         Awarded Two Chef Hats - The Age Good Food Guide 2012-2013

·         Offering Italian cuisine along with a huge variety of wine

Steer Bar and Grill

·         641 Chapel Street, South Yarra

·         Awarded One Chef Hat - The Age Good Food Guide 2013

·         New York style steakhouse using Australia’s best steak



·         1 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

·         Japanese Bar offering a variety of alcoholic beverages

·         Also includes Japanese dining


·         1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne CBD

·         Monday to Saturday 5pm to 1am

·         The bar offers a huge variety of alcoholic beverages from a beer to a nitrogen chilled martini


Bar Americano

·         20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne CBD

·         Opens Tuesday to Saturday from 8am to 11pm

·         Professional bartenders able to make a huge variety of cocktails and coffee

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Fluoride in Water

Tap water in developed countries are 100% safe to drink but is it really?

Fluoride in water supply was introduced in the 1940s. Experts back then believed that fluoride needed to be swollowed to fight tooth decay which is why fluoride is added to water supply.

In the United States, fluoride is added to the water supply to fight tooth decay. New Zealand, Australia, Israel and Ireland use fluoridation while all the other developed countries do not use fluoridation. The United States used fluoride in their drinking water more than the rest of the world combined and saw the decline in tooth dacay in the past 60 years. However, this decline has occured in countries that don't have fluoride in their drinking water. Studies done by the WHO found little difference in tooth decay problems between countries that do and countries that do not use fluoridation in water. Fluoride has been classified as a drug and Europe sees fluoridation as unsuitable. 97% of Western Europe used drinking water that has no fluoride.

The National Research Council reported that fluoridation in water causes problems with the blood sugar levels, brain, bones, pineal gland and thyroid gland. The report stated that lowered IQ, dementia, bone disorders and diabetes can occur with infants and elderly being the most vulnerable. For infants, fluoride in baby milk creates tooth decay and lower IQ.

Supporters of fluoridation stated that fluoride is natural and found in the water supply. Environment Canada released a report stating that the amount of fluoride found in lakes and rivers is <0.1 PPM compared to 0.7 to 1.2 PPM added to drinking water. Other toxic substances like arsenic and lithium are found in natural waters. If you put sea animals into tap water with fluoride, animals like salmons and frogs would suffer from shorter life spans, bone problems and behavour changes.

Because the United States uses alot of fluoridation in water, 40% of American teenagers are over exposed to fluoride and therefore have dental fluorosis which is white spots and streaks including brown stains and tooth erosion. Fluoride does not only exists in water but also toothpastes, food and beverages. Because water is already has fluoride, it mixes or added into the production of food and beverages. Teflon pans, tea, pesticides and pharmacy pills also have fluoride.

For people from poverty, fluoride can be dangerous whereas a person from a developed country only has tooth decay. Supporters say that fluoridated water can compensate for the lack of dentists. This however caused poor people to have larger dental fluorosis and greater damage to the brain. Kidney disease, poor nutrition, higher exposure to lead and fluoride. Dialysis patients had been at risk of bone damage due to fluoridated water given to them.

With the lack of access to dental care and the water supply being fluoridated for over 50 years, what kind of future will the United States be seeing?

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.