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Sid Meier's Civilization V: A Brave New World (Mac) [Online Game Code]
Sid Meier's Civilization V: A Brave New World (Mac) [Online Game Code]
Price: $29.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you bought via Apple's App Store, Update your App, and purchase there!, July 11, 2013
Great update, making the game even more enjoyable, new features as advertised.

As a Mac user who purchased the game on the Apple App Store, I saw the other reviews and got worried we'd have to wait for this expansion. Not the case- simply update your game on the App Store's 'update' option, then you can purchase the expansion for the same price and it will work.

If you bought the game via Steam previously, the amazon option should work for you.

Enjoy crushing your enemies, and hearing the lamentations of their women! Or building culture I guess... :D

31 July, 2013 Update:

After a few runs, I really have to say that this expansion is awesome. The new 'tourism', Ideology and diplomacy features (world congress, proposals...) significantly enhance the game's enjoyment. It's interesting really- at this point the game is where I was hoping it'd be on its initial launch; Gods & Kings got half way there- A Brave New World takes the game across the finish line.

One thing of note- on a marathon game, continents, ancient start era, with 10 Civs- I'm only now developing Railroads at the year 2000AD. Which is weird- I'm the top Civ in terms of culture, military, science, economy... Not sure if it's a dynamic created by the game settings, or if the game had an unusually long dark age or something? Anyone else seen any strange lags- or bursts, of technology like that when compared with actual development here in the real world? I did build a lot of archeologists in the 1900's- maybe I should have pushed science production instead?


The Terror: A Novel
The Terror: A Novel
by Dan Simmons
Edition: Hardcover
170 used & new from $0.01

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frozen In, Starving, and Hunted, May 14, 2007
This review is from: The Terror: A Novel (Hardcover)
The Terror is a novel of suspense and horror set amid the genera of naval arctic exploration historical fiction. If that qualifier doesn't set the story apart from most books then nothing in print will surprise you. Having enjoyed the historical factual accounts of Britain's many ill-fated expeditions to the north and south poles in the mid 1800's in "Barrow's Boys", I thought the Terror deserved a go around.

Dan Simmons takes the disastrous Franklin Expedition of 1845, another attempt to find the fabled North-West Passage, and while remaining loyal to many historical facts throws in a good deal of artistic license- namely in the form of a monstrous beast-thing that is hunting the men as they beginning dying from mysterious causes, then starve and die from scurvy. Without giving the story away, the men discover that there is more than just the evil beast at the heart of their troubles.

Each chapter is from the perspective of a main character and this gives the story another element of suspense, as you the reader learn what each character's thoughts and motivations are as the story progresses. The aspect of horror in the story is very subdued and Simmons remains very cautious about revealing too much too soon. I found this to be a good quality, as overplaying that hand would have made the book outlandish. In the end the bizarre nature of the expedition and the freak weather the explorers encounter is more than enough to give the novel a surreal setting that will make you a little nervous when out alone in the snow.


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel
by Susanna Clarke
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.25
435 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magic Returns to England, April 26, 2007
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a surprising hybrid of two genres: the historical fiction novel & the magical fantasy. Susanna Clarke, the first time author of the book, hits on a winning combination with this story, as her sales and reviews already testify. Because the two component genres contain some of my favorite stories (Aubrey/Maturin, Captain Alatriste & Harry Potter, LOTR), I quickly ordered it and moved it to the top of my reading list. This is what I thought:

The novel is long and contains many meandering side-stories that are loosely related to the main issue: the friendship of England's first magicians in many years, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, as well as the tests to that friendship that threaten to destroy it. So when you begin reading, do not expect a straightforward and traditional storyline- this is not Harry Potter, and it is not Jack Aubrey & Stephen Maturin. You will find a variety of interesting and entertaining anecdotes and tales that all serve to flesh out the quasi-historical world of England during the Napoleonic Wars. To top this off, the book is flush with footnotes, a great many of which actually distract from what you reading, but provide meaningful background to the story and its characters. Once I had completed the story, I almost felt that the book itself read like its many footnotes: interesting, funny, and not completely pertinent; but good nonetheless.

When you read Clarke's story, you will be introduced to a world very similar to our own, where magic, once common place, is the stuff of legend. In to this Mr. Norrell is thrust, a be speckled and ill-tempered old scholar who has deliberately and meticulously acquired nearly every book `of' magic and `about' magic in the Kingdom. Mr. Norrell, who at times seems to prefer the study of magic to its actual practice, decides that he is the man to bring magic back to England in the service of the crown, in order to defeat Napoleon. This glorious re-introduction leads to Mr. Norrell finding an apt pupil the one Jonathan Strange, and soon the two of them are changing the face of Europe (quite literally in some cases) with their skills. Unfortunately a wide variety of circumstances, events and characters (including a capricious fairy) threatens to tear apart their association, and perhaps all of English magic.

All in all, a good read, but a long one; you'll want to see what happens next. . .


Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
by Ian W. Toll
Edition: Hardcover
45 used & new from $5.38

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Origins of the US Navy, April 26, 2007
Six Frigates is a great read for anyone interested in naval history during the age of sail. Ian Toll does a very good job of detailing the political background and historical circumstances that led to the creation of the US Navy shortly after America's struggle to achieve sovereignty. I found the political landscape particularly interesting, as the infighting between nascent political parties ranged from agriculture to commerce, and how this affected the naval policy (and whether there even should BE a navy at all!).

It was very interesting to see how bureaucratic problems and commercial interests affected national policy. At time it is easy to lament about our nation's current standing with regards to these topics, however, Six Frigates gives an interesting perspective on how the past is not nearly as pristine and rosy as we'd like to imagine.

The chapters detailing specific naval military engagements are well written and I was never confused about the ships' relationship to each other throughout the battles. They are also as exciting as they are interesting. As I read this book shortly after returning from Iraq and spending the summer of 2006 driving around Baghdad concerned with the prospect of a molten copper disks being blasted through me and thinking "this is such a dirty war", I was again checked in my views on the past while reading about sailors who dealt with mind-boggling quantities of iron balls being blasted through their wooden ships. Another very interesting chapter dealt with a blockaded American port sending out mined boats in an attempt to destroy the vastly superior British naval force in what immediately brought my mind back to the game of cat/mouse with IEDs in Iraq. I guess one of the lessons I took away was: the past is not a pristine utopia & war has never been clean.

All these personal reflections aside, the history is well researched and documented, and will definitely keep your interest throughout. My one critique is that Toll neglects some of the land campaigns that continued in the Barbary States following the Navy's creation; although this is out of the scope of his history (and not just my Army bias), they seem so connected to the events that their inclusion would have made a great read into an excellent one.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 5, 2007 6:03 PM PDT


Captain Alatriste
Captain Alatriste
by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Edition: Paperback
47 used & new from $2.77

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swordplay, Adventure and Intrigue, April 18, 2007
This review is from: Captain Alatriste (Paperback)
Captain Alatriste is the opening chapter in a series of novels detailing the adventures of the book's namesake, a veteran soldier turned sword for hire. The story is narrated by Captain Alatriste's page, the son of a fallen comrade in one of Spain's many military campaigns. The narration gives the story some good texture, and comes across like you are listening to Inigo recall events long past their time. This is a good thing, because the story is so incredible that it is better as a remembered tale.

Perez-Reverte is an accomplished writer who knows how to keep a story moving, and most of the chapters end in a way that is hard to stop reading. Unfortunately the translation makes some of the prose seem a little off; it is hard to say why exactly (I don't speak a word of Spanish myself), I just feel like I am reading a translation- other books and novels I've read translations of haven't had this effect.

Nearly all the characters in the story are overflowing with personality; especially the villains. They are a cast of good and bad you will love to love & hate.

The setting is Spain of the 1600's, a fading world empire in the midst of the Inquisition and enthralled by its own past glories. The dark tones from the Inquisition add a great deal of atmosphere to the novel and the basics of Captain Alatriste's political setting are similar to character operating in Stalinist Russia, or Nazi Germany (read any books by Alan Furst for this brand of spy/adventure). These themes are tempered by the chivalry and splendor of the fading monarchy. All in all, an excellent setting that is not often touched by modern writers.

As for the action, you will be well rewarded for your time; the swordplay is generous and exciting.

[...].


Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat
Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat
by Richard H. Shultz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $43.55
96 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Operational Level Analysis of Traditional Cultures, March 30, 2007
Insurgents, Terrorists and Militias by Richard Shultz and Andrea Dew is a solid introductory text that aims to guide current Intelligence Analysts with a framework to assess current and potential adversaries to US Forces worldwide. The operational framework they propose is specifically designed to analyze unconventional and guerrilla forces rather than the traditional military assessments that were designed and created for use in a conventional war (with the Soviet Union). Six questions are used to create their framework:

1) What is their concept of warfare?

2) Organization and Command and Control?

3) What are the Areas of Operations?

4) What are the Types and Targets of Operations?

5) Constraints and Limitations to the use of force?

6) The influence of outside actors?

The authors then explore four historical and contemporary case studies on how this framework would have assisted policy makers. The case studies are Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq. Over all the best case study is Iraq, due to the level of detail that the authors give- they describe the different `types' of insurgency and their historical basis, which impressed me. The worst is Afghanistan, where too much history is given too little type, and in the end we are left without much substance on the current operating environment there. I found the Chechnyan and Somali studies interesting and relevant, and the bibliography provides a guide to further and more detailed reading.

Overall, a great deal of emphasis is placed on the tribe, clan and religious structure and history of the societies. This is a relevant and worthy addition that many intelligence professionals can benefit from. Because these features are defining aspects of traditional cultures, they should hold an equivalent status in our analysis of them.

My only disappointment stems from the fact that because of their operational focus, many intelligence professionals in fields `closer to the ground' will find that their ideas, while interesting and worth keeping in mind, are not extremely helpful to the tactical level of intelligence analysis. For instance, although they explain why a Former Regime Element in Iraq has different motives for fighting than an Islamist in Iraq, this is not much use to a smaller, more specific area than say, Baghdad. To the intelligence professional concerned with the Bay'a, Al-Amel or Saydiyah Muhallahs within Baghdad, the most useful questions revolve around types and emplacement techniques of IEDs, and how these may be related to the structure and orientation of a specific insurgent group or cell; how, when, and where, do sectarian groups operate . . . These questions are of the most immediate concern, and will likely have the most substantive effect once the answers are found.

That being said, this book was a very interesting read, and a valuable one.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 15, 2008 6:55 PM PDT


The Ruins
The Ruins
by Scott Smith
Edition: Hardcover
435 used & new from $0.01

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Ruins, July 30, 2006
This review is from: The Ruins (Hardcover)
Scott Smith has written a fast paced, worst-case scenario adventure vacation novel in "The Ruins". As you may have read, the story revolves around two couples and two strangers, one German and one Greek. The group is vacationing in Mexico, and learns that the German's brother has gone missing while leaving behind a map to the `ruins' he has decided to visit. So expecting a day trip and some excitement, the head out into a lesser traveled region of Mexico on their search/adventure.

It once they arrive at the `ruins' that their problems begin, and their survival becomes a question of time. Without giving away the few surprises that are in the novel, all I can say is that not all is what it seems, and they should have packed some weed-killer along with their bottles of tequila.

The story is not very endearing, and will probably only entertain you if you read it in the fast paced manner that the writing style encourages: no real chapter breaks, just segments written from one characters perspective or another. This drives the plot forward, and it is a good thing because otherwise you'd find yourself wondering what exactly the plot is about, and the answer is disappointingly little. However, Smith does craft his suspense well; it is the revealing of the evil presence that lets the story down. In the Ruins a monster in the shadow is definitely worth more than the monster revealed.

I have not read his `Simple Plan', which seems to have rave reviews, and although this second novel certainly doesn't impress me much, I'll give his first go around a shot; after all, maybe had some really good beginners luck.


The Reverse of the Medal (Vol. Book 11)  (Aubrey/Maturin Novels)
The Reverse of the Medal (Vol. Book 11) (Aubrey/Maturin Novels)
by Patrick O'Brian
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.13
279 used & new from $0.01

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turning Point in the Aubrey/Maturin Novels, July 14, 2006
For those who are new to Patrick O'Brian- stop reading this review now, it might spoil some aspects of earlier novels. This volume of the Aubrey/Maturin Series is most definitely not a `stand alone'. There are a few of the previous books that you might manage jumping into without reading earlier books, but to do so in this one would be a mistake. Try the first novel, "Master and Commander", and you'll be well rewarded for your efforts. All in good time. . .

In "The Reverse of the Medal" Patrick O'Brian takes us devotees of Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin back to England, as the H.M.S. Surprise returns from her long pursuit of an American frigate in the South Pacific. Following a brief interlude in the Caribbean, and a surprise from Jack Aubrey's past, the pages fly by the Surprise cruises on what may be her final chase through the Atlantic. In one of O'Brian's more bittersweet passages you will be thrilled by the naval maneuvering, but also saddened by the ship's impending doom: for the past two novels or so, the Surprise has avoided being sold out of the service by being sent to the South Pacific and now she is returning to that same fate- just a reminder for those who haven't read O'Brian in a while. Meanwhile Stephan Maturin is plagued by doubt and worries regarding his highly independent and volatile wife, Diana. For his intelligence activities in Malta have given rise to certain rumors that have traveled back to home, to the detriment of his domestic happiness. On top of this, Andrew Wray, the traitor who has been working against Maturin since "Treason's Harbour" and earlier, has been fanning the flames of Diana's anger in order to destroy Maturin.

The actual homecoming to England fascinated me more than usual this read around- in the past I just read through it, getting on to the more interesting sections of plot. However, now that I am personally on a military tour far from home and family, it amazes me how Aubrey and Maturin deal with their homecoming. Jack takes to hiding from his creditors in the Savoy, and continues to write letters to his wife. Stephen is dealt a shocking blow and manages it fairly well, although he relapses into the habit of laudanum. What would be considered a devastating homecoming by today's standards is to these men nothing out of the ordinary. It is just another facet of history and life during the early 1800's that O'Brian effortlessly brings to life- despite the fact that he is writing over 150 years after the fact.

What really stirs the plot for the series, however, is Jack Aubrey's usual ability to find trouble while ashore. This time the opportunity is provided to him at the hands of Wray and his sinister machinations. What seems an advantageous investment opportunity becomes a nightmare for Jack Aubrey, and results in a trial during which his name is smeared, he is financially fined and much worse. Jack Aubrey is dismissed from the service, and pilloried. This much you'll read from the back of the book, so nothing spoiled; but how these sections are written are absolutely some of O'Brian's best chapters. While Jack is being crushed under the legal landslide he can barely understand, Stephen comes to the fore- and as usual it involves his work in intelligence; this time arrayed to help his friend in need. I found Maturin's interactions with Joseph Blaine and the `thief-taker' they hire really developed the espionage aspect of the series. Blaine becomes a more fully developed character than the mysterious role he has taken in the past.

Not much more can be said without spoiling the excellent conclusion to the story, and I have no desire to do so. The final chapter will end and trust me, you will be immediately reaching for the next novel in the series, "The Letter of Marque".

You might also enjoy trying the novel "A Conspiracy of Paper" by David Liss if you like this novel a lot. It involves some similar topics: early stock trade and corruption, as well as the pratices of England's 'thief-takers'.


The Master of Rain
The Master of Rain
by Tom Bradby
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.60
161 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Mystery/Adventure to Pass Some Time, July 5, 2006
This review is from: The Master of Rain (Paperback)
In Tom Bradby's "The Master of Rain", detective Richard Field must struggle through the various dangers and pleasures of 1926 Shanghai, all while pursuing a deadly serial killer who specializes in sadistic murders of Russian women. Field, a Briton with family issues that drive him to this far outpost of the Empire, forges a friendship with an American colleague from Chicago, Anthony Caprisi. In the convoluted world of Shanghai's International Settlement, the city is jointly administered primarily by British, French and American governments; meanwhile, the great cultural and demographic pulse of China pushes in from all directions. Field works in the anti-communist portion of the police, while Caprisi is a street policeman specializing in crime. When a dead Russian suspected of prostitution turns up dead, and killed in a ritualistic manner, the two men are brought together; Field also meets a seductive and mysterious Russian woman and the catalyst for the book's main drama and mystery is ignited.

The novel's atmospherics work well, and Bradby exploits the interaction between a city on the brink of revolution and Field's own personal and professional crises well. Somehow he pulls off the romance between Natasha and Field in a way that works, and the internecine conflict within Shanghai's powers-that-be adds a new level of suspicion and tension. The dialogue is terse and blunt, and it comes off with a hard-hitting staccato that drives the chapters forward. These are the novel's best elements.

Throughout the story Field must continually reassess his naivety, and sometime about halfway through the book this begins to irritate. There are a few events that were written in to give some `hints' that pretty much give the story away; and you will find yourself wondering why detective Field doesn't put the pieces together more quickly. The tale takes up a life of its own- almost as if Brady is extending the mystery so that it will last long enough for the novel's other crises to come to fruition. I think Bradby's Film Noir writing style becomes somewhat forced at this point as well, and these constitutes the biggest critiques that I have for the novel, which is otherwise good.

Still, despite the story's flaws, it is an entertaining read- Bradby's writing will merit further attention in the future, especially as his style matures. For another author to recommend to those looking for more mystery/adventure/espionage thrills I will highly recommend Alan Furst's novels, beginning with "Night Soldiers".


Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5 (Episodes 11-20)
Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5 (Episodes 11-20)
DVD ~ Edward James Olmos
Offered by Outlet Promotions
Price: $19.85
147 used & new from $2.62

140 of 157 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Adventure Continues, July 3, 2006
For those already familiar to the series: This set of DVDs offers some decent bonuses- you'll find that it includes an expanded version of the midseason cliff-hanger "Resurrection Ship" with some deleted scenes incorporated into the show. I liked this a lot, because watching the deleted scenes seperately from the show/movie usually loses some of the impact of the scenes. This alone makes the two part season purchase worthwhile in my opinion. The other extra material is standard- commentary and making of features.

In the second half of Battlestar Galactica's second season, you will enjoy the resolution to the arrival of the Pegasus in the climax of "Resurrection Ship". The show also brings the resistance movement on Caprica into better focus, and makes the characters there more important to the overall story. One aspect of season two that I am not completely sold on at this point is the expansion of the Cylon's internal structure, as expressed in the Cylon war-hero story. I think I enjoyed the mystery and confusion behind their true motives. It would be a shame for the arch-villains to become predictable and stale.

For those already addicted to this show, 2.5 will satisfy you to a point, but I believe the finale will only be justified by where the show goes in season 3. Right now I am a little skeptical, and will even go so far as saying it approaches the hokey sci-fi clichés (granted, clichés that we all like to watch) that the show has so assiduously avoided so far. One thing the final episode will do is set up a whole new string of story possibilities in the coming season/seasons; it is such a crazy ender that I don't see how they can possibly resolve the issues in the first episode or even entire season 3. Maybe that's what the whole idea ultimately is about: creating more story possibilities. The final cliffhanger is not quite as emotional as the assassination at the end of season 1, but it will leave you wanting more.

If you happen to be a new to this sci-fi phenomenon, I highly recommend you first watch season 1. This series is not the typical sci-fi that is `plug and play' at any point in the series (ala most Trek series). If you jump in midstream, you'll probably find yourself asking "what the ____?" and "why do I care about this character?". This quality is one of the shows strong points, conflicts are not resolved every 50 minutes and tidily packaged so that the next episode will be back at square one. Like real life the problems and troubles often follow the characters through their journey. And I will add this - Battlestar Galactica manages to bridge the gap between `sci-fi' people and people who typically don't watch sci-fi. I can say this with nearly complete certainty. I am a sci-fi person in the military, and I have enjoyed spreading this show around- despite many initial and long term refusals. Right now the tide has turned and most of my fellow officers and many men in the battalion are hooked on the show. So give it a shot, you won't be disappointed.


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