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Archive for February, 2008

Titan Quest

After playing for quite some time I was able to finish the main part of Titan Quest (without the expansion pack Immortal Throne). As a long time fan of Action Roleplaying Games like Diablo I greatly enjoyed the brilliant animations and the captive atmosphere. Many tales from the Greek mythology can be listened to, which provides a deep look at the world of gods, titans and heroes.

At the end I was happy that it was over. Slowly the playing style wears out and becomes too repetitive. There are some good challenges near the end (especially the final boss fight) and the motivation is kept up by the usual item hunt but still, it was enough for me and I am not so sure if I will visit Hades in the expansion pack. (I probably will.)

There are games like my old time favourites Ultima Underworld, Baldur’s Gate or Diablo that keeps you going for hours. You do not even consider to stop playing and only a shocked look at the clock brings you back into the real world. This is not the case with Titan Quest. 2-3 hours are enough and then one will need a break – which made it perfect for me because I simply couldn’t afford more time anyway.  🙂

So what comes next?  I think I won’t spend much time in the next weeks on a game. If I do it will be something that can be played on the Pocket PC. Sitting in front of the computer is a very anti-social activity, not to mention that my wife needs the computer as well.

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Lost in translation – finally an end.

Following up on my previous post I have finally made a decision.

First of all, the comparison of the different bible versions has distracted me from my original goal – to read the bible – and has started to annoy me. I decided to read the bible not only once but at least twice. This makes it easy now to pick a version that feels comfortable and later go back to a more serious study. My choice is the English Standard Version (ESV) with the MKJV in the backhand. Other versions that I have considered:

  • MKJV – very close to the King James version, modern update, nice Victorian style but sometimes hard to read and to understand. It’s not available in print and it’s almost unknown. In my humble opinion the quality is very good and I refer to it often when I want to compare the ESV with a King James version.
  • LITV – too literal (the MKJV would be the better choice for me), needs more study effort from the reader to interpret the contents. Hard to read.
  • VW – even more literal, uses e.g. Gehenna instead of hell. Forces the reader to use a bible dictionary.
  • Holman (HCSB) – looks like a good translation but the wording is sometimes not what I would expect
  • ISV – reads fluently but sometimes doesn’t feel right, maybe too modern for me.

As mentioned in another post, I have started with the New Testament and I have now almost completed Luke. It’s interesting to find the well-known parables here and to see the context. I am a little bit surprised by the harsh words that are used for non-believers. It makes perfectly sense though. Only when you believe and have absolute faith in God you can gain the fruits of heaven. Jesus knows that this is difficult so he himself gives one example after the other of what can be archieved by having faith. Nevertheless, heaven is not for everyone…

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Voice in the Wilderness (VW)

After doing some more searching with Google regarding the different Bible versions available, I stumbled upon two things.

1) There is a successor to the MKJV I am currently reading which is the LITV by the same author (Jay P. Green).

2) Voice of the Wilderness has published the VW edition combining the best from the NKJV, MKJV and LITV. Read more on their website. I have downloaded the e-Sword module and will compare it. If it indeed turns out to be superior, I will continue using it for future study. Electronic editions can be switched easily but I would have to decide for a hardcopy, it probably will take months to come to a final conclusion.

The good thing about Pocket e-Sword is that it lets you compare different versions very easily. One quickly notices the different words used for the translation. Sometimes whole passages are simply missing which really makes me wonder…  The commentaries (Barnes; Henry; JFB) provide additional help and tell you something about the historical background or the root of Greek and Hebrew words.

In case you are wondering why I care so much about the different bible versions: I like languages and have learnt 3 (beside my native German it’s Russian, English and French – no Greek or Hebrew, sorry!). I understand the difficulties and challenges and I want to make sure that what I read hasn’t been manipulated by using certain words and omitting contents (easily possible if you don’t have access to the original text). Bad craft is another issue but I cannot judge it. I even doubt that the minor (or major) changes have an impact on my personal opinion, they are more of theological interest, aren’t they?!?!

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Reading the bible – but which one?

For the new year 2008 I have one goal: I want to read the Holy Scripture. I don’t consider myself a Christian but I want to understand why so many people believe in God and which values they praise. As usual it’s easy to fall into the trap that one already knows everything. The Christian religion is part of our life and the pope is very popular. My son goes into the kindergarten of the Don Bosco sisters. From time to time the children help preparing the worship and the parents swarm into the church. I always feel misplaced there among the other believers. The least thing I can do is to make the connection by reading the Scripture so here we go.

Before I could start I had to obtain a copy first. Fortunately a remarkable piece of software exists that makes studying the bible on the Pocket PC a pleasure: e-Sword. Many free bibles are available and tried first the ones in my native language, which is German if you haven’t guessed it already. The most known version is the one from Luther, it’s supposed to be close to the original but I found it hard to read. When I announced to my friends that I am going to read the bible, they smiled at me and asked if I was serious about that. Looking at the old fashioned words and grammar that Luther uses (no wonder, it was written 1545 and only slightly revised in the coming centuries) it was clear that I won’t use it. The Elberfelder version is a little bit easier to read and the Schlachter bible looks even more modern but still, I wasn’t convinced. There is the EinheitsĂĽbersetzung which is very modern and easy to access – quite a pleasure to read – but it seems to omit words. Not good.

More free versions are available in English, the most famous among them is the King James Version. The story of its creation is very exciting and convincing. I compared it with some others and finally choose the Modern King James Version (MKJV). It looks close to the original and the changes make sense (I have both versions on my Pocket PC and can compare them easily).

I was surprised that a movement like King James Only exists that accurately points out the differences to other, modern bible versions. You can look at this webpage as a starting point. If I would have grown up with a bible and used it throughout my life it would have been much easier. Finally I decided to stick to the MKJV and I think this was a good decision. The main objection was that the so-called modern versions rely on an old manuscript that was found in Alexandria. It belongs to the two oldest versions and researchers believe that it’s more trustworthy than the copies that have been moved through time and might have been changed by the person who has created the copy. I cannot comment on this but I trust the effort and dedication of the translators hired by King James and starting with this version can’t be wrong.

I have started with the New Testament, which is supposed to be more relevant for today’s life. It looks like I can make it this year. Bear with me.

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Improving in chess (1)

When I was a junior I loved playing chess. I played many games against my friends (one was even member of a chess club) and I often picked up bad positions from other fellows and turned them into victories. This tells you something about our overall level. 🙂 I was proud owner of a Mephisto Mini computer, which was terrible at lower levels but still was much fun to play with (who doesn’t love to smash his opponent). Later I bought some books to improve my chess but haven’t looked much into them.

Then I got my Pocket PC and purchased Pocket Fritz. What an experience, even on easy levels I had almost no chance. My pride was hit and I started to study chess more seriously. This raised the first question: how do you improve your chess if you have no human partners or coaches around? Would it be enough to use a computer program and good books to make progress? For me the obvious answer was yes, it can be done, so I grabbed a copy of Jerry Silman’s How to Reassess your chess and began. The ideas presented their were pretty good but still I had trouble fighting Pocket Fritz (you remember, the reason why I wanted to improve my chess). My understanding of good and bad bishops got better. Finding the right moves on the board didn’t turn out to be that simple though. To read about the different concepts (Space, initiative, …) is one thing, to realize them is something different. Too quickly I got lost in the openings so that I had no chance to try out my newly obtained knowledge. I decided to look at chess openings first and tried to memorize important lines. Avoiding wrong moves in the beginning must be good, doesn’t it? It doesn’t, at least for me as a beginner. With a fulltime job and a small baby to take care of you simply do not have much energy left at the end of the day. So what shall I do? Give up?

No. I knew that I had to change my methodology somehow. In the internet many coaches give the advise to study tactics and endgames first and a good books seemed to be 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations by Fred Reinfeld. What a book! No explanations but many, many puzzles with tactical motives that the reader must find. After solving ~100 of them I was exhausted. It felt good to know more about chess but it didn’t show in the games yet. At the same time, Convekta released their famous CT-ART 3.0 (here is a good review of the PC version on Chessville) for the Pocket PC and I quickly jumped on the train. A computer has many advantages. It can visualize the ideas much better and lead you to the solution step by step. I found this the perfect tool for my studies and am now actively using it to improve my tactics. In parallel I am selecting some openings that fit my playing style. Coaches recommend that beginners should play Gambits first to sharpen their skills. Let’s see what they can do for me.

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Blogging again

After several attempts to start a blog, I will try a last time. Blogging may or may not the right format for me but setting up websites for everything I find interesting isn’t the smartest idea neither. So lets start again, with fresh ideas and high motivation.

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