Friday, August 7, 2009

Team Fortress Unlock Ideas

Too much politics! It's game time!

As I noted in the Pyro entry down below, Valve adds special weapons for characters when it gives a big update to TF2. These special weapons are geared towards a particular playstyle, and have advantages that endear it to that role and weaknesses that make it unpalatable to other players with the same class, different role.

With that in mind, here's some ideas for classes that Valve hasn't updated yet.

Rocket-propelled Rocket: For the Soldier

Normally a Soldier carries a four-shot rocket launcher (4 loaded, 20 reserve) designed to engage groups of enemies with splash damage at short to medium range. The rockets are slow-travelling, limiting their use at longer ranges.

The Rocket-Propelled Rocket is designed slightly differently. It's a much larger, much faster moving rocket that does more damage and has a greater area of effect than the normal rockets. Downside? You only get one shot before you need to reload, and the animation is significantly longer than reloading normal rockets. I'm thinking 1 loaded, 10 reserve, but that's subject to balance issues.

So if the RPR carrying soldier is engaged at close range by a normal soldier, the normal one would probably win. If the RPR soldier catches the normal soldier with his buddies off guard, he can fire his rocket to massively weaken or kill a large group of targets.

Semi-Automated Pistol: For the Engineer

The most common tactic for Engineers in Team Fortress 2 is simple--hide behind your sentry nest. If the sentry nest refuses to take something out, like a disguised spy, the Engineer can engage with his shotgun at close range or with his pistol (12 loaded, 200(!) reserve) at longer ranges.

The Semi-Automated Pistol (I'm thinking 12 loaded, 120 reserve) is designed to encourage the nesting habit. At any time, the engineer can set it down; it will quickly restructure itself into a level 1 Sentry gun. He can use this in addition to his normal sentry to cover a larger area, or use this new sentry to cover his back. He can repair and reload it like his normal sentry (hit it with his wrench), but he cannot upgrade it.

Should the Semi-Automated Pistol be destroyed as a sentry, that's it; the Engineer cannot reacquire it until he dies and respawns. Further, the pistol-to-sentry transition is one-way; he cannot recover the pistol, leaving him only his shotgun to engage targets not covered by his sentry.

Team Fortress 2 players, what do you think?

If You Get Something "Fishy"...

...pass it on to the government?!

Wait wait wait what? If people are spreading "disinformation" "just below the surface" about Obama's health care proposals, I'm supposed to...send an email to the government ( Effectively turn them in? Uwah?

Okay, how do we define "disinformation"? And what would the guys on the other end do with the tips?

If this email came out five years ago encouraging people who heard or read others with "disinformation" about Iraq to send emails to the White House, it'd be called Orwellian and fascist, and rightly so. So...what do we call this?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

If You Can't Let Go of the Cold War

Here's a site you'll like:

It's scans of an old book: "Red Primer for Children and Diplomats", by Hungarian Victor Vashi, from 1967. Take a little easy-to-digest history of the way-back-when.

Socrates in Error?!

Anybody out there read Plato's Crito? You know, the one where Socrates is in prison about to be executed, and his friend Crito comes to spirit him out, and Socrates refuses and turns his reasoning into his last lesson? Crito pretty much sits and listens like a good student, but I had to read it for college and I believe Socrates' primary argument is flawed.

This is why: reading the dialogue, it becomes obvious that Socrates doesn't trust the people, the masses, whatever you want to call them, on questions of moral judgement. That honor belongs to the elect few; in Socrates' eyes, those few include those blameless and moral arbiters of law, the state. In order for Socrates' claims that he is obligated to remain in prison to hold true, then, the government, laws, state, whatever, must be morally just and above reproach.

But Socrates is an Athenian. He lives in a city-state where the government is elected by its people, and its laws must be judged appropriate by members of the masses (by jury, by vote, etc.), the very same people Socrates says cannot be trusted on questions of justice and morality!

"No matter how the rather nebulous term “state” is defined, extrapolating Socrates’ lines of argument always leads to an inconsistency—the state is either the legalistic arm of the many or so close to the many as to be indistinguishable, and Socrates cannot praise the former as the highest arbiter of justice while condemning the latter as an unruly mob." (Blatant copy-pasta from a paper I had to write on the subject).

(And here's another one, positing a potential counter-argument from Crito:)"“Socrates, you say that the many should not be trusted on matters of justice or injustice. Why, then, do you so love the state, which is nothing but a natural extension, here in Athens at least, of that many? On my side are the many, who say that you should be released, whom you disdain. On yours is the many, in the form of the government, who say that you should stay and die, whom you embrace. By staying, Socrates, you do not resolve your own ethical dilemma satisfactorily or avoid hypocrisy, not in a manner consistent with your own moral philosophy. By staying, you in fact say, ‘…although my philosophy does not turn to the many on questions of justice, it is, in the end, subject to the justice of the many, in the form of their proxy, the state and its laws and punishments, however arbitrary or contaminated by mob tendencies they may be.’”"

Socrates may have been right to choose to remain in prison, but to frame the question as one of justice, morality and metaphysics (rather than the somewhat humbler choice of an old man) introduces its own contradiction. That, or Plato was in error when describing what his teacher would have said in such an incident.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I want a car.

My parents drive three vehicles. Dad drives an office car (that apparently runs on ethanol) to work. It's Caltrans' car, so no joy there. Mom drives a Toyota to work. That's the car I learned to drive in, but it's being used most of the time and I can't take it back with me to Harvey Mudd. The third is a Acura SUV, but that's waaaay too big for me.

I want a car, not a thingy with six CDs, heated seats, mud-flaps, etc., etc. I want something with decent miles per gallon, plenty of safety features and damage resistance, easy handling so I don't put it into a streetlight, and not too many special features so I don't mess up at the controls (radio, A/C, power windows are fine; integral DVD player and reverse camera are not).

Cars for Clunkers doesn't work for me--even if I had another car to trade in and the thing isn't cancelled by the time I head for the dealer, most of the cars on the "allowed to buy" list are cutting edge 2009/2010 models, including luxury affairs like BMWs and Priuses and Audis.

In fact, it probably works against me, since the traded-in-cars have their engines annihilated by replacing the oil with a corrosive agent (sodium silicate, I believe), and running the engine, thus removing the trade-ins from the used car pool and driving up the price for guys with no money like me.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vaguely Related to the Mythos

The Macedonian Phalanx was one of the most frightening and effective tactics of the Hellenic and Hellenistic ages. Men packed tightly into long rectangles, each carrying a fifteen foot spear and decked in breastplates, helmets, and shields, must have been an impressive sight for those poor Persian light infantrymen called to engage them. Their primary defense was not their armor but their spears, held out in front of them--any infantry or cavalry attempting a charge would have to break through the first five rows of spearheads to get to the first line.

Cluster munitions dropped lengthwise across the line prove remarkably effective.

(What does this have to do with the mythos? One of the primary points of action in the stories that buzz in my head involve ancient, elder and out-and-out eldritch magicks with more-or-less outdated actual tactics [imagine the phalanx above, but with alternating spear lines replaced by dedicated fire mages, and the individual spearmen superheating the tips of their spears with their fingers] fighting a modern military with modern tactics [air strikes, etc.]. This was just a joke along those lines.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

12/21/2012: It's a Disaster!

The official trailer for Ronald Emmerich's (of "Independence Day" fame) "2012":

And this parody by Garrison Dean:

Which movie would you rather watch?