Blogs of Geeks
A bit of thinky at the Geek.
About video games, literature and the idea of difficulty. Ask not what games can learn from the old media, but the old media can learn from games.
That’s right Vargas Llosa. Less magical realism. More orbital defence platforms.
Had a few o/s burgers and tweetenvolk ask me recently about the strangeness of a hot christmas. It’s just so alien to them they cant imagine it. Whereas we down here can easily imagine a cold christmas because our mass culture has taught us from the earliest days to think in those terms.
But we’re getting around to changing.
We had an extended fambly lunch today because so many uncles, aunts and cousins from jane’s side of the ledger are off to in-law conventions this year. And although we did all the present exchange and overeating and drinking (more on that in a second) we had seafood for lunch. Bugs, prawns and oysters. With a coupla salads. And they were teh AWSM.
I stayed off off the grog, unfortunately, having made a rash deal with the good lady wife that we’d have a dry run into Christmas. Although it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, watching others get their drink on. Meant I could stay awake to watch the cricket after lunch (and a test match on xmas day would be an excellent idea, I reckon), and I didnt roll roll home feeling like I might fall down and explode. Probably saved myself about 1000 calories too. Until I hopped into the fucking melted chocolate.
Anyway, a summer christmas. I thought we might enlighten our northern hemisphere friends as to what it’s all about.
Several new client versions were promoted to released status today, for a detailed list consult the list of client updates by release date. As always, updating to a more recent client release brings with it performance and usability improvements as well as bug fixes. Consult the most recent changelog for a list of the changes that have occurred. (Check the changelog included with each client for an exact list of changes included.)
For those who want to help with testing the latest and greatest, please peruse the list of prerelease clients available.
Thanks all for the contributions and happy holidays.
There’ll be an unscheduled Blunty today. I have decided to go war with Mr Bolt and his Horde.
My opening slavo is with the lawyers, awaiting their approval.
Should you wish to sharpen your reflexes for the main bout, you find the Bolter’s limp wristed shout out for me right here.
Hadn’t intended to do any more serious blogs this year.
But events off Christmas Island wrecked that good intention.
Chapter 14. Temporary white house
The Chinese ambassador had already left the office, escorted by the secret service, Kipper sat motionless at his desk deep in thought, Jed Culver his chief of staff, sitting on the sofa in front of the president’s desk was still furiously scribbling notes when the President spoke.
“Jed, is it just me, or did that exchange go as badly I as think it did’, Kip placed both hands palm down on the desk, arms fully extended, still his mind was furiously working over the meeting.
Jed Culver had been merely keeping himself busy, in the knowledge that the question was surely to come from his boss once he had mulled over the meeting.
“Kip, it pains me to say so….but yes!, pear shaped, ooops or dare I say it, foot in mouth, we might really have told him too much, and you have to admit, you really did belt him rather severely”.
Kipper held his hands up, “ Okay okay, I get your point Jed, but ….jesus, just who the fuck do they think they are”, Kippers temper bubbling to the surface once more, “I mean, ….yeah sure, we might not be the biggest kid on the block anymore, yes..we do owe them a fucking truckload of cash, but the game they are playing…it’s going to end badly I fear”.
Jed Culver merely nodded at his boss, knowing more was yet to come.
“Jed, the Australians, that’s our next call, we really do need to get those units stationed there back as soon as possible, how do you think the aussies will react to our other request?”.
The chief of staff, to the 44th President of the United states, leaned back, sinking deep into the sofa before answering the President.
“ Well Sir, it’s going to give their PM a belly ache, I mean their Parliament will eat him alive, but you know Kip, he will honour your request if he can, the question is, just what they can send, the timing is going to be the hard part, that’s General Murphy’s job and Franks to Sir. Nearest i can figure we might have a window of maybe two months in which to conduct the operation, If the Australians start to see signs of their northern neighbours getting frisky, then all bets are off, they will want them troops home in a heartbeat”.
Jed could see that Kip had relaxed somewhat, now sitting back in his chair analysing the discussion, he pushed on.
“Your plan for re-colonisation up the east coast has merits; it’s just that our combat power is nowhere near what it was”,
Kip could see that his chief of staff was really uncomfortable and heading out on a limb.
“Keep going Jed, I need your opinion on this, it’s important…please”, said the president.
Well, we know, Blackstone’s got fingers in some of this and the fact remains he has a significant amount of combat power down there, the snakes head has to come off, but maintaining the pressure on the east coast, those strategic sites you designated, colonisation duties and just normally security has stretched us to breaking point”.
Now we have the better part of a combined brigade in Australia, granted, its a mixture of Marines, Army and what not, but it’s still a heavy brigade attached to the Australians….and they knew we would want them back at some stage”.
Kipper nodded, “ keep going, how goods the Brigade Jed”.
‘well, its a Brigade in strength only as far as I know, its heavy in…..”, Jed flicked over some pages in his note book.
“ ahh yes, heavy in mechanised infantry, we have plenty of tanks, just not crews for them and there the Australians have been helping us with training, but its got its own artillery and support elements as well. The infantry side of the equation is mainly US Army, some Rangers as well, plus fixed wing elements, mainly Apaches and the likes, so far its split up fairly well, scattered across bases on the top end of Australia and we also have a marine battalion based in Singapore as well”.
Jed looked straight at the President, “ and you know we cannot recall that unit Sir”.
Kipper nodded, even as his face furrowed some, “ yes, that’s not negotiable that one, So what do we have on the Australians.
Jed flipped another page,
“ The Australians now have 5 full combat Brigades Sir, this info is current from General Franks too, I might add, they have enough equipment over there from us and the Brits, to easily equip another two full Brigades, heavy armour brigades, it’s what we stock piled after the withdrawal from the Mid East and as part of the Vancouver agreement. Jed was starting to get animated, clearly into the briefing though Kipper.
Jed continued, “most of its undercover in storage, the aircraft are all being maintained as well, and that’s not counting either, the Navy assets we have traded them or aircraft as well, plus those in storage too, it’s certainly jump started their military acquisition program for a fraction of the cost they had planned”.
‘As you will probably know, their mechanised infantry were mainly truck mobile units post the wave Sir, and due to our negotiations they are almost all fully mechanised in the armour sense, so if we can borrow one or two even of their Brigades, it will make the operation that much easier, but how much do you want to pay, it’s not like we will get them for free now is it Sir”.
President Kipper didn’t look all that worried Jed thought, “What are you not telling me Mr President”, said Jed, using Kip’s full title to get his attention.
Animated now, Kipper leaned back in the chair. “ Jed, I may be new to this gig, I might be prone to losing my fucking temper on occasion, but I think I have a good handle on our Aussie friends, their PM, hell, that whole country has a sense of honour, just take a look at what they did post the wave”.
Jed culver raised both hands in mock surrender, he knew just as well as the President what the Australians had done, more in fact than most any other country, ‘but not without it’s costs’ thought Jed.
The President spoke up again, “ Jed, we might have traded them some assets, but at the end of the day, we could not sustain that equipment, the storage, accepting all those units initially from the gulf”, the President raised his hand, “hell, the loans and support from them, it’s not like they have the biggest economy, certainly not when the shit storm descended upon us, and the Brits know they have a bloody debt with their”, Kipper stopped, his mind searching for a word he had heard used numerous times, “ as yes, convict brethren”, that elicited a laugh from Jed, the tension evaporating instantly from the room.
“ and now, more so than ever Jed, we will need their help, Australia’s a stable operating base, they have resources and the ramping up of their agri sector has saved our arses, theirs too I might add, but fuck me, Howard showed balls, not liked by all and the first PM in Australia to have a serious fucking attempt on his life, the man might not get it right all the time, but by god….he will make a fucking decision and stick too it, ya gotta admire that!”.
Both Jed and kipper sat motionless in the room for almost a full 60 seconds, both deep in thought, clearly the two were reflecting on the previous years, post the wave receding, loves ones lost and the trials that had followed, it was President Kipper who spoke first.
“I guess we cannot leave the Brits out either, they are a party to this whole shindig”, kipper using one of the sayings picked up from his numerous discussions with the Australian prime Minister.
“we owe them almost as much monetarily as the Aussies, I must speak with Tommy, we need to know just what the Brits can contribute.. assuming he has not already done so”. Then as an afterthought, “ And what they think’s fucking going on in wider world as well, I’ll be fucked if we shall be screwed over by these Faydeen fucking muppets and whoever else is supporting them”.
Jed simply sat motionless opposite kip, their informal discussions quite often ran this course, more often than not, yielding some small nugget between the pair of them.
It was Jed Culver who broke their collective Silence, Standing upright from the sofa, he stretched not unlike a cat as he worked the various muscle groups, the difference being his series of groans as each muscle group stretched, “Jesus, old fucking age, its catching up fast” he said as he looked over at kipper.
Kip was smiling at his friends obvious discomfort, “ good thing I need you here and not clearing bloody rubble and broken down cars, I guess, how do you think our young lass is feeling at the moment, she got out of New York by the skin of her teeth by all accounts, those 52’s levelled the joint”.
Jed culver sat back down into the sofa with a very distinctive plop, “ well, she is certainly a very different piece of work, you looked at your schedule for tomorrow yet”, asked Jed smoothly changing gears, but already knowing the answer.
The President shook his head emphatically, “Nup, and sure as hell Janet will kick my arse in the morning, I haven’t even read the briefing notes yet for the meetings”, said the president finishing off by rolling his eyes.
“Better that she kicks your arse Sir”, Jed’s finger was pointed straight at his boss, “than mine” he said with a small chuckle.
Chapter 15: AWACS Call sign Eightball, over the East coast.
The flight of F16CG’s were now passing through Mach 1 in full after burner climbing almost ballisticly towards 50,000 feet as the flight Leader Hawk 1 sought to gain the altitude advantage on the closing group of M29’s, when Major Mick hawks head set came to life again, “ Hawk one this is eight Ball”, called the air intercept officer on board the AWAC’s.
Mick thought the controller sounded a little excited, ‘must be the intercept’ thought Mick’, as the controller came back up on the net, “ Hawk 1 be advised, Bandits have broken through Mach 2 and climbing, bearing is direct for Eight ball, be advised we are now shifting orbit south”.
‘Shit’ Mick thought, ‘there’re after the AWAC’s”, Mick already knew just how precious the E3 sentry AWAC’s were, currently the USAF had only 6 in service across the whole of the United States, with a few more elsewhere across the planet, operationally, the loss of even one would be significant.
“Copy that eight ball, Give me a direct intercept Vector”, Mick called.
“affirmative hawk one, Bandits now at Angels 30, Mach 2.1, slide right to heading 340 you are weapons free, repeat weapons free Hawk one, Spalsh’em”.
“Jesus, he’s getting a might wound up”, Mick said to nobody in particular before switching his Mick to VOX, “Hawk 1 to Chicks, still outside weapons range, lets light’em up and see what happens”.
Mick was counting on the approaching Mig 29’s not knowing they were out of AMRAAM’s, hoping they might break off the engagement or at least stopping to engage his flight, in which case regardless of the outcome the AWAC’s would be safe.
Hawk 1 flipped his radar to active, now with his flight at 50,000 feet, he pulled the throttles back out of burner and pushed the nose over, hawk 1 to chicks, weapons free, follow me down, we’ll blow thru on the first pass and then re engage, Chicks 3 and 4, take heading 385 and descent level, Mayhem, I want you pair interposed with the AWAC’s and the Mig’s in case they blow through us”.
Chick 3, Trish, call sign ‘Mayhem’ simply clicked her mike, along with her wingman, Hawk 1 watched as they both popped their airbrakes and snap rolled their birds hard right across the top his now depleted flight, which were descending supersonically towards the attacking aircraft.
Hawk 1 did another cockpit check scanning quickly all his instruments, Mick had just finished his check when his threat warning receiver came to life, “ Shit!, Hawk 1 to chicks, be advised we have SAM radar at our 4 o’clock, puters designated it as Patriot Bock 3, its on the centre ship, were outside it effective range still”.
‘Oh this just gets better and fucking better’ though Mick, “ Eight ball this is Hawk 1, how copy SAM radar in the surface fleet over”
Hawk 1, this is Eight ball, we have you SAM unit, be advised Bandits are now at 150 miles from Eight Ball, if the break 100 we’re shutting down Hawk 1, how copy?”.
Mick had known from past operations and a brief training stint on board an E3 in Japan that once Bandits broke the 100 mile designated buffer zone for any AWAC’s aircraft their procedures required them to cease all transmission and head for the deck, directly away from the incoming threat, problem was, E3’s or the slower E2 Hawkeyes operating of the carriers were slow. Any bandit inside 100 miles had a better than even money chance of splashing the AWAC’s unless it had close attending Escort birds.. Which this one didn’t.
“ Copy you Last Eight ball, we’ll get’em for ya”
‘You better ‘, thought the air intercept officer on board the AWAC’s, ‘or we are all fucked’ he thought to himself.
The radar on Hawk 1’s F16CG already had the Bandits, clear blips on his LCD screen in the cockpit, now at 100 miles range as they slipped through some wispy clouds on their attack descent. Mick quickly looked at his airspeed, Mach 1.7, as the blasted towards the ocean, none of hawk flight could yet make out the bandits, at 100 miles range they were simply too far away, “Hawk 1 to Chicks, lets lock’em up, they don’t know we’re out of slammers yet”, leaning forward slightly Mick shifted his rump in his seat, then toggled his radar from scan to attack on this joystick. ‘ Lets see how ya feel about being fucking locked up’, Mick thought activating his attack radar as he did so.
The results were almost instant Mick could see on the radar” hawk 1 to Chicks, getting some jamming and junking by the looks of it, once you have lock let’em have it, then break right I want to stay in front of the bandits and close on any leakers from their flanks for guns”.
Another series of clicks acknowledging his orders came back over Micks head set.
“hawk 1, this is eight Ball, be advised, Hawk 3 element has turned, they’re now between us and the bandits, going dark now, bandits are at 110 miles, good hunting Hawk flight”, with that, Micks threat warning receiver noted that the AWAC’s had ceased transmission, no doubt heading for the deck of the Atlantic ocean as fast as the E3’s big engines would carry it.
The radar was still holding lock, the jammers that the Mig 29’s or whatever they were, were using were frequency agile, jumping to a new frequency each time the radars from Hawk flight hoped to their own new one and locked them up. ‘good’ Mick though, ‘at leats they are not current generation jammers’, that would have meant his radar would have to burn through the jamming, something only possible as they got closer and the radar signals strength was sufficient to crash through the jamming and get a good return.
Mick checked his radar, noting the ranges, the Mig’s were now into 70 miles and rapidly closing, the distance to the AWAC’s had to be under 80 Miles now and they sure as hell would be getting nervous thought Mick. Hawk 1’s decision to close on the slight angle would prove to be advantageous, assuming they reached the Migs before any missiles were shot at the AWAC’s, 70 Miles was the magical point for the bandits if they were carrying SARH missiles, semi active Radar homing birds would most likely be the what they had, later version had a range of 130 kilometres. ‘Gotta be AA-10 ALAMO units, early jobs,…range…yeah, range 70 kilometres under optimal conditions’ Mick noted. The dragging of the data from the depths of his brain had taken some effort, in doing so he failed to notice the two new blips which had appeared on his screen closer to the bandits, it was only the threat warning receiver coming to life that snapped Mick back to the immediate presence.
“Missile Missile Missile”, The computerised launch detection system had received notification of a missile launch, Mick toggled the acknowledgement key and the screaming in his ear ceased then looked down at the radar screen, his stomach turned turning to a ball of ice
“Hawk 3 fox 2, fox 2”, mayhem called as her and her wingman chick 4 both released 2 sidewinders at the approaching Mig’s head on.
Inside the cockpit of Hawk 1 the atmosphere was electric and loud, Mick was chastising himself with a string of expletives for having lost control of the tactical situation, “ fuck, Hawk 1 to chicks, got to burner..NOW!”, Mick shoved the throttles of his viper to the stops, the F16 leaping forward like a spurred horse as raw fuel was dumped into the system, quickly now the airspeed indicator whirred, accelerating passed Mach 1, then 1.5 before Mick settle his bird and the balance of Hawk 1 flight at mach 1.7.
The distance from Hawk 1 to the Mig 29’s had now dropped to 30 miles, still well outside the max 12 mile range of the sidewinders, Mick had initially hoped the locking up of the bandits with their attack radars would break up the formation, but they were hell bent on nailing the AWAC’s.
Now, playing out before him in front of his eyes, his second in command and her wingman had closed to knife fighting range of the bandits and loosened off their own side winders at the attacking formation of Mig 29’s.
Mick altered the scan range of his APG 68 radar, their models having the block 9 version with greater scan range which Mick was happy for, the upgrade only having been completed two weeks ago by some Westinghouse tech who had managed not to get zapped by the wave, “…Ahh, bingo”, Mick noted that the AWAC’s was now at 1000ft and just on 65 miles from the Mig’s, Flight 2 of HAWK flight was now in a fur ball with the Mig’s, but two elements had blown through and started to accelerate again for the AWAC’s, mayhems attack having only downed two of the 9 bandits, three were still in the fur ball with Mayhem and her wingman, the remaining two boring in on the AWAC, ‘this is not good’ thought Mick.
“Chicks 2 and 5, this is 1, turn to intercept the two leakers, go!”, Mick watched as both his remaining birds of Hawk 1 peeled off to his right, after burners snapping on again as the vipers lanced out towards their prey, now homing in on the defenceless Eight Ball, still lumbering away from the chaotic scene as fast as the converted airliners turbo fans would carry it.
“ Eight Ball this is Hawk 1, be advised we have two leakers closing on you range 60 miles, recommend ECM, two chicks in pursuit of bandits…hang tuff Eight Ball”, Mick added as an afterthought.
The voice was calm, Mick felt sure he would have been hysterical himself, blundering along in what was really a big arse passenger plane with a rotating dome on top, two high performance fighters with blood in the eyes of the pilots out for your arse’.
“Eight Ball copies hawk 1, Gett’em for us Sir” the controller said, Mick thought he could hear a faint resignation tone on the intercept controller’s voice.
Neither Hawk 2 or hawk 5 having departed from Micks wing were yet in range of the two Mig 29’s in pursuit of the AWAC’s, the distance was now down to 20 miles as both the vipers were at Mach 2.
‘hmm’ thought Mick, ‘they must be pretty heavy with ordinance, both the Mig’s were at mach 1.2 and that bird was certainly capable of Mach 2 plus, but in a really clean configuration’.
Mick brought his focus back to the presence, looming large he could see the twisting and turning dog fight in front of him and the various calls as mayhem and her wingman twisted and turned, high G’s and velocity laden rolls taking place whilst doing battle with the three Mig’s, it was a matter of time Mick thought, before their extra number paid off, then his head set started growling, Mick checked his IFF “ hawk 1 to chicks, check IFF”, Mick called, worried about sending a winder into the side of one of his wingman.
Mick pulled the throttles back and popped his air brakes, feeling the bird instantly loose speed, retracting the airbrake on the dorsal spin he rolled inverted, yanking back onto the stick he dropped into the maelstrom of jets twisting and turning, punctuated by cannon fire at random intervals as each side tried to line up its adversary for the killing shot.
Mayhem was in the fight of her life, the three Mig’s that had stayed and mixed it up with her and her wingman had split, one taking on chick 2, the other two engaging her, she was purely defensive at the moment and not liking it at all. “Fuck this for a bowl of gold fish, Hawk 1, you in?”, she called, knowing that at any point Mick would be in the fight and most likely to lend her assistance with two Mig’s on her arse.
“Negative”, called hawk 1, engaging a bandit on chick 2, hang in their Mayhem”, Mick said amongst the grunting of g forces as he followed the mig through a barrel roll, then pushing over as the Mig headed for the Deck, trying to build up speed.
Mayhem spat the dummy inside chick 3, “ Fuck Fuck Fuck!”, she quickly stole a glance at the two Mig’s now filling her rear view mirror at the front of her plexiglass canopy, the lead Mig opened up again, tracers whizzing passed her left wingtip as she popped her central airbrake whilst at the same time chopping her throttle .
Both the Migs behind her were slow to see the central Air brake snap up on mayhems F16 as she was in the throes of doing a left roll, the sudden loss of speed caught both Mig’s by surprise, the lead one snapping off a quick 50 rounds burst as they both broke left and right before the crashed unceremoniously into the rear of the Falcon, their faces white with horror at cheating death once again.
Mayhems manoeuvre had been desperate, but the lead Mig’s snap shot had been close enough, a brilliant line of red tracer flicked passed the canopy of chick 3 initially, but as her roll carried her left, she flew through the stream of 20mm high explosive cannon shell, the line walking along the leading edge of the wing root, up into the fuselage behind the main canopy and out the right hand side.
Well, I suppose for those of you not in the breeding years, that’s not really relevant. Unless you’re Quokka and the next six weeks are all about running up and down your font path with a wicker broom swatting vile little urchins out of your strawberry patch.
For Mr. Orin and myself of course it means trying to find time in the kid wrangling schedule to do some deadline wrangling as well. I understand my more technically minded colleague likes to get up with the sun and squeeze eight or 9000 words in before breakfast. I don’t much like getting up with the sun, but with a couple of, ugh, morning people in the house there’s not much choice. I tend to use that first hour or so to get a bit of cardio in, however. So my longform writing gets done during movie times and at night.
The days aren’t a complete write-off, though. I can often find 10 or 15 minutes here and there to get some annoying little writing or admin job knocked over. Or a blog entry written, like this one. Which is being composed on my phone, using the new Dragon dictation app I downloaded the other day.
Initial thoughts? It’s actually pretty useful for short, simple stuff like this. Better than I thought it would be, in fact. Given the right conditions–that is, a bit of shush–it seems to be just as accurate as my desktop version. It really does like quiet, however. Noisy cafés, not so much. It doesn’t have as many of the features as the grown-up version, and I’ve found myself occasionally caught out trying to do something completely beyond its limited abilities. The major constraint on using it is that most of the processing takes place in the cloud. If you don’t have a WiFi or 3G connection forget about using this app. That has been the most significant drawback so far.
Having said that, it’s free. For somebody like me who often finds himself trying to compose a short piece of writing, particularly on a phone with a very cramped keyboard, a free dictation app is a sweet bit of gear. I’m also aware, however, that I’ve now been using Dragon in the form of MacSpeech Dictate for well over a year and I wonder whether that means I’ve been able to adjust to the needs of the mobile version with less faffing around than would otherwise be the case.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts on the issue.
Time to go do some more kid wrangling.
Got a small rant planned for Thursday, but after that it’s all faff until Xmas.
Today, however, we’re getting a little post graduate with a bit of ponderin’ on the nature of power, autonomy and information.