Saturday, May 30, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Lost Opportunities

Major Egon Fisching read the crumpled order in his hand for the third time.  There was no loophole, he and his men were to counter attack towards St Mere Eglise and drive out the American paratroopers.  His men; Fisching heaved a sigh.  His men were, he struggled for the right term, perhaps not the absolute cream of the wehrmacht.  Composed of Georgians who had proved understandably reluctant to die for Stalin there was no indication that they would be any keener on losing vital fluids for Hitler.  Still orders were orders, he called his interpreter to his side.

"Get the men together, I need to speak to them."

With a series of piercing whistles the interpreter managed to attract sufficient attention to at least give Fisching the impression that his troops weren't actively ignoring him.  Casting aside his doubts he drew breath and gave one of the most inspiring speeches of his career.  Below is an extract of that speech with the interpreter's translation in parentheses.

"Brave Georgian volunteers of the Greater German Reich!"
 (Hey guys!)
"The moment of glory we have longed for has arrived.  Today we march against the enemies of the New World Order."
(Shit just got real!)
"Soldiers, St Mere Eglise must not spend another hour in the hands of our enemies!"
(The Germans want us Georgians to push the Americans out of some French houses)
"Your courage and determination is well known, today we will make the accursed Yankees fear our strength!"
(We've got to get close to the Americans if we want to surrender to them)
"Long live Greater Germany, long live an independent Georgia!"
(Last one to the PoW cage is a rotten egg!)

Fisching paused, he wasn't entirely confident about the quality of the translation but to be fair his men were shambling obediently in the direction of the village.  Some of them still had their rifles.  Fisching checked to make sure he still had his cyanide capsule and followed them.

This is an oldie but a goodie. Mike Sexton and I played the updated version of ASL Scenario 17 - Lost Opportunities over VASL today.  This is set on D-Day and pits a force of elite American paratroopers trying to defend the recently captured village of St Mere Eglise from a large but distinctly unenthusiastic bunch of "Germans" who have been tasked with retaking possession.  Mike, fittingly, will command the men of the 3rd battalion, 505th Parachute regiment.  He has eight elite squads, a 57mm AT gun, two medium machine guns, a 60mm mortar and five bazookas.  This lot are led by three officers headed by a 9-1.

For my sins I have been handed command of the 795th Georgian battalion comprising "recruits" who felt that serving the Germans was marginally preferable to dying in a prisoner of war camp.  Warm bodies I am not short of; I have nineteen squads.  But these are divided between ten second line squads and nine conscripts.  Possibly to compensate for the lousy human material the Germans have showered this mob with support weapons in the form of two 50mm mortars, four light machine guns, two medium machine guns and one heavy machine gun.  Supporting the distinctly lacklustre storm troops are a pair of crappy tanks the Germans pinched from the French and an early model Marder SP gun mounting an impressive 75L gun but protected by what appears to be reinforced cardboard.

The victory conditions are the fun part of this scenario.  The Germans win immediately if they control five buildings on Board 1 but they lose immediately if they ever have less than nine unbroken squads.  The German commander can't simply use a mass of arms and legs to swamp the Americans, something approaching finesse would be required.  I decided to go for "mass of arms and legs".

Below is the at start set up.  I have my Marder up on the hill to hopefully smoke out some of the American positions.  For the rest I decided I would attack both flanks in force.  In the centre I would put my kill stack comprising three squads, both mmgs and the hmg guided by the 9-1.  Here I hoped to break some of the forward defenders and help my flankers forward.  It's fair to say none of this happened.

Thing started well when I discovered that I'd left my smoke rounds in my other Marder.  There would be no smoke to help the Germans forward (well not until the tanks started burning).  Undaunted I banged away with the Marder and my mortars and gained some acquisition, then with artillery support at least attempted if not actually achieved I sent my flankers forward.  On the left (bottom) I deployed a conscript squad and charged them across the open ground towards the trees that concealed his positions.  On the right I armoured assaulted across the open ground and wound up in the trees next to a target building.  I would also push my luck with one of the crappy French built tanks which rolled forward in support and promptly got fried by a bazooka squad in the foxhole behind.  I looked in good shape after the first turn and fairness forces me to admit that this was largely due to Mike breaking his mortar and an mmg while attempting to shoot at me.

At the end of my first turn two buildings were under threat and my flanking attacks were developing nicely.  That's about as far as the flanking attacks got.  My super duper kill stack proved to be a disappointment, this monstrous stack only broke one halfsquad in the entire game.  Meanwhile Mike's defenders would more than capable of shooting both flanking attacks to pieces.  Strangely it was the handful of squads I had sent towards the centre that would cover themselves in glory.  

In his first turn Mike started a trend by smashing up the squads attempting to flank on the right.  His sole tool for doing so was the bazooka squad in the foxhole behind the building.  Mike asked me to give a special shout out to these guys and they thoroughly deserve it. Singlehandedly they mangled a flank.  I did manage to snatch the victory building but was promptly shot out of it again.  Over on the left an ill advised attempt to support his flank defenders (who turned out to need no such support) broke one of his squads.

End of Mike's turn 1

 Bizarrely it was in my almost neglected centre that success attended my efforts.  Without smoke my Marder started dropping HE shells onto his defenders in the centre.  The result was mixed, my first shot battle hardened a squad and Mike generated a hero into the bargain.  The next round wounded the hero and broke his newly fanatic squad. What goes around, apparently, comes around.

With Mike's troops busy on the flanks there seemed to be an opportunity in the centre which was currently defended by only a wounded hero.  At this point my Marder ran out of HE and the Georgian halfwits managed to load an AP round back to front and broke the gun into the bargain.  Despite this less than stellar performance a conscript squad in the centre took a deep breath and, taking advantage of the fact that Mike was too busy slaughtering my flankers to intervene, charged up to the centre bulding.  A second panted across the ground braving the wounded heroes fire.  At which point Mike revealed his 57mm gun staring literally down the throat of my brave conscripts.  Unfortunately for Mike his guys had forgotten to pack any HE ammunition as well and his AP shot did nothing.  Conscript vengeance was coming and in the advance phase I jumped the gun crew and hero.  I killed the hero in CC but the gun crew tied up my squad for three CC phases before I managed to dispatch him.

Success in the centre, pity I haven't got anything to reinforce it

Scenting an opportunity I swarmed around his defenders on the left, surely I could overwhelm them.
No, no I couldn't.  Instead some accurate American rifle fire turned my left flank into a carbon copy of the right with various terrified Georgians huddled in the blood slicked trees desperately hoping the Americans would shoot someone else.  I did manage to capture another building though which was important as I was about to lose the one on the right as Mike's heroes popped out of their foxhole and snatched it back.  

While the melee raged with his gun crew my other squad chased his brokies out of the centre building.  Hoping that I would eventually take out the damn gun crew the other squad pushed on and snatched another building.  Meanwhile on the left things had entered a tedious pattern of  "push forward, get broken, run away" and repeat.  I rolled my now virtually impotent Marder forward to at least look like a threat, it's sole achievement was to take a bazooka rocket that Mike should really have saved for my other tank.

The red circles indicate broken squads.  That nine squad cap is getting very close

I did eventually win the close combat in the centre but in the same time Mike managed to rally his fanatics and reinforce them with another squad taken from the left.  These guys promptly mangled my recently victorious close combat squad and sealed Mike's hold on the centre building.  Mike attempted to move another squad up to reinforce them but he had forgotten that my mortar had a line of sight to the road.  I don't blame him, I'd almost forgotten it's existence as well but I remembered just in time to break a squad and 7-0 puffing to the rescue.

My turn four came around and I was sweating.  I had precisely ten unbroken squads.  If two more went down Mike had the game.  I had plenty of time and leaders in rally positions I could have paused the attack, rallied some troops and tried again.  Instead I went for broke.  Mike had a squad and a half on the far left that had defied everything I had thrown at it but his reinforcement of the centre had left only a half squad in the stone building across the road and I had a conscript squad right next door.

In the centre my surviving conscript squad assaulted into the trees and would advance back to give me a fourth building.  I muttered a prayer to whatever dark gods might be listening and sent my conscripts into close combat with his halfsquad on the left.   This time, glory be, it worked.  I rolled a three to wipe out his half squad and capture my fifth building.

Victory, somewhat to my surprise
Yes, victory.  Not entirely deserved and slightly surprising but there it was and I'll take it.  Both Mike and I loved this scenario.  Mike felt the tension of having defend the buildings and not being able to fall back while I stared in horror as my troops melted under American fire and edged ever closer to running out of squads.

Major Fisching looked around at the shattered buildings of St Mere Eglise.  He couldn't believe they'd done it.  Now came the difficult part, persuading his troops not to sell their rifles to the prisoners.  He looked around for his interpreter and found him in animated conversation with an American sergeant.

"Tell me," asked Fisching curiously, "what part of Georgia do you come from anyway?"

"Savannah born and bred," replied the interpreter.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Plague Update #25

My period in isolation is drawing to a close.  Well, no that's not strictly true.  A more accurate statement would be "the period when the government was enforcing my isolation is coming to a close".  Not before time either it must be said.  I have to admit being stuck at home was having a disturbing impact on me.  The effect can principally be measured by housekeeping.  I've been doing some.  Sections of my home that haven't seen a scourer or detergent in years (most of it to be honest) have staggered under the impact of my attempts to find something to do with my spare time.  In the process I have made so many spiders homeless that I'm appearing before the International Criminal Court next month on a charge of ethnic cleansing.  I'm hoping to get off with a warning.

Meanwhile my home state is steaming ahead with the reduction of restrictions to the point whereby we are now able to get out and about at the cost of significant inconvenience.  Cafes which had been cheerfully selling takeaway coffee to passers by are now struggling with how to fit people who want to sit down and eat within the social distancing guidelines.  Given the size of most cafes I can't help thinking that permitting about three people to eat the occasional meal isn't going to be as much of an economic fillip as our political leaders think.

Speaking of economic fillips our Federal government discovered sixty billion dollars behind the couch cushions yesterday.  It turns out that there was a slight error in calculating the amount of money that was to be disbursed in the scheme designed to pay employers to keep their employees on.  It was thought to cost a hundred and thirty billion dollars and it turns out the amount is closer to seventy.  There had apparently been some mistakes in the way certain businesses had filled in the application forms which had led the tireless experts in charge of managing the nations finances to make a slight accounting error.

You might think that this is unalloyed good news which ever way you look at it. If you're the opposition and various activist groups there's sixty billion more to spend on various extra initiatives and helping those who fell through the cracks of the original relief programmes.  If you're the government desperately trying to put a good face on this cockup it means sixty billion less that they have to borrow to do what they said they were going to do anyway.

 The problem arises because certain assumptions and projections were made on the basis of the original figures which have been guiding the government ever since.  Most government projections are wrong since they essentially attempt to predict the future by looking at the present (or more accurately, the recent past) and making assumptions.  Nevertheless to minimise the amount of error it is necessary that the information the government is working with be reasonably accurate.  A sixty billion dollar error reduces the predictions from educated guesswork to simply throwing a dart blindfolded and hoping for the best.  It will be interesting to see if this actually results in worse outcomes than when the government does know what its doing.

Here's the thing about governments; they're big, creaking, slow moving and not particularly accurate.  That isn't meant to be a criticism, when you get anything that is required to act for the benefit of millions of people scattered across hundreds of thousands of square kilometres it can hardly be anything else.  The greatest good for the greatest number is literally the best that they can usually do.  When you need them to be fast and specific mistakes tend to get made.  Governments are at their best dealing with broad trends, you don't use them to target specific problems for the same reason you don't use a shotgun to perform surgery.

Of course its all terribly embarrassing for the Federal government and they have responded by claiming that its not embarrassing at all.  The opposition have been laughing hysterically while avoiding questions like "Could you have done any better?"  The answer to which, incidentally, is almost certainly "No!"

Such of the government's attention as isn't currently occupied attempting to explain away this slight reporting glitch seems to be focussed on pestering the Queensland state government to open its borders.  The WA, SA and Tasmanian governments have also refused to open their borders but so far they haven't been the target of federal ire.  I honestly didn't realise so many people wanted to go to Queensland but apparently our premier is getting quite upset at the refusal to let southerners in.  The Queensland government's position is quite plain.  People from NSW and Victoria are disease ridden pest bags and will be permitted to cross the border over the premier's dead body.  They may have put it more diplomatically than that but not much.  So a holiday to Queensland isn't on the cards any time soon.  Or Tasmania, Western Australia or South Australia for that matter.  Possibly we'll be allowed to visit Victoria since we're all plague carriers together.

I have to go now, my flat is being besieged by various pro spider activist groups (including the Greens and Get Up) shouting "Send out the war criminal!"  I think they mean me.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Plague Update #24 - Do You Want Fries With That?

I write this blog entry a little giddy from the freedom I exercised over the weekend.  I went to my favourite cafe and sat down to order a coffee.  As I rested my backside on the stool the owner greeted me in her own special way.

"You've got an hour, then we're kicking you out."

Things really have changed.  It doesn't normally take an hour for her to be sick of the sight of me.

Yes cafes are open but can only serve ten customers at a time.  What this means is that in order to service the crazed mobs hammering at her door demanding food and coffee this cafe owner is placing a time limit on her customers.  Basically it amounts to "get in, get fed, get out".  Since I was only having a coffee and a slice of cake I was out of there well before she unleashed the hounds but still the simple activity of sitting down to eat and drink in a cafe was a delight. 

Restrictions have been relaxed so we can once again suck in the fresh air (and considering the industrial downturn the air actually is fresh) and socialise at least to a certain extent.  Of course our political leaders and their medical lackeys are warning us not to get complacent.  Down in Victoria the population's natural craving for fast food hit a bit of a roadblock when every second McDonalds in the state turned out to be a breeding pit for disease.  That is, its a breeding pit for the specific disease we are currently attempting to combat. Any other diseases we could probably have taken in our stride.

My Tasmanian correspondent isn't even bothering to hide the delight she is feeling at being able to send her children back to school.  She also has dogs and some surprisingly not yet dead fish, I believe she's planning on sending them along as well.  She'll have the best educated goldfish in the state if the water holds out.

Overseas there's gloom, argument and a possible investigation but my favourite story comes from South Korea where a football team had to publicly apologise after the mannequins it was using to make the stadium look less empty turned out to be sex dolls.  It was apparently a misunderstanding, or a miscommunication, or a screw up by the supplier or something else definitely not their fault.  Everybody is deeply embarrassed, well everybody except one as yet unidentified individual who is almost certainly laughing hysterically into his kimchi.

Back in the home of, well if not the free then at least the "slightly less incarcerated than previously" came more proof that the authorities think they're on top of this outbreak.  The daily briefings by the government's chief medical officer have now been cut back to three a week.  That's the government telling the citizenry that from now on we're going to have to get sick and die without their involvement.

Of course not everything is back to normal.  Queensland still has a hard border and is refusing to return the NSW premier's phone calls.  Officially this is because NSW has had more cases of COVID-19 than anywhere else (we also have more people) but as I mentioned earlier in this blog I suspect that Queensland has been waiting for an opportunity to do this for years.  Secession might possibly be the next step which will cause the Federal government to make a tough decision.  Do they call out the army or just have a party?

With freedom of movement restored I called up my parents, ostensibly to arrange a visit but actually just out of morbid curiosity to see if they had survived.  They're both well, in fact they're so well that they're not crazy about their elder son travelling over a hundred kilometres through the still infected landscape to visit.  I assured them that I would leave it a few weeks before I turned up at their doorstep.

"Take as long as you feel is necessary," they responded, "in the meantime, Merry Christmas."

Friday, May 15, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Odd Angry Shot

Captain Hori Katatonya stirred in his sleep, there seemed to be something digging into him.  Reluctantly he opened his eyes just in time to see the boot from his commanding officer impact with his ribcage again.

"Wake up Katatonya," snarled the colonel redfaced with anger.

Blinking Katatonya rose to his feet and saluted.

"I ordered you to prepare defences," bellowed the colonel.  "Where the hell are they?"

Katatonya pointed to a couple of foxholes and a small length of trench.

"Is that it?"

"Yes?" said Katatonya hopefully.

"So you plan to defend this hilltop with two spider holes and what looks like an unambitious drainage ditch?"

"Yes," said Katatonya somewhat less hopefully this time.

"It is the desire of every Japanese soldier," continued the colonel, "to die in battle for the emperor.  By that measure the men under your command are very fortunate indeed."

"Thank you sir," replied Katatonya brightening, things were looking up.

The colonel stared at Katatonya looking for the slightest hint of dumb insolence but didn't get any further than dumb.

"Take your place with the men," snapped the colonel finally.  "I'll be busy burning the regimental flag."

So from North Africa to New Guinea where in keeping with my apparent Axis theme I shall take command of a small group of Japanese defending a smaller group of fortifications from a bunch of over eager Australians.  We're playing ASL Scenario AP68 - Odd Angry Shot.  To win at game end I have to have a MMC in any of the four hexes occupied by entrenchments.  That's all the entrenchments I get, I'm not permitted to dig any more.  To defend these apparently precious scrapes in the earth I have six squads, one first line and five second line, a crew and a first line half squad all guided by a single 9-0 leader.  To add a little firepower I have an hmg, a lmg and a 50mm mortar.  Three squads of second line reinforcements led (if that's the correct term) by an 8+1 leader will turn up at some point convenient to themselves.

Mike Sexton commanding my Australian fellow countrymen has nine squads, three elite and five first line guided by three leaders the best of which is a 8-1.  He also has a 76mm mortar and a medium machine gun plus some air support in the form of some (fortunately) bombless fighter bombers.  He gets a pair of first line squads plus an lmg and a 7-0 leader again at a largely random time.  There does seem to be a little command confusion amongst the Australians as any MMC not adjacent to a leader has to take a task check before they can move.  Hopefuly this will lead to clumping and choice targets for my no doubt fanatical defenders.

I have to set up on the hill which limits my set up options somewhat.  I placed a foxhole as far away from the Australian set up as I could  This was in some woods down at the northwest end of the hill mass.  The bulk of my force set up to protect it with the crew served hmg guided by my only leader set up in a trench overlooking the intended battlefield.  Over in the east a halfsquad was set up forward so that Mike wouldn't be able to start concealed, with any luck he would waste some time shooting at it.  Behind the halfsquad were some dummies and a squad lmg combo while the mortar team set up in my remaining foxhole.

Mike set his mmg team and his own mortar pretty much directly opposite these guys.  Aside from that he had three main groups all sticking closely to an officer to assist movement.  In the first turn his mmg team smashed my sacrificial halfsquad and sent it yelping for cover.  It would later die while trying to cross interdicted ground.  His troops flushed with success moved forward towards the somewhat patchy cover.  Sadly for Mike disaster attended the troops on his left flank.  They pushed forward boldly enough to the dubious cover of orchards and patches of woods but when his attending 7-0 officer attempted to join them my hmg team, which had held its fire with remarkable self restraint, emptied an entire belt of ammunition into him killing him outright.

End of Mike's turn 1

The loss of this officer proved to be catastrophic as it turned out that Mike couldn't buy a PTC to save his life.  His entire left flank was reduced to the occasional disjointed lurch forward by individual halfsquads while the bulk of his force squatted sullenly under pin counters and refused to move at all.  He set up his mortar and in return my mortar used its last smoke round to reduce its vision for a couple of turns.

While his left flank was reduced to virtual immobility his right had moved forward and was slowly clambering up the hill.  Mike's reinforcements arrived on turn two and reinforced this move.  I had little to oppose this but I could at least take heart from the fact that they were a fair distance from my main defensive point.  Despite the smoke his mortar managed to hit my hmg hex several times but the achievements of his to hit dice were wasted by the failure of the subsequent kill roles which wouldn't achieve anything until it was too late.

Things aren't exactly going well for Mike on his left

For the next couple of turns Mike got nowhere on the left until he raced the 8-1 who was supposed to be guiding the mmg across to take command of the recalcitrant soldiers there.  On his right bolstered by his reinforcements he gained a toehold on the hill but early attempts to take out my mortar team were dispatched when they picked up their rifles and inflicted great slaughter at point blank range.  Despite this Mike started to make inroads on the right and finally took down my mortar halfsquad in close combat.

Mike has breasted the hill

My squad lmg team on the right proved hopelessly inadequate at supporting their mortar buddies, their only contribution to the war was breaking their own weapon.  Having been reduced to a single half squad by failed morale checks I decided there was no harm in advancing into CC to see if they could redeem themselves with the bayonet.  Mike ambushed them then rolled snakes in CC to generate an 8-1 leader which was helpful as his original 8-1 had died in a foolhardy attempt to encourage heroism amongst the deeply noncommittal troops on the left.  With him dead the left flank became even less of an issue and it was becoming obvious that if Mike wanted to win this it was all up to his troops on the right.  Things seemed to look up for him when my mortar finally got a result on the hmg team wounding the officer and striping the crew.

Mike's left flank barely exists
 Mike took what he thought was his chance and charged a squad and his newly minted 8-1 forward.  He had forgotten that Japanese crews stripe rather than break.  Bloodied but unbowed my hmg team smashed them as they charged forward and with half his force casualties and the remainder getting nowhere Mike conceded.  You'll notice I didn't mention Mike's air support.  We didn't forget it.  It just did nothing, three attacks resulted in a solitary Japanese pin result.  His mortar did better firing out of smoke.

I must admit I feel no great sense of achievement with this victory.  Mike's average task check roll for the game was 8.14.  As a result most of his troops spent most of their time doing nothing.  The early kill of one of his officers was crucial and Mike was playing catch up from that point on a situation that he handled with much more grace and good humour than I would have shown.

Captain Katatonya yawned and stared at the huge pall of smoke rising to the sky from regimental headquarters in the rear.

"What the hell is that?" he asked.

"The colonel was trying to burn the regimental flag," replied a smoke grimed soldier who had stumbled up to him, "unfortunately he did it in the fuel depot."

"Is he all right?"

"Oh yes sir, he's dead.  I think you're in command now."

"Right," said Katatonya rubbing his hands together in decision, "time for a nap."

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Plague Update #23

After our brief trip to the fourteenth century its glad to be back in a more civilised time.  In Italy the COVID outbreaks have led to a rise in attacks on Gypsy communities, in Tanzania the president apparently submitted a goat for testing and his health department couldn't tell the difference (or so he claims) and in France the British head of a French pharmaceutical company has announced that the United States will have first claim on any vaccine they develop which has prompted fury from everybody who isn't American.  To be fair the reason presented is because the Americans stumped up most of the money for the research.  It's also important to realise that so far there isn't a vaccine so they are essentially arguing about a theoretical eventuality.  There's happier news from Thailand where restaurants only permit one person per table.  The owner of one restaurant has added a panda plush toy to each table so that the lonely restaurant goer has somebody to talk to.

Back in the land of good sense and functional government (and the disturbing thing about that is its actually true) Australia's COVID impacted unemployment figures were released.  The prime minister took to the airwaves to say how dreadful they were.  He was right.  He'd be even more right if the figures were accurate.  Without some careful accounting around the various government assistance schemes in place at the moment the rate would be considerably higher.

While the nation trembled at the unemployment statistics (some of us are still trembling with COVID-19 as well) the Queensland state government announced its interest in taking an interest in the airline that went belly up a week or so ago.  Protection of jobs and services was the justification offered.  This was met with ridicule from a senior government minister who pointed out that Queensland doesn't have any money and they would have to borrow every penny for such a foolhardy exercise.  Kind souls forbore from pointing out to him that his government's entire reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic was also funded by debt.

I'm not sure if a government taking a stake in an airline is a good idea.  Governments are notoriously bad at running businesses.  In fact the only people worse at running this airline than the state government would have to be the people who actually were running it when it crashed.  Seriously if you're running a major business and you can't screw taxpayer dollars out of the government pretty much at will you must be really bad at it.

Incidentally this slagging off between various politicians is the latest sign that things are getting back to normal. The stern bipartisanship they were demonstrating was starting to get deeply creepy.  In my home state restaurants will open this weekend but only as long as not too many people go to them.  That seems like a recipe for success.  Down in Tasmania my correspondent contacted me, weeping with joy, to inform me that her children would be returning to school in a fortnight.  There will be no argument about this; it doesn't matter if the poor tikes catch the plague in the meantime; back to school they're going.  Not before time, not only has my correspondent run out of alcohol but apparently coffee is getting short as well.

Birthday Greetings #81

As we huddle in our homes leaping in terror at every passing germ let us pause for a moment and think back to a simpler time, a happier time when a person could live to the ripe old age of thirty and a pandemic that didn't empty four out of every five houses of living occupants wasn't worth worrying about.

Yes, Happy birthday to Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor.  Charles (or Karel as he was known by his Bohemian subjects) was a scion of the House of Luxembourg who by this time were happily ensconced in Prague.  Charles was the son of King John and took over rulership duties due to his father's increasing blindness and then death at the Battle of Crecy.  In 1346 he was proclaimed as King of the Romans (ie the Germans) by the electors of the empire.  This was a little premature as the empire had a functioning emperor (Louis IV) but said emperor had really pissed off the pope.  The pope and Charles' father cooked up this plan between them.  It is possible that Charles' father was being a little shortsighted but then he was (see above).  Later in the same year he suffered death by Shakespeare leaving Charles in charge.

Louis IV didn't take Charles' sudden promotion lying down but unfortunately he chose that moment to die on a bear hunt.  Hunting was a very popular sport in medieval times, it was the ideal opportunity to dispose of an inconvenient monarch.  With Louis filling a grave (and possibly a bear) Charles was reelected King of the Romans with a little more legitimacy and the pope (with a definitely unChristian glee at Louis' untimely demise) followed up by dropping the imperial crown onto his head. 

Now at least notionally the most powerful man in Christendom Charles spent the next few years administering the empire.  Possibly to avoid awkwardnesses like his own premature elevation from happening again he got a golden bull and wrote down what amounted to a constitution including a detailed prescription for how elections were to be managed in the empire on it.  This would guide the imperial succession for the next four centuries.  What the bull thought about it is unrecorded. 

But it wasn't all rulership and constitutional reform.  Charles transformed Prague into a glittering centre of art and culture.  He founded the first university in Bohemia and built a bridge (probably not personally) that I've actually walked across.  Whether from gratitude on the part of the population or egotism on his own part half of the structures in Prague are named after him.  Towards the end in fact Charles pretty much let the empire run itself and focussed on improving his Bohemian lands and handing out territories to an inconveniently large number of relatives.  Fortunately the empire was the sort of place that could largely run itself (in fact it rather preferred to) and, in the Czech republic at least Charles' rule is seen as a golden age.  Personally I don't think any age that doesn't include toilet paper can be considered golden but possibly I'm unromantic.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Plague Update #22 - Two Weddings or a Funeral

Greetings disease junkies. Well the first thing I have to do is retract a statement I made in a previous entry about revising my opinion of Australia's average IQ upward.  In addition to the occasional outburst of demented idiocy from footballers and politicians (which can be safely ignored for statistical reasons as they constitute outlier behaviour) there has been a protest in Melbourne by people protesting against the lockdown and vaccination and, for some reason, Bill Gates.  Apparently coronavirus is some sort of conspiracy and they don't believe a word of it.  Which is odd because if it was genuinely a conspiracy theory I would have expected such people lap that shit up.  Incidentally they're dirty on Bill Gates because a similar bunch of halfwits in America are dirty on Bill Gates.  The reason for which makes perfect sense if you're also prepared to believe that COVID-19 is caused by the 5G network.  Apparently when he isn't designing second rate software Billy boy has been warning America for years that they are utterly unprepared for a pandemic and should do something about that.  So now that there is a pandemic it is obviously his fault.

Despite having a bit of a headache from smacking my forehead in exasperation I'm actually a little heartened by these protests.  It shows that we are getting on top of the virus.  When it first broke out and people feared the reaper stalking through their suburbs everybody was as compliant and docile as lambs (although slightly less delicious).  The fact that their inner stupidity has started to outweigh their natural caution is an indication that things are getting better.  You'll know that we're well on the way to recovery when people start claiming that there never was a problem in the first place.

In the meantime our various state governments are slowly allowing people out on to the streets again.  Cafes and restaurants will be able to serve a cripplingly small number of people which will mean that most clientele will have to be turned away. The anger and frustration this will create among the foodgoing public will in no way rebound on the hapless restauranteurs of course.  My suggestion is that hair dressing salons start serving food.  That should cover all bases nicely.

Other public gatherings to be permitted include weddings and funerals.  You'll be allowed ten guests at a wedding and twenty at an indoor funeral.  Presumably the government has a pretty realistic idea of the ratio between the people who would want to wish you everlasting happiness and those who just want to make sure you're dead.  Incidentally by "indoor funeral" I presume they mean cremation as digging up the floor of the funeral parlour would take an unrealistically long time.  Outdoor funerals can have as many as thirty mourners.  Incidentally by "outdoor funeral" I presume they mean burial as society tends to frown on cremation by bonfire.

The thirty person limit has given me an idea for people who want to invite more than the ten person maximum to their wedding.  Get married at a funeral.  Nearly everybody has some elderly relative clinging to life by a thread.  Just drop the hint that an end to their pain could also be an awesome wedding present.  If said relative is incarcerated in certain aged care facilities you may not even have to initiate matters yourself.  Then while they're tossing dirt on Grandma they can also be tossing confetti on you.  The more I think about it the harder it is to see a downside except perhaps for the need to be selective about the background for the wedding photographs.